Saturday, November 17, 2007

Israel Hatred in Cornwall

Irrational, visceral hatred of Israel can show up in the most unlikely places. I was recently contacted by someone living in Cornwall who was dismayed by the biased, anti-Israel hate messages posted by one member of that community in what was supposed to be a civilized discussion group.

I decided to take a look for myself. A period went by with no messages pertaining to Israel, but one anti-Israel message was posted yesterday. I decided to respond and and suddenly the message board was dominated by attacks on Israel and personal attacks on me. Alan Dershowitz, ADL, AIPAC and Campus Watch were also attacked. I spent Saturday night responding to those attacks.

The discussion group is hosted by Yahoo (it's one of the YahooGroups) and the messages can all be found at You can also read my Saturday night responses here.

The entire thread is available, at least for now, on the PRIMER web site.

Amazing! Part I

It's amazing how one person injecting a little balance after an anti-Israel post can set off a chain reaction. It's a tribute to how irrational some of the Israel-haters are.

I'm going to respond in a separate post to many of the misleading arguments of the lynch mob, but first I'll point out the basic asymmetry both of the Arab-Israeli conflict and of the arguments between supporters of Israel and the Israel-haters.

(It actually took six long posts to deal even superficially with the errors and deceptions in the posts I saw when I started writing this. I apologize for the quantity, but I do hope those who are not fanatically anti-Israel will have an open mind and check out the reality for themselves rather than being misled by the kinds of gross distortions I'm responding to.)

In the Arab-Israeli conflict, the basic goal of Israel is to live in peace. There are disagreements within Israel about how much in the way of concessions peace is worth, or whether any concessions can induce its Arab enemies, including the Palestinian Arabs, to agree to peace, but except for a tiny fringe, everyone wants peace and does not want to have any control over the lives of their Arab neighbors.

In contrast, the goal of Israel's Arab and Muslim enemies (it used to be just Arab enemies, but the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran changed that situation) is the elimination of Israel.

When it comes to the debate here, the supporters of Israel are just that, pro-Israel. We are not anti-Palestinian Arab; indeed, many are also pro-Palestinian. I personally have no problem with the Palestinian Arabs setting up whatever type of entity they want in whatever parts of the unallocated portions of the Palestine Mandate they ultimately gain control of if they ever end their drive to destroy Israel and negotiate a peace agreement.

In contrast, most people on the other side isn't really pro-Palestinian; they're just anti-Israel. If they were really interested in the welfare of the Palestinian Arabs, they'd urge the Palestinian Authority leadership to start adhering to the commitments they made back in 1993 and work towards a reasonable compromise with Israel, rather than continuing their rejectionism and love affair with terrorism that actually harms the Palestinian Arabs far more than it harms Israel.

I'll also mention the irony of the post by Gale Toensing that I originally responded to: The Jews she was referring to are probably on the same side she is, albeit for different reasons. Many of the religious fanatics in Mea Shearim are anti-Zionist and refuse to recognize the legitimacy of their own government, believing Jews do not have the right to re-establish their own state in Eretz Yisrael until the coming of th Messiah.

And if I made the mistake of walking in that area wearing shorts on Shabbat, I'd be lucky if they merely spit on me; more likely, they'd throw stones at me. They're nuts, like most other anti-Zionists.

In other words, Gale, you picked the wrong example.

--Alan Stein
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Amazing! Part II

Now I'll start responding to some of the distortions in various posts. Please forgive me for not responding to all of them, but I only have a finite amount of time and it generally takes more time to respond to distortions and misinformation than to make them up in the first place.

Gale erroneously and in a juvenile manner refers to Alan "Islamo-fascism Awareness Week" and "Torture can be Justified" Dershowitz.

To the best of my knowledge, Dershowitz had nothing to do with Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.

If Gale actually paid attention to what Dershowitz said, she'd know that Dershowitz if fanatically opposed to torture. He recently explained his position against torture at a seminar of the Yale Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism. (Incidentally, to give an example of how much hate Israel-bashers have, they picketed the Yale Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism.)

Dershowitz even opposes torture in ticking bomb situations, on the grounds that if torture is ever allowed it will be abused. Personally, if torturing one terrorist would save hundreds of lives on a plane carrying a bomb, I myself would prefer saving those innocent lives, but Dershowitz disagrees.

What he has argued, which has led Israel-haters to falsely claim he supports torture, is that we're not going to succeed in preventing torture by outlawing it. That being the case, we should force out government to conduct all torture out in the open, ultimately authorized by the president. He believes (and I believe he's correct) any president would be extremely reluctant to publicly authorize torture and this would all but eliminate torture. Certainly, the abuses at Abu Ghraib would never have occurred if our leaders had to publicly authorize them.

Gale is correct that "You can tell a lot about a person by the company he or she keeps or defends." She mentions Alan Dershowitz, Campus Watch and ADL, falsely implying they are all evil. But I do thank Gale for associating me with each of them.

I don't keep company with Alan Dershowitz, although I did go to hear him speak, and he doesn't need anyone to defend him. He's an able lawyer and well able to defend himself.

I personally believe Campus Watch sometimes overreacts, but they are generally responsibly responding to a legitimate problem: not just a lack of balance on many college campuses, but the irresponsible prevention of activities to redress that balance and effectuate the free flow of ideas which is the basic justification of academic freedom.

I do have some personal connections with the Anti-Defamation League and am proud to be connected with that organization, one of the oldest and justifiably most respected civil rights organizations in this country, indeed, in the world. In Connecticut, it is probably the most active and effective organization protecting the civil rights of all our residents.

The fact that some people try to malign ADL is a measure of just how much hate Israel-bashers have. As a civil rights organization, ADL naturally supports the right of the Jewish people to have their own state living in peace, but that is just a small part of its agenda. Still, when ADL talks, people listen precisely because of its well-deserved reputation. It is for this very reason that people who hate Israel try to malign ADL.

--Alan Stein
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Amazing! Part III

John Miller correctly, albeit ungrammatically, wrote "It looks like we have a local (CT) AIPAC with us in the person of Stein."

He is incorrect in writing "These guys will stop at nothing to silence and discredit anyone who has ANY sympathy for the Palestinians or who thinks anything the Israelis do is bad."

I, for one, have plenty of sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs but have no interest in silencing or discrediting myself.

The lot of the Palestinian Arabs is a miserable one and it's impossible for any feeling person to fail to sympathize. That, however, does not change the reality that their plot is primarily a result of their own actions and the actions of their Arab brethren.

I suggest that, rather than bashing Israel, those who actually care about the Palestinian Arabs try to do something to help them.

One start would be pressuring the Palestinian Authority to move them out of refugee camps and into real communities. It's telling that almost all the Palestinian Arabs in the disputed territories, approximately 95 percent of them, live in areas which have been under the administration of the Palestinian Authority for more than a decade. Yet, in all that time, not a single refugee camp has been closed.

The reason is pretty clear: the Palestinian Arab leadership would prefer to have their own people living in squalor than to give up what they recognize as a potent weapon in their drive to destroy Israel.

By the way, I also have no interest in trying to discredit Alan Dershowitz, even though he had some pretty brutal things to say about Israel a few weeks ago when I went to listen to him.

Speaking of Alan Dershowitz, one thing he pointed out, which is ignored by the blind mice following Norman Finkelstein, is that DePaul University is no less than the fifth university at which he's failed to earn tenure. His problem earning tenured isn't because he hates Israel; it's because he's a third rate scholar.

--Alan Stein
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Amazing! Part IV

Jane mentioned "From what John and Gale both say, and I respect their opinions enourmously, there's not much good that can be said for Israel."

That alone should make you suspicious of what they say. In the meantime, I'll mention a few good things that can be said for Israel. (I'll also mention some things that aren't so good about Israel.)

In a tiny country, surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction, the Israelis have built a vigorous democracy. They are the only nation in that area that truly is a democracy. They are the only country in that area that, with one exception, gives equal legal rights to all its citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity. (The exception is that Arabs aren't forced to serve in the army, an exception that has some negative consequences for them since many of the relationships that lead to successful careers start in the army. On the other hand, they don't get killed fighting terrorists. Some religious Jews are also exempted from army service, for even less acceptable reasons than Arabs.)

Israel is the only country in the world which has ever brought in Africans to freedom. Israel is the only country I know of which won a war and then sued for peace. (Unfortunately, forty years and numerous concessions later, it still hasn't succeeded in inducing its enemies to make peace.)

Israel quietly shares the knowledge it has gained producing farm products in an arid environment with African nations, trying to help them increase production and reduce food shortages.

(You may want to take a look at , a web site which describes many of the non-political aspects of Israel, many of which greatly benefit everyone.)

On the negative side, there is discrimination is Israel. (Not surprising; there's discrimination everywhere.) Arab villages and towns are generally shortchanged when it comes to government services. This is both morally wrong and shortsighted, although not surprising. (Essentially the same thing happens here: can anyone name a poor, minority neighborhood getting the same level of services as a middle class neighborhood?)

There is conflict between religious and secular Jews, with non-Orthodox Jews actually having less control of their religious affairs than Muslims, Christians and others.

The army has attained a status that is unhealthy in a democracy, with almost every retired Chief-of-Staff immediately entering politics. This is natural, given the reality that Israel has been fighting for its existence ever since its re-establishment, but is still unhealthy.

The environment has often been neglected. (A few years ago, during opening ceremonies for the Maccabiah Games, a bridge collapsed and some of the athletes who fell into a river died, not by drowning but from the poisons in the river.)

Jane also wrote "IN the meantime, I'm sorry to have welcomed Mr. Stein to the CCN, sorry he's a deceitor, and sorry I'm so easily taken in. But, I'm glad there's the voice of all of you on CCN to keep me on the straight and narrow path of reason."

I'm sorry Jane incorrectly believes I'm a (I think she means) deceiver. I'm also sorry she's so easily taken in.

I personally worry about people who worry about being kept on "straight and narrow path of reason," particularly when they're implying I'm trying to mislead them, but mostly because most things are complicated and certainly there are all sorts of grey in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

I also find it interesting that charges that supporters of Israel keep making charges of anti-Semitism come up far, far more often than actual charges of anti-Semitism. I personally avoid charging anyone with anti-Semitism unless the charge is undeniable. I just double-checked the messages I'd posted here because I didn't recall even mentioning anti-Semitism and couldn't find any mention. (Obviously, I won't be able to make the same claim in the future.) Yet charges that supporters of Israel keep charging anti-Semitism were made in several messages.

--Alan Stein
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Amazing! Part V

Paul said: "I am not an expert on the subject--but when a group of well financed "others" descend on a country that they say God gave them 4 or 5 thousand years ago--there is going to be a problem--whatever the good intention was the intrusion was not handled well--that is the problem."

That might be a problem if it happened, but it didn't. Few of the early Zionist pioneers were religious; many were atheists.

The Zionist claim to, er, Zion is based on the fact that it has always been the homeland of the Jewish people. There was also recognition that the land needed to be shared, since there were other people there, too. Thus, the Zionists (albeit reluctantly) agreed to every proposal to partition the land, including the severing of Transjordan (now Jordan) from the western portion of Palestine, the Peel Commission's plan and the United Nation's Partition Plan. All the bloodshed of the last six decades would have been avoided had the Arabs joined the Jews in their willingness to compromise and share the land.

--Alan Stein
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Amazing! Part VI

Brian Savin said: "Your assertion of fair business negotiation in the 'sale' of Arab land in Israel at that time and under those circumstances is at best naive and at worst can be attacked as dishonest."

Personally, I don't believe land is "Arab" or "Israeli." Also, at the time I was referring to, the land was not in Israel, although it was in Eretz Yisrael and most of it is now in Israel.

Ironically, you are correct that the negotiations for the sale of land weren't really fair, but for the wrong reasons. They weren't fair because the Jews were desperate and the Arab owners knew it. Thus, Jews wound up paying exorbitant prices, well above fair market value, for marginal lands.

Brian also said: "As a practical matter, in my opinion, your posts can only exacerbate strong negative feelings in a difficultly confused situation. Kill it."

It seems to me that it would be difficult to exacerbate the negative feelings expressed by the fanatical Israel-bashers here. To paraphrase the first President Bush, I seem to be just one lonely guy trying to insert a minimal amount of balance and sanity here. Frankly, I don't expect to have any effect on the irredentist Israel-bashers, but do hope to encourage those without closed-minds to check the facts out for themselves and also encourage other supporters of the only multi-cultural democracy in the Middle East.

And, finally, Brian wrote: "If you want to be persuasive, I suggest you start by reading President Carter's book, and graduate from there to the many works of current Israeli Arab professors."

Funny Brian should mention that. I've read Carter's book and was amazed at how many blatant factual errors he included, errors he could not have been unaware of. There have been volumes written about the errors and bias in his book, which he should be ashamed of.

It's noteworthy that the first executive director of the Carter Institute, a man who previously was a co-author with Carter and an admirer of him, resigned his position as Middle East Fellow at the Carter Institute to protest the bias and inaccuracies in the book. No fewer than fourteen other advisors to the Carter Center resigned, saying they had "been proud to be associated" with the center and its work, but could "no longer in good conscience continue to serve the center as members of the Board of Councilors."

The former director, Kenneth Stein (no relation), described Carter's book as being "replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments." He also wrote "there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book."

One book I would recommend to those with open minds is "The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control," written by Abe Foxman, the executive director of the Anti-Defamation League. It not only covers a small portion of the errors in Carter's book, but the absurd accusations in the paper and book aby John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.

--Alan Stein
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A Question for Gale and Other Israel-Bashers

Do you believe the Jewish people have the right, like other peoples, to their own state?

If so, what do you think Israel could do differently to induce its Arab enemies, including the Palestinian Arabs, to agree to live in peace? Do you think the Arab states and the Palestinian Arabs should be acting differently in any way?

If not, are you generally against nationalism, and thus, for example, against the existence of the United States of America, Great Britain, the Islamic Republic of Iran and other nation-states, or are you just applying a double standard to the Jewish people?

--Alan Stein
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