Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WE LIVE IN VERY CHALLENGING TIMES; It’s 1938, and Iran is Germany. Comments of Baruch C. Cohen, Esq., on the growing threat of a nuclear Iran

I saw an incredible message by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreiss of Hineni, one of the true leaders of Klal Yisroel and a mesmerizing speaker. 

We live in very challenging times. Dark clouds are once again gathering around the world. It’s 1938, and Iran is Germany. We are falling in to the same trap of complacency as Jews of America in 1938. we are living at the most dangerous time since the Holocaust: The apparent impotency of the Israel military, the lack of will in the Israeli populace so necessary to fight and win wars… Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s vow to wipe Israel off the map, his nuclear ambitions, and his holocaust denial… Islamic fundamentalists that are willing to give up their lives in the cause of killing Jews, making them more dangerous than Nazis… former President Carter’s new book bashing Israel… universities as hotbeds of anti-Israel ideologies (read: Anti Jewish) The appeasement attitudes of the newly elected Democratic congress… and many more such indicators.

Ahhhh, you might protest, “let’s not get carried away.” There is no need to worry. Ahmadinejad is a madman surrounded by other madmen, and that Holocaust denial conference in Teheran proved it. No one can possibly take them seriously. But that is precisely the problem - madmen cannot be dismissed, because they are sufficiently mad to carry out what they say. 

You might now ask, what possible logic could there be for Ahmadinejad convening this conference? Even as Hitler gathered lawyers and judges in Nuremberg to enact laws that would render Jews subhuman, fodder for extermination, so Ahmadinejad wants to prove that the Holocaust never took place and thereby justify his plan to liquidate Israel. 

There was nothing original about Hitler’s or Ahmadinejad’s modus operandi. Pharaoh of Egypt was the first to gather his “wise men” to enact laws against Jews, and the hate mongers of every generation followed suit - Ahmadinejad being the latest.

Yes, the winds of Holocaust are once again blowing, and this despite the fact that Holocaust survivors are still in our midst, despite the fact that gas chambers still stand, these madmen in Iran have the audacity to spew forth their lies and the world remains asleep. 

We are indeed living in challenging times. 

There is nothing to thwart Teheran. The draft resolution of sanctions against Iran that is before the Security Council has been stripped of all meat. Former Ambassador now White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton will no longer be at the U.N, and while the U.S., England and Germany have expressed their condemnation, none are prepared to actually stop Ahmadinejad from carrying out his sinister plot. Add to that the Baker recommendation to appoint Iran and Syria, (authors of this proposed Holocaust) the power brokers of the Middle East and you have a recipe for tragedy.

Make no mistake about it, the nightmare doesn’t end with Israel. It may begin with the Jews (as it always does), but that which starts with the Jews ultimately engulfs the entire world. 
Who will stop these killers? We asked that question in 1938 and we are once again compelled to ask it today. The silence then was deafening - as it is today.  What is the solution? What we must do to protect ourselves is the test for our Jewish people that we all must pass.

So what are we to do? Whenever we, the Jewish people, find ourselves in a dilemma, we must search our past, for our entire history is replay. Our ancestors experienced it all and we need only follow the path that they carved out for us. 

This is not the first time that evil has spewed forth from Iran. There was another madman there who wanted to exterminate our people…Haman of old was no different than his modern day heir. He too enacted laws to legitimize his evil, but our people arose like lions and made a “N’hapachu” - overturned the decree. They turned night into day, darkness into light, curse into blessing, and catastrophe into joy. In the end, it was Haman and his sons who hung from the gallows (like Saddam Hussein was one week ago), while we, the Jewish people, inaugurated the happiest holiday of all - Purim.

Is this some legend from the Megillah? Is this some Purimshpeil - play? No, it is the reality of our lives. Even as there is a law of gravity in nature, there is a law of gravity for Jewish survival, and that is our Torah, the covenant that we sealed at Har Sinai. When we are loyal to it, there is no force on earth that can prevail against us, but when we abandon it, we are at the mercy of all the satanic forces on earth. Our ancestors in Persia - modern day Iran, annulled the evil decree with two little words, “Kiymu V’kiblu” – they reaccepted the Torah and recommitted to the observance of Mitzvos and with those two little words,, everything became N’hapachu - everything was overturned and nullified. It is as simple as that.

It is for the sake of the Torah that Hashem launched us into history. “Atem Aydai - “You are my witnesses,” Hashem proclaimed. Our mission is to testify to His One-ness, to be a living, breathing example of His Torah. 

We are a nation that can be likened to passengers on a boat. Should one individual drill a hole under his seat, in vain would he protest that that is his right, and is no one’s business but his own – for once the hole is drilled, the water will gush in and the boat will sink. 

At Har Sinai, our nation stood Ish Echad BeLev Echad “as one man with one heart” and in unison, we proclaimed “Na’aseh V’Nishma” - we shall do and we shall hear,” rather than I shall do and I shall hear. At Sinai, “all of Israel became responsible for one another.”

The covenant that G-d sealed with us is eternal. It is our destiny to be His witnesses – should we attempt to escape our mission, however, there will be those who remind us of our calling.

There is an incredible Yalkut Shimoni in Sefer Yeshayau which eerily foretells the events of today. As a matter of fact, the Klausenberger Rebbe, Ztl, in reference to this Yalkut Shimoni, said “Remember these words. Now, perhaps, they are not understood, but in time, they will be, and they will be a source of chizuk - strength, to Am Yisroel." 

“Rabbi Yizchok said: ‘The year that Melech HaMoshiach will be revealed, all the nations of the world will be provoking each other. The King of Persia (Iran) will provoke the King of Arabia, and the King of Arabia will go to Edom (the West) to take counsel, but the King of Persia will in turn, destroy the entire world. The nations of the world will be outraged and panicked. They will fall on their faces, and they will experience pains like birth pangs. Israel too will be outraged and in a state of panic and ask, where do we go? But say unto them, “My children, do not fear, everything was done for you:  “Higiyah Zeman Geulaschem” the time of your redemption has come... And in the last redemption will be different from the first which was followed by further bondage and pain. After this last redemption, you will not again experience any further pain or subjugation.”

Will Israel seize Ahmadinejad when it gets the chance? How can Netanyahu refrain from an action to stop Hitler's heir, Ahmadinejad, when the year is already 1939, if not 1940?

Benjamin Netanyahu's comeback campaign focused on the Iranian threat. "The year is 1938 and Iran is Germany," he warned as head of the opposition. "When [Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, he is preparing a second holocaust against the Jewish people. Believe him and stop him."
Netanyahu did not content himself with warnings, and called for putting Ahmadinejad on trial in The Hague on charges of incitement to genocide. He and other supporters collected threatening utterances from the Iranian president against Israel, determined they violated the international Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and set out to enlist support in the West.
"In 1938 Hitler did not say he wanted to destroy. Here Ahmadinejad is saying clearly that this is his intention and we are not even crying out. At least say a crime against humanity. It is necessary to put this issue right in the world's face, that here is a matter of a program for genocide," said Netanyahu four years ago.
Jewish organizations held show trials, American congressmen and British members of parliament expressed support and jurists fired off letters. "Had the world listened to Hitler's words and watched his actions, the Holocaust could have been prevented," wrote Los Angeles lawyer Baruch Cohen on his blog American Trial Attorneys in Defense of Israel, in an open letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ahmadinejad did not take fright. He kept on with his hate speeches, threats and Holocaust denial; he traveled the world unperturbed and the Iranian nuclear program moved forward.
In Israel, however, a change occurred and Netanyahu moved from the television screens to the Prime Minister's Office. Now he was given a mandate to act and not just talk against the Iranian threat.
Three weeks from now, Netanyahu will have a one-time opportunity to stop the new Hitler and thwart the incitement to genocide. Ahmadinejad will pay his first visit to Lebanon and devote an entire day to a tour of the southern part of that country. He will visit sites where Hezbollah waged battles against Israel and, according to one report, he will also pop over to Fatima Gate, just beyond the border fence at Metula. The route is known, the range is close and it is possible to send a detail across the border to seize the president of Iran and bring him to trial in Israel as an inciter to genocide and Holocaust denier.
The media effect will be dramatic: Ahmadinejad in a glass cage in Jerusalem, with the simultaneous translation earphones, facing grim Israeli judges. In the spirit of the times, it will also be possible to have foreign observers join them (David Trimble of the Turkel commission was a leader of the "try the Iranian president" initiative ).
There are also operational advantages: Iran will hesitate to react to its president's arrest by flinging missiles, out of fear for their leader's life. It will also be possible to capture Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who will no doubt emerge from his hiding place and accompany Ahmadinejad. Israel will have high-ranking hostages it will be able to exchange for Gilad Shalit.
And if the world has any complaints, it will be reminded that the Americans invaded Panama in order to arrest its ruler Manuel Noriega - and only for dealing drugs, a far smaller offense than incitement to genocide.
Of course, the idea also has disadvantages. Ahmadinejad might be killed in the action and Iran would embark on a cruel war of revenge. The precedent of arresting leaders would endanger Israeli personages suspected abroad of crimes against humanity or murder (according to the Goldstone report and the flotilla report ). Ahmadinejad could be acquitted and make Israel look like a bully and Netanyahu a fool.
Nevertheless, how can Netanyahu refrain from an action to stop Hitler's heir, when the year is already 1939, if not 1940? According to Netanyahu's reasoning, if he refrains from acting history will condemn him for "not preventing a crime," as with Margalit Har-Shefi, who didn't stop Yigal Amir from assassinating Yitzhak Rabin.
This, of course, is not going to happen. The risks are too great and the intention here is not to give operational advice but rather to demonstrate the gap between those shouting from the opposition and those in power, and between "public diplomacy" - Israel's latest official translation for the term hasbara, which is something between self-justification and propaganda - and statesmanship.
When you are talking and looking for messages to get yourself into prime time, you can say anything without taking risks. But when you are the prime minister, the constraints of reality become clear and the gap between talk and deeds is revealed. Therefore, it is best to be cautious in speech and to remember that not everything is hasbara, as even a media gimmick can come back to haunt you.
And perhaps I'm wrong. Could it be the elite special operations unit is training and Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah are on their way to secret detention facility 1391, to the cell that served the captives Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani?

Comments of Baruch C. Cohen, Esq., on the Mercaz HaRav Tragedy

We are in painful times. How can we think of Adar and how can we think of being BeSimcha, when tragedies surround us. When our friends in Los Angeles suffer tragic losses in one felt swoop.
Can mere words describe the magnitude of the tragedy across the world in Yerushalayim at Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav Kook? The outpouring of grief, the pure Yiddishe Tzaar, the tears and the anguish were so powerful and tragic that no person with a heart could remain unmoved. No person at that tragic levaya of eight innocent Bochurim could return to mundane, everyday life.  None of the attendees could return home to eat lunch, read the paper, or even engage in the pursuit of parnassa.  All felt the instinctive pull to bury their tear-stained faces in a Gemara, in a Tehillim, or anything that could invoke Divine mercy and beg Hashem, “Mi she’omar l’olamo dai, yomar litzaroseinu dai.”
For those not at the levaya, just the media pictures of eight figures wrapped in Tachrichim lined up next to each other were heartbreaking.  And as Ehrliche Yidden, we have an obligation to be Noseh B’ol, to share the burden of tragedy with those directly affected. Just think of the parents, the fathers and mothers of these bochurim, who raised these children from infancy, merited to watch them grow and blossom, and sent them to learn in yeshiva. The pain that is their lot and will continue to be their lot is something that we, as Jews, are obligated to feel.  Their pain should be our pain.  Their tragedy is our tragedy. It is the most elementary duty of being Noseh B’ol Im Chaveiro. It’s the calling card of a Yid.
In this week’s Yated Neman, Avrohom Birnbaum wrote a very powerful editorial entitled: "We are all Mercaz HaRav" wherein he registers his voice in disgust and dismay at the secular Jewish Israeli press’ coverage of this tragedy. Within a few hours of the heinous bloodbath, while Zaka volunteers were still scraping blood off the yeshiva’s floor, both the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz had editorial analysis on the tragedy. In the most detached fashion, their Jewish journalists began to analyze the “symbolism” and political ramifications of the tragedy. Firstly, for any Jew to write such an analysis within two hours of an attack shows tremendous callousness and lack of elementary feeling for the tragedy. In addition, are we so foolish that we do not realize that the Arab who attacked the “flagship institution of the religious Zionist movement” would just as soon murder us, our mothers, our fathers, our sons or our daughters in cold blood? The ability of these reporters to analyze Olmert’s political fallout when bodies were still being removed from the yeshiva attests to a most disturbing disconnect. Do we not realize that this is an existential war? This is a war for the survival of every last Jew in Eretz Yisroel and in the Diasporah, regardless of political views, religious observance or anything else. This disconnect from reality of the seemingly most astute people in the country, who through their role in the press shape public opinion, has come to the fore and the lessons to be learned are downright terrifying. Is it only the Torah community who understands this? Make no mistake: this is a war for survival and that our heads and our children’s heads are just as vulnerable as those of the eight murdered kedoshim.
In truth, although it is painful to admit, in the aftermath of the tragedy we have observed that even some fringe elements of our community seem to be analyzing what message the bloodthirsty terrorists were sending and, Lehavdil, what Divine message is inherent in the fact that bloodthirsty terrorists attacked the religious Zionist yeshiva of Merkaz Harav. Do we not understand that to the majority of Arabs, we are the same as Merkaz Harav? They will attack any target, any Jew and any yeshiva upon which they can get their bloodthirsty hands. How foolish it is for simple, superficial people to view a tragedy in such a detached way - as if it is us and them. Yes, we may have ideological differences with religious Zionist Hashkafa, but what does that have to do with the tragic loss of eight kedoshim? They were killed because they were Jewish and the terrorists would kill us or any Jew, just because we are Jewish. There have been Korbanos from all segments of Jewry - Chareidim, Religious Zionists, secularists and everyone in between. Rather than playing analyst, we should be Davening and doing Teshuvah when blood of Jewish yeshiva bochurim is being spilled.
I think it is worthwhile to quote the previous Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l from a Chumash-Rashi shiur said in 1984. The Klausenberger Rebbe offered practical advice on what believing Jews should do in such terrible situations, advice that seems as current today as when he gave it 25 years ago. “We must strengthen ourselves in emunah and understand that two things are completely above and beyond the normal order of nature. One is the terrible Jew hatred and wickedness that has gripped the Arabs. The second is the power of our Emunah and Yiras Shomayim, an Emunah and Yiras Shomayim that invests in us the ability to completely distance ourselves from having anything to do with these wicked people.” Let us not be swayed by the words of ‘experts,’ professors,’ and secular journalists who constantly spew venomous hatred of our holy Torah [while advocating suicidal “cooperation with the Arabs]” “Tayereh Yidden - Dear Jews, let us come together, let us not be afraid of the ever strengthening powers of wickedness that seek to prevail.  Let us grab onto the Holy Torah and simple emunah.  Only then will Hashem help us."
What powerful moving and relevant words to us then, and to us now. 

JPOST: Israelis Are Not Prepared to Concede Jerusalem - Dore Gold; Ben-Gurion’s legacy on Jerusalem under assault By DORE GOLD 28/09/2010 A response to former prime minister Ehud Olmert from a former Israeli ambassador to the UN. Today, he says, Israel must reestablish that red line.

Right after the War of Independence, prime minister David Ben-Gurion faced inexorably difficult pressures over the future of Jerusalem.

The UN planned to press its case for internationalization. Its grounds were General Assembly Resolution 181, adopted in 1947 and known as the partition plan, which not only advocated the establishment of Jewish and Arab states in former British Mandatory Palestine, but also recommended putting Jerusalem under UN control as a corpus separatum, or separate entity.

True, the resolution was not legally binding; it had been forcibly rejected by the Arab states. Moreover, the UN never established the special regime for Jerusalem that it proposed. In fact, it failed to dispatch any forces to save the Old City when reports streamed in that its ancient synagogues were being systematically destroyed. Nevertheless, even after the war ended, leading diplomatic players in the UN, including the US government, came back and insisted on resurrecting the idea of international control.

Ben-Gurion stood in the Knesset on December 5, 1949 and, in no uncertain terms, rejected the demand for internationalization. He looked back at what had happened during the War of Independence, explaining that the UN “did not lift a finger” when invading Arab armies tried to destroy the holy city. It was only because of the efforts of the newly created IDF that the siege of Jerusalem had been lifted and the rest of its Jewish population saved. Ben-Gurion declared that Israel no longer viewed Resolution 181 as having any further “moral force” with regard to Jerusalem.

Four days later the General Assembly responded, again insisting that Jerusalem “should be placed under a permanent international regime.”

Ben-Gurion nonetheless stood his ground and declared on December 13, 1949 that the Knesset and the rest of the government would be transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

LOOKING BACK 60 years, internationalization was a complete failure. And yet it now appears it is coming back.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert has put forward a proposal in this paper (“The terms for an accord,” September 24) for the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, in which this area will be overseen by “an international trusteeship.”

According to Olmert, Israel would be expected to renounce its sovereignty over the holiest sites of the Jewish people, like the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, located in an area called “the Holy Basin” by negotiators in the past, and which extends beyond the Old City to the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

How is it that an idea which spelled disaster to the country’s founders can suddenly be put back on the political agenda? What happened? Does this readiness come from a sense that with the reunification of Jerusalem as a result of the 1967 Six Day War, Israel has less right to sovereignty there than it did in 1949? Such a view has no basis.

The Jewish people had restored their majority in the Old City already in 1863, according to the British consulate at the time – well before any other place in modern Israel. And after 1967, international lawyers such as like Stephen Schwebel, who would become president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, pointed to the fact that while Jordan occupied east Jerusalem after a war of aggression in 1948, Israel captured the very same areas in a war of self-defense, and as a result its title was stronger than that of other claimants at the time.

Moreover, by its actions since 1967, Israel has proven that it was the first protector of Jerusalem to truly defend the interests of all three monotheistic faiths.

Perhaps some of its political elites have forgotten what was axiomatic for Abba Eban and Chaim Herzog, but that does not diminish its historical rights.

It could be that today there is a naive belief that internationalization might work, since the UN in 2010 will be better than the UN in 1948. But there is no basis for such a conclusion. In the past 20 years, international oversight of areas of conflict has ended with one disaster after another. In 1994, a UN force in Rwanda, made up of mostly Belgian paratroopers deployed to oversee implementation of the Arusha Peace Accord, withdrew and abandoned the Tutsi tribe to acts of genocide by Hutu supremists. The UN Security Council delayed any effective action to stop the killing, which resulted in 800,000 deaths.

A year later, UN peacekeepers in Bosnia abandoned the Muslims they were supposed to protect in the town of Srebrenica. As a result, the Bosnian Serb army slaughtered more than 8,000 innocent people.

Since 2003, the UN has been unable to take decisive action and put an end to the genocide in Darfur by the Sudanese regime, given the interests of the Arab states and the Chinese. Multilateral machinery, whether based on the UN or on a consortium of states, remains notoriously slow.

In short, there is no recent international development that might lead one to believe that “an international trust,” rather than Israel, might actually work and protect Jerusalem.

How is it possible to explain the difference between Ben-Gurion and the leaders who put forward from time to time the idea of internationalization? Israel at the time of Ben-Gurion was actually much weaker than it is today; its population in 1948 was a little more than 800,000. But it had something which unfortunately has been lacking in many who would renounce its sovereignty over the Old City: Israel in 1948 had a deep conviction in the justice of its cause – a rare commodity today in many influential circles.

Those putting forward the idea of internationalization are completely divorced from the sentiments of the people. Poll after poll in the past decade indicate that Israelis are not prepared to concede Jerusalem, and especially the holy sites of the Jewish people.

The problem is that when one of Israel’s leaders suggests that the Old City be put under an international regime, international diplomats begin to think the government may entertain such proposals. Ben-Gurion was able to stand up to the UN General Assembly in 1949 because the world understood that Jerusalem represented a red line from which neither he nor any other representative of Israel was prepared to retreat.

Today, Israel must reestablish that red line clearly, for the impression left by these proposals badly weakens its ability to defend itself. They imply that it has lost its will and might be prepared to concede what has been – and will remain – one of the identifying core values defining the identity of the Jewish people.

The writer served as ambassador to the United Nations between 1997 and 1999 and as foreign polcicy advisor to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his first term. He is the author of The Fight for Jerusalem (Regnery: 2007).

The Metaphor of the Falling Man; No love for Muslims, unless they're Palestinian Christopher Hitchens, one of the most important journalists in the English-speaking world, needs to take a long, hard look at Palestinian history and at the nature, behavior and aims of the Palestinian national movement.

Christopher Hitchens, one of the most important journalists in the English-speaking world (a columnist for Vanity Fair, a contributing editor to The Atlantic), is of two minds about the Islamic Arab world. Or, rather, for him it is divided in two - the Palestinians and all the rest.
About "the rest," he is fairly clear (as in his just-published book, "Hitch-22: A Memoir): It is a world riddled by corruption, violence and brutal autocracy, gradually falling into the grip of a nihilistic or medieval Islamism that is challenging the core values of the West - liberalism, democracy, tolerance and equal rights for women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities.
Hitchens broke ranks with his leftist colleagues (he had long written for the British New Statesman weekly, and later, the U.S. weekly The Nation) and famously supported both of the Gulf wars: in 1991 and 2003.
Hitchens has condemned the Sudanese Arabs for murdering their Christian and animist kinsmen in Southern Sudan and in Darfur, and the Iraqi Arabs (and Muslim Turks) for killing and oppressing the Kurds.
Indeed, he has written books on the Kurdish struggle for independence and on Cyprus in which he was critical of the 1974 Turkish invasion and ethnic cleansing of the northern third of the island.
Most recently Hitchens has expressed sympathy for a possible Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities (calling it an act of self-defense).
Yet he still has a soft and blind spot for the Palestinians, who can apparently do no or little wrong (similar to the attitude of Western leftists toward the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, despite their occasional massacres of Catholics, the internal purges by Communists of liberals and POUM-supporters, etc.).
In "Hitch-22" Hitchens approvingly cites (and expands) a metaphor coined (I think) by Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for The Atlantic: A man (the Zionist Jew), to save himself, leaps from a burning building (anti-Semitic and Holocaust Europe) and lands on an innocent bystander (a Palestinian), crushing him. To which Hitchens adds - and the falling man lands on the Palestinian again and again (the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza, the suppression of the intifadas, the construction of settlements in the territories, etc.).
But the metaphor is disingenuous, and it requires amplification to conform to the facts of history. In fact, as the leaping man nears the ground he offers the bystander a compromise - let's share the pavement, some for you, some for me. The bystander responds with a firm "no," and tries, again and again (1920, 1921, 1929, the Arab Revolt of 1936-39 and the 1947-48 War of Independence), to stab the falling man as he descends to the pavement. So the leaping man lands on the bystander, crushing him. Later, again and again, the leaping man, now firmly ensconced on the pavement, offers the crushed bystander a compromise ("autonomy" in 1978, a "two-state solution" in 2000 and in 2008), and again and again the bystander says "no."
The falling man may have somewhat wronged the bystander, but the bystander was never an innocent one; he was an active agent in and a party to his own demise.
In "Hitch-22" this is somehow omitted. Rather, the often-enlightened Hitchens (who provided a roof and haven for his friend Salman Rushdie when he was under an Islamist death sentence, and who speaks quite forthrightly about "Islamist murderers" and cowardly, naive or deluded Western liberals bent on appeasing these "murderers"), fails to note the continuous, powerful religious impulse underlying the Palestinian national struggle since its inception in the 1920s. (What other national liberation movement in modern times, with the exception of that of the Greek Cypriots, was led by a cleric?). Who, if not the Islamists, won the Palestinian general elections in 2006?
Moreover, throughout Hitchens seems to accept the Palestinians' definition of themselves as "natives" struggling against an "imperialist" foreign enemy.
But what of Jewish residence in the Land of Israel between the 12th century B.C.E. and the late Byzantine period (5th and 6th centuries C.E.)?
And what of Jewish residence and "nativeness" in Palestine since 1882, nearly 130 years ago? If residence grants rights, surely Jewish residence counterbalances Arab residence in Palestine since 636 C.E.
And if it is conquest that affords a claim to territory, then how is the Arab conquest in the 7th century, by blood and fire, any more morally cogent than the Jewish conquests of 1200 B.C.E. or 1948/1967?
Hitchens needs to take a long, hard look at Palestinian history and at the nature, behavior and aims of the Palestinian national movement.

Boycott turns into ‘buycott’ for West Bank lotions

Controversy sells — and in Brooklyn Heights, it’s also good for the skin.
Local Jewish leaders and anti-Israel protesters faced off on Montague Street — again — on Tuesday, holding a raucous debate over whether West Bank-made lotions sold at Ricky’s cosmetics shop support Israel’s “illegal” occupation of the embattled region.
Not that there was any actual “debate,” of course, just shouting across the sidewalk, as those who called for a boycott of Israeli-manufactured Ahava cosmetics and purchasers of said projects faced off for the second time in as many months.
In the end, the boycott supporters ended up actually promoting the Ahava products, as Heights residents flocked to Ricky’s with their wallets open.
“I came in when I saw the flags — I think [the boycotters] are absurd,” said Ginger Berman, who bought a tub of Ahava bath salts. “There are so many other big issues to protest, why this?”
The reason, say opponents from Brooklyn for Peace, is that Ahava products use mud from the Dead Sea and other minerals from the West Bank — resources that rightly belong to Palestinians.
Protesters say that the Geneva Conventions is on their side in this millenial Mideast conflict, but Raskin and his crew say that a 1995 agreement between Israel and the Palestinians granted control of a large part of West Bank land to Israel — including the part where Ahava products are made.
Protesters may have outnumbered the supporters of the cosmetics company — including Rabbi Aaron Raskin of Congregation B’nai Avraham on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights, who has called the protests anti-Semitic.
Anti-Semitic, perhaps, but great for business. Ricky’s employees said that they sell out of Ahava products every time there is a protest — and there have been others in Manhattan, a neighboring city.
The timing of this week’s protest seemed designed to make a point, given that Israel’s 10-month moratorium on settlement-building in the West Bank expired on Sunday.
“This issue isn’t about Jews, it’s about justice for Palestinians whose minerals have been stolen,” said Felice Gelman at the rally. “We’ve asked Ricky’s to stop selling them, and they won’t.”
Given the soaring sales for Ahava products on Tuesday, the group may want to reconsider its boycott strategy.

YNET: China to market Israel as attractive destination Chinese tourism minister says Jewish state is extremely intriguing country for Chinese tourists, cooperation between countries important

Chinese Tourism Minister Shao Qiwei plans to boost activities aimed at exposing Israel as an attractive tourism destination, and says Israel is an extremely intriguing country for the Chinese tourist.

"I believe that mutual cooperation between China and Israel can lead to a huge breakthrough in the tourist traffic between the two countries," he said last week after meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Stas Misezhnikov, in Shanghai.

The Israeli tourism minister held several work meetings in China and took part in the opening of the Israeli stand at the Expo 2010 fair.

During their meeting, the two tourism ministers decided to host a joint tourism conference with representatives from all parts of the industry and to exchange information on developing rural tourism. In addition, the cooperation between the countries will be extended in the fields of culture, science, technology and agriculture.

The Chinese minister said at the end of the meeting that "the Chinese government has made a strategic decision to turn the tourism industry in the country into a key engine of growth, and we are working to implement the national tourism plan, which includes the construction of 1,000 additional five-star hotels in the next five years and the training of professional manpower in foreign languages in order to reach 100 million tourists in the coming years."

Minister Misezhnikov noted that one of the Tourism Ministry's targets was to bring tens of thousands of tourists from China every year by easing visa restrictions on Chinese tourists.

The Chinese outgoing tourism constitutes about 5% of the global outgoing tourism, and is expected to reach 7% by 2020. China is the world's biggest outgoing tourism market, with 46 million tourists a year.

YNET: Chinese envoy: We admire Israel After three years as China's ambassador to Israel, Zhao Jun is in love. 'You have created miracles for 62 years,' he says. In Yedioth Ahronoth interview, he talks about warm relations between two countries, his government's ties with Iran

China's Ambassador to Israel Zhao Jun encounters the same question time and again. During visits to his homeland he is asked what it's like to serve in a country known as a world power with 200,000 residents.

"I explain to them that Israel only has seven million residents – barely a small town in China," he says. "They find it hard to believe. I understand them. News doesn't change all the time in China like it does here – every hour. It took me time to get used to it as well."

After three years in Israel, Zhao is in love. He recently asked his supervisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing for another extension, although his term is scheduled to end soon. He wants to stay here at least one more year.

He spent Yom Kippur at the Kfat Shmaryahu synagogue near his residence. No, he didn't fast, but felt the need to express his solidarity.

"I am China's ambassador in Israel. I love Israel," he says in Hebrew, adding that he would galdly study Hebrew but can't find the time.

Didn't you have any prejudice against Israel?

"When the supervisor informed me that there was an available position for an ambassador to Israel, I immediately said yes. He said, 'Think about it for one night; consult your family.' I told him there was no need. I am interested in the position. Like others, I thought it was a country constantly in a state of war.

"When I arrived here I discovered a wonderful country. What captured my heart was the residents' friendly attitude. The friendship between Israel and the Chinese people has been going on for over 1,000 years, including during the Holocaust when Jewish refugees were given shelter in China although China was in dire straits, under a Japanese attack."

Mutual trust

On Tuesday, September 28, China marks 18 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. The Chinese, like the Israelis, view this number as a symbolic milestone. "For us it symbolizes happiness and prosperity," the ambassador explains.

A festive gala dinner was to be held at the Beit Shean amphitheater in the presence of President Shimon Peres. This location was chosen, among other things, in honor of former politician David Levy, who lives in Beit Shean and served as foreign minister when the relations with China were first established.

Zhao says he is working with the Israeli Foreign Ministry on preparing Benjamin Netanyahu'supcoming visit to China, where he says the prime minister is expected to be welcomed warmly.

"You might not know this," he says, "but we in China admire you and your Jewish mind, which has brought many Nobel prizes. The free China was established in 1949, one year after Israel, but we view what you have achieved as a miracle. We are brothers, almost twins. We admire you for creating miracles for 62 years."

Undoubtedly, the greatest success in China and Israel's relations is the trade ties. In the past 18 years, trade relations have been extended and have grown from $42 million to $6 billion.

"Israel contributes greatly to China in agricultural affairs, an important and significant field in China," Zhao says. "These days more than 20 universities have established ties with Israeli universities; nearly 20 Chinese universities have signed twin city agreements with Israeli cities; and the first Confucius Institute opened at Tel Aviv University in 2007.

"All these are signs of good relations. We have learned a lot from you. The Chinese government sees the importance of developing the relationship between China and Israel, and is willing to advance mutual trust and cooperation between the two countries and two governments."

How can the cooperation between our two countries be strengthened?

"Israel is proud of its advanced science and technology, while China enjoys the advantage of natural resources and spacious lands. So we have a lot to share in order to reach winning solutions."

Succeeding in China is every Israeli businessman's dream.

"Well, it's the dream of 90% of businesspeople in the world. But Israelis have a good chance, because it's a win-win situation."

China has the habit of becoming a partner in the infrastructure and resources of many countries in the world, mainly in Africa. Israel still doesn't have many natural resources.

"Yes, but there have been signs recently of gas discovered near Haifa. If this is true, China may invest in gas and oil drilling. I discussed it with (Israeli business mogul) Yitzhak Tshuvayesterday. He wants to explore the possibility of bringing Chinese investments here in the oil and gas field."

There are problem with the light rail in Tel Aviv and the project is about to be nationalized from Africa Israel, which has partnered with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation. Will the Chinese government press (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu to leave the project in your hands?

"The light rail project encountered difficulties because the agreement was signed by a number of companies before the financial crisis. The government is talking about a re-organization. We don't believe in increasing pressure. All concerned parties must hold talks to come up with solutions. We have other options as well: The train to Eilat is one of them, and we want to take part in it."

Recent reports talks about a planned railway line from China to London through Iran and Syria.

"I'm not an expert on this line, but I think these are rumors about some distant vision. It doesn't seem realistic at the moment."

Netanyahu's vision to shorten the way from Asia to Europe with a train from the Eilat port to the Ashdod and Haifa ports, without the need to pass through the Suez Canal, is quite similar. Are you promoting it?

"Any such thing is being examined seriously. We won't have a problem taking part in such a thing after demonstrating our abilities with the Carmel Tunnels. China is Israel's No. 1 business partner in Asia. You are good with medicine, and our cooperation is good in this matter too."

No mercy

His house in Kfar Shmaryahu has a Chinese flag in its living room alongside an Israeli flag. He has been serving in China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 37 years, a significant part of them in Europe. In the Middle East this is his first experience. Ambassador Zhao has no problem dealing with more sensitive issues in the Israel-China relations.

China doesn't appear to share Israel's concerns on the Iranian threat.

"That's not true. We are against the development of a nuclear weapon by the Iranians, but Iranhas the right to use nuclear energy for civilian purposes. We agree with Washington's stand on this matter. We believe that the nuclear problem must be solved through a dialogue between the sides, and China definitely takes part in these discussions."

(Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad is threatening to destroy Israel. What is your stance on this?

"We have made it clear, to the Iranians as well, that we are against countries using such threats."

You didn't rush to join the sanctions against Iran.

"That's not true. The UN adopted a resolution on the sanctions several months ago, and we joined it."

Peace talks have been launched, and for some reason China is not taking part in them.

"We play an important and significant role in the Middle East as members of the UN Security Council. A special delegation is scheduled to visit Israel next month, including the Chinese representative."

You're also providing the Palestinian Authority with financial aid.

"We help them build schools, roads and infrastructure. We have completed a number of economic projects and continue to help through our office in Ramallah."

How does China view peace between Israel and the PA?

"At this moment peace in the Middle East is facing a new historic opportunity. China has always supported the peace process. This is China's consistent stand, that all sides involved in the Middle Eastern issue will solve the differences between them properly through negotiations based on the relevant UN resolutions."

I see here embroidery on your wall of the Potala Palace in Lhasa – the Dalai Lama's palace in the former Tibetan capital.

"Tibet was always part of China and was oppressed by the Lama regime, including the family of the Dalai Lama, which held 60,000 slaves without any rights. They murdered them mercilessly. Their skin was used for musical instruments, their skulls for wall lights. We have proof of that in museums. Tibet was and will always be part of China. Despite the Dalai Lama's declarations, he does not seek peace and is working to divide China against the people's stand."

Taiwan is in the same turmoil as far as you are concerned. Do you think it could develop into war?

"Taiwan is also part of China and was created because of a civil war. We are in favor of unification and against Taiwan's independence. A war could be a reaction, but the majority of the public is against it. So we have suggested that we sit and talk. We're all Chinese."

Why do Israelis only get a three-month visa?

"This is a question I have been asked on many occasions. It doesn't matter, it's the procedure. Israelis also have security procedures and I don't ask why the Chinese only get a 10 to 15-day visa in Israel."

Will the deportation of foreign workers affect China's policy towards Israel?

"I won’t comment on that. It's an internal Israeli policy, and every government has the right to make its own decisions."

More and more factories are moving from Israel to China. Soon there will be no industry left here.

"I don't understand. Are you criticizing us? It's a business decision made by your companies, which choose to come to us. What's wrong with that?"

Where will we be 10 years from today?

"China welcomes investments from Israel. By the end of 2009, Israel set up 292 projects for investment in China, estimated at $220 million. The volume of trade grows every year. The diplomatic ties will also grow tighter. Three of your presidents and three of your prime ministers have already visited China.

"We believe in and support integrating the Israeli mind in the Chinese market in order to generate those same miracles you have created in this small country. History has taught us that we are true friends."

Mr. Abbas, Tear Down This Wall!

While the world's headlines focus with exaggerated alarm on Israel's lifting of its ten-month building freeze within Jewish West Bank settlements, an issue of far greater moment for the prospects of peace in the Middle East goes determinedly unaddressed. This is the matter of the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees—a subject on which the Obama administration, a fierce promoter of the building freeze, has been strikingly silent.
In Cairo a little over a year ago, President Obama proclaimed "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." After reminding his Arab audience that "six million Jews were killed" by the Nazis, he added immediately that, for their part, the Palestinians too "have endured the pain of dislocation" and many still "wait in refugee camps . . . for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead." At the time, a number of commentators objected to the President's seeming equation of the abundantly funded refugee camps run by the United Nations with Nazi death camps. Few, however, pointed out that his explanation of the plight of the Palestinian refugees was false, confusing historical cause and effect.
For it is not the absence of peace that keeps Palestinians "waiting" in refugee camps. Rather, most Arab leaders since 1948, including the current Palestinian leadership itself, insist that the refugees—originally numbering between 500,000 and 750,000 but now swollen through natural increase to over four million—must remain in those camps until allowed to return en masse to Israel. This insistence in turn makes it impossible to achieve any resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, let alone a "new beginning" in the Middle East.
A few years ago I briefly visited the Balata refugee camp with its 20,000 residents. The camp is inside the West Bank city of Nablus—that is, within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA). It is where many of the Arabs of Jaffa settled when they fled the armed conflict that flared up immediately after the November 1947 UN partition resolution dividing Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. Most of Balata's current residents are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the original refugees. Thus, a new baby born in Balata today is still designated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as a refugee dislocated by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and hence entitled to substantial material benefits for life, or at least until the conflict is settled. That infant will grow up and attend a segregated school run by UNRWA. In UN schools and cultural clubs financed by American tax dollars, Balata's children, like the children in similar camps in Gaza and neighboring Arab countries, are nurtured on the myth that someday soon they will return in triumph to their ancestors' homes by the Mediterranean Sea.
While awaiting redemption, Balata's Palestinian residents are prohibited, by the Palestinian Authority, from building homes outside the camp's official boundaries. They do not vote on municipal issues and receive no PA funding for roads or sanitation. As part of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's "economic renaissance" and state-building project, a brand new Palestinian city named Rawabi is planned for the West Bank near Bethlehem. But there will be no room at the inn for the Balata refugees. Sixty years after the first Arab-Israeli war, Balata might accurately be defined as a UN-administered, quasi-apartheid, welfare ghetto.
This historical and political absurdity—unique in the experience of the world's tens of millions of refugees displaced by modern war and political conflict—helps explain why Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walked away from the best deal his people have ever been offered. It happened in November 2008, when Ehud Olmert, then the prime minister of Israel, presented him with a detailed map of a future Palestinian state that, with land swaps, would constitute close to 100 percent of the territory of the West Bank and Gaza prior to the June 1967 war. Olmert also offered to divide Jerusalem, enabling the Palestinians to locate their capital in the eastern half of the city. The only thing he would not agree to was a right of return for Palestinian refugees—for the obvious reason that this would mean the end of the Jewish state.
As I have reported elsewhere, Abbas, promising to come back for further discussions, took the map to his Ramallah office for his aides to study. But he never returned with the map, and this was the last time the Israeli and Palestinian leaders met. The reason, I believe, is clear: if Olmert's offer had ever become the basis of serious negotiations, Abbas would have had to admit to the residents of Balata and the other refugee camps on the West Bank that their leaders had lied to them for 60 years and that they were not returning to Jaffa. Among those leaders was Abbas himself, who in his 2005 campaign for the PA presidency declared repeatedly that he would never bargain away the Palestinian refugees' right of return.
Today, two years later, face-to-face meetings, brokered by the Obama administration, are again being held between Abbas and an Israeli prime minister. But just like the Abbas-Olmert meetings, the current talks will go nowhere until Washington recognizes that the official Palestinian stance on the refugees presents a far more serious obstacle to Middle East peace than the issue of construction within Jewish West Bank settlements. The latter is no more than a complication, while Palestinian insistence on the right of return is a deal breaker.
Why not, at long last, break up the awful refugee camps and encourage their residents to integrate themselves into West Bank civil society? The rationale for doing so is not merely political expediency. There is an overwhelming human-rights imperative to deal with the issue now. For the past decade, an array of peace and human-rights groups has been protesting Israel's "brutal" West Bank occupation and the military checkpoints restricting the movement of innocent Palestinians. Now, many of the checkpoints have been closed, and Palestinians are building their economy and policing their own cities. In these circumstances, where are the human-rights advocates demanding that the Palestinian refugees be freed from their crowded camps, allowed to build their own homes anywhere on the West Bank, and permitted to send their children to regular Palestinian schools?  Why aren't peace demonstrators marshaling outside the Balata refugee camp with signs saying, "Mr. Abbas, tear down this wall"?
Somehow one doubts that the Palestine Human Rights Campaign or other like-minded groups will undertake such protests. But what does that say about their bona fides as advocates of peace? Does it not powerfully suggest that for them, as for Arab leaders throughout the Middle East, the welfare of suffering Palestinians has been of far lesser import than the demonization, if not the weakening and destruction, of the state of Israel? 

Sol Stern is a contributing editor of City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute.