As a gesture of solidarity with people who know a thing or two about structures both flimsy and fortified, the people celebrating the Sukkot festival in Sderot, I'm linking to Sderot Mom's holiday experience last year.
Backspin's now on break, but I'll be blogging away on Sunday, Oct. 7. Enjoy the flickering candles below; I've been looking for an excuse to use a little gif animation. Happy Sukkot to all our readers.
Except perhaps for dandruff, UCLA Professor Saree Makdisi blames just about all of Gaza's problems on Israel. He writes in the LA Times:
Israel says that its policies in Gaza are designed to put pressure on the Palestinian population to in turn put pressure on those who fire crude home-made rockets from Gaza into the Israeli town of Sderot. Those rocket attacks are wrong. But it is also wrong to punish an entire population for the actions of a few -- actions that the schoolchildren of Gaza and their beleaguered parents are in any case powerless to stop.
It is a violation of international law to collectively punish more than a million people for something they did not do. According to the Geneva Convention, to which it is a signatory, Israel actually has the obligation to ensure the well-being of the people on whom it has chosen to impose a military occupation for more than four decades.
Benny Morris wrote an opposing commentary. Here are some additional points to consider:
• Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip. The well-being of Gaza's population is the responsibility of the Palestinian leadership. Despite Makdisi's assertions about Israeli responsibility, international law isn't clear cut.
• We appreciate Makdisi's condemnation of the Qassams. In the absence of Hamas (or any other Palestinians) curbing the problem, does the professor offer an alternative solution?
• Do the beleaguered Gaza parents who elected Hamas into power have any responsibility for the sorry state of affairs?
The Arabs could learn from Brazil how to treat Palestinian refugees. After the first of 117 fleeing Iraq arrived in Brazil, AFP writes:
Brazil plans to give them identity papers so they will have the same status as Brazilian citizens. They will be enrolled in Portuguese classes and will receive monthly financial aid until they are able to support themselves, officials said.
Join Monday's rally against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia, across from Lerner Hall at W. 116th St.and Broadway (1-3 p.m). Hasbara Fellowships and other organizations are arranging free busses from Brooklyn, Queens, Rutgers and other locations. For more info, see this Facebook events page or the Hasbara Fellowships' web site.
As if Columbia and the UN aren't friendly enough venues, the Iranian president is now scheduled to address the National Press Club via videolink. Diane Sawyer and Mike Wallace can toss softball questions without flying out to Tehran.
UPDATE Sept. 23:60 Minutes is Ahmadinejad's warm up act, where he gets to address the American public tonight
UPDATE Sept. 23: Columbia dean John Coatsworth says the university would certainly invite Hitler to speak:
If he were willing to engage in a debate and a discussion, to be challenged by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him.
The NY Times delivers its own expert opinion on Israel's legal responsibility for Gaza. Despite the fact that Israel's really entering an Unchartered Area of International Law, correspondent Steven Erlanger writes on his own authority:
Under international law, Israel is considered an occupying power in Gaza, even though it has removed its troops and settlers from the territory. Denying civilians access to the necessities of life is considered collective punishment and a violation of international law under both the Hague and Geneva Conventions, although the amounts of resources like electricity considered essential could be subject to dispute.
Nidra Poller fills in details of Philippe Karsenty's appellate hearing and the significance of the judge's order to see the Mohammed Dura video's raw footage.
And mark your calendars: France 2 faces an October 3 deadline to voluntarily hand over the raw footage to the court. A November 14 hearing is scheduled to view it:
Philippe Karsenty has scored a significant victory. The al Dura report has been questioned ever since it was first broadcast seven years ago. The 27-minutes of raw footage have served as a protective shield for Charles Enderlin and France 2—the “proof” that was never presented. Even after reputable journalists had viewed the footage and testified to its nature, it retained its magical quality and was used to discredit anyone who questioned the veracity of the al Dura report.
Today, a French Appelate Court destroyed that magic. The raw footage is forced to enter the sphere of reality, where it will be judged by rational standards.
The Jerusalem Post talked to a few wonks about the cabinet's decision to label the Gaza as a "hostile entity" and its legal responsibility to the Strip:
A source who spoke on condition of anonymity explained that the term "hostile territory" was not a legal concept but rather the description of a practical fact. The government is saying that Gaza has been hijacked by terrorists. Hamas is not the lawful government of a sovereign state but it is effectively in charge. In these circumstances, the Gaza Strip is a "hostile territory."
Why did the government decide to declare it so even though the term has no basis in international law? It was essentially a warning notice to the world that Israel intends to treat the Gaza Strip differently than it has until now and to apply measures it has not used before. . . .
Israel Radio analyst Moshe Negbi pointed out Wednesday that from a legal view, one of Israel's major problems with the international community regarding Gaza is that international law does not address the war of a sovereign country against terrorists. The laws of war deal almost exclusively with regular armies fighting one another. There are no international rules of the game for a war against terrorism. Unless and until that changes, Israel essentially has not choice but to create its own laws, for better or for worse.
The judge hearing Philippe Karsenty's appeal wants to see France 2 TV's unreleased raw footage filmed the day Mohammed Dura was "shot." Nidra Poller of Pajamas Media writes:
Appelate Court Presiding judge Laurence Trébucq has demanded that France 2 hand over the 27-minutes of raw footage shot on the afternoon of September 30, 2000 by Talal Abu Rahmeh. France 2 lawyer Maïtre Bénédicte Amblard tried to convince the judge that the request was not appropriate, relevant, necessary or even advisable. But the judge wants to see the outtakes with her own eyes. This is the first time the French court has made such a demand that would be normal in the US system. The court will now be able to determine if the Al Dura shooting and tape was a fake, as many have alleged.
Maître Amblard was not able to reach her clients to confirm availability of the footage. Today’s hearing was adjourned. The next hearing is scheduled on November 14th… to view the raw footage.
Related reading: Joel Mowbray calls for the raw footage to be made public.
Israel's cabinet brands Gaza an "enemy entity." Here's the BBC's reaction:
Correspondents say that by formally declaring Gaza "hostile", Israel could argue that it is no longer bound by international law governing the administration of occupied territory to supply utilities to its 1.5 million inhabitants.
But the current position is that, under international law, Israel remains legally responsible for the coastal strip, despite withdrawing two years ago, because it still controls Gaza's borders, air space and territorial waters.
Does international law really hold, as the BBC asserts, Israel legally responsible for administering Gaza?
A new virulent strain of the old anti-Semitism is spreading worldwide. This hate — of a magnitude not seen in more than 70 years — is not just espoused by Iran's loony president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or radical jihadists. The latest anti-Semitism is also now mouthed by world leaders and sophisticated politicians and academics. Their loathing often masquerades as "anti-Zionism" or "legitimate" criticism of Israel. But the venom exclusively reserved for the Jewish state betrays existential hatred.
Israel is always lambasted for entering homes in the West Bank to look for Hamas terrorists and using too much force. But last week the world snoozed when the Lebanese army bombarded and then crushed the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, which harbored Islamic terrorists.
The world has long objected to Jewish settlers buying up land in the West Bank. Yet Hezbollah, flush with Iranian money, is now purchasing large tracts in southern Lebanon for military purposes and purging them of non-Shi'ites.
Here at home, "neoconservative" has become synonymous with a supposed Jewish cabal of Washington insiders who hijacked U.S. policy to take us to war for Israel's interest. That our State Department is at the mercy of a Jewish lobby is the theme of a recent high-profile book by professors at Harvard University and the University of Chicago.
Yet when the United States bombed European and Christian Serbia to help Balkan Muslims, few critics claimed American Muslims had unduly swayed President Clinton. And charges of improper ethnic influence are rarely used to explain the billions in American aid given to nondemocratic Egypt, Jordan or the Palestinians — or the Saudi oil money that pours into U.S. universities.
In response to Harvard Professor J. Lorand Matory's missive in The Crimson, we state:
Free speech is part and parcel of healthy, vibrant democracy. Not all criticism of Israel stems from anti-Semitism. Criticism of Zionism is certainly legitimate.
However, some criticism of Zionism does stem from anti-Semitism. How can one tell? Denying Jewish nationhood or Jewish rights to a homeland is anti-Semitic. It crosses the line just as denying Japanese nationhood or Japanese rights to a homeland would brand someone as anti-Japanese.
No matter many Jewish or Zionist friends a well-meaning person has, millions of Jews will die if Palestinian terror organizations succeed in their oft-stated efforts to create a Palestinian state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
Reviewing Walt and Mearsheimer's book, Lee Smith asks:
But here is one sticking point among many that Walt and Mearsheimer cannot account for: If realism holds that states act rationally in pursuit of their own interests, then how did Washington get away with acting irrationally for forty years? Either Washington has not acted irrationally, or Walt and Mearsheimer’s realist model is irrational, or both.
With Philippe Karsenty's legal appeal to be heard in Paris on Wednesday, the IDF is now demanding that France 2 TV provide 27 minutes of unedited Mohammed Dura footage for the army's examination. The Jerusalem Post writes:
The IDF is in urgent need of the footage, Am-Shalom said, because "it has been asked to comment on the ruling [against Karsenty] from October 19, 2006, on this issue, which is scheduled to be discussed in a French appellate court on September 19."
"Since we are cognizant of the fact that there have been attempts to stage media events, and since doubt has been raised along these lines regarding the story under discussion, we asked to receive the aforementioned materials in order to conclude this episode and to get to the truth," Am-Shalom said.
Australian parliamentarian Michael Danby slammed the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age for their coverage of Israel. His commentary was published in the Australian Jewish News—which hasn't updated its web site yet. However, The Australian picked up on Danby's broadside:
The newspaper yesterday ran a news story, an opinion piece by Labor's Member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, and two cartoons all lambasting Fairfax titles.
"The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are highly influential newspapers, and their systematic anti-Israel bias has a real effect on public opinion in Australia," Mr Danby writes in AJN.
Mr Danby is particularly critical of The Age's editor-in-chief, Briton Andrew Jaspan.
"Under its current editor, The Age's liberalism has morphed into a peculiar sort of bitter and twisted extremism, borrowed from UK paper The Guardian."
This Boston Globe staff-ed wants to see both Syria and Hamas invited to the upcoming Mideast peace summit.
And the spoilers in the region, Hamas and Syria, will have to be brought inside the peace tent - if not by Israel and the United States, then by Abbas, the Saudis, and the other Arab states. Otherwise, it will be too easy for them to stage the sort of provocation that has subverted the chances for peace in the past.
Syrian and Hamas participation in the planned peace summit only allows other spoilers like Iran and North Korea to deep six any peace plans.
On a slow news day, count on the BBC for important, hard-hitting coverage. Correspondent Ian Pannell writes:
For weeks now Cairo has been full of rumours about the president's health, or lack of it….
The media love to ruminate about and rehearse for the death of important figures - monarchs, religious leaders, actors - and of course presidents.
The other reason this story proved hard to resist was because it happened in the 'silly season', that time of year when very little happens in the world - when people go on holiday - including presidents.
But papers must publish and the media must broadcast.
So the threshold for what constitutes a real story plummets.
Where was Pannell during Mubarak's photo-op on Thursday?
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (L) speaks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (R) during their meeting in Cairo September 13, 2007. REUTERS/Nasser Nuri (EGYPT)
UPDATE Sept. 17: On the other hand, Time points out that the rumors are touching a raw nerve with the Mubarak regime:
Two days earlier, a state security prosecutor charged the editor for threatening Egyptian security and interests by publishing articles alleging that the 79-year-old Mubarak's health had become shaky. . . .
Bottom line: as Mubarak inevitably ages and speculation naturally increases about his eventual successor, the government will brook no press freedom that threatens efforts to engineer an orderly transition. Stability, after all, is Mubarak's legacy. Battles between the regime and the press are thus likely to be a regular feature of the news from Egypt in the coming few years.
Traumatized by the Holocaust and perceived insecurity as a Jewish island in an Arab sea, Israelis have immense psychological problems in coming to grips with the practical impossibility of sustaining forever what most of mankind views as a racial-supremacist, settler-colonial regime founded upon the ethnic cleansing of an indigenous population.
What Whitbeck really wants to say is that Jewish aspirations for a national homeland are nuts. But being too inhibited to say so outright, he has to rely on the "racial supremacy" charge. See Professor David Bernstein's response to Whitbeck's logic.
After losing a legal battle with France-2 TV last year over the veracity of the Mohammed Dura video, French media analyst Philippe Karsenty's appeal will be heard on Wednesday.
Karsenty told MediaBackspin editor Pesach Benson by phone he's bringing new evidence to the hearing, evidence he will make available to the public tomorrow. The judge's ruling will be announced about five weeks later.
On his blog, Mark Silva describes the scene at a Walt and Mearsheimer discussion at a D.C. bookstore. This snippet is particularly relevant for today's 9/11 anniversary:
“I will argue that that influence has been largely negative,’’ Mearsheimer said last night –the lobby has pushed U.S. policy in directions that are inimical to the interests of the U.S. American support for Israel over the Palestinians “fuels terrorism against the United States,’’ he argues, citing an “abundance’’ of anecdotal and statistical evidence that Israel’s “brutal’’ treatment of Palestinians has angered large sectors of the Arab world. “Not surprisingly,’’ he says, “that anger fuels terrorism toward the United States.’’
Osama bin Laden has been concerned about the plight of the Palestinians since he was a young man, said Mearsheimer, citing an old interview with the al Qaeda leader.
Contrast that with Norman Podhoretz, who hit the nail on head explaining that Al-Qaida is really at war with the West:
The point is that if Israel had never come into existence, or if it were magically to disappear, the United States would still stand as an embodiment of everything that most these Arabs consider evil. Indeed, the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism.
He's hardly neutral. Memri has a clip of Abourezk recently telling Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV that the Arabs involved in the 9/11 attacks "cooperated with Zionists." So you can see it coming when he describes Walt and Mearsheimer's book as "an excellent exposition."
PA security broke up a press conference at Hebron U. because the student council is affiliated with Hamas:
Eyewitnesses told The Jerusalem Post dozens of policemen belonging to the Presidential Guard and the Preventive Security Force had attacked the participants, firing into the air and beating students and journalists with clubs. . . .
Among the journalists who were beaten, he added, were Mamoun Wazwaz and Yasri al-Jamal of Reuters, Nasser Shayoukhi of The Associated Press, Hazem Bader of Agence France Press and Imad Amayreh, who works for the local Al-Amal TV station.
We're seeing a chlll on Arab journalism. Hamas disbanded the Gaza chapter of the Palestinian journalists' union this week. And a Human Rights Watch press conference in Beirut was recently cancelled due to Hezbollah pressure.
The Washington Post picks up on pychological studies with fascinating implications for media watchdogs and myth busters:
The conventional response to myths and urban legends is to counter bad information with accurate information. But the new psychological studies show that denials and clarifications, for all their intuitive appeal, can paradoxically contribute to the resiliency of popular myths.
This phenomenon may help explain why large numbers of Americans incorrectly think that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in planning the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi. While these beliefs likely arose because Bush administration officials have repeatedly tried to connect Iraq with Sept. 11, the experiments suggest that intelligence reports and other efforts to debunk this account may in fact help keep it alive. . . .
The research also highlights the disturbing reality that once an idea has been implanted in people's minds, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it.
Indeed, repetition seems to be a key culprit. Things that are repeated often become more accessible in memory, and one of the brain's subconscious rules of thumb is that easily recalled things are true.
British columnist Richard Ingrams is entitled to his views on Walt and Mearsheimer, but he’s still responsible to get the facts straight. He wrote in The Independent:
The professors demonstrate that the American invasion in 2003 not only had the support of Israel but also that the overriding aim of those (mostly Jewish) neocons who were urging Bush to invade was to assist Israel by getting rid of its menacing neighbour Saddam Hussein. The issue was stated quite simply by Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said prior to the invasion: "When America succeeds in Iraq, Israel is safer." Unfortunately, it didn't work out like that.
South Africa's ambassador to Israel, Fumanekile Gqiba (pictured) shared his thoughts on "Israeli apartheid" with Joel Pollak:
And when I arrived here, I started to grapple with the reality on the ground, and then I said, "Gee, I have to make a paradigm shift. I have to be objective." I know even some of my comrades don't believe when I say this is one, two and three, they say, "No, no, you are wrong on that." But for me, that has been the reality. Firstly, let's deal with one issue. Where people would say, you know, my belief was that Israel is the extension of the racist, white South Africa. Because that was my understanding before I came here. I regarded Jews as whites. Purely whites. But when I came here I discovered that, no, these guys are not purely whites. They are mixed. It's some kind of a, shall we say, a melting pot. You've got people from all over the world. You've got Indian Jews, you've got African Jews, you've got even Chinese Jews, right?
From Reuters: Egyptian authorities demolished 20 illegally built homes in the Sharm el Sheikh area and plan to raze 1,500 more.
The NGO silence is deafening. According to Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions' own statistics, "about 1900 Palestinian homes have been demolished by the Civil Administration for lack of proper permits" between Sept. 2000-May 2007.
It would take Israel years to demolish same number of homes Egypt intends to destroy. So why is the world's outrage against the destruction of illegally built homes reserved for Israel?
At a Jerusalem press conference later today, Human Rights Watch will release a report criticizing the IDF's attack on Lebanon as "indiscriminate. According to AP:
In a statement issued before the report's release, the human rights organization said there was no basis to the Israeli claim that civilian casualties resulted from Hizbullah guerrillas using civilians as shields. Israel has said that it attacked civilian areas because Hizbullah set up rocket launchers in villages and towns.
Haaretz columnist Danny Rubinstein justified his recent Israeli "apartheid" comments:
"I am not apologizing for what I said," the Ha'aretz writer told a crowd of about 100 Monday evening at the New North London Synagogue, according to several people in attendance. "People do use the word apartheid in my circles. My newspaper increasingly uses that word. This is nothing new."
"I only started using the word apartheid recently after Jimmy Carter's book, though I didn't like the book," Rubinstein said, referring to "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."
And let’s go back to the aside in that last quote – the claim that the residents of Sderot are “the only civilians in Israel sharing the Palestinian experience of life under siege”. If the people of Gaza are under siege it’s because they’ve thrown their lot in with murderous extremists dedicated to the destruction of Israel, who murder their opponents and crush any sign of dissent. The people of Sderot, for their part, are under siege because those extremists want to kill as many of them as they can.