Friday, August 29, 2014

Gaza Crisis: Israel Outflanks the White House on Strategy

Gaza Crisis: Israel Outflanks the White House on Strategy

White House Now Scrutinizing Israeli Requests for Ammunition


Benjamin Netanyahu, left, looks on as President Barack Obama speaks at the White House in March. Bloomberg News
JERUSALEM—White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval.

Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel. But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —and that both sides know it.

The munitions surprise and previously unreported U.S. response added to a string of slights and arguments that have bubbled behind the scenes during the Gaza conflict, according to events related by senior American, Palestinian and Israeli officials involved. (See photos and maps surveying the destruction in Gaza.)

In addition, current and former American officials say, U.S.-Israel ties have been hurt by leaks that they believe were meant to undercut the administration's standing by mischaracterizing its position and delay a cease-fire. The battles have driven U.S.-Israeli relations to the lowest point since President Barack Obama took office.

Gaza Cease-Fire Holds After Extension
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Now, as Egyptian officials shuttle between representatives of Israel and Hamas seeking a long-term deal to end the fighting, U.S. officials are bystanders instead of in their historic role as mediators. The White House finds itself largely on the outside looking in.

U.S. officials said Mr. Obama had a particularly combative phone call on Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu, who they say has pushed the administration aside but wants it to provide Israel with security assurances in exchange for signing onto a long-term deal.

As a 72-hour pause in the fighting expired at midnight Wednesday, a senior Hamas official said negotiators agreed to another cease-fire, this one of five days. The cease-fire was holding on Thursday.

The frayed relations raise questions about whether Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu can effectively work together. Relations between them have long been strained over other issues, including Mr. Obama's outreach to Iran and U.S.-backed peace talks with the Palestinians.

Today, many administration officials say the Gaza conflict—the third between Israel and Hamas in under six years—has persuaded them that Mr. Netanyahu and his national security team are both reckless and untrustworthy.

Israeli officials, in turn, describe the Obama administration as weak and naive, and are doing as much as they can to bypass the White House in favor of allies in Congress and elsewhere in the administration.

While Israeli officials have privately told their U.S. counterparts the poor state of relations isn't in Israel's interest long term, they also said they believed Mr. Netanyahu wasn't too worried about the tensions. The reason is that he can rely on the firmness of Israeli support in Congress, even if he doesn't have the White House's full approval for his policies. The prime minister thinks he can simply wait out the current administration, they say.

"The allegations are unfounded," said Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer. "Israel deeply appreciates the support we have received during the recent conflict in Gaza from both the Obama administration and the Congress for Israel's right to defend itself and for increased funding of Iron Dome."

A senior Obama administration official said the White House didn't intend to get into a "tit for tat" with the Israelis when the war broke out in Gaza. "We have many, many friends around the world. The United States is their strongest friend," the official said. "The notion that they are playing the United States, or that they're manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world."

American officials say they believe they have been able to exert at least some influence over Mr. Netanyahu during the Gaza conflict. But they admit their influence has been weakened as he has used his sway in Washington, from the Pentagon and Congress to lobby groups, to defuse U.S. diplomatic pressure on his government over the past month.

Israeli soldiers fire a mortar toward the Gaza Strip. Reuters
Tensions really started to flare after Israel launched Gaza ground operations July 17 and the civilian death toll started to rise sharply, prompting U.S. officials to complain that Israel wasn't showing enough restraint. Israeli officials rejected that notion, saying Hamas was using civilians as human shields.

U.S. officials say Mr. Netanyahu told them he was interested in a cease-fire from the start, but the two sides clashed over the process of achieving one and the players who would take part.

Bracing for a longer military campaign than expected, Israel approached the Defense Department within days of the start of the ground fighting to request money for more interceptors for the Iron Dome, which shoots down rockets aimed at population centers.

After consulting with the White House, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told aides to submit a proposal to Congress for $225 million.

Within the administration, the request was deemed noncontroversial because the Iron Dome was defensive and couldn't be used in Gaza ground fighting, U.S. officials said.

In meetings at the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House, Israeli officials told the Americans Israel had enough Iron Dome interceptors for the current Gaza operation, but wanted to replenish its stocks, according to U.S. officials who attended. So with Israel's consent, the administration didn't seek immediate emergency funding, Pentagon officials said, adding that they expected Congress to approve the request sometime in the fall.

Unknown to many policy makers, Israel was moving on separate tracks to replenish supplies of lethal munitions being used in Gaza and to expedite approval of the Iron Dome funds on Capitol Hill.

On July 20, Israel's defense ministry asked the U.S. military for a range of munitions, including 120-mm mortar shells and 40-mm illuminating rounds, which were already kept stored at a pre-positioned weapons stockpile in Israel.

The request was approved through military channels three days later but not made public. Under the terms of the deal, the Israelis used U.S. financing to pay for $3 million in tank rounds. No presidential approval or signoff by the secretary of state was required or sought, according to officials.

A U.S. defense official said the standard review process was properly followed.

While the military-to-military relationship between Israel and the U.S. was operating normally, ties on the diplomatic front were imploding. For the Americans, they worsened dramatically on July 25, when aides to Secretary of State John Kerry sent a draft of a confidential cease-fire paper to Mr. Netanyahu's advisers for feedback.

The Americans wanted the Israelis to propose changes. The U.S. didn't intend or expect the draft paper to be presented to the Israeli cabinet, but that was what Mr. Netanyahu did. U.S. officials say Mr. Netanyahu's office breached protocol by sending back no comments and presenting the paper to the cabinet for a vote.

The paper was also leaked to the Israeli media. U.S. officials say they believe the Israeli government publicly mischaracterized Mr. Kerry's ideas with the intent of buying more time to prosecute the fight against Hamas because Israeli officials were angry over outreach by Mr. Kerry to Qatar and Turkey.

Israel and Egypt had sought to sideline Qatar and Turkey—two countries that backed Hamas—rather than increase their influence. U.S. officials say Mr. Kerry reached out to the two because they had leverage with Hamas that would be critical to getting the group to agree to another cease-fire.

From Israel's perspective, Mr. Kerry's cease-fire draft reflected an approach "completely out of sync with Israel, not just on a governmental level but on a societal level," said Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. under Mr. Netanyahu.

"The best thing that Kerry can do is stay out... We need time to do the job, we need to inflict a painful and unequivocal blow on Hamas. Anything less would be a Hamas victory," Mr. Oren said.

The watershed moment came in the early morning in Gaza July 30. An Israeli shell struck a United Nations school in Jabaliya that sheltered about 3,000 people. Later that day, it was reported in the U.S. that the 120-mm and 40-mm rounds had been released to the Israeli military.

"We were blindsided," one U.S. diplomat said.

White House and State Department officials had already become increasingly disturbed by what they saw as heavy-handed battlefield tactics that they believed risked a humanitarian catastrophe capable of harming regional stability and Israel's interests.

They were especially concerned that Israel was using artillery, instead of more precision-guided munitions, in densely populated areas. The realization that munitions transfers had been made without their knowledge came as a shock.

"There was no intent to blindside anyone. The process for this transfer was followed precisely along the lines that it should have," another U.S. defense official said.

Then the officials learned that, in addition to asking for tank shells and other munitions, Israel had submitted a request through military-to-military channels for a large number of Hellfire missiles, according to Israeli and American officials.

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, was about to release an initial batch of the Hellfires, according to Israeli and congressional officials. It was immediately put on hold by the Pentagon, and top officials at the White House instructed the DSCA, the U.S. military's European Command and other agencies to consult with policy makers at the White House and the State Department before approving any additional requests.

A senior Obama administration official said the weapons transfers shouldn't have been a routine "check-the-box approval" process, given the context. The official said the decision to scrutinize future transfers at the highest levels amounted to "the United States saying 'The buck stops here. Wait a second…It's not OK anymore.' "

White House and State Department officials were worried about public reaction.

The Palestinians, in particular, were angry, according to U.S. diplomats.

"The U.S. is a partner in this crime," Jibril Rajoub, a leader in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Western-backed Fatah party, said of the decision to provide arms to Israel during the conflict.

Even as tensions with the White House and the State Department were spilling over, Israeli officials worked to expedite the Iron Dome money on Capitol Hill.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Israeli officials told lawmakers the money was urgently needed because they were running out of interceptors and couldn't hold out for a month or more.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Congress's goal in approving the money quickly on Aug. 1 was to send a message to the administration to stop calling Israel out about civilian casualties.

A senior Republican congressional aide said Israeli officials told senators they wanted the money sooner rather than later. He said Israel's main purpose in accelerating the vote in Congress to before legislators' August recess was to provide an overwhelming "show of support" for the military operation.

The last straw for many U.S. diplomats came on Aug. 2 when they say Israeli officials leaked to the media that Mr. Netanyahu had told the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, that the Obama administration was "not to ever second-guess me again" about how to deal with Hamas.

The White House and State Department have sought to regain greater control over U.S.-Israeli policy. They decided to require White House and State Department approval for even routine munitions requests by Israel, officials say.

Instead of being handled as a military-to-military matter, each case is now subject to review—slowing the approval process and signaling to Israel that military assistance once taken for granted is now under closer scrutiny.

A senior U.S. official said the U.S. and Israel clashed mainly because the U.S. wanted a cease-fire before Mr. Netanyahu was ready to accept one. "Now we both want one," one of the officials said.

A top Israeli official said the rift runs deeper than that. "We've been there before with a lot of tension with us and Washington. What we have now, on top of that, is mistrust and a collision of different perspectives on the Middle East," the official said. "It's become very personal."

—Joshua Mitnick contributed to this article

An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth

An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth

A former AP correspondent explains how and why reporters get Israel so wrong, and why it matters

The Israel Story
Is there anything left to say about Israel and Gaza? Newspapers this summer have been full of little else. Television viewers see heaps of rubble and plumes of smoke in their sleep. A representative article from a recent issue of The New Yorker described the summer’s events by dedicating one sentence each to the horrors in Nigeria and Ukraine, four sentences to the crazed génocidaires of ISIS, and the rest of the article—30 sentences—to Israel and Gaza.
When the hysteria abates, I believe the events in Gaza will not be remembered by the world as particularly important. People were killed, most of them Palestinians, including many unarmed innocents. I wish I could say the tragedy of their deaths, or the deaths of Israel’s soldiers, will change something, that they mark a turning point. But they don’t. This round was not the first in the Arab wars with Israel and will not be the last. The Israeli campaign was little different in its execution from any other waged by a Western army against a similar enemy in recent years, except for the more immediate nature of the threat to a country’s own population, and the greater exertions, however futile, to avoid civilian deaths.
The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues.
While global mania about Israeli actions has come to be taken for granted, it is actually the result of decisions made by individual human beings in positions of responsibility—in this case, journalists and editors. The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations. The key to understanding the strange nature of the response is thus to be found in the practice of journalism, and specifically in a severe malfunction that is occurring in that profession—my profession—here in Israel.
In this essay I will try to provide a few tools to make sense of the news from Israel. I acquired these tools as an insider: Between 2006 and the end of 2011 I was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press, one of the world’s two biggest news providers. I have lived in Israel since 1995 and have been reporting on it since 1997.
This essay is not an exhaustive survey of the sins of the international media, a conservative polemic, or a defense of Israeli policies. (I am a believer in the importance of the “mainstream” media, a liberal, and a critic of many of my country’s policies.) It necessarily involves some generalizations. I will first outline the central tropes of the international media’s Israel story—a story on which there is surprisingly little variation among mainstream outlets, and one which is, as the word “story” suggests, a narrative construct that is largely fiction. I will then note the broader historical context of the way Israel has come to be discussed and explain why I believe it to be a matter of concern not only for people preoccupied with Jewish affairs. I will try to keep it brief.
How Important Is the Israel Story?
Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” eventually erupted.
To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel. I don’t mean to pick on the AP—the agency is wholly average, which makes it useful as an example. The big players in the news business practice groupthink, and these staffing arrangements were reflected across the herd. Staffing levels in Israel have decreased somewhat since the Arab uprisings began, but remain high. And when Israel flares up, as it did this summer, reporters are often moved from deadlier conflicts. Israel still trumps nearly everything else.
The volume of press coverage that results, even when little is going on, gives this conflict a prominence compared to which its actual human toll is absurdly small. In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 lives—that is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago. Jerusalem, internationally renowned as a city of conflict, had slightly fewer violent deaths per capita last year than Portland, Ore., one of America’s safer cities. In contrast, in three years the Syrian conflict has claimed an estimated 190,000 lives, or about 70,000 more than the number of people who have ever died in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it began a century ago.
News organizations have nonetheless decided that this conflict is more important than, for example, the more than 1,600 women murdered in Pakistan last year (271 after being raped and 193 of them burned alive), the ongoing erasure of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party, the carnage in Congo (more than 5 million dead as of 2012) or the Central African Republic, and the drug wars in Mexico (death toll between 2006 and 2012: 60,000 ), let alone conflicts no one has ever heard of in obscure corners of India or Thailand . They believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.
What Is Important About the Israel Story, and What Is Not
A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated. Who they are and what they want is not important: The story mandates that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters.
Corruption, for example, is a pressing concern for many Palestinians under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, but when I and another reporter once suggested an article on the subject, we were informed by the bureau chief that Palestinian corruption was “not the story.” (Israeli corruption was, and we covered it at length.)
Israeli actions are analyzed and criticized, and every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported. In one seven-week period, from Nov. 8 to Dec. 16, 2011, I decided to count the stories coming out of our bureau on the various moral failings of Israeli society—proposed legislation meant to suppress the media, the rising influence of Orthodox Jews, unauthorized settlement outposts, gender segregation, and so forth. I counted 27 separate articles, an average of a story every two days. In a very conservative estimate, this seven-week tally was higher than the total number of significantly critical stories about Palestinian government and society, including the totalitarian Islamists of Hamas, that our bureau had published in the preceding three years.
The Hamas charter, for example, calls not just for Israel’s destruction but for the murder of Jews and blames Jews for engineering the French and Russian revolutions and both world wars; the charter was never mentioned in print when I was at the AP, though Hamas won a Palestinian national election and had become one of the region’s most important players. To draw the link with this summer’s events: An observer might think Hamas’ decision in recent years to construct a military infrastructure beneath Gaza’s civilian infrastructure would be deemed newsworthy, if only because of what it meant about the way the next conflict would be fought and the cost to innocent people. But that is not the case. The Hamas emplacements were not important in themselves, and were therefore ignored. What was important was the Israeli decision to attack them.
There has been much discussion recently of Hamas attempts to intimidate reporters. Any veteran of the press corps here knows the intimidation is real, and I saw it in action myself as an editor on the AP news desk. During the 2008-2009 Gaza fighting I personally erased a key detail—that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and being counted as civilians in the death toll—because of a threat to our reporter in Gaza. (The policy was then, and remains, not to inform readers that the story is censored unless the censorship is Israeli. Earlier this month, the AP’s Jerusalem news editor reported and submitted a story on Hamas intimidation; the story was shunted into deep freeze by his superiors and has not been published.)
But if critics imagine that journalists are clamoring to cover Hamas and are stymied by thugs and threats, it is generally not so. There are many low-risk ways to report Hamas actions, if the will is there: under bylines from Israel, under no byline, by citing Israeli sources. Reporters are resourceful when they want to be.
The fact is that Hamas intimidation is largely beside the point because the actions of Palestinians are beside the point: Most reporters in Gaza believe their job is to document violence directed by Israel at Palestinian civilians. That is the essence of the Israel story. In addition, reporters are under deadline and often at risk, and many don’t speak the language and have only the most tenuous grip on what is going on. They are dependent on Palestinian colleagues and fixers who either fear Hamas, support Hamas, or both. Reporters don’t need Hamas enforcers to shoo them away from facts that muddy the simple story they have been sent to tell.
It is not coincidence that the few journalists who have documented Hamas fighters and rocket launches in civilian areas this summer were generally not, as you might expect, from the large news organizations with big and permanent Gaza operations. They were mostly scrappy, peripheral, and newly arrived players—a Finn, an Indian crew, a few others. These poor souls didn’t get the memo.
What Else Isn’t Important?
The fact that Israelis quite recently elected moderate governments that sought reconciliation with the Palestinians, and which were undermined by the Palestinians, is considered unimportant and rarely mentioned. These lacunae are often not oversights but a matter of policy. In early 2009, for example, two colleagues of mine obtained information that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had made a significant peace offer to the Palestinian Authority several months earlier, and that the Palestinians had deemed it insufficient. This had not been reported yet and it was—or should have been—one of the biggest stories of the year. The reporters obtained confirmation from both sides and one even saw a map, but the top editors at the bureau decided that they would not publish the story.
Some staffers were furious, but it didn’t help. Our narrative was that the Palestinians were moderate and the Israelis recalcitrant and increasingly extreme. Reporting the Olmert offer—like delving too deeply into the subject of Hamas—would make that narrative look like nonsense. And so we were instructed to ignore it, and did, for more than a year and a half.
This decision taught me a lesson that should be clear to consumers of the Israel story: Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.
How Is the Israel Story Framed?
The Israel story is framed in the same terms that have been in use since the early 1990s—the quest for a “two-state solution.” It is accepted that the conflict is “Israeli-Palestinian,” meaning that it is a conflict taking place on land that Israel controls—0.2 percent of the Arab world—in which Jews are a majority and Arabs a minority. The conflict is more accurately described as “Israel-Arab,” or “Jewish-Arab”—that is, a conflict between the 6 million Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries. (Perhaps “Israel-Muslim” would be more accurate, to take into account the enmity of non-Arab states like Iran and Turkey, and, more broadly, 1 billion Muslims worldwide.) This is the conflict that has been playing out in different forms for a century, before Israel existed, before Israel captured the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, and before the term “Palestinian” was in use.
The “Israeli-Palestinian” framing allows the Jews, a tiny minority in the Middle East, to be depicted as the stronger party. It also includes the implicit assumption that if the Palestinian problem is somehow solved the conflict will be over, though no informed person today believes this to be true. This definition also allows the Israeli settlement project, which I believe is a serious moral and strategic error on Israel’s part, to be described not as what it is—one more destructive symptom of the conflict—but rather as its cause.
A knowledgeable observer of the Middle East cannot avoid the impression that the region is a volcano and that the lava is radical Islam, an ideology whose various incarnations are now shaping this part of the world. Israel is a tiny village on the slopes of the volcano. Hamas is the local representative of radical Islam and is openly dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish minority enclave in Israel, just as Hezbollah is the dominant representative of radical Islam in Lebanon, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and so forth.
Hamas is not, as it freely admits, party to the effort to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It has different goals about which it is quite open and that are similar to those of the groups listed above. Since the mid 1990s, more than any other player, Hamas has destroyed the Israeli left, swayed moderate Israelis against territorial withdrawals, and buried the chances of a two-state compromise. That’s one accurate way to frame the story.
An observer might also legitimately frame the story through the lens of minorities in the Middle East, all of which are under intense pressure from Islam: When minorities are helpless, their fate is that of the Yazidis or Christians of northern Iraq, as we have just seen, and when they are armed and organized they can fight back and survive, as in the case of the Jews and (we must hope) the Kurds.
There are, in other words, many different ways to see what is happening here. Jerusalem is less than a day’s drive from Aleppo or Baghdad, and it should be clear to everyone that peace is pretty elusive in the Middle East even in places where Jews are absent. But reporters generally cannot see the Israel story in relation to anything else. Instead of describing Israel as one of the villages abutting the volcano, they describe Israel as the volcano.
The Israel story is framed to seem as if it has nothing to do with events nearby because the “Israel” of international journalism does not exist in the same geo-political universe as Iraq, Syria, or Egypt. The Israel story is not a story about current events. It is about something else.
The Old Blank Screen
For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew. It was their role in Christian tradition—the only reason European society knew or cared about them in the first place.
Like many Jews who grew up late in the 20th century in friendly Western cities, I dismissed such ideas as the feverish memories of my grandparents. One thing I have learned—and I’m not alone this summer—is that I was foolish to have done so. Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.
When the people responsible for explaining the world to the world, journalists, cover the Jews’ war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers—whether they intend to or not—is that Jews are the worst people on earth. The Jews are a symbol of the evils that civilized people are taught from an early age to abhor. International press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain.
Some readers might remember that Britain participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fallout from which has now killed more than three times the number of people ever killed in the Israel-Arab conflict; yet in Britain, protesters furiously condemn Jewish militarism. White people in London and Paris whose parents not long ago had themselves fanned by dark people in the sitting rooms of Rangoon or Algiers condemn Jewish “colonialism.” Americans who live in places called “Manhattan” or “Seattle” condemn Jews for displacing the native people of Palestine. Russian reporters condemn Israel’s brutal military tactics. Belgian reporters condemn Israel’s treatment of Africans. When Israel opened a transportation service for Palestinian workers in the occupied West Bank a few years ago, American news consumers could read about Israel “segregating buses.” And there are a lot of people in Europe, and not just in Germany, who enjoy hearing the Jews accused of genocide.
You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.
Who Cares If the World Gets the Israel Story Wrong?
Because a gap has opened here between the way things are and the way they are described, opinions are wrong and policies are wrong, and observers are regularly blindsided by events. Such things have happened before. In the years leading to the breakdown of Soviet Communism in 1991, as the Russia expert Leon Aron wrote in a 2011 essay for Foreign Policy, “virtually no Western expert, scholar, official, or politician foresaw the impending collapse of the Soviet Union.” The empire had been rotting for years and the signs were there, but the people who were supposed to be seeing and reporting them failed and when the superpower imploded everyone was surprised.
Whatever the outcome in this region in the next decade, it will have as much to do with Israel as World War II had to do with Spain
And there was the Spanish civil war: “Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which do not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. … I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what had happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines.’ ” That was George Orwell, writing in 1942.
Orwell did not step off an airplane in Catalonia, stand next to a Republican cannon, and have himself filmed while confidently repeating what everyone else was saying or describing what any fool could see: weaponry, rubble, bodies. He looked beyond the ideological fantasies of his peers and knew that what was important was not necessarily visible. Spain, he understood, was not really about Spain at all—it was about a clash of totalitarian systems, German and Russian. He knew he was witnessing a threat to European civilization, and he wrote that, and he was right.
Understanding what happened in Gaza this summer means understanding Hezbollah in Lebanon, the rise of the Sunni jihadis in Syria and Iraq, and the long tentacles of Iran. It requires figuring out why countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia now see themselves as closer to Israel than to Hamas. Above all, it requires us to understand what is clear to nearly everyone in the Middle East: The ascendant force in our part of the world is not democracy or modernity. It is rather an empowered strain of Islam that assumes different and sometimes conflicting forms, and that is willing to employ extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control and confront the West. Those who grasp this fact will be able to look around and connect the dots.
Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion. Israel is not one of the most important stories in the world, or even in the Middle East; whatever the outcome in this region in the next decade, it will have as much to do with Israel as World War II had to do with Spain. Israel is a speck on the map—a sideshow that happens to carry an unusual emotional charge.
Many in the West clearly prefer the old comfort of parsing the moral failings of Jews and the familiar feeling of superiority this brings them, to confronting an unhappy and confusing reality. They may convince themselves that all of this is the Jews’ problem, and indeed the Jews’ fault. But journalists engage in these fantasies at the cost of their credibility and that of their profession. And, as Orwell would tell us, the world entertains fantasies at its peril.

Bibi and the Politics of Weakness

Bibi and the Politics of Weakness

By David Rubin 

Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu’s signing of the long-term ceasefire agreement with the Islamic terrorist leadership of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah raises serious questions, and not just about war and peace.

The image of Netanyahu in the West is that of a “hard-nosed”, tough, right-wing leader, who is uncompromising when it comes to asserting Israel’s claim to what the world media calls “greater Israel”, more accurately defined and translated from the Hebrew as “the complete Land of Israel”. He is revered by Israel’s supporters around the world as a bold defender of Israel, as he confronts often hostile news anchors around the world, and in perfect English no less.

Notwithstanding his strong communication skills, the reality on the ground is quite different. Everyone in Israel knows that Bibi is very susceptible to pressure, especially when it comes from an American administration that has broken new records for hostility towards Israel. The agreement to repeated ceasefires, which in effect tied the hands of the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza conflict, was a result of such pressure and Netanyahu’s inability, despite occasional tough talk, to stand up to that pressure.

Is that the only reason that he caved and agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza that doesn’t provide security to the residents of the Gaza belt communities nor to the cities of the South? Is American pressure the only reason why he agreed to a ceasefire that leaves the Hamas infrastructure totally intact? The motivation of our soldiers to sacrifice their personal safety for the sake of the homeland had never been higher. Was it all in vain?

Sadly, Bibi’s submission to pressure is apparently matched by his lack of Zionist conviction when it comes to the entire Land of Israel. Despite his upbringing in a home of complete Land of Israel Zionists, his support over the years for Israel’s development of Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem has been less than stellar, to say the least. The only time we ever see Netanyahu in Samaria is during an election campaign when he comes to plant symbolic trees, only to have those trees symbolically uprooted months later with the obstruction of construction in these communities, or even worse, the expulsion of young families from idealistic hilltop communities. Every resident in the established communities here in Samaria can tell you that the demand for homes is much greater than the supply. The lack of building permits, which have to be authorized by the defense minister, is the reason. Undoubtedly, Netanyahu’s lack of determination to enable growth in the biblical heartland extends all the more so to his apparent lack of belief in our historical right to reassert our authority in Gaza.

Despite his wishy-washy be‎havior in leading the Gaza battle as Commander-in Chief, Prime Minister Netanyahu has actually taken a bold political gamble by agreeing to this long-term ceasefire. Knowing that half of his Security Cabinet would oppose such a pathetic deal, which doesn’t even return the bodies of the two dead Israeli soldiers that remain in enemy hands, he used a technicality to approve the deal without a vote. Thus, he will have to take full political responsibility for the consequences, as Hamas and Islamic Jihad will immediately begin the process of rebuilding, restocking, and rearming, all in preparation for the next war.




Binyamin Netanyahu is a man of great talent and considerable achievement who hesitated, and missed the moment.

I am convinced that the residents of the Gaza-border communities can return to their homes... to a good and quality life here 

               - IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, August 6 

I have lost my faith in the government of Israel

                - Haim Yellin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council in southern Israel, August 27 

I feel a sense of acute discomfort in writing this week’s column.

I served for a number of years in the Prime Minister’s Office and witnessed first-hand the dedication and devotion with which so many in the security establishment discharge their duties. I am well aware of the huge debt the entire country owes them for their tireless and selfless endeavor. Yet despite their splendid and stirring efforts, dark and dangerous storm clouds are gathering on the horizon, and the emerging ramifications of accumulating miscalculation and misjudgment in the directives issued them are too menacing to be swept under the rug.

If they are not confronted openly, honestly and robustly they will fester and grow to dimensions that jeopardize the very foundations upon which the State of Israel was established.

Collapse of credibility? 

It appears my misgivings are shared by a rapidly increasing segment of the population.

Earlier this week, my colleague Isi Leibler (August 25) published a column assessing the losses and gains of Operation Protective Edge. In it he wrote: “Today, despite a decline in support, the majority of Israelis still back Netanyahu.” He was right – but not for long.

A poll published later the same day found that support for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had plummeted to well below 50 percent. Having soared to a stunning 82% early in the campaign (July 27), public approval of his performance dropped to 63% (August 5), dipping to 55% (August 21) and then, just prior to the latest ceasefire, plunged to 38% (August 25), with 50% disapproving.

But worse was yet to come. A Channel 2 poll published on Wednesday evening showed a dramatic collapse in public support for the prime minister, severe disapproval for his acceptance of the cease fire and a bleak assessment of the outcome of 50 days of fighting.

Only 32% approved of his performance, compared to almost 60% who disapproved. Moreover, 54% of the public opposed the cease-fire, with only 37% endorsing it. Perhaps most significantly, 59% believed Israel had not been victorious in the campaign, while a mere 29% believed it had.

Reasons for mistrust 

The disintegrating credence in the government’s handling of the Gaza situation is reflected in the response of the residents of the South and their local leaders. In a report titled “Leaders in southern Israel skeptical of Gaza cease-fire” (Jerusalem Post, August 27), the heads of regional councils that bore the brunt of much of the Hamas’s bombardment over the last seven weeks expressed scathing criticism of the government and deep mistrust of its commitment to their security, warning “residents were still afraid to return to their homes...”

Indeed, the communities in the “Gaza belt” have good reason for skepticism. Given the events of recent weeks, especially the chilling revelation of the terror tunnels and the threat they posed, the decision last October to withdraw the IDF security details protecting these communities seems such a massive miscalculation that it is difficult to grasp – especially in view of recent government claims that it was aware of the danger.

Under the headline “Dozens protest against removal of IDF Gaza security patrol” (October 30, 2013), Ynet reported: “Following Defense Ministry’s decision to halt security in 13 communities in Gaza vicinity, final soldier to leave region on Thursday; protesters claim ministry is risking lives of residents. ‘Decision was made after lengthy consideration,’ [Defense Minister Moshe] Ya’alon says.” It went on to state that the decision was taken “after long, serious and lengthy field work [and] was made responsibly after a lengthy consideration.”

Local residents clearly disagree.

‘Don’t have all the facts…’ 

An earlier report headlined “IDF to stop securing border communities” (September 17, 2013), conveyed: “Residents of Gaza vicinity area outraged after army announces it will cease providing security for 22 towns in Israel, near Sinai and Gaza border,” adding that “Army officials had made the decision following a comprehensive situation assessment... of threats on the stipulated areas...”

In light of later developments, this is hardly likely to instill confidence in future “comprehensive threat assessments.”

In this regard, let me turn briefly to the ire of several disgruntled government-loyalists, who have assailed me for my criticism of the handling of Operation Protective Edge. According to them, since I do not have all the facts and those in power have information that I do not, I should refrain from passing judgment on their decisions.

Their censure is, of course, entirely misplaced. Superior knowledge does not necessarily imply superior analysis or decision-making. One need not have an intimate familiarity with every bend and eddy current of the Nile to determine that the river flows from south to north – even though in some portions, it might momentarily run east or west.

After all, what “superior knowledge” gave rise to the Olmert government’s mismanagement of the 2006 Lebanon War, or to Ariel Sharon’s unilateral abandonment of Gaza, precipitating all the dangers its allegedly less-informed opponents correctly warned of – including the current round of fighting, and the one before that, and the one before that? 

Political predilection not possession of facts 

The political decision making process is far more a function of political predilection than of possession of facts. Indeed, good analysis of partial information is likely to produce better assessments of reality than poor assessments of fuller information.

Thus allow me a moment of immodest indulgence in which to remind readers of the assessment I made immediately following the cease-fire that ended Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

In a column titled “Israel’s infuriating impotence” (November 29, 2012), I wrote, with only partial information at my disposal: “Temporary lulls are increasingly unacceptable, making life in the South increasingly untenable both economically and emotionally.”

I warned of the specter of deserted Jewish settlements in the western Negev, of precisely the kind we now see: “If this continues much longer, depopulation of the South and the denudation of the Jewish presence there is an ever-more tangible possibility.”

With what turned out to be a tragically accurate sense of foreboding, I asked: “Unless there is a realistic prospect of permanently ceasing the attacks, why would any responsible parent consider remaining and bringing up their children there?” Finally, I underscored the disastrous effect of political predilections, and adherence to failed formulae would have on the political outcomes: “By adhering to Oslo-compliant paradigms and eschewing political alternatives that envision the deconstruction of Gaza and resettlement/rehabilitation of its Palestinian population elsewhere, military campaigns will always be driven by a rationale that dictates objectives which are limited, temporary and hence, in the eyes of the other side – inherently unsuccessful.”

I would invite my critics to point out where possession of partial information impaired my prognosis.

A nation misled? 

Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon are two of the most iconic Israeli leaders of the last half-century. It is a jarringly unnerving experience to revisit their proclamations regarding the prospects for Gaza and its relations with Israel.

Rabin, prior to the signature of Oslo II Accords (September 28, 1995), disdainfully dismissed the ominous foreboding of opponents. In a July 24, 1995, radio interview, he scoffed: The nightmare stories of the Likud are well known. After all, they promised Katyusha rockets from Gaza as well. For a year, Gaza has been largely under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. There has not been a single Katyusha rocket. Nor will there be any Katyushas.

Scary stuff!

Nine years later, Sharon, in a Knesset address (October 25, 2004), confidently predicted a rosy future following Israel’s unilateral evacuation: “I am firmly convinced and truly believe that this disengagement... will be appreciated by those near and far, reduce animosity, break through boycotts and sieges and advance us along the path of peace with the Palestinians and our other neighbors...”

Scary stuff. Or have I said that before? But irony aside, one could not ask for a more dramatic illustration of how political predilection overrides possession of fact.

Confronted with such spectacularly mistaken assessments by leaders with vast experience and updated intelligence, the Israeli people seem to have little basis for placing unmitigated trust in their leaders – no matter how well informed they are alleged to be.

Fortress too daunting? 

It is in this context that the declarations of victory over Hamas should be judged. They are clearly little more than political spin, with little substantive strategic substance to them.

Yes, of course, after 50 days of fighting Israel has wrought great devastation on Hamas and the populace of Gaza. Although we may admire the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the intelligence collection and the precision of delivery of weapons to targets, with an unopposed freedom of the skies, no anti-aircraft systems or opposing planes in the air, this was almost a foregone conclusion.

What is not a foregone conclusion is whether, in the next – inevitable – round, that will still be the case. Or whether our pilots will then have to face harrowing challenges from newly emplaced air defense systems, acquired with Qatari cash from any one of a myriad of willing suppliers – from Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey or Kim Jong Un’s North Korea.

What should be clear from the events that have unfolded since July 8 is that for almost a quarter-century, successive governments in Israel have permitted Hamas to construct, under their very noses, a fortress so formidable that the IDF hardly dare set foot in – even when civilians are forced to cower in shelters for 50 days on end.

Sadly, there is no way to avoid the appalling conclusion that, because of fear of military casualties, the Israeli leadership refused to order the IDF into battle (which by all accounts it could have easily won within days) to protect the nation’s civilians.

Precluding preemption 

What could have been done differently? Well imagine if all the explosives that were dropped on Gaza during 50 days of fighting were dropped in the first five days of fighting. Instead of a lone fighter sent to hit a single objective, waves of fighters were sent to hit multiple objectives simultaneously. Suppose this massive aerial onslaught was followed by a commensurately large artillery barrage to cover a land invasion from the north and east and a marine-borne assault form the west...

Yes, there would be casualties, but that is what warriors in a democratic society do – put themselves in harm’s way so that civilians are not.

In a recent paper (Wise Tactical Choices in Gaza) my good friend Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former national security adviser, wrote that Israel could not have launched such a preemptive strike and retain international legitimacy. There are a myriad of reasons to dispute this claim, but even if it were true, it comprises perhaps the most severe indictment of the Netanyahu incumbency.

For after being in power continuously for over half-a-decade it has done nothing to put in place mechanisms/ systems to contend with the foreknown hostility of the Obama administration and to establish the legitimacy of the Jews right to self-defense – including the right to preempt aggression.

Missing the moment 

The full ramifications of Operation Protective Edge are still unfolding. Much that is deeply disturbing has yet to be discovered.

Regrettably, just as the mistaken “Conception” (Konsepzia) that prevailed in 1973, and led to what has become known as the “Debacle” (Mehdal) of the Yom Kippur War, the emerging ramifications of how Protective Edge was conducted will rock the foundations of the relationship between the Israeli people and their government.

But this time the result is liable be even more traumatic.

Binyamin Netanyahu is a man of great talent and considerable achievement who hesitated, and missed the moment.

Sadly, that is how history is likely to remember him.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Facts Over Feelings

Facts Over Feelings
I am so sick of reading and listening to the “opinions” of people who continue to spew totally uninformed, grossly biased, anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist misinformation, claiming themselves as righteous humanitarians while trying to provoke a debate. As difficult as it has been for a Jewish lawyer/provocateur and fervent Israel-supporter like myself, I have been actively avoiding these people for over a month, while my friends and family push me to respond in defense of Israel. I keep asking, “Why bother try and debate using facts when the counter-argument is based on terrorist propaganda?” It’s like debating evolution with creationists who find the Garden of Eden to be more plausible than science [while also supporting terrorism]. Too many people read a couple of articles, see a couple of photos, and conclude that they are well informed enough to argue on behalf of the struggling people of Gaza. And as passionately as I want to advocate for Israel in this exceptionally challenging time, engaging with these people is exhausting and seemingly hopeless. At some point, you have to save your breath when you are dealing with people who conflate facts with feelings and are simply looking for a fight.
But as the conflict rages on, with cease-fire after cease-fire being declared by Israel and rejected by Hamas, while the rockets continue to fly and the sirens continue to sound, and while my brave young friends continue to risk their lives to protect our shared home, the commentary from people I formerly respected has gotten more and more appalling. The distortions and fallacies have become too overwhelming and I have saved my breath for too long. People have seemingly forgotten that there are such things as factsinstead waging supposedly intellectual arguments based on terrorist-manufactured feelings. So, in response to all those wannabe debaters I have been so vigorously ignoring…
If you see ANY moral parity between Israel and Hamas; If the only thing driving your passion and informing your “opinion” is sympathy for dead civilians; If you believe that “Palestine” was a state or any other type of recognized entity that was “stolen” from its people in 1948, or that “Palestinian” is, or has ever been, a nationality[1]; If you do not recognize the absolute fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization[2], whose charter calls for the elimination of Jews worldwide and total destruction of the Jewish state[3]; If you don’t know (or care) that Israel was acting entirely in self-defense in this conflict, after eleven thousand rockets rained down on its civilian population centers[4] in the 9 years since the IDF pulled every last Jew (often at gunpoint) out of the Gaza Strip[5], and Hamas orchestrated the kidnapping and brutal murder of 3 innocent Israeli teenagers[6]; If you deny that Hamas very intentionally puts its own women and children in the direct line of fire[7], and stores its weapons caches in schools and mosques[8], and sets up its own operating centers in hospitals[9]; If you refuse to appreciate the words of Colonel Richard Kemp (fmr. commander of all British forces in Afghanistan), who said the IDF is the “most moral army in the world”[10], UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who “express[ed] his outrage and regret at [Hamas’s] placing of weapons in a UN-administered school [and] endangering the lives of innocent children, UN employees…and anyone using the UN schools as shelter”[11], and even Judge Richard Goldstone, who retracted his own UN report to proclaim that the IDF categorically does NOT target civilians[12]; If you deny that IDF efforts to prevent civilians casualties are unparalleled, unprecedented, and stunningly tactically disadvantageous[13]; If you are unaware of the more than 500 Hamas rockets which did not reach their intended destinations in Israel but instead landed on the homes or community centers of their own people in Gaza (including one of the much-publicized UN schools/rocket launching pads where at least a dozen children were killed)[14]; If you accuse Israel of imprisoning Palestinians with no opportunity for state-building but remain totally oblivious to the billions of dollars in aid given to the them[15], used for terror tunnels instead of infrastructure[16], or the truckloads of humanitarian supplies Israel continues to deliver to the Strip, even while Palestinians bomb the only border crossing open for the passage of goods[17]; If you argue that there is nowhere for Palestinian civilians to go to avoid injury or death when Israel sends them warning of a potential strike[18]; If you can’t understand the equality of the value of ALL human life evident in Israel’s decision to avoid a strictly aerial campaign that would save Israelis but kill more Palestinians, instead losing 67 of its own sons; If you’ve never wondered what happened to the one million Jewish refugees whose homes were looted and burned and families threatened across the Middle East and North Africa in response to the UN partition plan[19]; If you’re unaware that in 2007, Hamas murdered 260 Fatah members – their rival Palestinian faction which has acknowledged Israel’s right to exist – and expelled them to the West Bank so they could create a terrorist state in Gaza committed to destruction as opposed to negotiation[20]; If you trust the casualty statistics being reported by Hamas[21]; If you have never opened your mouth to protest the humanitarian atrocities taking place in Iraq[22], Syria[23], Nigeria[24], Iran[25], Afghanistan[26], Ukraine[27], Pakistan[28], and dozens of other countries around the world, but you so vehemently decry the death toll in this comparatively miniscule conflict; If you think the media is unbiased (or more ignorantly, you think it’s pro-Israel)[29], and you think the UN has no prejudice[30]; If you think Hamas cares more about its people than its weapons, or about creating a state rather than destroying one[31]… then your beliefs are not based in fact, and I can’t take your arguments seriously.
Without appreciating the facts, you don’t understand the context of the conflict or what’s a stake. You don’t understand the history or reality of the Jewish people or the State of Israel. You claim to value and defend human life while you embolden an organization committed to death and destruction. You frankly do not recognize good versus evil. And you may just be plain anti-Semitic, not because disagreement or dissent is tantamount to anti-Semitism, but because your arguments are so biased against Jews and the Jewish state that you lack all credibility in making them. You are only invested in this conflict because the Israelis decided to defend themselves against the publicly professed attempted extermination of our people both in Israel and around the globe. You may have formulated your prejudiced talking points from the pictures or accounts in the prejudiced media, but that is absolutely no excuse, just as being Jewish is no defense. Anti-Semitism does not have to be mindful or intentional to be anti-Semitism; willful blindness that materializes as hostility to, or prejudice against Jews is enough to label you. Worse, you are being used as a tool in a radical terrorist organization’s propaganda war, the only war Hamas has any chance of winning. (And, assuming you are reading this from a Western country where free speech and internet access are almost equally valued, Hamas wants you dead as much as it wants Israel and its people destroyed. Especially if you’re gay. Or female. Or Catholic. Or otherwise uncommitted to global jihad.)
Hamas has refused or flagrantly violated countless ceasefires[32] (seven? eight? I literally can’t count anymore), opting instead to continue shooting rockets at Israeli civilians with full knowledge that Israel has invested in incredibly effective systems to protect its people. Seems futile, no? Although the Hamas leadership are nihilistic, homicidal and corrupt, they are not stupid. They choose this because as long as they shoot at Israelis, Israel will shoot back, and Hamas can guarantee that women and children continue to die while shielding these cowardly militants and their massive weapons arsenals from Israeli fire. While the IDF warns civilians before attacks so they can leave, Hamas physically (with clubs and guns) forces women and children to remain in the precise locations where they are certain to be maimed or killed. And all those devastating pictures of dead civilians are all that Hamas has to gain any legitimacy: Hamas is despised or ignored even by the Arab governments they used to call their friends, and they have nothing to offer the Palestinian people except world sympathy and international condemnation of Israel. They are counting on YOU to remain recklessly, indefensibly uninformed as to everything except these tragic, despicable, but avoidable deaths, and you have not let them down. As far as I’m concerned, that makes you complicit.
Also, look up the word “genocide.”[33] This is a particularly vile accusation by you manipulated “humanitarians,” leveled against a country whose people have survived the most notorious genocide on modern record. In actuality, the Palestinian population has quintupled since the creation of the State of Israel[34] (and the simultaneous refusal of the Palestinians to have their own state and live side-by-side in peace with Israel).[35] That’s a multiple of five, in 66 years. As scholar, author and Professor Dennis Prager said, if this is genocide, “it must surely rank as the least effective genocide in world history.”[36] Maybe you should stop throwing that word around in such a patently inaccurate context – unless you’re using it to describe the goal of Hamas vis-a-vis the Jews (and “every other civilization.”)[37]
If you’re not into these FACTS, you’re not equipped to debate this issue.[38] That is absolutely not to say there is nothing to debate, and I recognize that there are a whole range of legitimate opinions on the use of force, proportionality, the occupation, history, politics and religion on both sides. But while opinions are debatable, facts are not. Any real discussion has to be based in reality, and there is no room for debate with unknowing terrorist defenders, unknowing anti-Semites, and unknowing perpetuators of this cycle of dangerous misinformation. Those are debates with no winners and terrifying consequences, for Jews, for Palestinians, and for humanity. You may want to consider your arguments and question whether they are advancing your professed goal of promoting life and freedom. Moving forward, here is one fact to remember: Legitimizing the tactics of Hamas and its abominably successful “dead baby strategy”[39] does nothing but guarantee the continued subjugation of the Palestinian people to Hamas’s radical jihadist ambitions.
If you want an informed debate, first get informed, then we can talk. And if you don’t want to get informed, that’s ok too. Just do the world [and the Palestinian people] a favor and keep your mouth shut.

[1] Palestine has simply never been a state, nor has Palestinian ever been a nationality. In fact, Jordan is home to almost twice as many Palestinians as the Gaza Strip. Large Palestinian populations are also nationals of Lebanon and Syria. One segment of the Palestinian population was Jewish prior to the creation of the state of Israel, after which point those Jews identified as Israeli. It is impossible to declare the borders of any ever-existing Palestinian state, its government, founding members, or state capital. Under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, a Jewish and a Palestinian state were proposed, but the Arabs living in the region immediately rejected a Palestinian state that would live side by side with a Jewish state. Although Palestinian Authority passports have been issued, “the Jordan Times reported that: “Palestinians claim that donor countries, including the United States, would accept the passport as a ‘travel document and not as a nationality’” and “according to an official at the U.S. Department of State, the United States does not recognize Palestine as a country, and therefore the Palestinian Authority Passport/Travel Document does not confer citizenship.”
[2] Hamas was put on the United States State Department’s Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations list on October 8, 1997 and on the European Union’s blacklist on September 11, 2003. Hamas’s military wing had already been listed in the European Union.;
[3] Hamas Charter, Part I Article 7: “The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”
[4] Over 5 million Israelis are currently living under the threat of rocket attacks.
[5] Palestinians throughout the Gaza strip celebrated as Israel pulled 3,000 troops from the Gaza after removing the entire Jewish population (often forcibly) from the Strip, bulldozing their homes.
[6] “The teens — Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Frankel, a 16-year-old dual U.S.-Israeli citizen — disappeared late June 12 or early June 13 from the Jewish settlement of Gush Etzion in the West Bank.
[7] Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri: “The fact that people are willing to sacrifice themselves against Israeli warplanes in order to protect their homes, I believe this strategy is proving itself. And we, Hamas, call on our people to adopt this practice.”; Hamas MP Fathi Hammad: “…the Palestinian people has developed its methods of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land… The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children.  This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine…We desire death like you desire life.”
[8]July 17: “The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is investigating the discovery of 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant schools in the Gaza Strip. The UNRWA condemned the incident as a “flagrant violation” of international law, adding that the rockets had been removed and that the relevant parties had been informed.”; July 17, 2014: Twenty Rockets Found in UNRWA School”; July 24, 2014: “UN Chief ‘Outraged” Over Rockets Stored in UNRWA Schools”; July 29, 2014: “Third Rocket Arsenal Found At UN School in Gaza”
[9] Watch as a Finnish correspondent reports live from Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, where Hamas militants are firing rockets and hoping for an Israeli retaliatory strike.; “The IDF’s Twitter account has also tweeted an image that it says shows rockets were being fired from the vicinity of the hospital.”
[10] “The Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare. Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population…many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to avoid civilian casualties.”
[11] Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer: “In the last week, we had 2 different UNRWA schools where we had rockets in the schools and handed over to Hamas…A statement made by…the UN Secretary General, yesterday, “The Secretary General is alarmed to hear that rockets were placed in an UNRWA school in Gaza and that subsequently these have gone missing. He expresses his outrage and regret at the placing of weapons in a UN-administered school.”
[12] After two years of controversy regarding the findings of the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report, Judge Goldstone wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report.” He stated that “[o]ur report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets…[T]he investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report…indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”
[13] Col Richard Kemp: “The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets and making over a hundred thousand phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to avoid civilian casualties.”
[14] As of July 30, 2014, “nearly 300 rockets fired by Hamas and its Palestinian militia allies landed in the Gaza Strip.”; “Israel says its forces did not kill Palestinians sheltering at a UN school”
[15] “Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed approximately $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid.”
[16] “Hamas backers spend fortunes on rockets and tunnels while Gazans live in misery”
[17] The Kerem Shalom crossing remains open and humanitarian goods continue to cross into Gaza from Israel while barrages of rockets strike the crossing itself and threaten the Israeli soldiers bringing food and medical supplies to the Gazan population.; In the previous conflict between Israel and Hamas, Col. Kemp said, “to deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands, is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.” The same is true now.
[18] Population density maps show that although Gaza has several densely populated areas, most notably Gaza City, Beit Hanoun and Khan Younis, the rest of the strip is sparsely populated. The reason the war is being waged from these areas is because Hamas is hiding behind its civilians. If militants were to “use sparsely populated areas from which to launch rockets and build tunnels…Palestinian civilian casualties would decrease dramatically, but the casualty rate among Hamas terrorists would increase dramatically.”
[19] “Overall, the number of Jews fleeing Arab countries for Israel in the years following Israel’s independence was nearly double the number of Arabs leaving Palestine…Most of the Jewish refugees traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to a tiny country whose inhabitants spoke a different language and lived with a vastly different culture. Most Palestinian refugees traveled but a few miles to the other side of the 1949 armistice lines while remaining inside a linguistically, culturally and ethnically similar society…Moreover, the value of Jewish property left behind and confiscated by the Arab governments is estimated to be at least 50 percent higher than the total value of assets lost by the Palestinian refugees…To date, more than 100 UN resolutions have been passed referring explicitly to the fate of the Palestinian refugees. Not one has specifically addressed Jewish refugees.”
[20] In rejoining to create the “Unity Government” in 2014, Abbas responded to Israel’s concerns regarding Hamas’s refusal to recognize its right to exist. Abbas said: “The negotiations are a PLO matter because it represents all Palestinians…At the same time, I recognize Israel and it will recognize Israel. I reject violence and it will reject violence. I recognize the legitimacy of international agreements and it will recognize them. No one can call this a terrorist government.” However, “Abbas’s statements came as a surprise to Hamas, whose leaders rushed to deny any intention to renounce terrorism or recognize Israel’s right to exist.”; Members of both parties indicate a refusal to consider reconciliation, saying “I want them to be killed,” “I want their children to suffer the same way we suffered,” and “my brother’s blood is priceless.”
[21] “Even human rights group antagonistic to Israel acknowledge, according to a New York Times report, that Hamas probably counts among the “civilians killed by Israel” the following groups: Palestinians killed by Hamas as collaborators; Palestinians killed through domestic violence; Palestinians killed by errant Hamas rockets or mortars; and Palestinians who died naturally during the conflict. I wonder if Hamas also included the reported 162 children who died while performing child slave labor in building their terror tunnels. Hamas also defines combatants to include only armed fighters who were killed while fighting Israelis. They exclude Hamas supporters who build tunnels, who allow their homes to be used to store and fire rockets, Hamas policemen, members of the Hamas political wing and others who work hand in hand with the armed terrorists.”
[22] “Militants from ISIS have killed at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic minority … the Sunni militants had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves.” As many as 200,000 were forced to flee their homes, many taking refuge on top of Mount Sinjar with no food or water.
[23] More than 700 people were killed in clashes over two days between pro-government forces and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) militants in Syria…the deaths represented the bloodiest fighting since the civil war began in 2011…By Thursday 270 have been killed in clashes while the death toll for the day’s combined unrest was 396. Friday’s death toll reached 314 while 90 more people are still unaccounted for.
[24] “Boko Haram’s brutal campaign includes a suicide attack on a United Nations building in Abuja in 2011, repeated attacks that have killed dozens of students, burning of villages, ties to regional terror groups, and the abduction of more than two hundred girls in 2014.”
[25] “Iran is ranked number one, surpassing China, in leading the world in executions per capita. Executed people in 2014 included women, human rights activists, political activists, and religious ethnic minorities…According to Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, at least 176 people had been put to death in January, February, and early March of 2014. Several were executed in public. At least 500 people were executed in 2013, with 57 publicly.”
[26] “The United Nations recorded a 23 percent rise in civilian casualties for the first six months of 2013 compared to 2012, most caused by insurgents, with the Taliban explicitly targeting civilians they see as supporting the government…There was continued instability and declining respect for human rights in the country over the past year. This was reflected in attacks on women’s rights, growing internal displacement and migration, and weakened efficacy of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). Impunity for abuses was the norm for government security forces and other armed groups.”
[27] “Officials said 17 people, including five children, were killed in fighting on Monday evening in the town of Horlivka, one of several spots that have seen fierce battles between the rival forces in the last few days…The UN says more than 100,000 people have already fled Ukraine’s tumultuous east.”; “The Ukrainian military’s advances to reclaim territory from rebel control have come at a steep human cost. According to a United Nations count released on Monday, 799 civilians have been killed since mid-April, when Ukraine began to battle insurgents here, and at least 2,155 have been wounded.”
[28] “The United Nations says it’s struggling to cope with a mounting humanitarian crisis in Pakistan as thousands continue to flee a military offensive in the country’s north. The major operation has seen the restive North Waziristan tribal area hit by more than a week of shelling and air raids. About 500,000 people have fled their homes ahead of an impending ground assault, with many going to the nearby town of Bannu.”
[29]HonestReporting was formed in 2000 to respond to unfair coverage against Israel in the wake of the second Intifada. Since then, it’s prompted hundreds of corrections and retractions in the media.
[30] The UN Human Rights “council has criticized Israel on 27 separate occasions, in resolutions that grant effective impunity to Hamas, Hezbollah and their state sponsors…The Council in its first year failed to condemn human rights violations occurring in any of the world’s 191 other countries. In its second year, the Council finally criticized one other country when it “deplored” the situation in Burma…It even praised Sudan for its “cooperation.” In its third year, the Council’s fixation with Israel is not limited to resolutions. Israel is the only country listed on the Council’s permanent agenda. Moreover, Israel is the only country subjected to an investigatory mandate that examines the actions of only one side, presumes those actions to be violations, and which is not subject to regular review.”; Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: Rather than investigate Hamas, which is committing a double war crime by firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the UNHRC calls for an investigation of Israel, which has gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, including by dropping leaflets, making phone calls and sending text messages.”
[31] A series of Hamas leaders proclaim “Yes, we are a people that yearns for death just as our enemies yearn for life”; “First and foremost, armed resistance, Jihad for the sake of Allah, this is the one and only path”; “Blow up and harvest the heads of the Zionists”; “Out of the ruins we shall rock Tel Aviv”; “Oh Zionists get out before we expel you”; “Through blood, through body parts and through martyrs.”
[32] July 16, 2014: Hamas Tells Egypt It Rejects Gaza Ceasefire; July 26, 2014: Israel Extends Gaza Ceasefire for 24 Hours; Hamas Rejects Terms; August 5, 2014: Israel and Hamas Start 72-Hour Ceasefire in Gaza “…But the ceasefire…remained fragile. The IDF said a barrage of 20 rockets was fired into Israel around the deadline.; August 7, 2014: Hamas Bombards Israel, Rejects Ceasefire; August 8, 2014: Gaza Ceasefire Ends and Israel Reports Rocket Fire; August 10, 2014: Agreeing to More Talks in Egypt, Israelis and Palestinians Begin Latest Ceasefire; A Timeline of Gaza’s Failed, Forgotten Ceasefires
[33] Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; Article 2: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
[34] While the statistics are calculated differently by different groups, and all groups tend to agree that the numbers are grossly inflated, the correlation of the lowest estimates and the highest estimates all indicate a five-fold increase in the population of Palestinian refugees since 1948.
[35] Palestinians consider May 15, 1948, the day after the Israeli declaration of independence, to be a tragic day; they commemorate it annually as “al nakba” or “the catastrophe”. The Arabs immediately rejected the UN resolution, and the day that the Jewish Agency accepted Israel’s boundaries under the partition plan, the surrounding Arab countries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria declared war on Israel. They have refused to accept the existence of the Jewish state since that day.
[37] Mousa Hassan Yousef, “Son of Hamas”, whose father was a founding member of the movement: “Hamas does not care about the lives of Palestinians, does not care about the lives of Israelis or Americans. They don’t care about their own lives. They consider dying for the sake of their ideology a way of worship. How can you continue in that society?…Hamas is not seeking coexistence and compromise. Hamas is seeking conquest and taking over. And by the way, the destruction of the State of Israel is not Hamas’s final destination. Hamas’s final destination is…building an Islamic state on the rubble of every other civilization. These are the ultimate goals of Hamas.”
[38] “The people who are in the grip of this delusional perspective by which they view Israel and the Middle East are simply impervious to reason. They are impervious to evidence. They are impervious to facts. You bring along facts on the ground and they say, “no it’s not true.” You tell them the history of the Middle East, and they say “no it’s not true…[And even the people who] are entirely rational…the discourse they hear, day after day, week after week, from the media, from the inteligencia, from politicians across the political spectrum…all tells one story. It’s a story which turns truth and lies, justice and injustice, victim and victimizer in the Middle East, on their heads.”
[39] “The Hamas “dead baby” strategy – to cause as many civilian casualties as possible by firing its deadly rockets from schools and densely populated areas – is producing understandable outrage around the world. What is not understandable is why the outrage is directed against Israel, which is a victim of this strategy, rather than against Hamas, which is its perpetrator.”