Thursday, August 19, 2010

PRIMER Comment & Analysis

The Norwalk Hour has a handful of vicious anti-Israel letter writers. This is a PRIMER Comment: & Analysis written in response to a letter published August 19, 2010.

Letters to The Hour may be sent to

One response submitted will be posted separately.

Quote: "... what Israelis have accomplished with that barren piece of real estate they have occupied since 1948 and at the same time decry the shameful way they have treated the previous occupants."

Comment:: This falsely implies that the Israelis came in from outside and kicked out everyone previously living there, and then illogically criticizes Israel's treatment of those people who supposedly aren't there! It also ignores the fact that the non-Jews who were there prior to the reestablishment of Israel were effectively there only because the previous, Jewish occupants had been kicked out.

Those who left their homes in what is now Israel did so as a consequence of the genocidal war launched by the six invading Arab armies on the day Israel was (not established but) reestablished. With few exceptions, they left their homes of their own volition, in contrast to the roughly 800,000 Jews who were kicked out of their homes in the surrounding Arab countries.

Of the Arab occupants of Palestine, those who remained in Israel are full citizens, with rights equal to those of Israel's Jewish citizens - with the exceptions that they are not required to serve in the army and are not subject to the religious authority of the Orthodox Jewish establishment.

Those who left Israel have indeed been treated horribly, but that treatment has primarily been at the hands of their Arab brethren and their own leaders. Israel had absolutely no involvement in their treatment between 1948 and 1967 and still has no involvement in the treatment of those in the surrounding Arab countries.

(It's worth checking yesterday's Daily Alert , which refers to a New York Times article describing a Lebanese law finally granting Palestinian Arabs the same rights to work as other foreigners, although they are still not allowed to work as engineers, lawyers and doctors, attend public schools, own property or pass on inheritances. The article in The Times may be read at .)

Israel took over the administration of the disputed territories in 1967, at which point the lives of the people living there improved dramatically, as roads, schools and hospitals were built and colleges and universities were finally allowed to open, but control over the lives of almost all Palestinian Arabs in those areas was transferred to the Palestinian Authority in the early years of the Oslo Process.

Quote: "The knee-jerk reaction from (presumably) American citizens over a mismanaged incident in Middle Eastern waters serves to raise more questions about the Israel- United States relationship."

Comment:: The back-handed slap at supporters of Israel was uncalled for, as is the implicit charge of dual loyalties made at the end of the letter.

As is typical, the Israel-hater here and elsewhere accuses Israel and its supporters of that which Israel's opponents are guilty.

The criticism of Israel has been "knee-jerk," while most of the commentaries in support of Israel have been nuanced.

Quote: "'Since the Six- Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel,' as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt put it in their article four years ago for the London Review of Books. One might begin to wonder why this is so, considering that this unquestioning relationship has harmed US Middle Eastern policy toward all the other states in the Middle East."

Comment:: This accusation is frequently made, but is divorced from reality and has been convincingly debunked by many experts, including Barry Rubin as well as Dennis Ross and David Makovsky in their recent book "Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East."

Quote: "One answer is that Israel, located in a hostile neighborhood, is an island of democracy that shares our values. Again, Mearsheimer and Walt question the shared values: 'Unlike the US, where people are supposed to enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship.' Are these shared values when a very large portion of Israel's population is treated as third- class citizens?"

Comment:: This is patently false. In contrast to every other country in the Middle East (Lebanon is far from alone in not allowing Palestinian Arabs to become citizens, even Jordan - which comprises nearly 4/5 of the territory of the Palestine Mandate - does not allow Jews to be citizens or even own property, and the supposedly moderate leaders of the Palestinian Authority insist no Israelis will be allowed to even remain in their homes if it ever agrees to the establishment of another state) citizenship is available to all, with non-Jews comprising approximate a fifth of Israeli citizens and, as noted, enjoying equal rights. The Law of Return does not discriminate against non-Jews; it merely provides an additional and quite reasonable means by which Jews can attain citizenship in their homeland.

Quote: "Another question arises when one notes that the US provides at least $ 3 billion in direct aide to Israel every year and that Israel- unlike requirements placed on other countries that are recipients of US aid- needs to account for only 25 percent of where and how it spends that largesse. A good portion reportedly goes to ensuring that Israel is militarily the most powerful entity in the Middle East."

Comment:: Another bunch of false assertions, along with massive errors of deliberate omission.

Rather than Israel not needing to account for 3/4 of the aid it gets, about 70 percent must be used to buy American military hardware. (See .)

All the assistance Israel gets is military assistance and is effectively dwarfed by both the economic and military aid America gives to Arab states.

Israel receives about $3 billion per year in military assistance. With Egypt getting about $2.2 billion per year, Jordan getting around $400 million per year and even the Palestinian Authority getting about $1 billion per year (see ), the amount of aid given those three de facto states alone is about a half billion a year more than the aid provided to Israel.

Additionally, the United States is planning to sell an additional $60 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia. That amounts to about 20 times the annual military assistance to Israel and is weaponry against which Israel must be prepared to defend itself.

All these amounts are dwarfed by the massive amounts of cash extorted from us, and from other oil-consuming nations, by Saudi Arabia and other members of the OPEC oil cartel. Saudi Arabia is effectively paying us with money it's extorted from us.

Quote: "A more immediately troubling question pops up when one begins to note the undue influence the Israel lobby has on the US government. We have seen how presidential hopefuls must genuflect to AIPAC ( American Israel Public Affairs Committee) before every US election, and how any government official or member of the media who raises even a slight question about the relationship between US and Israel is made to pay dearly for the 'error in judgment.' One small but recent example of effects on the media is the fate suffered by veteran journalist Helen Thomas of the press corps attending the White House. OK, so Helen was careless in her comments, but banishment forever?"

Comment:: The writer misleads re the real revelation of the Thomas incident. Her candid remarks made it clear her biased positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict were based on bigotry. With her many years as a member of the press with what we now know was undeserved respect, she had a tremendous amount of influence. One an only speculate about how much hatred she instilled in other reporters and how much of the misinformation, disinformation and distortion endemic in Middle East reporting effectively originated with the influence of Helen Thomas.

Quote: "Far more serious is the US commitment to go to war against all comers if an intemperate Israeli leader moves unilaterally to attack his neighbors."

Comment:: The writer falsely implies there has been a problem with "intemperate" Israeli leaders arbitrarily attacking innocent neighbors. As is typical, this is the reverse of reality.

Quote: "Then there is the influence AIPAC is quite openly exerting on US College campuses, indoctrinating young campus leaders to the cause of Israel as potential movers and shakers of future US governments."

Comment:: The writer apparently wants to remove basic American rights to supporters of the Middle East's only democracy.

Quote: "It is clear and understandable that any Israeli citizen will do whatever it takes to protect the land he or she claims- rightly or wrongly-- as a birthright."

Comment:: The Jewish connection to Eretz Yisrael goes back more than 3,000 years. None of the other peoples living there at that time has endured as an identifiable entity.

Quote: "However, in the case of AIPAC, which demonstrably has a huge influence on the American government, is it a case of the tail wagging the dog?"

Comment:: All Americans have the right to try to influence their government. AIPAC and its members recognize the shared interests of America and Israel and recognize American support for Israel is in America's best interest. If anything, America has used its influence with Israel to pressure Israel to take steps which have not always been in either Israel's interest or America's interest.

Missing from the writer's missive is any indication of the massive influence of the vast Arab lobby, a lobby which (unlike Israel) does not share core interests with America.

"The American House of Saud, The Secret Petrodollar Connection," by Steven Emerson, is enlightening even though it's 25 years old.

A more recent book, "The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America's Interests in the Middle East," by Mitchell Bard, was published this year. Information may be found at , where it is explained:

"The so-called "Israel Lobby" has been widely denounced and demonized in the media; but its power pales in comparison to the decades-long corruption of American interests by Arab governments. Indeed, for more than seventy years, U.S. policy in the Middle East has been shaped by a misguided emphasis on pleasing and placating the Arab states. This outlook has ensured that the United States pays disproportionate attention to their interests, assisting Arab countries-all of them dictatorial regimes with abysmal human rights records-that do not share our values, and often work to subvert our interests.

"Historically, the Arab lobby consisted of the oil industry, Christian missionaries, and current or former US diplomats. Arabists in the State Department, many of them openly anti-Semitic, tried to prevent America from recognizing Israel in 1948 and since independence have waged a bureaucratic guerrilla war to undermine the alliance that formed between America and the only democracy in the Middle East.

"The most powerful member of the Arab lobby is Saudi Arabia, which has a nearly 80-year relationship with the United States. From the earliest days when American companies discovered oil in the Arabian Peninsula, the Saudis have used a variety of tactics including threats and bribes to coerce U.S. policymakers to ignore their human rights abuses, support of terrorism, and opposition to American interests. Today, the Arab Lobby's goal is feeding America's oil addiction, obtaining more sophisticated weaponry, and weakening our alliance with a democratic Israel."

Quote: The name 'American Israel Public Affairs Committee' raises the question about the placement of its members' primary loyalties- all presumably American citizens. That question is: Would changing the name to 'Israel American Public Affairs Committee' be more representative of the priorities of its members?"

Comment:: This is a thinly veiled attack on the loyalty of American citizens who happen to believe America has more in common with a Western-oriented, multicultural democracy like Israel than it does with regressive and regressive, autocratic and theocratic Arab and Muslim regimes and thugocracies.

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