Sunday, July 27, 2008

More Hatred in Cornwall

Last November, PP had joined the "Cornwall Community Network" group on Yahoo after being requested to help out by a Cornwall resident unhappy about way the forum was being used to unfairly bash Israel.

PP didn't last long in that group, quickly getting banished for the crime of writing balanced posts that sometimes also pointed out blatant lies. Some of those experiences are chronicled both on the PRIMER blog (Israel Hatred in Cornwall and Hypocrisy in Cornwall) and on the PRIMER web site.

PP still hears about the Israel-bashing has since been going merrily on.

The connection between opposition to Israel and anti-Semitism has been documented, which is not surprising since it's common sense that the overwhelming majority of criticism of Israel is motivated by anti-Semitism even though it's generally difficult to be sure about specific instances.

One of the recent posts made me think about that connection, even though the post was only indirectly a criticism of Israel; the direct (illegitimate) target of the post was a United States Senator.

Here are excerpts from some of the recent posts, along with some comments. Cornwall Community Forum posts are generally signed, but the email addresses given are always incomplete.

Anyone living in the Cornwall area, and thus being immune from being kicked off on the pretext of not living there, is encouraged to join the group and insert some sanity.

"Scoville Soule" <scoville.soule@...> wrote:

Leberman (sic) is more an Israeli than he is a US citizen. He's a one man fifth column. I'm not sure we'd want him in US uniform.

[Although the name was spelled incorrectly, the writer was impugning the patriotism of Senator Joseph Lieberman. The assertion is a classic anti-Semitic canard.

One can disagree with positions of government leaders in an appropriate manner; this post does not qualify. It also violates Yahoo's guidelines under which users agree to not "upload, post, email, transmit or otherwise make available any Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable."

It also violates the condition "No personal attacks, or profanity will be allowed" specifically specified in the guidelines of the Cornwall Community Network itself.]

[Based on the similarities in their email addresses, it's likely that the poster of the following is related to Scoville Soule.

The murderer referred to is Samir Kuntar, who along with several other live terrorists and the bodies of other terrorists who generally had died while carrying out attacks against Israel, was recently released by Israel. Kuntar is one of the most despicable Arab terrorists, who after murdering Danny Haran switched his attention to his four year old daughter Einat, murdering her by smashing her skull with his rifle.

This horrendous act is implicitly condoned by the writer.]

Martha Loutfi <mfscoville@...> wrote:

Sure no one (recognized country or otherwise) has a monopoly on bad stuff. But the murderer you refer to was 16 at the time and has been in prison for about 30 years. They are also returning nearly 200 bodies of people they've killed. Point is, it's not symmetrical, except in an asymmetric calculus.

[This one's almost funny: Gale Toensing praises Hamas!]

"Gale Courey Toensing" <gtoensing@...> wrote:

I would expect nothing less of the Hamas leadership. They are overall honest and their word is good and they are trying to keep the ceasefire agreement they made with Israel, despite continuous violations by Israel both in Gaza, where they killed a teenager the other day, and in the West Bank where they've increased their illegal activities on the slimey and hypocritcal ground that the ceasefire only applies to Gaza (that's how much the Zionists want peace).

[Illegal activities = saving lives by preventing terrorists from murdering civilians.

The so-called cease-fire, in which Israel ceases defensive measures in Gaza but the terrorists keep firing Kassams and mortars at Israel, is explicitly only concerning Gaza. Arab terror activities continue unabated in Judea and Samaria.

The teenager approached Israel in the manner a terrorist would and ignored repeated requests to stop. Confronted with what appeared to be a terrorist preparing to attack, the Israelis defended themselves.]

The guys they detained, remember, are members of the FATAH resistance -- Abbas's guys -- not members of the Hamas resistance, who pretty much packed up and went home shortly after the ceasefire began on June 19.

[Actually, the Hamas terrorists are busy bringing arms into Gaza, preparing for the day when they decide to stop pretending there's a cease-fire and resume full-scale terror attacks.]

This raises the question: Are the FATAH resistance getting instructions from Ramallah to keep firing rockets at Israel in order to destablize -- or ruin -- the ceasefire? The ceasefire was a huge political victory for Hamas. Despite everything the US/Israeli government has thrown at them, Hamas is still supported by the majority of Palestinians who DEMOCRATICALLY elected them (which is more than can be said for the George Bush presidency) because they are not corrupt and on the take like the higher echelons of Fatah.

[The fact that the Palestinian Arabs support a terror group like Hamas simply shows they aren't interested in peace.]

Hamas has been urignunity between them and Fatah all year and Abbas finally said he wanted to do unity talks, as if it had been his idea, but so far nothing he hasn't made any moves to actually have unity talks, probably because soon after his announcement, the Dragon Lady US Sec of State went over and threatened to kill his eldest son. I speak metaphorically, of course, but not so much.

[PP isn't a huge fan of Condoleeza Rice, who keeps pressuring Israel to make unreciprocated concessions, but Toensing's language is inappropriate.]

[The "best" is saved for last. We include excerpt without comment, since it would take several lifetimes to point out and correct all the lies, misrepresentations and distortions in the rest of this particular post, except to note the "respected Israeli historians" she cites are hardly deserving of respect.]

"Gale Courey Toensing" <gtoensing@...> wrote:

No, I don't concede that at all, John. Israel is a rogue state that was born in terrorism, land theft, and ethnic cleansing. Just about everything in the "conventional wisdom" about that "country" is bs that has been and continues to be churned out by the Zionist propaganda machine. We are all so brainwashed by it. This is what the respected Israeli historians have to say:

Zionist Myth No. XXX: The Arabs started the 1967 war

Israel and Israel alone started the 1967 war. It did so having rebuffed and circumvented attempts at international mediation, and fully aware both that it was under no threat, and of its overwhelming military superiority.

The course of events :

In May 1967, Egypt sent a number of troops into the Sinai area, bordering Israel, asking the UN troops to pull out. On 22 May, it closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. Two weeks later, on 5 June, Israel launched an aerial attack on Egyptian airfields. Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, which had mutual defense pacts, attacked targets inside Israel in retaliation; within two hours the air forces of the first three had been completely destroyed. Jordan attacked with ground troops, shelling Israeli towns with artillery fire and occupying Government House in Arab East Jerusalem. Israel then drove the Jordanians out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, occupying them by the 7 June. On 9 June Israel attacked Syria and occupied the Golan Heights. In the words of Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, the war "was the most spectacular military victory in Israel's history." (Shlaim, p. 241)

What led up to the war?

Constant Israeli brinkmanship and provocation form the context of the years leading up to June 1967. In the words of then minister of defence Moshe Dayan, released posthumously, Israeli policy on the Syrian border between 1949 and 1967 consisted of "snatching bits of territory and holding on to it until the enemy despairs and gives it to us."

Concerning border incidents in the Golan Heights, he goes on: "I know how 80 percent of the clashes there started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let's talk about 80 percent. It went this way: We would send a tractor to plow someplace where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also ." (Rami Tal, "Moshe Dayan: Soul Searching," Yediot Aharonot, 27 April 1997, cited Shlaim, pp. 235-6)

One such incident in early April 1967 resulted in a major aerial engagement between Israeli and Syrian planes. Six of the latter were shot down - one over Damascus, causing a public humiliation for the Syrians.

On the Egyptian border, according to E. L. M. Burns, chief of staff of UN forces in the Middle East in the mid-1950s, Israel's raid on Gaza in 1955 (which killed 38 soldiers and civilians) was the "decisive event" that "set a trend which continued until Israel invaded the Sinai in October 1956." Before this, "the facts did not indicate . a critical situation". (E. L.

M. Burns, Between Arab and Israeli, London 1962, pp. 17-18; cited Finkelstein, p. 124)

A similar provocation against Jordan took place in November 1966, when 4,000 Israeli soldiers attacked Samu in the West Bank, "destroying 125 homes, a clinic, a school, and a workshop" (Finkelstein, p. 124), and killing 18 Jordanian soldiers. The public justification for this action was to prevent Palestinian infiltration - though at the time "the Jordanian authorities did all they possibly could to stop infiltration," according to Odd Bull, chief of staff of UN forces at the time, including shutting down Palestine Liberation Organization offices in Amman, arresting most of its staff, and frequently killing Palestinians attempting to enter Israel (with notably more success than Israel's reprisals). (Odd Bull, War and Peace in the Middle East, London 1976, p. 61; Finkelstein, p. 125)

The immediate provocation was provided by Yitzhak Rabin who, in an interview in May 1967, was alleged to have threatened to overthrow the Syrian regime; similar threats were issued against Syria by the Israeli chief of military intelligence, of a "military action of great size and strength", and by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, that Israel "may have to teach Syria a sharper lesson than that of 7 April." (Finkelstein, pp. 125-6; Shlaim pp. 236-7)

Syria also supplied Egypt with Soviet-gleaned intelligence of Israeli troop movements on Israel's northern border. The accuracy of this has been contested, but Israeli General Ezer Weizman was later to remark, "Don't forget that we did move tanks to the north after the downing of the aircraft." (Ot (Israeli weekly), 1 June 1972; cited Hirst, p. 342)

In the face of these provocations, President Nasser of Egypt felt his standing within the Arab world declining, and was under pressure to give a show of strength in order to placate public opinion.

Was blockading the Straits of Tiran a reasonable casus belli?

Nasser's action frankly pales utterly in comparison with previous Israeli shows of strength.

Nor was his blockade of Tiran "an attempt at strangulation," as Abba Eban described it.

(Philo & Berry, p. 30) As David Hirst notes,

"Economically, the closure of the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli ships, and ships of other nations bound for Eilat with strategic materials, would have had little immediate impact.

Only 5 per cent of Israel's foreign trade went through Eilat; oil from Iran was the main strategic material, but Israel could easily get that through Haifa."


"What damage the closure might have done would have been offset by President Johnson's reported offer - designed to stay Israel's hand - to maintain its economic viability." (Hirst, p. 333)

Indeed, according to the UN Secretariat, "not a single Israeli-flagged vessel had used the port of Eilat in the previous two and a half years." (Finkelstein, p. 139)

Nor was there any legal issue. The Israelis' claim to right of passage through the Straits (which the Egyptians insisted fell inside their own territorial waters) was "based on possession of a thin sliver of coastline," as Hirst notes, "and this itself had been secured, on the Israelis' own admission, by 'one of those calculated violations [of the ceasefire] which we had to carefully weigh against the political risks'. That was in 1949 . when, in defiance of a UN-sponsored ceasefire, an Israeli patrol thrust southward to the Arab hamlet and police post of Um Rashrash, expelling its inhabitants and founding the port of Eilat in its place." (Hirst, p. 334; Kirk, George E., "The Middle East 1945-1950", Survey of International Affairs, 1939-1946, Oxford Univsersity Press, 1954, p. 29)

Defending the state from destruction?

The idea quickly became widespread in Israel that the very existence of the state was being threatened. As Israeli historian Avi Shlaim comments, "During this period the entire nation succumbed to a collective psychosis. The memory of the Holocaust was a powerful psychological force that deepened the feeling of isolation and accentuated the perception of threat. Although, objectively speaking, Israel was much stronger than its enemies, many Israelis felt that their country faced a threat of imminent destruction." (Shlaim, p. 238)

The reason he adduces, that "weak leadership was largely responsible for permitting this panic to spread from the politicians to the people at large," is generous but misleading:

this sense of hysteria, as Hirst notes, also spread to the US and Europe: "Genocide, Munich, the Arab Nazis, Nasser-the-new-Hitler - these, the most emotive and virulent slogans in Western political vocabulary, rang around Europe and America in late May and early June of 1967." (Hirst pp. 335-6) Furthermore, various Israeli leaders were aggressively promoting this view. Substantially the reason, then as now, was the Israeli leaders' propaganda, not their "weak leadership". Then Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol, for instance, subsequently took the lead in promoting this line of rhetoric when he claimed that "the existence of the Israeli state hung on a thread, but the hopes of the Arab leaders to exterminate Israel were brought to nought." (Kapeliouk, Amnon, Le Monde, 3 June 1972, cited Hirst, p. 336) Similarly, Abba Eban maintained that fiction from that day forward. "The choice was to live or perish," he told the UN General Assembly, "to defend the national existence or to forfeit it for all time." (cited Finkelstein, p. 123)

Eban's mendacity is particularly egregious in light of the fact that it was he himself who was sent as envoy to the US, where President Johnson "told Eban" to his face "that it was the unanimous view of his military experts that there was no sign that the Egyptians were planning to attack Israel and that if they did attack, the Israelis would 'whip the hell out of them'." (Shlaim pp. 139-40)

This was naturally well known among Israel's government and military leadership. As Israeli General Matitiahu Peled was later to put it, "There is no reason to hide the fact that since 1949 no one has dared, or more precisely, no one was able, to threaten the very existence of Israel. In spite of that, we have continued to foster a sense of our own inferiority, as if we were a weak and insignificant people, which, in the midst of an anguished struggle for its existence, could be exterminated at any moment. . it is notorious that the Arab leaders themselves, thoroughly aware of their own impotence, did not believe in their own threats. . I am sure that our General Staff never told the government that the Egyptian military threat represented any danger to Israel or that we were unable to crush Nasser's army, which, with unheard-of foolishness, had exposed itself to the devastating might of our army. . To claim that the Egyptian forces concentrated on our borders were capable of threatening Israel's existence not only insults the intelligence of anyone capable of analysing this kind of situation, but is an insult to the Zahal [the Israeli army]." (Peled, Maariv, 24 March 1972, cited Hirst, pp. 336-7)

This claim has been repeatedly reinforced by the admissions of former cabinet members.

"We had a choice," as former prime minister Menachem Begin put it: Egyptian troop concentrations, he contended, "do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him." (cited Finkelstein, pp. 134-5)

Similarly, former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was to remark within a year that "I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it." (Le Monde, 29 February 1968; cited Hirst, p. 337).

Former Commander of the Air Force General Ezer Weizmann claimed there was "no threat of destruction," but that the attack was justified so that Israel could "exist according to the scale, spirit and quality she now embodies." (Ha'aretz, March 29 1972; cited Chomsky, p.


Avoiding the diplomatic option

Israel not only actively avoided diplomatic solutions in May-June 1967, but was ultimately to spectacularly torpedo them with the beginning of its campaign.

UN Secretary-General U Thant attempted to renew diplomatic efforts in late May, proposing a two-week moratorium on the question of the Straits. Egypt assented, a "very significant" move, Thant recalls; but "Israel did not agree to either of these conditions."

(cited Finkelstein, p. 129)

US officials Robert Anderson and Charles Yost also met with Egyptian officials in late May- June, and Nasser seems, from a number of accounts, to have supported World Court arbitration on the Straits of Tiran, as well as arranging for his vice-president to travel to Washington for further negotiations. Before he could make it, however, the Israelis attacked. Then Secretary of State Dean Rusk claims to have been "shocked" and "angry as hell" when the surprise attack was launched, since the Americans felt "we had a good chance to de-escalate the crisis." He recalls:

"They attacked on a Monday, knowing that on Wednesday the Egyptian vice-president would arrive in Washington to talk about re-opening the Strait of Tiran. We might not have succeeded in getting Egypt to reopen the Strait, but it was a real possibility." (Dean Rusk, As I Saw It, New York 1990, pp. 386-7; cited Finkelstein, p. 129)

The real war aims

According to Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, the chief aims of the war, as originally conceived, were to "open the Straits of Tiran, to destroy the Egyptian army in Sinai, and to restore the deterrent power of the IDF." (Shlaim, p. 242)

Finkelstein cites a CIA report which set out Israel's objectives shortly before the war:

"destruction of the center of power in the radical Arab Socialist movement, i.e. the Nasser regime"; "destruction of the arms of the radical Arabs"; and "destruction of both Syria and Jordan as modern states." Most seriously, he notes, "Nasser had openly defied Israel's monopoly on the use of force. . That an Arab leader should even raise the question 'Who is in charge?' was, to Israel, tantamount to a casus belli." (Finkelstein, pp. 142-3

Israel may also have been fulfilling long-held territorial ambitions. Senior cabinet member Yigal Allon, according to Finkelstein, had stressed on the eve of the attack that "in the case of a new war," one of Israel's central aims must be "the territorial fulfilment of the Land of Israel." Ben-Gurion had had wide-ranging plans for Israeli territorial expansion during the 1956 campaign; as Hirst and Finkelstein suggest, the conditions of June 1967 produced an opportunity for Israel to implement them.


David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch. London, Faber, 2003

Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians. London, Pluto Press, 1999

Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. London, Penguin, 2001

Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. London, Verso, 2003

Greg Philo and Mike Berry, Bad News From Israel. London, Pluto Press, 2004

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