Monday, April 4, 2011
Richard Goldstone and Palestinian Statehood
Richard Goldstone and Palestinian Statehood
By Caroline Glick
Richard Goldstone’s repudiation of the eponymous blood libel he authored last year provides a number of lessons about the nature of the political war against the Jewish state and how we must act if we are to defeat it. Learning these lessons is an urgent task as we approach the next phase of the war to delegitimize us.
By all accounts, that phase will culminate in September at the UN General Assembly’s annual conclave in New York. As America marks the 10th anniversary of the September 11 jihadist attacks, the Palestinian Authority’s well-publicized plan to achieve UN recognition of a Palestinian state in all of Judea, Samaria, Gaza and northern, southern and eastern Jerusalem will reach its denouement.
The UN charter spells out the procedure through which new states receive membership. The procedure dictates that the Security Council must recommend to the General Assembly that a state receive membership.
Following the Security Council recommendation, the General Assembly calls a vote. If two-thirds of the UN member states vote in favor of recognition, a state is accepted as a member state.
In the Palestinian case, General Assembly support is a forgone conclusion; 118 out of 192 UN member nations already recognize “Palestine.”
Legally the General Assembly cannot act without Security Council sanction. So if the US vetoes a Security Council resolution on the issue, the General Assembly would be formally barred from moving forward.
But legal norms applied to the nations of the world are rarely applied to the Palestinians. Consequently, it is possible that the General Assembly will illegally vote on Palestinian statehood even without a Security Council recommendation to do so.
Over the past year or so since this new Palestinian plan to delegitimize Israel began coming into view, a swelling chorus of doom and gloomers has warned that if the General Assembly recognizes “Palestine,” in Judea, Samaria, eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem as well as the Gaza Strip, it will be a disaster. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has called it a “diplomatic-political tsunami.” The New York Times claimed Sunday that it “could place Israel into a diplomatic vise” as “Israel would be occupying land belonging to a fellow United Nations member.”
Certainly it is true that we will not benefit from such a UN action. But the fears being sown by the likes of Barak and Haaretz columnists are overwrought.
The fact is that while acceptance of “Palestine” as a UN member state will be a blow, it will mark an escalation not a qualitative departure from the basic challenges we have been facing for years.
Europe already claims that by maintaining sovereignty over its capital and control over its heartland in Judea and Samaria, Israel is illegally occupying the Palestinians’ land. So does the Obama administration.
As we approach the September deadline, the question we need to consider is what the concrete consequences of Palestinian membership in the UN would be? What new anti-Israel activities will international organizations and states engage in following such a move? And how can we meet those challenges? In general, the acceptance of “Palestine” will present us with new threats from three different actors: the International Criminal Court, the EU and the US.
If “Palestine” is accepted as a UN member nation, we have been warned, it will join the International Criminal Court and file war crimes complaints against us. While this is probably true, the fact is that even without the prerequisite UN membership, the Palestinians have already filed war crimes complaints against us at the ICC. Although “Palestine” must already be a state for the ICC to entertain the complaints, it has not rejected them.
But two can play this game. Say “Palestine” joins the ICC. Even if Israel remains outside the treaty, it can use its membership against it. Both Fatah and Hamas have committed innumerable war crimes. Every terrorist murder and attempted murder, every missile, mortar shell and rocket fired is a separate war crime. And every terror victim has the right to file war crimes complaints against “Palestine” with the ICC prosecutor.
As to the Europeans, the fact is that they have already joined the Arab onslaught on the international diplomatic stage and they have already imposed limited economic sanctions. They have set aside negotiations on upgrading the EU-Israel Economic Association Agreement. Several EU member states have unofficially enacted trade boycotts. Britain, for instance, implemented an unofficial arms embargo several years ago.
Looking ahead, we need to consider how they may escalate their hostile behavior and develop plans to minimize the damage Europeans can cause the economy. Unfortunately, the chattering classes are behaving as though when faced with the specter of further European economic sanctions, we have no option other than to throw ourselves at Europe’s feet and beg for mercy. But this is ridiculous.
As the 18 years since Oslo have shown, begging Europeans for mercy on the basis of concessions to the Palestinians is a losing strategy. Europe is not interested in displaying mercy toward the Jewish state, and it does not view any concessions as sufficient. But Europe does respond to power politics. With India now producing cars and Israel developing its own natural gas and shale oil fields, it is the job of the government and business leaders to make the Europeans think long and hard about how willing they will be to alienate our consumers and businesses.
This brings us to the US. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s greatest fear is that President Barack Obama will fail to veto a Security Council resolution recommending General Assembly approval of Palestinian membership in the UN. The gloom and doomers advise the premier the only way to avert this prospect is to render such a resolution superfluous by preemptively capitulating to all of Obama’s demands.
Obama has let it be known that he expects Netanyahu to announce his surrender in an address before both Houses of Congress in May. And this makes sense from his perspective. If Netanyahu gives a speech before Congress in which he effectively embraces Obama’s anti-Israel positions as his own, he would make it practically impossible for Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates to criticize those policies.
Perversely, if Netanyahu bows to Obama’s wishes, he will not avert US support for Palestinian UN membership and UN recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and Gaza. He will facilitate it by making it appear noncontroversial.
Netanyahu’s best bet in this case is not to ask Obama for favors. Since the General Assembly will likely approve Palestinian membership even if the US does veto a Security Council resolution, Obama’s ability to prevent the gambit is limited. And the price he wants to exact for a veto is prohibitive.
And this brings us back to Richard Goldstone. His repudiation of his own report did not happen in a vacuum. Goldstone’s admission Friday that his report’s central conclusion – that Israel committed war crimes in its campaign against Hamas in Gaza – was wrong is a case study in how we must contend with difficult political challenges if we are to emerge victorious in the political war. The fate of Goldstone and his report hold several vital lessons for our leaders.
The first lesson then is never to surrender or give any quarter to lies. We greeted Goldstone’s mendacious report on Operation Cast Lead with justified indignation and furor and never backed down. In the face of the massive international pressure that followed his presentation of his lies, we stood our ground. Our behavior denied Goldstone and his cronies the ability to portray his mendacious report as the unvarnished truth. Because of this reaction, from the beginning it was clear that its findings were at best dubious.
The second lesson is that the government must hold firm. In the Internet age when everyone can have a say, the most important commodity a person can have is legitimacy. The government confers legitimacy on its defenders and so empowers them to take action. If the government had capitulated to Goldstone, half the voices attacking his blood libel would probably have never spoken out or been heard.
The third lesson from the Goldstone experience is that people make up governments and people make policies. Since people are social animals, the social sphere is a critical one in foreign affairs. Our diplomats and leaders tend to act as though the only possible goal of their personal relations with other diplomats and leaders is to make the foreigners love them. The Goldstone case study shows us that as Machiavelli taught, it is just as good if not better to be feared.
When Goldstone issued his tendentious report, he no doubt assumed he would suffer no personal consequences for claiming IDF soldiers and commanders are war criminals and that Israeli Jews are neurotic. After all, everyone libels Israel and gets away with it.
But rather than get a pass for his behavior, Goldstone got ostracized. Following the government’s lead, Jewish activists throughout the world attacked him for his lies. Everywhere he went he was challenged. Obviously, these attacks had an effect on him that attempts to appease him would not have had.
The final lesson of the Goldstone experience is found in the fact that the publication of malicious slander did not paralyze the country. The IDF continued to strike Hamas targets. Fear of more lies from Goldstone and his Israel-bashing associates did not convince the government to stop defending the country. The lesson is that we must not allow the misdeeds of others to deny us our rights. Rather, we must assert them in the face of condemnation and wait until the condemners realize they cannot defeat us.
Israel is being challenged by a political war that escalates every day. But we are not powerless in this fight. As we prepare for the Palestinians’ UN gambit, we must keep in mind the lessons from Goldstone. If the government remains faithful to the truth and to our rights, it will empower our supporters throughout the world to rally to our side. If we are good to our friends and bad to our enemies, we will know how to reward our friends and punish our enemies. And if we boldly assert our rights even in the face of international condemnation, we will see that in the fullness of time, the rightness of our position will carry the day.
American Jewry's Fight
By Caroline Glick
Over the past year or so, American Jewish opponents of Israel like writer and activist Peter Beinart have sought to intimidate and demoralize Israelis by telling us that American Jews either no longer support us or will stop supporting us if we don't give in to all the Arabs' demands.
But statistical evidence exposes these threats as utter lies. According to mountainous survey evidence, the American Jewish community writ large remains deeply supportive of Israel. Two surveys released last year by the American Jewish Committee and Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies showed that three quarters of American Jews care deeply about Israel and that Israel is an important part of their Jewish identity. The Brandeis survey notably showed that young American Jews are no less likely to support Israel than they were in the past.
In fact, American Jews under 30 are more hawkish about the Palestinian conflict with Israel than Jews between the ages of 31-40 are.
According to the Brandeis survey, 51 percent of American Jews oppose a future division of Jerusalem, while a mere 29% would support it.
Younger Jews are more opposed to the capital's partition than older Jews are.
It is notable that the Brandeis survey found that political views do not impact American Jews' support for Israel. This is striking because among Americans at large, polls show Republicans are significantly stronger supporters of Israel than Democrats. But not among Jews.
"Liberals felt no less connected than conservatives and were no less likely to regard Israel as important to their Jewish identities. These observations hold true for both younger and older respondents," the Brandeis survey report explained.
Across the board, American Jews blame the Palestinians for the absence of peace and believe there is little chance that there will be peace between Israel and the Palestinians in the foreseeable future. Seventy-five percent agreed with the statement, "The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel"; 94% said the Palestinians should be required to accept the Jewish state's right to exist.
In light of these overwhelming levels of support, it is disconcerting to see that across the US, Jewish communities are failing to prevent anti- Zionist Jews from hijacking communal funds and facilities to finance anti-Israel activities.
Consider a few recent examples.
In Orange County, California, intra-communal rancor is growing over the local Jewish Federation's financial and organizational support for University of California at Irvine's Olive Tree Initiative.
The Federation subsidizes Olive Tree Initiativeorganized tours of Israel for Jewish students. As Tammi Benjamin from UC Santa Cruz explained in a letter last December to local Federation CEO Shalom Elcott and local Hillel director Jordan Fruchtman, while OTI claims to be interested in fostering good relations between Jewish and Arab students, it actually just propagandizes against Israel. The speakers who addressed students participating in the two-week trip were overwhelmingly anti-Israel. Almost all the Palestinian speakers expressed hatred for Israel. Many of the Israeli speakers represented groups that call for economic warfare against Israel and defame Israel as a racist state. Half of the supposedly neutral representatives of international organizations who spoke to the group are notorious for their opposition to Israel.
Rather than end the practice of using Jewish communal funds to propagandize Jewish students to hate the Jewish state that most American Jews support and see as important to their Jewish identity, the Federation and Hillel have dug in their heels.
This week, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal reported that over the past two months, allegedly acting on instructions from the Federation, two local synagogues canceled an event sponsored by the local branch of the Zionist Organization of America at which Irvine Rabbi Dov Fischer was to present information about OTI's anti-Israel activities.
Speaking to the paper, Fischer said, "The amazing thing is how there has been a clamp-down by The Federation to prevent any speech or dissent in the community against The Federation's program. The idea that two different temples in the community, who have all kinds of speakers, canceled this program is profoundly shocking."
Meanwhile on the East Coast, both the Washington and New York Jewish communities are embroiled in a feud over Federation funding for anti-Israel Jewish groups. In Washington, a group of pro-Israel activists operating as the Committee Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art has begun a campaign to end Federation funding for anti-Israel activities.
In a letter to Federation President Susie Gelman and Federation board members from March 6, COPMA's chairman Robert Samet argued, "It is critical that the Federation establish guidelines for withholding funding from partner agencies that engage in political propaganda and activism denigrating Israel and undermining its legitimacy as a strong, secure and independent Jewish state."
COPMA's specific concern is Federation Funding for the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center's professional theater group Theater J.
As the letter explained, "Theater J, a partner agency of the Federation and a recipient of its funding and support, has turned an arts program at the DCJCC... into a platform for political activism that expresses hostility and antipathy towards the State of Israel and little regard for its security."
In 2009, Theater J staged the virulently anti- Semitic post-modern passion play Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill. The play accuses the entire Jewish population of Israel of mass murders that were never committed.
Unfortunately, as COPMA notes, this is par for the course. In the past, Theater J's artistic director Ari Roth organized buses to bring community members to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to watch a production of the virulently anti-Israel propaganda play My Name is Rachel Corrie.
This year, under Roth's leadership, Theater J presented Return to Haifa, a play that COPMA argues "distorts the history and origins of Israel and makes the historically accurate death of a Jewish child in the Holocaust... comparable to the fabricated and utterly fantastical story of an Arab child allegedly abandoned by his fleeing parents in Haifa in 1948, ostensibly as a result of their terror over advancing Israelis."
In response to COPMA's letter, Roth told the Forward that it "is not a prerogative of the donor" to intervene in artistic content, and claimed that attempts to limit the theater's activities amounted to censorship or blacklisting.
Carol Greenwald, COPMA's treasurer, rejects Roth's arguments. In her words, "The issue is not artistic freedom to create whatever the artist chooses; the issue is the appropriateness of a Jewish communal institution using Jewish communal funding to showcase defamation of the Jewish people."
The Forward quoted Andrew Apostolou, a local Jewish Community Relations Council member, as quite sensibly saying, "There are things a Jewish community shouldn't be doing, like serving a bacon cheeseburger on Yom Kippur. Putting on an anti-Semitic play is one of these things."
COPMA is not alone in its concerns. In New York, a group of activists formed a new organization called JCC Watch to force the New York Jewish Federation to end financial support to the Manhattan JCC due to its partnership with organizations that support economic warfare against Israel through calls for economic boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Like COPMA, JCC Watch asks that the local Federation adopt guidelines to prevent Federation funds from being transferred to groups and programming that showcase calls for economic and political warfare against Israel.
So far, Washington's Federation has not responded to COPMA's letter. Interviewed by the Forward, the Washington Federation's CEO defended giving supporters of anti-Israel sanctions the stage as part of Federation-sponsored panels on the grounds of "welcoming multiple voices." And in an op-ed in New York Jewish Week last month, the New York Federation's CEO defended the JCC's partnership with groups that engage in economic and political warfare against Israel.
What is going on here? According to the AJC and Brandeis surveys, fewer than 10% of American Jews tend to accept the Arab line against Israel. Given the wall-to-wall support for Israel among American Jews, why do American Jewish organizational leaders refuse to do what their members want them to do? Why are they taking Jewish communal funds to finance activities and causes that are offensive to the Jewish community? Why are they pretending that the call to end communal funding for anti-Israel activities is a call for an abrogation of free speech?
To get a sense of how unprecedented this is, it is useful to consider the American Jewish community's response to Jews for Jesus. While Reform and Orthodox rabbis agree on almost nothing relating to Jewish laws and practices, since the emergence of Jews for Jesus in the 1970s, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis have been unified in their rejection of the Christian missionary group's protestations of being Jewish.
Everyone understands that while Jews have a perfect right to change their religion, they have no right to force the Jewish community to accept Christians as Jews. That is, they have no right to change the definition of Judaism to include people who worship Jesus.
So-called Messianic Jews falsely call themselves Jews to undermine the community from within. But no Federation feels compelled to invite a representative of so-called Messianic Jews to proselytize on stage as part of a panel discussion in order to "welcome multiple voices."
Hillel organizations have rightly refused space and funding to Messianic Jewish groups.
But today, American Jews find themselves helpless when a marginal group of anti-Zionist Jews demands - like the Messianic Jews of their day - communal funding and space for their anti-Israel activities.
The anti-Zionist groups make the same arguments as the Messianic Jews. They call themselves pro-Israel even as they engage in activities aimed at harming, defaming, weakening and delegitimizing the Jewish state. They claim that refusing them communal funds constitutes a violation of their free speech rights.
Yet while communal leaders did not hesitate to call the so-called Messianic Jews' bluff, they cannot find the way to expunge anti-Israel groups from their umbrella organizations.
The explanation for this behavior is apparently social. Federation leaders don't mind disappointing evangelical Christians. But most of their friends are leftist. Consequently the perceived social cost of taking action against groups like Theater J, J Street, B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence and Jewish Voices for Peace is too high for many American Jewish leaders to bear.
Happily, a handful of committed community members throughout the country are standing up and demanding that their communal leaders act in the interests of the communities they serve. It can only be hoped that the overwhelming majority of American Jews who clearly wish to support Israel will join these activists' call and demand that all Jewish Federations stop allowing anti-Israel groups to feed from the communal trough. If they do, they will find that much to their surprise, the social costs of actions will be far smaller than they expected.
After all, Israel's supporters are the majority.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
UPDATE: Yesterday the Forward reported that in September 2009 UC Irvine students met with Hamas leader Aziz Duwaik during an Olive Tree Initiative organized visit to Israel. The Orange County Federation knew about this in October 2009 and yet not only have they continued to support the OTI, they actively blocked public discussion of the OTI as recently as this month.
To read another article by Caroline Glick, click here.
Posted by Brett at 4:06 PM