Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Letters to a Zionist friend (3): It's them, not me

Yitzchak Goodman is easily the most civil blogger on the web. He is calm and mild-mannered and always finds a polite way to say even the most outrageous things. When you get angry at him, you know you can't tell him to do something to himself, because he'll never reciprocate.

Now Goodman has a strange obsession. A huge amount of his blogging is devoted to exposing North Korea's autocratic regime -- for instance, here, here and here, just from this last week. This fixation defies explanation. North Korea is not very much newsworthy, and while its human-rights record is dismal, it pales next to that of Congo, where 5.5 million were killed in the last war, and Pygmies were eaten.

Granted, he's not the only one with difficult-to-explain obsessions. My countryman Andrés Oppenheimer, for instance, specializes in trashing Cuba. He appears on TV, writes for newspapers in Spanish and English and has even authored a few books whose sole purpose is to highlight Cuba's failures and belittle its achievements. This, at a time when Cuba has become utterly irrelevant on the international scene.

So that I suppose you were right, my dear Zionist friend, to call Goodman an anti-North-Korean bigot, and Oppenheimer an anti-Cuban bigot.

What?? You didn't call them bigots?

Wait a minute. Your star argument all these years has been that I slam Israel and not Sudan, so I must have a special prejudice against Israel and, in fact, the Jewish people, which turns me into, well, an antisemite. But look at Goodman and Oppenheimer: they also talk too little about Sudan, and too much about North Korea and Cuba. They must also harbor hateful feelings, mustn't they?

Oh, I can see what your response to that is. It's not only that I devote a disproportionate fraction of my time to bashing Israel. It's also that there's a huge wealth of other bloggers, pundits, journalists and commenters who do the same: by contrast, Goodman and Oppenheimer are relatively isolated in their North Korean and Cuban obsessions. Such collective fury directed against a small country can only be dictated by deeply-ingrained hatred, probably the result of milennia of Jewish blood-libeling.

And know what? I'll agree that many, many critics of Israel are vicious antisemites. A majority, a minority? I don't know, but there are many. But what does this say about individual anti-Zionists? Nothing. Nothing at all.

See, Goodman's and Oppenheimer's cases illustrate the fact that, statistically, there will always be people who develop an interest, a negative interest, in a certain country for no reason at all. So how do you know that I'm not the guy that statistically must arise with a specialized interest in finding Israel's defects, just like others criticize Poland, Sri Lanka or Argentina? You don't know, and if you don't know you must give me the benefit of the doubt. Trust me: I am that guy. And I'm not an antisemite, and the proof is that -- I don't have a single Jewish friend! (i.e. I didn't befriend one only to deflect criticism. I do have a left-handed wife, however. Not the same, I know.)

The rest of anti-Zionists? I don't know. Some will hate Jews, some others won't. But here's a piece of advice for you: if you believe you can charge individual Israel critics with antisemitism, don't look at me, look at them.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Israel as a wife beater

It sometimes seems to me that in defending itself Israel uses some of the arguments depoloyed by wife abusers to excuse their behavior.

"She provoked me." That is a standard defense. She cursed me, she slapped me in the face, she even kicked me in the knee with her sharp-pointed shoes, and it did hurt. Can you expect me not to react? By the way, since I punched both her eyes black, she has stopped attacking me, either verbally or physically.

But no court, be it in the US, Argentina or Israel, would accept that defense. The judge would tell the defendant that while his wife has the power to cause him a modest amount of pain, he has the power to kill her with his fists. The overwhelmingly stronger side in a conflict has a greater obligation to show restraint than the side that is basically unable to cause any actual harm. If the husband doesn't want to be kicked or scratched, he must seek an arrangement, for instance by leaving the house (leaving the house altogether, not just one room) and paying support money to his spouse and children.

That is, in a nutshell, what judge Goldstone has told Israel. Hamas' attacks were mostly a nuisance, with people in Israel being more likely to die as bystanders in drive-by shootings from internecine Jewish mafia warfare than from a Qassam or a Grad. Few Israelis took Hamas' toothless rockets seriously; on the contrary, bloodthirsty Israeli Jews flocked to Sderot to watch the carnage live undeterred by the (extremely low) chances of being hit by one of the enemy's imprecise devices. In that context, Goldstone affirms, the amount of death inflicted by Israel is unwarrantedly disproportionate. He's being hated a lot for saying so, and, more to the point, for being a Jew who says so.

Another defense wife-batterers usually put up is, "I don't know how this could come about." The wife is bruised and bleeding and has missing teeth and two or three broken bones, yet the guy doesn't know how it all happened, as if he was seized by supernatural forces he had no control over. This is what the Israeli government says re the continual illegal outpost expansion in the West Bank. It just happens; the IDF can't do anything. As Haaretz reported a few days ago, quoting a defense official:

"The settlers are very much in tune with the ticking political clock," the senior defense source said. "You can sense it on the ground, with the infrastructure work that is being done, but also in more minor things. They are acting without any legal authorization and are ignoring the state.

"The approach at this time is that whoever can, goes ahead and builds," the source continued. "It begins with the official leadership of the Yesha Council [of settlements] and ends with the hilltop youth."

The source is fully aware of the hindrance this means in terms of an eventual evacuation as part of a two-state solution:

He pointed out that the phenomenon of unbridled construction is evident in both the more established settlements and in the illegal outposts.

"Whoever can, lays the floor in preparation for constructing a building; and in factories they add extensions to roofs. In some settlements, they've built factories for rapid construction of caravans on site, so that they can bypass the ban - on transporting caravans - which was issued by the Civil Administration. Everything was done with the intent of creating a critical mass in many different locations at once, which will make evacuation in the future [more] difficult," he said.

Note how this security source speaks of it as if it were fate-ordained. It's all illegal, he has no qualms admitting that, just like a wife abuser admits that battering his wife is also illegal. But then he describes the process as something that just goes on, as if the defense establishment he belongs to had no power whatsoever to stop it.

Mr. Unnamed Official, I believe Israel has a procedure to deal with illegal construction. What was the name for it? Oh, yes -- house demolitions. As for those factories where they make the caravans, here's an idea you may have not thought of -- factory demolitions. Is it too much to ask why you are not using your army's proven capabilities for removing lawbreakers from where they're illegally residing? Can you be seriously describing with a straight face the criminal actions of Israeli citizens without facing up to the fact that it's your duty to stop them -- very much like a violent husband describes the abuse he inflicted on his wife while maintaining that he wasn't actually aware of what he was doing?

Who is going to jail wife-battering Israel? Although Richard Goldstone is a judge, he cannot convict the offending country. There's only one judge who can. A judge who for a while seemed to have gathered the courage to indict Israel over its "unwilling" expansion in the West Bank. But he finally showed his true colors and dropped the case. Shame on you, Judge Obama, for letting shepherd-clubbing, grove-burning, land-grabbing Israel to walk free once again, in spite of the harm it visits on the wife it forcibly took.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A report is not a genocide

Yes, Zionist blogs are, as a rule, boring and predictable and not much fun to follow. But I'm a Hasbara buster, and to bust the Hasbara first I must read it. So the other day I was browsing Ben Cohen's Z-Word when I noticed the following paragraph:

At 5PM EST today, you can watch a live debate between Judge Richard Goldstone - of Goldstone Commission fame - and Dore Gold, now of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, formerly the Israeli Ambassador to the UN. Their debate comes one day after the House of Representatives dismissed the Goldstone report as a sham and as the UN General Assembly deliberates over a non-binding resolution to refer the report to the Security Council (bit of a foregone conclusion, that one.)

It has always stricken me how landslide votings are considered proof of the justness of the vote when done by the US Congress, but of antisemitic prejudice when done by the UN. Cohen thinks (OK, he actually doesn't, but haven't you heard about figures of speech) that the US Congress's resolution, unlike the UN General Assembly's, was not a foregone conclusion. It was a reflection of the American lawmakers' careful and thorough reading of the Goldstone report, and not of their fear of being targetted by a smear campaign if they supported the document. There's a world of difference between them and the countries that automatically voted for the resolution at the General Assembly without having even paid a cursory look at it.

An impartial reader (same observation as before re figures of speech) might, however, wonder if the UN actually has a pattern of knee-jerk anti-Israel voting, like Cohen would have us believe. It turns out not. While the General Assembly did vote to equate (correctly but unnecessarily) Zionism to racism in 1975, it voted to repeal the equation in 1992. Israel has been censured many times, but it has never (yes, that's never) been subjected to sanctions. Meanwhile, Iraq, one of Israel's foes, was met with sanctions by the Security Council. Also, while Israel has been allowed to develop WMDs, Iran, another foe of Israel, has been ordered to stop its nuclear program, despite its having rigorously complied with international regulations in the field. And who can forget that it was the UN General Assembly that voted to partition Palestine in 1947?

The US Congress, by contrast, has solidly thrown its support behind Israel. It has many times repudiated Israel's enemies and even mild critics, but it has never criticized Israel. The most striking fact is how swiftly both houses move to express their unconditional support for the Jewish state when there's no actual need for the vote. We all know that when the Goldstone report gets to the Security Council it will be killed by the US under direct orders from Hillary Clinton with the Congress playing no role whatsoever. However, showing their lapdogness to the Lobby will have favorable repercussions for the genuflected legislators, for instance in terms of campaign donations.

This contrasts with the Congress's foot-dragging over other votes that might have a potentially greater importance. Case in point, the Armenian Genocide Resolution, which would recognize the slaughter of 1.5 M Armenians by the Turkish state. It was passed by a House committee, and then -- put to sleep. And guess what was the most important private American institution that opposed the bill?

So that when pro-Israel forces want a resolution passed, Congress rushes to overwhelmingly vote for it; but when pro-Israel forces don't want a resolution passed, Congress rushes to shelve it. But the only Pavlovian voters, they have the chutzpah to tell us, are those at the UN General Assembly.