Cobra Kai and the Jewish State

My granddaughter, Shai, told my wife that she should make her a “Cobra Kai” shirt. We were mystified, so she told us to watch the video series and we would understand. It turns out to be a continuation of the plot of the movie “The Karate Kid,” in which (as I see it) the yetzer hara and the yetzer hatov are personified by the competing dojos of Cobra Kai and Miyagi Do respectively. Keep that thought – I’ll come back to it.

In the real world, the struggle between Israel and her enemies is far more bitter and bloody. For several months now tensions have risen, with demonstrations and riots in several cities by Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel over various issues. Violent attacks on Jews by Arabs were followed by violence against Arabs by militant Jewish groups. The conflict reached a peak on Monday, Jerusalem Day, when hundreds of police and Arabs fought each other on and around the Temple Mount, the Arabs throwing rocks and shooting fireworks, while the police responded with teargas and stun grenades. At the same time, Hamas issued an ultimatum that if the police did not leave the Mount by 6:00 PM, they would fire rockets at Jerusalem. The police stayed, and Hamas carried out its threat, launching seven rockets.

Since then the violence has escalated. Israeli Arabs have rioted in various cities and towns in Israel, attacking Jewish citizens and police. In Lod, local Arabs rampaged in Jewish neighborhoods, burning cars and even synagogues, evoking visions of anti-Jewish pogroms. Riots also occurred in Acco, Yafo, and the Arab towns of the “Triangle,” east of Netanya and Haifa. Hamas has been broadcasting incitement for weeks via its imams and social media, including the perennial “Al Aqsa is in danger” line that has been  inflaming Palestinian Muslims against Jews for at least 100 years.

Meanwhile, rocket fire from Gaza has reached unprecedented levels. As of Wednesday morning (as I write) more than 1,000 rockets have been launched at Israel from Gaza, reaching as far north as Hadera. At least 850 of them have reached Israel, with 200 falling short into Gaza (keep this in mind when Hamas blames its civilian casualties on Israeli retaliation). Massive barrages hit Ashkelon, setting a strategic gas facility afire, and keeping inhabitants in shelters all night. Naturally the towns and kibbutzim in the south, the usual targets of Hamas rockets, got their portion too. According to Hamas, 130 rockets were launched toward Tel Aviv. Even here in Rehovot, which is usually spared, we were awakened by sirens several times overnight. As of this moment, five Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets, including two Israeli Arabs whose car took a direct hit in Lod. There have been dozens of injuries and much property damage. The Iron Dome systems have intercepted many of the rockets, but due to their sheer volume it has been impossible to stop all of them.

The IDF – air force, artillery, and navy – has been hitting launchers, weapons factories, underground facilities, and some senior Hamas officials since the rocket fire started. A multi-story building that contained Hamas intelligence services was taken down. Hamas claims several dozen civilian casualties, but the IDF says that most of them are either Hamas operatives who were hit while launching rockets, or victims of their own rockets which fell short.

I think that the events of the past weeks have had a significant effect on the attitudes of many ordinary Israeli Jews. The riots in Lod, and the attacks on Jews in Jerusalem have given rise to a feeling that lines have been crossed. How can it be, they think, when they see a 65-year-old rabbi brutally kicked to the ground by Arab assailants, or Torah scrolls burned, that this can happen in the Jewish state? Although there was large-scale rioting by Israeli Arabs in 2000 at the start of the Second Intifada, the way individual Jews and Jewish shops and institutions were targeted this time was new, and evoked comparisons to the antisemitic violence of the 1930s. Although Arab members of the Knesset talked in ways that verged on subversion, it seemed that most of the Arabs in the street were motivated by economics, not nationalism. Either that has changed, or it was not the case in the first place.

The dimensions of the Hamas rocket attack were worrisome. It is clear that we cannot have enough Iron Dome systems to stop all the rockets that our enemies can launch. In the back of everyone’s mind is the knowledge that Hezbollah has far more rockets and better, more accurate and powerful, ones.

It seems that we always act the same: retaliate in a measured way, being very careful to keep civilian damage to a minimum, after which we are pilloried by the UN, the EU, and the “human rights” NGOs, regardless of that fact. We don’t destroy Hamas, we simply “mow the grass” every few years. We keep supplying Gaza with water and electricity.

There will be other escalations like this one.  Each time, Hamas seems to have more and better capabilities. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to try to take over the Palestinian Authority, and to incite subversion among the Arab citizens of Israel. Soon Mahmoud Abbas will retire or die; it could happen today. Hamas will then move to take over the PA, which would make the present situation seem like a picnic in the park.

Is this the best our government can do, we ask?

The problem is that we have no real strategy. But it’s not hard to see what it should be. The Palestinians of the territories and even our own Arab citizens have shown us: they act in a Middle Eastern way.

We want to live in the Middle East because that’s where we came from. But we don’t want to act Middle Eastern. We want to live in an imaginary world, where nations actually adhere to the UN charter. We want to be “a villa in the jungle” as somebody said. That doesn’t work. In the Middle East, you defend your honor or you lose all of your property and then your life. In the Middle East, when someone challenges you, you destroy them or they destroy you. You don’t give them a break because they are weaker than you and you feel sorry for them. Tomorrow they may be strong enough to kill you – or they may sneak up on you and kill you, even though they are weaker.

The Palestinian Arabs have challenged us for the ownership of this land. For more than a hundred years they have made it clear to us that they will do anything and everything necessary to get it. We, on the other hand, keep trying to compromise with them. And they respond with bemusement, take anything we give them, and then continue trying to get the rest.

If they win, they will kick us out. Ask them. They’ll tell you. And that is what our strategy has to be: to remove the Palestinian Arabs from the Land of Israel. We need to do whatever is necessary to achieve that aim.

If that is offensive to you, then you can live somewhere else where at least they pretend to operate according to a “better” morality. It’s up to you.

Now that we’ve settled the strategy, it’s time to decide on the tactics. And in that connection, I come back to “Cobra Kai.” One of the recurring memes in the show is the motto of the Cobra Kai dojo. I am sure that the writers disapproved of it, but it fits our needs perfectly. Here it is:

STRIKE FIRST
STRIKE HARD
NO MERCY

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Arabs, Middle East politics, War | 3 Comments

Today’s Blood Libel

1913 was not so long ago. Two of my grandparents, whom I came to know very well somewhat later, were young then. They emigrated from the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Ukraine the previous year, coming to New York to start a life that they hoped would be free from antisemitic persecution.

That was the year of the trial of Menachem Mendel Beilis in Kiev, not too far from where my grandparents had lived.

Beilis, as you probably know, was a Jew that was chosen as a scapegoat by antisemitic officials who wanted to absolve the incompetent government of Tsar Nicholas II of guilt for economic and social problems by stirring up hatred for the Jews. They took advantage of the murder of a 13-year-old boy, Andrei Yushchinsky, to accuse Beilis of having snatched the boy and drained his blood for ritual purposes. The trial attracted international interest – after all, it was the 20th century already! – and featured the testimony of antisemitic “authorities” versus well-known rabbis and Talmud scholars, who understood that all Am Yisrael were in the dock, not just the unfortunate Beilis.

A Russian police detective, Nikolay Krasovsky (who ultimately lost his job as a result), discovered the real murderers of Yushchinsky, a gang led by a woman named Vera Cheberiak, whose son was a friend of Yushchinsky and had told him about his mother’s criminal activities. Beilis had a good alibi, having been seen by others at work at the time of the murder. The coroner’s report showed that the victim’s blood had not been drained. Nevertheless, the trial was held in October-November of 1913.

Although the jury had been specially selected for antisemitism, the prosecution and its witnesses bungled their case and were made fools of on numerous occasions. One “expert” on Judaism, a Catholic priest named Justinas Pranaitis, who had written an antisemitic book on the Talmud, was asked “Who was Baba Basra and what was her activity?” He responded that he didn’t know who she was, which evoked laughter from the Jews in the courtroom, who knew that Bava Batra was a section of the Talmud.

Ultimately – after two years of pre-trial imprisonment and a month-long trial – Beilis was acquitted. However, the divided jury compromised by rendering the verdict that there had indeed been a bloody ritual murder committed, but some other Jew must have done it.

Why am I telling this story? Because, in the past one hundred years, nothing has changed except for the defendant.

Accusations of ritual murder have been made against Jews since medieval times, and possibly even before. They are still current in Arab countries, and even present-day Russia. The Tsarist officials who orchestrated the scapegoating of Beilis did so to inflame the masses against the Jews of the Russian empire. They wanted to blame them for their failures, and also to discredit the various progressive and leftist movements by association with the Jews. They hoped to incite a wave of pogroms which would bleed off the energy of the anti-monarchic forces by directing them at a safe target.

Today most Jewish communities outside of the US and Israel have dwindled to near-insignificance, and while there is plenty of antisemitic agitation, it comes from marginal players. It does not have the official sanction that Russian Jew-hatred did in 1912. But at the same time, a new scapegoat has been chosen, and this one is being accused by official and quasi-official organs of the international community of crimes worse than ritual murder, of all-encompassing crimes against humanity. The accused is no longer a Jewish individual but the Jewish state; however similarities between the prosecutions abound.

Charges are trumped up and even the crimes themselves are sometimes tailored to this specific defendant. For example, in a recent Human Rights Watch report, Israel is accused of “the crime of apartheid” despite the fact that nothing Israel has done in her conflict with the Palestinians bears the slightest resemblance to actual apartheid. Israel is regularly accused of “settler colonialism,” although there is no colonizing metropole (mother country) to be found, and Jews have lived in the Land of Israel since biblical times. Sometimes there are echoes of the original blood libel, as when the IDF is falsely accused of deliberately targeting Palestinian children.

“Witnesses” and “experts,” often with similar qualifications to those of Justinas Pranaitis, are found to testify against her. Real evidence of actual wrongdoing can’t be found, but that is unimportant because the purpose of the trial is not to determine guilt, which is already assumed by the media and international organizations that are passing judgment in the defendant, but to turn public opinion against her. But why do they want to?

In the Arab and wider Muslim world, deflecting the anger of a dissatisfied and restive populace away from their kleptocratic rulers onto Israel and the Jewish people has been a tried and tested policy for decades, indeed since 1948. The need to “resist” non-existent Israeli expansionism, for example, has sustained Hezbollah and provided cover for the true expansionism and aggression of Iran.

European motivations to convict Israel of crimes against humanity are manifold. Wanting good relations with the resource-rich third world that they formerly colonized and exploited, by attacking Israel they at the same time appease the corrupt leaders that control those resources and assuage their guilt for their behavior during the colonial period. By accusing the Jews of Israel of behaving like Nazis, they can absolve themselves for their almost universal history of cooperation with the real, genocidal Nazis. By displaying their anti-Israel bona fides, politicians vie for the support of their growing populations of Middle-Eastern origin, whom they invited in to compensate for the steep demographic decline of their native populations.

America has been less directly involved in the prosecution until recently; but lately various organizations have developed which are dedicated to the demonization and delegitimization of Israel. They have received funding from a collection of sources, including Iran, Arab countries, Turkey, and international leftist charities such as the Open Society Foundations of George Soros, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and others. They are working at making “Israel” synonymous with racism and oppression of minorities, which is the hottest of hot-button issues in the US today. There is also a growing Arab and Muslim population in the US, which has contributed both money and political clout to the anti-Israel movement.

In the days of Beilis, much of Western intelligentsia and media were horrified by the atavistic hatred cynically deployed by the elites of the Russian Empire. But today the academic world and media were the first sectors to be suborned by those who wish to criminalize the Jewish state, and now they are in the forefront of the campaign against her. Literally billions of petrodollars went into creating whole academic departments which are little more than factories for anti-Israel propaganda.

Above all, this worldwide epidemic of misoziony – irrational, extreme, obsessive hatred of Israel – fell on fertile ground. It’s almost as if Jew-hatred, tabooed and bottled up since the Holocaust, could not be denied, and had to burst out in some form, like the creature in the movie Alien. The blood libel that ensnared numerous Jewish victims throughout the centuries is apparently alive and well.

Posted in Jew Hatred | 4 Comments

The Meron Tragedy and Israel’s Autonomous Communities

Forty-five people attending a festival to celebrate the holiday of Lag b’Omer at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mt. Meron were crushed to death last weekend, in a catastrophic but totally predictable stampede which – one official of a first-responders group said – had only been prevented by annual miracles. This year there was no miracle. The facilities at the site were woefully inadequate to support even a tenth of the 100,000 people that showed up, an agreement to limit the number was ignored due to political pressure, and what had been predicted occurred.

The site had not been improved over the years despite many reports from various bodies including the police and the mevaker hamedina, an independent official who oversees the operations of the government and reports to the Knesset, which is required by law to respond and if needed, act on them.

Why has nothing been done? Because the site, which is officially under control of the government, in practice “belongs” to several Haredi [“ultra-Orthodox”] sects, who object to changes proposed by any of the others, and even more to outsiders telling them what they can do. They have depended on the protection of Hashem, based on the principle that nothing bad can happen to someone who is in the process of performing a mitzvah, an idea which ignores the fact that Hashem gave his human creations brains and expects them to be used.

The authorities, who recently forced an acquaintance of mine to stop using his tiny (and licensed) ham radio transceiver on a deserted beach for “safety reasons,” do not dare interfere with Haredi events. This is a particular case of the partly unwritten principle of Haredi autonomy: although they live in the State of Israel, Haredi communities are not in practice subject to the same laws or expectations as secular, traditional, or national-religious Jews.

At the time of the founding of the State of Israel, in order to obtain the support of the observant community, Ben Gurion and other secular Zionists found it necessary to promise them certain things, such as rabbinical control of family law, observance of Shabbat and Kashrut in all official functions, and freedom to determine the content of their school curricula, as long as certain secular subjects were included.

As time passed, the official “status quo” between secular and observant Israelis grew to include draft exemptions for Torah students, and government funding for educational systems outside of the state system. At the same time, there developed an unofficial hands-off attitude toward the Haredim. Haredi schools reduced or eliminated instruction in secular subjects such as English and Mathematics, in violation of the status quo. Laws to limit exemptions from military or other national service could not be enforced. Tax evasion is common in Haredi communities. During the Covid epidemic, Haredi schools and yeshivot were opened in defiance of the regulations when other schools were closed. Rules established by the Ministry of Health were widely flouted, with high-profile weddings and funerals attended by thousands of tightly-packed people.

Video of such events, while police were harassing non-Haredim for walking maskless in the park, created a great deal of animosity toward Haredim, especially among those whose memories of massive traffic jams caused by Haredi anti-draft demonstrations were fresh. The political interference with the extradition of Malka Leifer to face sex abuse charges in Australia was another flashpoint. It doesn’t matter that the small extremist faction that blocked traffic, or the particular Hasidic group that counts both Malka Leifer and perennial government minister Ya’akov Litzman as a member, do not represent all Haredim; anti-Haredi feeling is widespread.

The other side of the coin is that Haredi communities distrust and disrespect the state. Some are explicitly anti-Zionist, but even those that aren’t believe that “Torah law” – which is whatever their rabbi says it is – overrides the laws of the State of Israel. They believe that secular and non-Haredi religious Jews have no right to criticize them in any way, and in some cases consider such criticism “antisemitic.” They relate to the State of Israel the way their great-grandfathers related to the Tsar or the Porte.

The problem is that the “status quo” has developed into a complete autonomy, a mini-state into which the organs of the larger state don’t reach. The Haredi political parties have been in almost every Israeli government, and they often hold the balance of power. Police and other officials don’t even try to enforce laws when they know they will be countermanded (and possibly punished) by the political connections of the communities.

Haredi leaders have demanded more and more autonomy, and have received it, both officially and in practice. But this disaster has illustrated that it has gone too far. After the deaths, many blamed the police. But it’s clear that the police cannot be blamed for failing to protect people when there are laws for that very purpose that they are prevented from enforcing. Some Haredi rabbis and politicians are beginning to understand this.

The Haredi autonomy is not the only one in the country. Arab citizens of Israel also live in an autonomy that is in many ways similar. They have been granted an exemption from the draft and national service. There is rampant tax evasion in Arab towns. During the epidemic, they persisted in holding large weddings. Today they are suffering from a wave of violent organized crime which has placed law-abiding citizens in fear for their lives. Every week sees new murders. They too, blame the police, which is ironic since – like the Haredim – they previously preferred to keep the police as far away as possible.

There is yet another autonomous group in Israel, and that is the Bedouin tribes of southern Israel. They too have experienced an increase in criminal behavior which has been ignored by the state; but unlike the Arab villages of the North, their banditry victimizes the Jewish residents of the area.

These problems have been shoved under the rug by successive governments, for various reasons. In the case of the Haredim, it’s a combination of factors. The most important, of course, is the political power wielded by this community, which represents about 12% of the population; as well as the mistrust, and dare I say it, dislike on both sides.

The Arab and Bedouin communities have never fully cooperated with the Jewish authorities, and law enforcement is difficult without cooperation. As long as the crime stays within the community, it’s tempting for police officials to concentrate their effort elsewhere. That, however, is wrong, as well as stupid, because the crime will not stay in the communities where it starts.

Israel is not a large country and it can’t afford have several autonomous enclaves that don’t consider themselves part of the state. The lack of respect for the laws made by the national government is corrosive. It wouldn’t hurt to pay more attention to the reports of the mevaker hamedina, and ensure that problems in law enforcement as well as in the allocation of all kinds of resources are dealt with in a reasonable time.

To some extent, Israel is like Russia, a country where everything is illegal but laws are enforced selectively.  The psychological and political issues, for both Arabs and Haredim, are difficult. I don’t know how to change their deeply alienated mindsets, or if it’s possible. But I think the first thing that has to change is that the laws must be enforced, fairly, on all citizens.

Posted in Israeli Politics, Israeli Society | 1 Comment

Stopping Iran

There are two ways to stop Iran from getting the bomb.

One is to apply pressure short of war. That would involve squeezing the regime economically, isolating it from as much of the world’s commerce as possible, while at the same time strengthening and supporting its domestic opposition. At the same time, sabotage, assassinations, and other operations could delay the nuclear program and weaken the regime. At some point it will break, or the opposition will become strong enough to break it.

This was the program of Donald Trump’s administration, working together with Israel and other players in the Middle East. But Joe Biden’s administration has scrapped that program, and chosen to try (or to appear to try) to persuade the Iranian regime by removing pressure, rather than increasing it. This strengthens the Iranian regime, allows it to build up the proxy forces that serve as a deterrent against attack from the neighboring countries who are directly threatened by its expansionism, and at best can only slightly delay its progress toward nuclear armament – and even this is doubtful, since the regime showed no compunctions about cheating on the agreements it made with the Obama Administration, long before Trump took the US out of the deal.

The new American policy goes against the basic principles of negotiating. Giving up leverage up front for nothing in return is stupid. And it’s not as if the previous Iran deal doesn’t provide evidence for the failure of this approach. Biden’s administration wasn’t forced to re-make Obama’s mistakes. They could have simply continued the “maximum pressure” campaign. It’s simplistic to say that they were compelled to blindly oppose everything that Trump had done, in every area. They aren’t that dumb.

I won’t try to explain the motives of the Biden Administration. They are a mystery to me. Possibilities range from unbelievable naïveté and ignorance to an explicit desire to see the Middle East dominated by a nuclear Iran. The latter case also implies a desire to see a Middle East without a Jewish state, and there is no doubt that there are those in the administration who favor that. But regardless of the reasons, it is fully clear that the new American policy will not stop Iran.

Despite a notable decline in military strength in recent decades, there is no other country with the economic muscle, the global reach and influence of the USA. The path of “pressure short of war” requires America to be on board. If they aren’t, the only alternative is for Israel to stop Iran herself by military means. The best that can be expected from the US in that case will be non-interference, and even that is doubtful.

But this would not be an “operation” like the attacks on the nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria. It would be a very serious and involved campaign, which could rise to the level of regional war. Iran has built up proxy forces armed with numerous rockets and missiles in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Gaza. It has missile forces on its own soil. It has been supplying its proxies with accurate missiles and kits to convert unguided rockets into highly accurate ones, despite Israeli interventions to prevent that. It has developed guided drones that were used effectively against Saudi oil facilities in 2019 and in March of this year.

If Israel were to attack the Iranian nuclear installations – and there are numerous, dispersed, and well-defended targets that would have to be hit – it would also be necessary to suppress retaliation from the various proxy forces. The rocket launchers in Lebanon and Gaza are embedded in civilian areas, and are capable of firing very large numbers of weapons in a short time, which can overwhelm anti-missile systems like Iron Dome. There is also a greater number of highly accurate missiles, which are best eliminated before they can be launched.

This combination means that Israel will have no choice but to employ massive firepower, which will be catastrophic for the people in the affected areas. There is expected to be ground warfare in southern Lebanon and even northern Israel. Hezbollah intends to make incursions into Israeli territory and to take civilian hostages. An insurrection in Judea and Samaria is also a possibility. Such a three or four front war would be very costly, both for Israel and for the countries that Iran has used as proxies, especially Lebanon, which is already failing as a state as a result of being parasitized by Hezbollah.

At the same time, there would be a massive propaganda assault against Israel, similar that which was waged against us at the time of the last Gaza conflict. The UN, the EU, countless NGOs, the international Left, and much of the academic and media world will line  up to provide a stream of atrocity stories, exaggerations, and context-free accusations, all intended to justify intervention by the international community, the embargo of weapons shipments, and so forth.

What would the US do? Judging by the cast of characters in the Biden Administration, I doubt that we could expect even a pretense of support, despite the fact that we would be doing America and the rest of the civilized world a favor.

It’s easy to say – I’ve said it myself – that war is inevitable and we should get it over with as soon as possible, at a time and in a fashion of our choosing. But that doesn’t change the fact that we would certainly lose people, soldiers and civilians, and have to absorb a great deal of infrastructure damage even if everything goes according to plan. If we go to war it will probably be one of our most painful wars, especially on the home front. It’s easy to see why our decision-makers have chosen to defer acting until the last possible moment, when there is absolutely no other option.

In the meantime, our PM has told the Chief of Staff to develop plans for carrying out an attack on the Iranian nuclear project, including the suppression of rocket and missile fire from our neighbors. I am sure they will be characterized by unconventional tactics and maybe new weapons.

One wonders why Biden’s people can’t see that what they are doing is promoting precisely the opposite of the peace and stability that they claim to want – or if they do see that, why they are doing it.

Posted in American politics, Iran, War | 2 Comments

Our Enemies Deploy the Cognitive Bomb

The first thing you need to know about the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that was released on 27 April accusing Israel of “apartheid” is that the accusation has nothing to do with apartheid as most people understand it, the racially-based system of oppression that was in place in South Africa before roughly 1991.

HRW is accusing Israel of “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution,” which are defined by a treaty called the “International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid,” based on a UN General Assembly resolution passed in 1973, and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

It should be noted that neither Israel nor the USA are parties to either treaty. The 1973 convention was signed by 109 countries, which do not include Israel, the USA, Canada, Australia, or any of the developed countries of Western Europe.

Here is the definition of the crime of apartheid as understood by HRW:

  1. An intent to maintain domination by one racial group over another.
  2. A context of systematic oppression by the dominant group over the marginalized group.
  3. Inhumane acts.

The “inhumane acts” referred to by the definition include such things as murder, torture, “arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment,” forced labor, “deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part,” all on the basis of race or ethnicity. While Palestinians often claim such mistreatment, their claims – often amplified and lent authority (the “halo effect”) by HRW and similar NGOs – are overwhelmingly false, exaggerated, or lacking in context (e.g., the claim is commonly made that a Palestinian was “executed” when he was shot in the act of stabbing a Jew or running one down with a car).

HRW also adds that

The reference to a racial group is understood today to address not only treatment on the basis of genetic traits but also treatment on the basis of descent and national or ethnic origin, as defined in the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Human Rights Watch applies this broader understanding of race.

In other words, apartheid doesn’t have to involve “race.” Any alleged discrimination against a national group can be considered apartheid. And given that “Palestinians” have diverse origins, including Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and even the same Canaanite tribes as the forbears of the Jewish people, they don’t even fit this broader definition.

When I hear “apartheid” I think of white, black, and colored beaches and restrooms, laws against interracial marriage or even sexual relationships, laws establishing segregated housing, employment, and public transportation, denial of the right to vote or hold office, and so forth. I think of official classification of people by color. It is not an exaggeration to say that such a system, brutally imposed by force (as it was in South Africa), is a crime against humanity.

And that, of course, is why HRW, an organization that has changed over the years from a legitimate human rights watchdog into part of the well-oiled (and thickly greased with dollars and euros) machine for the delegitimization and demonization of Israel, wishes to accuse the Jewish state of apartheid, a crime that today evokes revulsion throughout the world – and which, following the precedent set by the treatment of the Republic of South Africa, justifies the boycotting, sanctioning, and total expulsion from the international order of Israel.

As the Kohelet Forum notes in its response to the report, no country other than South Africa has ever been deemed an “apartheid state” by a majority of the international community, including China, Sudan, and others that have engaged in massive systematic oppression of minorities.

None of the characteristics of South African apartheid can reasonably be applied to Israel. Everyone who knows anything about apartheid South Africa and Israel knows that. There is simply no resemblance, and HRW’s abstraction of the crime of apartheid and application of the word to Israel is dishonest and is part of the cognitive war that is being waged against her as a prelude to her hoped for physical destruction.

But never mind. Israel is being accused of seriously mistreating Palestinian Arabs, both its Arab citizens and the residents of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, simply because they are Palestinians. If that is true, it is certainly reprehensible. So we should consider if the report even succeeds in making that case.

The report is 213 pages long, so it is impossible for me to critique it in detail in a short blog. But here are some things that I noticed in the first few pages (see the Kohelet response to HRW for more):

The report says that

From 1967 until the present, [Israel] has militarily ruled over Palestinians in the OPT, excluding East Jerusalem. By contrast, it has since its founding governed all Jewish Israelis, including settlers in the OPT since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, under its more rights-respecting civil law.

This is untrue. There is no military government in Gaza – there is zero Israeli presence there at all – and areas A and B of Judea and Samaria are ruled by the PA. There is a military administration of Area C, the territory that is under full Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords, but that administration governs both Israeli communities and Palestinian ones. There is no “separate law” for the two populations.

In general, the report ignores the existence of the PA and the Hamas government of Gaza. It’s true that Israel controls the borders and airspace between the river and the sea (with the exception of the border between Gaza and Egypt). But it does not control the daily lives of all of the residents of those areas as the report asserts.

HRW criticizes Israel for not allowing free movement of Palestinian Arabs from the territories into pre-1967 Israel, and for not allowing those Arabs outside of Israel recognized by the UN as “Palestinian refugees” to enter the territories or pre-1967 Israel. It dismisses Israeli explanations that this is a consequence of the amply-demonstrated Palestinian propensity to commit murderous terrorist acts against Israelis, saying “[e]ven when security forms part of the motivation, it no more justifies apartheid and persecution than it would excessive force or torture.” Tell it to those thousands of Israelis who have lost friends and family members to Palestinian terrorists.

There is almost no mention of Palestinian terrorism throughout the full report, even though most restrictions placed on Palestinian movement, such as the Judea/Samaria security barrier, were instituted after the murderous Second Intifada, in which more than 1,000 Israelis were murdered by terrorists. The selective blockade of Gaza is criticized without reference to the thousands of rockets that have been fired into Israeli towns, or the numerous tunnels intended to infiltrate terrorists into Israel. There is no mention of the 2015-2018 “stabbing intifada” which took the lives of dozens of Israelis.

The report claims that within pre-1967 Israel, “Palestinian [sic] citizens [have] a status inferior to Jewish citizens by law” as a result of the Nation-State Law, which in fact does not restrict them in any way, and which is similar to constitutional provisions in other ethnic nation-states, including the proposed constitution for the State of Palestine. It also invents or misrepresents other laws, including those concerning citizenship and residence.

The report will probably be a prime exhibit in the upcoming “Durban IV” conference on racism which will be held this September at the UN in New York, on the 20th anniversary of the first Durban conference, which devolved into an “anti-Israel hate-fest.”

Accusations of apartheid and persecution are tremendously powerful, especially in the US in today’s climate of racial antagonisms. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is actually a national/political one, and not a racial one (although antisemitism plays an important role). It has little in common with pre-1991 South Africa or the racial problems of the USA. It is also a small part of a much larger project by a group of nations, international institutions, NGOs, and others to eliminate the Jewish state. These antagonists are motivated by geopolitics, religion, ideology, antisemitism, or all of these. By focusing only on the Palestinians, the HRW report has the effect of hiding this broader context.

Israel’s domestic political paralysis, which has been ongoing for at least two years, makes it hard enough to respond to the military challenges it faces from its enemies. But it is impossible for an essentially leaderless nation to properly fight a cognitive war. Fixing this has to be Israel’s top priority today.

Posted in Information war, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Arabs, The UN | 2 Comments