Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

See no (hamas) evil

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 04:30 AM PDT

Predictably the editors of the New York Times find fault with Israel:

There is a bigger question that Israel -- and the United States -- must be asking: Is the blockade working? Is it weakening Hamas? Or just punishing Gaza's 1.4 million residents -- and diverting attention away from abuses by Hamas, including its shelling of Israeli cities and its refusal to accept Israel's right to exist?

At this point, it should be clear that the blockade is unjust and against Israel's long-term security.

After Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel -- with Egypt's help -- imposed a blockade on many goods and most people going into and out of the territory. The goal was to quickly turn residents against their new government. Three years later, Hamas is still in charge -- and the blockade has become an excuse for any and all of the government's failures.

The situation in Gaza is grim. Eight out of 10 people depend on international aid agencies to survive. Basic foodstuffs are available, but medical supplies and construction materials are severely lacking. The desperation could be seen on Tuesday when Egypt lifted the blockade and several thousand Gazans rushed the border but were later sent home after police officers said they did not know when the crossing would be opened.

It is ironic that like their star columnist the editors of the Times seem to have forgotten that Israel withdrew from Gaza only to have it turned into a mini terrror state. For some reason the liberal editors of the New York Times think that it's good for Israel to keep Hamas in power.

But Barry Rubin recently wrote:

Hamas has oppressed the people of the Gaza Strip, murdered Palestinian Authority supporters in hospitals and thrown them off roofs; driven the Christians out; taken relief supplies for its own soldiers; launched a war on Israel in December 2008 that caused avoidable death and destruction; used civilians as human shields and mosques for ammunition dumps; indoctrinated children to be suicide bombers; are putting women into a Taliban-like situation; and repeatedly announces its antisemitic views and intention to wipe out Israel and massacre its people.

For some, none of this makes any difference though--to be fair--the media they get information from may not have presented these facts. For those on the left, Hamas should be considered as a fascist organization which they passionately oppose. For those sympathetic to human rights or women's rights, or many other good causes, Hamas should be anathema.

What should be paramount, then, is an international determination to overthrow the Hamas regime. After all, while it had earlier come in first in elections, it staged a coup and overthrew what was perceived as the rightful government of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority. To do such a thing would--to paraphrase the Carnegie report--reduce regional tensions and aid the peace process lead to an independent Palestinian state. Yet this rather obvious idea simply does not seem to have occurred to any Western government or elite.

So instead there is a policy, albeit an eroding one, of isolating Hamas and denying it at least some supplies and money, demanding that it accept the idea of real peace with Israel and cease the use of terrorism. Even this seems too much for many people and, increasingly, for some governments.

The editors of the Times pretend that it's only Israeli actions and shortsightedness that prevent peace and cause the people of Gaza to suffer. They (and many other likeminded people) don't acknowledge the evil of Hamas.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Muddying the legal waters

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 04:30 AM PDT

In an article Israel's flotilla raid revives questions of international law, reporter Colum Lynch asked Anthony D'Amato a professor of international law whether Israel's blockade violated international law:

Anthony D'Amato, a professor of international law at Northwestern University School of Law is among those who believes the raid was illegal. "That's what freedom of the seas are all about. This is very clear, for a change. I know a lot of prominent Israeli attorneys and I'd be flabbergasted if any of them disagreed with me on this," he said. ... Regev cited a provision in the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflict at Sea, which states that merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral states outside neutral waters can be intercepted if they "are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture."

But D'Amato said the document applies to a situation in which the laws of war between states are in force. He said the laws of war do not apply in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which isn't even a state. He said the law of the Geneva Conventions would apply.

I asked Prof Avi Bell about D'Amato's claim and this is what he e-mailed:

D'Amato's claim is mysterious and completely wrong.

There is nothing in the Geneva Conventions overruling customary rules of maritime boycotts as expressed in the San Remo Manual. And there is nothing in the San Remo Manual itself limiting itself to cases of international conflicts.

To the degree that Gaza is not a state, D'Amato's claims are even further undermined. The distinction between international and non-international conflicts makes non-international conflicts less regulated, giving parties more freedom of action, not less. Common paragraph 2 of the Geneva Conventions explicitly limits states that the Conventions do not apply (except for common article 3) to non-international conflicts. In other words, if Gaza is not a state, that rules out application of the Geneva Conventions in almost their entirety.

Moreover, San Remo refers to sea actions, while Geneva refers almost exclusively (with the exception of some provisions of Geneva Convention II) to land.

The bottom line is that customary law expressed in San Remo applies in its entirety, while, arguably, almost none of the Geneva Conventions apply. And, incidentally, nothing in the Geneva Conventions limits or alters the customary rights presented in the San Remo Manual, meaning that nothing in the Geneva Conventions limits Israel's rights to enforce a maritime boycott.

In other words, it isn't Israel's actions that revived questions of international law, but a reporter's effort to find a legal expert to question the legality of Israel's raid. Reporting should explain issues, not obfuscate.

Later, the reporter Lynch writes:

Human rights organizations, governments and U.N. officials have criticized Israel's enforcement of the blockade as cruel, if not necessarily illegal.

The influential rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch says that Israel is within its right to "control the content and delivery of humanitarian aid, such as to ensure that consignments do not include weapons." But the group said "Israel's continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip, a measure that is depriving its population of food, fuel, and basic services, constitutes a form of collective punishment in violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

The idea that Israel is guilty of "collective punishment" on these grounds is dubious when the price of luxury goods is dropping in Gaza.

And this is just plain nonsense:

Pro-Palestinian advocates have portrayed Israel's activities as illegal, comparing them to President George W. Bush's preemption doctrine. "Israel is now claiming a new international law, invented just for this purpose: the preventive 'right' to capture any naval vessel in international waters if the ship was about to violate a blockade," Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. "That one just about matches George Bush's claim of a preventive 'right' to attack Iraq in 2003 because Baghdad might someday create weapons the U.S. might not like and might use them to threaten some country the U.S. does like."

San Remo applies and address this very situation as Daled Amos pointed out.

I criticized the editors of the Post yesterday for blaming Israel for damaging its cause by its boarding of the Mavi Marmara. But many of the accusations aimed at Israel are false. Perhaps the Washington Post's editors ought to exhort their reporters not to raise dishonest questions. That would go a long way towards making sure that Israel is treated fairly.

Friedman: imaginary friend

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 03:56 AM PDT

Thomas Friedman is apparently vexed, by the recent conflict between Israel and Turkey in When America's friends fall out:

As a friend of both Turkey and Israel, it has been agonizing to watch the disastrous clash between Israeli naval commandos and a flotilla of "humanitarian" activists seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Personally, I think both Israel and Turkey have gotten out of balance lately, and it is America's job to help both get back to the center -- urgently.

Except, as Shiloh Musings points out:

Turkey has betrayed Israel by supporting the terrorists in Gaza. No whitewashing or urging of by the United States can repair the relationship.

The rift that so bothers Friedman consisted of Turkey moving away from Israel and embracing Israel's enemies.

Friedman again:

Therefore, it has been painful to hear the same Prime Minister Erdogan in recent years publicly lash out with ever-greater vehemence at Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza. Many see this as Turkey looking to ingratiate itself with the Muslim world after having been rebuffed by the European Union. I have no problem with Turkey or humanitarian groups loudly criticizing Israel. But I have a big problem when people get so agitated by Israel's actions in Gaza but are unmoved by Syria's involvement in the murder of the prime minister of Lebanon, by the Iranian regime's killing of its own citizens demonstrating for the right to have their votes counted, by Muslim suicide bombers murdering nearly 100 Ahmadi Muslims in mosques in Pakistan on Friday and by pro-Hamas gunmen destroying a U.N.-sponsored summer camp in Gaza because it wouldn't force Islamic fundamentalism down the throats of children.

That concern for Gaza and Israel's blockade is so out balance with these other horrific cases in the region that it is not surprising Israelis dismiss it as motivated by hatred -- not the advice of friends. Turkey has a unique role to play linking the East and West. If Turkey lurches too far East, it may become more popular on some Arab streets, but it would lose a lot of its strategic relevance and, more importantly, its historic role as a country that can be Muslim, modern, democratic -- and with good relations with both Israel and the Arabs. Once this crisis passes, it needs to get back in balance.

He considers it "not surprising" that Israelis dismiss Erdogan as motivated by hatred. How condescending. It's as if there's a misunderstanding here. But there's no misunderstanding the actions of the Turkey's Islamist government. They hate Israel. They hate Jews. They are allied with Iran.

But it's not just Friedman's whitewashing of Turkey that's frustrating. Towards the end he writes:

But I sure know this: It is overwhelmingly in Israel's interest to bring more diplomatic imagination and energy to ending this Gaza siege. How long is this going to go on? Are we going to have a whole new generation grow up in Gaza with Israel counting how many calories they each get? That surely can't be in Israel's interest. Israel has gotten so good at controlling the Palestinians that it could get comfortable with an arrangement that will not only erode its own moral fabric but increase its international isolation. It may be that Hamas will give Israel no other choice, but Israel could show a lot more initiative in determining if that is really so.

Let's go back five years to a column of Friedman's from February 2005, The Tipping Point.

The Israel-Palestine drama has gone from how Ariel Sharon will use any means possible to sustain Israel's hold on Gaza, which he once said was indispensable for the security of the Jewish state, to being about how Mr. Sharon will use any means possible to evacuate Gaza - with its huge Palestinian population - which he now says is necessary for saving Israel as a Jewish state. The issue for the Palestinians is no longer about how they resist the Israeli occupation in Gaza, but whether they build a decent mini-state there - a Dubai on the Mediterranean. Because if they do, it will fundamentally reshape the Israeli debate about whether the Palestinians can be handed most of the West Bank.

Got that? Not even five years ago he wrote that evacuating every single Jew from Gaza would place the onus on the Palestinians. They would have to show their commitment to peace by building a "decent mini-state" in Gaza. They didn't. They built a launching area from which to shoot rockets into Israel. Israel's "siege" was a foreseeable consequence of Israel following a policy that he advocated. (That Gaza would be turned into a terror staging area was something that, I think, was reasonably predictable. It wasn't obvious to Friedman though.) Now he's blaming Israel for lacking imagination!

Given that the Palestinian did not "reshape the debate" it's more than a little hypocritical of Friedman to blame Israel for not responding "creatively" to unchanged circumstances.

Friedman concludes:

This is a critical moment. Two of America's best friends are out of balance and infuriatingly at each other's throats. We have got to move quickly to get them both back to the center before this spins out of control.

But this isn't about some silly fight that the United States to mediate. One of those friends, has abandoned the United States too. Turkey, as Barry Rubin writes is Marching towards Islamism. The more important question is will the United States recognize this change and treat Turkey accordingly.

Friedman clearly hasn't.

Crossposted on Yourish.

"... working to understand ..."

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 12:18 AM PDT

Political punch
"The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy," said deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton in Chicago, where the President Obama and his family have been spending the holiday weekend.

The Washington Post reported the other day, U.S. commander says some Taliban fighters are training in Iran:

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal told reporters in Kabul that Iran -- Afghanistan's western neighbor -- has generally assisted the Afghan government in fighting the insurgent group.

Is President Obama working to understand why a putative friend of the United States has aligned itself with a regime that is fighting against the United States? Is he working to understand why Turkey sent terrorists to attack Israel?

And the New York Times reported, Tehran Moves to Thwart Protests on Election Anniversary:

Moving to thwart any protests on the anniversary of a disputed election, the authorities in Iran have ordered at least two million paramilitary members into Tehran, re-arrested dissident activists furloughed from prison and aggressively enforced public bans on mingling of the sexes and un-Islamic women's clothing.

Is President Obama working to understand why his outreach to Iran hasn't resulted in the regime's moderation?

Or does President Obama only have to work to understand why soldiers who were brutally attacked would fight back?

From the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Captain R. said that every commando who entered the ship was met by a number of activists who charged at the soldiers and attacked them. At least 75 percent of the activists took part in what the soldiers later described as a "lynch."

"I was the second to be lowered in by rope," said Captain R. "My comrade who had already been dropped in was surrounded by a bunch of people. It started off as a one-on-one fight, but then more and more people started jumping us. I had to fight against quite a few terrorists who were armed with knives and batons."

The captain said that he was first forced to cock his gun and shoot once when one of the activists came toward him with a knife.

Why is it "work" to understand that?

I do not wish to find it

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 12:01 AM PDT


This lost poster was outside the Pikesville (Baltimore County) library this evening. Other than finding a lost pet snake, I can't think of a pet I'd rather not find.

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