Sunday, January 04, 2009

"Democracy" and "dictatorship"

Sandy Levinson

There can be little doubt that Israel counts as a "democracy," certainly with regard to the majority Jewish population and even with regard to Israel's Arab citizens, who participate in elections and are able to elect some ethnic Arab represenatives. Certainly no other country in "the region" comes so close to meeting the standards of democratic rule. (I don't argue that free elections constitute a full description of "democracy," but they are certainly a necessary condition.) And, of course, Israel will be holding elections in February to select a new Knesset and, therefore, Prime Minister. I have expressed some preference for parliamentary systems over our own presidential system precisely because the former, on balance, offer more accountabilty.

That being said, it is also necessary to note that the debatable scope of the present war in Gaza, even if one accepts the view, as I do, that it was precipitated by the failure of Hamas to continue the truce and their decision to lob rockets into Israeli territory, has been decided upon by an Israeli government that is just as lame-duck as our own. Moreover, it is hard to escape the view that the most relevant decisionmakers are motivated by their deep (and altogether justifiable) desire to forestall the return to power of Benjamin Netenyahu and, therefore, determined to prove to his potential supporters that they are as willing to use military force, regardless of consequences to the Palestinians, as he presumably would be. It is hard for me otherwise to understand the decisions that Israeli leaders have made, given the foreseeable failure to eliminate Hamas as a political force in Gaza.

This may simply underscore the point that all political systems, including those we justifiably label as "democratic," contain within them aspects of "dictatorship" as well, in which decisions of life and death are made without prior approval by the demos. At least the Israeli leaders will indeed be submitting themselves to the judgment of their electorate, which is more than can be said for George W. Bush or Dick Cheney, who for 15 more days will be able to exercise whatever legal powers they possess secure in the knowledge that they will be not be accountable either to the electorate or, it appears, even the application of relevant federal statutes.

Far from continuing my standard critique of our Constitution, I confess that I see no magic solution to the problem of de-facto "dictatorial" aspects of modern government. Post-facto accountability is better than no accountability, etc., but we should always be aware of the awesome power we put in the hands of our political leaders based on little more than trust and confidence that they will use it wisely. The "rule of law" really is reduced, in important ways, to "the rule of a relatively small group of men and women" when situations are perceived as crises.

UPDATE: I note that the NYTimes has just posted a story, which will presumably be published in Monday's paper, titled "For Israel, Chance to Strike before an Ally Departs." Thus, according to the story, "Many Middle East experts say Israel timed its move against Hamas, which began with airstrikes on Dec. 27, 24 days before Mr. Bush leaves office, with the expectation of such backing in Washington. Israeli officials could not be certain that President-elect Barack Obama, despite past statements of sympathy for Israel’s right of self-defense, would match the Bush administration’s unconditional endorsement." If this is correct, and there is certainly no good reason to doubt it, then the responsiblity for the devastation in Gaza can be placed on our Constitution and the stupid hiatus between election and inauguration. Mr. Bush is neither gone nor forgotten, and lives are being lost as a result.


a. Prime minister Ehud Olmert does not stand for reelction, either. He also despises Livni and Barak, the two main (aleged) beneficiaries from the current situation on the expense of Netanyahu. He probably won't act openly against them, especially not against Livni (who is a member of the same party), but he won't go far to help them in the elections.
Besides, both Livni and Barak surly remember the recent war in Lebanon, in which Olmert and Perez (minister of security) had about 80% of support in the begging and close to nothing in the end.
That does make the theory of 'electoral war' a bit weak.

b. the thesis that says that the attack was timed to fit Bush's last days in office sounds highly reasonable to me. No other president, no matter how 'friendly' to israel, gave such a full backup.

As I read the "UPDATE," I thought of Tip O'Neill's "All politics is local." Perhaps "All politics is global." I have sensed all along that Israel's (as well as Hamas') actions in Gaza are tied to U.S. politics, particularly the change coming January 20th, to keep America in the sandtrap that is the Middle East (as it has been expanded into Central Asia). Of great concern is the anticipated actions considered against Iran, whether by Israel or America. Benny Morris' OpEd in the 12/30/08 NYTimes titled "Why Israel Feels Threatened" provides details, with a descriptive "Battling Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas - and demography" editorial subtitle. Yes, Israel is a democracy, much more than merely free elections. But the demography that so concerns Morris suggests that Israel may cease at some point to be a democracy, at least of the U.S. melting pot style, especially if the Yahu wins Israel's upcoming elections. President Elect Obama will need the skills of Tiger Woods to get out of this sandtrap. Obama, unlike FDR, will not be able to focus only on the economy, as he has inherited two wars of the inept George W. Bush administration. Yes, "All politics is global." More people will die.

The speculation piece in the New York Times rather ignores the fact that it is doubtful whether the incoming Obama Administration would have been able to do very much even if Obama had already been in office.

The relationship between the United States of America and the State of Israel is precisely that counselled against in Washington's 1796 Farewell Address to the Nation:-

"The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favourite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favourite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation."

Successive US Administrations have armed Israel to the teeth - making of it the only state in the Middle East to possess a substantial arsenal of weapons of mass destruction as may be seen MSNBC-Strategic Israel. As this paper on the website of the USAF War College The Third Temple's Holy Of Holies: Israel's Nuclear Weapons points out, Israel is estimated to have at least 90 deliverable nuclear devices and:-

""One other purpose of Israeli nuclear weapons, not often stated, but obvious, is their “use” on the United States. America does not want Israel's nuclear profile raised. They have been used in the past to ensure America does not desert Israel under increased Arab, or oil embargo, pressure and have forced the United States to support Israeli diplomatically against the Soviet Union. Israel used their existence to guarantee a continuing supply of American conventional weapons, a policy likely to continue."

In other words, the policy of successive US Governments has been such that by now the Government of Israel is a tiger which the USA is holding by the tail and in consequence, the ability of any US Administration effectively to restrain Israel is hampered. Even if the coming Obama Administration were to desire to cause Israel to act with more restraint, it will have quite severely limited options open to it by reason also of the impact of American public opinion.

As a 1981 World Jewish Congress Report by L Walinsky noted:

"In the past three decades, Israel has served most Western Jews as a surrogate for the traditional Judaism from which they had strayed. Concern and support for Israel increasingly became the chief source and expression of their sense of Jewish identity. Fund raising, chiefly for Israel, and political activity to ensure the security and survival of Israel, have been the major activities of Jewish organizations during this period, especially in the United States.

and in a 1990 American Jewish Committee survey of "American Jewish leaders" across the USA found that 81% listed the "safety of Israel as the most important item on the Jewish agenda today."

In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks in America, Stephen Steinlight ( a former Director of National Affairs for the American Jewish Committee) had some confessing to do:

" Much public opinion survey research undertaken in recent years continues to indicate that large numbers of Americans, particularly people of color, assert that Jews are more loyal to Israel than the United States. For Jews, it is at best hypocritical, and, worse, an example of an utter lack of self-awareness, not to recognize that we are up to our necks in this problem. This has been especially true once we were sufficiently accepted in the United States to feel confident enough to go public with our own identity politics. But this newfound confidence carries its own costs; people are observing us closely, and what they see in our behavior is not always distinct from what we loudly decry in others. One has to be amused, even amazed, when colleagues in the organized Jewish world wring their hands about black nationalism, Afrocentrism, or with cultural separatism in general — without considering Jewish behavioral parallels. Where has our vaunted Jewish self-awareness flown?

I’ll confess it, at least: like thousands of other typical Jewish kids of my generation, I was reared as a Jewish nationalist, even a quasi-separatist. Every summer for two months for 10 formative years during my childhood and adolescence I attended Jewish summer camp. There, each morning, I saluted a foreign flag, dressed in a uniform reflecting its colors, sang a foreign national anthem, learned a foreign language, learned foreign folk songs and dances, and was taught that Israel was the true homeland. Emigration to Israel was considered the highest virtue, and, like many other Jewish teens of my generation, I spent two summers working in Israel on a collective farm while I contemplated that possibility. More tacitly and subconsciously, I was taught the superiority of my people to the gentiles who had oppressed us. We were taught to view non-Jews as untrustworthy outsiders, people from whom sudden gusts of hatred might be anticipated, people less sensitive, intelligent, and moral than ourselves. We were also taught that the lesson of our dark history is that we could rely on no one."

With feelings like that drummed into them at home, at religious school, in summer camp, in the synagogues, it is unsurprising that the Jews of the American Diaspora have formed themselves into a mighty lobby group which is more influential by far than the numerical size of the US Jewish population might suggest and which no US politician can safely ignore.

While there is a part of US Jewish opinion which has deep reservations about the wisdom of the Gaza incursion decision - see, for example, the J-Street Statement by Jeremy Ben-Ami in response to Israeli Ground Invasion of Gaza, I suspect we will find as matters develop that public opinion within Israel itself on the IDF action in Gaza will be much more nuanced than that in the USA which will by and large be of the "Israel Right or Wrong" variety.

I thought you were actually beginning to recover from your BDS until the update appeared when I went to the comments. But you had to get in a slam, didn't you? Best wishes on a full recovery after the 20th!

If the war was precipitated by Hamas launching missiles into Israel, how can it logically end while Hamas is STILL launching missiles into Israel? Even if Israel unilaterally called a cease fire, Hamas would immediately give Israel what you concede to be cause for resuming military operations.

Washington's 1796 Farewell Address should be assessed by the situation at that time, as much has happened in the 200+ years since, in considering its application to the current situation. We have closer in time Ike's 1961 Farewell Address with warnings of the military-industrial complex (ignored since) to assess the current situation. But isolation is not a solution. And there is the matter of oil, which has governed, to a significant extent, U.S. Middle East policy since at least 1945. Sadly, the Gaza events may resuscitate America's neocons (see John Bolton's OpEd in today's WaPo).

The citation of Washington focuses on the still timely "a passionate attachment of one nation" theme, not isolation per se.


UPDATE: I note that the NYTimes has just posted a story, which will presumably be published in Monday's paper, titled "For Israel, Chance to Strike before an Ally Departs." Thus, according to the story, "Many Middle East experts say Israel timed its move against Hamas, which began with airstrikes on Dec. 27, 24 days before Mr. Bush leaves office, with the expectation of such backing in Washington. Israeli officials could not be certain that President-elect Barack Obama, despite past statements of sympathy for Israel’s right of self-defense, would match the Bush administration’s unconditional endorsement." If this is correct, and there is certainly no good reason to doubt it, then the responsiblity for the devastation in Gaza can be placed on our Constitution and the stupid hiatus between election and inauguration. Mr. Bush is neither gone nor forgotten, and lives are being lost as a result.

Is there anything at all for which the NYT will not attempt to blame Mr. Bush? One has to wonder what the NYT will do for copy once Mr. Bush has departed and its Dem allies control the reigns of power? I suppose they will blame every misstep of Mr. Obama on Bush.

In any case, this latest silliness presupposes that Hamas was in cahoots with Israel and provided the causus belli rocket attacks to coincide with the end of the Bush term so Israel could get in an invasion before the Great Neocon left office.


Hello , as a reader of this blog I'll mention I am Israeli, I do follow US affairs (hence reading this blog) etc.

I think you should forget about the bush angle, It is convenient to have such a lame duck "Who cares? Shit happens!" duo in the white house but not a must. Had this attack been performed in 2 months time things would have gone on quite similarly.
A US president must give a country being pelted by a dozen rockets a day a chance to counter attack. This was the average rocket fire rate for the last 3! Years ! not counting other small stuff.
The Hamas pulled the plug on the cease fire 2 months ago. This gives enough time for quiet diplomacy to fail.
The other timing reason is quite simple : weather.
The raining season (light winter is the best description for winter in Israel ) is upon us. No war is fought in this region in winter , especially with heavy tanks etc...
The IDF commanders would have advised upward that we are at the end of the season for doing anything serious, IE the 2 day break in hostilities Tuesday-Wednesday , check the weather (PS the week before hostilities was the first serious rain this year ) , it was quite miserable for most of Israel and if you watch the TV clips with tanks you'll notice the mud.
Soldiers hate mud, ever tried to dig out a tank ? Not much fun.

I'll also mention another point - luck.
We are all very luck , today we had the fourth time a missile hit an Israeli kinder garden , luckily all were empty at the time, a 5th school was hit yesterday, dido , and the number of minor miracles (people deciding to shelter in the bedroom and the kitchen hit etc )
is huge.
If we have a bad luck occurrence (a birthday filled with kids etc...) expect a butchers bill and no care to what the world says.
(Sorry guys but even we Jews have a right to be barbaric from time to time ).

For the two other respondents who were questioning Israeli democratic institutes, I consider any country where a court simply says to the head of the executive branch that he will step down , NOW , because of legal reasons a country of law (No , not Nixon , Ulmert in this case ), as for free elections , I merely say that the number of polls per person is higher in Israel then in most democracies, people care and vote , check the voting ratio etc . We are a democracy . not perfect , but the imperfection tend to be in resource usage for minorities , not voting eligibility for them.
We have a very diverse court system and a less then perfect human rights record.
But I challenge you to find another democracy to actually debate in court in a middle of a struggle the exact boundaries permissible for interrogation and torture .And actually work out a reasonable approach.



Professor Volokh may have found the reason for our dictatorial tendencies.

While I largely agree with your (comparative) characterization of Israel as "democratic" (in other words, I would not agree with some critics [e.g., Oren Yiftachel] who would go so far as to describe Israel as a non-democratic 'ethnocracy'), one telling and I think troubling circumscription of Israel's democracy is the focus of (neo-)Zionists on the Jewish character of Israel, with no pretense whatsoever to separation of church and synagogue, so to speak. This is made quite clear in Aharon Barak's The Judge in a Democracy (2006). Barak (see reminds us that "Israel was founded as the state of the Jewish people. [The founding of not a few nation-states on along exclusivist ethnic and/or religious principles is similar in this regard, but what is more troubling is what, at least for Barak and other Israeli leaders, follows from this historical premise, namely, an axiomatic 'constitutional' premise:] The reason for the existence of the State of Israel is its existence as a Jewish state. That character is central to its existence, and it is 'an "axiom" of the state.' It is a 'fundamental principle of our law and our system.' We therefore cannot allow a list or an individual seeking to negate this reason and this foundation to participate in elections." This goes far beyond requiring would-be electoral participants that they recognize the right of the state of Israel to exist, for it excludes participants who would seek to put all religious and other worldviews on equal footing with Judaism vis-a-vis the democratic character of the nation-state of Israel.

The concern is not with a democractic state simpliciter (i.e., negating the existence thereof as found in the explicit or implicit 'goals' or actions of a candidate list), but with negating the existence of a "Jewish and democratic state." Needless to say, Israel's so-called demographic problem may turn this amended (in 1992) Basic Law (as interpreted and applied by the Supreme Court) into a pragmatic contradiction. Concrete consequences are not lacking: pervasive discrimination against Arab citizens, the political role of religion, the blurring of the state's geography, including the military control and settlement of territory in the West Bank and Gaza (e.g., roughly '60 percent of the West Bank is now held by Israeli Jews as private, state, or military land,' and segregation is very real for Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Russian immigrants, and Palestinian Arabs, among others). And this should not prevent us from acknowledging whenever and wherever Israeli authorities have taken significant steps toward deepening those democratic features which do in fact exist.

Again, what is troubling is the legislative, political and cultural licensing of the notion that one cannot sufficiently separate in the case of Israel the "Jewish" from "the democratic," hence even well-motivated or well-meaning criticisms of the Jewish nature of the state are seen as equivalent to, are in fact reduced to, "attacks on democracy." The Judaization of Israel should therefore remain an important concern for all who cherish the democratic elements of this state, especially in light of the "Arab demographic danger" and the resistance of Palestinians to a particular government's agenda and policies, including the IDF.

It seems to me that the concept of "democracy" is quite incompatible with the imposition of a 60-year military dictatorship on 3.5 million people, who are deprived of all civil and personal rights, as well as dispossessed of their land and homes without due process or even compensation -- if this is true, then Israel is not a "democracy."

Apart from that, Zionism is a form of ethnic nationalism, and ethnic nationalism is necessarily an anti-democratic political philosophy.

"We are a democracy . not perfect , but the imperfection tend to be in resource usage for minorities , not voting eligibility for them."

I'm pleased that Jonathan pointed this out. But there is the demography concern expressed by Mr. Morris with respect to the Israeli Arabs eventually outnumbering (and outvoting?) Israelis.

On a de jure basis, Israel has not taken America's 1787 approach concerning Indians with respect to Palestinians (differentiated from Israeli Arabs). How about de facto? Can a two-state solution work? Will the non-Israeli Middle East let it work? Now we have John Bolton proposing a three-state solution in his WaPo OpEd referenced in my earlier comment.

True, America's democracy is not perfect. It is the striving for a "more perfect union" that counts. Many of the steps taken by the George W. Bush administration have taken America backwards. I hope that Israel will not emulate his mis-steps. The recent death of Samuel Huntington has stirred up discussions of clashes of civilizations. Hopefully wiser leaders of these civilizations will surface to work things out with less violence.


Democracies are capable of all sorts of horrific things: witness slavery, the Allied bombing of Dresden, atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Vietnam War, treatment of indigenous peoples, and so forth and so on. That does not preclude us from calling their constitutions, political systems and institutions, or host societies, democratic. In other words, would-be democratic polities (acknowledging the fact that democracy can remain an ideal and aspiration to the extent that it is never fully realized or instantiated) don't always act in harmony or consonance with the principles and logic of democratic ideas. The important point, or at least one of them, is the fact that one can nonetheless invoke the avowed fidelity or commitment to "democracy" by way of an "internal" critique of such practices or behavior, including movements for reform in light of democratic values, principles, and practices. That alone should make us reluctant to, in the words of that well-worn expression, throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Little Lisa's bro is laughing up his :::: again. Let's see, this law was enacted BEFORE Wilson was elected President. Hmmm. So this was a Republican law? Let's extend equal rights to the ::::s in the State of Colorado.

As to my thoughts and sentiment about the Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza, they can be found in part at my post at Ratio Juris here:
and at my comments to a post by Kevin Jon Heller at Opinio Juris on "Dershowitz, Israel and Proportionality" (which I can't seem to access at the moment; there's a link at Leiter Reports in the post on 'Gaza and International Law').

"Democracies are capable of all sorts of horrific things: witness slavery, the Allied bombing of Dresden, atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Vietnam War, treatment of indigenous peoples, and so forth and so on."

That is true, but it doesn't address the point asserted in Sandy Levinson's post, which is that Israel "counts as" a democracy.

"Counting as" invokes the criteria of what constitutes a democracy, and whether Israel satisfies those criteria.

There would seem to be two democratic ways out of Israel's current dilemma (the occupation):

(1) Israel could withdraw its army and its government-subsidized settlers from all territories beyond the Green Line, in accordance with international law, thus allowing the Palestinians to create an independent state; or,

(2) Israel could annex the occupied territories and make its arab inhabitants full citizens of Israel.

But Israel won't do either (1) or (2).

Israel has refused option (1) again and again, and has instead chosen to build more jewish settlements, the explicit purpose of which is to impose jewish ethnic sovereignty over the territories at the expense of their inhabitants, who are subject to a different set of law based on ethnic criteria (i.e., apartheid).

Option (2) is unthinkable for most Israelis because it is too democratic; the democratic principle of one vote for one person would undermine the jewish majority and ultimately destroy Israel's identity as a jewish state, which is evidently more important than democracy.

Israel is in effect choosing a third (unstated) option, which is to take the land while forcing its native inhabitants to leave. The question is whether Israel will be able to preserve the illusion of "democracy" by means of ethnic cleansing.


You seem to have missed my first comment prior to yours, wherein I addressed Sandy's points, as well as several you've just raised (and I lack both the time and temperament to repeat myself).


Democracy simply means that the citizenry of Israel has some level of say in determining the policies of their government by either electing the government or directly voting on the policy.

Democracy does not mean that the citizenry will vote for the polices that you find moral or wise. The Palestinians voted for a fascist terror state in their last democratic election.

Israel is not less of a democracy because non-citizen Palestinians do not vote in Israeli elections to determine Israeli policies.

Also, Israel is not less of a democracy because they militarily occupy the territory of an enemy committed to its destruction and who continuously attacks Israel.

The Allies did not give the Germans, Italians and Japanese any say in Allied policy when they occupied those enemy states after WWII.

I agree that the question whether Israel is a true democracy is worth exploring. Patrick O'Donnell's post is a start along that road.

The late Professor Daniel J. Elazar was Professor of Political Science at Temple University in Philadelphia and also at Bar Ilan University in Israel. He founded the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University. He was a scholar of international repute advising, among many others, the post-apartheid Government of South Africa on federalism issues. In his Introduction to the Constitution of the State of Israel Professor Elazar addressed the unique nature of the constitutional settlement of the State of Israel:-

"Israel has been unable to adopt a constitution full blown, not because it does not share the new society understanding of constitution as fundamental law, but because of a conflict over what constitutes fundamental law within Israeli society. Many religious Jews hold that the only real constitution for a Jewish state is the Torah and the Jewish law (halakhah) that flows from it. They not only see no need for a modern secular constitution, but even see in such a document a threat to the supremacy of the Torah and the constitutional tradition associated with it that has developed over thousands of years to serve the Jewish people in their land and in the diaspora."

Funnily enough, the nearest parallel with that might well be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where because of the Wahhabi belief that the only law of the state can be the Holy Koran and the Sharia law flowing from it. Thus the Kingdom is in many ways inhibited from promulgating modern legislation. Nevertheless, Israel usually escapes the opprobrium routinely heaped on Saudi Arabia, or Iran, for being essentially theocracies where what constitutes the law is essentially defined not by popular vote but by what the religious teachers are prepared to sanction.

This is because Israel has been successful in marketing itself as a "democracy". One often hears supporters of the State of Israel claiming that Israel is "the only democracy in the Middle East". It might be more accurate to say that Israel is at least in part a theocracy and therefore not presently a secular democracy in the full modern sense of that word which must include a constitutional settlement which respects human rights. What instead happened is that there was for a very long time within Israel a left of centre political majority which represented the "acceptable face of Israel". That majority strove to mitigate the constitutional deficiencies. With decline in the influence of the Israeli Labour Party it seems that the human rights deficiencies have become more apparent.

Professor Elazar with others sought to analyse the changing face of Israeli politics in a series of articles commenting on the outcome of Knesset elections. In their analysis of the 1996 Elections entitled "The Battle over Jewishness and Zionism in a Post-Modern Era" , Professor Elazar and his team observed:

"What we learn from this and other studies is that Israel's Jews are not divided into two groups but into four: in Israeli terms, ultra-Orthodox (haredim), religious Zionists (datiim), traditional Jews (masortiim), and secular (hilonim). The ultra-Orthodox, those strangely (to Western eyes) garbed, black hatted Jews who are featured in all the pictures, represent only 8 percent of Israel's Jewish population. Another 17 percent are religious Zionists who normally are lost to view in many of the studies and the statistics because they are generally lumped with everyone else. The religious Zionists are similar to the modern or centrist Orthodox Jews in the diaspora, partaking of most or all aspects of modern civilization except that they maintain Orthodox observance of Jewish religious law and tradition.

The third group consists of the vast majority of Israeli Jews, some 55 percent, who define themselves as "traditional." These Jews are from many backgrounds but most are Sephardim from the Mediterranean or Islamic worlds. They are people who value traditional Jewish life but who are prepared to modify halakhically-required Jewish practices in those cases where they believe it to be personally necessary or attractive to do so. They cover the whole range of belief and observance from people of fundamentalist belief and looser practice to people who have interpreted Judaism in the most modern manner but retain many of its customs and ceremonies, particularly those connected with home and family...

The fourth group consists of those who define themselves as secular, at most some 20 percent of the Jewish population. These are people whose beliefs are secular. The practices of a significant percentage of them, on the other hand, may be quite similar to those of many traditionalists, only they claim to maintain those practices for family and national reasons rather than for religious ones. The fact that Jewish religious observance has such a strong national component makes it a major component of most Jews' national identity even if they no longer see themselves as believers in the Jewish religion."

The authors characterised the 1996 election results as a popular backlash against attempts to secularise the apparatus of the state. Understandable if only 20% of the population define themselves as "secular" - but the fact remains that secularists are in the minority. The problem may be that the electoral system seems to allow the ultra groups to "punch above their weight".

In effect, it is arguable that until 1967 the phenomenon of what one might call "radical messianic zionism" was marginalised by the secular leaning politicians and by the more visibly religious groups that seemed to offer a more authentic, uncompromising brand of religion but that all this changed when the Six-Day War of June 1967 resulted in the the capture of East Jerusalem and other territories of Biblical Israel.

For the secularists, the choice was between the military security that was offered by the expanded borders on the one hand and on the other the demographic impact of vastly increasing the number of Arabs within the borders of the State.

But for others who viewed the development of the State of Israel as the unfolding of a Messianic scenario, the miraculous victory of the Six-Day War was an essential stage in that process. The occupied territories belonged to the Jewish people by Divine decree and they were not be handed over to foreign hands. Under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Kook's son Zvi Yehudah Kook, with its centre in the yeshivah founded by the elder Kook, Jerusalem's "Merkaz Harav," thousands of modern young religious Jews campaigned actively against any territorial compromise, and established numerous settlements throughout Judea and Samaria. Many of these settlements, though originally founded illegally, were subsequently granted official recognition by successive Israeli governments.

It is unnecessary for present purposes to set out the development of the settlements, the rise of Gush Emunim and the Jewish Defense League. Suffice it to say tht by the 1990's some of the Rabbinate were ordering religious Jews to disobey military commands to evacuate occupied lands, and brandingYitzhak Rabin a "traitor" to the higher Jewish cause. A follower of these views assassinated Rabin in November 1995.

Now the issue of the settlements and the push for the annexation of further territory is very much part of the political agenda. See Mid-East Web's The Likud and the Hamas: A match made in Heaven?.

I am reminded of a speech in the House of Commons by the Rt Hon Gerald Kaufman MP on 16 April 1992 when Sharon was embarked on the same kind of expansionist strategy:-

"Mr Speaker: I became a friend of Israel when I was eight days old, and I have the scar to prove it. [Laughter.]...

We need to ask ourselves why young Palestinians, men and women with their lives before them, decide to turn themselves into human bombs. We need to ask how we would feel if we had been occupied for 35 years by a foreign power that denied us the most elementary human rights and decent living conditions. We need to ask what the Jews did in comparable circumstances. In 1946, the Irgun, controlled by Menachem Begin, who later became Israeli Prime Minister, blew up the King David hotel in Jerusalem, slaughtering 91 innocent people, 17 of them fellow-Jews.

Ariel Sharon responds to the suicide bombers by using the full force of the Israeli army. He is having absolutely no effect in ending the terrorist acts. The suicide bombings and the slaughter of Jewish innocents continue and, as Colin Powell said while in Israel, will go on - not only regardless of what Ariel Sharon's army does, but impelled by what it does.

In 1948, the Palestinians denounced what they described as a massacre in the village of Deir Yassin. It was denied that there was such a massacre, but it was later officially established by the incoming Israeli Government that 254 Palestinians had been murdered wantonly by Begin's Irgun and the Stern gang, led by Yitzhak Shamir - later, like Begin and Sharon, a Likud Prime Minister.

The difference between the Deir Yassin massacre and what happened in Jenin is that Deir Yassin was the work of terrorist groups denounced by mainstream Jewish organisations, whereas the horrors in Jenin were carried out by the official Israeli army.

It is time to remind Sharon that the star of David belongs to all Jews, not to his repulsive Government. His actions are staining the star of David with blood. The Jewish people, whose gifts to civilised discourse include Einstein and Epstein, Mendelssohn and Mahler, Sergei Eisenstein and Billy Wilder, are now symbolised throughout the world by the blustering bully Ariel Sharon, a war criminal implicated in the murder of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila camps and now involved in killing Palestinians once again.

Sharon is not simply a war criminal; he is a fool. He says that Jerusalem must never again be divided, yet it is divided in a way that it has not been for 35 years. I used to walk, shop and dine in east Jerusalem. No westerner or Israeli would dare to do that now. The state of Israel was founded so that Jews would no longer be penned up in ghettos. Now the state of Israel is a ghetto: an international pariah."

Just two days after Mr Kaufman's speech, President Bush said in the Oval Office that he believed Mr Sharon was a man of peace. One despairing Palestinian commentator on the BBC World Service said to me that George Bush might as well be asking Mossad to write his press statements.

I have Israeli friends who say to me that the incursion into Gaza is in reality part of a "Stop Likud" electoral strategy: i.e sacrifice 1,000 or so inhabitants of Gaza to prevent something far worse after the elections. Certainly Haaretz today reports that thus far there is a rise in Labour Party support equivalent to an increase from 11 to 16 Knesset seats Barak's political fortunes seen rising with each missile that pounds Gaza. But if that's the strategy it's a pretty sick one.


Democracy does not require a constitution - secular or otherwise. Indeed, one of the primary purposes of our Constitution, and the subject of Professor Levinson's ongoing complaint, was to restrain the excesses of democracy by checking government power through checks and balances requiring an effective super majority to implement policy and then guarantees of individual rights against supermajority policy.

"Israel is not less of a democracy because non-citizen Palestinians do not vote in Israeli elections to determine Israeli policies."

In truth, Israel is "less of a democracy" (in fact, not a democracy at all in any meaningful sense) insofar as it exercises political sovereignty over non-citizens who are deprived of their human and civil rights, including (among many other rights) the right to vote.

Certainly Israel's leaders are aware of the problem, even if Israel's vast array of apologists in the United States aren't.

My post on this subject basically spells out what Ehud Olmert was talking about when he said, in November of 2007, that "his nation risked being compared to apartheid-era South Africa if it failed to agree an independent state for the Palestinians.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Ehud Olmert said Israel was "finished" if it forced the Palestinians into a struggle for equal rights.

If the two-state solution collapsed, he said, Israel would "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished". Israel's supporters abroad would quickly turn against such a state, he said.

"The Jewish organisations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents," he said.

This dilemma is self-created, the result of every Israeli government since 1967 pursuing the settlement enterprise, now to the point where the two-state solution is all but impossible, leaving the country (and its arab non-citizen subjects) with a very bad set of options.

I think there's another aspect of "democracy" which affects Israel in particular, though it can and does impact other democracies as well, namely the influence of minor parties. I hear frequent complaints about the 2 party system in the US -- it deprives us of a "true choice", many voices remain unheard, etc. What it does do, though, is push both parties towards the center. That seems to me a valuable characteristic in times of crisis.

In countries like Israel, where minor parties can jointly control the government, extremists have much more influence on governmental policy. I don't know enough about the situation in Israel today to know if that's true of the current response, but it has been true in the past.

In analyzing democracy, whether parliamentary or presidential, it seems to me it's important to consider the impact of the way in which representation is actually implemented. Parliamentary democracy seems more likely to be influenced by minor parties because of the need for coalition government and the need to maintain a majority on all important issues.

Will you blame Mr Obama, after January 20th, if he does not submit every decision to the electorate? Or is this just another chance to bash Bush? I'm afraid, that despite the big words and the "deep" thoughts, this post is just another piece of political hackery disguised as intellectual argument.

You may rest assured that the incoming administration will be held to the standards that you have demanded over the last eight years. Go ahead, continue whining. It just gives us more ammunition as Obama's merry crew sink into the mess of corruption that is already apparent. Every time that a President Obama acts without submitting his program to direct democracy I can now state that Sandy Levinson says he's a dictator.

It seems to me that the concept of "democracy" is quite incompatible with the imposition of a 60-year military dictatorship on 3.5 million people, who are deprived of all civil and personal rights, as well as dispossessed of their land and homes without due process or even compensation -- if this is true, then Israel is not a "democracy."

And lout reveals his true colors; no matter how many times we hear talk of "occupied territories" and the "green line" and "1967 borders," it's really Israel itself that's at issue.

I don't really buy this argument. If the responsible parties are going into Gaza to curry political favor, doesn't that render what they're doing democratic in a certain sense and not dictatorial, whether or not the demos somehow gave them prior approval? They've taken the demos's political pulse, concluded that this is what they want, and are doing it (if we buy your rendition of what's going on) for that reason. Sounds very democratic to me.

Mark Field:
On the issue of the electoral system you have a valid point.

Israel has a nationwide party list system. The whole country votes and the threshold is just 2%.

This is a system theoretically very responsive to public opinion but has number of flaws:
(1) it puts a lot of power in the party machines because a candidate stands more chance of election the higher up a party list he is placed and, many party machines don't exactly wash whiter;
(2) there is no direct link between a geographic constituency and a member;
(3) having a low threshold makes coalitions inevitable and fringe groups can bring dowwn governments which makes for instability and gives the fruit-cakes disproportionate influence.

The system was used by Italy between 1947 and 1993 - with the average government lasting only nine months. That is why Single Transferable Vote is felt to be a better system.

Are you competing for Bart's place? Nothing in the original post proposes anything other than representative democracy.

David Nierporent:
There is a respectable argument to be made that any state which systematically privileges one category of its citizens against another is illegitimate. I have noted on another thread here that there is a remarkable document preserved in the Truman Presidential Library - recording a proposal put by Lessing J. Rosenwald, then the President of the American Council for Judaism, to US President Truman at a White House meeting on 4th December 1945 which, if accepted, could have resulted in the establishment of a secular democracy in the whole of Mandate Palestine. It is perhaps a great pity it was not implemented. In other words, despite the difficulties, if there were a clean slate, I would have preferred a single state solution - the Balkanisation of the mandate territory is a geopolitical nonsense.

"Democracy does not require a constitution - secular or otherwise."

I'm sure little Lisa's bro has legitimate examples to offer to test this.


Poor Bart is probably labouring under yet another misconception, namely that a constitution has to be in writing. That of the UK is not written - however it exists. If you have a club and it democratically elects its officers - if there are no written rules its constitutional settlement can be evidenced from the way things were done before and can be amended by a vote of the membership. That's still a constitution.

Or perhaps poor Bart just posted, even though he had nothing of significance to say, because he was feeling lonely under his rock in all this cold weather and wanted to try to make contact with some humans.

If the issue is misuse of the war power, then the Israeli parliamentary system would appear to be deficient because of its lack of checks and balances. With our robust checks and balances, we here in the USA are obviously far more confident that our executive cannot cook up a war, or extend one, whenever there's need for the cachet of being a "war president."

Mourad: I, for one, was profoundly amused at Bart explaining to you that a written constitution was unnecessary.

Personally, I think a written constitution is a lot less important than one that is actually followed, whether written or not.


The form of the constitution is irrelevant for this discussion.

Why do you need a constitution - a supreme law setting forth the powers of government and the rights of individuals - to hold elections choosing a government or a policy?

But there is always natural law which, naturally, is not written down as it is universal and is known and respected by all, secular and sectarian alike, not just by libertarians (or is it libertines?). Justice Holmes would positively go bonkers with little Lisa's bro. And without a constitution, would originalists all convert to natural law, doing what comes naturally?

This may simply underscore the point that all political systems, including those we justifiably label as "democratic," contain within them aspects of "dictatorship" as well, in which decisions of life and death are made without prior approval by the demos.

I think you are confusing representative democracy (as opposed to direct democracy) with dictatorship. Any representative democracy will result in decisions that -- at least intermittently -- do not enjoy majority support as time passes. That does not make them dictatorships.

Moreover, direct democracy may not be the panacea that you believe it to be. Most people are ignorant of the details behind foreign policy. The policy that wins a majority of votes at a nationwide town hall is not necessarily going to be a sensible one. How many of those voters will have taken the time to read up on the subject, listen to witnesses, discuss the issue with those of both similar and opposing viewpoints?

The other thing you get wrong in this post is that Netenyahu is a symptom, not a cause. To the extent that he becomes more popular, it is because Israelis see diplomacy as failing and desire a harder fist. It is not him leading Israelis to war, it is them deciding they are at war, and that they need a wartime leader. Conversely, with Livni, is is Israelis deciding that there is a near-term shot at a diplomatic solution and desiring a leader who will follow that course.

Firstly, I agree with the first two paragraphs of Zachary's post above. The whole theory of representative democracy is that the people select representatives whose judgment they trust and to whom they delegate power to legislate in their name.

Constitutions vary quite widely as to the attribution of the power to make war. In the UK power is presently vested in the Crown on the advice of ministers. In the USA the power is vested in the Congress.

I am not sure that the Israeli state has declared war. It has intervened on a territory which is not considered its own territory in international law pursuant to some imagined right to do so. There is an attempt in the political sphere to equate this with the Bush administration's intervention in Afghanistan.

As a matter of domestic law, I doubt the Courts in Israel would wish to decide the legality of such intervention any more than the US Courts would wish to adjudicate on the legality of the intervention in Afghanistan. These are questions where the Courts will wish to leave the politicians to answer (i) to their legislatures and electors in the
domestic sphere; and/or (ii) to the international community in terms of the international implications.

What I seek to point out above is that there is a necessary conflict between the approach of the Messianic Zionists who claim the whole territory of Biblical Israel as being that of the Jewish people and who hold that no earthly authority can determine otherwise and the approach of the secularists who accept that the State of Israel need not necessarily have the same boundaries in the secular sphere.

The Zionist approach has always involved some tampering with reality. As examples:-

"We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country .... expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly." - Theodore Herzl , (from Rafael Patai, Ed. The Complete Diaries of Theodore Herzl, Vol I)

"There is no such thing as a Palestinian people... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist." - Golda Meir, Statement to The Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969.

"... it is the duty of the [Israeli] leadership to explain to the public a number of truths. One truth is that there is no Zionism, no settlement, and no Jewish state without evacuating Arabs, and without expropriating lands and their fencing off." - Yesha'ayahu Ben-Porat, (Yedi'ot Aharonot 07/14/1972) responding to public controversy regarding the Israeli evictions of Palestinians in Rafah, Gaza, in 1972. (Cited in Nur Masalha's "A Land Without A People" 1997, p.98)

"The very point of Labor's Zionist program is to have as much land as possible and as few Arabs as possible!" -Yitzhak Navon ("moderate" ex-Israeli president and a leading labor party politician.) Cited on p.179 of Nur Masalha's A Land without a People who cites Bernard Avishai's The Tragedy of Zionism 1985 p.340.

While all that may fit very well, with the concept some Jews have that they are "God's chosen people" to the exclusion of other humans, I suspect a more considered theological approach is that better behaviour is imposed on those who have been singled out by the Almighty and that to be "chosen" implies "duty" rather than "privilege".

Were it to be otherwise, there would be some merit in the often misattributed jingle: "How odd...of choose...the Jews".

Israel's policy of executive action without its borders is not new. For example, Abu Jihad was shot dead in Tunis in 1968 and Yahya Ayyash was killed with a cellphone in Gaza in 1996. Both attacks were widely reported to have been carried out by Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service.

In 1996, a group of US Neoconservative Likudniks, including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and James Colbert, ran a study group in Israel for the incoming Netanyahu Government. The Group advised the Likud as follows:-

""To anticipate U.S. reactions and plan ways to manage and constrain those reactions, Prime Minister Netanyahu can formulate the policies and stress themes he favors in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the Cold War which apply well to Israel."

This was essentially the development of a "marketing strategy" in which Likud was advised to dress up its human rights abuses in language which would not offend the US public's perception of Israel. This meshes very well with the Bush Administration's own version of George Orwell's Newspeak. In such Newspeak, state ordered assassinations or murders become sanitised into "extrajudicial killings". Kidnappings on the territory of a third state become "extraordinary renditions". Torture becomes "enhanced interrogation". Civilians who are killed in military actions are not "murdered" - they are degraded into mere "collateral damage".

Today, we should remember that the current policy of openly launching and acknowledging attacks carried out by Israel's regular armed forces, the so-called Israeli "Defense" Force or IDF, began under the Premiership of Ehud Barak and escalated under Ariel Sharon. From October 2000 to April 2003, Israel is reported to have killed more than 230 Palestinians, including 80 children, women and innocent bystanders, in assassinations. Over 300 persons were injured in these attacks.

It is worth rereading the report of the 25th March 2003 UN Security Council Debate at which John Negroponte interposed the 28th US Veto to prevent condemnation of Israel by the Security Council. Since then, in accordance whith what is known as "the Negroponte doctrine", the US veto or threat of a veto has been systematically invoked in favour of Israel. Those with memories of unlawful activities of the USA in Honduras and Nicaragua will appreciate the irony of US Ambassador to the UN and pardoned felon, John Dimitri Negroponte, being the US Representative concerned.

Thus, Israel can get away with, literally, murder thanks to its US shield. The UN is powerless to sanction the disproportionate use of force or to impose peace-keeping measures by reason of the US veto. It will be extremely difficult for the new US Administration to change course on this aspect of US foreign policy.

And people are so foolish as to think that this will diminish the threat of terrorism!

What bears noticing here is that, in the end, there turned out to be very little difference between secular and religious Zionists: both imbued nationalism with a messianic strain, as Jacqueline Rose has documented, for leaders like Weizmann "merely displaced" the "false messianic hope" they avowedly "relinquished." Indeed, "the language of secular Zionism bears the traces and scars of a messianic narrative that it barely seeks, or fails, to repress." An exemplar here is David Ben-Gurion: "A secular Jew, like so many of the key figures in the early political history of Zionism, Ben-Gurion bequeathed to Israel in his rhetoric the messianic destiny of the nation-in-waiting," as the "language of salvation and redemption saturates...[his] prose." One disturbing consequence: "Under pressure of the biblical narrative, two thousand years of history fall into the dust," one reason why Palestine, to the Zionists, was a "land without a people" (when confronted with unavoidable empirical evidence to the contrary, 'ethnic cleasing' became the norm: cf. Ilan Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2006). Ben-Gurion understood the implications: "We must create a majority in the Land of Israel in the next twenty years." Is it any wonder that, today, Israel's "demographic problems" is both a manifest and latent cause of so much political and cultural anxiety? For better and more often for worse, "Messianism, as unconscious inspiration, is in the air and soil of Israel."

to Lout and Mourad;
This is growing in to a broad discussion with resources and annotations , good.
Lets start with a few pointers, remarks and questions :
1. The Israeli democracy is still a work in process - the US took almost 200 year for the civil rights revolution to occur, By your standers the US could not be called a democracy till the mid 80s.
Do you define the US as a democracy today ? Do you define the Mid 70s US as a democracy ?

2. Jewish state Vs democracy of all its citizens ?

Well this is one of the hardest issues we are being confronted with , as a Jew versed in history the background and its reasoning is obvious and quite frankly the fear it generates is obvious for me.
I will say first that I believe this tension in the nature of Israel will continue for another generation. We are only 60 years after the event, the tensions and people involved are still alive.
My best friend parents (both of them) were involved in that great upheaval personally, the emotions still are hot and I don't think this issue can really be addressed for this generation, sorry sometimes time is the great healer, not enough has passed.
Maybe for non Jews/ people who do not live in a population with a large concentration of Holocaust survivors or their kids this seems an old piece of history , for us it is not (my family had the good sense/luck to leave the continent en mass 20 years before) .

3. The issue with the supreme court and a Jewish state deals less with discrimination of minorities and more with religious oriented laws or where feelings of devout Jews were concerned .
Case in point a Jewish orthodox family court judge (he is orthodox , the court is a family court regular civilian court ) used the "Jewish state" sentence in the declaration of Israeli independence statement to rule all same sex couples can not receive state recognition and rights since Jewish law says it is not allowed.
It is worth mentioning this runs contrary to 20 + years of supreme court ruling and written law. Needles to say no one has upheld his ruling and it is mute (it will not be appealed since the legal point is now mute but all sides in the discussion told the judge that he did not rule on the point and went totally bonkers).
Allmost all other disscusions were as to how non jewish behaviour can be curbed by law and the result is simply a 25 year drift to - If it a non harmful activity civil right will always trump the law.
The only actual places where it is better to be Jew as far as laws are concerned are more security issues like :
1. Non jews have a harder time to get their spouses allowed to live in IL ( IE Arabs bringing in from Arab states wifes /husbends)
2. Getting IL citizenship is automatic for a Jew.

All other material and budget issue have more in common with getting better pavement in a street in Chicago south then to religious issues , IE politics and who has more votes. The situation is getting better .
The problem is not an Arab Israeli , same issues existed with eastern originated Jews municipalities , see Rosh Hain etc. As I said work in progress and politics. (For us black Jews, although the skin color is more dark tan :-) )

4. lout "Israel could annex the occupied territories and make its arab inhabitants full citizens of Israel."
Really ?
Check international law. NO WE COULD NOT !!!!
Conquered territories can not be annexed.
Sorry , we can try to give them back to Jordan :-) , unfortunately the king will say : Thx but no thanks.
Nor can we really do other options that were considered.
Sorry military rule and then a staged process for independance was the only thing that will work. Which is what is being tried.

PS option 3 is also illigal as was reported to the Knesset by its legal advisors , to the much irritation of a few ultra right winged members
SO , please check the facts before u say that.

And yes i agree most Israelis do not want either to happen from our own reasons. We're not dumb you know, Just trying to find a way out with an awful set of options.

5. As for "democracy" is quite incompatible with the imposition of a 60-year military dictatorship on 3.5 million people" ?
UK ? with over 200 years in Ireland ? Indians (Red Negros for US citizens ?) till mid 20th century ?
If you live in a house of glass beware of throwing stones :-)

I'll split this post since I sem to be losing coherance, to be continued

This follows discusses points of law , courts and emergency powers :

1. The state of Israel is actually under a state of emergency since 1948 , legally that is.
This gives the government a lot of ligal tools wich are undemocratic and can violate civil rights.
Not our fualt , we inherited this frame of law from the British when they left.
For the last 20 years these right are being legislated and removed from emergency law and incorporated in to regular law with court supervision.
Yes I can be picked up from the street today and held , but the guy better have a damn good explanation for it or his carrier is over.
The brits still have all these laws , you just don't hear of them using it much.

2. Courts have ruled from time to time of actual fighting methods against the army, as usual for administrative issues the burden needs to be lifted by the petitioner , but the court sits as a court of justice, IE technicalities don't worry them.
Case in point , the IDF can't ask a neighbor to knock on a door of a possibly armed man to make sure the door is not booby trapped.
Not legal , and 2 IDF commanders just lost their jobs for doing so last year.
The courts protect Palestinian right when they deem the issue as not in line with human rights.

IDF consults lawyers knowing it will be challenged by NGOs and Israeli political groups if they step out of line.
Non of the present actions are even near this line.
Sorry, in a battle zone with civilians in the mix shit will happen, you try to avoid it but wishful thinking ...

Constitution issues :
Israel has a start , it is called basis laws.
They include human right, freedom of activity etc
( sorry non English )
Several laws are still required but not complete due to religious or other issues.

As I said work in progress.

Now for the political issue stuff, or the rabid bunnies under our mattress.

Yes we have a Massionic Jews section of the public, they account for about 10 % of the electorate.
So what ?
Ever hear of the neo cons ? we at least did not let they assume full control....

sorry , sounds peevish , but your discussion seems to miss the point that talk is cheap and if we judge a country by its extremists .....

we have some scary critters in this camp. people who would expel or kill the Palestinians ... so what , we even have laws against them .

We have our ultra right wing that scares me, we also have our ultra left wing that scares me too...

The Jewish state is here to safeguard the existence of the Jewish people.
Ie any persecuted Jew can run to us, have a case and we probably will pay the plane ticket and bribes to get you to us.
Once here , welcome brother , lets help you find a work.

Most of the other laws are minor. The Palestinians say that they want this right too for their 6 million brethren across the world.
Well if you can find a way to fit in the DC area another 6 million people you will understand why this simply can not be done.
The rest is bullshit which explains the above facts....

Note I do not in my posts digress to long winded philosophical reviews, political and practical simplicities drive situations , the rest is simply long winded shit explaining why my ass should be covered.

PS I assumed most of the debaters are US based on language and the location of the blog.

Jonathan wrote:

"4. lout "Israel could annex the occupied territories and make its arab inhabitants full citizens of Israel."
Really ?
Check international law. NO WE COULD NOT !!!!
Conquered territories can not be annexed."

Jon, international law also says that territories under occupation cannot be settled by the occupier, but that hasn't stopped Israel from sponsoring the settlement of 450,000 Israelis in the West Bank.

"Giving them back to Jordan" (i.e., expulsion based on ethnic criteria) is also illegal, but Livni recently suggested that arabs' "national solution is elsewhere."

My post takes it for granted that international law is not a meaningful constraint on Israel's actions.

Ok lets make order here
1 part of the settelments are illigal , obvious , but there is a huge differance between setteling some people in parts of a land , which can be taken out later (like in Gaza) to killing and driving out people.
International law has many parts , some are more like a driving ticket and others are like murder.
Israel could not evict the palestinians any more then it would kill them (in times of calm that is)
While fighting is occuring international law requests not to TARGET civilians, trying to avoid hard mif fighting is the best inter\national law requires.
Israel does that, the maoral questions Israelis have are :
Sould we risk the lifes of Israeli soldiers to avoid any harm to a civilian ?
I commanded a small unit , my personal response is that any risk to my soldiers above a small one is not acceptible.
Sorry I had to visit 3 grieving families I have no intention to ever do that.

The actual number of settlers is 285 K ( another 185 K are east Jerusalem block and Golan Heights 20 K) and most of which live in a corridor which can be united with IL for territories south and east of the territories ) , with over 3 Million Palestinians ....

As for what Livni said , well you should check her history , she grew up in the Likud as a right wing hard line , she has her regressions. That is not the official position of her foreign ministry and was , as usual, for internal political consumption.

Israel abides by most international law, the supreme court hears arguments based on international law and acts on them.


All of our democracies are "works in progress". It is perfectly proper to point out that that it has taken the UK over a thousand years to reach its present constitutional settlement - and it is still a "work in progress". However it is also true that new democracies can properly be expected to benefit from and not repeat the mistakes of the old.

The totality of your post seems to be a piece of special pleading to the effect that because today's Israeli Jews are, in some cases, Holocaust survivors, Israel is in some way a special case and its excesses are to be excused on that account. I hope that is not what you intended to mean.

Large numbers of the Jewish families I am proud to call my friends here in the UK are people whose ancestors came to this country to avoid systematic persecution in Europe. Some fled from the Nazi persecutions and some, increasingly few, are survivors of Hitler's death camps. Even fewer of the families came to the UK as a consequence of the Spanish persecution directed at both Muslims and Jews during the "Reconquista" of Muslim Andalusia. It is because of those memories and histories that my Jewish friends and many more whom I only know only by reputation have been at the vanguard of the anti-discrimination movements in this country, vigilant to nip in the bud any incipient Islamophobia - because they, above all others, know so well that to have any form of discrimination become socially acceptable or enshrined in the practice of the state are the first steps on the primrose path to perdition. That is what "never again" means to them.

That is why many of them were idealists, activists in the Labour Party, in the Jewish Labour movement (formerly Poale Zion) hoping to see Labour in Israel build a state which would be a beacon of human rights in a region where all too often there was scant attention to human rights.

I quoted in an earlier post Sir Gerald Kaufman's denunciation of Sharon as a war criminal. I recollect his incandescent anger in 2002 when Shimon Perez associated himself with Sharon: "What the Israeli Labour Party, with its fine traditions, is doing associating with this right-wing thug, I cannot begin to imagine, he said.

It is remarkable just how many thuggish settlers interviewed on TV have pronounced American accents. A claim to a Biblical right to take over Palestinian lands in the Occupied Territories sounds particularly incongruous coming from a graduate of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. It can only be explained by a belief that the Palestinians are "untermenschen".

Now the thuggish behaviour has become routine. The descendants of yesterday's survivors of oppression have become today's oppressors.

So, Jonathan, do you seek to excuse the death toll thus far - see this Haaretz Report - as a legitimate and proportionate act ?


Hamas has been caught launching missiles from the UN schools and stages their fighters and supplies in hospitals, schools and mosques, using the facilities and their civilian inhabitants as shields.

These are all war crimes.

The war criminal combatants who use civilians as human shields are completely responsible for the resulting deaths and injuries to the civilians.

As soon as you start taking Hamas to task for the war crimes of not only attempting to murder Israeli non-combatants, but also using Palestinian non-combatants as human shields and protected buildings as military bases, then I might begin to seriously take your criticisms of Israel as something more than co-religionist solidarity.

As soon as you start taking Hamas to task for the war crimes of not only attempting to murder Israeli non-combatants

Baghdad, we've burned entire cities to the ground. We're really not in a position to whine about the tactics that Hamas is using.

Little Lisa's bro seems to be suggesting that citizens/residents of a nation may be fair game for retaliation if its leaders commit war crimes.


You know that I was not implying anything of the kind. Rather, Israel may lawfully target Hamas military targets and any resulting deaths of civilians Hamas is using as human shields around their military positions are war crimes perpetrated by Hamas and not of Israel.

It's uncanny how the dead Israeli civilians are always the result of war crimes and the dead Palestinian civilians are always human shields. Uncanny.

I'll wonder if we gave Apache helicopters and F-16s to the Palestinians if it would result in the deaths of more Israeli human shields?


The issue is not whether the actions of Hamas militants in firing rockets into Israel are wrong - of course they are, but whether the IDF incursion is the least destructive way of bringing that threat to an end. All around the world, governments are saying that there were alternatives, that the IDF incursion into Gaza was inappropriate and that there should be an immediate cease-fire. Not just governments.

Avi Shlaim is a Fellow of St Antony's College and a Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford. See Professor Shlaim's CV.

I commend to readers this op-ed by Professor Shlaim How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe. This is a stinging denunciation of the last 40 years of Israeli policy written by someone who writes with authority. The whole article should be required reading for anyone considering the problems today, but I would point two just two paragraphs in particular:-

The brutality of Israel's soldiers is fully matched by the mendacity of its spokesmen. Eight months before launching the current war on Gaza, Israel established a National Information Directorate. The core messages of this directorate to the media are that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements; that Israel's objective is the defence of its population; and that Israel's forces are taking the utmost care not to hurt innocent civilians. Israel's spin doctors have been remarkably successful in getting this message across. But, in essence, their propaganda is a pack of lies. ...

This brief review of Israel's record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel's real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.

A very great deal of disinformation is being pumped by experts into the US media and blogosphere. The aim is to keep the US military aid and arms flowing as well as he vast sums raised from the US diaspora.

I expert fools like LSR Bart to buy into the propaganda every bit as much as I expect the likes of Necons like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and Michael Goldfarb to play their part in disseminating it.

However, Professor Shlaim is not quite a lone voice crying in the wilderness. See also Julia Chaitin's powerful op-ed in the Washington Post (and she lives where the rockets are falling) or this report on Jews Sans Frontieres.


Short of surrender and evacuation of all Jews from Greater Palestine, precisely what non-military action do you suggest Israel can take that would stop Hamas from seeking to advance its announced goal of destroying Israel?

Here is an alternative. Israel should offer to turn over its Hamas prisoners for trial before the ICC if that useless body will indict and try the Hamas terrorists for war crimes. Would you like to lay odds on whether the gutless EU would take Israel up on such an offer?

I see the conversation has turned but I just want to make my intentions clear,
Israel holds itself to the most liberal standers,
Jews are a majority and as such in a democratic state can set rules as long as they do not take existing rights from Israeli Arab citizens.
Palestinians in the territories are not citizens, they are on their way to become citizens in their own state.
I myself mentioned a bunch of issues Israel is not perfect and is in the process of grappling with.
We are not using older standers but if you check the terror laws in the UK the government has so much leeway there ... does that degrade UK democracy standard ? does that turn the UK in to a dictatorship ?

Each man is entitled for his opinion , I think my state deserves A- for effort and a B for execution (if You read Justice Barak's books you can get an idea of the issues , he is the top guy to judge these issues for the last 20 years)
But no one to my knowledge expect Israel to commit suicide !!!!
Sorry , to be blunt , there are lines which will destroy us physically within a decade . Things like accepting 6 million decedents of Arabs who fled from this territory in 48 and 67 in to a state that is the size of Chicago ? That is national suicide ... etc

Now to the war crimes issues which were branded here liberally , please save those allegations for both sides for RBS (really bad stuff) , the term is violations of the rules of war , Geneva convention etc.

1. The Hamas to my knowledge is not a signatory to those treaties. (even is it tries to use it to its benefit )

in the following post I will describe a new procedure of Israeli Air force , I would like each of you in a short paregraph to simply say if you think this is legal moral or common sense.
short so we can see where we stand :

New IDF air force protocol :
I personally heard it on the news from Channel 10 (IL) so the details may be a little fuzzy .

Procedure name : Roof knocking

When an IDF plane is about to bomb a target known to be an arms cache etc the IDF :

1. Phones someone in the house to tell the people living there ( most caches are in a tunnel below the house ) .
2. Normally what happens next is that civilians climb to the roof to dare the IDF to bomb the place while the plane can see them.
3. The idf then hits a corner of the roof with a very low yield no fragment missile (enough to rock the house but not actually damage it , hence knock the roof )

4. Civilians get sense and flee
5. Idf plane after waiting a few minutes releases a bomb
6. home of civilians and underground emmo storage destroyed

Note that whoever put the emmo their is a criminal but also targeting the home is not nice , and since this is an urban environment civilian casualties will not surprise any one.

What do you think is the moral/legal/practical definition for this ?

New IDF air force protocol :
I personally heard it on the news from Channel 10 (IL) so the details may be a little fuzzy .

Procedure name : Roof knocking

When an IDF plane is about to bomb a target known to be an arms cache etc the IDF :

1. Phones someone in the house to tell the people living there ( most caches are in a tunnel below the house ) .
2. Normally what happens next is that civilians climb to the roof to dare the IDF to bomb the place while the plane can see them.
3. The idf then hits a corner of the roof with a very low yield no fragment missile (enough to rock the house but not actually damage it , hence knock the roof )

4. Civilians get sense and flee
5. Idf plane after waiting a few minutes releases a bomb
6. home of civilians and underground emmo storage destroyed

Note that whoever put the emmo their is a criminal but also targeting the home is not nice , and since this is an urban environment civilian casualties will not surprise any one.

What do you think is the moral/legal/practical definition for this ?


The simple answer to your enquiry is that all these alleged procedures to minimise civilian casualties are what the American cousins call "lipstick on a pig".

If the military incursion and in particular the use of air power and artillery in urban areas is unlawful to begin with, no attempts to reduce the number of casualties will make the incursions or the use of air power, rockets and artillery, less so.

Whatever you wish to say, the wholly disproportionate number of casualties makes the point - unless, of course, you wish to make the point that an Arab child's life is worth less than an Israeli one.

I suggest you read Professor Shlaim's article to which I linked above.

As a Jew born in Baghdad, he will know what it is like to live under a régime which does not respect human rights, as an Israeli citizen who has served in the armed forces and as a professor in one of the world's most prestigious schools of international relations he is well placed to make a proper analysis of the present situation and his conclusion is unfavourable.

This unfortunately means that the IDF is engaged in an unlawful use of military force for improper purposes which the UN Security Council could and should restrain, but which it is prevented from doing by the US Veto.

I note that you assert in earlier posts:-

(i) that the purpose of the Jewish state is to protect the existence of the Jewish people; and

(ii) that to admit the return of the Palestinians who have been displaced from their lands in favour of immigrants from, for example, the Bronx, would be "national suicide".

Can you not see how close those assertions come to the "lebensraum" arguments of the Third Reich?

It can be said that the unhappy modern history of Palestine begins with the Balfour Declaration. I note that the Balfour Declaration referred to a Jewish National Home IN Palestine, not OF Palestine, but the fact remains that the land of Palestine was not the property of the UK to give away.

I have referred above to the Lessing proposal for a secular Palestine. Despite his inability to get his own people to accept substantial immigration from Europe, Truman was willing to put pressure on the British to accept massive immigration into Palestine (he was seeking permits for 100,000 displaced survivors in 1946), even though he knew that such immigration would create problems well beyond the resources of the British to control.

The consequence was that the British, bankrupted by World War II (which they had fought alone from 1939 until Pearl Harbour) and faced with a deteriorating security situation in Palestine and no US support, decided to dump the whole problem into the lap of the United Nations.

The rest is history. The UN recommended partition, violence ensued, the Zionists proclaimed the State of Israel which Truman's USA recognised and there has been conflict ever since.

In his account of Truman's role on the Mid-East web site, Ami Isseroff makes two points:-

""From the point of view of the Americans, and world opinion, the creation of Israel was a more or less conscious and wilful act that was meant to compensate for the Holocaust. This view has not been accepted by the Arabs, who protest that the Palestinians should not have been made to pay for the Holocaust."

Isseroff, also opines:-

"In the final analysis, it seems the US supported partition because in fact, there was no alternative. The British were unwilling and unable to continue the mandate. They could not admit Jewish immigrants in keeping with the terms of the mandate owing to Arab pressure. They could not continue to bar immigration in the face of Jewish pressure and underground resistance. No country, certainly not the US, was willing to send troops to enforce a trusteeship, which would have met the same problems as the mandate, a point that was never raised apparently, but which must've come into consideration. The bi-national state was opposed by both the Arabs and the Jews, and would've come apart at the seams as soon as it was established. The Arabs wanted to establish a single state in all Palestine, but they had not the wherewithal even to establish a state in the half granted to the Palestinians. The Jews would certainly have risen against such a state, with effects little different than those that resulted."

In terms of realpolitik, Isseroff is substantially right: but was there really no alternative?

What if Truman would had thrown his weight and the considerable weight of the United States of America behind the American Jewish Council plan? It is certainly possible that an historic opportunity was lost for short-term considerations.

At the time of the UN partition plan, slightly less than half the land in all of Palestine was owned by Arabs, slightly less than half was "Crown land" belonging to the state, and only about 8% was owned by Jews or the Jewish Agency. There were about 600,000 Jews in Palestine and about 1.2 million Arabs.

Stephen Halbrook tracks developments to 1981 in a paper The Alienation of a Homeland: How Palestine Became Israel

Therein lies the historic injustice. The land of the 1.2 million Palestinian Arabs in Mandated Palestine in 1945 has been expropriated from them to form an ever-growing Jewish state composed largely of immigrants.

Needless to say the historic injustice has not resulted in peace and nor will it ever do so for so long as the USA continues to support the State of Israel on an "Israel - Right or Wrong" basis.

The only reason the IDF is able to mount its operations and the state its propaganda campaign in which you play a witting or unwitting part is because Israel is the largest single recipient of US aid, and because the Diasporas also support the state - right or wrong.

Who knows if that approach will change? I have my doubts as to the ability of the incoming Administration to make too radical a change in a US policy unless there is also a change in the internal Israeli mindset.

For that reason I am a pessimist on the prospects for a durable peace in the region.

I think I need to add a postcript to my post above:-

Neither Europeans nor Americans can begin fully to understand so complex and historic a conflict as the Arab-Jewish conflict over Israel-Palestine, let alone devise any "instant solution". There are complex issues of land, of water, of immigration and return of refugees, of human and civil rights, of religious extremism.

We Europeans played a large part in the creation of the conditions which gave rise to the problems at the origin of the conflict.

Therefore, while I think it is right to rise the issue of the rejection of the ACJ proposal, it would not be right to condemn President Truman for doing so. In the post-war chaos of 1948, there were many problems on the President's table - and in any event, Europe has a far greater historic responsibility for the problem.

What if the Crusaders had not sacked Jerusalem in 1099?
What if the Christians of Europe had not systematically discriminated against and persecuted the Jewish minorities of the European diaspora - would Zionism have evolved as the potent force it eventually became?
What if the Holocaust had not happened - would the guilt-ridden victors of World War II have permitted the Arab-Jewish conflict to develop in the way it did immediately after World War II?
What if the United States of America had taken up in 1945 the wise and humane proposal of the American Council for Judaism and thrown its might behind it?

In a moving stream, one can never immerse one's hand twice in the same water. "What if" has become an idle speculation.

By now the problem has become one for the governments of the region to solve. The most the USA and Europe can do is to try to be even-handed facilitators of a just solution.

That may mean that the USA has to take its hand off one side of the scales.

It may also mean that some degree of commitment to "peace enforcement" - to prevent border violations and the like, many be required.

To sum up your argument :
Israel in its present form has no right to exist.
Chuck them out of there or force all Jews to live in the standers of the Palestinians under self rule.

is that your point of view ?

The UN (which I assume you would accept as a authority )is the one that gave the land to be distributed between the Jews and Arabs.
(The brits merely left when they decided they don't care anymore)
It was the Arabs that took the winner take it all approach and lost !!!!
Had they won this debate would be academic, the Jews would have been dead.
Should I apologies for my uncles to be too stubborn to die while attacked by superior forces from all over the middle east ?

1. these actions are not illegal

If someone is storing emmo in a building to fire it at my kids , I have a right to bomb it.
I will repeat
A military target is legal.
If someone put a nuclear warhead in a kindergarten it is the person who puts the facility there who is violating the Geneva convention not the other side.
If a school wall is used to place mortars and the school is hit, tough luck.
But the strike at the school is not criminal, the fighting from near it is.

Israel is using large guns, that does not mean the attack is illigal.

The question is : is Hamas attacking from the areas Israel is hitting?

Note Hamas is now firing not merely within urban areas but actually from buildings or rooftops ,clearly visible from contrails shown.
If that is so then Israel is within its legal right to attack the area. Actually it is negligent if it does not ....

I do not envy the specific pilot/artillery officer , I did know a person who made such a mistake and it scarred his soul.

1. these actions are not illegal

If someone is storing emmo in a building to fire it at my kids , I have a right to bomb it.
I will repeat
A military target is legal.
If someone put a nuclear warhead in a kindergarten it is the person who puts the facility there who is violating the Geneva convention not the other side.
If a school wall is used to place mortars and the school is hit, tough luck.
But the strike at the school is not criminal, the fighting from near it is.

Israel is using large guns, that does not mean the attack is illigal.

The question is : is Hamas attacking from the areas Israel is hitting?

Note Hamas is now firing not merely within urban areas but actually from buildings or rooftops ,clearly visible from contrails shown.
If that is so then Israel is within its legal right to attack the area. Actually it is negligent if it does not ....

I do not envy the specific pilot/artillery officer , I did know a person who made such a mistake and it scarred his soul.


You seem to have a capacity, matched only by LSR Bart, for taking reasoned argument and redefining it to suit your own purposes.

1. I have never said that Israel does not have a right to exist. I regret the UN decision to partition mandate Palestine, I would have preferred a unitary secular and non-discriminatory state where eventually peoples of all races and religions could have lived together in peace and harmony. But it is now too late to undo what has been done. Past wrong on either side do not make a right today.

2. Given the geography, I fear it will be well nigh impossible to implement the two state solution without buffers for a considerable period of time. What I would like to see eventually is two states with some kind of confederal economic union. It is amazing in 2009 to see how inconceivable further war between, say, France and Germany, has become as a benefit of the European Union and something similar ought to be achievable in the Mid-East

3. Construction of a peace requires both sides to negotiate in good faith and the present situation is very much "both to blame" for the reasons set out in Professor Shlaim's article.

4. I do not accept your apparent views that (i) Jews have a God-given right to the whole of Biblical Israel; and/or (ii) that Israel is entitled to a special status in compensation for the Holocaust or past wrongs done to them, any more than I as a Muslim descended from the inhabitants of Andalusia am entitled to any special status because the Inquisition sought to exterminate both us and our Sephardi neighbours or expelled my forbears centuries ago; and/or (iii) that Israel is entitled to annex any of the Occupied Territories; and/or (iv) that Israel ought to be permitted to discriminate against any of its inhabitants on grounds of ethnicity or religion.

5. The present incursion is unlawful and the fighting out to stop forthwith and a cease-fire should be imposed. While the firing of rockets into Israel is unacceptable so has been the conduct of Israel in relation to the economic strangulation of Gaza. Both to blame. Both must cease and desist and the international community should impose a solution if the parties cannot agree one.

6. The conduct of the present Administration in being blatantly partial as between the parties is misguided and I am pessimistic as to the possibility of a substantive change of US policy.

I'm sorry if you do not like that viewpoint but I think you will find that there are people both within and without Israel who share it or parts of it.

Should the value of a life be determined by the ethnicity/culture of the person compared to the ethnicity/culture of another person? Is the life of one preferred over the other? How might some visitors to this Blog fill in the blanks below:

"The life of one (1) ___________ is more important/valuable than the lives of ____ (___) ____________."

Marc Ambinder's blog is reporting that the Obama transition team has selected three of its chief negotiators for the worlds hotspots: Messrs Dennis Ross, Richard Haass, and Richard Holbrooke.

If true, this is an indication that the intention is to "hit the ground running" and President-elect Obama's comment that he would have much to say on the Middle East post inauguration was absolutely genuine.

Haas is being mentioned for the Middle East brief. He was considered very able during the Northern Ireland peace process and on 16th December 2008 he published an op-ed in the Financial Times Middle East Needs Obama Touch which suggests the US policy post Jan 20th will be a lot less ineffectual than it has been under the Toxic Texan.

However, the obstacles are formidable. I remain pessimist, but less so than before the election.

Mourad Hi
a post there went missing in which I said that I was going to extreme on some opinions intentional;

First I totally agree with you on all issues in your 4 ,
4.1 4.2 are the opinion of ultra right wing and represent less then 10% of people and all i can say is shame on them.
4.3 is a no brainer . Not legal and stupid and i said so in my previous posts , any such attempt will not only be illigal but also national suicide.
4.4. These issues are a matter of an internal debate in Israel which is slowly shifting to the liberal side (ie all work in process posts ) As I mentioned the actual issues which harm Arab citizen right are the matters of getting spouses in to Israel as new citizens. All other issues are more political power and resource distribution.
As for resource allocation I am part of the political group pushing for objective parameters for resource distribution.

The reason i threw out those opinion is to get your opinion as in 1 .

Your 2 and 3 unfortunately coincide with my personal feeling , I hope my grand children will have peace. But if Palestinians continue to choose to teach hatred to their children this will only remain a hope. :-(
the society itself needs a serious shakeup. It is a shame that a nation which was known throughout the Arab word as scholarly achievements as the "Arab Jews" is now reduced in Gaza to Madrases and religious extremism.

6, the current US team of "Don't care" and "shit happens" have much more to answer for then this little escapade , u really want them to perform ? The mere idea of them trying to meddle again curdles my blood , I would rather wait till the 20th. brrrrrrrrr

So now we get to our dispute 5
Israel waited for 8 years, yes it has blocked entry . No choice there , after several suicide bombing in the crossing etc we got fed up.
Sorry , it hit us economically too , cheap labor and veggies.
But after repeated attempts we gave up.

Ok , if you are in an opinion that the attack was illegal answer this, economic blockade is defined by legal terms a reversible action (no permanent irreversible acts ) Firing rockets at civilian is undoubtedly an irreversible action (being that most Israelis are not Christ to rise out if their graves ).

What would you do to stop the rocket attacks?
Please remember that this is going on for 3 years , so you can hardly blame Israel for lack of patience.

I really should say we (in Israel)would like some pragmatic diplomacy after the 20th
with some sticks used to route nations and bodies to practical solutions (including our own).

Not much hope . but call it careful optimism

But if Palestinians continue to choose to teach hatred to their children this will only remain a hope. :-(

There actually seems to be plenty of hatred on both sides.


Thank you for your response. I am gratified to see a measure of agreement.

Believe me, having passed some of my not entirely misspent youth in uniform trying to keep the peace in Northern Ireland, in Cyprus and some other less salubrious spots, I am under no illusions as to the difficulty of peace enforcement missions - particularly when there are people around who do not want to abandon their particular "armed struggle".

But such missions can ultimately succeed.

I am pleased to see that the BBC is reporting here that the principle of a truce has been accepted.

I have to say that this does make me think that the incursion may well have been a pretty cynical attempt by Israel to improve its position before a more activist US President took office - and perhaps more connected with the February 10th Israel elections than with any pressing military necessity.

May I commend to you a web site you may be familiar with: Bitter Lemons.

I would add that if the new US Administration does appoint Richard Haass to be the point man on the Middle East, both sides will find him to be one tough cookie.

As you may know, he succeeded George Mitchell as the US special envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process and did contribute to the process (although George Mitchell was a very hard act to follow).

We must not expect instant results after 60 years on the wrong road.

Condoleeza Rice has recounted how when she was 8 years old, she suffered the loss of a school friend who died in the white racist bombing of a Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

But even in the last days of the Bush Administration, she is working to stop the UN Security Council passing a resolution for a cease-fire in Gaza.

A whole new meaning for the Bush "No Child Left Behind" policy?

(i) Israel faces deluge of criticism over Gaza at UN:-
"Speakers from countries as politically disparate as Iran, Brazil, Spain and Iceland condemned what they saw as Israel's disproportionate use of force and called on the council to adopt a resolution demanding an immediate end to the violence....

Even David Miliband, the British foreign secretary – who along with his US counterpart, Condoleezza Rice, has extended his visit to the UN – said that Israel's response had been disproportionate and jeopardised a political solution to the Middle East conflict.

British, American and French foreign ministers and diplomats spent today in talks with their Arab counterparts as they tried to avoid a UN resolution that would almost certainly be vetoed by a pro-Israeli US."

(ii) Rice pushes for softer UN Gaza measure:-
"Secretary Condoleezza Rice is bouncing from meeting to meeting with European and Arab Foreign Ministers here at the United Nations, trying to convince Arab leaders not to push for a Security Council resolution on the crisis in Gaza, but to accept a less forceful "presidential statement.

Rice's efforts seem to be failing, however. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has just told reporters that a presidential statement is not acceptable to the Arabs.

A "presidential statement" is an official document from the U.N. Security Council. It is generally viewed as more of a political statement than a legally binding resolution. Therefore a less powerful display from the Security Council.

According to a Saudi diplomat, the Arab leaders are pressing for a resolution that calls for an immediate end to the violence and then the establishment of a mechanism to police the border crossings and deal with the smuggling issue. But, the U.S. wants a mechanism first before calling for a ceasefire, the diplomat said.

A senior U.S. official confirmed the U.S. will veto any resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and suggested the Arabs will push it forward anyway, so they can then blame the U.S. for not calling for an immediate end to the fighting.

The U.S. official said a Security Council resolution "spooks the Israelis" and that Rice believes a presidential statement is a good compromise."

And now we know why the IDF has been defying an Israeli Court Order to allow journalists into Gaza:-

(iii) Grief and Rage at Stricken Gaza School - NYT:-

[an image the Israeli Government spin-doctors would rather you were not able to see].

(iii) Children make up third of Gaza dead The Age (Aus):-

"Almost a third of the 689 Palestinians killed in Israel's Gaza offensive are children, with most killed since the start of a ground offensive after a week of aerial bombardment, medics say.

The proportion of civilians killed has risen dramatically since Saturday when ground troops joined the assault on the Hamas rulers of Gaza after a week of aerial and naval bombardment.

A total of 220 children have been killed since Operation Cast Lead was unleashed on December 27, according to Gaza emergency services chief Moawiya Hassanein.
Humanitarian agencies fear more children and other civilians will die as the battle moves into the most densely populated areas of Gaza, one of the world's most densely-populated places.

"Of particular concern are the growing numbers of children killed and injured," said Maxwell Gaylard, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories.

"Every other person in Gaza is a child (56 per cent of the population), and they remain dangerously exposed to the fighting around them," he said.

"There is no safe space in the Gaza Strip - no safe haven, no bomb shelters, and the borders are closed, making this one of the rare conflicts where civilians have no place to flee," he said in a statement."

But even though the Bush/Rice veto posture continues at the UN despite the prospect of more dead children, the very few words President-Elect Obama has felt able to utter before taking office seem to have had an impact: Obama's warning to Israel:-

"Israel's governing "troika" met yesterday in order to find a way out of the conundrum Israel finds itself in, following the bombing of the school in Jabalya, where dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed.

The character of the meeting had already been marked by the warning Israel received from U.S. president-elect, Barack Obama, who broke his silence on the fighting in Gaza and made it clear that he will have a great deal more to say after his inauguration.

The announcement from the Bush White House that for the time being Israel could carry on its offensive was little consolation. Obama made it clear that starting on January 20 the rules of American involvement in the region will change, and his administration will be a lot more active in pushing the diplomatic process between Israel and the Arabs forward.

Obama's timing, after the strike on the school, signals the direction the U.S. will turn in its attitude to the region: It will support Israel, but will oppose any harming of Palestinian civilians. This means that Israel will find it difficult to close the crossings into the Gaza Strip at will.

Senior officials in Jerusalem said yesterday that Israel has two to four days, at most, for this operation. The talks of the political leadership yesterday also revolved around the question of how Israel should end the operation."

This prayer was printed in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz A Jew's prayer for the children of Gaza

"If there has ever been a time for prayer, this is that time.

If there has ever been a place forsaken, Gaza is that place.

Lord who is the creator of all children, hear our prayer this accursed day. God whom we call Blessed, turn your face to these, the children of Gaza, that they may know your blessings, and your shelter, that they may know light and warmth, where there is now only blackness and smoke, and a cold which cuts and clenches the skin.

Almighty who makes exceptions, which we call miracles, make an exception of the children of Gaza. Shield them from us and from their own. Spare them. Heal them. Let them stand in safety. Deliver them from hunger and horror and fury and grief. Deliver them from us, and from their own.

Restore to them their stolen childhoods, their birthright, which is a taste of heaven.

Remind us, O Lord, of the child Ishmael, who is the father of all the children of Gaza. How the child Ishmael was without water and left for dead in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba, so robbed of all hope, that his own mother could not bear to watch his life drain away.

Be that Lord, the God of our kinsman Ishmael, who heard his cry and sent His angel to comfort his mother Hagar.

Be that Lord, who was with Ishmael that day, and all the days after. Be that God, the All-Merciful, who opened Hagar's eyes that day, and showed her the well of water, that she could give the boy Ishmael to drink, and save his life.

Allah, whose name we call Elohim, who gives life, who knows the value and the fragility of every life, send these children your angels. Save them, the children of this place, Gaza the most beautiful, and Gaza the damned.

In this day, when the trepidation and rage and mourning that is called war, seizes our hearts and patches them in scars, we call to you, the Lord whose name is Peace:
Bless these children, and keep them from harm.

Turn Your face toward them, O Lord. Show them, as if for the first time, light and kindness, and overwhelming graciousness.

Look up at them, O Lord. Let them see your face.

And, as if for the first time, grant them peace."

Amin - Amen.


Actually Northern Ireland is a good example we keep reminding ourselfs every time we feel out of hope.

This whole escapade was undertaken under the understanding that we will get a ceasefire and slight improvement in security situation.
Actually the news stories in Israeli press in the first days of the operation were : 'Huh? no world pressure to stop now? shit"

As I mentioned Israel got lucky , we told everyone to stay in home and in a shelter. So 4 hits on kindergarten etc did not actually kill people.

If those were fatalities then testosterone would have taken over... and result in dire results indeed.

The reason the Libiyan resolution in the UN is blocked by the US is the text.
Any resolution that simply says IL needs to withdraw and is bad and does not tell Hamas to stop firing rockets is worse then useless.
It is counter productive, sorry but even the UK embassador said so.
Diplomats are diplomats , it will take them a day or 2 to get the language right.
Besides I'm quite sure you understand that claiming that a Libyan worded resolution is not a good idea is an understatement.

like having Iran or Saudi Arabia chair the Religious tolerance committee :-)

I like the idea of the UN but the implementation can sometimes cause your head to explode.


1. Nobody says the UN is perfect, but it was the best institution for peace-keeping that could be devised post WW2. Unfortunately, it has been the systematic policy of the Neoconservatives (both in the USA and Israel) to diminish the authority of the UN in every possible way because it is a constraint on actions which are unlawful as a matter of international law.

2. The draft resolution was only put forward by Libya because Libya is the only Arab state which is on the Security Council at this time. The substantive wording is largely being hacked out on the sidelines. The French currently hold the UNSC Presidency and it is therefore their role which is key. The Arab Leage states are largely being dominated at this time by the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal (and we should not forget that the Saudi initiative for Arab League Recognition of Israel is still on the table). The real problem is that the US is only willing to see a non-binding statement while just about everyone else wants a UNSC Resolution which is legally binding - and empowers the UN to impose sanctions under Chapter VII in the even of non-compliance.

3. Actually a UN Mandate is quite important because a Chap VII Mandate gives a legal basis to peace enforcement troops to detain extremists for so long as they are considered a threat to peace and security. That is important if there is to be any force interposed at borders or charged with ensuring that militants do not fire rockets into Israeli territory. Those forces need a legal basis under which to operate. Any peace enforcement arrangement has to have legal teeth - not least by reason of the impact of human rights law.

4. My understanding is that Turkey is offering troops and that there would also be a European contingent. See this France, Turkey discuss efforts for cease-fire in Gaza - Zaman TR

A non-binding "UN presidential statement" is, I'm afraid, hardly worth the paper it is written on. And it is the US aversion to UN Mandates rather than any concern for human life which is holding things up - and in that sense, Bush administration doctrine is getting in the way of the ultimate best interests of the region - and above all of its children on both sides of the border.

A few days ago the Chattanooga Times Express published Smart Bomb. I think it expresses succinctly a much wordier article in the Times by the British military historian Corelli Barnett Victory through air attack? It's pie in the sky

"The failure of the air onslaught to cow Hamas into surrender signifies that the Israeli leadership (including Mr Barak, a soldier who ought to know better) have yet again been deluded by the seductive fallacy that airpower (especially air power in today's hi-tech form) can win wars all on its own, and at no cost to those flying the bombers or directing the drones on TV from remote “PlayStations”.

The extra seduction of PlayStation warfare (as pioneered by the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan) lies in hitting the enemy without the slightest risk to yourself. That time and again innocent families are massacred along with the targeted al-Qaeda, Taleban or Hamas leaders, comes conveniently under the heading “collateral damage”.

Instead of putting their faith in the F16 bomber and the drone, the Israeli leadership would have done better to study the history of airpower, from the Anglo-American strategic air offensive against Germany in the Second World War to Israel's own abortive attempt in 2006 to defeat Hezbollah in the Lebanon. The history clearly shows that air power alone cannot win wars. It only works as an extra dimension to land or sea warfare. ...

There is another lesson here that the Israelis would have done well to learn before their onslaught on Lebanon in 2006 and certainly before their onslaught on Gaza in 2008-9. The lesson is that savage air attack by a foreign enemy does not break the nerve of a civilian population, but instead only stiffens its resolve not to give in. As a schoolboy in London during the 1940-41 blitz and the flying-bomb and V2 rocket attacks of 1945, I saw this for myself."

That is why long-standing UK military doctrine is a "boots on the ground" approach and a voluntary abstension from air power, helicopter artillery etc in operations in an urban environment. It is wholly counter-productive.

Actually the french Ideas are good, however see the history of peace keeping in Lebanon.
Israelis are a little weary of them historical because of bad implementation in the Lebanon
Beside it seems right now the Hamas will simply look on them as targets to fire at.
It is a little hard to expect strangers to risk their lifes to prevent weapons and other stuff from being smuggled,'

As for relying only on air force . Israelis never do that .
It was always seen as a precursor to foot soldiers.
This is a nightmare scenario for Israelis because the amount of booby traps found is staggering.
I do believe that if you could detonate all explosives in Gaza remotely it would register on the Richter scale


I think it's about time that you got real and started to see your country's actions as most others do - excluding of course those of the "Israel Right or Wrong" mindset.

Your troops are entering a territory where the people live in the most abject poverty and dependence which has only got worse over the last months because of the actions of your government which has transformed Gaza into a fairly good replica of a ghetto under the Third Reich and you expect to be welcomed with open arms?

Yet you complain there are "booby traps" ! Come off it. What the hell did you expect, to be greeted as liberators and to have your tank crews garlanded with flowers while they are busy firing shells at UN aid workers trying to keep the population alive and preventing the Red Cross and Red Crescent from evacuating the wounded and dying?

The International Committee of the Red Cross: ICRC finds starving children besides dead mother:-

"Relief workers found four starving children sitting next to their dead mothers and other corpses in a house in a part of Gaza City bombed by Israeli forces, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday...."This is a shocking incident,“ said Pierre Wettach, ICRC chief for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded,“ he said. In unusually strong terms, the neutral agency said it believed Israel had breached international humanitarian law in the incident.

Statement from the Israeli "Defence" Force: "In a written response, the Israeli army said it works in coordination with international aid bodies assist civlians and that it "in no way intentionally targets civilians“. The army said any serious allegations would need to be investigated properly after a formal complaint was received, "within the constraints of the military operation taking place“. Translation into plain English: "Shit happens. So what. We don't care."

UNRWA: UN suspends Gaza aid operations

"We have suspended our operations in Gaza until the Israeli authorities can guarantee our safety and security," said Unwra spokesman Chris Gunness. "Our installations have been hit, our workers have been killed in spite of the fact that the Israeli authorities have the co-ordinates of our facilities and that all our movements are co-ordinated with the Israeli army."

Israeli Government Spokesman: "Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel fully supported the work of the UN and other humanitarian agencies in Gaza. "We will do what needs to be done to facilitate this vital work," he said. "In these difficult days we must work together to meet the humanitarian needs of the population."

Translation into plain English: "Yes we are busy causing a humanitarian disaster. So what. The do-gooders can pick up the pieces later - if there are any pieces left."

Give Mr Regev the Dr Goebbels Propaganda Prize for Media Mendacity.

Mourad said...

1. Nobody says the UN is perfect, but it was the best institution for peace-keeping that could be devised post WW2.

Honestly, are you mad? Do you have any recollection of the Bosnian, Rwandan, Congolese and Lebanese blood baths, where the UN has been worse than useless because they give false hope to those who were being murdered.

After the UN failed utterly to keep Syria and Iran from arming and rearming the terrorist gang Hizbollah in Lebanon, why on Earth anyone nevertheless the Israelis trust the UN to provide any security in Gaza.

The only effective peace imposers and keepers are the US and NATO because they have a mandate to use force and, at least in the case of Americans, Brits, Canadians and now the Sarkozy French, are not afraid to us force.

3. Actually a UN Mandate is quite important because a Chap VII Mandate gives a legal basis to peace enforcement troops to detain extremists for so long as they are considered a threat to peace and security.

Like they do in Lebanon?

"Relief workers found four starving children sitting next to their dead mothers and other corpses in a house in a part of Gaza City bombed by Israeli forces, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday....

Hamas has made no effort to withdraw their civilians from the fighting. Quite to the contrary, Hamas exposes their civilians to enemy fire hoping for casualties to use as propaganda to influence folks like you.

My reaction is to bring to justice as war criminals the Hamas terrorists who are causing the civilians to be killed.

My reaction is to bring to justice as war criminals the Hamas terrorists who are causing the civilians to be killed.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 8:12 PM

Baghdad, we burned entire cities to the ground. And I'm relatively certain that you're a war criminal. You're not really in a position to be whining about Hamas.

Listen to the Hamas fascists state their goals in their own words.

You hear echoes of Hitler and Goebbels.

The argument that Israel is somehow morally equivalent to this new generation of fascists is obscene.

Rosa Brooks' LATimes article "The Gaza blame game" yesterday provides a good summary of blame.

And consider Alvaro Vargas Llosa's "The Decline of Israel's Leadership" dated 1/7/09 available at:

Well, now that the UN Security Council has finally passed Resolution 1860 calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, it is worth recalling the time-line of US activity at the UN:-

(i) last Saturday, the USA opposed even a UN press release expressing concern;

(ii) by Wednesday of this week, finding itself completely without support, the USA was pushing for the other Security Council Members to be satisfied with a "UNSC Presidential Statement" - a wholly non binding act - and threatening to veto any resolution put to the vote.

(iii) last night, faced with the inevitability that a resolution was going to go to a vote and rather than make the Administration's last major official UN act yet another veto in favour of Israel, the USA abstained.

Why the concession? I've seen it said somewhere that Ms Rice had agreed to make the resolution unanimous but, foolishly, called the President before the vote.

It seems that first and foremost in Bush Administration thinking was that a resolution "calling for" a ceasefire is not quite the same as a resolution imposing sanctions if there is no ceasefire, and therefore Israel can therefore continue its incursion into Gaza with impunity, safe in the knowledge that (i) the Administration will do nothing to enforce the resolution; (ii) the attention of the US public for the next two weeks will be on the domestic matter of the transfer of power in Washington and therefore (iii) the Middle East will not be the lead story in the US media for some while.

Indeed, even as the Resolution passed, the two week martyrdom of the people of Gaza continued unabated. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs accused the IDF of shelling a building into which the IDF had placed civilian refugeees just 24 hours earlier: Israel 'shelled civilian shelter' calling it "one of the gravest incidents" since the beginning of the offensive with 30 deaths including 3 children. As per usual, the Israeli authorities said they "were investigating".

According to this BBC Report at least 50 air strikes took place last night, doubtless using more of the US$77 million worth of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs the US Congress voted to supply to Israel in September last and which, according to the Jerusalem Post are being used in Gaza IAF uses new US-supplied smart bomb .

Perhaps the 111th Congress, both of whose Houses have voted resolutions supporting Israel, will bear well in mind that the carnage in Gaza (over 700 dead thus far and who knows how many wounded) is much bigger news outside the USA and the fact that it is being achieved with weaponry supplied by and largely paid for by the US taxpayer is not going un-noticed. To allow it to happen is a strange way to seek to win the fight against terrorism.

Some of my compatriots who are leading Muslim counter-extremism advisers to the UK Government have pointed out the dangers of the Gaza incursion in an open letter to the UK Prime Minister published in the Guardian newspaper 'We are witnessing a time of great danger'. In Israel, Haaretz published an AP Report on anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe Tens of thousands rally across Europe against Israel's Gaza offensive and, sad to say, was able also to report a connected rise in disgraceful anti-semitic incidents Gaza offensive spurs rise in anti-Semitic incidents across Europe.

It is, of course, self-evident to anyone who has ever been to the Middle East, that the geography makes a two state solution almost impossible unless there is real peace between them. For example, the time from launch to impact of the primitive rockets launched by Hamas extremists into the south of Israel is, I am told, under 5 seconds. It is coming home to the Israeli population that for all the IDF high-tech US-supplied hardware, there can be no effective security for the civilian population of the state for so long as a few ragamuffin militants can hold them to ransom with low tech, portable and easily procurable weaponry.

This is the essential lesson of asymetric warfare. The Provisional IRA was able to wreak havoc with primitive bombs using an explosive which they referred to as "Paxo" (after the well-known brand of Turkey stuffing) which can be manufactured in a kitchen or garage (at some personal risk) with materials easily procurable from any agricultural supplies merchant. Terrorists in Spain were able to leave bombs on trains and detonate them using mobile telephone calls and, again, nothing high-tech is needed. The US Army in Iraq learned all about what it referred to as Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq the hard way, as very many limbless veterans can testify.

Juan Cole's invaluable Informed Comment blog refers today to a NYT op-ed article by Nicholas Kristoff The Gaza Boomerang which made a lot of sense and as Professor Cole points out there was a letter in comment from a former US Marine link here.

But what I found perspicacious was this observation from Professor Cole that the Israel-Palestine problem is a manifestation of settler colonialism.

"When threatened by an indigenous population trying to expel it, settler colonialism is vicious. It is after all facing an existential threat. The US can withdraw from Iraq with no dire consequences to the US. In 1954-1962, the French killed at least half a million, and maybe as much as 800,000 Algerians, out of a population of 11 million. That is between nearly 5 percent and nearly 10 percent! The French military had been enlisted to fight for the interests of the colonists, who were in danger of losing everything. (In the end they did lose almost everything, being forced to return to Europe, or choosing to do so rather than face the prospect of living under independent Algerian rule).

The brutality with which the British put down the Mau-Mau revolt in Kenya in the 1950s is another example of massive human rights violations on behalf of a settler population.

This latest sanguinary episode is a further manifestation of Israel's insecure brand of settler colonialism, in which the lives of the indigenous population are viewed as worthless before the interests of the colonists. The Israelis have not killed on the French scale, but I would argue that they kill, and disregard civilian life, for much the same reasons as the French did in Algeria.

Settler colonialism is unstable in the contemporary world because of the facilities subject populations have for mobilization and resistance. Conflict between colonizer and colonized has only ended in one of three ways: 1) The expulsion of the colonists, as in Algeria; 2) the integration of the colonists into a nation that includes the indigenous population, as happened in South Africa; or 3) the expulsion of the indigenous population, as with the Trail of Tears in the nineteenth-century United States."

It is noteworthy that many Israeli commentators are also saying that Israel is facing an "existential threat". That is undoubtedly true. Because, and this will offend some, the world has moved on since Biblical times and in reality, the Palestinians are the indigenous population and the Israeli Jews are the settlers or descendants of settlers, both in Israel and in Occupied Palestine.

Israel should know all about terrorism since so many of the founders of the state were terrorists before they became politicians. As Jonathan above noted, the Emergency Powers under which Israel acts are those inherited from British Mandate Palestine (the same as used in Malaysia, Kenya and a host of other ex colonies).

And the history lesson is that the only really viable solution is the one-state solution. The French colonial rule of Algeria lasted 132 years or so. Israel has already had 60 years.

But the French "pieds noirs all had French ID cards and they had France as a residence of last resort. The relicts of the British colonial empire were also all able to come home if they wanted to. South Africa was different insofar as many of the whites had neither Dutch nor British passports. Some Israelis have dual nationalities, but not all.

For me, apartheid is not a viable solution. Integration is.

My forebears lived peaceably with Jews in Muslim Andalusia. In colonial Algeria, Jews and Muslims lived peaceably together until the French Colonial offered the Jewish population civil rights refused to the Muslim population.

As I have pointed out in previous posts many of Britain's Jews have been at the forefront of protecting the human rights of recent Muslim immigrants. We worship the same Deity and actually have more in common in terms of our belief systems and customs than either of us do with our Christian brothers and sisters.

I refuse to believe that, provided they are treated by the state as equals, Jews and Muslims and Christians cannot live together as one civil community and in peace in a land both hold dear.

If we cannot, there is no hope for this world and we shall all answer for the part we play in failure on the great day of judgment.

You hear echoes of Hitler and Goebbels.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 11:46 PM

There are echoes of Hitler and Goebbels every time you open your pie-hole.

LSR Bart posts:-

"Hamas has made no effort to withdraw their civilians from the fighting. Quite to the contrary, Hamas exposes their civilians to enemy fire hoping for casualties to use as propaganda to influence folks like you."

Where does our Loathsome Spotted Reptile think that Hamas can take the civilian population to?

In case LSR Bart has not been to Palestine or Israel recently, he may care to note that the total area of the Gaza strip is just 360 sq km and it has a population of 1,500,202 (from CIA Factbook). That gives a population density of 4,167/sq km. That is to be contrasted with the population of the State of Colorado which according to the US Census Bureau is 4,753,777. The area of Colorado (according to Wikipedia) is 269,837 sq km. That gives a population density of just 17/sq km.

The City of Denver, Colorado has a rather lower population density just 1,428/sq km.

I wonder what LSR Bart thinks would be the impact on the life of Denver of up to 50 air strikes a night for two weeks using GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb / Small Smart Bomb.

Yet Hamas retains a very substantial measure of civilian support. A phenomenon not unknown.

"Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils." - General John Stark of New Hampshire 31 July 1809.

Any community that includes little Lisa's bro is densely populated.


Spare me the apologia for the Hamas war criminals.

The Israeli operations have targeted the tunnels into Egypt, Hamas missile and mortar launching sites in North Gaza and the the hiding places of the Hamss leadership. The Israelis have pointedly avoided the inner cities.

Hamas can start by evacuating their forces and supplies from the hospitals, schools and mosques occupied by civilians.

Hamas can then move their forces to the outskirts of the cities and evacuate the civilians into the cities.

No Hamas unit should be within 500 meters of any civilians, nevertheless using them as human shields.

Hamas can stop seizing the supplies meant for civilians and allow the UN and Red Crescent distribute them in well marked centers in the cities to the population. These positions can be marked with the Red Crescent for Israeli aircraft. Hamas units should not be within 2 KM of these centers.

Hamas can coordinate safe routes for US and Red Crescent movement that will also be no go areas for Hamas military units.

The people of Gaza are not being martyred, they are being murdered by Hamas intentionally putting them in the crossfire of the war Hamas started with Israel.

Stop defending these war criminals and hold them to task for their crimes.

Baghdad, do you think it would help if Hamas put up big targets over their positions to help the Israelis make sure they don't miss? Seriously, are you that fucking stupid?

Hamas doesn't have Appache helicopters or F-16s, so they are doing what they feel they need to do to win. I would expect that a war criminal like you would understand that.

Baghdad, what part of "we have burned entire cities to the ground" are you having so much trouble grasping?


Poor dear Bart lives in a town of under 3,000 households. Nothing much seems to happen there, so the LSR has doubtless driven his few professional colleagues to distraction, bored all his neighbours to tears and been barred from all the local hostelries so as to enable them to keep their other clientele sane.

The Rampart Range has petitioned the Department of Agriculture for relief from his company and, unfortunately the Bush Administration has not responded to pressure from all local party organisations to offer him a long term posting to the US Information Office in Ulan Bator.

Satan is said to be preparing a special courtroom where former Justices of the Supreme Court who have not made it through the Pearly Gates will be forced to listen through eternity to oral argument from Bart on the finer points of the US Constitution.

There are hopes that the Infernal Courtroom may come into use sooner rather than later because word has it that his Alama Mater has arranged that in the event of Bart again setting foot in Florida he will be quietly sedated, taken to Cape Canaveral and sent off together with all the records of his student days and law school graduation in a space probe aimed in the general direction of Alpha Centauri.


Invective obviously gives Bart pleasure of the very naughtiest kind and stimulates the secretion of more slime. His computer is so ashamed that it keeps sending messages to his ISP asking if it can go off-line.

We must think of some new remedies.

Alan Dershowitz has his OpEd in today's LATimes "Hamas' war crimes: In Gaza it targets citizens with rockets, then shields its fighters behind Palestinian civilians" at:,0,4232460.story

As a kid growing up in the Roxbury district of Boston in the 1930s, '40s, I learned that "There are two sides to every story" is not quite accurate: there's his, hers and the truth. (This was verified when I started practicing law in the mid 1950s.) Dershowitz tells his, but not hers, and he may not care about the truth. In the meantime, people are dying and getting injured, with the potential for the Middle East to explode.


I permit myself to provide the link to Professor Dershowitz's Op-Ed: Hamas' war crimes.

Professor Dershowitz has great status and seniority, not just as a very distinguished academic in a world famous law school, but as a criminal defense attorney. In a 2007 discourse on antisemitism to be found on the US Holocaust Memorial Website Voices on Antisemitism, Dershowitz says in his podcast (downloadable on page 3):

"When I was growing up, antisemitism determined where we could work, where we could live, where we could go to school, who we could socialize with."

Born in 1938, of Polish immigrant parents, Dershowitz would have been very conscious in his formative years of the pervasive US antisemitism of the time (which seems unthinkable today) and which extended to the unspeakable antisemitic US WASP opposition to the granting of settlement visas to the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust on "we don't want kikes in our country club" grounds. Dershowitz would have been 10 years old at the founding of the State of Israel which was widely perceived by the US WASP population as a solution to the problem of visas for European Holocaust survivors (many of whom were Polish).

Small wonder therefore that Dershowitz is likely to have been deeply marked by the events of his formative years.

Dershowitz has quite a history of disagreement with other scholars on the subject of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, particularly other Jewish scholars and personalities. He has been in dispute with James Bamford, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Israel Shahak, former President Carter, William Schultz, Lorand Matory and others - see this Wikipedia entry.

A detached observer might find it hard to resist the conclusion that on the subject of the Israeli state's treatment of the Palestinians, Dershowitz is more than a little unbalanced.

Dershowitz moreover is a person who from the safety of New York has had no personal experience of oppression of the kind meted out to the Palestinians by the State of Israel.

That makes him rather different to other Jewish lawyers. For example, Justice Albie Sachs also has a podcast on the Voices on Antisemitism web pages. But he has a very different personal history. See this abbreviated biography on the web site of the South African Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs:-

"On turning six, during World War II, Albie Sachs received a card from his father expressing the wish that he would grow up to be a soldier in the fight for liberation.

His career in human rights activism started at the age of seventeen, when as a second year law student at the University of Cape Town, he took part in the Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign. Three years later he attended the Congress of the People at Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was adopted. He started practice as an advocate at the Cape Bar aged 21. The bulk of his work involved defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws. Many faced the death sentence. He himself was raided by the security police, subjected to banning orders restricting his movement and eventually placed in solitary confinement without trial for two prolonged spells of detention.

In 1966 he went into exile. After spending eleven years studying and teaching law in England he worked for a further eleven years in Mozambique as law professor and legal researcher. In 1988 he was blown up by a bomb placed in his car in Maputo by South African security agents, losing an arm and the sight of an eye.

During the 1980s working closely with Oliver Tambo, leader of the ANC in exile, he helped draft the organisation's Code of Conduct, as well as its statutes. After recovering from the bomb he devoted himself full-time to preparations for a new democratic Constitution for South Africa. In 1990 he returned home and as a member of the Constitutional Committee and the National Executive of the ANC took an active part in the negotiations which led to South Africa becoming a constitutional democracy. After the first democratic election in 1994 he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court.

In addition to his work on the Court, he has travelled to many countries sharing South African experience in healing divided societies. He has also been engaged in the sphere of art and architecture, and played an active role in the development of the Constitutional Court building and its art collection on the site of the Old Fort Prison in Johannesburg."

Dershowitz has advocated collective punishment contrary to the law of belligerent occupation by the demolition of Palestinian homes, defended the use of torture, and much else inconsistent with a proper view of human rights. You will not find someone of the calibre of Justice Sachs going down that route.

Not a person who has much modesty or is diffident about his own undoubted abilities, Dershowitz's biography on his own web site begins with these words:

"Professor Alan M. Dershowitz is Brooklyn native who has been called “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer” and one of its “most distinguished defenders of individual rights,” “the best-known criminal lawyer in the world,” “the top lawyer of last resort,” “America’s most public Jewish defender” and “Israel’s single most visible defender – the Jewish state’s lead attorney in the court of public opinion.”

Thus when reading his op-ed, you have to understand it for what is is: a piece of defence advocacy for the Jewish State written by a person who self-publicises himself as "the best known criminal lawyer in the world" and "the Jewish State's lead attorney in the court of public opinion".

And the classic way to deal with a defendant who in reality is guilty as charged on the indictment is to proceed to blacken the victim in the minds of the Jury. That is the objective of this latest op-ed. You should read his writing with this in mind.

BTW this op-ed is far from being Dershowitz's only propaganda piece on this issue. He also wrote in similar vein in the Wall Street Journal: Israel's Policy Is Perfectly 'Proportionate'.

These writings may well be defence advocacy aimed at jury nullification, but in both England and South Africa it is the Judge who has the last word and I would not give long odds on Dershowitz's advocacy passing muster before Jewish jurists of the standing of Lord Hoffmann, Lord Steyn or Justice Sachs.

Moreover, I trust they are not what passes for scholarship in the US legal academy.


It is telling that you do not dispute any of the facts offered by Mr. Dershowitz to prove his indictment of Hamas war crimes, but rather attack his motivations.

It is increasingly clear that you do not believe in a rule of the law of war applicable to all, but rather only in the selective waging of lawfare (the false accusation of war crimes) against the United States and Israel to hobble their militaries, while making excuses or overlooking the gross war crimes of Hamas, al Qaeda and other members in good standing of the Islamic fascist movement.

This hypocrisy calls into question your motivations far more than Mr. Dershowitz's.

This hypocrisy calls into question your motivations far more than Mr. Dershowitz's.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 5:45 PM

Coming from an actual war criminal, this is pretty funny

The first and most obvious error in Professor Dershowitz's LA Times Op-Ed is that he writes as if the State of Israel and Gaza were two separate and independent states.

In fact, that is not so. Israel is certainly a state. It is a member of the United Nations and all the attributes of statehood. The Gaza strip is not a state.

It is a piece of territory which forms part of an entity called Palestine which claims to be a state and may arguably be a state under customary international law but which is not recognised as such by many nations (in particular the USA and Israel). Palestine is not yet a member of the United Nations (although members of the Palestinian Authority are permitted to attend as observers) and nor has it been permitted to accede to many international treaties (including the Geneva Conventions). Certainly Palestine does not yet exercise in their plenitude all the attributes of sovereignty, not least because large parts of the state are in the continuing belligerent occupation of Israel in breach of numerous UN Security Council Resolutions in particular UNSC Resolution No 242.

Israel is bound by the UN Charter, which has the status of a treaty binding in international law while Gaza not a state at all but a sub-division of Palestine which is at present unable to control Gaza.

Probably the best definition of Gaza at present is that of being a territory under the protection of the United Nations.

Article 25 of the UN Charter provides:-

"The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter."

On 8th July 2009 the UN Security Council adopted by 14 votes to nil, the USA abstaining Resolution 1860 (2009) in the following terms:-

“The Security Council,

“Recalling all of its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1850 (2008),

“Stressing that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967 and will be a part of the Palestinian state,

“Emphasising the importance of the safety and well-being of all civilians,

“Expressing grave concern at the escalation of violence and the deterioration of the situation, in particular the resulting heavy civilian casualties since the refusal to extend the period of calm; and emphasising that the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected,

“Expressing grave concern also at the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza,

“Emphasising the need to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings,

“Recognising the vital role played by UNRWA in providing humanitarian and economic assistance within Gaza,

“Recalling that a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means,

“Reaffirming the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders,

“1. Stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza;

“2. Calls for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment;

“3. Welcomes the initiatives aimed at creating and opening humanitarian corridors and other mechanisms for the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid;

“4. Calls on Member States to support international efforts to alleviate the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza, including through urgently needed additional contributions to UNRWA and through the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee;

“5. Condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism;

“6. Calls upon Member States to intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained re-opening of the crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel; and in this regard, welcomes the Egyptian initiative, and other regional and international efforts that are under way;

“7. Encourages tangible steps towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation including in support of mediation efforts of Egypt and the League of Arab States as expressed in the 26
November 2008 resolution, and consistent with Security Council resolution 1850 (2008) and other relevant resolutions;

“8. Calls for renewed and urgent efforts by the parties and the international community to achieve a comprehensive peace based on the vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and recognised borders, as envisaged in Security Council resolution 1850 (2008), and recalls also the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative;

“9. Welcomes the Quartet’s consideration, in consultation with the parties, of an international meeting in Moscow in 2009;

“10. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

By virtue of Article 25 of the UN Charter, Israel is bound by that Resolution and is bound to respect it and implement it. Israel has taken no steps to comply with the
requirements of paragraphs 1-4 of the Resolution in breach of its international law obligations.

Professor Dershowitz's propaganda piece completely omits any reference at all to that inconvenient fact.

As Professor Dershowitz well knows, the reason why Israel feels able to treat Resolution 1860 as it it mattered not, as it has the preceding resolutions mentioned in the preamable, is because it well knows that for the last 8 years under the Bush Administration support for Israel's continuing contempt of the UN Security Council has been absolute and abstention of the United States on the passing of the Resolution is a strong signal that the Bush Administration would veto any UNSC Resolution to enforce the will of the Security Council under Chapter VII of the Charter.

Professor Dershowitz's propaganda piece completely omits any reference at all to that inconvenient fact.

As Professor Dershowitz well knows, war can juridically only exist between sovereign states. The Palestinian Authority, insofar as it exists as a juridical entity, cannot be held responsible for the acts of the Hamas militants who are not part of the regular forces of the Palestinan states under the command and control of such sovereign authority as the Palestinian Authority might be able to exercise were it not effectively impeded from assuming such responsibilities largely because of the unlawful conduct of Israel.

In fact, the Hamas militants can best be described as "guerillas" or "partisans" resisting to the best of their ability the unlawful Israeli economic strangulation of their people. Their acts of aggression in firing rockets into Israel territory are certainly reprehensible, arguably criminal, but equally, did not justify the wholly disproportionate attack Israel has launched on the long-suffering inhabitants of Gaza.

The number of casualties caused by the Hamas rockets are wholly minimal. The Israeli assault on Gaza has thus far resulted in some 800 dealths, many children, and vast numbers of injured. The International Red Cross has complained about the conduct of Israeli troops in relation to the wounded. The UNWRA has complained about the shelling of its schools and vehicles and has been forced to curtail efforts to feed the population. Vast parts of the territory are without food, water or electricity. There is a looming sewage crisis which will surely bring about epidemics.

Professor Dershowitz's propaganda piece completely omits any reference at all to those inconvenient facts.

In an article in yesterday's Independent Wherever I go, I hear the same tired Middle East comparisons veteran journalist Robert Fisk points out that the Israeli propaganda machine is spinning the same line on both sides of the Atlantic:-

I was in Toronto when I opened the right-wing National Post and found Lorne Gunter trying to explain to readers what it felt like to come under Palestinian rocket attack. "Suppose you lived in the Toronto suburb of Don Mills," writes Gunter, "and people from the suburb of Scarborough – about 10 kilometres away – were firing as many as 100 rockets a day into your yard, your kid's school, the strip mall down the street and your dentist's office..."

Getting the message? It just so happens, of course, that the people of Scarborough are underprivileged, often new immigrants – many from Afghanistan – while the people of Don Mills are largely middle class with a fair number of Muslims. Nothing like digging a knife into Canada's multicultural society to show how Israel is all too justified in smashing back at the Palestinians.

Now a trip down Montreal way and a glance at the French-language newspaper La Presse two days later. And sure enough, there's an article signed by 16 pro-Israeli writers, economists and academics who are trying to explain what it feels like to come under Palestinian rocket attack. "Imagine for a moment that the children of Longueuil live day and night in terror, that businesses, shops, hospitals, schools are the targets of terrorists located in Brossard." Longueuil, it should be added, is a community of blacks and Muslim immigrants, Afghans, Iranians. But who are the "terrorists" in Brossard?

Two days later and I am in Dublin. I open The Irish Times to find a letter from the local Israeli ambassador, trying to explain to the people of the Irish Republic what it feels like to come under Palestinian rocket attack. Know what's coming? Of course you do. "What would you do," Zion Evrony asks readers, "if Dublin were subjected to a bombardment of 8,000 rockets and mortars..." And so it goes on and on and on. Needless to say, I'm waiting for the same writers to ask how we'd feel if we lived in Don Mills or Brossard or Dublin and came under sustained attack from supersonic aircraft and Merkava tanks and thousands of troops whose shells and bombs tore 40 women and children to pieces outside a school, shredded whole families in their beds and who, after nearly a week, had killed almost 200 civilians out of 600 fatalities."

Does Professor Dershowitz, mention the disproportionate nature of the Israel incursion or the fact that thus far there have been just 10 or 20 casualties on the Israeli side from all those rockets as opposed to 800 deaths including significant numbers of children in Gaza? Does he even discuss the international law of war concept of proportionate action ?

Of course not.

As I have said, Professor Dershowitz's op-ed is an attempt at criminal defence advocacy or jury nullification. It is the State of Israel which is in the dock. It is accused with multiple and major violations of international law. In fact it has no properly arguable defence to the charges. So Dershowitz seeks to equate Israel's conduct with that of small groups of really ragamuffin partisans, the end product of 60 years' of systematic oppression, and have us hold them liable as if they were the armed forces of a sovereign state.

Perhaps in is heart of hearts he thinks they should simply have gone out into an open area marked with a large silver crescent so that they could be can be slaughtered from the air by a beneficent and American equipped Israeli Air force.

It rather looks as if another Loathsome Spotted Reptile has been identified - only a much more culpable one - because, unlike our own dear LSR Bart, LSR Dershowitz is intelligent and learned enough to know the dishonesty of what he is writing and is nevertheless prepared to write propaganda for an ignoble cause.

P.S. Homework for LSR Bart:

Discuss the public international law principle of "ex iniuria non oritur ius" as it applies to the Israeli incursion into Gaza.

Tom Segev's "Peace Is No Longer in Sight" in today's WaPois paints a sad picture. (Sorry I can't provide a link.) Segev no longer looks for peace in his Israel but for "conflict management." Every once in a while I think of Rodney King's "Can't we all get along?".

Sunday, 11 Jan 08 - BBGR-GWB-9

Just 9 days before the world can say "Bye-Bye and Good Riddance to George Walker Bush", the UK Sunday News continues to document the agony of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

The BBC reports: Gaza hit by new Israeli Strikes that there were more than 60 air strikes last night.

"Some 820 Gazans and 13 Israelis have reportedly died in 14 days of fighting. Medical staff said 235 children are among at least 820 Palestinians killed in the conflict. "

Writing in the Independent, Geoffrey Wheatcroft explains How Israel gets away with murder:

"Israel and Zionism were once very popular causes in Europe, not least on the liberal left, until the 1967 Six Day War and after. Since then, European sympathy has steadily ebbed away as Israel attacked Lebanon in 1982, and again in 2006, with the suppression of the intifadas between. And yet Israel shrugs off all strictures and rebukes. No criticism from relief agencies or the Red Cross makes any difference.

Even more strikingly, Israel has ignored the Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire. One reason for this is that the only Western country that really counts is the United States, and Israel has for many years been able to rely on unconditional American support. Having threated to veto previous draft resolutions, the US took part in drafting the security council resolution calling for a ceasefire, and was evidently going to vote for it.

Then late on Thursday the American representative shocked other council members by abstaining. This volte face came on direct orders from the White House, after president Bush had spoken to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and the Israelis have taken abstention as permission to continue their action. "Israel is not going to show restraint," Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Foreign Minister, told The Washington Post yesterday, understandably enough in the circumstances.

Although Israel is sometimes described as an American client state, which receives huge financial subsidy from Washington, she is unique as a client state: she can do exactly as she likes in the knowledge that she will never be seriously restrained by her sponsor. Even when the White House is privately irritated by Israeli actions, Congress is absolutely reliable, never knowingly outbid in its unswerving loyalty. During the bombardment of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the House of Representatives passed a resolution of total solidarity with Israel by 410 votes to eight, and the Senate has just passed another on a hand vote, not even bothering to take a formal tally.

Wheatcroft continued with this depressing prediction:-

Anyone who thought that there would be a change of heart and direction after the last American election hasn't been concentrating. The Senate in question is the newly elected, strongly Democratic one, which has just met for the first time. During the presidential campaign Barack Obama went out of his way to endorse Israel. He has appointed in the form of Hillary Clinton perhaps the strongest supporter of Israel ever to serve as Secretary of State, not excluding Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee from Hitler, though even she is surpassed in her commitment by Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff.

But there is more to it, and Israeli intransigence or indifference to outside opinion goes back before the birth of the state. As it happens, Emanuel has something in common with Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni: their fathers all served in the Irgun. This was the intransigent Zionist militia – described as terrorists by Isaiah Berlin among others, and as fascists by Albert Einstein among others – which waged a campaign of violence against the British, and the Palestinian Arabs, in the last years of the British Mandate in 1946-48. Its exploits included the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, with great loss of life, the hanging of two captured British sergeants in reprisal, and the massacre of villagers at Deir Yassin.

Behind that brutality lay something else. Men take revenge for small wrongs, Machiavelli said, unable to avenge the larger, and the Irgun was avenging an incomparably and unimaginably greater crime just suffered by the European Jews. The Jews had tried to be nice to the goyim, Zionism said in effect, and see where it had got them. A Jewish state would now be created and guarded with all necessary force, indifferent to what the outside world thought. If need be, Israel will borrow the old chant of the Millwall fans, "No one likes us, we don't care"

For myself, I would still like to hope that President-elect Barack Obama, has the knowledge, the decency and the humanity to understand that US support for Israel needs to involve a measure of "tough love". He must understand that continuing warfare between Israel (even if supported by a significant number of the 14 millions of adherents of Judaism in the world) and its neighbours (supported by a significant number of the 1.5 billion or so Muslims world wide) would inevitably one day end in Armageddon.

Still, until there is a Presidential foreign policy statement on the Middle East, there has to be pessimism: the craven approach of the Congress, the one-sidedness of the US media (with some honourable exceptions such as:-
Glen Greenwald's Blog at Salon; and
Jeremy Bel-Ami's J-Street Blog)

and the few instances of honest reporting signaled from time to time, the history of the US-Israel relationship over the last 60 years and the demonstrable influence of the Zionist lobby on Congress and the media, bear witness to the difficulties facing any US Administration.

In contrast to the situation in the USA, reporting and opinion in the UK and Europe is less one-sided: the BBC also reports: UK Jews demand Israeli ceasefire that after Saturday's large demonstrations against Israel in London, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Belfast, Newcastle and Southampton, a rally organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews is to take place in Trafalgar Square today with another rally in Manchester. While it will be supportive of Israel, it will also include support for a cease-fire:

"BoD chief executive John Benjamin said despite support for Israel's position, the events are primarily a call for peace. He said: "Certainly I think the people who will be there will understand that Israel has felt it necessary to take action to stop the many thousands of rockets that have been launched from Gaza in the last several years. "We're not just talking about the last two weeks but over the course of years I think there have been something like 8,000 rockets. "So, there is an understanding of that position but it's not a rally that is either commending exactly what's going on on day by day, or even, as British Jews and British Christians and others who are coming together, making a statement about the military action - it's a call for peace."

The Observer carries Israel, we support you - but hear our plea an open letter to the Israeli Government from prominent British Jews:-

"To the government of Israel

We are writing this letter as profound and passionate supporters of Israel. We look upon the increasing loss of life on both sides of the Gaza conflict with horror. We have no doubt that rocket attacks into southern Israel, by Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups, are war crimes against Israel. No sovereign state should, or would, tolerate continued attacks and the deliberate targeting of civilians.

Israel had a right to respond and we support the Israeli government's decision to make stopping the rocket attacks an urgent priority.

However, we believe that only negotiations can secure long-term security for Israel and the region.

We are concerned that rather than bringing security to Israel, a continued military offensive could strengthen extremists, destabilise the region and exacerbate tensions inside Israel with its one million Arab citizens. The offensive and the mounting civilian victims - like the Lebanon war in 2006 - also threaten to undermine international support for Israel.

We stand alongside the people of Israel and urge the government of Israel and the Palestinian people, with the assistance of the international community, to negotiate:

• An immediate and permanent ceasefire entailing an end to all rocket attacks and the complete and permanent lifting of the blockade of Gaza.

• International monitoring of the ceasefire agreement, including measures to ensure the security of the borders between Israel and Gaza as well as the prevention of weapons smuggling into Gaza.

It is our desire to see a durable solution for ordinary people and our view that an immediate ceasefire is not only a humanitarian necessity but also a strategic priority for the future security of Israelis, Palestinians and people of the region.


Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield [Head of the Movement for Reform Judaism] - Sir Jeremy Beecham [former Chairman of the Labour Party] - Professor David Cesarani [Professor of History, Royal Holloway College] - Professor Shalom Lappin [Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of London] - Michael Mitzman [Lawyer, Partner in Mischon De Reya, Secretary - UK Holocaust Memorial Day Trust] - Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE [Reform Rabbi and Member of the House of Lords] - Rabbi Danny Rich [Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism] - Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein [ Principal of Leo Baeck Rabbinical Training College] - Rabbi Dr Michael Shire [Vice-Principal,Leo Baeck College] - Sir Sigmund Sternberg [British Philanthropist, founder of the Sternberg Foundation in 1968 and one of the co-founders of the Three Faiths Forum] - Paul Usiskin [Writer, Chair of British Friends of Peace Now and Peace Now UK]"

Speaking of hope and Jeremy Bel-Ami, this op-ed Obama Must Seize Opportunity From Crisis written by Bel-Ami and published by the New York Jewish Week is a hopeful sign, as is this op-ed by Yossi Melman in the English language version of Haaretz Israel should have embraced UN's Gaza truce proposal:-

"The cease-fire proposal that the UN Security Council approved Friday morning is more than reasonable, despite Israel's hope for another U.S. veto. It's a shame that Israel has decided, for now, to ignore it. A cease-fire - any cease-fire - is good and preferable to any war or battle.

Israel should have been satisfied with the proposal. It comprises the elements that would establish Israel's unofficial but obvious goals, the goals in the name of which it has sent its soldiers into Gaza: Ceasing the rocket fire into Israel and halting the weapons smuggling from Sinai into the Gaza Strip...

Israel must refrain from being perceived as blood-thirsty and eager to continue this cruel war. It has already caused massive damage in Gaza. Hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed, as the death toll reached 800 Palestinian casualties Friday, of which less than 200 are Hamas militants according to IDF officials.

Israel has demolished hundreds of homes and destroyed Gaza's infrastructure, which is awful to begin with. It will take years to repair this damage.

Israel faces more risks in continuing this war. It has somehow managed not to evoke exceptional rage from the international community over the UNRWA school bombing that killed dozens of Palestinian refugees. It is highly unlikely that Israel will be able to withstand international criticism should another event like this, or worse, happen. If it does, even Israel's allies and those who were secretly willing to support Israel's efforts to harm Hamas (like certain Arab states) will turn their back on it.

Now Israel also risks making the same mistake as it did in Lebanon. After a cease-fire agreement had already been drafted, Israel requested and received U.S backing to suspend the agreement by an additional day, during which the fighting continued and dozens of IDF troops were killed in unnecessary battles.

It is doubtful that Israel will succeed in achieving what it hasn't accomplished during 12 days of battle, even if the fighting continues for two or three days or even another week. Israel has created an image of itself of a madman that has lost it."

Given that Israeli television is studiously avoiding the showing of any footage of the realities on the ground in Gaza, and that the media is largely compliant with the Hasbara directive, these are moderately hopeful signs.

BTW - Saturday's Guardian also had an interesting piece by Richard Silverstein Hasbara spam alert

Now, we know that the Israeli foreign ministry itself is orchestrating propaganda efforts designed to flood news websites with pro-Israel arguments and information. A reader of my blog has received the following email which documents both the efforts and the agency that originated them. The solicitation to become a pro-Israel "media volunteer" also includes a list of media links which the ministry would like addressed by pro-Israel comments:

"Dear friends,
We hold the [sic] military supremacy, yet fail the battle over the international media. We need to buy time for the IDF to succeed, and the least we can do is spare some (additional) minutes on the net. The ministry of foreign affairs is putting great efforts in balancing the media, but we all know it's a battle of numbers. The more we post, blog, talkback, vote – the more likely we gain positive sentiment.
I was asked by the ministry of foreign affairs to arrange a network of volunteers, who are willing to contribute to this effort. If you're up to it you will receive a daily messages & media package as well as targets.
If you wish to participate, please respond to this email."

My friend did so and received this official communique from the ministry with talking points about Operation Cast Lead which s/he was to use in her/his propaganda efforts. Among the links was was a Peter Beaumont Cif piece. The following were identified as "target sites": the Times, the Guardian, Sky News, BBC, Yahoo News, Huffington Post, and the Dutch Telegraaf. Also targeted were other media sites in Dutch, Spanish, German and French considered critical of the invasion.


Mourd ;
Sorry was indisposed for few days (will be going again tomorow for a few days )

3 things I need to remarks of your last post to me :
1. I did not think that booby trapping is anything but a technique of war. No moral judgment was involved.
Just technical observation.
When you fight a war your job is to hit the enemy , had a superior force invaded me I would do the same (although I would evacuate non fighters ).

2. I really do not care what most of the world thinks, Sorry , we've been indited to many times to care. look up a Kishon story called "sorry we won" to get our perspective on it. We really do not care . If we shoot at a terrorist holding a human shield and hit the terrorist we will be called names for endangering the shield.
I saw yesterday a sky anchor (the reporters in the field would not ask such a stupid question ) grilling an Israeli spoksmen if he thinks it is right to fire at a Hamas warrior firing a rocket while endagering his human shields,
The undertone was "how dare you endanger the human shield population?" . My simple response was "he is firing a rocket at our Kindergarden, fuck it and take him down. PERIOD".
We do not play for academic long articles, any rocket fired can kill our people and we really do not care what a professor will say about us, F***k him, is the polite response.

Is it smart in the long run ? that is a good question. But when the basic premise of your enemy , and Hamas , unlike PLO , is our enemy, is that you have no right to exist then there is no basis for long term negotiation.
I would happily negotiate with an enemy when the need arises , but that enemy needs to have realistic expectation and the will to give. We did a good job with PLO and with other countries eventually .
But if the standing premise is "Israel should be destroyed" then all we can negotiate about is , "you don't try to fire today and we won't either".
That was a nice point for 6 months , then they decided to play hardball. Guess what , so can we !

3. The one number all agree is that Israel is hitting about 25% civilians from the total death tolls, That is a large number but very good in relation to what can be expected under the circumstances.
About 600 Hamas warriors (which I'm sorry to tell you start at age 12 so technically some are children) .
Some are kids and probably some are woman , but not even Hamas is claiming mass murder etc.
The number is large but consider this :
Even though latest numbers claim about a 1000 were killed, it is estimated about 600 + were Hamas fighters.
Any civilian should be avoided but if the Island of Man would start firing rockets at London I don't think the people of London would care but simply demand action.
Don't expect any less from us. (May I remind you the last time a British teritory was attacked from outside , the fleet action in response over half the world)
Are our children worth less ? a Fifth kindergarten was hit by a missile yesterday . At this stage Israel simply does not care about back seat drivers / sideline judges !
We have our job to do and we will probably continue it for a few more days.
Anyone suggesting a solution better bring a gurentee of no missiles fired at us, somtimes poking the tiger in the eye means you lose the arm.
We have been poked for quite some time in a manner no sane person will agree , it has taken 3 years for this to take place and the poor Gazans are now paying the bill.
I really pitty them, in as much as I pitty people who nrglected to maintain a damn which has now broken and flooded their homes.
Poor Gazans , but still , better them doing the dying then the people in Nahal OZ , Sderot and Ashdod (where I grew) .
I will try to help them long term, but I really don't think their right to live come before my neighbors right to live.
This is the result of forgetting that the tiger has teeth and can bloody well take your arm of when he wants. He is a polite tiger which does not want to do this, but poke him enough times....

This is not an academic scholarly statement but a simple straight forward definition of real world.


You still refuse to address Professor Dershowitz's indictment of "Hamas' war crimes and instead continue to offer red herrings and straw men.

1) Whether Hamas turned Gaza into a de facto state when it won a civil war with the PA in the territory is irrelevant to whether Hamas has committed and continues to commit war crimes.

2) Whether the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding a ceasefire to save Hamas from military defeat is irrelevant to whether Hamas has committed and continues to commit war crimes.

3) Even if the elected Hamas government over Gaza is not considered a nation state and Hamas is instead considered a non-state militia, non-state militias are recognized in the GCs as militaries that must follow the laws of war.

4) Jus ex injuria non oritur or "a right cannot arise from a wrong" is to irrelevant whether Hamas has committed and continues to commit war crimes. The issue here is whether Hamas has a duty to abide by the laws of war, not whether Israel gains some sort of a right from the Hamas war crimes.

5) Nor does the dictum jus ex injuria non oritur apply to the completely separate issue of whether Israel has a right to wage a war of self defense against Hamas in Gaza. Indeed, the entire concept of self defense is the policy opposite of jus ex injuria non oritur because under the doctrine of self defense, the right to go to war does arise from the wrongful attacks of an enemy.

Mr. Dershiwitz's indictment stands undisputed.

You are simply a propagandist for Hamas and an apologist for Hamas war crimes, and not a particularly good one.

You are simply a propagandist for Hamas and an apologist for Hamas war crimes, and not a particularly good one.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 3:15 PM

As a propagandist and apologist for Bush's war crimes (though, not a particularly good one), I guess you do have experience in this area. Sadly, you have no credibility.

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