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Lots of Israel-Related Links to Go Through

So let’s go through them.

1. In non-shocking news, a serious amount of anti-Semitism actually does exist in the West:

The mob howled for vengeance, the missiles raining down on the synagogue walls as the worshippers huddled inside. It was a scene from Europe in the 1930s – except this was eastern Paris on the evening of July 13th, 2014.

Thousands had gathered to demonstrate against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. But the protest soon turned violent – and against Jews in general. One of those trapped told Israeli television that the streets outside were “like an intifada”, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

Some of the trapped Jews fought their way out as the riot police dispersed the crowd. Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, condemned the attack in “the strongest possible terms”, while Joel Mergei, a community leader, said he was “profoundly shocked and revolted”. The words had no effect. Two weeks later, 400 protesters attacked a synagogue and Jewish-owned businesses in Sarcelles, in the north of Paris, shouting “Death to the Jews”. Posters had even advertised the raid in advance, like the pogroms of Tsarist Russia.

Again, I don’t expect those who are either morally indifferent to anti-Semitism, or too cognitively impaired to recognize it when it is staring them in the face, to notice any of this, or to be appropriately moved and outraged by the latest fare-up of the world’s oldest form of bigotry and persecution. But just because the benighted don’t give a damn doesn’t mean that the rest of us shouldn’t.

At least the prime minister of France understands what is happening (even if many of his fellow citizens do not):

Against the backdrop of large anti-Semitic riots in Paris, and the murder of four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels by a French Muslim killer, Mehdi Nemmouche, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls made a resoundingly firm connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism that other world leaders—and many Jews—are afraid to make. As is his style, he went straight to the point: “Anti-semitism, this old European disease,” he said in a speech, has taken “a new form. It spreads on the Internet, in our popular neighborhoods, with a youth that has lost its points of reference, has no conscience of history, and who hides itself behind a fake anti-Zionism.”

The occasion was the 72th anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup—the arrest of 13.000 Jews in Paris, by the French police under German authorities during World War II on the 16th and 17th of July, 1942. Valls’ strong, clear words are a breakthrough that separates him from the general complacency on the subject among most European politicians—and separates France from its growing reputation as a beacon of hate.

The Prime Minister justified his decision to forbid last Saturday’s “anti-israeli” demonstration by stating that the recent acts of violence against Jews “justify the choice to forbid,” and not the other way around, as so many critics had claimed. And without naming Dieudonné, the minister attacked the rancid French performer when he pleaded that “the historical reality of the Shoah should not be denied, or diminished.(…) To laugh at the Shoah is to insult the dead.”

As I have mentioned before, I am actually against banning demonstrations, because (a) I am a free speech absolutist; (b) banning the demonstrations only serves to make the demonstrators look roguish and heroic for standing up to censorship; and (c) banning the demonstrations makes it more difficult for the rest of us to play Spot the Idiots when it comes to identifying the anti-Semites among us. But at least someone is smart enough to recognize that “anti-Zionism” is but a code phrase for “anti-Semitism,” and is willing to call out bigots for what they are.

Of course, the anti-Semites are ripe for mockery, but there is nothing funny about what is happening in the world, and the failure of much of the so-called “civilized community” to condemn the barbaric acts that have occurred against Jewish people worldwide is especially worthy of contempt and opprobrium from those who are truly civilized and humane.

2. Just as annoying as the outright anti-Semites are the pretend-friends of Israel and Jews. You know the type:

People like me know the script when it comes to defending Israel against its outright haters, the people currently attacking synagogues all over Europe in the name of Palestine. They are unhinged, implacable, terrifying… But for this very reason, a known quantity. We’ve been here before, again and again. We have Seen This Movie.

But there is another category of anti-Semitic discourse that is much harder to pin down, in large part because it doesn’t know it’s anti-Semitic. This we might call the MISTIA tendency – “more in sorrow than in anger” – which seems appropriate, since it is an idea swathed in a pseudo-intellectual haze.

It goes roughly like this: “We love Jews, we really do. Christ, Spinoza, Einstein… Ten out of ten all round. But as your friends, we must sorrowfully – nay, ruefully – be brutally honest: you’re not living up to our expectations. The rest of us are counting on you to be nice and enlightened and harmless, but there you go, blowing up innocent Arabs just because you feel like it. It’s a tragedy, I tell you.”

When you hear this from a supposed friend of the Jewish people, run the other way. Of course, Jews and Israel are not immune from criticism. That ought to go without saying. But it also ought to go without saying that it is really hard to find valuable criticism from which Jews and Israel can profit and learn, given just how much disingenuous criticism is out there masquerading as “advice from friends of Israel and the Jewish people.”

3. It is worth noting–again–that criticism of Israel notwithstanding, no nation-state would treat enemies like the ones Israel has with such humanity:

. . . Many on the Israeli/Israeli supporting side don’t want to think about our soldiers dying to protect Palestinians, not with all of the terror inflicted over the years by Palestinian terrorists and terror organizations. Many on the Palestinian/Pro-Palestinian side may find the idea ludicrous, or perhaps offensive, that Israeli soldiers, responsible for Palestinian deaths, could be saving Palestinian lives. But I believe it’s the truth, a truth that few want to think about or face

[. . .]

Critics of Israel may not want to hear this, but the Israeli army has acted with great, even unprecedented, care in taking on the challenge of fighting an enemy in a highly densely populated area. Israeli Air Force strikes have killed twice as many adult males as women and children combined. That’s 70% of the casualties coming from 25% of the population—the 25% of the population from which fighters are typically drawn. Needless to say, with deaths in the hundreds, those numbers are not an aberration. A realistic estimate shows the probability of being killed if you’re a member of a Palestinian terror group to be 25 to 50 times that of a civilian. That’s not targeting civilians. That’s not randomized shooting. That’s precise; it’s discriminatory. One of the world’s most powerful air forces has averaged about 8 strikes per death. That’s basically shooting around people. You could close your eyes, pull a trigger and kill more people.

Such precision, such discrimination, is only possible because Israel can afford to. Not just in budgetary cost (although surely there is great costs to the high numbers of flights and strikes needed to practice such precision), but in human life. If Israel had not invested in bomb shelters, emergency response systems, and especially the Iron Dome and other interception defenses, Israel could not have danced around its enemy while its civilians were shot at. Israel could not have afforded the precision, the discrimination, if hundreds were dying of Hamas rockets. With the capabilities to do so, the Air Force could, would have stopped pulling punches, would have hit back far harder than it has. Not targeting civilian structures—we don’t do that (accidents occur, but we don’t intentionally target civilians), but hitting military targets with far less concern for collateral damage. Israel has the luxury of taking the hits and pinching back, saving hundreds if not thousands of Palestinian lives, and it has that luxury at a price tag—that of the entire emergency defense system, one in which we spend up to 50 times the cost of a Hamas rocket to intercept it.

And how was this show of humanity reciprocated? With this:

A squad of Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel inside Israel Monday evening and killed five soldiers, but failed to carry out an abduction

The attack took place south of Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the vicinity of the Karmi Crossing with the Gaza Strip.

The five soldiers were named by the army as Sgt. Daniel Kedmi, 18, from Tsofim; Sgt. Barkey Ishai Shor, 21, from Jerusalem; Sgt. Sagi Erez, 19, from Kiryat Ata; Sgt. Dor Dery, 18, from Jerusalem; and Sgt. Nadav Raimond, 19, from Shadmot Dvora.

The Hamas squad surfaced 150 meters inside Israel and fired an anti-tank missile at an army position. The barracks, just below the lookout tower, was hit, and four soldiers were mortally wounded. The soldiers in the lookout tower spotted the squad advancing on the position and trying to drag away one of the soldiers who had been hit. They then opened fire, killing at least one of the gunmen. The others fled.

Compare and contrast. Israel’s concern about the tunnels, and its determination to do something about them is entirely justified:

An Israeli military spokesman said that in the tunnels uncovered so far, soldiers have found more than 70 side shafts. Inside the Ein Hashlosha tunnel, they picked up potato-chip bags dated as late as February. Elsewhere, there were dates, water and crackers; rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles; small rooms for sleeping or hiding; a kidnapping kit of tranquilizers and plastic handcuffs; Israeli Army uniforms; and a Bosch drill used for digging the tunnels that Colonel Azulai described as “a very good one.”

“It’s like a subway under Gaza,” he said.

Israeli experts said each tunnel would take up to a year and cost up to $2 million to build, involving dozens of diggers working by hand and with small electric tools. The military has known about the tunnels since at least 2003 and had a task force studying them for a year, but was nonetheless stunned at the sophisticated network they found.

Intelligence officers track the tunnels by watching for piles of dirt and men disappearing into buildings for days, as well as through communications equipment used underground, according to several Army veterans. But radar designed to detect oil or gas far deeper underground, they said, has often failed to find the tunnels, which burrow through mixed soil closer to the surface that technology has not yet been able to detect.

“Most of the tools, the physical tools, don’t work on this level of the ground — the physics, it’s very limited,” explained Brig. Gen. Shimon Daniel, who commanded Israel’s combat engineering corps from 2003 to 2007 and has since retired. “This is the paradox. It’s not easier. It’s more difficult.”

No nation-state worth its salt would allow this kind of threat to continue to exist. No nation-state worth its salt would fail to take action to eliminate such a threat. And yet, when Israel acts to protect its citizens against this determined and sophisticated attempt to breach the Jewish state’s defenses, so many in the international community get the vapors because–again, it is worth saying this–Jewish people are just not dying fast enough to satisfy the many anti-Semites in the world.

4. This portion of the blog post is dedicated to all those who never tire of telling us that “if only Israel would end the occupation, the attacks against it would stop as well.” Spare me:

CBS News’ Charlie Rose interviewed Khaled Meshaal for Face the Nation Sunday morning, and attempted to corner him as to whether the Palestinians would recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state provided it was not occupying the Palestinian territories.

Meshaal had initially said, “We are not fanatics. We are not fundamentalists. We do not, actually, fight the Jews because they are Jews per se. We fight the occupiers.”

Rose asked if this pledge to coexist included Israel. “It’s one thing to say you want to coexist with the Jews, it’s another thing to say you want to coexist with the state of Israel,” Rose said.

Meshaal said several times that he would not coexist with “the occupiers,” and Rose responded several times that he meant in a situation in which Israel had pulled out of the territories. Finally Rose point blank asked him if he would recognize Israel, at which point Meshaal appeared to say that he would not, though he continued to speak of Israel as “the occupiers.”

He then demurred and said it would be a question decided by the Palestinians. “When we have a Palestinian state, then the Palestinian state will decide on its policies,” Meshaal said. “But you cannot actually ask me about the future. I answered you. But Palestinian people can have their say, when they have their own state, without occupation.”

Israel’s enemies are determined to remain enemies until either they are killed, or until Israel is wiped off the map. Just because there are people who refuse to pay attention to, and bear in mind this key fact doesn’t mean that the rest of us should join them in lotus-eating. Peter Wehner adds valuable commentary:

So there you have it. The leader of Hamas says, point blank, it does not want a two-state solution. Yet scores of liberal commentators continue to make arguments like this: “We have to get a solution. And it has to be a two-state solution. And it has to be basically encouraged, if not imposed, I think, from without.”

This is an example of what social scientists call “motivated reasoning.” It refers to when people hold to a false belief despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In this instance, the Hamas charter and the Hamas leader don’t accept Israel’s right to exist. And yet liberals don’t seem to care. They appear to be content to live in world made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust. A world of make believe. And so in the context of Israel’s war with Hamas, they continue to revert to arguments that simply don’t apply–for example, arguing that Israel needs to “end the occupation” despite the fact that Israel completely withdrew from Gaza nearly a decade ago.

Israel, on the other hand, has to live and survive in reality. Israelis know the nature of the enemy they face–implacable, committed, ruthless, malevolent. Given all this, and given that Israel itself is a nation of extraordinary moral and political achievements, you might think that the United States government would be fully supportive of the Jewish state in its war against Hamas. But you would be wrong.

The Obama administration is racheting up pressure on Israel. Hamas’s war on Israel, combined with its eagerness to have innocent Palestinians die as human shields in order to advance its propaganda campaign, is pushing America (under Obama) not toward Israel but away from her. Mr. Obama and the left perceive themselves as reality based and their critics as fantasy based. It’s a conceit without merit. And in no case is it more evident than in the left’s stance toward Hamas and Israel.

This is a case where reality and all the arguments, including all the moral arguments, align on one side; and yet Obama and the left are on the other.

They live in a fantasy world. In this instance, doing so has diabolic consequences.

5. And of course, this blog post would not be complete without pointing out that when it comes to trying to bring an end to the fighting, the Obama administration is not having its finest hour. Of particular note is the fact that the country was spared a thoroughly inept presidency when it refused to elect John Kerry in 2004, and that John Kerry has decided to take his revenge on the country by serving as secretary of state and setting back the art of public diplomacy to the Pleistocene Era:

Secretary of State John Kerry has made a significant mistake in how he’s pursuing a Gaza cease-fire — and it’s not surprising that he has upset both the Israelis and some moderate Palestinians.

Kerry’s error has been to put so much emphasis on achieving a quick halt to the bloodshed that he has solidified the role of Hamas, the intractable, unpopular Islamist group that leads Gaza, along with the two hard-line Islamist nations that are its key supporters, Qatar and Turkey. In the process, he has undercut not simply the Israelis but also the Egyptians and the Fatah movement that runs the Palestinian Authority, all of which want to see an end to Hamas rule in Gaza.

A wiser course, which Kerry rejected in his hunt for a quick diplomatic solution, would have been to negotiate the cease-fire through the Palestinian Authority, as part of its future role as the government of Gaza. Hamas agreed last April to bring the authority back to Gaza as part of a unity agreement with Fatah that was brokered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

More:

That was only the latest time the Israelis and Palestinians showed clearly that they were not interested in following Kerry’s lead. Twice in the past three weeks, for example, Kerry was forced to delay a deal-making trip to the region because of resistance from one side or the other. First, the Egyptians released their ceasefire proposal as Kerry was preparing to board the plane from Vienna to Cairo. Hamas rejected it immediately and Kerry stood down.

Days later, Kerry was again preparing to leave for Egypt when Israel began its ground offensive in Gaza, without giving significant warning to the U.S. When Kerry finally traveled to Egypt early last week, the Israelis made clear he wasn’t invited.

After being caught on a hot mic July 20 saying, “It’s crazy to just be sitting around,” Kerry finally departed for Egypt. He spent most of the week in his hotel in Cairo, holding meetings and making dozens of phone calls, traveling to Israel and the West Bank for a few hours only July 23.

When Kerry sent the Israel government his draft ceasefire proposal July 25, the Israeli cabinet rejected it unanimously and senior Israeli officials leaked several angry and nasty criticisms of Kerry to the Israeli press. Kerry’s meeting with the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers in Paris on July 26 evoked another round of leaked quotes about Israel’s frustration with Kerry’s effort.

Of course, the Benjamin Netanyahu government in Israel was wary of Kerry’s efforts. Israel has been resisting Kerry’s criticism that their operations should focus more on avoiding civilian casualties and has groused that Kerry’s proposal would reward Hamas for launching barrages of rockets into Israel. Israeli officials have also disparaged Kerry in public and private ever since Kerry’s last Middle East peace push collapsed in April.

But anonymous Israeli officials were not the only ones grousing about Kerry’s diplomacy. Asharq al-Aswat, an Arab newspaper based in London, quoted a senior Palestinian Authority official over the weekend saying Kerry’s plan was an attempt to destroy the Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

Of particular note is the following from the story:

The Israeli government was not confident the IDF would be able to continue tunnel destruction inside Gaza during the ceasefire. The officials in Jerusalem were not willing to commit to any timeline for completing the tunnel mission because they were still discovering the extent of the tunnel network and thought the mission could take as long as three weeks to complete.

“The Israelis felt their security concerns weren’t addressed by Kerry’s proposal,” said Dennis Ross, a former White House senior official and longtime Mideast envoy. “The ceasefire was going to put the Israelis in a position where the tunnels were still there. A ceasefire that doesn’t address that is not one that the Israelis could accept.”

I suppose that it should not surprise anyone that Israel wouldn’t be a fan of cease-fires that only serve to strengthen Hamas’s position.

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Quote of the Day

I’m done apologizing for Israel.

It’s tiring to apologize over and over. Instead, I’ve decided to come clean: I am a progressive American rabbi who leans left pretty hard. I’ve been engaged, as a US faith leader, in work to reform gun laws, extend LGBT rights around the world, grant refuge to illegal immigrants, protect women’s reproductive choice, and more. Paint me blue.

So, when it comes to Israel, many of those with whom I engage in social reform expect me to react to Israel’s military actions in Gaza with scorn and criticism. To be fair, there are times when I do. My Zionism demands I speak out on behalf of the Israel that remains, in my world-view, the most ambitious project-in-process of the Jewish People. Whereas Israel’s 66 short years have witnessed strength and resilience that have redefined Jewish identity in profound ways, the global Jewish family remains interwoven with Israel. If you question this, scan the last week’s news for anti-Israel rallies in Antwerp, Los Angeles, Paris, Boston, and elsewhere that featured widespread anti-Semitic chants and violence against Jews.

So I’m a progressive US faith leader. I’m a Zionist in Berkeley, CA. I’m a Jew in the world, worried for my family. So here is my response to those criticizing Israel this week.

To those who suggest that Prime Minister Netanyahu is over-reacting to the missiles, I offer this response which I have now shared regularly at campus and communal conversations:

Israel is treating wounded Palestinians during this conflict, risking Israeli lives in surgical strikes to destroy weapons-smuggling tunnels created with building materials Israel allowed into Gaza for infrastructure projects to benefit Palestinian society. Just for a moment, consider the deaths that would result from Israel wishing harm on Palestinian civilians. In just the last 48 hours, Israel has allowed over 10 tons of goods into Gaza. During the past weeks, Israel has agreed to two humanitarian cease-fires. In the first hours of those ceasefires, Hamas rained down over 70 missiles onto Israel civilians.

I ask: What do Israel’s enraged critics truly desire? How is it possible to hear indignant claims of human rights violations in the context of Syrians slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands, state-sanctioned terrorism around the globe, and young immigrants treated like chattel by the US and other? Israel is doing its best, sacrificing its own children to preserve the lives of Palestinians.

[. . .]

My response has changed these last few weeks, in which three Jewish teens were murdered by Arab terrorists and Palestinians celebrated by distributing sweets to children and an Arab teen was murdered by Jewish terrorists and the Jewish world condemned the hatred. I am done trying to apologetically explain Jewish morality. I am done apologizing for my own Jewish existence.

Some will call this needless hyperbole. But, having watched in this last week anti-Semitic “die-ins” in Boston, violent assaults against Jews in Los Angeles and Antwerp, and an almost pogrom at a synagogue in Paris, I’m done mincing my own words.

We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else.

No more apologies.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor. Bravo.

The Scope of Hamas’s Terror Campaign

Any self-respecting nation would protect itself against this:

Hamas had apparently been preparing a murderous assault on Israeli civilian targets for the coming Jewish New Year Holiday, Rosh Hashanah, which begins on September 24, according anonymous sources in the Israeli security services, as reported today by the Israeli daily Maariv.

The Hamas plan consisted of what was to be a surprise attack in which 200 fighters would be dispatched through each of dozens of tunnels dug by Hamas under the border from Gaza to Israel, and seize kibbutzim and other communities while killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians.

Israeli soldiers already frustrated a surprise assault by Hamas through one tunnel from Gaza into the Eshkol district of Israel on July 19. The Hamas fighters escaped back into the tunnel, but the clash cost the lives of two Israel Defense Force [IDF] troops.

And yet, plenty of anti-Semites–who claim to only be anti-Zionists–want the only Jewish state in the world to be a good little victim, and to lie down and die in the face of terrorist assaults.

More Stories that Cannot Possibly Be True

From France:

Pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with police in central Paris on Saturday when hundreds of marchers defied a ban by French authorities to rally against Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve warned organizers in a television address that they would be held responsible for any clashes and could be prosecuted for ignoring a ban that was confirmed by the country’s top administrative court.

TV footage showed a minority of demonstrators wearing balaclavas and traditional Arab keffiyeh headdresses throwing projectiles at riot officers. Paris police said they had made 40 arrests.

French authorities have refused to permit several pro-Palestinian protests because they feared violence. Marchers clashed with riot police in and around Paris in recent weeks, with some targeting synagogues and Jewish shops.

“Anti-Semitic violence exists: we must face it head on,” Cazeneuve said.

More:

Several thousand gathered in Place de la République in Paris, France to protest the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, defying a state ban on the demonstration.

Protesters chanted “Israel is an assassin, Holland is an accomplice” and “we are all Palestinians,” and some were seen gesturing the quenelle, a reverse Nazi-salute, AFP reported. Tension mounted as hundreds of protesters, some masked, began throwing stones and projectiles at police who responded with tear gas.

Still more:

As the war in Israel rages on, with Operation Protective Edge into its third week, the war online continues to intensify.

France, in particular, has seen some of the worst demonstrations and violence in condemning Israel’s strike against Gaza, as anti-Israel demonstrators spent last weekend protesting, attempting to break into two Paris synagogues and vandalizing a kosher butcher shop.

If the rallies and news reports aren’t enough to confirm what is taking place there, the online forums and hate speech certainly is, with commentators relentlessly attacking Israel, holding what it seems to be a very strong bias against the Jewish state.

According to a new report from AFP, since Operation Protective Edge began two and a half weeks ago, leaving over 600 Palestinians and dozens of IDF soldiers dead, this brand of hate posted online has significantly increased in a country that boasts the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Western Europe.

“As soon as you talk about Israel, it crystallizes all passions, with up to 20,000 or 30,000 comments sometimes after an article, of which we will only let 5% to 10% through,” explained David Corchia, head of an online moderation company of which both Le Figaro and Liberation (French news publications) are clients.

[. . .]

“We see racist or anti-Semitic messages, very violent, that also take aim at politicians and the media, sometimes by giving journalists’ contact details,” he added. “This sickening content is peculiar to this conflict. The war in Syria does not trigger these kinds of comments.”

And (naturally?) the Germans make an appearance:

Across Europe, many pro-Palestinian rallies have been taking a disturbing turn. Under the guise of opposing Israel’s actions in Gaza, thousands of protesters have given expression to virulent anti-Jewish sentiments–and often acted on them. In France, mobs have shouted “Death to the Jews,” and eight synagogues have been attacked. One journalist even overheard a man who “spoke loudly about ‘hunting Jews and killing them.’” In the northern suburbs of Paris, the neighborhood of one of France’s largest Jewish communities was ransacked, with cars and businesses destroyed, including a kosher grocery store that was burned down.

Elsewhere in Europe, similar scenes have unfolded. In the U.K., for example, anti-Semitic incidents have doubled, with one woman being physically assaulted by pro-Palestinian marchers in London, who called her a “Jew Zionist.” But perhaps the most striking and disturbing example of this phenomenon has come out of Germany, where one would have hoped primitive anti-Semitic mobs were a relic of history.

In a video taken at a large anti-Israel rally in Berlin this past Thursday, hundreds of protesters can be seen chanting in German, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight on your own” (“Jude, Jude, feiges Schwein, komm heraus und kämpf allein“).

Of course, I am absolutely gobsmacked by these stories. After all, I have been repeatedly assured that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.”

Rich Lowry has more to say on “useful idiots”:

Sound bites are usually meant to obfuscate as much as clarify. Rarely is one so incisive as the line uttered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the other day about the difference between Israel and Hamas: “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

This is the ground truth of the latest Gaza war that gets obscured by the relentlessly repeated stark disparity in casualties between the Gazans, hundreds of whom have died in the conflict, and the Israelis.

Each civilian death in Gaza is a tragedy, but who is ultimately responsible? The moral calculus here is simple. Hamas precipitated the war and persisted in waging it even when Israel was willing to accept an Egyptian offer of a cease-fire. Hamas hides its rockets in schools and places its command bunkers under hospitals. It wants war, and it wants civilian casualties.

Stalin infamously said that one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic. Hamas is happy with either a tragedy (the four kids killed on the beach by Israeli shells last week) or a statistic (the climbing civilian toll), so long as it is death and so long as it can be used in the propaganda war against Israel.

This isn’t hard to understand. Yet even supporters of Israel give in to the twisted logic that the Gaza conflict is somehow an indictment of the Jewish state. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on CNN “that this is hurting Israel’s moral authority.” Which is exactly the conclusion Hamas wants “the international community” to draw from its depraved indifference to the safety of Gazans.

Jon Stewart did a controversial bit last week about how Israel has all the advantages in the conflict, what with its warnings via app to its civilians about incoming rockets and its ability to neutralize those rockets with its missile defenses.

Yes, how unfair. Israel invested in systems entirely devoted to protecting its civilian population from unprovoked attack. What dastardliness is the Zionist Entity capable of next?

Dean Obeidallah of The Daily Beast lauds Stewart for this in a piece headlined, “How Jon Stewart Made It Okay to Care About Palestinian Suffering.” It’s more like making it cool to be obtuse about the Gaza war.

Similar–and similarly welcome–points from Charles Krauthammer:

Israel accepts an Egyptian-proposed Gaza cease-fire; Hamas keeps firing. Hamas deliberately aims rockets at civilians; Israel painstakingly tries to avoid them, actually telephoning civilians in the area and dropping warning charges, so-called roof knocking.

“Here’s the difference between us,” explains the Israeli prime minister. “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity. Yet we routinely hear this Israel-Gaza fighting described as a morally equivalent “cycle of violence.” This is absurd. What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting? Everyone knows Hamas set off this mini-war. And everyone knows the proudly self-declared raison d’etre of Hamas: the eradication of Israel and its Jews.

Read it all. Of course, none of these facts matter for the morally deranged, who relentlessly criticize Jewish people for not consenting to die quickly at the hands of violent lunatics. And facts certainly don’t matter for the benighted who turn their eyes and ears away from moral derangement any and every chance they get. But they ought to matter for the rest of us.

 

Hamas Places Rockets in UNRWA Schools

The United Nations Relief Workers Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has schools in Gaza. Hamas has decided to place rockets in those schools. No, Hamas is not expressly named in the UNRWA denunciation (it constitutes cowardice for UNRWA to fail to denounce Hamas by name), but no one else is placing rockets amongst Palestinian civilians and deliberately putting them in danger in order to score some kind of propaganda coup against Israel. I am sure that there are some lunatics who will claim that Israel placed the rockets so that international community can blame Hamas, but I trust that the vast majority of people out there–and certainly just about all of this blog’s readership–won’t take such deranged claims seriously.

It really does give one an idea of just how incredibly monstrous Hamas is that they would deliberately and regularly endanger the very Palestinians it purports to champion. I know that there are those who try to find moral equivalence between Israel’s actions and those of its enemies. That job was never easy to begin with, and it just got harder. Between Israel and it’s enemies, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the former has much more respect for innocent human life than does the latter.

Shocking Stories of Anti-Semitism

Read this, and this. I must confess to being a little confused; I have, after all, been repeatedly assured that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.” Amazing how depressingly frequent the occurrence of something supposedly “scarce” can be, eh?

Relatedly, be sure to read Damon Linker’s open letter to Andrew Rosenthal, in which Linker employs magnificent scorn to magnificent effect. A taste:

As editorial page editor of the New York Times, you’re a very busy man. But I was so excited by Timothy Egan’s column from last weekend that I couldn’t resist writing to thank you for your good work — and to pass along a handful of proposals for some op-eds of my own. (My bosses at The Week are a little skittish about taking on the kind of bold pieces Egan has inspired me to write.)

It was so thrilling to read in the pages of America’s leading newspaper about how “faith-based fanatics” are making this the “summer of the violent God,” with religious zealots rampaging around the globe.

It really was the audacity of the comparisons that inspired me. I loved how Egan showed the underlying connection among all these events — Muslim extremists in Nigeria kidnapping and enslaving girls to prevent them from receiving an education; Muslim militants of ISIS expelling Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul, where they’ve lived for 1,700 years; the “rage that moved Hamas to lob rockets on birthday parties in Tel Aviv, and Israelis to kill children playing soccer on the beach in Gaza”; and Supreme Court justices ruling that women at some companies may have to pay out of pocket for some forms of contraception.

That’s what punditry is all about: showing how everything fits together. One of my heroes, the sociologist Daniel Bell, defined an intellectual (and what is an opinion journalist if not an intellectual?) as someone who practices and perfects the art of drawing distinctions and highlighting continuities where others haven’t noted them before. Egan did that masterfully. I, for one, had never noticed the deep and ominous parallels between Samuel Alito giving the conservative Christian owners of Hobby Lobby a limited exemption from government regulations and Boko Haram burning dozens of churches to the ground during Sunday services.

But the parallels are there, and they are undeniable. Religion is what connects them. And thanks to Egan’s reasoning, I’m now inclined to think it’s obvious that the world would be an immeasurably better place if religion would just go away. The (non-Jewish) Israelis and (non-Muslim) Palestinians would live in peace and happy harmony. Non-Muslim militants wouldn’t bother to expel non-Christians from Iraq. And of course, the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t feel obliged to protect the freedom of non-religious business owners to practice their non-faith.

Peace in the Middle East and free birth control for everyone — who could possibly object?

Only a religious fanatic, that’s who.

That’s the kind of sharp thinking Egan inspired as soon as I read his column.

There is much more, and Rosenthal and the Times deserve to be raked over the coals for shoddy thinking and writing–which they decided to inflict on the public, no less. Read it all. I will only add that Timothy Egan is very much in the running to win the award as Worst Columnist the New York Times Has to Offer.

Delusion in Russia

How exactly does one engage in rational conversation with a country which is afflicted with . . . well . . . this?

Did you know Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was full of corpses when it took off from Amsterdam? Did you know that, for some darkly inexplicable reason, on July 17, MH17 moved off the standard flight path that it had taken every time before, and moved north, toward rebel-held areas outside Donetsk? Or that the dispatchers summoned the plane lower just before the crash? Or that the plane had been recently reinsured? Or that the Ukrainian army has air defense systems in the area? Or that it was the result of the Ukrainian military mistaking MH17 for Putin’s presidential plane, which looks strangely similar?

Did you know that the crash of MH17 was all part of an American conspiracy to provoke a big war with Russia?

Well, it’s all trueat least if you live in Russia, because this is the Malaysia Airlines crash story that you’d be seeing.

“But surely, the leadership class in general–and Vladimir Putin in particular–is better informed, Pejman,” I hear you cry. Alas, that may not be true.

The Intellectual and Moral Derangement of Opponents of Israel

The periodic hate campaigns that get launched against the state of Israel are uniformly obscene and disgusting, but the current one appears to be working to set new records. Just by way of reminder, we have one of Israel’s mortal enemies (Hamas), an entity that has never accepted Israel’s right to exist–let alone a right to exist in safety and security–launching missiles against Israel and actively trying to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. As though that were not execrable enough, Hamas is also actively trying to use Palestinian civilians as human shields. And yet, despite these facts, and despite the simple truth that the moral calculus is heavily in Israel’s favor, there are enough benighted people on the planet who claim that somehow, in some way, Israel is at fault for the current conflict between itself and the Palestinians. These people, confident in the belief that derangement is a contagion, are trying to spread that contagion to as many others as possible:

Tens of thousands protested in London Saturday afternoon against Israel’s military operations in Gaza, denouncing Israel as a terrorist state and castigating British Prime Minister David Cameron for backing Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas rocket fire

Led by speakers on a podium, protesters holding placards and banners chanted pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel slogans.

At one point, a woman on the podium shouted “from the river to the sea” — a call for the elimination of Israel — and protesters responded by yelling “Palestine will be free.”

More:

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters marched in French cities on Saturday to condemn violence in Gaza, defying a ban imposed after demonstrators marched on two synagogues in Paris last weekend and clashed with riot police.

French President Francois Hollande said he understood emotional responses to the killing of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in a flare-up of hostilities with Israel but would not allow violence to spill over into France.

“That’s why I asked the interior minister, after an investigation, to ensure that such protests would not take place,” he told journalists during a visit to Chad.

[. . .]

The far-left New Anticapitalist Party, an organizer of last Sunday’s rally and the banned one in Paris, urged protesters in Paris to defy the ban, prompting police to issue a warning.

[. . .]

In the first three months of 2014 more Jews left France for Israel than at any other time since the Jewish state was created in 1948, with many citing rising anti-Semitism as a factor.

Of course, it ought to go without saying that no one should dare call the organizers of these protests “anti-Semitic.” Because that would hurt their feelings, or something.

Now, for some sanity. Brendan O’Neill has a proper reply to the anti-Israel fanatics:

Why are Western liberals always more offended by Israeli militarism than by any other kind of militarism? It’s extraordinary. France can invade Mali and there won’t be loud, rowdy protests by peaceniks in Paris. David Cameron, backed by a whopping 557 members of parliament, can order airstrikes on Libya and British leftists won’t give over their Twitterfeeds to publishing gruesome pics of the Libyan civilians killed as a consequence. President Obama can resume his drone attacks in Pakistan, killing 13 people in one strike last month, and Washington won’t be besieged by angry anti-war folk demanding ‘Hands off Pakistan’. But the minute Israel fires a rocket into Gaza, the second Israeli politicians say they’re at war again with Hamas, radicals in all these Western nations will take to the streets, wave hyperbolic placards, fulminate on Twitter, publish pictures of dead Palestinian children, publish the names and ages of everyone ‘MURDERED BY ISRAEL’, and generally scream about Israeli ‘bloodletting’. (When the West bombs another country, it’s ‘war’; when Israel does it, it’s ‘bloodletting’.)

Anyone possessed of a critical faculty must at some point have wondered why there’s such a double standard in relation to Israeli militarism, why missiles fired by the Jewish State are apparently more worthy of condemnation than missiles fired by Washington, London, Paris, the Turks, Assad, or just about anyone else on Earth. Parisians who have generally given a Gallic shrug as French troops have basically retaken Francophone Africa, stamping their boots everywhere from the Central African Republic to Mali to Cote d’Ivoire over the past two years, turned out in their thousands at the weekend to condemn Israeli imperialism and barbarism. Americans who didn’t create much fuss last month when the Obama administration announced the resumption of its drone attacks in Pakistan gathered at the Israeli Embassy in Washington to yell about Israeli murder. (Incredibly, they did this just a day after a US drone attack, the 375th such attack in 10 years, killed at least six people in Pakistan. But hey, Obama-led militarism isn’t as bad as Israeli militarism, and dead Pakistanis, unlike dead Palestinians, don’t deserve to have their photos, names and ages published by the concerned liberals of Twitter.) Meanwhile, hundreds of very angry Brits gathered at the Israeli Embassy in London, bringing traffic to a standstill, clambering on to buses, yelling about murder and savagery, in furious, colourful scenes that were notable by their absence three years ago when Britain sent planes to pummel Libya.

As does Charles Schumer (hey, when Charles Schumer is right, he is right):

Amid the recent troubles between Israel and the Palestinians, many Americans and media commentators are drawing disturbing lines of parallelism between the two societies, asserting a false moral equivalency to the actions of each.

In essence, the claim goes like this: “Both sides are fighting each other with similar degrees of violence; both treat each other equally badly; each side is equally to blame for the violence, and they just can’t come together.”

That notion that there is a moral equivalency between the defensive and targeted actions that the rule-of-law-based Israel is compelled to take, and the proactive and indiscriminate actions that hate-based organizations like Hamas takes, is completely unfair, unfounded and infuriating to supporters of Israel — with good reason.

In fact, there is no moral equivalence between the actions and reactions of Israel and Hamas and the Palestinian community to the violence that has occurred.

Two glaring examples stand out. The first revolves around the difference between Israel’s and the Palestinian community’s reactions to the horrible kidnappings and coldblooded murders of four boys, three Israeli and one Palestinian.

No doubt the loss of these children is one beyond words. Both incidents were abhorrent.

But the reaction on both sides was not the same. How did Hamas and too many diverse parts of the mainstream Palestinian community respond to the kidnap and murder of three young Israelis? They cheered.

The official Hamas spokesman called the kidnappers “heroes.” The mother of one of the suspected kidnappers, Abu Aysha, said, “If he [my son] truly did it — I’ll be proud of him till my final day.”

And is it no wonder, given the vitriolic hatred of Israel that has been preached in textbooks and schools to two generations of Palestinian children. Such propaganda has been propagated by not only Hamas, but by the Palestinian Authority, and has created a perverse mythology throughout Palestinian society that calls suicide bombers “martyrs” and extols kidnappers and murderers as heroes.

Those who killed the Israeli boys have not been found, and the cooperation of Palestinian authorities in the hunt for them has been lukewarm at best.

Compare that to the reaction of the Israeli people to the murder of the Palestinian teenager. Israelis were aghast. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately called the murderers “terrorists” who committed deeds equal to the terrorism on the other side and said that Israel must find “who is behind this despicable murder.” The Israeli government has made every effort to bring those responsible to justice, and there are now six arrests.

And Eric Yoffie:

On “NBC Nightly News” on July 12, David Gregory spoke of growing pressure from the United Nations for a ceasefire in Gaza. He noted that the United States and many other nations believed that Israel had a right to self-defense. Nonetheless, Gregory reported, these countries were likely to be sympathetic to calls for a ceasefire because of the “disproportionate” number of casualties between the two sides. Among the residents of Gaza, the death toll then exceeded 100, while Israel had suffered dozens of injuries but no casualties.

Mr. Gregory was simply reporting the news, but I found his comments disturbing, nonetheless. What does it mean to say that the casualties are “disproportionate”? And is that really the moral issue that we need to be concerned about?

The implication of the “disproportionality” claim is that, given their losses, the people of Gaza are the real victims. But morally and politically, this is an intolerable and distorted interpretation of the realities in the region.

The reason that Hamas has not killed more Israelis is not because they haven’t tried. In the seven years during which it has controlled Gaza, Hamas and its proxies have fired more than 5000 rockets into Israel; almost 800 have been launched just this past week. Each one has been aimed at civilians and intended to murder and maim. The reason that more Israelis have not died is that the weapons are mostly crude and inaccurate and that, over time, Israel has prepared herself with shelters, warning sirens and an anti-missile system. In addition, Israelis have been just plain lucky.

But that luck could change at any moment. If a single rocket were to hit a school or a mall, the number of dead could balance out in a flash. Then, to be sure, you would have “proportionality,” but there is no moral calculus by which additional dead civilians is a preferable outcome.

For Israel, the fundamental issue is the responsibility of its government to protect its citizens. As missiles have fallen on her cities over the years, the government has not succeeded in providing that protection. The reasons are many, including sensitivity to American wishes and a concern for world opinion; but the desire not to hurt the innocent is the most important. Now, however, as children in the south continue to live in terror and civilians throughout Israel flee to shelters several times daily, Israel’s leaders have concluded that they must act.

There is something bizarre, in fact, about the idea of “proportionality” being used as a moral criticism against Israel. A proportional response by Israel to the attacks of the last seven years would mean that every time a rocket is fired by Hamas at an Israeli civilian center, Israel would respond by firing a rocket at a civilian center in Gaza. Israel, of course, rejected that, then and now. Still, when Hamas violated the ceasefire yet again and got its hands on longer-range rockets, something had to be done.

Joshua Muravchik informs us why the casualties are “disproportionate”:

. . . Already, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, EU foreign policy czarina Catherine Ashton, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty [International], the British press and the usual array of “progressive” voices are assailing Israel for this fight in which Hamas is the aggressor and Israel is acting, with unmistakable reluctance, only in self-defense. True, most casualties are on the Palestinian side. Why? Israel has spent billions on civil defense and [the] Iron Dome to protect its citizens. Hamas urges its subjects to disregard Israeli warnings and to stay put in targeted buildings in order to become “martyrs.” They’re fulfilling their mantra: “You love life; we love death.”

And finally, David Harsanyi shows why Jeff Bezos was unwilling to part with any money in order to keep Ezra Klein & the Gang around at the Washington Post:

Not long ago, Vox’s Max Fisher argued that Israel was liable for the entire conflict in the Middle East. He then accused Israel of welcoming Hamas’ execution of three Jewish teenagers as a pretext to engage in the vengeful massacring of Arab civilians. And then he lamented the fact that Hamas’ rocket barrage was met with Israel’s technological superiority and, consequently, a lopsided outcome.

Nowadays, as Hamas ignores cease-fires and is caught using children as human shields by the United Nations, many apologists have given up. Not Fisher, who attempts to whip up some moral equivalency in a new piece titled “Yes, Gaza militants hide rockets in schools, but Israel doesn’t have to bomb them”:

This is the one thing that both Hamas and Israel seem to share: a willingness to adopt military tactics that will put Palestinian civilians at direct risk and that contribute, however unintentionally, to the deaths of Palestinian civilians. Partisans in the Israel-Palestine conflict want to make that an argument over which “side” has greater moral culpability in the continued killings of Palestinian civilians. And there is validity to asking whether Hamas should so ensconce itself among civilians in a way that will invite attacks, just as there is validity to asking why Israel seems to show so little restraint in dropping bombs over Gaza neighborhoods. But even that argument over moral superiority ultimately treats those dying Palestinian families as pawns in the conflict, tokens to be counted for or against, their humanity and suffering so easily disregarded.

A “partisan” writing about a conflict as if he we an honest broker is distracting, but read it again. You might note that one of the institutions he’s talking about is the governing authority of the Palestinian people in Gaza, which, applying even the most basic standards of decency, should task itself with safeguarding the lives of civilians. Instead, it makes martyrs out of children and relies on the compassion of Israelis to protect its weapons. This is a tragedy, of course, but Israel does have to bomb caches of rockets hidden by “militants” in Mosques, schools, and hospitals. Since Hamas’ terrorist complex is deeply embedded in Gaza’s civilian infrastructure there is really no other way. And that only tells us that one of the two organizations mentioned by Fisher has purposely decided to use Palestinian as pawns and put civilians in harm’s way.

It is also preposterous to claim that Israel is showing “little restraint in dropping bombs over Gaza neighborhoods.” Actually, Israel is far more concerned with the wellbeing of Palestinians civilians than Hamas. This week, 13 Hamas fighters used a tunnel into Israel and attempted to murder 150 civilians in Kibbutz Sufa, with Kalashnikovs and anti-tank weapons. On the same day, Israel issued early warnings before attacking Hamas targets – as it often has throughout this conflict in an effort to avoid needless civilian deaths Hamas is hoping for. It was Israel that agreed to a five-hour cease-fire so that UN aid could flow into Gaza last week. It is Israel that sends hundreds of thousands of tons of food to Gaza every year, millions of articles of clothing and medical aid. That’s more than restraint.

Quite right, of course, but as always, the argument over Israel’s actions ends up pitting responsible and sane people against those whose complaints against Israel always amount to “the dastardly Jews aren’t allowing their enemies to kill Jews quickly enough.”

The Cover-Up Begins

I trust that no one is surprised by this:

Ukraine accused Russia and pro-Moscow rebels on Saturday of destroying evidence to cover up their guilt in the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner that has accelerated a showdown between the Kremlin and Western powers.

As militants kept international monitors away from wreckage and scores of bodies festered for a third day, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the rebels to cooperate and insisted that a U.N.-mandated investigation must not leap to conclusions. Moscow denies involvement and has pointed a finger at Kiev’s military.

The Dutch government, whose citizens made up more than half the 298 aboard MH17 from Amsterdam, said it was “furious” at the manhandling of corpses strewn for miles over open country and asked Ukraine’s president for help to bring “our people” home.

After U.S. President Barack Obama said the loss of the Kuala Lumpur-bound flight showed it was time to end the conflict, Germany called it Moscow’s last chance to cooperate.

European powers seemed to swing behind Washington’s belief Russia’s separatist allies were to blame. That might speed new trade sanctions on Moscow, without waiting for definitive proof.

I am not sure how much more proof is actually needed. If it were not for the obstruction of the Russian separatists, there would be a full-scale forensics investigation already underway. And does anyone actually believe that the Russians are really trying to get the rebels to cooperate with the investigation?

Did the Russians Down the Malaysian Airliner?

It sure seems like it:

Social media posts by pro-Russian insurgents — most of them hastily removed — suggest the rebels thought they had shot down a Ukrainian army plane before realising in horror that it was in fact a packed Malaysian airliner.

The Twitter and blog messages were immediately publicised by top Kiev officials in their furious information war with the Kremlin for global opinion and the hearts and minds of ethnic Russians caught in the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

Confirmation of separatist fighters killing 298 passengers and crew on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur would further complicate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to paint their uprising as a fight for self-determination.

Russia’s state media avoided any mention of the controversial posts and instead reported militia leaders’ later charges that the Ukrainian air force had shot down the Boeing 777 liner instead.

There is, of course, a great deal more to learn about this story, but the indications are strong that Russian separatists were behind the downing. And of course, given that the separatist movement in Ukraine would not be possible without Russian backing and support, Moscow–and the Putin regime–very likely has blood on its hands.

Speaking of which . . .

Back in March, when Vladimir Putin’s Russia was rearing its increasingly antagonistic head, supporters of Mitt Romney saw a measure of vindication. Russia, it seemed, had become the United States’ No. 1 geopolitical foe — the same distinction Romney claimed for it in 2012 (and President Obama scoffed at). Well, here we are, four months later, and we finally have some good data to evaluate that claim.

And we can say that, at least for now, the American people agree with Mitt Romney (pretty much).

According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, Americans see Russia as the No. 1 future threat to the United States.

Twenty-three percent of Americans give that distinction to Russia, while 19 percent say it’s China and 16 percent say it’s Iran. (Just 7 percent cite North Korea.)

Sometimes, public opinion gets it very, very wrong. In this case, public opinion gets it quite right. Maybe Team Obama will take notice and acknowledge as much . . . one of these days.

If Only We Had a Rational Foreign Policy Discourse . . .

In a world where Reason ruled the roost and rationality was the order of the day, more people would be asking Jeffrey Goldberg’s question: Why is Hamas, by its own actions, undermining the creation of a Palestinian state by pursuing policies that will not lead to the destruction of the state of Israel? It’s a good question, and one that I would love to get an answer to, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to be on the lips of many pundits and observers, which should count as a gargantuan failure in ratiocination on the part of the pundit class.

Speaking of muddled thinking, behold Chris Bertram, who seems to think that because Israel uses the Iron Dome missile defense system to save the lives of innocent Israeli citizens, while Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields, Israel is somehow morally deranged (“the current death score is 159-0,” Bertram tells us, as though this statement is dispositive of something). Of course, Bertram does not acknowledge that Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, and that it actively puts the general Palestinian population in danger through its actions, but that is likely only because it would undermine his (reflexive?) anti-Israel bias. Bertram does take the time to call William Saletan some names, but other than proving that playground insults are the best that Bertram has to bring to the table, this does nothing to enlighten any reader. I suspect, of course, that enlightenment is not Bertram’s goal; he is likely just smart enough to see that Hamas is the culpable party in this conflict, and he wants to muddy the waters by engaging in a furious bit of handwaving that is supposed to convince us that Jewish people are at fault for not dying as quickly as Bertram might like them to die.

This Passes for “Moderation” in Iran

Those who believed that an era of political and social liberalization was about to dawn in Iran will not like reading this article:

Eight social media activists in Iran have been sentenced to a total of 127 years in prison, after they criticised the country’s government on Facebook.

The eight people – whose identities have not been revealed – were administrators of unnamed Facebook pages.

An Iranian court found them guilty of using the pages to spread anti-government propaganda, attemp to undermine national security, and insult Iran’s leaders. It is unclear whether they were acting together.

It is understood that those convicted will appeal the ruling, having each been handed sentences between 11 and 21 years, Iran’s IRNA news agency reported according to Sky News. The terms were passed in April after the eight appeared in court several times.

The rest of us will be appalled, but entirely unsurprised.

Quote of the Day

In our postmodern times it is increasingly irrelevant where the good and the bad reside. Does it matter that the Israeli youth dream with being inventors and scientists, while the youth of Hezbollah and Hamas dream with being martytrs? Apparently not. Does it matter that in Israel children are not taught to hate the Arabs, while among the Arabs, the Protocols of Zion and Mein Kampf are best sellers, and that the Egyptian TV broadcast a repulsive series where the Jews would extract children’s blood for their rituals? Apparently this doesn’t matter either.

The only thing that matters is that Arabs and Palestines look weaker compared to Israel’s might. The victim is the weak; the perpetrator is the powerful; other reasons are irrelevant. That is why public opinion tolerates anything from Palestines and Arabs, and condemns everything that comes from Israel.

Yet Israel is the planet’s most vulnerable country, surrounded by a sea of fundamentalists, hallucinating preachers, and dictators who anxiously wish to erase it from the map. Ever since independence Israel was harassed, not so much for its Jewish character, but for being the embodiment of modernity and progress, democracy, pluralism, tolerance, free press, an independent judiciary, the alternance in power, the individual and human rights. It won Nobel prizes in sciences and literature, it invented effective irrigation systems, it educated eminent artists, and it contributed discoveries to the biological sciences.

Above all, Israel s tired of war. Already several generations of stoic Israeli citizens have defended the country with one hand while working with the other. Israel always wanted to be Athens but was forced to be Sparta. But this absurd postmodernity will never understand it.

Marco Aguinis. About the only statement that I disagree with is the one that claims that Israel was harassed “not so much for its Jewish character.” Not so, alas. Israel was–and continues to be–very much hated “for its Jewish character,” in addition to its “embodiment of modernity and progress, democracy, pluralism, tolerance, free press, an independent judiciary, the alternance in power, the individual and human rights.”

Some Facts on the Latest Violence in the Middle East

1. The Israelis go to extraordinary and laudable lengths in order to ensure that they don’t kill civilians while trying to protect themselves against attacks from Hamas. Would that Israel’s enemies were so humane. Incidentally, you can bet your bottom dollar that all those who decry Israel’s supposed inhumanity towards the Palestinians will completely ignore William Saletan’s article, and the many like it that seek to educate people about what is really going on in the Middle East.

2. You would think that given the violence and given America’s interest in tamping that violence down, President Obama might want to pick up the phone and have a conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. As of yesterday, however, that conversation has not happened. I suppose it is possible that the lack of a conversation might be the fault of Prime Minister Netanyahu, but I highly doubt that the prime minister would pretend to be washing his hair if the president of the United States were to call and say that he would like to chat about the whole war situation currently going on between Israel and Hamas. To be sure, I recognize that the president and the prime minister don’t exactly like each other, but now might be the ideal time to put such enmity aside and work for a greater good, no?

I’m Sure People Will Find a Way to Blame Israel for This

Oh, look–enemies of the only Jewish state on the planet are up to their usual tricks. Again.

For second time on Tuesday evening, Gaza terrorists launch rocket at central Israel; Tel Aviv and Jerusalem open public bomb shelters.

Air raid sirens rang out in Greater Tel Aviv, and in Jerusalem, Kfar Saba and the Binyamina area on Tuesday evening, marking an increase in the Gazan rockets’ range, on the first day of Operation Protective Edge.

An Iron Dome battery intercepted the incoming rocket over Tel Aviv. Hamas announced it had fired four M-75 rockets at the capital. Two loud thuds were heard in downtown Jerusalem shortly after the rocket warning siren went off at 9:56 p.m. Thousands of residents entered bomb shelters, while others remained outside and in cafés.

More. It should, of course, surprise precisely no one that the Israelis might decide to fight back against those who aim to extinguish their country. But as the title of this blog post indicates, it is a near certainty that a certain group of people will respond to the news that Israel is being assaulted by claiming that somehow, and in some way, Israel has asked for it. Neither facts nor a sense of history matters to this group; the only thing that matters is the destruction of a country that happens to be a Jewish state.

Oh, but don’t dare call these people anti-Semites. They might get the vapors, or something.

Inequality in Iran

This is what happens when a government is not only massively totalitarian, but also corrupt beyond belief:

The nouveaux riches in Tehran drive Porsches, Ferraris and Maseratis and live in multimillion-dollar luxury apartments replete with walk-in closets, Bosch appliances and computerized shower systems.

I was stunned when I caught a glimpse of what Iran’s megarich can afford — on, of all things, a program made by Press TV, an English-language news organization sponsored and monitored by the Iranian state. It was not just the wealth that struck me, but how freely Iran’s “one percenters” flaunted the symbols of Western decadence without fear of government retribution.

Thirty-five years after a revolution that promised an egalitarian utopia and vowed to root out “gharbzadegi” — the modern Westernized lifestyles of Iran’s cosmopolitans — how have some people become so rich?

Much of Iran’s wealth, it turns out, is in the hands of the very people in charge of maintaining social justice. Hard-line clerical leaders, together with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (the branch of Iran’s military in charge of protecting the country’s Islamic government), have engineered a system where it is largely they, their family members and their loyal cronies who prosper.

“When Ayatollah Ali Khamenei became supreme leader in 1989, he built his own system of patronage by building a network with the I.R.G.C.,” said Alireza Nader, an Iran expert at the nonpartisan RAND Corporation and an author of its report “The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.” Saeed Ghasseminejad, an economist, and the political scientist Emanuele Ottolenghi, writing in The Wall Street Journal, estimated that the Revolutionary Guards Corps controls about 20 percent of the market value of companies traded on Tehran’s stock exchange, across the telecommunications, banking, construction, metals and mining, automotive and petrochemical sectors. Mr. Nader said the corps was also involved in sanctions-busting and the smuggling of alcohol and drugs into Iran, both forbidden under Islamic law.

The corps also runs large parts of the economy. Since 2006, Al-Monitor reported, it has been awarded at least 11,000 development projects, from construction and aerospace to oil and gas. Khatam al-Anbiya, a company that acts like the United States Army Corps of Engineers on the construction of roads, bridges and public works, subcontracts to firms owned by businessmen with connections to the Guards.

And of course, it ought to go without saying that if one confronts any of the thugs running the Iranian government about the fact that they have constructed a mafiocracy in Iran, they will either try to deny the undeniable, or they will pretend that God somehow wants the governing mafia to be wealthy and prosperous . . . while the rest of the country suffers.

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