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:

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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.