Weekend long read

1) At the New York Times, Bret Stephens discusses “Six Days and 50 Years of War“.

“In June 1967 Arab leaders declared their intention to annihilate the Jewish state, and the Jews decided they wouldn’t sit still for it. For the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven.

Unforgiven, Israel’s milder critics say, because the Six-Day War, even if justified at the time, does not justify 50 years of occupation. They argue, also, that Israel can rely on its own strength as well as international guarantees to take risks for peace.

This is ahistoric nonsense.”

2) At The Times of Israel, Michael Blum tells the story of Kfar Etzion.

“Today, Israel’s 50-year control over parts of the West Bank and its continuing settlement building are seen by many as major stumbling blocks to peace efforts. But Ben Yaakov, who lives in Kfar Etzion, says the settlement should be seen differently.

He was born there in the early 1940s, in what was not yet a settlement but a kibbutz, the collective communities Jews established even before Israel became a state.

Kfar Etzion was set up on land in an area that was not yet referred to as the West Bank.

Along with others, he fled fighting in late 1947, but returned after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, which lasted from June 5 to 10, 1967.”

3) At Mosaic Magazine, Martin Kramer gives a fascinating account of “The Forgotten Truth about the Balfour Declaration“.

“The declaration has come to be remembered as either the moment of conception for Israel (and what the pro-Zionist parliamentarian Richard Crossman called “one of the greatest acts of Western statesmanship in the 20th century”) or the original sin against the Palestinian Arabs (and what the Palestinian scholar-activist Walid Khalidi recently called “the single most destructive political document on the Middle East in the 20th century”). In this sense, the declaration’s centennial is truly “a big deal.” According to various announcements, come November, it will be celebrated by Israel, protested by the Palestinians, and “marked” by Britain.

Few of the celebrants or the protesters, however, will have much understanding of what produced the Balfour Declaration—which should not be surprising. Even historians cannot agree, which assures that almost no one who hasn’t studied the history of it is likely to have a clue.”

4) At the Times of Israel, Haviv Rettig-Gur takes a long and thought-provoking look at the failure of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“The peace process was forged by a class of individuals possessing an exceptionally well-developed capacity for selective blindness. Some Israeli leaders — Yitzhak Rabin, for instance — believed they could forge with PLO leader Yasser Arafat the sort of cold but dependable standoff Israel had maintained with each Egyptian dictator since Anwar Sadat. Other Israelis — Yossi Beilin is one example — believed they were negotiating a real reconciliation, apparently because they themselves yearned for it so intensely that they could not really fathom that it might not be reciprocated by the other side. Both of these sorts of Israelis were determined to ignore the domestic Palestinian discourse advanced by Arafat and others that resisted reconciliation, elevated the ideological rejection of Israel to the level of civic religion and openly glorified brutality against Israelis — and that was in the happy early years of Oslo peacemaking, the mid-1990s to which more than a few of today’s despairing progressives look for inspiration.” 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Middle East Quarterly, Efraim Karsh discusses “An Inevitable Conflict“.

“It has long been conventional wisdom to view the June 1967 war as an accidental conflagration that neither Arabs nor Israelis desired, yet none were able to prevent. Had Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser not fallen for a false Soviet warning of Israeli troop concentrations along the Syrian border and deployed his forces in the Sinai Peninsula, the standard narrative runs, the slippery slope to war would have been averted altogether; had Israel not misconstrued the Egyptian grandstanding for a mortal threat to its national security, if not its very survival, it would have foregone the preemptive strike that started the war. In short, it was a largely accidental and unnecessary war born of mutual miscalculations and misunderstandings.

This view could not be further from the truth. If wars are much like road accidents, as the British historian A.J.P. Taylor famously quipped, having a general cause and particular causes at the same time, then the June 1967 war was anything but accidental. Its specific timing resulted of course from the convergence of a number of particular causes at a particular juncture. But its general cause—the total Arab rejection of Jewish statehood, starkly demonstrated by the concerted attempt to destroy the state of Israel at birth and the unwavering determination to rectify this “unfinished business”—made another all-out Arab-Israeli war a foregone conclusion.”

2) At the Tablet, Israel’s State Archivist Yaacov Lozowick reveals previously unpublished transcripts from the Six Day War.

“The Six-Day War was run by a committee. A highly classified committee, whose transcripts have never been seen for 50 years. Until now: here they are.

Israel has no commander-in-chief. The military is subordinate to the cabinet, where each minister, prime minister included, has one vote. Often the cabinet sets up a smaller committee called the security cabinet (SC), to which it delegates supervising and commanding the military. Facing exceptional decisions, the prime minister may declare that the entire cabinet is the SC. This ensures secrecy, because leaking information from the SC has serious penalties. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol often reminded his colleagues that the very fact that they had met was itself a state secret.

The security cabinet of 1967 appears in these never-published transcripts as a group of serious, professional, and responsible decision-makers. While the ministers brought their worldviews to the table, they often didn’t vote on party lines, often did listen to one another, and generally managed to make decisions, albeit slowly and through compromises. These characteristics were not helpful in the maelstrom of the Six-Day War, when the cabinet receded in the face of its two most enigmatic members: Levi Eshkol, who can be read either as a weak figure or a master manipulator; and Moshe Dayan, who comes across as an arrogant but talented prima donna.”

A link to the Israel State Archives website section on the Six Day War is available in the ‘Library’ section on the menu bar above.

3) At the Algemeiner, Ben Cohen interviews Iran analysts on the topic of the presidential election in that country.

‘“The election in Iran is a tightly controlled and stage-managed process that has been designed to produce the favorable result to the regime,” said Reza Parchizadeh, an Iranian political analyst.

Saeed Ghasseminejad — an Iran Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) — observed that Rouhani was starting his re-election bid from a weak position, having achieved little over his four-year term other than the nuclear deal with six world powers in July 2015, which many ordinary Iranians complain has not yielded any meaningful economic benefits.

“However, Raisi is an even weaker candidate,” Ghasseminejad said. “He does not speak well, he is known for his ruthlessness (as Tehran’s deputy prosecutor) in the 1980s, he is inexperienced. The middle-class Iranians are really afraid of him, which pushes them to reluctantly vote for Rouhani.”’

4) David Andrew Weinberg and David Daoud discuss the Saudi Arabian approach to Israel at the Forward.

“Breathless observers have recently declared that Saudi Arabia and Israel are becoming cozy allies due to their shared concerns about Iran. Analysts have claimed that Riyadh’s “government and the establishment media – and their spin-offs and allies – are pursuing a deliberate strategy” of conveying praiseworthy tolerance toward Israel and Jews. Rudy Giuliani, a figure close to President Donald Trump, even went so far as to argue that Riyadh has done an about face on Israel and that this should guide U.S. policy toward the kingdom.

These observers are fundamentally wrong.” 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Ahead of the upcoming presidential election in Iran, Potkin Azarmehr provides a useful guide to the electoral system in that country.

“Iran’s next presidential elections are scheduled to be held on 19th May. Iranians are given a choice of six candidates to choose from for the next president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The question I am often asked these days is ‘who will be the next president of Iran? Will Rouhani have a second term or will it be one of the other five candidates?’

Islamic Republic of Iran is a unique system of governance with no precedence in history prior to 1979. It is the first time the Shia clerics experience running the government and there is currently no other similar form of governing a country anywhere else in the world.

It is therefore important to understand how this unique system of governance works and not to assume this is a presidential elections similar to what takes place elsewhere.”

2) Jonathan Spyer reports on his extraordinary visit to Syria.

“I should explain first of all how I came to be in Damascus.   I have been writing about Syria now for over a decade.  I have visited the country numerous times since the outbreak of its civil war in mid-2011.  My visits, though, were always to the areas controlled by the Sunni Arab rebels or the Kurdish separatist forces.  This was a notable gap in my coverage.  I wanted to remedy it.

The Assad regime makes it hard for journalists to acquire visas.  The authorities are keen consumers of media, and keep track of the names of reporters who have spent time among their enemies.  The number of journalists who have managed to report from both the government and rebel sides is very small.  I  had tried on a number of occasions to acquire a visa, but made little progress.

Finally, a colleague suggested the idea of joining a delegation of foreign supporters of the regime.  With the war going its way since late 2015, the Syrian government has begun to cautiously open up to visitors. But like other authoritarian regimes, it prefers to welcome these in groups, and under careful supervision.

I made contact with the organizers of one of these delegations. The process was surprisingly straightforward.”

3) At the Tablet, Tony Badran takes a look at the current state of Lebanese politics.

“A high-level delegation of Lebanese politicians and bankers reportedly will visit Washington later this month to try and convince Congress to soften impending sanctions legislation designed to squeeze the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah. Already, there have been visitors from Lebanon in recent weeks for this purpose, and there’s been speculation in Lebanese media that prime minister Saad Hariri, who has expressed his hope to “change” the legislation, might himself come to town to make the case for going easy on Lebanon.

Generally speaking, the function of Hariri and what is known as “the Lebanese government” in the power configuration in Lebanon is confined to this sort of activity, which could be summarized as running interference for and mopping up after Hezbollah, the real authority in the country. It is principally for this reason, among others, that Hariri’s erstwhile patrons in Saudi Arabia effectively have washed their hands of Lebanon, and pulled a grant they had pledged to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Why waste money on an Iranian satrapy?

Hariri is stuck. In order to return as prime minister, he had to sign on to Hezbollah’s terms. This has meant endorsing Hezbollah’s ally, Michel Aoun, for president, in order to form a new government. And the new government was stacked with Hezbollah allies in key ministries.”

4) Writing at Ynet, Ben Dror Yemini gives his view of the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike and its initiator.

“We want peace. We fight for peace. But in the meantime we must remember that we are in a state of war. Not one war, but two wars. One is taking place on the battlefield. Hamas drags us there every few years. This war is being waged on a lower key, both through the knifing and stone-throwing terror attacks and through different other measures targeting Israel nonstop.

The second war is a war on the collective consciousness. A war of demonization. A war that seeks to present Israel as a monster. This war has had quite a lot of achievements.

The jailed terrorists, from Fatah and Hamas, have become full partners in both wars. Some of them try to launch and plan terror attacks from prison. Others try to present themselves as martyrs fighting for “an end to the occupation” or for “liberation.” Every other prisoner tries to present himself as a freedom fighter, and every other prisoner is actually Nelson Mandela. It’s true that they murdered civilians and babies and women and elderly people. And it’s true that when they say “an end to the occupation,” they are referring to Tel Aviv as well. And it’s true that their liberation is sort of like the Islamic State is liberating Iraq and Hamas is liberating Gaza. But in the war on the collective consciousness, they are winning.” 

Omissions in the BBC’s report on terrorist’s ‘hunger strike’ nosh

On May 8th the BBC News website’s Middle East page published an article – titled “Palestinian hunger strike leader Barghouti ‘filmed eating’” – which relates to a story that broke the previous day.

“Israel’s prison service has released a video purportedly showing the leader of a three-week-old hunger strike by Palestinian inmates eating in his cell.

The service said Marwan Barghouti had been filmed consuming cookies in secret on 27 April and a snack bar on 5 May.”

The article gives generous amplification to statements from interested parties and even before they clicked on the link, BBC audiences were informed that ‘Marwan Barghouti’s wife says the surveillance footage released by Israel’s prison service is “fake”‘.

“Barghouti’s wife said the footage was “fake” and intended to break the morale of the hunger strike’s participants. […]

The head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, Qadoura Fares, called the video a fabrication, stressing Barghouti was being held in solitary confinement at Kishon prison and had no access to food.

“This is psychological warfare that we expected Israel to wage against the strike,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, said Israel was “resorting to despicable acts” and warned that they would “increase the prisoners’ insistence on continuing”.”

Previous BBC reports on the story of the hunger strike that commenced on April 17th told BBC audiences that “More than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails have begun a mass hunger strike against detention conditions”.

In this article readers are told that:

“More than 890 prisoners have been refusing food since 17 April in protest at conditions in Israeli jails.”

They are not however informed that Israeli officials put the number of striking prisoners at around 800 and that participation fell after some dropped out.

Neither are BBC audiences reminded that this is not the first time that Barghouti has been caught eating during a supposed ‘hunger strike’.

“In 2004, the prison service published still shots allegedly showing Barghouti furtively eating food in his cell during a previous hunger strike. Those photos were taken with a hidden camera through a hole in the wall of his cell.”

While this article promotes the claim that the hunger strike is a protest against “conditions in Israeli jails”, once again readers are not informed of the political background to the story and its connection to internal Fatah power struggles.

With regard to Barghouti himself, readers are told that he “was convicted on five counts of murder by an Israeli court in 2004” and that:

“Barghouti is the former leader of the Fatah movement in the West Bank and chief of its armed wing, the Tanzim.

His trial during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, turned him into household name and he enjoys widespread support among many Palestinian factions.

The 57-year-old has been touted as a possible successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Remarkably – yet unsurprisingly – the BBC refrains from informing readers that groups that Barghouti headed and founded engaged in terrorism under his leadership and that the “five counts of murder” for which he was convicted were terror attacks. The sole use of the word ‘terrorists’ in this report comes in a quote from an Israeli minister.

Related Articles:

BBC News promotes PLO narrative in copious coverage of prisoners’ strike

BBC fails to provide crucial background in reports on Fatah prisoners’ strike

Identifying the BBC’s anonymous “mother of a Palestinian inmate”

BBC’s Knell tells audiences that convicted terrorists are ‘political prisoners’

 

Weekend long read

1) At the Tablet, Yair Rosenberg unpacks “The Top Five Laughable Lies From Hamas’ New Political Document“.

“On Monday, Hamas, the U.S. and E.U.-designated terrorist group that controls Gaza, released a new political document that attempted to put a moderate face on its extremist agenda of eliminating Israel. Few were convinced. As the New York Times reported, “Experts on all sides of the complex struggle here say the new document is unlikely to represent any profound change in Hamas’s true position toward Israel. The group recently chose a hard-liner, Yehya Sinwar, as its new leader in Gaza, and it has still in no way recognized Israel or renounced violence.”

As the Times noted, the new document does not accept Israel’s right to exist. It also does not disavow or replace the group’s official charter, which blames the Jews for both world wars, cites the anti-Semitic screed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and is riddled with anti-Jewish tropes.

The document does, however, contain many obvious and hilarious lies. It’s worth enumerating a few of them, if only to underscore the fact that this document is a work of propaganda intended for gullible foreigners, and not a serious policy statement.”

2) Analyst Yaakov Lappin takes a look at the factors that drove Hamas to issue that new policy paper.

“In the past, Hamas enjoyed many partnerships, enjoying arms support and funding from the Shi’ite axis (Iran and Hizballah) – and forming relationships with Sunni powers.

But the Middle Eastern regional upheaval, which pits Sunnis against Shiites, and Islamists against non-Islamists, forced Hamas to make choices. It could no longer be on the same side of both Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, who are locked in a transnational proxy war. In the same vein, Hamas cannot be on the same side as both the Assad regime and the Sunni rebels fighting to remove him.

Worst of all from Hamas’s perspective, Morsi’s departure means it cannot rely on its primordial impulse to attach itself to a Sunni Muslim Brotherhood-led backer.”

3) Professor Geoffrey S. Corn discusses the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) in relation to “quasi-conventional” enemies.

“…enemies such as Hezbollah, ISIS, and other hybrid forces IDF and U.S. commanders plan to confront today add new types of complexity to effective execution of “decisive” operations. This complexity is inextricably linked to LOAC compliance—complexity that flows from confronting enemies who deliberately seeks to exploit densely populated areas to maximum effect by employing tactics designed to exacerbate civilian risk. These enemies often view the tactical fight as a supporting effort to a broader international information campaign, able to claim victory not because it defeats its enemy in battle, but because it exploits the inevitable civilian suffering caused by its own tactics.” 

 

Yom HaAtzmaout

Wishing a very happy holiday to all our readers celebrating Israel’s 69th Independence Day!

In honour of Independence Day, here is a quiz: how many of the twelve places below can you identify? Tell us in the comments below and the answers will appear here after the holiday.

Answers:

1) Ben Gurion’s hut, Kibbutz Sde Boker

2) Mount Tabor

3) Ancient synagogue, Baram

4) Birya Fortress  

5) Gamla

6) Bahai Gardens and Haifa port

7) Arbel Cliffs

8) Ramon Crater

9) Hatzar Kinneret

10) Hula nature reserve

11) Beit Shean national park

12) Birkat Ram, Golan Heights  

 

 

Yom HaZikaron

יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה

This evening the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism begins and Israel remembers and honours 23,544 casualties of war and terrorism.

In memory of Eli Cohen who visited here at the Syrian command centre building in Quneitra during his service in Syria between the years 1962 – 1965.

“Eliahu ben Shaoul Cohen, worked as a Mossad agent in Damascus, Syria under the alias of Kamal Amin Ta’abet from 1962 until his exposure and execution on May 18, 1965. Cohen was able to supply considerable details on Syrian political and military matters because of his strong interpersonal skills and abilities to build close ties with business, military, and Ba’ath Party leaders, and Syrian President Amin el Hafiz. He was hanged in Martyr’s Square with the television cameras rolling for the entire world to see.” [source

Eli Cohen’s place of burial is unknown.

May their memories be blessed.