Saturday, December 31, 2011

Time's Person of the Year 2012: You Read It Here First

A day before 2012 begins, I can already predict with 90% certainty who Time Magazine will choose as Person of the Year 2012. I can't give you a name, but I can give you a title: President-elect of the United States. Here's why:

  • Every president since Franklin Roosevelt, except for the unelected Gerald Ford, has been Time's Person of the Year at least once, either during their presidency or in the election year.
  • Between 1932 and 2008, there have been 20 election years. During half of them, the presidential winner was POY. That includes seven of the last ten election years (since 1972), including the last three in a row.
  • If Obama is defeated, the chances of the president-elect to be POY are even greater. Since 1972, presidential election years in which the winning candidate was not selected by Time were only years when the White House did not switch parties: Ronald Reagan's re-election in 1984, the election of then-VP George H. W. Bush in 1988 and Bill Clinton's re-election in 1996.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Predictions: How Did I Do?

Last January, I wrote a post listing some things I hoped would happen, even if I didn't believe they would, and a list of predictions. My list of fantasies was, well, fantastical, and didn't come true. On the other hand, some of my predictions weren't that far off.

I predicted the Labor Party would leave the Israeli government, but that the coalition will remain strong without it. Of course, I did not see Ehud Barak's abandonment of the party coming. Maybe that's why I was wrong to think the Laborites would hold leadership elections.

I was right about Netanyahu not reaching any peace agreement with the Palestinians or Syrians, unfortunately, though I didn't predict the Syrian riots or the release of Gilad Shalit.

All in all, it was a shitty year. I can't remember the last time a year ended and I didn't think it was a bad year when it comes to world events (rather than my personal life, which isn't bad at all). Perhaps it was 1999? 1994?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jewish Terrorists Are Just Like Palestinian Terrorists

The IDF should be allowed to shoot extremist Jews who attack them. Yesterday, settlers attacked an army base and a group of soldiers, including a brigade commander and his deputy. The deputy was injured when his car was stoned. He would have been justified had he shot those who were putting his life in danger.

Yesterday, a mosque in Jerusalem was torched. Today, police officers trying to arrest people involved in yesterday's incidents were themselves assaulted.

It's time to stop talking and start clamping down on these bastards.

Told You So

Time Magazine announced their Person of the Year 2011. Just as I said they should, they picked "The Protester". Of course, it didn't take a genius to predict this choice. Unlike fiction, reality rarely has an all-encompassing theme. This year it did. No "Year in Review" would be complete without the angry demonstrations around the world.

Good choice, Time! But then again, they didn't really have any other worthy choice, did they?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Denying the Existence of a People

Newt Gingrich's statement about the Palestinians being an invented people is, at the very least, unhelpful. There is no denying that the Palestinians exist now, and it doesn't really matter if they became a national group in 1948 or centuries earlier.

Palestinians are right to be angry at Gingrich. However, they need to take a moment to think about their own hypocrisy. They regularly deny the existence of the Jewish people, claiming that Jews are merely a religious group, not a national one. Even the most moderate Palestinians hold this view, and it is one of the greatest obstacles to peace in the Middle East.

Neither Palestinian or Jewish peoplehood should be denied.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Lieberman Defends Russian Elections

While most of the Western world is questioning whether the recent Russian parliamentary elections were fair, and while Russian protesters are being brutally suppressed, Vladimir Putin has one ally he can depend on. That would be Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who vouched for the election's fairness and democratic practices. He should know, as fellow Yisrael Beitenu member Faina Kirschenbaum was an official foreign observer, and she claims there was nothing wrong with the election.

Lieberman, Kirschenbaum and Putin believe in democracy as the rule of the majority. The rule of the current majority, when they're part of it, that is. Then, the majority can do anything to make sure it stays the majority - starve human rights NGOs of funds, toss out votes cast for the wrong candidates, etc.

Yes, I'm sure the recent Russian elections were a model of democracy. Putinistic democracy. It is a model Lieberman would like to implement in Israel. He, members of his party, members of Likud and even members of Kadima, are working on it as we speak. He won't succeed.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Calling All Israeli Expats

A couple of months ago, I first saw the heavy handed ads calling for Israeli citizens to return home.  A friend had posted them on Facebook, saying he found it disgusting. Many answered with equal dismay - all Israelis, but as far as I know, none living abroad.

What's the problem? In one ad, a child calls his sleeping father with the word "daddy", but the father only wakes up to the Hebrew "Aba". In another, a woman looks at her computer and sees the word "Yizkor" ("Remember"). There's also a yahrzeit candle on the table. Her American boyfriend, unaware that these are symbols of Memorial Day in Israel, doesn't understand why she is sad. The third, most irritating ad, shows a girl having a video chat with her grandparents, who are sitting in front of a Chanukiah (Hanukah Menorah). They ask her what holiday it is and she says it's Christmas. You can watch the first two ads below. The third has been removed from YouTube.

I'm not surprised by the uproar the now discontinued ads caused. I'm just surprised by how long it took Americans to notice it. I'm also perplexed by Immigration Minister Sofa Landver's cluelessness. She doesn't understand why American Jews are offended by something that isn't even aimed at them. Well, Minister Landver, even if they aren't the target audience, they can still see the ads, and at least in the Hannukah/Christmas ad, can interpret the campaign as attacking their own Jewishness.

This teaches us something about official Israeli government ads shown abroad. Whether its the Ministry of Immigration, the Ministry of Tourism or any other agency, ads should also be approved by the Prime Minister and Foreign Ministry, including input from the local embassy and consulates. Someone who knows the local culture should make sure the locals won't find the ads offensive.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Protesters Should Be Time's 2011 People of the Year

It's the last month of the year, which means that Time Magazine will anounce its Person of the Year soon. I can't say that any particular candidate, like Barack Obama or Angela Merkel, seems worthy of the title. An amorphous group, though, just might be: the protesters. The magazine's website suggests the 99% as one of the candidates, but it would be a mistake (and extremely America-centric) to choose only that particular movement, especially since they are one of the less influential protest movements that were active during 2011.

This was the year of protesters around the word, on every continent, except for Antarctica. People unhappy with the economic and/or dictatorial status quo took to the streets of Spain, Greece, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Chile, Israel, Yemen, the United States, Canada and other countries. They had varying degrees of success and different grievances, and operated in different types of regimes. What was common was that they all demanded change and they all formed together the greatest global wave of protests since the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

Can you think of anybody more worthy? I certainly can't.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

UNESCO's Cartoonish Idiocy

Credit: Eran Wolkovsky, Haaretz

The leadership of UNESCO has officially complained to the Israeli government about a satirical cartoon in Ha'aretz. The cartoon, shown above, depicts Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak instructing Air Force pilots to hit UNESCO offices in Ramallah on their way back from attacking nuclear facilities in Iran.

This complaint is so dumb on so many levels. First of all, it's quite clear that the cartoonist was attacking Netanyahu and Barak, not UNESCO. They are depicted as overreacting to the admission of Palestine as a member state of UNESCO. Second of all, what do they expect the government to do? We're a democratic country. Our government doesn't control the newspapers (maybe accept for the free daily Yisrael Hayom, owned by Sheldon Adelson, a Netanyahu supporter).

Maybe UNESCO is too used to working with non-democratic regimes that it thinks that it can complain about what appears in newspapers, and the government will make things go away. Rather than spending time filing silly complaints, the organization should be finding new ways to fund itself, now that the United States and other countries have stopped paying it.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Syria, Iran and Israel

The threat of rocket fire all over Israel, including Tel-Aviv, is looming large over our heads. There are two very possible scenarios that would bring about such a hellish result. Both scenarios involve best buddies Iran and Syria, as well as their allies Hamas and Hizbullah. If Israel (or anyone else) attacks Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas will attack the entire state with rockets. If NATO intervenes militarily in Syria, then Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas will attack Israel.

Action in either Iran or Syria is stupid. In Iran, an attack on the nuclear facilities may eventually be the last option, but we aren't there yet. Impose tougher sanctions and see if they work. As for Syria, let them deal with their own internal chaos on their own. I'm not willing to risk Israeli lives to save the Syrians who are rising up against Assad.

However, since either situation would lead to all-out war and missiles all over Israel, if one scenario comes to fruition, then the other one should be executed as well. A NATO attack on Syria would make an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities a wise move, provided that Syria does indeed retaliate with rockets. And vice versa - if Iran's atomic plants are attacked, followed by an attack on Israel, NATO should help take out Assad's regime, like it did with Qaddafi.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Peace Now and Jerusalem

According to Haaretz, Americans for Peace Now has filed a brief with the United States Supreme Court, arguing against recognition of Jerusalem as part of Israel. They believe Americans born in the city should be listed as having been born in "Jerusalem", without the name of a country, rather than writing Israel as their place of birth. This is the case even if a person was born in the western portion of Jerusalem, the part under Israeli sovereignty since the War of Independence.

It is unclear whether the Israeli Peace Now agrees with the actions of its American sister organization. If it does, it's very troubling. An Israeli organization that not only does not recognize West Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but doesn't even recognize it as being a part of the State, in effect, does not recognize the results of the War of Independence. What is the difference between the the areas gained by Israel in 1948 which were intended for the Arab State in the Partition Plan, and the parts of the Corpus Seperatum of Jerusalem which Israel took over during the same war? Neither the Arab State or the Corpus Seperatum ever came into being, so there should be no difference.

It makes no sense not to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the western portion of Jerusalem while recognizing its sovereignty over Nazareth, Be'er-Sheva, Nahariya, Akko, Jaffa and Ramla - all cities intended to be part of the Arab state. They are now rightly recognized by all the countries of the world as legitimate parts of Israel - except for countries that don't recognize Israel at all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Releasing More Prisoners to Strengthen Abbas?

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview with Time Magazine that he will demand that Benjamin Netanyahu fulfill Ehud Olmert's promise to release more prisoners as a gesture to the PA. According to an article in Haaretz, he is demanding the release of archterrorists Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Sa'adat. Olmert has confirmed that he promised to release more prisoners once the Shalit deal is reached, but if I understand correctly, Barghouti and Saadat weren't part of the promise.

So, should Israel release more prisoners to strengthen Abbas? Well, first we should ask if such a move would really bolster the Palestinian president's standing among Palestinians. I don't think so. If Israel releases Palestinians to the PA, in order to balance the achievements of Hamas, wouldn't Palestinians credit Hamas also with this additional release? After all, they will argue that it would not have happened in the first place without the Hamas deal, and they would probably be right. At best, Hamas and Abbas would get joint credit.

Let's say Abbas does get a boost from this, does he deserve it? No, he doesn't, with his UN bid and tendency to come up with new preconditions for negotiations. Be that as it may, it is in Israel's best interest to resume the peace process with a serious partner, and Abbas is the closest thing we've got.

Having said all that, I haven't come to a conclusion, one way or another. It may be a good idea to release more prisoners, and it might not be. One thing I'm certain of, though, is that if we do release more prisoners, Barghouti and Saadat should not be included.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gilad Shalit vs. 1,027 Palestinians

Let's make a quick comparison between the people released yesterday. On the one side, there was Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and on the other, 1,027 Palestinians convicted of various crimes, many of them murderers and accomplices. Shalit was a soldier who never targeted Palestinian civilians. Many of the released Palestinian prisoners set out to murder civilians. That's what Ahlam Tamimi did when she drove the suicide bomber to Sbarro in 2001, where he killed 15 people. That's what Amna Muna did when she lured sixteen year old Ofir Rahum to Ramallah, where she and her accomplices killed him.

Gilad Shalit, in his first public interview, said he wished for more Palestinian prisoners to be released if they don't go back to fighting Israel. He also hoped this deal would bring Israel and the Palestinians closer to peace. On the other side, some of the released Palestinian convicts called for the abduction of more Israeli soldiers. Shalit hopes for peace, released Palestinian prisoners hope for more conflict.

The Palestinians' main argument in favor of more kidnappings is that Israel only understands force, and that this is the only way to get their prisoners released. That is simply false, considering the fact that during the last four years, the Israeli government has released 1,233 Palestinians as peace gestures to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas. Of course, there is some truth to the Palestinians' claims. The only way to release mass murderers is by kidnapping Israelis. Those terrorists are the real people Hamas cares about.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Shalit (Real) Deal

After more than five years in captivity in Gaza, an agreement has been finalized between Israel and Hamas to release abducted soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. I'm very glad the end of Shalit's captivity is about to come within a week. I can't say I'm excited about the price, though. One thousand Palestinians is astronomical. It isn't clear yet who exactly the prisoners are going to be, and which ones will be allowed to return to the West Bank. There was some good news about some of the people who won't be released, like terrorist masterminds Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Sa'adat.

Another troubling aspect of this deal is the release of Palestinian citizens of Israel. If this is indeed part of the agreement, as the Israeli media has reported, then it is a very dangerous precedent. Not only should the Hamas not be able to be seen as the representative of Israeli citizens, no foreign organization or state should have such a role. Terrorists with Israeli citizenship should not be the subject of negotiations.

Having said all that, I can't help but have a stupid smirk when thinking about Gilat Shalit's imminent release and the big smiles on Noam and Aviva Shalit's faces yesterday.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Avineri, Nusseibeh and the Jewish People

A few days ago I wrote about an article by Sari Nusseibeh, where he says Palestinians shouldn't recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but should recognize Judaism as Israel's official religion and and Jews as the majority. Here is some of what I had to say:

"What's the difference between recognizing Judaism as the official religion of Israel and recognizing its Jewish character? What Nusseibeh describes here is what most Jewish Israelis mean and want when they say that Israel is the Jewish State - a democracy with a Jewish majority and Judaism as the official state religion."
I overlooked the fact that Nusseibeh focuses on Judaism as a religion and seems to ignore the fact that the Jewish people is a nation (though he does mention Jews as being an ethnic group, which isn't the same as a nationality). Though Israelis want a state with a Jewish majority and Judaism as the state religion, they also want it to be the state of the Jewish people - a country Jews the world over can feel kinship with, because we're part of the same national group.

I realized my glaring omission when reading Shlomo Avineri's excellent point-by-point rebuttal of Nusseibeh's article today (Hebrew here; English here). Avineri sees the fact that one of the most moderate Palestinian intellectuals doesn't recognize Jews as a people means the gulf between the most moderate Jews and Palestinians is so wide, that it is hard to believe the conflict can be solved yet.

I don't think he is correct. While it does bother me that Palestinians don't recognize us as a people, in the end, what really matters is that we recognize ourselves. We don't need our enemies to define us. By demanding that Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state we are inadvertently inviting them into the debate over what a "Jewish State" is or what it means to be Jewish. Those are internal matters, where Mahmoud Abbas and Sari Nusseibeh have no say.

So, even when taking the "Jews as a people" aspect into consideration, my conclusions remain unchanged. We don't need the Palestinians' recognition of the Jews as a people. We just need them to promise not to work against Israel's Jewish character in any way.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Israeli Wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Asking whether any Israelis will win Nobel Prizes has become an annual event. Fortunately, celebrating the naming of a new Israeli laureate has become an almost biennial occurance this last decade.

Today, two years after Prof. Ada Yonath shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Prof. Daniel Shechtman of the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) was announced as the sole winner of this year's prize. His discovery of quasicrystals was so unique and had such important implications, that the Swedish Academy decided he was worthy of a prize all to himself. In recent years, the scientific Nobel Prizes have been shared by two or three people, so being the sole recipient is an extraordinary honour.

I can imagine all the BDSers are popping a vein right now.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Sari Nusseibeh's Jewish State

Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, probably my favorite Palestinian, has written an article on Al-Jazeera's website in support of a Jewish state. Sure, its title is "Why Israel can't be a 'Jewish State'", and most of it is dedicated to explaining why this phrase gives Palestinians the hives. But then comes the final paragraph:

"So, rather than demand that Palestinians recognise Israel as a "Jewish State" as such - adding "beyond chutzpah" to insult and injury - we offer the suggestion that Israeli leaders ask instead that Palestinians recognise Israel (proper) as a civil, democratic, and pluralistic state whose official religion is Judaism, and whose majority is Jewish. Many states (including Israel's neighbours Jordan and Egypt, and countries such as Greece) have their official religion as Christianity or Islam (but grant equal civil rights to all citizens) and there is no reason why Israeli Jews should not want the religion of their state to be officially Jewish. This is a reasonable demand, and it may allay the fears of Jewish Israelis about becoming a minority in Israel, and at the same time not arouse fears among Palestinians and Arabs about being ethnically cleansed in Palestine. Demanding the recognition of Israel's official religion as Judaism, rather than the recognition of Israel as a "Jewish State", would also mean Israel continuing to be a democracy."

If it looks like a Jewish State, walks like a Jewish state, and quacks like a Jewish State, it's probably a Jewish state.

What's the difference between recognizing Judaism as the official religion of Israel and recognizing its Jewish character? What Nusseibeh describes here is what most Jewish Israelis mean and want when they say that Israel is the Jewish State - a democracy with a Jewish majority and Judaism as the official state religion.

I'm fine with Palestinians recognizing Israel's Jewishness without actually saying the words "Jewish State". I'd even settle for less, with Palestinians just agreeing that their new state would not work against this internal Israeli matter militarily, diplomatically or otherwise.

Update (October 7): More on Nusseibeh's article here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Obama Actually Said in 2010

Palestinians claim that when they go to the United Nations this Friday to receive recognition as an independent state, they will just be adhering to President Obama's words before the General Assembly last year. They say he called for the acceptance of Palestine as a member state within a year. Well, that isn't exactly what he said.

Here's the paragraph where he referred to Palestine as a member of the UN, with my own emphasis added:

"This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem’s soil as sacred. This time we should reach for what’s best within ourselves. If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel."

So no, what the Palestinians plan to declare on September 23, 2011 is not in line with what Obama declared on September 23, 2010. He did not say a Palestinian state should be declared and admitted into the UN "when we come back here next year" no matter what. He hoped there would be an agreement that would lead to the establishment of Palestine. That is the exact opposite of what the Palestinians have decided to do.

Obama should quote himself in his 2011 UN address. He should emphasize that he called for an agreement bred by Israeli-Palestinian tolerance, not for a move that is counter to Israel's wishes. He can point out that during this year, neither the Palestinian or Israeli leadership acted tolerantly toward the other side. If Obama doesn't do so, Netanyahu should use the quote, not as a reminder to the American administration, which is on Israel's side on this one anyway, but as a reminder to Palestinians and to European countries.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

An Eternity of Occupation

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) said recently that the Palestinians have been living under occupation for 63 years. Read that again - sixty three years. By my count, the Palestinians have been under Israeli occupation for only 44 years. One could try to argue that Abbas is referring to the 19 years of Egyptian occupation of Gaza and the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in addition to the Israeli occupation since 1967. That seems unlikely.

Had Abbas been referring to any foreign occupation Palestinians have been living under, he wouldn't just be counting 63 years. He'd be counting centuries, or eternity, really. Palestinians have never been independent, so how long they've lived under occupation depends on how long they've existed. Before the establishment of Israel, there was a British occupation, which had itself ended four centuries of Ottoman occupation during World War I. Before that, there were various other occupations. The last time locals in Israel/Palestine ruled themselves before 1948 was during the 1st century BC - and those were the Jewish Hasmoneans, not Palestinians.

So, when Abbas says 63 years, he's referring only to Israeli occupation. That means he still sees Israel itself as occupied territory. Every UN member should remember that when it comes time to vote.

Let's hope the Security Council buries Palestinian Statehood in committee. They should establish a committee that would recommend whether or not to accept Palestine as a member state. It would preferably wait long enough for a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, so it wouldn't be against Israel's will anymore.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Ten Year Anniversary

I wrote two posts today, and thought it would be odd if I wrote about other issues without mentioning the fact that it is September 11. What can I say about the subject that isn't a cliche? Let's give it a try.

In truth, I don't think 9/11 changed my life significantly. Sure, it had an impact, like the extra hassle when boarding a flight in the United States, and the fact that world politics changed. But other events that took place during this decade effected me, as an Israeli, much more directly and powerfully than the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Second Intifadah, Operation Defensive Shield, the Second Lebanon War, the withdrawal from Gaza, and Operation Cast Lead - each one of those was much more of a game changer for Israelis than 9/11.

On the other hand, I may be exaggerating here. 9/11 was the beginning of the decline of America's superpower status. Or more precisely, George W. Bush's reaction to the attacks began the decline. As a citizen of the United States and its ally Israel, I can't ignore that fact. Also, who knows how the events I detailed in the previous paragraph would have played out had it not been for that horrible Tuesday ten years ago.

Maccabees and Gibson Right For Each Other

I love Hanukkah. It's one of Judaism's most fun holidays, perhaps second only to Purim. Kids spin dreidels and eat chocolate coins, and though not all people get vacation during Hanukkah, for those who do, it is the only extended time off between the High Holidays in the fall and the holidays of late winter and early spring. However, to really enjoy the Festival of Lights, liberal secular Jews must ignore the true origins of the holiday.

We were taught in school that Hanukkah was born out of Judah Maccabee's war against the Greeks and their imposition of their religion on the Jews. It was a war for national sovereignty and religious freedom - that's what the teachers said.

In truth, religious intolerance is more of a monotheistic trait than a polytheistic one. There is no evidence that the Greek rulers of Judea made any decrees forcing Jews to worship Zeus and the other Greek gods. Jews who decided to assimilate into Greek culture did so of their own will. They probably liked the less restrictive culture, and were the closest thing to secular people to exist at the time.

Judah Maccabee's war wasn't just against the Greeks, it was just as much against those assimilated Jews. He did not fight for religious freedom. He wanted to force the Jews to follow strict Jewish laws.

That is exactly why I wasn't upset to hear that Mel Gibson is going to make a movie based on the Books of Maccabees. Mel Gibson shares a lot in common with Judah: they're both violent, intolerant religious fanatics who are sure of the power of the Jews (of course, that last part meant very different things for each). There are also differences, like the fact that Gibson never went to war and killed anyone to impose his beliefs, which is a point in his favor.

Feeling the Hate in Cairo

I sure hope the mob that took over the Israeli embassy in Cairo is as representative of the Egyptian people as the young drunk racists from Max Blumenthal's "Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem" video represent the Israeli people. In other words, they better be nothing more than a vocal minority.

Some of those involved in the Egyptian revolution have already distanced themselves from the angry mob. This is a good sign. While it is well known that Israel is very unpopular in Arab countries, I hope cooler heads will prevail. Israeli-Egypian relations can overcome this, if the revolutionary Egyptians don't allow fanaticism to take over their movement.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Lieberman, Hero of Kurds and Armenians

I've lost count already of all the reasons why Israel's foreign minister should be fired. Now reason number trillion and something has been born out of the crisis with Turkey. Lieberman isn't responsible for the crisis, and I even agree with him that we should not apologize or pay restitution to those who were looking for a fight. However, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crazy talk about sending Turkish battleships to escort future flotillas to Gaza has made Lieberman talk just as crazy. He proposed a plan to aide Kurdish rebels in Turkish Kurdistan.

So many things are wrong with this. First of all, Prime Minister Netanyahu told cabinet members not to say a word about Turkey. He wants to lower the flames as much as possible without apologizing. Good idea. But what is to be done when the foreign minister goes rogue (again)? He'd be fired from a normal government. With the government we have, he'll stay in his position, and Ehud Barak will be sent to explain to the world that Lieberman's policies are not the official policies of Israel.

I can't claim to know much about the Kurdish situation. I don't know how similar it is to the Palestinian situation, but one thing is clear to me. What's the difference between one kind of terrorism and another? If Kurdish terror is fine, so is Palestinian terror.

Besides all that, we need Turkey as an ally. Though it doesn't seem that way, we just might salvage these relations some day. We shouldn't further alienate the Turks.

Lieberman's proposal has one part I do endorse. He wants to recognize the Armenian genocide during World War I. I just don't think this move should be presented as punishment of the Turks. The Ottoman Empire did indeed conduct a genocide against the Armenians, and it is only just that we not deny that fact.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Racial Profiling at Israeli Airports

Israelis who landed in Turkey today were treated to humiliating strip searches in the name of security. Was it retaliation for Israel's refusal to apologize for the nine deaths on the Mavi Marmara? Maybe, who knows. To be honest, I don't really care. What I do care about is the Turks' claim that "the Israelis started it", by harassing Turks at Ben-Gurion Airport, usually on their way out.

As much as I hate to say it, Turkey is right. Contrary to popular belief, Israeli airport security doesn't only use psychological profiling, it also uses racial profiling. The Israeli Supreme Court recently instructed the Israeli Port Authority to stop sending Arab citizens of Israel to a separate security line, where they are inspected much more thoroughly. I don't think this has been implemented yet, and even if it has, it does not apply to non-citizens.

Israeli security routinely humiliates Arab and Muslim passengers. They claim it needs to be done, but that can't be true. Questioning every Muslim passenger for hours can't be an efficient tactic. Strip searching people with no actual reason to suspect terrorist activity is just wrong. I don't remember ever hearing of a planned airplane bombing being derailed in Israel by a cavity search.

The situation has gotten so bad that the Foreign Ministry has tried several times to change these security policies, though unsuccessfully. They've said that it is both ineffective and damages Israel's reputation. Even Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has criticized these measures. Believe me, if Liebrman thinks airport security's handling of Arabs and other Muslims is excessive, that means something!

I'm no fool. I don't want to get blown up while on a flight. I want all threats to be intercepted on the ground. I just don't think the mistreatment of entire "suspicious groups" helps security in any way.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Sept. 2011: Middle Eastern Hurricane Season

Less then a month after Hurricane Irene struck New York (albeit as a downgraded tropical storm), Hurricane Abbas is scheduled to hit Manhattan around September 20. The United Nations Headquarters will be right in the eye of the Category 3 storm, which is not expected to continue north to Massachusetts and Canada, but rather to go east, gather strength over the hot Atlantic Ocean and hit the Middle East as a Category 5 hurricane at the very least.

Israeli officials fear that the fierce winds will sweep with them rockets from Gaza, as well as Palestinian refugees, who will be thrust uncontrollably onto Israel's borders from the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the fact that the government knows about the hurricane, a new report by MK Shaul Mofaz shows they are doing nothing to mitigate its consequences. Perhaps PTSD (Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in this case) is paralyzing them.

Meteorologists point out that Hurricane Abbas is unlike any other cyclone in history. For one thing, it isn't forming near the western shores of Africa, but rather at its final destination - Israel and the Palestinian territories. Scientists have also observed that it is the first man-made hurricane in recorded human history. Some have even said that this wonder, though destructive, may merit the awarding of a Nobel Prize to Mahmoud Abbas, Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama and several other Palestinian, Israeli, American and world leaders. The problem is that Nobel rules limit the number of people who can share a prize, and the list of people who have contributed to the formation of Hurricane Abbas is endless. Perhaps this will be the first time that "et al" wins a Nobel.

Scientists are not sure which Nobel Prize the creators of this Middle Eastern phenomenon will be awarded. Needless to say, it won't be the Peace Prize. Perhaps it will be the Chemistry (or lack thereof) prize, or a Nobel in physics. Another possibility is the Literature Prize, for all the tales politicians are expected to spin in an effort to convince people that they did not do anything wrong.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

From Libya to Isratine

Jeffrey Goldberg says that now that Muammar Qaddafi has lost power, his proposal for a one-state solution should be dumped. I'm all for the horrible "Isratine" solution going out of circulation, but thinking that the Libyan revolution will lead to widespread adoption of the two-state solution in the Arab world is wishful thinking.

Opposition to Israel's existence and the continued dream of return goes much deeper than Qaddafi. In fact, Africa's self-proclaimed King of Kings didn't even invent the concept, only gave it a new name, Isratine, instead of just Palestine. It would seem Qaddafi's version is more moderate, because part of Israel is still in the name, but the truth is that it is even more deceptive than those who call for one state called Palestine from the River Jordan to the sea. The "Isra" would lose all power to the "tine", with Jews becoming a persecuted minority.

On the bright side, Goldberg may not be entirely wrong. Isratine will not die out, but Qaddafi will not be able to send millions to those who would work toward the one-state solution. One less source of funds means less power. At least there's that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Badly Timed Assassination

I was very impressed by Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the latest round of Gaza-Israel violence. I thought his restraint was admirable, and believed it was smart and responsible of him to reach a ceasefire.

Then the IDF went and assissinated a high ranking member of Islamic Jihad last night. Let me be clear - I mourn no dead terrorist and I don't oppose targeted assassinations. I do, however, oppose the timing of this one. Israel is no less obligated to adhere to the ceasefire than the Gazans. We should not fire into Gaza unless there is imminent danger, such as a squad about to launch rockets or trying to enter Israel.

The IDF says that the dead terrorist was planning attacks on Israel through Sinai. From what I understood, he was not on his way to one, he was just one of the planners of future attacks. Does killing one person really make the operations he was involved in much less likely to be executed? Now there will be more rockets on Israel with no good reason, and the Palestinians can say "Israel started it" without lying. Was it worth it?

The best way to deal with Palestinian terrorism from Sinai is to work with the Egyptians and to complete the border fence between the two countries. That would make Israel much safer than any individual assassination.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tent Protests Going Awry

In what seems like a pathetic attempt to win back media attention, some in the Israeli social justice movement have turned away from peaceful protests. Instead, they took over vacant buildings owned by the Tel-Aviv municipality, declaring they're going to turn them into community centers for the general public. Cops took them out of the building, but these self-proclaimed revolutionaries have declared they will invade the buildings again, and will do the same thing in other cities.

I wish these were splinter groups, acting without the consent of the movement's unofficial leadership. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. The Tent Protests' official website features the squatters prominently. On the bright side, newspapers are reporting that there is deep disagreement within the movement regarding these activities, including among its leaders.

Listen to those who want to return to the peaceful protests and stop squatting! Now that the security situation seems to have quieted down, socio-economic issues can return to the forefront without any publicity stunts (other than the part about living in tents). Illegal acts are counterproductive. Take me as an example: I support the tent movement and I've attended one of its rallies. However, if taking over abandoned buildings becomes the symbol of the protests, I will stop supporting them and will not participate in any more rallies. There are many Israelis like me, and at this rate, the "Million Person March" scheduled for September 3 not only will not have a million participants, it won't have 100,000.

Get a grip!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ceasfire Tonight

It has been reported that a ceasefire agreement between Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza has been reached, and will take effect sometime tonight. Good. Israel carried out a measured and limited response today to the Palestinian rockets fired at us during the 24-hour period when the IDF's cannons didn't shoot into Gaza. If the terrorists stop shooting tonight, we won't need to shoot back.

Let's hope for peace and quiet in southern Israel!

Cancellations at Eilat Festival: BDS or Fear?

Pianists Eddie Palmieri and Jason Moran, as well as New Orleans band Tuba Skinny, have cancelled their participation in the Red Sea International Jazz Festival in Eilat, Israel. Of course, Electronic Intifada and Philip Weiss immediately jumped up and said the boycott campaign is working. They claim that, at least in Tuba Skinny's case, their withdrawal from the Red Sea festival is a response to the BDS movement's requests/demands that the band not perform in Israel.


Had they announced this decision before August 18, I would have sadly agreed that they caved in to the pressures of BDS. But they decided not to come after the terrorst attacks which killed eight Israelis just a few miles north of Eilat, where Tuba Skinny and the others were scheduled to perform. 

It seems much more likely that the cultural terrorism of BDS had nothing to do with this decision. These musicians were scared away by the physical terrorism of the Popular Resistance Committees. It might also be the case that they're afraid the rockets now blowing up in Ashdod and Be'er-Sheva will reach Eilat, or that the whole country will go to war. I can understand them. I wouldn't volunteer to go into a war zone. That's a far cry from endorsement of the boycott or rebuke of Israel.

Update: Mondoweiss commenter eljay linked to Tuba Skinny band member Erika Lewis's announcement on their Facebook page, which I believe confirms that their decision had nothing to do with BDS. Judge for yourselves:

"In light of the violence in Eilat and the surrounding region, Tuba SKinny will not be performing at The Red Sea Jazz Festival. We are sorry to miss all of you who might be there, and we hope to be able to return at a more peaceful time."

A Time For Forceful Reaction

Israel has not fired on Gaza since last evening. For almost a full day (24 hours), IDF rockets have not retaliated against terrorism, despite the fact that dozens of rockets have fallen in Israeli cities and towns since the last time we fired back. Even before this one-sided ceasefire, Israel's reaction was very limited.

We are acting wisely. Hamas does not want another round of violence, despite briefly taking claim for firing rockets at Ofakim yesterday. Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, however, want to keep fighting. Israel should give Hamas a few more hours to force the other terrorist groups to stop firing. However, Israel can't wait forever.

If, in a few hours, Israel will still be bombarded from Gaza, the IDF will have to react forcefully. Those who fire at us should be the targets, not Hamas, unless they too join the rocket launching business once again. We have the ability to bomb them relentlessly, with minimal civilian casualties, and maximum dead terrorists and maximum destruction of their ammo.

Israel-haters and bleeding hearts will automatically cry out "disproportionate response". We will have all these hours without Israeli reaction as proof that the violence is the terrorists' fault. What do they expect? That we sit quietly for days and days while we're being bombarded? That's what we've foolishly done with Sderot. We should not do it with Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be'er-Sheva.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What Palestinian State?

The new round of violence between Israel and terrorist organizations in Gaza reminds us how crazy it would be to declare a Palestinian state next month. Mahmoud Abbas wants to declare both the West Bank and Gaza as sovereign Palestine, but his government does not control the latter at all, and only partially controls the former. Such a declaration would be futile.

Gaza, in a way, is not under anyone's complete control. Hamas may rule over it, but the organization seems unable or unwilling to clamp down on the splinter groups that somehow manage to be even less reasonable than Ismail Haniyeh's band of terrorists.

If Palestinians insist that both the West Bank and Gaza must become part of the State of Palestine simultaneously, then Palestinian independence will have to wait until Gaza is no longer ruled by terrorists unwilling to recognize Israel. That might take a few decades, if not eternity. A "West Bank now, Gaza can join later" approach seems much more realistic. Unfortunately, the Palestinians themselves reject the idea, claiming that Israel is trying to put a wedge between the two parts of the Palestinian people (ignoring the fact that it is the Hamas and Fatah who are responsible for the split).

With this kind of behavior, the Palestinians can kiss their dream of independence goodbye, at least for the foreseeable future.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Palestinian Terror Returns

Just one day before yesterday's lethal string of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians north of Eilat, I declared that this is the Summer of Socio-Economic issues. The Restoring Courage rally wouldn't get much coverage, I claimed, because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been relegated to the sidelines. Well, Jihadists have made sure that war and violence would not be forgotten.

Following the terrorist attacks, and the Qassam and Grad rockets launched against Israelis, the IDF struck back at targets in Gaza. The retaliations have been measured, so far. We need to respond without overkill. The other day, the news reported that we now have very precise rockets with minimal or no collateral damage. Good. Kill those who fire at us and those who send them out. Don't kill innocents.

The Egyptian army better take effective control of the Sinai Peninsula soon. Otherwise, their so-called "democratization" will just result in the Middle East being in deeper shit than before.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Battle of the Rallies: Beck vs. Tents

Next Wednesday, August 24, Glenn Beck will hold his Restoring Courage rally in East Jerusalem. He'll hold a few more events during the days leading up to the RC event. In a way, I think the Tent Cities and popular protests calling for social justice have made Glenn Beck's rally quite irrelevant. Many had thought the biggest political gathering in Israel this summer would be Beck's right-wing extravaganza. Instead, that prize might have already gone to the rally in Tel-Aviv on the weekend before last, which attracted 300,000 people. Since this movement doesn't seem to be going anywhere, a future rally for social justice just might be even bigger.

Will 300,000 people attend Glenn Beck's rally? I seriously doubt it. During the Restoring Honor rally in DC he had anywhere between 80,000 and half a million people in attendance (reports varied wildly). The crowd in Jerusalem won't be as large as the one in Washington, for two reasons. First of all, less Americans will attend. Flying overseas for a rally is much more complicated and expensive than visiting your own nation's capital. Second of all, the places of Americans staying home will not be filled by a lot of Israelis. Beck might be oddly popular among right-wing politicians here, but he isn't very popular among the Israeli general population. I'm not sure how many Israelis even know who the hell he is.

Another factor working against Beck is the fact that this seems to be the summer of socio-economic issues. Beck, like most people (including myself), expected that with the upcoming unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, this would be a summer centered around the Middle East conflict. Not so. This means Beck will probably get less Israeli media attention than he would have otherwise. If Americans see this isn't as central an event as Beck would have liked it to be, perhaps American media would give it less attention as well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

ThunderCats and Democracy

A new ThunderCats* series has started airing in the States. This reminded me of the fact that three of my favorite shows - ThunderCats, He-Man and She-Ra - all had magical sword-yielding princes as their heroes. As an adult, I'm not crazy about the idea of shows teaching kids that there are certain people who were born to lead, due to the fact that they were born to the right families.

I've read that the new ThunderCats show has changed a lot of the elements of the original. For instance, Lion-O is no longer a kid trapped in an adult's body. He's a teenager now. However, he is still the Lord of the ThunderCats, just because his father was king. The show is about him learning the leadership skills required of a man in his position.

If it were up to me, I'd change the storyline to something more democratic. I'd start the new show with Lion-O's father declaring the end of the Thunderan monarchy and a transition to a democratic republic. One aristocratic ThunderCat does not want to lose the privileges of power, and schemes to become king himself. However, he can't do it alone, so he calls the mutants, who do a bit of overkill. They destroy the planet, leaving the traitor without a kingdom.

Lion-O and his fellow ThunderCats flee to Third Earth, where he is not expected to become a leader, because of his father's wishes to end the monarchy. However, he still wants to learn leadership skills, because he'd like to earn the leadership position, rather than inherit it.

Wouldn't that be a better, more democratic and educational version?

* As you may have noticed, my logo includes the ThunderCats' Sword of Omens. No deep thought went into choosing the elements of the logo. If I remember my thought process, I wanted a pen and a sword, but since I knew that wasn't very original, I wanted the sword to be special. So, I thought of television shows I liked as a kid. I don't remember why I didn't use the sword from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which inspired this blog's title. Perhaps it wasn't distinctive enough, so I chose another 80's favorite - ThunderCats.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Electoral Power of Israeli Protesters

The 300,000-person protest in Tel-Aviv on Saturday night was an uplifting sight. The Israeli people are angry, and they won't take it anymore!

But then, looking at some polls that came out this weekend, it seems like the protests might be giving a false impression. According to those polls, if elections were held today, the next Knesset would look more or less the same as the current one. The Likud would get just about as many seats as it has in the current Knesset, which is true of the entire right wing & ultra-orthodox bloc. The main difference would be that Kadima would lose some seats, which would go to Labor and Meretz. Also, Ehud Barak and his new party would not get into the next parliament.

According to a Jerusalem Post/Globes poll, if the leaders of the tent protests ran as a party, they'd win 20 seats. But even then, they'd mostly take votes away from other parties on the left and center. They'd take a few seats away from Likud, too, but not enough to deny Netanyahu another term as prime minister. Besides, this is all very hypothetical, since the Tent Party probably will never be established (after all, they say they are nonpartisan). It's also very hypothetical for another reason : the next elections are only in October 2013, and none of the coalition members have any interest in early elections.

The dissatisfaction in the streets and the poll results show one thing: Israelis are not happy with Netanyahu, but see no better alternative. I can relate, though I'd never vote for Netanyahu or any of his coalition partners. While I think Tzippi Livni would be a better prime minister than Netanyahu, I think her party, Kadima, is just as crappy as Likud. The ratio of true liberals to nationalists in both parties is roughly the same.

Instead of dispairing, let's wait and see what happens during the next two years. Maybe the tents will change Israeli politics after all.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Asylum for Mubarak in Israel?

According to Labor Party MK and former cabinet minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Fuad), Israel offered Hosni Mubarak asylum in Eilat, after the former Egyptian president was forced to flee to Sharem Al-Sheikh. It would have probably been a sweet deal for Mubarak. After all, his trial began today in Cairo, and my guess is that he's never going to be released from prison.

What would have Israel gained from this? Nothing. I'm glad he didn't accept. Had he been granted asylum in Israel, it would only have created new tensions with the Egyptian people. I have no idea how the military rulers would have responded to such a development, though. On the one hand, they might have been happy not to have Mubarak around, and some of them may still be his cronies. On ther other, they could have felt pressure to confront Israel and have him extradited.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Tent Commandments

For the first time in years, Israelis are riled up over social and economic issues, rather than war and peace. It started with Facebook and one man's war against the price of cottage cheese and continued with the Tent Cities, protesting housing prices and the general cost of living in this country.

Will these protests bring down Netanyahu? I wish, but I doubt it. Can they actually bring about change? Perhaps. To achieve something significant, here are some rules that I think are essential:

  • Don't let politicians take advantage of the protests. Tent dwellers have already rebuffed attempts by the National Left movement to take over, and they should do so also with Ofer Eini, the head of the country's largest labor organization.
  • Don't break up into factions. This should be a unified protest by the middle class, not several different protests belonging to different interests groups: students, young families, doctors etc. 
  • Don't choose certain middle class interest groups over others. Include them all. This isn't asking too much, because a systemic solution is required.
  • No bullshit solutions. Don't accept anything that won't help in significant ways.
  • Don't choose a leadership. The fact that this is decentralized is part of the Tent Cities' beauty and power. Also, when there are leaders, there are factions, and as I've already said, you don't want that.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In Favor of the Death Penalty

Twenty one years - that is the maximum sentence mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik can get for killing about one hundred people in Oslo and Utoya Island under Norwegian law. Since he is only 32 years old, his chances of becoming a free man one day are very high. This vile domestic terrorist should spend the rest of his life in prison, at the very least. In fact, he deserves to be executed.

The death penalty is very problematic, and should rarely be used. Some say the government shouldn't kill people, no matter who they are. Others are worried about executing the wrong person. I disagree with the former argument. As for mistakes - only those who are murderers without any doubt should be sentenced to death. If you are only 99.9% sure someone is guilty, send him to life in prison.

There is absolutely no doubt that Breivik committed the murders, at least the ones at the youth camp. Too bad he won't be given the same treatment as Timothy McVeigh.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

McCarthyist Initiative Tanks Again

The Knesset has resoundingly rejected two resolutions meant to set up investigative committees that would have looked into the conduct of human rights organizations and other left-wing groups. Back in February, these resolutions were withdrawn when it was clear that they would not pass. Now, when the Likud successfully passed the anti-boycott law, Avigdor Lieberman wanted to prove he was real right-winger in the government, so he brought back the issue of investigative committees.

Prime Minister Netanyahu voted against the resolution, as did many other Likud ministers and MKs. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was also a vocal opponent, having also criticized the anti-boycott bill.

For some reason, many on the left saw the anti-boycott bill as the beginning of the end of Israeli democracy, and saw the invesigative committees as the next step towards fascism. The truth is that nothing has fundamentally changed. Israel is still a vibrant yet flawed democracy. We still have free speech - and even on the question of boycotts, we haven't seen yet how judges will interpret the law. Fortunately, it seems that the Supreme Court will address the issue even before the lower courts do, and even if it doesn't strike it down, it will probably instruct judges to implement the law in a way that balances freedom of speech with the economic rights of the targets of the boycott.

Ehud Barak has come up with a good idea, though I wish he would have thought of it sooner. He has proposed an amendment to the anti-boycott law, that would cut out the part about suing individuals, and would only keep the parts about government contracts and tax benefits. That is very sensible, and I hope it passes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Palestinians Oppose Two-State Solution, (Another) Poll Finds

Recent polls from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority show that both sides support talks between the parties, but when asked about the actual solution, there is quite a lot of resistance.

Let's start with the Palestinians, where a two-state solution meets the most opposition. From Haaretz's report:

"In another measure of the Palestinian mood, an opinion poll commissioned by the group The Israel Project, which dispenses information to journalists and others about Israel and the Middle East, showed that about 65 percent of Palestinians polled said they thought now was the time for diplomatic contacts, while 30 percent saw the current period as the time for violent resistance. On the other hand, only 34 percent favored a two-state solution involving a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state. Furthermore, 66 percent favored a two-state solution as only a first step to be followed by a Palestinian state replacing Israel."

Lovely. They want to talk to us so they can eventually bring about our destruction? That's certainly how it seems. It is hard to read such a poll and stay an Israeli peacenik.

Israelis aren't that crazy about a two-state solution, either, but they are much more open to it than Palestinians, according to the Israeli Democracy Institute's June Peace Index poll:

"This month, we checked the extent to which the Jewish public is currently prepared for an evacuation of the territories. It emerges that the critical question concerns the “terms of the deal.” If one talks about a permanent peace agreement in return for evacuating all of the territories, only 25% of Jewish respondents express support. When one offers those who oppose a deal on such terms the possibility of leaving the large settlement blocs in Israel’s hands, the rate of support rises considerably to half of the Jewish public. If those who also oppose this formula are offered two more “benefits”—Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and a declaration of the end of the conflict—the rate of support for the whole package rises to 62%."
So, most Palestinians only agree to a two-state solution if it will lead to a one-state solution, while most Israelis only agree to a two-state solution if all their demands are met, though the Israeli side isn't as extreme as the Palestinians - after all, while I don't agree that we should demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State (it is a Jewish State and will continue to be - we don't need their approval for this), I don't see it as a crazy demand.

A note to those who read the Peace Index's data file: I read it and thought we're in big trouble. At first glance, it seemed like a vast majority of Israelis opposed a peace deal, even with recognition of a Jewish state. The data file omits the very important fact, which only appears in the more detailed report, that the second question (where settlement blocs remained in Israel) was only asked of those who opposed a full withdrawal, and the third question (with recognition of Israel as a Jewish State) was only asked of those who opposed withdrawal while keeping settlement blocs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Extremes, Calm the Fuck Down!

A mind-boggling hysteria has taken over Israel, esepcially its extreme left and extreme right. These two opposites feed on each other like symbiotic parasites. The nationalists fear the left's activities, and so they pass laws against boycotts and commemorating the Nakba, which, in turn, only makes people more aware of boycotts and the Nakba. The far left, fearful of these new laws, starts screaming hysterically and prematurely about the end of Israeli democracy, making the fascists seem even stronger than they really are.

Both sides need to understand that their tactics are counterproductive. They need to act more level-headedly. Of course, it's ridiculous to say this to the extremists. After all, if they listen, they'd become moderates.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Anti-Boycott Law

If you call for the economic, cultural and/or academic boycott of Israel and the settlements, you may soon be civilly liable. A controversial bill, scheduled for a final approval vote today, would grant pretty much anyone the right to sue boycott advocates and demand compensation without the need to prove direct damages. It isn't clear whether the vote will go forward or be delayed by one week in order to avoid embarrassment when the Quartet convenes today to adopt President Obama's parameters for peace.

I've never supported any kind of BDS, not against the settlements and certainly not against Israel proper. I find the concept of a boycott of Israel vile, one sided and counterproductive. However, I can understand Israelis and foreigners who boycott products of the settlements, even if I don't engage in it myself.

Having said that, I think this bill is just plain wrong and undemocratic. Even if it only addressed the issue of boycotts against Israel, rather than the settlements, I still would have opposed it. Choosing what to buy is every person's right. Calling for boycotts should be protected speech, even when it is absolutely disgusting. Nobody should be sued for it, especially not when no direct damage has to be proven, and theoretically, hundreds of different people and companies can sue the same person for millions each.

The only part of this bill that makes sense is the part about not allowing people and organizations who support a boycott against Israel to participate in government bids (though I would allow those who only support a boycott of the settlements, not of Israel, to participate). After all, by supporting a boycott of Israel, you lost your right to do business with it. You might think it doesn't make sense that someone who is pro-BDS would even want to get an Israeli government contract. That would be true with regard to foreigners, but there are Israelis who support boycott against themselves, but still want to take Israel's money for business ventures or non-profit projects.

I hope this bill does not pass the Knesset. I hope enough MKs will come to their senses. If they don't, I hope the Supreme Court will strike it down.

Ruth Gavison: No to Solidarity March

In yesterday's Haaretz (Hebrew/English), Prof. Ruth Gavison explained why she will not join the march in support of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian Statehood, despite the fact that she supports a two-state solution. I couldn't have said it better:

From the time I became politically aware I have supported the "two states for two peoples" solution, for both diplomatic and ethical reasons. Still, I won't join the solidarity march in support of the Palestinian demand to declare independence. Not because I have more important things to do, or because I don't understand the voice of history, or because I'm a captive of fear or hatred, as Yael Sternhell claims. And not because I'm afraid that my participation will seem patronizing - a fear allayed by Talmudic studies professor Ishay Rosen Zvi. It's because I feel that a unilateral declaration at present represents more of a danger to the chance of implementing a two-state solution than a way to promote it.

I'm not very optimistic about the chance of implementing this solution in the foreseeable future, but I don't want to do anything that will weaken it even further.

The solidarity march is the answer of those of us who believe that the side that bears the main responsibility for the failure to implement the two-state vision so far is Israel, which is ruled by a right-wing government and the settlers. Making it clear that there are Jewish Israelis who support this agreement, and trying to greatly increase their number and specific gravity, is supposed to change this situation and put greater pressure on the government - as opposed to the diplomatic activities of the Palestinians themselves. According to this approach, there is no need to build incentives that will cause the Palestinians, too, to change their views, as a precondition for a just and stable agreement.

I don't accept this analysis. Alongside viewpoints of certain elements in the Israeli public that are strongly represented in the Israeli government and that really do want to prevent any chance of progress toward a division of sovereignty between the river and the sea, Israel has a large majority ready for a stable compromise agreement. Moreover, the present Israeli government, as right-wing as it may be, is officially committed to a two-state solution.

On the other hand, along with Palestinians who declare that they are ready for a solution involving a division of the land, significant groups clearly declare that as far as they are concerned, the goal is Palestinian sovereignty over the entire area. Just as important, the entire Palestinian leadership, including its most moderate elements, is apparently unable to declare that it understands that the two-state vision means waiving recognition of the "right" of the refugees and their descendants to return to their homes in the State of Israel.

The dead end in the negotiations is based on the Palestinians' positions no less than those of Israeli opponents of partition. Therefore, a proper process of progress toward implementing the two-state vision must include clear and consistent Israeli and international activity to create political, economic, social and ethical incentives that will convince the two sides to accept the "painful concessions" required.

Although the unilateral step in the United Nations, and particularly outside support for it from the international community and Jews in Israel, puts pressure on Israel to do what is necessary to achieve a solution, there is no element of similar pressure on the Palestinians. On the contrary. Such processes only reinforce the feeling among the Palestinians that someone else is doing the work for them and that they are likely to see their just demands met without committing to the necessary painful concessions.

I hope that history really is on the side of the two-state solution. To help it along, supporters of this solution in Israel and worldwide must show a greater effort than that reflected by taking part in the solidarity march.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Israel's "Flightilla" Strategy Worked

I thought the Israeli government was reacting hysterically when it decided to bar pro-Palestinian activists from entering Israel when they landed at Ben Gurion Airport. Apparently, I was wrong. The strategy seemed to work. Most of the activists were not even allowed on the flights, and a few dozen who did manage to reach Israel were detained without too much of a scene, and now await deportation.

World public opinion doesn't seem to care. From what I've seen, international news outlets don't seem to care much for this story, since the Great Chaos never came. Also, activists may have miscalculated the timing, with the establishment of South Sudan and the events in Syria being at the top of foreign news. That, and there may be flotilla-fatigue: after so much attention given to the boats stuck in Greece, the pro-Palestinian "breaking the siege" gimmicks are getting old.

In the end, as much as I hate complementing Netanyahu, I must admit it seems to have been wise not to let the activists in. We don't need Europeans and North Americans confronting the IDF and other Israeli authrorities in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and in places inside Israel, like the Bedouin villages in the Negev. Such clashes would have generated much more bad PR for Israel than the strategy Netanyahu chose, and much more work for our police officers and soldiers.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Pro-Palestinian Activists at Ben-Gurion Airport

Israel is planning to deport hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists who have announced they will be visiting the West Bank via Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport on and around July 8. Five such French and Belgian activists have already been sent back to their countries of origin.

Israel should not treat these activists the same way as it treats the participants of the Gaza-bound flotillas. The West Bank is not Gaza. We have not imposed a blockade on it, and it is controlled by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, not by Hamas or any other terrorist organization. There is no reason for us not to allow foreigners to visit the West Bank, especially since they are not planning on participating in confrontations with Israelis.

I'm not crazy about these activists coming en masse, and I probably don't agree with most of them. I assume many see Israel as a villain and some support BDS. However, those are not reasons to ban them. Sending them back home will only make us look bad in the media. There's nothing to lose by letting them in, either. They're pro-Palestinian as it is, so we have nothing to fear about them getting brainwashed during their stay in the West Bank.

Note (July 9): I no longer agree with this post. Banning the activists turned out to be a great success.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Environment and Autism

The New York Times reports that a new study suggests that environmental conditions in the womb and shortly after birth are the main factor in the development of autism. Researchers compared 202 sets of identical and fraternal twins, where at least one sibling was diagnosed with classical autism. They found that genetic factors are responsible for 38% of cases in the study, while environmental factors are responsible for 58% of cases.

It seems to me that this study deals a blow to those who believe vaccines cause autism. After all, it concludes that the two main causes of autism are environmental and genetic. Chemicals fetuses are exposed to in the womb are much more likely to cause autism than anything in vaccines.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Greco-Zionist Conspiracy

Greece is not allowing the ships of the so-called Freedom Flotilla II to leave its ports for Gaza. It has even dragged the American ship "The Audacity of Hope" back to shore after it attempted to leave without authorization. We owe the Greeks a debt of gratitude - better that they have to deal with this crap than we do.

There have been reports that Netanyahu has promised Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to bring in Israeli investments into Greece to help it overcome its financial crisis, in exchange for stopping the flotilla. The anti-Israel blogosphere is filling with rage. They see it as a corrupt deal. I think it is totally acceptable international politics. It is mutually benefitial, with Greece getting a boost to its economy and Israel having a few less Gaza-bound boats to worry about.

Neither is the deal hurting anyone. It isn't hurting the Palestinians in Gaza, since the flotilla wouldn't reach the Strip, anyway. Even if it did, it wouldn't really help Gazans in any way. They don't really need more aid, nor do they need a bunch of letters from sympathetic Americans. They may need media attention, and the flotilla has gotten plenty of that even without reaching Gaza or being boarded by Israeli commandos.

The only people who might get somewhat hurt by Greece's decision not to let them through are the participants of the flotilla themselves. Their loss is financial, as each day that passes they have to spend more money on hotels and meals than they expected. Who knows - maybe this whole thing is a conspiracy to infuse much needed money into the Greek tourism industry, coming directly from the pockets of flotilla members?

The activists aren't even hurt by the fact that they can't reach Gaza itself. I mean, who the hell wants to get into Gaza. Israel and Greece are saving them a trip to a shithole (although Greece itself is kind of a shitty place, too, because of the financial crisis). Are they being deprived of the action and heroism of fighting Israeli soldiers boarding them? No, they can fight Greek authorities instead, if a struggle is what they're looking for.

As "The Audacity of Hope" fades into "The Audacity of Nope", let me thank, once again, the Greek government, on behalf of myself and most of my fellow Israelis. Yassou!

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Right to Call the President a Dick

MSNBC political analyst Mark Halperin has been suspended from the network for commenting on live TV that President Obama behaved like a dick at a press conference the other day. I'm not quite sure what the suspension is about. Is it the use of the word "dick", which might wound the delicate eardrums of viewers? Is it made worse by the fact that the slur was used to describe the president of the United States of America? Would it have been better if Halperin had said one of these words or phrases instead: douche, cocky, arrogant, smart aleck or smarty pants?

When it comes to free speech, America is very weird. It protects Nazis' rights to march in Jewish areas, gratuitous violence, depictions of cruelty toward animals and considers money as protected speech, yet you can't say some very basic, everyday words on network television and on basic cable. The word "dick" should not get someone suspended, even on a morning show.

Theodor Herzl and Golda Meir Interview Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman was on Comedy Central Israel's satirical show "Comeback" a few days ago. She was interviewed by Uri Gotlieb as the founding father of Zionism and Maayan Blum as Israel's only female prime minister. It was a funny, politically incorrect interview. I couldn't find a way to embed the video, so you can watch it here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Journalists Just Doing Their Jobs

Israel's Government Press Office has warned journalists that joining the flotilla to Gaza, a.k.a Freedom Flotilla II, is an illegal act, even for members of the press. Anybody on board would be deported, barred from entering Israel for the next ten years, and their equipment would be confiscated.

This is an idiotic policy. By joining the flotilla, the journalists are just doing their job - covering news as it happens. They aren't there to try to break the blockade, just to report about the activists who are. The more respectable news outlets are on the boats, the better. Had there been serious journalists on the Mavi Marmara last year, the world would have probably seen more images of the armed IHH activists.

Israel should not deport journalists. It certainly shouldn't confiscate their gear. We should respect the freedom of the press, including the foreign press.

Update: The government has rescinded the Press Office's warning. Journalists will not be deported and barred from Israel for ten years, and neither will their gear be confiscated. Good. I'm glad the government has come to its senses. It is just too bad that it didn't do the right thing from the get-go. The warning should never have been issued in the first place.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Second Gaza Flotilla

Pro-Palestinian solidarity activists from around the world are preparing for the adventure of a lifetime. The so-called Freedom Flotilla II will set sail for the Gaza Strip this week. Fortunately, the most extreme faction of the first flotilla, the Turkish IHH, has decided not to participate and will not send the Mavi Marmara for a replay, probably because of pressure from the Turkish government. So now, those who are left on the different boats are mostly well-meaning people who don't fully understand that they're trying to enter a territory controlled by a terrorist organization (and who in their right mind would try to do that?), and that they are playing into the hands of said terrorist organization, Hamas, rather than helping the Palestinian civilians of Gaza in any way, shape or form.

As for Israel, I'd rather it decided to inspect the boats for weapons and then let them continue on their way. That doesn't seem to be the policy. The second best approach would be to drag the boats to Ashdod without boarding them at sea. That would definitely minimize the chances of violence erupting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Weiner Resigns

Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York is resigning after it was revealed that he sent lewd pictures of himself to women online. This is probably the right thing to do. After all, at least some of these women did not ask for pictures of his man parts, which would make what he did sexual harassment. Had all the women involved consented to sexting and Congressional porn, I'd think Weiner should stay, despite his perverted ways.That doesn't seem to be the case, though.

I'm tempted to make juvenile jokes about who would run for his seat (Andy Dick? A-Rod?), but I won't. Oh, wait, I just did... :)

When Prose Writers and Poets Take Over a Newspaper

Today's Haaretz is the third annual Writers' Edition (Hebrew here), marking the beginning of Hebrew Book Week. 53 Israeli and foreign authors have taken over the entire news section, op-ed pages and some of the culture section (but interestingly, TheMarker, Haaretz's economic section, is still in the hands of professional business journalists, at least in the Hebrew edition), plus there is a 120-page book section.

Here are some highlights worth reading:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Military Intervention in Syria?

It now seems like Bashar Assad's war crimes are equal to, if not greater than, those committed by Muammar Gadhafi. It is logical to ask, then, why is the world intervening in Libya but not in Syria. I heard one analyst say that the answer is that nobody knows who will win in Syria, while in Libya, it seemed clear that Gadhafi was a gonner. I'm not satisfied by that answer. After all, the Brotherly Leader is still holding on. Maybe the answer is oil? I just don't know.

There is one more factor that should be taken into consideration, and is probably on the minds of NATO leaders. If NATO attacks Syria, Assad could retaliate by attacking Israel. Hezbollah, which has reportedly sent thugs to help the Alawites suppress the demonstrations, could also launch missiles at Israel, hoping such an action would help secure the regime of one of their two patrons. After all, nothing can unite an Arab nation more than hatred for Israel.

For this admittedly self-centered reason, I oppose military intervention in Syria. I support other kinds of sanctions against the regime.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Blog List

I just noticed my BlogRoll has been out of commission for a while. Apparently stopped operations months ago. Now I'm using Blogger's "Blog List" feature, which shows the blogs I choose to list, as well as a link to their latest post. If a blog is on my list, it means I like reading it and find it interesting, but it doesn't mean I agree. As you'll notice, the blogs on the list don't agree with each other, either.

I don't remember what was on my BlogRoll, so some blogs I used to list may not be on there anymore. I'm sure I'll add some more as time goes by.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Netanyahu the Rejectionist

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made sure today that France will vote in favor of a Palestinian State at the UN next September. He rejected the French offer to hold a peace conference, despite the fact that Mahmoud Abbas has already accepted it. Netanyahu's explanation was that he can't negotiate with a government that includes Hamas, and neither can he accept a negotiation based on the 1967 lines.

First of all, despite the reconciliation agreement, Hamas is not yet in the government. Secondly, Israel should continue negotiating with the Fatah representatives in the Palestinian government, and just not talk to the Hamasniks. Also, even if Netanyahu opposes the 1967 lines, he should say "okay, we'll negotiate in France, but not based on any preconditions".

A Note to Naksa Day Protesters

If you try to cut down the border fence, climb over it or try to cross it in any way, and you get killed in the process, it is your own goddamn fault.

While I'd rather the IDF used non-lethal methods to push people away from the fence, I can also understand the use of live ammo. Breaching the border is not non-violence. The so-called Palestinian refugees will never be able to exercise their mythical right of return by force.

And by the way, I'm not denying there are Palestinian refugees, or that the question of what happens with the Palestinian diaspora is not a problem that has to be solved. However, most of these protesters are not refugees according to the standards set for all refugees who are not Palestinians.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Israelis and the Refugees

Carlo Strenger is a smart guy. He is a Tel-Aviv University professor and a Haaretz columnist. He usually knows what he's talking about. In this weekend's newspaper, however, he showed ignorance about the Palestinians' views on one of the conflict's toughest issues:

"There is but one way in which the looming collision could be made less catastrophic. Obama could decide to change course; instead of opposing recognition of Palestine, he could support it, as Israel should, if it acted rationally, under two conditions: Palestinians have to renounce any claims this side of the 1967 borders, including the right of return, and the Arab League would recognize Israel’s legitimacy and move towards normal relations. Palestinians would probably agree to that, and so would the Arab League as this corresponds to its peace initiative."
(Read the whole thing in English or Hebrew)
Strenger thinks the Palestinians would probably agree to renounce the right of return in exchange for American and Israeli recognition at the UN. In the Hebrew original, he even uses stronger language - instead of "probably" there is a phrase closer in meaning to "obviously". Obviously, the Palestinians will give up the right of return, Strenger thinks. Really?

This is one of the Palestinians' core issues, one that the masses say the leadership has no authority to compromise on. They see this as an inalienable individual right. Abbas may one day compromise on this, but only in a final agreement. He would lose all support if he announced the refugees won't come back even before he achieved de facto independence.

Strenger is just one of many Israelis who do not realize how hard it will be to reach peace with the Palestinians, especially because of their unwillingness to come to terms with the fact that they can't become citizens in Israel proper. 

Anyway, today it seems there will be another way out of this mess other than Strenger's suggestion. Abbas has agreed to resume talks in France. I hope Netanyahu follows suit.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Arab Spring and the One State Solution

The lack of democracy in the Arab world is one of the main reasons I oppose the idea of Isratine, a single country from the River Jordan to the sea. The closest thing to an Arab democracy right now is Lebanon, a country where every party has its own militia. My view has alrways been that, in a One State, we'd probably be like Lebanon at best - if democracy doesn't break down completely, that is.

Now the Arab Spring brings with it a glimpse into the possible future of the theoretical One State. Of course, this will be a long process with different outcomes in different Arab countries, and what happens in Egypt or Syria isn't exactly what would happen with the Palestinians. We can approximate, though, since many of the refugees who would return under the One State plan live in these other Arab countries, and there are other cultural similarities.

These are the questions that have to be asked: Will there indeed be Arab democracies? If so, what kind of democracies will they be. If we see illiberal democracies forming, where people get the formal right to vote but other freedoms are suppressed, this may indicate the illiberal future of an Isratine. Already, we see that the religious freedom of minorities has greatly diminished in some Arab Spring countries. I do not want to be persecuted in my own country like the Coptic Christians are in Egypt.

Also in Egypt, it seems like the new transitional regime is more interested in hanging Mubarak and his henchmen, rather than in recoving the money they stole and rebuilding Egypt. Will the new Palestinian majority not want to do something similar, by wishing to hang Jewish Israeli leaders who they believe committed crimes against them, rather than building the new joint society?

I am looking to see whether or not any Arab country will manage to achieve the level of democracy Israel has. I live in a very vibrant democracy, even though it is very flawed. Don't even start talking to me about a binational state before you prove to me that there is even a slight chance that it won't become less liberal and less democratic than it is now.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

New Sharing Options

I just enabled Blog sharing, so you can easily share my posts. Until now, the only thing you could do directly from the blog was e-mail posts to friends. Now you can blog about it, and share it on Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz (does anyone actually use Google Buzz?!? But I digress). You can also recommend it to friends by clicking on the "+1" button, and then if your friends search for something related to the content of the post, right next to the link to the post, they'll see that you recommended it. More info on "+1" in the video after the jump.

Jerusalem Day

There is no holiday with a greater disparity between the way the government celebrates it and the way the general population does not. Cabinet ministers, Knesset members and the mayor of the so-called United, Undivided Eternal City love participating in events commemorating the conquest of East Jerusalem, especially the Western (Wailing) Wall. Public schools also hold ceremonies. However, the average Israeli does not celebrate Jerusalem Day in any way, shape or form - accept for some religious people.

That most Israelis don't celebrate the holiday is an interesting fact. It isn't being boycotted. People just aren't that aware of it. I remember that in school, I'd always be surprised when teachers took us to the ceremony. "Oh, Jerusalem Day is today?" my friends and I would wonder. We also didn't understand why, if it is a holiday, we didn't get the day off from school.

So why hasn't Jerusalem Day taken root with the Israeli public? Maybe there's an Israeli sociologist or political scientist out there who knows the answer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mitt Romney's Ass Logo

This is Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign logo:

Now take a closer look at the R:

Am I the only one who thinks this looks like a human bottom?

Here's an idea for a new slogan, instead of "Believe in America": Mitt Romney - he won't leave you behind.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Future of the Blockade

In today's Haaretz, Shlomo Avineri says Israel should be happy that Egypt opened up the Rafah crossing, and he thinks this should mean the end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. We'd no longer have any responsibilty toward Gaza, since we would no longer control all its borders, its airspace and its waters. We will close our border with the Strip, but passage of people and goods in and out of the territory via the Egypt-Gaza border, the sea and air would be unhindered. Israel's relations with Gaza would be like its relations with Lebanon: nobody passes the Israeli-Lebanese border, but Lebanon isn't under blockade.

This would not be a threat to Israel, he says. Weapons and terrorists have been streaming in through the tunnels anyway, so the situation would not be any worse. He even thinks it would be better politically. Any new Free Gaza Flotillas won't be able to complain about a blockade that has been lifted, and if they just reach Gaza without a problem, they would barely get any attention.

Avineri's claims are worth considering. He has some very good points, but I still have a few concerns about this scenario. First of all, while it is true that weapons flow into Gaza right now, I fear that without the blockade, the volume of arms smuggling would increase, and larger, more sophisticated weapons which can't be brought in through tunnels would now become available to the Hamas.

Second of all, if we don't control Gaza's airspace, we might be opening the door to 9/11 style terrorism. Major Israeli cities are very close to Gaza, and planes can enter Israel and crash into buildings before fighter jets could be launched to intercept them. Airplanes would be much more lethal than the Gazans' current arsenal of rockets.

Unless security experts tell me my fears are unfounded, I'd rather we alleviate the blockade by allowing the free flow into Gaza of people and goods, under our inspection at our own border checkpoints and out at sea (in other words, board flotillas, inspect them and then allow them to reach Gaza as long as there are no weapons on board). Yes, we'll still look like the bad guys, but I'd rather live with bad PR than die with a public opinion triumph.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Philip Weiss's Delusions About Jeffrey Goldberg

Jewish Anti-Zionist blogger Phil Weiss is so delusional and so sure of his position, that he is certain that his anti-Zionist views are winning over the Jewish world, as well as the non-Jewish world. Now he thinks Jeffrey Goldberg is about to leave Zionism, just because of Goldberg's frustration with Benjamin Netanyahu. Well, Phil, haven't you learned that Zionism does not equal Benjamin Netanyahu? He's afraid Netanyahu's policies may kill the two-state solution and bring about a one-state solution. That means he sees the one-state solution as bad, not as something he's about to start supporting.

Goldberg can't win. He's a moderate-left Zionist like me, which means the left will hate him for not being pro-Palestinian enough, and the right will hate him for not being pro-Israel enough. Indeed, that very post of Weiss's blog has a rebuttal of the "Goldberg to become Anti-Zionist" view from someone who sees Goldberg's anti-Netanyahu posts as a Zionist conspiracy meant to maintain US support for Israel. Can't it just be that he really doesn't like Netanyahu for the very reasons he writes explicitly?

I never understood why some people think Jeffrey Goldberg is a neocon. Neither can I understand how anybody in their right mind would think he might be joining the Mondoweiss blogging staff any time soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Do Israeli Arabs Support Shooting Palestinian Refugees?

I went to the monthly Peace Index, looking for details about Israelis' opinions about different elements of Netanyahu's speeches. I ended up finding something completely different. Something odd and curious. In the May Peace Index (Hebrew/English), the following question appears:

Did the army commander on the Golan Heights who gave an order to refrain from firing potentially lethal shots [at Palestinian protesters entering from Syria] act properly, or should everything have been done to prevent the infiltration into Israel, including the firing of potentially lethal fire?

General Public
1.       He acted properly in giving the order
2.       Everything should have been done, including the firing of potentially lethal fire
3.       Don’t know/ Refuse to answer

I read it and couldn't believe it. A vast majority of Jews supported restraint while a majority of Arabs supported a "by any means necessary" approach. That Jews supported restraint didn't really surprise me. However, I would have expected Palestinians with Israeli citizenship to be less willing to shoot the Palestinians who don't have citizenship. Maybe it's a mistake and they switched the data around? No, the "general public" numbers fit, considering that the general public is split about 80%-20% between Jews and Arabs.

I have no idea what to make of this statistic. Could it be that Palestinian Israelis feel even more threatened by an influx of refugees into Israel than Jewish Israelis? Do they want Israel to shoot Palestinians to gain sympathy for their brothers? Or maybe they themselves don't believe in non-violence?