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Quote of the Day

I am a lifelong Democrat, a political liberal, a Reform rabbi, and for four decades, until last week, a New York Times subscriber. What drove me away was the paper’s incessant denigration of Israel, a torrent of articles, photographs, and op-ed columns that consistently present the Jewish State in the worst possible light.

This phenomenon is not new. Knowledgeable observers have long assailed the Times lack of objectivity and absence of journalistic integrity in reporting on Israel. My chronic irritation finally morphed into alienation and then to visceral disgust this summer, after Hamas renewed its terrorist assaults upon Israel and the Times launched what can only be described as a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State.

The Middle East conflict is complex, but the root cause of Israel’s confrontation with Hamas is not. Committed by its charter to “obliterate” Israel and kill all Jews everywhere, Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Britain, and the European Union, a designation substantiated by its raining rockets down on Israel’s civilians and tunneling under its border to kill and kidnap, indisputable war crimes.

Renowned Israeli novelist, leftist, and self-declared “Israeli peacenik” Amos Oz captured the essence of the conflict in two questions he posed to a German radio audience. “What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery? What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?”

The answers are self-evident to everyone except the New York Times. Its obsessive focus is on Palestinian civilian casualties, especially children, publishing photos of their corpses and little else, as if they tell the whole story. The deaths of innocents in wartime are tragic and heartbreaking; they diminish us all. But a newspaper committed to balance and fairness would provide context and perspective. It would show traumatized Israeli children running to shelters, cowering, wetting their beds, and suffering nightmares. It would publish photos and accounts of militants launching rockets from the roofs of mosques, a church, and a media hotel, alongside schools, refugee shelters, clinics and hospitals, and of weapons concealed by Hamas in UN facilities. It would substantiate casualty figures from Hamas, which is known to have falsified them in the past, before reporting them as fact. It would highlight Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields, its urging civilians to ignore Israel’s advance warnings to depart, so that Gazans would be killed and inflict PR damage on Israel. Such a paper would cover the threats of death that inhibited reporters and photojournalists from telling the true, full story. But the Times did not.

Rabbi Richard A. Block. Read the whole thing. And of course, it’s worth remembering that unprofessional and inaccurate coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas is not solely the province of the New York Times.

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Russia Invades Ukraine

And no one should be surprised, of course; ever since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, the worry that Russia might invade has never been far from the minds of serious observers. The Ukrainian military is hardly well-equipped to make life miserable for Russian forces now fighting in its territory (alas), which means that Ukrainian sovereignty has suffered yet another grievous blow. As I (and others) have mentioned before, other than imposing (relatively ineffectual) sanctions, the West will do little to nothing to try to counteract the Russian incursion. However serious the crisis may be–and let there be no doubt that the crisis is serious–Ukraine is not worth a war, as far as the West is concerned.

And yes, before you ask, this news does serve as yet another data point in favor of the argument that Mitt Romney was right about Russia.

Quote of the Day

Is there anything left to say about Israel and Gaza? Newspapers this summer have been full of little else. Television viewers see heaps of rubble and plumes of smoke in their sleep. A representative article from a recent issue of The New Yorker described the summer’s events by dedicating one sentence each to the horrors in Nigeria and Ukraine, four sentences to the crazed génocidaires of ISIS, and the rest of the article—30 sentences—to Israel and Gaza.

When the hysteria abates, I believe the events in Gaza will not be remembered by the world as particularly important. People were killed, most of them Palestinians, including many unarmed innocents. I wish I could say the tragedy of their deaths, or the deaths of Israel’s soldiers, will change something, that they mark a turning point. But they don’t. This round was not the first in the Arab wars with Israel and will not be the last. The Israeli campaign was little different in its execution from any other waged by a Western army against a similar enemy in recent years, except for the more immediate nature of the threat to a country’s own population, and the greater exertions, however futile, to avoid civilian deaths.

The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues.

Matti Friedman, brilliantly revealing how the international media is determined to get wrong the story of the war between Israel and Hamas–to Israel’s detriment, of course.

I Really Don’t Like Writing Blog Posts about Anti-Semitism . . .

But it is worth reminding people that contrary to the claims of the immoral and the benighted, anti-Semitism isn’t “scarce” in the West (alas). Jeffrey Goldberg:

On the one hand, it is completely unsurprising that Europe has become a swamp of anti-Jewish hostility. It is, after all, Europe. Anti-Jewish hostility has been its metier for centuries. (Yes, the locus of much anti-Jewish activity today is within Europe’s large Muslim-immigrant population; but the young men who threaten their Jewish neighbors draw on the language and traditions of European anti-Semitism as much as they do on Muslim modes of anti-Semitic thought.)

On the other hand, the intensity, and velocity, of anti-Jewish invective — and actual anti-Jewish thuggery — has surprised even Eurocynics such as myself. “Jews to the gas,” a chant heard at rallies in Germany, still has the capacity to shock. So do images of besieged synagogues and looted stores. And testimony from harassed rabbis and frightened Jewish children.

But I find myself most bothered by what seems to have been, on the surface, a relatively minor incident. The episode took place last weekend at a Sainsbury’s supermarket in central London. Protesters assembled outside the store to call for a boycott of Israeli-made goods. Quickly, the manager ordered employees to empty the kosher food section. One account suggests that a staff member, when asked about the empty shelves, said “We support Free Gaza.” Other reports suggest that the manager believed that demonstrators might invade the store and trash it. (There is precedent to justify his worry.)

After a good deal of publicity following the incident, Sainsbury’s apologized to its Jewish customers. “This will not happen again,” its corporate affairs director, Trevor Datsun, said, according to the Jewish Chronicle. “Managers will be told not to move kosher food because of some perceived threat.”

Why do I find this incident to be more disturbing than, say, reported attacks on kippah-wearing Jews, or the scrawling of swastikas on Jewish shops?

To the extent that it suggests that Israel and Judaism have been thoroughly conflated in the minds of many Europeans, the Sainsbury’s kosher controversy is similar to other recent incidents. Kosher products — in the case of the Sainsbury’s branch in question, some apparently from the U.K. and Poland — were intuitively understood to be stand-ins for Israel itself, just as French Jewish males wearing kippot were understood by their attackers to be stand-ins for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Be sure to bear the last paragraph of Goldberg’s excerpt in mind when reading this:

To the Editor:

Deborah E. Lipstadt makes far too little of the relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond.

The trend to which she alludes parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank.

As hope for a two-state solution fades and Palestinian casualties continue to mount, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.

(Rev.) BRUCE M. SHIPMAN
Groton, Conn., Aug. 21, 2014

The writer is the Episcopal chaplain at Yale.

So, there you have it. According to “the Episcopal chaplain at Yale,” the reason why we have “growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond” is because “the trend” of anti-Semitism “parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank.” For “the trend” to subside, then, “Israel’s patrons abroad” have to pressure the government of the only Jewish state in the world to behave. Reverend Shipman doesn’t see fit to denounce anti-Semitism as a vile, despicable form of bigotry. He doesn’t see fit to state that there is no excuse whatsoever for anti-Semitism. He doesn’t even note that Hamas has committed–and continues to commit–acts of terrorism against Israelis. No; he is content to state that the reason why we have increased anti-Semitism is because the only Jewish state in the world has gotten uppity and bears responsibility for the persecution of Jews in other countries. The mind reels.

It is truly appalling, of course, that a man of God could think to state such sentiments–and in the “Letters” section of the New York Times, no less. But that’s where we are. Episcopalians should be ashamed. Yale should be ashamed. Reverend Shipman should be ashamed, but I’m not sure that he possesses the requisite wit or honor to so much as feel shame in moments like this one.

And despite all of the data points to the contrary, some people think that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.” Feh.

Quote of the Day

Let’s look at the Hamas “Covenant,” the founding document published in 1988 and unchanged since. It’s fascinating how central this document is—or should be—to the Gaza conflict, and yet how absent it is in most discourse. It was published a quarter century ago in 1988. It’s been available in translation for as long as I can remember, now easily accessible online in a Yale Law School Library translation.

What it represents is Hamas’ own self-definition. Its articulation of its sacred mission. I’d urge you to read the whole thing. The anti-Semitic rhetoric lifted fromThe Protocols of the Elders of Zion is instructive about the mindset of the Hamas founding fathers, but really just window dressing. For the purposes of current discussion there are two passages that demand attention. The first is one sentence in the second paragraph, which reads:

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

There is no equivocation. There is just “obliteration.” Not explicitly genocidal, it could be argued that it’s just metaphorical—that the destruction of Israel will somehow not involve any harm to the vast majority of 5 million Jews there, just the state of Israel. This was the dodge Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used when he spoke of wiping Israel off the map.

OK, let’s concede that metaphoric possibility. But then we must contend with the truly sensational and horrific—and explicitly genocidal—element of the Hamas Covenant: Article 7. The article that is an explicit call for the extermination of all Jews. An explicit call for genocide.

Here is how it reads in English:

… [T]he Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree … would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.

Somehow I think Jews shouldn’t rely on the Gharkad tree. The language calls for the mission of Hamas to be to seek out and find every Jew wherever they may be hiding and kill him or her. No Day of Judgment until that is done.

It continues to shock me that a group with an overtly genocidal mission written into its covenant for a quarter century now, is somehow treated as a legitimate participant in the world’s diplomatic processes. A potential “partner for peace.” Talk about a flawed moral equivalence.

The quotation is from what is known as a “hadith,” a non-Quranic saying of the Prophet, and according to scholars I’ve emailed with (both Islamic and Jewish) it’s important to remember that some hadith are more directly connected to the Prophet than others. What the scholars point out is that Hamas has deliberately chosen a hadith with an explicit anti-Jewish message for its very reason for existence. And it’s important to emphasize that the “kill the Jews” message of the hadith does not represent the viewpoint of mainstream Islam. Still it’s scandalous to me that those who write about the Gaza conflict do not make clear that this is not incidental to Hamas but the entire purpose of its being. Its sacred mission.

You want to talk about Hitler analogies: Even Hitler never became that specific in Mein Kampf. Many scholars believe that Hitler gave the wartime extermination order orally, although in a 1939 pre-war speech, he pledged himself to the “destruction of World Jewry”—a speech that was not taken literally by most of the world. Compared to Hamas, Hitler was cautious, politic. Of course he wanted to exterminate the Jews, but he didn’t write it into the constitution of the Third Reich.

Ron Rosenbaum, pointing out and emphasizing stubborn facts that too many people in the world seem eager to forget

Yes Virginia, You Can Be Both a Liberal and a Zionist

David Bernstein explains. And the following is worth highlighting:

. . . the only feasible alternatives to Zionism are themselves illiberal–have a majority Arab state in which Jews are, at best, a suppressed minority, or force all six million Jews living in Israel to flee to whatever countries (if any) will accept them, or some combination of the two.  The idea that giving up on “Zionism” makes you a “liberal” is false, unless creating yet another Arab dictatorship in what is now Israel at the cost of six million Jews’ lives and liberty, and of by far the most liberal state in their region, is somehow a “liberal” option.

Of course, for whatever reason, there are people who would not be the least bit upset by the elimination of Israel “at the cost of six million Jews’ lives and liberty,” and there are also people who are not the least bit bothered by the fact that there are people who would not be the least bit upset by the elimination of Israel “at the cost of six million Jews’ lives and liberty.”

Still “Ready for Hillary”?

I would like to take this moment to join others in pointing out that the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination sounds very much like the kind of person most Democrats would call a “neoconservative.” While there are a lot of Democrats who claim that come 2016, they will be fully and completely “Ready for Hillary,” I suspect that stories about Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness will make them less ready, if they haven’t become less ready already. About the only way that Democrats could possibly become more uncomfortable with a Clinton candidacy is if Clinton eventually receives endorsements from George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and/or Donald Rumsfeld–which might be forthcoming just for the discomfort those endorsements might cause Democrats, and the consequent giggles they may cause Republicans.

In all seriousness, this is yet another indication that Hillary Clinton may not have the Democratic presidential nomination–let alone the 2016 general election–in the bag, should she decide to run. I don’t need to remind anyone that in order to get her party’s nomination, Clinton has to appeal to the left, and being more hawkish than the Obama administration won’t endear her to those who hope/wish/pray that the likes of Elizabeth Warren will seek the Democratic presidential nomination and give leftists a candidate around whom they might rally. We’ve been told for the longest time that Clinton is a lock for the Democratic nomination, and that she is sure to be the 45th president of the United States. I haven’t been sure about that for a while. I am even less sure now. And as for the Democrats, are they actually going to begin distancing themselves from a potential Clinton campaign given her latest comments, or is winning the 2016 general election more important than punishing Hillary Clinton for her apparent neoconservative leanings?

Still More Depressing Middle East Notes

1. Important points on Hamas’s resumption of the war against Israel:

With no deal reached for a permanent truce between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist organization in Gaza wasted no time in renewing its attacks on Israel today. And it’s worth wondering if the atrocious media coverage of the war, which abided by Hamas’s threats and only showed what Hamas wanted the world to see, will be any different for this round of fighting. After all, as Israeli ground troops left Gaza and journalists went with them, reporters began to admit: we now know.

We now know, that is, that Hamas was firing rockets from civilian areas and among neighborhoods where journalists were staying. That meant they were getting a twofer: reporters wouldn’t expose their war crimes and they would draw return fire from Israel that would endanger foreign journalists and Palestinian civilians. As we know from the Tet Offensive, if you can spook the reporters you can get your sky-is-falling coverage made to order.

[. . .]

The concern over Hamas reprisals is real and legitimate. There has been some pushback against the criticism of reporters in Gaza for not showing an accurate picture of the war. Much of that pushback is misplaced. The argument is not that journalists are wimps for not risking their lives to fill out the narrative for the public at home, but that the media have been using the inaccurate reporting without adding the appropriate context.

It’s understandable, I suppose, why they don’t add that context. In practice what they are doing is abiding by Hamas’s rules, which require them to basically broadcast a steady stream of Hamas propaganda footage. Adding the context–explaining that they are just showing the folks at home what Hamas wants them to see–would be admitting their own lack of credibility.

As usual, we are left wishing that we had a better media.

2. When even the Guardian is forced to admit that anti-Semitism is back with a vengeance, it’s time for even the most obtuse to take notice:

In the space of just one week last month, according to Crif, the umbrella group for France’s Jewish organisations, eight synagogues were attacked. One, in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, was firebombed by a 400-strong mob. A kosher supermarket and pharmacy were smashed and looted; the crowd’s chants and banners included “Death to Jews” and “Slit Jews’ throats”. That same weekend, in the Barbes neighbourhood of the capital, stone-throwing protesters burned Israeli flags: “Israhell”, read one banner.

In Germany last month, molotov cocktails were lobbed into the Bergische synagogue in Wuppertal – previously destroyed on Kristallnacht – and a Berlin imam, Abu Bilal Ismail, called on Allah to “destroy the Zionist Jews … Count them and kill them, to the very last one.” Bottles were thrown through the window of an antisemitism campaigner in Frankfurt; an elderly Jewish man was beaten up at a pro-Israel rally in Hamburg; an Orthodox Jewish teenager punched in the face in Berlin. In several cities, chants at pro-Palestinian protests compared Israel’s actions to the Holocaust; other notable slogans included: “Jew, coward pig, come out and fight alone,” and “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”

Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is breathing new life into some very old, and very ugly, demons. This is not unusual; police and Jewish civil rights organisations have long observed a noticeable spike in antisemitic incidents each time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict flares. During the three weeks of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009, France recorded 66 antisemitic incidents, including attacks on Jewish-owned restaurants and synagogues and a sharp increase in anti-Jewish graffiti.But according to academics and Jewish leaders, this time it is different. More than simply a reaction to the conflict, they say, the threats, hate speech and violent attacks feel like the expression of a much deeper and more widespread antisemitism, fuelled by a wide range of factors, that has been growing now for more than a decade.

“These are the worst times since the Nazi era,” Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, told the Guardian. “On the streets, you hear things like ‘the Jews should be gassed’, ‘the Jews should be burned’ – we haven’t had that in Germany for decades. Anyone saying those slogans isn’t criticising Israeli politics, it’s just pure hatred against Jews: nothing else. And it’s not just a German phenomenon. It’s an outbreak of hatred against Jews so intense that it’s very clear indeed.”

More:

The board of London’s Tricycle Theatre delivered an ultimatum to the organisers of the UK Jewish Film Festival, which it has hosted for the last eight years: either cut your ties with the Israeli embassy, which gives a £1,400 subsidy to the festival, or find another venue.

UK Jewish Film refused that instruction, along with the Tricycle’s offer to make up the financial shortfall, and is now looking for a new home. No doubt the Tricycle believed it was taking an admirably principled stand on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which flared anew after the truce that had held for nearly 72 hours broke down. But the theatre has made a bad error of judgment.

Some have made the argument that, if receiving money from a state implies endorsement of that state’s policy, then the Tricycle ought to return the £725,000 it receives from the taxpayer-funded Arts Council, lest that be read as backing for, say, UK participation in the invasion of Iraq. Of course, few would see the Arts Council as an arm of the state in that way. And a similar mistake seems to be at work here. For the Israeli embassy in London is not merely an outpost of the Netanyahu government. It also represents Israel itself, its society and its people. It was this connection with Israel as a country that UK Jewish Film refused to give up. Hard though it may be for others to understand, that reflects something crucial about contemporary Jewish identity: that most, not all, Jews feel bound up with Israel, even if that relationship is one of doubt and anxiety. To demand that Jews surrender that connection is to tell Jews how they might – and how they might not – live as Jews. Such demands have an ugly history. They are not the proper business of any public institution, least of all a state-subsidised theatre.

The controversy has gained extra heat because of the alarming increase in anti-Jewish racism. As we reported today, during the course of a single July week, eight synagogues in France were attacked, one of them firebombed by a 400-strong crowd, whose chants and banners included “Death to Jews” and “Slit Jews’ throats”. More chilling still, given that country’s history, Molotov cocktails have been hurled at synagogues in Germany, where chants heard at pro-Palestinian protests have included “Jew, coward pig, come out and fight alone”, and “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas”. The lay leader of Germany’s Jews told the Guardian that “these are the worst times since the Nazi era”. In Britain too there has been a spike in antisemitic incidents, with monitoring groups saying July was the second worst month in 30 years. It is the same spike they see every time the conflict in the Middle East escalates. The common thread here is the conflation of Jews with Israeli conduct.

Thus far, Chomskyites continue to declare that fact-free zones exist in the spaces between their ears, and refuse to admit that anti-Semitism more than “scarcely” exists in the West.”

Everything Old Is New Again

The president who promised to get us out of Iraq–and keep us out–has decided that we need to go back into Iraq. My realist bent understands the reasons for our return, and my realpolitik leanings appreciate them, but of course, we have absolutely no idea when our how our involvement is going to end, what constitutes “victory” and what our exit strategy is going to be. I will be waiting to see whether the Obama administration will give answers to these questions, but I might have to wait a while before the administration decides to have a full and frank discussion with the American people regarding this issue.

And yes, the following bears noting:

To some, this is a crisis Mr. Obama brought on himself by not trying harder to leave a residual force behind at the end of 2011 and neglecting to recognize the growing threat as the civil war in Syria next door increasingly spilled over into Iraq. Some argued that a virtual state under ISIS control posed more than the humanitarian threat Mr. Obama seemed to be focused on.

“This is about America’s national security,” said Ryan Crocker, who was ambassador to Iraq under Mr. Bush and to Afghanistan under Mr. Obama. “We don’t understand real evil, organized evil, very well. This is evil incarnate. People like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the ISIS leader, “have been in a fight for a decade. They are messianic in their vision, and they are not going to stop.”

Maybe if the Obama administration did not botch negotiations with Iraq over whether to leave troops there, we would not be in this position. And of course, it should be noted that national security gains in Iraq have been slipping away for a while now.

Oh, and read this:

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein warned Friday of the risk that the insurgent group ISIL could be preparing fighters to attack American and European targets.

“It has become clear that ISIL is recruiting fighters in Western countries, training them to fight its battles in the Middle East and possibly returning them to European and American cities to attack us in our backyard,” the California Democrat said in a statement backing military action authorized by President Barack Obama. “We simply cannot allow this to happen.”

Feinstein called for a broader military campaign against ISIL, not just the targeted missions authorized by the president.

“It takes an army to defeat an army, and I believe that we either confront ISIL now or we will be forced to deal with an even stronger enemy in the future. Inaction is no longer an option. I support actions by the administration to coordinate efforts with Iraq and other allies to use our military strength and targeting expertise to the fullest extent possible,” Feinstein said.

Remember when George W. Bush said that we needed to fight the terrorists in Iraq in order to ensure that they did not come here to attack us? Remember how that statement was ridiculed by the bien pensant community? Now, apparently, it is a rationale for the Obama administration’s own decision to go to war in Iraq. I don’t suppose that there will be nearly as much criticism leveled against this particular belief this time around, since this time around, Democrats are the ones who are advancing it.

Oh, and we really should have elected Mitt Romney president:

. . . since his 2012 defeat, Mr Romney has been proved right about a variety of issues. When he called Russia a “geopolitical foe” during a 2012 presidential debate, Mr Obama gibed: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War has now been over for twenty years.”

Since that time, of course, Russia has annexed Crimea and massed troops on Ukraine’s border. The shooting down of a Malaysian passenger plane in the east of the country is widely believed to have been carried out by Russian separatists. Advantage Mr Romney.

Within seconds of taunting Mitt over Russia, during that same debate, Mr Obama crowed: “Just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now.”

As I write these words, Islamic State militants are slaughtering Iraqi minorities having taken over Iraq’s largest Christian city. This crisis might have been averted had Mr Obama decided to leave a small reserve force in Iraq. Another round for Mr Romney.

Still More Middle East Notes

1. I am sure that this is going to come as a stunner to some people, but the Israeli government is responsible to Israelis. It is not responsible to Jews in America or other parts of the world, however close the relationship may be or ought to be between Israel and Jews in America or other parts of the world.

2. I repeat what I have written before: If Israel could somehow have been connected to the plight of the Yazidis, we would have heard about the nightmare unfolding in Iraq long ago.

3. David Bernstein writes truth, leading one to wonder anew why the Obama administration does not practice what it preaches.

Yet Another Round of Middle East Notes

1. Israel has tried to extend the current truce. Hamas has apparently rejected Israel’s offer. I am sure that anti-Semites anti-Zionists will find a way to blame Hamas’s actions on Israel.

2. One of the reasons why Israel was motivated to take action against Hamas was because it blamed the organization for kidnapping and killing three Israeli teenagers in June. Israel’s detractors have claimed that Hamas had nothing to do with the operation. Israel’s detractors are wrong:

Yesterday, Israeli security officials claimed the funding and instructions for the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in June came from two top leaders of Hamas in Gaza: Fathi Hammad, the former Hamas interior minister, who lives in Gaza, and Saleh al-Arouri, a close associate of Khaled Mashaal, who masterminds terror operations from a safe haven in Turkey. Ordinarily, the news that a terrorist organization funds terrorism wouldn’t qualify as much of a news item. But as those paying attention to the coverage of the recent conflict in Gaza know, the question of who was behind the kidnapping has bloomed into a persistent conspiracy theory. Israel, wailed its critics, had known all along that the kidnappers were members of a breakaway sect of the terror organization, yet had blamed Hamas anyway in order to justify its bloody pre-planned assault on Gaza.

This theory, such as it was, was supported largely by the reporting of Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel. “If there was an order, from any of the senior Hamas leadership in Gaza or abroad, this would be an easier case to investigate,” Frenkel quotes an anonymous Israeli intelligence officer “intimately involved in investigating the case” as saying. “We would have that intelligence data. But there is no data, so we have come to conclude that these men were acting on their own.”

Having an Israeli security officer—one “intimately involved” in the investigation, no less—flat-out deny that Hamas had anything to do with the kidnapping and murders certainly qualifies as a major scoop. But Frenkel, it’s now clear, got the story flat-out wrong: The Israelis had, in fact, reached the exact opposite conclusion three weeks ago, after having quietly taken one of the three main suspects in the case into custody.

Why believe the new, official Israeli version of events over Frenkel’s anonymous intel sources, who said flatly that Hamas wasn’t responsible? This is where some background in reporting comes in. Anonymous sources can be slippery, which is why reporters are generally very careful in relying on information that they provide. They are the lowest rung on the sourcing ladder for this kind of story. Next come public officials, who are willing to be cited by name. At the very top of the ladder are public documents, especially those that emerge in the context of a legal proceeding—where falsification of evidence could lead to jail time, and certainly to the end of any public official’s career. The new version of events comes from state documents in a court case and not from anonymous sources. By showing that a major suspect in the case was in custody three weeks ago, the documents also strongly suggest that Frenkel’s information didn’t come from a whistle-blower. Rather, it suggests that her information was either badly out of date or the result of a deliberate attempt to mislead her.

How very inconvenient for opponents of Israel that facts and reality consistently interfere with their narrative.

3. Behold video of Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Someone tell the New York Times.

4. A note on hypocrisy. Consider this story:

Stranded on a barren mountaintop, thousands of minority Iraqis are faced with a bleak choice: descend and risk slaughter at the hands of the encircled Sunni extremists or sit tight and risk dying of thirst.

Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar since being driven out of surrounding villages and the town of Sinjar two days earlier. But the mountain that had looked like a refuge is becoming a graveyard for their children.

Unable to dig deep into the rocky mountainside, displaced families said they have buried young and elderly victims of the harsh conditions in shallow graves, their bodies covered with stones. Iraqi government planes attempted to airdrop bottled water to the mountain on Monday night but reached few of those marooned.

“There are children dying on the mountain, on the roads,” said Marzio Babille, the Iraq representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by Islamic State. It’s a disaster, a total disaster.”

Most of those who fled Sinjar are from the minority Yazidi sect, which melds parts of ancient Zoroastrianism with Christianity and Islam. They are considered by the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State to be devil worshippers and apostates.

More. I am unable to excerpt, so just go ahead and read it all.

Done? Good. Now, you may be wondering why you haven’t heard more about the plight of the Yazidis in Iraq, and about the atrocities they are suffering at the hands of ISIS. Could part of the answer be that Israel has nothing whatsoever to do with this conflict, and that as a consequence, those who profess to be oh-so-concerned about the humanitarian plight in Gaza just can’t bring themselves to care about what is going on in Iraq?

Bret Stephens makes a similar point:

What follows are excerpts from a June 30, 2014, news account by Tim Craig, the Washington Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan:

“Pakistan’s military launched a major ground offensive in the northwestern part of the country Monday, beginning what army commanders say will be a ‘house-to-house search’ for terrorist leaders and other militants.

“The offensive began after two weeks of airstrikes in North Waziristan. . . .

“In a statement, Pakistan’s military said its soldiers discovered ‘underground tunnels’ and ‘preparation factories’ for explosives during the initial hours of the ground assault. . . .

“Backed by artillery and tanks, troops killed 17 terrorists Monday, the army said. Combined with the toll from airstrikes that began June 16, a total of 376 terrorists have died in the offensive, the army said. . . .

“More than a half-million residents fled North Waziristan ahead of the ground offensive. The mass evacuation of the area, which has a population of about 600,000, was intended to limit civilian casualties during the operation. The military also set up checkpoints in the area to trap militants.”

***

Underground tunnels, explosives factories, weeks of airstrikes, artillery bombardment, mass displacement of civilians—leaving aside the probability that this is the first that you’ve heard of any of this, does it ring a familiar bell? If so, maybe the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the various self-described antiwar groups that marched near the White House on Saturday to protest Israel’s military campaign in Gaza can organize another big rally outside the Pakistani embassy. No more U.S. aid to Islamabad! Boycott Pakistani products! Divest from Pakistani companies!

I’m dreaming. Over the weekend there was saturation coverage of an Israeli strike near a U.N.-run school that killed 10 people, three of them members of Islamic Jihad. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the hit “a moral outrage and a criminal act” that had to be “swiftly investigated.” The State Department pronounced itself “appalled.” If the Secretary-General, the Secretary of State and other arbiters of international decency have expressed themselves similarly with respect to the conduct of Pakistan’s army—take a look at the picture accompanying this column to see how that one looks—I must have missed it. More than 1,500 Pakistani civilians have been reported killed since the government’s offensive began in mid June.

But since Israel can’t be connected to their killings, no one cares.

Middle East Notes (A Continuing Series)

1. There is a cease-fire. Let us hope and pray that it holds. Israel has decided to act unilaterally in order to end operations in Gaza, “[w]ith Israeli troops essentially finished destroying Hamas’s tunnels into Israel and having dealt Hamas’s military capacity a significant blow.” Israel, of course, has been helped by the fact that it no longer has to deal with an Egyptian government that openly sympathized with Hamas:

Few believe that Hamas will voluntarily disarm or stop trying to resist Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. But Hamas’s effectiveness may be much weaker.

For Israel, the strategic situation has changed with the takeover in Egypt by the former military general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who a year ago overthrew President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is an ally of Hamas. Mr. Morsi did little to prevent smuggling through tunnels, which gave Hamas tax receipts and a mechanism to import cement, weapons and military advisers, Israeli officials insist, from Iran and Hezbollah.

“The big difference this time is that you have an Egyptian leader who understands that Hamas is not just a problem for Israel, but for Egypt, too,” one senior Israeli official said. “So the ability of Hamas to bring stuff in is much, much more limited. And because the Gaza tunnels are mostly shut down, the Egyptians have leverage with reopening Rafah. So it is possible to deal far more effectively with illicit transfers, which could make an end game more stable.”

Mr. Sisi’s antipathy toward Hamas is even stronger than that of Hosni Mubarak, the former president who saw the group as Israel’s problem and only intermittently suppressed the smuggling.

I am sure that there are any number of people who are upset that Israel has achieved significant strategic and tactical goals, and has dealt Hamas a major blow. Let me say for the record that I not only don’t care, I revel in their unhappiness. I am equally sure that there are people who will claim that Israel has somehow lost in the court of public opinion, to which my reply is that Israel has no more lost the public relations war this time than it has in other times, and to the extent that Israel has failed to win hearts and minds, it is likely because those hearts and those minds are predisposed to hating Jewish people and believing that Israel is in the wrong, no matter what the facts on the ground may be.

2. I suppose another thing that Israel’s critics may do is to try to exploit a perceived split between Israel and the United States–a split that is discussed in articles like this one. Having read the article, the following jumped out at me:

With public opinion in both Israel and the United States solidly behind the Israeli military’s campaign against Hamas, no outcry from Israel’s Arab neighbors, and unstinting support for Israel on Capitol Hill, President Obama has had few obvious levers to force Mr. Netanyahu to stop pounding targets in Gaza until he was ready to do it.

On Monday, the Israeli prime minister signaled that moment had come. Amid signs it was prepared to wind down the conflict unilaterally, Israel announced it would accept a 72-hour cease-fire, effective Tuesday, and send a delegation to Cairo to negotiate for a lasting end to the violence.

Even as the White House harshly criticized the Israeli strike on the school, the Pentagon confirmed that last Friday it had resupplied the Israeli military with ammunition under a longstanding military aid agreement. Mr. Obama swiftly signed a bill Monday giving Israel $225 million in emergency aid for its Iron Dome antimissile system.

For all its outrage over civilian casualties, the United States steadfastly backs Israel’s right to defend itself and shares Israel’s view that Hamas is a terrorist organization. In a world of bitter enmities, the Israeli-American dispute is more akin to a family quarrel.

All spats should be this bad. I should note that American foreign policy concerning the Middle East peace process has been remarkably consistent, and has generally acknowledged that four basic conditions have to be met for a just and lasting peace to take hold: (1) Israel must halt and dismantle the settlements; (2) Israel must consent to sharing Jerusalem with a future Palestinian state; (3) Israel’s right to exist and its right to be safe and secure from terror attacks must be fully recognized; and (4) Palestinians must give up the right of return. I don’t see any real deviation from that set of policy demands on the part of the Obama administration. Additionally, it should be said that whenever Israel undertakes military action against Palestinian terrorists, the United States tries to work to pull Israel back since apparently, we are all supposed to feel guilty when Jews can outgun terrorists in a fight that the terrorists themselves started. So there is rather little new about the Obama administration’s efforts to get Israel to show “restraint.”

3. In the event that you have forgotten, Jimmy Carter never had any business being president of the United StatesHere, by the way, is some useful information about the organization that Carter believes to be a “legitimate political actor”:

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer gave Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan the opportunity to retract his public claim that Jews use Christian blood for matzos, but Hamdan failed to do so.

Wolf played him the video clip, and asked if Hamdan truly believed what he had said.

Hamdan refused to answer, instead discussing Israel’s “genocide” of Palestinians.

[. . .]

Wolf didn’t let Hamdan get away with his non-answer.

“I was hoping to get a flat denial from you that you would utter such ridiculous words that Jews would kill Christians in order to use their blood to bake matzo,” he said.

I don’t expect this appalling little glimpse into the dark heart of Hamas to have any effect whatsoever on the likes of Jimmy Carter, but the rest of us should be revolted. If this is the standard for “legitimate political actor[s],” then I would hate to see how the illegitimate ones behave. If only Jimmy Carter had a millionth of Jeffrey Goldberg’s perspicacity:

While it is true that Hamas is expert at getting innocent Palestinians killed, it has made it very plain, in word and deed, that it would rather kill Jews. The following blood-freezing statement is from the group’s charter: “The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The day of judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jews will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say ‘O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

This is a frank and open call for genocide, embedded in one of the most thoroughly anti-Semitic documents you’ll read this side of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Not many people seem to know that Hamas’s founding document is genocidal. Sometimes, the reasons for this lack of knowledge are benign; other times, as the New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch argues in his recent dismantling of Rashid Khalidi’s apologia for Hamas, this ignorance is a direct byproduct of a decision to mask evidence of Hamas’s innate theocratic fascism.

The historian of totalitarianism Jeffrey Herf, in an article on the American Interest website, places the Hamas charter in context:

[T]he Hamas Covenant of 1988 notably replaced the Marxist-Leninist conspiracy theory of world politics with the classic anti-Semitic tropes of Nazism and European fascism, which the Islamists had absorbed when they collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. That influence is apparent in Article 22, which asserts that “supportive forces behind the enemy” have amassed great wealth: “With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. With their money, they took control of the world media. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about here and there. With their money, they formed secret societies, such as Freemason, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.”

The above paragraph of Article 22 could have been taken, almost word for word, from Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish propaganda texts and broadcasts.

It amazes me that we still have to have a debate about the nature, aims and ideology of Hamas.

4. I am going to link to the Gourevitch article that Goldberg linked to in the excerpt immediately above. It is worth highlighting because it is worth examining the difference between Amos Oz on the one hand, and Rashid Khalidi on the other:

Oz is no hawk. He is the godfather of Israeli peaceniks: in 1967, right after the Six-Day War—in which he fought—left Israel in control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, he was the first Israeli to call publicly for the creation of an independent Palestinian state in those territories, writing, “Even unavoidable occupation is a corrupting occupation.” He has always opposed the establishment of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and, in 1978, he was a founder of Peace Now. He is a steadfast critic of the policies toward Palestinians of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and, in the Deutsche Welle interview, advocated once again an Israeli deal with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. “My suggestion,” he said, is “a two-state solution and coexistence between Israel and the West Bank: two capitals in Jerusalem, a mutually agreed territorial modification, removal of most of the Jewish settlements from the West Bank.”

Although Netanyahu has said that he accepts the two-state idea, he has doggedly resisted efforts to realize it, and his resistance has carried a terrible price for both Israelis and Palestinians. Oz argues cogently that such an agreement, followed by heavy Israeli investment in the success of the West Bank, would do more to destroy Hamas’s hold over Gaza than all of Israel’s wars there have managed. “The people in Gaza will be very jealous of the freedom and prosperity enjoyed by their brothers and sisters on the West Bank in the state of Palestine,” he said.

Oz’s interview is not only one of the most sober reckonings of Israel’s current position that you can find, his insistence that Israel and Palestine really could do vastly better by each other also makes it one of the most optimistic. While Oz finds it impossible to oppose Israel’s current war on principle—he calls it “justified, but excessive”—his longstanding commitment to the end of settlements and a two-state peace deal means that he is convinced that this war could have been avoided. In this, the peacenik novelist sounds very much like the six former Israeli spy chiefs profiled in the powerful documentary “The Gatekeepers,” all of whom left Israel’s national-security apparatus convinced that there can be no military solution to their conflict with the Palestinians, only a political one. That is Oz’s point in asking the brutal questions at the start of his interview: “For Israel,” he said, “it is a lose-lose situation.”

Meanwhile, on newyorker.com, the Columbia professor and former Palestinian diplomat Rashid Khalidi brushes aside the sort of questions that Oz poses—“What would you do if … ”—as mere “pretexts” and “red herrings” to excuse wanton Israeli aggression. Just last month, Netanyahu told Israelis, as he has repeatedly, that they must never relinquish “security control” over the West Bank, and Khalidi interprets this to mean that Israel’s war in Gaza “is not really about Hamas.” No, he writes, “It is not about rockets. It is not about ‘human shields’ or terrorism or tunnels. It is about Israel’s permanent control over Palestinian land and Palestinian lives.” In short, Khalidi claims, Israel’s only purpose is the collective punishment of Palestinians for resisting Israeli subjugation, and it follows that the unjustifiability of Israeli violence justifies Palestinian violence. After all, he writes, “Gaza is a ghetto and ghettos will inevitably fight back against those who ghettoize them.”

When Oz speaks of the neighbor who shoots at you with a child on his lap, he is speaking, of course, of Hamas, and he consistently makes the distinction clear between Hamas and Palestinian civilians, for whom this war has been a devastating bloodbath. Oz does not absolve Israel from its responsibility for the death and destruction in Gaza—that would be impossible—but he sees Hamas as more than an equal partner in it.  That is what he means, he explains, when he describes the war as lose-lose for Israel: “The more Israeli casualties, the better it is for Hamas. The more Palestinian civilian casualties, the better it is for Hamas.” There is no end of argument about how to parcel out responsibility for this war and its ghastly toll on Gazans, but Oz is hardly alone in his view of Hamas’s strategy. My colleague Lawrence Wright, in his deep reporting and one-man theatre piece about Gaza, is unsparingly critical of the Israeli occupation. But, when he turns to Hamas’s attitude towards Gaza’s disproportionately young population, he concludes, “These children are being groomed to die.”

Khalidi, however, hasn’t got a bad word for Hamas. He says, “We might not like Hamas or some of its methods, but that is not the same as accepting the proposition that Palestinians should supinely accept the denial of their right to exist as a free people in their ancestral homeland.” Right—of course it’s not the same. But that doesn’t negate the fact that Hamas doesn’t accept, or even nominally recognize, the right of Israelis to exist as a free people. As Khalidi says, we should pay attention when Netanyahu tells Israelis about controlling their security on the West Bank. So shouldn’t we also listen when Hamas tells Palestinians that they should never accept the existence of Israel—and that victory will not come until they have wiped out not only the Jewish state but all the Jews?

If you take an interest in the war in Gaza, you should read the Hamas charter, but Oz sums up its biggest idea handily enough: “It says that the Prophet commands every Muslim to kill every Jew, everywhere in the world.” If Khalidi has a problem with this, he keeps it to himself. While Oz has no problem saying that Israel’s violent occupation is unjust to Palestinians and endangers its own people, Khalidi refuses to acknowledge that Hamas exists to end Israel’s existence and thrives on Palestinian wretchedness. In the heat of his moral condemnation of Israel—and of America for supporting Israel against Hamas—the hardest line that he will allow himself against Gaza’s categorically genocidal leadership is that “we may not like” it. What would he lose to say that we must not?

I don’t have nearly the problems with Israel’s actions in self-defense that Oz does, but at the very least, Oz is not delusional. Either Khalidi is, or he understands full well that the policies he espouses are meant to destroy Israel and leave Jews stateless, and he is fine with that outcome. Either way, who other than a moral monster would want Khalidi’s mindset to be the basis for Middle East policy?

5. Oh, look: More evidence that anti-Semitism in the West isn’t “scarce”:

It was sadly predictable that the latest war in Gaza would lead to an uptick in public anti-Semitism in Europe. All the same, the last few weeks have been disturbing, with reports of attacks and hate speech becoming staples in the daily news. It would be a mistake, though, to assume that events in the Middle East are the primary driver of European hostility to Jews. The reality is that anti-Semitic attitudes are far more widespread and mainstream than European governments would like to admit.

The rise of anti-Jewish sentiment has been most notable in France, home to Europe’s largest populations of both Jews and Muslims. While most pro-Gaza demonstrations have been peaceful, on July 20 demonstrators attacked Jewish-owned stores in Sarcelles, a suburb of Paris with a large Jewish community. A synagogue in central Paris was also attacked, and protestors have chanted “gas the Jews” and “kill the Jews” at various rallies. The number of French Jews emigrating to Israel has increased.

Germany has also seen an alarming uptick in anti-Semitism. Demonstrators chanted “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone” during a protest on July 17, and last week explosives were thrown at a synagogue in western Germany. Anti-Semitic graffiti has appeared throughout Rome, and reports of hate speech are up dramatically in Britain.

When European government ministers talk about anti-Semitism, they tend to focus on the continent’s growing Muslim community—see French President Francois Hollande expressing concern about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being “imported” to his country. This may accurately describe many of the incidents of the past few weeks—the Sarcelles riots, in particular, do appear to have been carried out by young Muslims—but the problem may be more widespread.

A recent Anti-Defamation League survey found that 24 percent of the French population and 21 percent of the German population harbor some anti-Semitic attitudes. A recent study of anti-Semitic letters received by Germany’s main Jewish organization found that 60 percent of the hate mail came from well-educated Germans. So this isn’t just a problem with young, disaffected Muslim men.

I will leave it to readers to decide whether those who deny the evidence of anti-Semitism in the West are merely massively cognitively deficient, or just plain malevolent when it comes to how they see and deal with Jewish people.

More Depressing Middle East Notes

1. Those who think that Israel’s enemies are serious about wanting to bring an end to the fighting have not been paying attention to current events:

It was the start of a three-day truce, the best hope yet to end a 25-day-old war that has taken an enormous toll on both Palestinians and Israelis.

On Friday morning, Israeli troops were in the southern Gaza Strip preparing to destroy a Hamas tunnel, said Israeli military officials. Suddenly, Palestinian militants emerged from a shaft. They included a suicide bomber, who detonated his explosive device. In the chaos, two Israeli soldiers were killed. The militants grabbed 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, and pushed him back through the tunnel, according to the Israeli account.

Within minutes, the war was back.

“The cease-fire is over,” declared Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a senior spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. Ground operations will continue, he said, “and our aircraft are in the sky as we speak.”

The story doesn’t say whether Hamas was specifically responsible for bringing an end to the cease-fire, but let’s just say that I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

2. The following from Jeffrey Goldberg is quite telling concerning the mood in Israel:

. . . There is near-unanimity in Israel already that Hamas represents an unbearable threat. Add in the perfidy of a raid conducted after a ceasefire went into effect and near-unanimity becomes total unanimity. The most interesting article I’ve read in the past 24 hours is an interview with the Israeli novelist Amos Oz, the father of his country’s peace-and-compromise movement, who opened the interview with Deutsche Welle in this manner:

Amoz Oz: I would like to begin the interview in a very unusual way: by presenting one or two questions to your readers and listeners. May I do that?

Deutsche Welle: Go ahead!

Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?

With these two questions I pass the interview to you.

The point is, if Amos Oz, a severe critic of his country’s policies toward the Palestinians, sounds no different on the subject of the Hamas threat than the right-most ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing cabinet, then there will be a national consensus that it is not enough to manage the Hamas rocket-and-tunnel threat, but that it must be eliminated if at all possible. This doesn’t mean that the Israeli government wants to see the Hamas government in Gaza replaced. What it could mean is that the Israeli public demands that its leaders ensure them that the tunnel threat, in particular, is neutralized in a decisive way.

I would only add that it takes a lot of barbarism and savagery to get Amos Oz to sound “no different on the subject of the Hamas threat than the right-most ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing cabinet.”

3. More proof that the New York Times is just not a quality news organization:

If you have ever wondered why the New York Times photo coverage from Gaza has almost exclusively consisted of dead and bleeding Palestinian children in Shifa Hospital, with nary a Hamas gunman or missile launch from a school or a mosque to fill out the narrative of events on the ground, the newspaper of record has an astonishing answer: Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Tyler Hicks really sucks at his job.

For anyone who knows anything about photojournalism, the Times’s answer raises some very serious questions about the sanity of the people who are running the newspaper, as well as the paper’s loyalty to one of the greatest photographers of his era who has put his life at risk for the newspaper time and time again in global hot spots and conflict zones.

But according to Eileen Murphy, the Times Vice President for Corporate Communications, the paper’s photographers in Gaza, led by Hicks, are the sole reason for the radical imbalance in the Times photo coverage of the war. Or at least that’s what she told Uriel Heilman of JTA, when he asked the Times to explain why, out of the 37 images that made up the paper’s last 3 slideshows from Gaza, there wasn’t a single image of a Hamas fighter or rocket launch or anything else that might signal to readers that Israel hadn’t simply decided to maim and murder Palestinian children in the coastal enclave for sport.

Incredibly, the first part of Murphy’s answer blamed Times photographers for apparently submitting only a handful of low-quality images:

Our photo editor went through all of our pictures recently and out of many hundreds, she found 2 very distant poor quality images that were captioned Hamas fighters by our photographer on the ground.  It is very difficult to identify Hamas because they don’t have uniforms or any visible insignia; our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun.

Is this really how a legendary photojournalist like Tyler Hicks operates? Two very distant low-quality images, and nary a sight of a single person carrying a gun in all of Gaza during a three-week long conflict in which over 1500 people have died? If Hicks’ assignment took him anywhere else besides Gaza, one might suspect him of holding up the hotel bar.

The rest of Murphy’s answer provides only a tiny bit of insight into why Hicks’ performance has been so poor:

I would add that we would not withhold photos of Hamas militants.  We eagerly pursue photographs from both sides of the conflict, but we are limited by what our photographers have access to.

The key word in the second part of Murphy’s response, of course, is “access.” Tyler Hicks is hardly lying down on the job: He’s doing incredibly hard and dangerous work in a combat zone where photographers are hardly free to take pictures of whatever they want. Which is the key point that Murphy and her bosses are determined to elide.

What the Times and other mainstream news outlets seem determined to hide from their readers is that their photographers and reporters are hardly allowed to roam freely. In fact, they are working under terribly difficult conditions under the effective control of a terrorist organization which–as the war itself indicates–doesn’t hesitate to maim, kidnap, and kill people that it doesn’t like.

Relatedly, see this post.

4. To paraphrase Brad DeLong, why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why can’t we have better leftist critics of Israel?

The hottest story out of Gaza these days has nothing to do with Palestinians. It’s not about Israelis either. It features no rockets or tunnels or tragically misunderstood secretaries of state. Instead, it is about what is clearly at the core of this conflict, namely the growing ennui some liberal writers are feeling as they contemplate the fluctuating state of their support for Israel.

When attempted intelligently, this exercise is less entirely narcissistic than it sounds. Writing in New York magazine, for example, Jonathan Chait presented a reasonable—if far from uncontestable, as Chait himself fairly admits—account of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and concluded by arguing that responsibility for failing to strike a deal lies squarely on Bibi Netanyahu’s shoulders. If you believe in that story, the war in Gaza comes off as a cynical political maneuver by a desperate politician who, having squandered a wonderful opportunity for coexistence, vies for fighter jets and surges of patriotism instead.

But the further the genre of the soul-searching liberal moved away from a well-lit attempt at interpreting the available facts, the more it sailed up the river and into the dark heart of emotional entanglements, the weirder the pieces became. Jonathan Freedland—whose newspaper, The Guardian, has a tradition of running columns with such jaunty titles as “Israel Simply Has No Right to Exist”—produced his own musing in The New York Review of Books. “The first week of Protective Edge produced awkward statistics,” he wrote. “The Palestinian death toll kept climbing while Israel’s remained stubbornly at zero.” How awkward indeed, and how stubborn those Israelis are for simply refusing to die. And what a challenge they mount to the liberal narrative by investing in bomb shelters, missile defense systems, and smartphone applications to keep its citizens safe while the other side forcefully prevents its civilians from seeking a safe shelter.

Never mind about civilians, however, when something far more important is at stake: Maintaining the purity of the author’s identity as a good liberal as defined by the ever-shifting tides of the high-brow magazines to which he or she contributes and/or subscribes. “When Israelis and Palestinians appear fated to fight more frequently and with ever-bloodier consequences,” Freedland wrote, “and when peace initiatives seem to be Utopian pipe-dreams doomed to fail, the liberal Zionist faces something like an existential crisis. For if there is no prospect of two states, then liberal Zionists will have to do something they resist with all their might. They will have to decide which of their political identities matters more, whether they are first a liberal or first a Zionist. And that is a choice they don’t want to make.”  Naturally, the possibility that the Zionist entity with its civil rights lawyers and free press and internet start-ups is itself much more neatly aligned with anyone’s version of classical liberal values than the medieval ranting of Hamas’s bearded women-oppressing, gay-bashing, Jew-hating missile-launching zealots is never entertained.

Leibovitz goes on to absolutely slam Andrew Sullivan’s horrible and irresponsible coverage of the fighting in the Middle East, and the opprobrium for Sullivan’s lousy blogging and even lousier thinking skills is entirely well-deserved. Read it all.

5. Finally, whatever the blinkered and cognitively deficient “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West” crowd may think, the fact of the matter is that anti-Semitism is back with a vengeance:

Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is generating a broader backlash against Jews, as threats, hate speech and even violent attacks proliferate in several countries.

Most surprising perhaps, a wave of incidents has washed over Germany, where atonement for the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes is a bedrock of the modern society. A commitment to the right of Israel to exist is ironclad. Plaques and memorials across the country exhort, “Never Again.” Children are taught starting in elementary school that their country’s Nazi history must never be repeated. Even so, academics say the recent episodes may reflect a rising climate of anti-Semitism that they had observed before the strife over Gaza.

This week, the police in the western city of Wuppertal detained two young men on suspicion of throwing firebombs at the city’s new synagogue; the attack early Tuesday caused no injuries. In Frankfurt on Thursday, the police said, a beer bottle was thrown through a window at the home of a prominent critic of anti-Semitism. She heard an anti-Jewish slur after going to the balcony to confront her assailant, The Frankfurter Rundschau reported. An anonymous caller to a rabbi threatened last week to kill 30 Frankfurt Jews if the caller’s family in Gaza was harmed, the police said.

The string of incidents comes after Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned anti-Semitic chants from pro-Palestinian demonstrators and President Joachim Gauck called on Germans to “raise their voices if there is a new anti-Semitism being strutted on the street.”

But even as the police have clamped down on demonstrators, banning slogans that target Jews instead of Israeli policies, a spike in violence has spread fear among Jews, not only in Germany but also in other European countries.

But even as the police have clamped down on demonstrators, banning slogans that target Jews instead of Israeli policies, a spike in violence has spread fear among Jews, not only in Germany but also in other European countries.

More Jews have begun leaving France in recent months, following anti-Semitism that has spilled onto the streets since the start of the Gaza conflict almost a month ago. While most of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been peaceful, a small number of violent protesters, many of them young Arab men, has targeted Jewish businesses and synagogues.

French authorities have strongly condemned the violence and, citing public-safety concerns, have refused to authorize a small number of pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Others have spoken of a need to counter anti-Semitism among certain segments of the country’s Muslim youth.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke last week of a “new,” “normalized” anti-Semitism. “It blends the Palestinian cause, jihadism, the detestation of Israel and the hatred of France and its values,” he told the National Assembly.

Even in historically tolerant Italy, anti-Semitic smears have appeared on the streets of Rome. Jewish shop windows in several neighborhoods were defaced this week with swastikas and tags reading “Torch the synagogues” and “Jews your end is near.” Police suspect that right-wing extremists, possibly along with pro-Palestinian activists, carried out the acts.

Incidents of anti-Semitism will only increase and the danger posed to those in Europe will only get worse unless people speak out against this appalling resurgence of one of the oldest forms of human bigotry (and disgustingly, one of the most accepted forms of human bigotry as well). Unfortunately, there are a number of people out there who are bound and determined to pretend that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist, or that it “scarcely” exists. To the extent that they have it in their power to stop instances of anti-Semitism, and to the extent that they fail, the blood of Jewish victims is on their hands just as surely as it is on the hands of those who actually take Jewish lives.

Remember Libya?

Sure you do; it served as a locale for a war waged by the Obama administration that turned out to be wildly and wonderfully successful.

Oh, wait.

The following observation is entirely accurate, of course:

Luckily for America’s self-esteem, it was liberal Democrats that produced this particular shambles. If Republicans had done this, the media would be on the administration non-stop, perhaps comparing Samantha Power to Paul Wolfowitz—a well-meaning humanitarian way over her head who wrecked a country out of misguided ideology. There might also be some pointed questions for future presidential candidates who supported this fiasco. But since both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have their fingerprints all over Libya, there isn’t a lot of press hunger for a detailed, unsparing autopsy into this stinking corpse of policy flub.

If Obama were a Republican, the press and the weekly news shows would be ringing with hyperbolic, apocalyptic denunciations of the clueless incumbent who had failed to learn the most basic lessons of Iraq. Indeed, the MSM right now would be howling that Obama was stupider than Bush. Bush, our Journolist friends would now be saying ad nauseam, at least had the excuse that he didn’t know what happens when you overthrow a paranoid, genocidal, economically incompetent Arab tyrant in an artificial post-colonial state. But Obama did—or, the press would nastily say, he would have done if he’d been doing his job instead of hitting the golf course or yakking it up with his glitzy pals at late night bull sessions. The ad hominem attacks would never stop, and all the tangled threads of incompetence and failure would be endlessly and expertly picked at in long New Yorker articles, NYT thumbsuckers, and chin-strokings on all the Sabbath gasbag shows.

Why, the ever-admirable tribunes of a free and unbiased press would be asking non-stop, didn’t this poor excuse for a President learn from what happened in Iraq?  When you upend an insane and murderous dictator who has crushed his people for decades under an incompetent and quirky regime, you’d better realize that there is no effective state or civil society under the hard shell of dictatorial rule. Remove the dictator and you get chaos and anarchy. Wasn’t this President paying attention during the last ten years?

Two more paragraphs follow, and you should read them as well. Yet another instance in which the Fourth Estate has fallen down on the job. Funny how it tends to do that whenever a journalistic job well done would mean ignominy for the Fourth Estate’s favorite political class.

Why Is the Media Covering Up the Fact that Shifa Hospital Is a Hamas Command Site?

Behold the latest in barbarism. First, let’s establish some facts:

. . . why isn’t the fact that Hamas uses Shifa Hospital as a command post making headlines? In part, it’s because the location is so un-secret that Hamas regularly meets with reporters there. On July 15, for example, William Booth of the Washington Post wrote that the hospital “has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.” Back in 2006, PBS even aired a documentary showing how gunmen roam the halls of the hospital, intimidate the staff, and deny them access to protected locations within the building—where the camera crew was obviously prohibited from filming. Yet the confirmation that Hamas is using Gaza City’s biggest hospital as its de facto headquarters was made in the last sentence of the eighth paragraph of Booth’s story—which would appear to be the kind of rookie mistake that is known in journalistic parlance as “burying the lede.”

But Booth is no rookie—he’s an experienced foreign reporter, which means that he buried the lede on purpose. Why? Well, one reason might be that the “security sources” quoted whenever the location of the Hamas command bunker is mentioned—which, as evidenced by this 2009 article by the excellent and highly experienced foreign correspondent Steven Erlanger of the New York Times, happens every time there’s a war in Gaza—are obviously Israelis, not members of Hamas. It might be hard to believe the Israelis, the simple logic might run, since they obviously have an investment in arguing that Hamas is using hospitals and schools as human shields.

The Israelis are so sure about the location of the Hamas bunker, however, not because they are trying to score propaganda points, or because it has been repeatedly mentioned in passing by Western reporters—but because they built it. Back in 1983, when Israel still ruled Gaza, they built a secure underground operating room and tunnel network beneath Shifa hospital—which is one among several reasons why Israeli security sources are so sure that there is a main Hamas command bunker in or around the large cement basement beneath the area of Building 2 of the Hospital, which reporters are obviously prohibited from entering.

Hamas obviously has no interest in having a photo-layout of one of its command bunkers beneath Shifa Hospital splashed on the front pages of newspapers. After all, such pictures would show that the organization uses the sick and wounded of Gaza as human shields while launching missiles against Israeli civilians. What Hamas wants is for reporters to use very different pictures from Shifa—namely, photos of Palestinians killed and wounded by Israelis, which make Palestinians look like innocent victims of wanton Israeli brutality.

And now for an answer to the question asked in the title of this blog post:

Reporters who bravely or foolishly violate Hamas’ rules [barring mention of Hamas at the hospital--ed.] even on their social media accounts can be seen to repent with such alacrity that it’s not difficult to imagine how scared and dependent they are. Nick Casey of the Wall Street Journal, for example, tweeted that “You have to wonder w the shelling how patients at Shifa hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to see media.” Casey then quickly deleted his tweet, which didn’t save him from being put on a list of journalists who “lie/fabricate info for Israel” and “must be sued” – a threat which is surely the least of Casey’s fears. Last week, French-Palestinian journalist Radjaa Abu Dagg was summoned to Shifa by Hamas and interrogated. He wrote about the experience of “attempted intimidation” for Liberation—and then quickly had the paper take down the article.

It can hardly be lost on any sane journalist that tempers in combat zones can be short, and that Hamas has used the kidnapping of foreign journalists like Alan Johnson of the BBC to advance its own agenda. The fact that Hamas has closed the border and will not let journalists in or out of Gaza can’t make journalists who being used as de facto human shields by a terrorist organization feel any more eager to offend their hosts.

You would think that media organizations would prove that they are worth their salt by defying Hamas’s threats and reporting on the fact that it has command bunkers underneath Shifa Hospital. You would, alas, be wrong. Instead, media organizations seek to curry Hamas’s favor–in part because failing to do so may well have deadly consequences; Hamas, after all, is not known for tolerating dissenting views–by refusing to reveal to the rest of the world the full scope of Hamas’s atrocities and crimes, and by focusing their outrage on the fact that Israel has decided to defend itself from assault. It is bad enough that there are anti-Semites out there who are never going to be disposed to believe that Israel does anything right. It is even worse that there are people of good will out there who are getting bad information from media organizations because those organizations have allowed Hamas to put the knife to their throats.

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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