Friday, November 26, 2010

"Do you condemn the Hamas flotilla that sent weapons to Israel?"

Actual question asked of a protester by the maker of this video at time 1:17 (taken in Chicago, November 14, 2010).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Just got back from a lecture by J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. After the talk, outside the theater where it was held, there were a lot of copies of the cartoon shown here, strewn about on tables by the entrance and also in the bathrooms.

His talk went through the usual liberal Zionist talking points. He did criticize the Israeli government, calling the so-called settlement freeze more of a "chill", and pointing out that when Netanyahu was prime minister from 1996 to 1999, he never demanded that the PLO recognize Israel as a Jewish state. But he argued against putting any conditions on U.S. military aid to Israel, because pressure on Israel would only strengthen the hard-liners (does this principle apply anywhere else, such as to Israel's enemies?), and said he is "a firm believer in the qualitative military edge for Israel." He showed his sophisticated level of mock ignorance by keeping a straight face while expressing concern "if a nuclear arms race begins in the Middle East, with other countries trying to match Iran." He spoke out again and again about how he and his organization want Israel to remain a Jewish state, and raised the issue of the "demographic threat" as a serious worry. However, at another time he quoted Rabbi Hillel: "Never treat others as we would not want to be treated ourselves."

Written questions were taken, and on my card I wrote this one:

J Street's slogan is "Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace." There are plenty of Americans who have ancestral ties to Israel but are not Jewish. How does J Street reach out to them?

The question was not chosen to be read.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Obama avoids great opportunity to contrast Ahmadinejad with his predecessor

Yesterday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech at the UN saying, among other things, that "The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree" that "some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime."

Then today, Barack Obama was interviewed by Bakman Kalbassi of the BBC's Persian service, and the first question was about his reaction to the Ahmadinejad's speech. Obama:

For him to make a statement like that was inexcusable. And it stands in contrast with the response of the Iranian people when 9/11 happened.

When there were candlelit vigils and I think a natural sense of shared humanity and sympathy was expressed within Iran.

And it just shows once again sort of the the difference between how the Iranian leadership and this regime operates and how I think the vast majority of the Iranian people who are respectful and thoughtful think about these issues.

Nice of him to show his appreciation for "the response of the Iranian people when 9/11 happened", and to point out the contrast with "the Iranian leadership and this regime".

Remember how the Iranian leadership responded when 9/11 happened?
On that day, the New York Times reported:

In Tehran, the Iranian capital, President Mohammad Khatami condemned the attack, expressing "deep sorrow and sympathy" with the victims and all Americans.

"Terrorism is denounced," he said, "and the international community must identify it and take fundamental steps for rooting it out."

Then on September 20, 2001, the Times reported:

Last week, for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution, there were no chants of "death to America" at weekly Friday prayers around the country, which are controlled by the conservatives.

Ayatollah Khamenei was quoted:

"Islam condemns the massacre of defenseless people, whether Muslim or Christian or others, anywhere and by any means"

And in the same article:

[The United States has sent Iran a message responding to what officials viewed as Tehran's "positive statements" since last week's attacks, American officials quoted by Reuters news agency said.]

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Protecting Israelis' existence from Noam Chomsky

The New York Times article about Chomsky's being refused entry to the Israeli-occupied West Bank last weekend quotes an opposition member of the Knesset who supports the decision:

"This is a decision of principle between the democratic ideal -- and we all want freedom of speech and movement -- and the need to protect our existence," said Otniel Schneller, of the centrist Kadima party, on Israel Radio. "Let's say he came to lecture at Birzeit. What would he say? That Israel kills Arabs, that Israel is an apartheid state?"

In another three months, Mr. Schneller went on, some Israeli would be standing over her son's grave, the victim of incitement "in the name of free speech." People like Professor Chomsky, he added, do not have to be granted permission to enter.

Mr. Schneller makes a good point that we need to remember: the only reason why people at Birzeit in Ramallah might think that "Israel kills Arabs, that Israel is an apartheid state" is that outside agitators like Chomsky tell them so. Chomsky hasn't been to Israel or its occupied territories since 1997, but his audience members live there year-round. It's not their everyday experience that makes them think Israel kills Arabs or that Israel is an apartheid state; it's only their irrational hatred of Israel that makes them suggestible to incitement.

Friday, February 12, 2010

KQED's Michael Krasny grills Ambassador Michael Oren on the occupation

Michael Oren, who was born and raised in the United States and is now (after switching his citizenship) Israeli ambassador to the United States, was a guest yesterday morning on KQED's Forum, a radio call-in show hosted by Michael Krasny in San Francisco. The host asked his guest a tough question about the occupation (at time 15:24):
Krasny: Does your, uh, government, your present government, um, pretty much bridle at the word "occupation"? What do you say, in other words, about the word "occupation" when that's thrown at you?

Oren: Well, it um, it creates a certain problem. The state of Israel is a Jewish state. And the lands which the world say we occupy are in fact our ancient Biblical homelands. If you look in the Bible, there's no Haifa. If you look in the Bible, there is a Tel Aviv, but it's not, it's in Babylonia. Uh, the lands of the Bible are, are Jericho and Bethlehem, and, and, and, Beth El, and, uh, and these are the lands which you said are occupied. These are our tribal lands. It's very difficult for people to occupy its only, its own tribal land. But we recognize that, uh, we aren't the only people here. There's another people, there are the Palestinian people, and as painful and difficult it is, we know that we're going to have to, if we're ever to reach peace, we're going to have to, uh, divide our sacred land, our only homeland in the world, with another people. And that is no small sacrifice. I understand that it's a huge sacrifice for the Palestinians as well, because they understood that this is their homeland. There's really no way around this, Michael, we're going to have to learn to, to live together, to, uh, to divide this homeland and live side by side with one another.

Krasny: Well, some suggest that maybe things will work out for the better now that Iran has, uh, poised itself as such a serious adversary to Israel, because you come in with more common cause with Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the Arab states who are afraid of Iran, and that there can also be, as you indicated, economic interests, particularly with tourist trade. We had a guest on recently who said Israel and the Palestinians can band together in their own economic enhancement by really appealing to the tourist trade and working toward common economic purposes.

I don't know, maybe Krasny's initial question here was a little too bluntly worded and disrespectful to his guest. But he recovered somewhat in the follow-up. We should be relieved that he didn't quote from, say, a judgment of the Israeli Supreme Court: "Background: 1. Since 1967, Israel has been holding the areas of Judea and Samaria [hereinafter - the area] in belligerent occupation."