Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sometimes occupation is okay! Truth to narrative. Europe's illegal settlements. And good news!

Welcome to the third issue of The Unabashed Zionist!

            Because an unabashed Zionist is better than a bashed one. Obviously.

Some business first:

I’ll be posting these newsletters here, in case you want to direct people to the site:

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And now for the main event….

(1) UAZ in print

Because I am unabashed, I don’t mind keeping you abreast when I appear in print. (At least I’m not asking you for money. Yet.) This week my earlier longer article against Open Hillel got divided into two parts, and posted in a more accessible form on the Huffington Post: part I here, and part II here.

I also posted a piece analyzing just where fair-mindedness can go wrong, for example when people like UN Secretary General Ban-Ki moon end up supporting terrorism against Israeli Jews. My trusting “give the benefit of the doubt” nature keeps telling me that he can’t really mean it the way it came out, and yet the fact that this sort of thing keeps happening does make me wonder whether it’s time for me to get a new nature.

You can find the piece here.

If you had the energy to visit these links, leave some fantastic comments (or at least sincere ones), and then share the links—I’d be much obliged.

(2) YCMTSU: You can’t make this s*** up!

(a) At some point I will document the general rule that whenever the other side accuses Israel of some terrible misdeed X, they are themselves far more guilty of X than Israel. This week’s first YCMTSU segment includes an interesting variation on that theme, perhaps belonging in its own category:

WOSDIIO: When Our Side Does It It’s Okay!

We all know that when one people occupies another people’s territory, it is bad, very bad. Fortunately, as the other side would have you believe, there is only one example of this in the whole wide world, and that is of course Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands (either 1967 or 1948), and of course Israel is bad, very bad. But in fact there are many occupations going on right now, including Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus, China’s of Tibet, Russia’s of Crimea, Morocco’s of the Western Sahara, England’s of Gibraltar and the Falklands, Italy’s of a piece of North Africa, etc. The only difference between these occupations and Israel’s “occupation” is that the latter, very possibly, doesn’t actually count as an “occupation” according to international law—but that is for another newsletter. 

In any case, the Palestinian Authority, which typically condemns Israel’s “occupation” at least three times before breakfast, is fully aware of Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara, but, since these are fellow Arabs and Muslims, apparently, guess what:


The Palestinians affirm Morocco’s sovereignty over that territory because, after all—YCMTSU—you say “occupation,” but we say “territorial integrity,” and do so with an entirely straight face.

Elder of Ziyon has the details here.

(b) The following real headline reflects everything that is wrong in the Middle East today:

“UN mediates return of Israeli ‘spy’ bird from Lebanon”

This vulture, you see, joins a long line of other critters that Israel’s Arab neighbors have accused of being Zionist spies (I kid you not). Turns out it was just a bird that was tagged for scientific research, which (you know) the Israelis occasionally putter around doing. Even so, this is the part that gets me. They needed the UN to mediate its return. On the plus side, at least, finally, the UN has achieved something other than giving Ban-Ki moon a platform to endorse terrorism against Israeli Jews.

YCMTSU. The story is here.

(3) Speaking truth to narrative

We all know about the narratives. The Zionists have theirs, the Palestinians have theirs. That is true and unavoidable, but the problems really begin when you either (a) conclude there is no truth at all, only competing narratives, or (b) adopt your preferred narrative without caring much at all about the truth. I want to avoid going all philosophical on you here, so I’ll try to stay focused.

We all know the Palestinian narrative: they are the indigenous people forcibly displaced by Zionist colonialism, and Israeli Jews are the perpetual aggressors while they are the perpetual victims. Even clear unabashed terrorism is called “resistance,” as if the mere existence of a Jew in their presence is itself an aggression to be resisted. Part of the narrative is that the Palestinians are crushingly oppressed and impoverished by Israel. Gaza is regularly called “the world’s largest open-air prison,” for just one example.

But these narratives don’t always stand up well against the truth.

This long but important article from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs will shift your image of things a bit. Turns out there is a decent amount of luxury in the Palestinian territories alongside the poverty, after all, and that on many quality of life measures, Palestinians do pretty well, and better than many/most other citizens in other Arab countries.

Is it possible that their lives under Israeli oppression aren’t all entirely awfully terrible?

See the article here.

As for the “open-air prison,” at some point I’ll share images of the luxury that is available in Gaza as well (resort hotels, amusement parks, swimming pools, expensive vehicles). It might not surprise you to learn that Hamas leaders are extremely wealthy individuals (at least according to what I’ve been reading lately). But it might surprise you to learn that there’s no actual “humanitarian crisis” going on in Gaza, thanks pretty much exclusively to Israel’s generous border policies toward its enemy neighbor to the south. You want a humanitarian crisis, replete with starvation and illness, you’ll have to look elsewhere (and not that far away, in fact.)

On this issue, have a look at Commentary columnist Evelyn Gordon’s “How to Spot a Fake Siege,” available here. 

(Incidentally, in the “good news” department Israel does very well on such measures as overall happiness and quality of life. But it also has a serious income inequality issue, with a very high impoverishment rate (as reported here). Next time you see images of Palestinian poverty, keep in mind that over 20% of Israelis also live below the poverty line. You can always find areas of serious impoverishment in any nation. For a true image of the bigger picture, what you need to examine are not individual images or stories, but statistics.)

One last point to keep in mind when confronted with that opposing narrative. Words are important. What Israel applies to Gaza is not a siege, but a blockade. There is a big difference. Sieges don’t let anything through. They starve out the besieged. Blockades, at least in this instance, restrict only military materials. If you want to see a siege, look at Egypt’s control of the Rafah crossing on its border of Gaza. It has been nearly permanently closed to people and goods for some years now. In contrast, the crossings between Gaza and Israel oversee hundreds of trucks every day in both directions, carrying food and medicine and any consumer products residents of Gaza want to buy. Many individuals also cross daily, for professional, personal, medical reasons, etc.

Oh, and one very last bit of truth against narrative—the U.N. has determined that Israel’s blockade on Gaza is—wait for it—legal: see here.

Imagine that! What a world.

(4) Maybe it is the settlements after all?

But not the settlements you think. For some reason, when Jews build an additional bathroom in Judea or Samaria what they’re building is not a home or a neighborhood but a “settlement,” and everyone clamors about how illegal it is. (There is this mysterious thing called “international law” that everybody insists condemns almost everything Israel ever does. In future issues we’ll go in search of this elusive entity.) But it turns out the Arabs do lots of building in these areas that really is illegal, demonstrably so according to agreements the Palestinians themselves have signed with Israel. The fact that much of this illegal building is funded by the European Union—you know, that conglomeration of countries from which Jews are fleeing in record numbers because of how much Europeans love Jews—would surprise no one who has read Tuvia Tenenbom’s splendid book Catch the Jew!, a book that would be funny if it weren’t so painfully true.

This perhaps could have gone in the WOSDIIO category, but you can read the article here.

The Tenenbom book now makes me realize I need a new category, the

(5) “Would be funny if it weren’t so painfully true” category

The Onion pretty much nails the Israeli-Palestinian conflict here.  Really, if you’re looking for a way to explain how people get so simple-minded (read: mushy-minded) about the Middle East, this is it.

(6) And now we pause for an opportunity

for college students to attend a terrific program run by the Tikvah people, and get paid for it. If you know of an undergrad who wants to learn more about Judaism and Israel, send him or her  here. (Other programs are available for faculty members. I’ve participated in a couple and they were superb. Check out the organization here. They also occasionally sponsor public lectures and panels.)

Finally, we’ll close with a little

(7) Good News!

Israel really isn’t such a dreadful place. In fact it has a thing or two to recommend it. Maybe even as many as 21!

OK, that’s it for now.

Til next time, remember—stay unabashed.


Monday, January 25, 2016

January 25, 2016 ... Campus Misery, Two-Step Solution, Israel's Wrongs Watch, and Middle East Kumbayah

Welcome to the second issue of The Unabashed Zionist!

Well, the first issue of “The Unabashed Zionist,” strictly speaking, which succeeds the single issue of “The Not-Yet-Named” (which in being retired now becomes an instant classic, so be sure to save your copy for future resale).

And why is this newsletter now called “The Unabashed Zionist”?

Because an unabashed Zionist is better than a bashed one. Obviously.

If you'd like to receive these newsletters by email, please send me your preferred email address.

And now let us commence un-abashing:

(1) Jew-Washing, Antisemitism, Zionophobia

Hot off the press! My new article is just out on American Thinker, in which I tackle the phenomenon of "Jew-washing," viz. the practice of using the fact that some/many Jews are anti-Zionists to obscure the antisemitic nature of anti-Zionism. (Modeled on the phrases "whitewashing" and "pinkwashing" ...). As far as I can tell, no one has yet challenged the intellectual basis of Jew-washing so I think I’m breaking new ground (please alert me otherwise!)… It's a bit heavy-going but I can summarize it briefly: anti-Zionism IS antisemitism, and the fact that some/many Jews are anti-Zionists doesn't change that. Jew-washing is a very pernicious phenomenon, and we need to challenge it as much as possible. If you agree, please feel free to share this link widely. (Heck, even if you don’t agree please share it …)

(2) Campus anti-Zionist misery, and Oberlin follow-up

Last time we learned about the dire state at two representative liberal arts colleges, Vassar and Oberlin. Today we get a detailed follow up on Oberlin by Lori Lowenthal Marcus of the Jewish Press. The good news here is that some Oberlin alums are finally trying to organize and fight back. The bad news is that what they are fighting against is an entire campus culture which is overall not very nice for the Jews. This fundamental inversion of reality—that otherwise progressive campuses would vilify Israel—has taken hold all across the academy, and in my view it’s to resisting that phenomenon that we should be devoting much of our limited resources.

(It also turns out some Vassar alums are organizing too. Email me for more details.)

Here’s a nice piece making the same point I just made, and again, we need to be spreading this message as far as possible:

And finally here’s a much longer, theoretical piece on the subject. “Intersectionality” is the new code word for progressives suggesting that all forms of oppression are somehow deeply linked. It’s this concept that allowed the National Women’s Studies Association to recently declare a boycott of Israeli academics, because in their minds the oppression of women in general is connected to Israel’s alleged oppression of the Palestinians. Of course this logic is very strange, particularly since Israel is a beacon for women’s rights compared to all its neighbors in the Middle East, but then again I’ve never claimed to be able to understand women. (OK, that was a joke; for the record, very many women also objected to the NWSA’s boycott!)

Anyway this piece nicely explains how “intersectionality makes you stupid”:

Before we leave campuses, there’s this worthwhile piece from Israellycool, explaining the process whereby so many Jewish students lose their self-respect (and their minds) and become anti-Zionists, calling for the destruction of the one country that might actually save them when all the rest of the non-Jewish Israel haters come after them. Israellycool also makes some very good practical suggestions about how the Birthright program might strengthen itself to fight this phenomenon:

And finally, I just learned of this Facebook Group, “Stop BDS on Campus.” It looks like they have a lot of very active members and they are really engaged in some terrific projects. Check them out if you want to get involved:

(3) Just in case you (or the people you argue with) have forgotten what the Palestinians’ endgame is

We have yet another example of a senior Fatah official reminding us that the “two-state solution” is really a “two-step solution”: first assume complete control of the West Bank and Gaza, and then regain control of the rest of “Palestine”:

Fatah is the main political party headed by Abbas, and a key constituent of the Palestinian Authority. Its leaders regularly tell the Arabic press about their “two-step” plan, while speaking lovely peace-y PC words to the Western English-speaking media. This is a crucial point to keep in mind when discussing the two-state “solution”: will the two states really be the end of the conflict, or does it amount to a victorious step one of the two-step solution? And shouldn’t we take Israel’s security concerns seriously when their “peace partners” don’t even hide their ultimate intentions?

(4) It’s (not) the settlements, stupid!

Probably my favorite blogger is Elder of Ziyon: The man is thorough, knowledgeable, as objective as one can be who has a distinct point of view, and often breaks and pursues important stories. (He’s often good for some delicious snark, too.) I met him once and shook his hand, which explains why I haven’t washed that hand since.

Here he is this week fisking yet another dishonest report just released by Human Rights Watch (also known as Israel’s Wrongs Watch). It’s really worth being on top of this report and EoZ’s response to it, because people regularly use HRW’s (I mean IWW’s) reports to bash Israel. These reports therefore facilitate that dangerous link between social-justice-progressivism and Israel-hating (the “intersectionality” that makes you stupid). When you read EoZ, however, you’ll realize how these reports consistently distort and misrepresent facts, revealing their profound anti-Israel bias. Undermining these reports publicly just might help diminish the evil intersectionality.

On a similar theme, here he is pointing out something very important: those “Jewish” settlements over the Green Line in fact permit Arabs to live in them, and a decent number do. But for some reason the world doesn’t complain when Israeli Arabs move over the Green Line, just when Israeli Jews do. Somehow Jews are denied rights that other peoples have. There’s another word for that: antisemitism.

Let’s end now with a little

(5) Good News!

Just in case you thought that putting “ISIS” and “Iran” in the same sentence with “good for Israel” was impossible, there’s this. Partly fueled by sharing a common enemy, Israel has been surreptitiously building relationships with some of the perhaps slightly less virulently Israel-hating Arab states:

I wouldn’t expect to hear any loud Kumbaya-ing coming from the Middle East any time soon, but still this strikes me as good news (or at least better than bad news).

We also have continuing legal action in the U.S. against the BDS movement, as New York State expands its legal resistance:

And finally, in the “there must be something in Israel’s water that makes them into such smarty-pants” department, a 13-year-old Israeli girl has developed a thingamajooey that makes some science-y stuff in outer space. (Clearly she hasn’t been spending her time the way most American 13-year olds do, staring at screens and maniacally pressing buttons as they meander feverishly around the interweb.)

OK, that’s it for now.

Til next time, remember -- it’s better to be unabashed than bashed. So start un-abashing!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Open Hillel and more

Welcome to my first post!

My aim is to post occasional messages with information, articles, links of interest to those who are interested in matters Jewish and Israel, particularly from the perspective of an unabashed Zionist. Trigger warning: there might be a little bashing of anti-Zionists along the way.
So ...

(1) Open Hillel

Much in the news the past week or two, bringing to life the old adage about opening one's mind so much one's brains fall out ... Some academic people believe that the campus organization, Hillel International, should open itself to sponsoring speakers and partnering with organizations that advocate the destruction of Israel. Some of these academics are at least consistent: they openly admit their hatred of Israel, so obviously opening Hillel in this way will further their agenda. Others of these academics claim they support Israel but also support Open Hill in the name of free speech blah blah. How these folks obtained their academic positions is beyond me. But then again my deficient reasoning abilities are well known.

(a) Here is an article announcing the formation of the "Academic Council" of the Open Hillel movement, led by Annoyer-in-Chief Peter Beinart:

(b) Here is an article taking an unabashed Zionist view of Beinart and his annoying minions:

(c) Here is Richard Cravatts' more no-holds-barred response to Open Hillel:

(d) And here, finally, for the activists among you, is SPME's petition opposing Open Hillel. I'm happy to report that at press time, the other side's "Academic Council" had 81 signatures, while our side's petition had 437. Anyhoo, if you are an academic or close enough to one, please consider signing and sharing:
(2) Campus Anti-Zionism/Antisemitism

Open Hillel clearly believes there isn't enough Israel hating going on on campuses across the country. For some mild evidence that there is in fact more than enough, here are a couple of pieces about the distressing situations on two well-known campuses. These fine liberal arts colleges are not looking so fine IMHO. Nor are they alone -- the hate-wave is hitting all over. These two are just the tip of the iceberg. Read em and weep.

(3) Hasbara Time

The next time you hear the phrase "illegal settlements," feel free to (a) ask just what is this international law that everyone talks about that somehow only seems to apply to Israel, and (b) whip out this:

(4) Historic Palestine
And next time you hear the phrase "historic Palestine," feel free to (a) ask why no historical texts prior to (say) the late 19th century refer to the "Palestinians" (and mean Arabs thereby), and (b) whip out this 1759 map of Palestine:

What you notice of course is that this map divides historic Palestine into the twelve tribes of Israel. Those Zionists -- going back in time and changing history!

OK, that's it for now.