US leaves UNHRC

Among the articles in The J. Post on the US decision to leave the UN Human Rights Council was one by Seth Frantzman entitled “Is the UNHRC an old boy’s club of dictators?”  This contains a very illuminating table that lists members of the UNHRC that shows unequivocally how biased it is.  Out of its 46 member states there have been (from 2008-2018) 26 that are are considered to be “not free” based on analysis by the Freedom House, an international agency that monitors human rights around the world. And these countries have been re-elected time and time again, and by this means prevent criticism of their own human rights records.

Such countries as Saudi Arabia, Libya, Ethiopia, Cuba, China, Vietnam, Russia, Qatar, Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, and so on, all with scores on the Freedom index of less than 36% , pass judgement on western democracies and Israel.  Not only has Israel been censored more times than all other countries in the world combined, but the UNHRC has a permanent item (#7) on its agenda requiring that it rejudge Israel every six months.

This is a ludicrous situation whereby countries with no human rights protections are able to sit almost permanently in judgement on all others.  The problem is that if only countries with good human rights records were allowed to be members, then it would be a mainly American-European Club and open to criticism by human rights violators (most of the rest of the world) that it was biased.

It was right for the US to leave the UNHRC, because the situation is farcical.  It’s like the foxes guarding the chicken coop.  The UNHRC needs to be disbanded in its present state as useless.  But, how the UN could reform itself seems beyond the realm of possibility.



Michael Oren at AACI

I went with my daughter Miriam and son-in-law Jeff to a brunch in Jerusalem in honor of her and the 5 other members of the staff of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) who are advisers for English-speaking immigrants to Israel.  It was a lovely event and the ladies were justifiably praised for their dedicated service.  But, what I want to write about is the presentation given by Michael Oren, currently a Deputy Minster in the Israeli Government and previously the Israeli Ambassador to the US. Oren is a very talented individual, a practising historian whose books have won great acclaim.

His talk was without notes, breezy and energetic.  He spoke about his favorite subject, Israel and America.  He pointed out that when he was first appointed an official of the Israeli Government, he was required by US law to give up his American citizenship.  He had to go to the US Embassy, then in Tel Aviv, and swear that he understood the rights he was giving up, then they took his passport and punched a big hole right thru it.

But, he pointed out that much of what he was and had learned as an American went with him into his Israeli Government service.  Including a commitment to truth, democracy and civil rights.  He pointed out the dilemma that in Israel, which does not have a written constitution, like the British, there are members of the Knesset representing the Arab sector of the population, which make us ca. 20% of the total, who are completely committed to the destruction of the State that they are supposed to serve.  Some Arab MKs have committed downright treasonous acts, for example one member has applied to the UN thru the Palestinian Authority for Israel to be censured for its actions in Gaza.

In the US Constitution, Article 5, there is a specific requirement that any treasonous act by a Member of Congress would be followed by a hearing and the expulsion of that Member.  But, no such law exists in Israel.  He has introduced a Bill in the Knesset to expel any Member who acts treasonously to the State, and that would have to be proven.

But, at the same time, he recognizes that the 20% of the population who are Arabs need to be integrated into the fabric of Israeli life.  In this respect, his experiences in the civil rights movement in the USA have helped him a lot.  When he was Ambassador in Washington he introduced the celebration of the Id al Fitr feast that ends Ramadan there, and that is continued still.

He is concerned about the peace plan that the Trump Administration is working on.  Trump and his team are very pro-Israel in many respects, but as Trump likes to make a deal, this requires hard concessions from both sides.  Maybe the Palestinians will not cooperate with Trump, but if they do then Israel might have to make concessions that the current Government is not prepared to do.  But, how could they deny anything to such a friend as Trump.  This remains to be seen.

In conclusion, some people have asked him about the difference in being an American and an Israeli.  He said that no Government functionary could put a hole thru his Israeli passport and deny his essential right to be Jewish in his Homeland, Israel.

Incendiary kites

The Hamas terrorist organization that controls Gaza has tried everything, rockets, attack tunnels, mobs attacking the border, but none of their attempts have brought them any nearer to destroying Israel.  That is their clear and stated aim, not to build a State, but to destroy one.  Now they have resorted to incendiary kites or explosive balloons.

At least Fatah, the major component of the PLO, that controls the Palestine Authority (PA) on the West Bank have gone through the motions of dealing with Israel.  They pretended to recognize Israel some years ago, although they never actually changed their Charter that calls for Israel’s destruction.  But, at least they also try civil means to undermine Israel, thru international agencies like the UN.  But, Hamas don’t even make this pretense.

Their latest tactic is to fly incendiary kites and balloons rigged with explosives over the Gaza border into Israel. These devices are of course deliberately made to cause fires and explosions to kill people.  A group of children found an exploding balloon, as described in the Jerusalem Post today, but luckily they had been warned not to touch them, and a sapper team was called to defuse it.  Numerous fires have been caused by the incendiary devices, because it is very hot and dry in Israel at this time.

The IDF fired warning shots at teams of men preparing to launch these devices.  But, they avoided killing them.  The Israeli Cabinet met yesterday to discuss the latest tactic, but came to no decision.  It would be easy to wipe out the terrorists launching these weapons of war, but at every turn Israel has to consider world public opinion that is entirely against whatever Israel does to defend itself.  Make no mistake these are weapons of war,  they have burnt many acres of food crops, and are intended to kill.  Israel will defend itself effectively, and in the end this latest tactic will be no more than a pinprick against Israel,  Neither Hamas no the PA, nor their Iranian and Western backers will achieve their main aim of harming Israel.

Recipe for Inaction

I watched the press conference of PM Netanyahu and French Pres. Macron from Paris yesterday.  What astounded me, and what garnered more news coverage, was Macron’s statement that the US decision to move its Embassy to Jerusalem was wrong because it cost lives.  He said he would not make any move that might cost lives.  What a nonsensical statement for a leader and supposed decision-maker to state.  In other words, of someone threatened to kill someone else if he makes a decision, such as protecting French interests against terrorism for example, he won’t make the decision.  What a recipe for stalemate and failure.

Let’s be clear, it was not the decision of the US to move their Embassy to Jerusalem that caused the deaths, it was the decision taken knowingly that lives would be lost by the Gazan rulers Hamas, who sent women and children, as well as armed Hamas activists, to the  Israeli border, where they had been amply warned they would be stopped by live fire.  It was the Hamas leadership that caused the deaths!  Are we supposed to do nothing for fear of the reaction of the terrorists of the world?  This is a recipe for blackmail and inaction.

Another example, was the decision by Pres. Obama to declare the use by Syrian Pres Assad of chemical weapons against his own people a “red-line” and then refuse to actually take action.  He stepped back and asked the Congress to help him decide, a sure formula for failure, and he accepted the offer of Pres. Putin to intervene with Pres. Assad to stop the use of chemical weapons.  The net result of this failure to take action because of fear of the loss of life that would be blamed on him, was in fact a much greater loss of life, because Assad, who was at that point about to lose the civil war, was then infused with Russian support.  It gave Russia the entry it need to intervene in the Syrian civil war to support Assad, and it led to the loss of hundreds of  thousands more civilian lives due to the continuation of the civil war for many more years, as well as the fact that Assad has resorted to the use of chemical weapons again and again since then.

It is a proven fact of history that failure to act when a decision is needed is the worst course of action.  It can be called “appeasement,” the disastrous policy used by the British and their allies before WWII to try to avoid a war with Germany because they considered Hitler “an honorable man.”  Boy, were they wrong!  Let’s not allow decisions by democratic governments to be based on the threats and blackmail of those who consider life cheap.

Controversial Election Results

The results of two elections in the Middle East, in Lebanon and Iraq, appear disquieting for anyone who wants to see peace in the region.  In Lebanon, Hezbollah, that has moved from being purely a military and social organization into a political force in Lebanon, won more seats in the recent election (19 out of 128) for the Lebanese Parliament.  Sheikh Nasrallah claimed this as a victory.  Given Hezbollah’s Shia identification with Iran, and its dedication to fighting Israel, this is a disturbing result.  It means that the Shia majority in Southern Lebanon accept the idea that Lebanon should be at war as a proxy of Iran. An alternative opinion is that having political responsibility in Lebanon might make Hezbollah tend to be more responsible and cautious in pursuing its anti-Israel policy.

Similarly, in Iraq, the party of Muqtada al-Sadr, known for his militant opposition to the US presence in Iraq, has now been elected to the Iraqi Parliament.  They obtained 54 out of 329 seats.  However, although they are devotedly Shia, Sadr has taken a more pro-Arab, anti-Iran stance since the defeat of ISIS by the Iraqi Army and his militia.  Nevertheless, there are calculated to be 91 pro-Iranian members of the Iraqi Parliament. So the continued schism between the Sunni (who controlled Iraq under Saddam Hussein) and the Shia (who controlled Iraq under the PM Maliki) is still the major issue in Iraqi politics.

Although on the face of it these election results in Lebanon and Iraq do not look good for Israel, the fact that the parties of Hezbollah and Sadr in their respective countries, are now part of the political establishment may make them less militant.  The fact that Israel  essentially destroyed the Iranian infrastructure in Syria, and Iran has been unable to respond (except possibly by getting Hamas to fire rockets into Israel), means that Iran is no longer seen as a serious threat to Israel.  The fact that the US under Trump has reneged on the Iranian nuclear deal (the JCPOA) and that Russia under Putin has stood by and allowed Israel a free hand in attacking Iranian assets in Syria means that Iran has nowhere to go.  In fact there are reports that under Russian threats Iran is beginning to withdraw from Syria.  It will then be unlikely that Hezbollah alone will attempt to face Israel, because if it did the Israeli retaliation would lose it support in Lebanon.  So the current outcome may not be so bad for Israel after all.

Hamas raises the heat

Hamas has been desperately trying to get itself and the Palestinian cause back in the headlines.  Compared to what is going on in the Arab world it is certainly the least of their concerns, and the world is perhaps finally growing weary of the Palestinian eternal obsessive quest to destroy Israel, like tilting at imaginary windmills.   The attacks by tens of thousands of civilians against the Israeli border, led by Hamas terrorists, is a case in point.  But, with only 62 fatalities, 50 of them Hamas operatives, they were unable to do more than get a UN Security Council statement and an EU meeting, both worthless.

So now they have resorted to real military activity, probably ordered by Iran.  They blasted southern Israel, not far from where I am writing this, with 70 rockets.  One of these exploded in a kindergarten, luckily before the kids arrived.  Israel cannot, of course, accept this.  But, Israel is, as always, in a dilemma.  The IDF could destroy Hamas, and flatten Gaza in the process.  But, in doing so they would give Hamas, even in defeat, a great deal of sympathetic media coverage, and this would, as always, result in anti-Israel animus.  Israel cannot afford to win.  A defeat for Hamas is the only way they can win.

PM Netanyahu has been meeting with his security cabinet and trying to decide how to respond.  The IDF already pounded Gaza, hitting 35 Hamas targets, including an attack tunnel that entered Israel after going thru Egyptian territory.  But, even though some in Israel would like to finally destroy Hamas and take care of this thorn in Israel’s side, the current threat from Iran in Syria, a far more serious problem, looms large in all security calculations.  So for now, it is likely that Israel will strike back, but will not take such extensive action that would lead to a war.  Iran was hit hard in Syria, and Israel does not want to give the Iranians and Hezbollah an excuse to try to hit back.

The latest reports are that Egypt has mediated a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, and this is good from the Israeli perspective.  As PM Netanyahu stated, “If they test us they pay immediately, if they continue to test us they will pay dearly.”

Evaluating Gaza

Two things haven’t worked for many years, the so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, and the so-called BDS movement against Israel. That includes and is based upon a liberal-leftist attitude that says that Israel uses disproportionate force against the poor, desperate Palestinians.  But, this biased view is wrong on several counts.  I once used to believe, maybe seen from the perspective of a Diaspora Jew, that it would be possible to reason with these critics of Israel.  But, now I see from the perspective of an Israeli that it is not worth the effort.  Their basically anti-Semitic animus cannot be reasoned with.

Take for instance the recent rioting by Palestinian Arabs near the Gaza border with Israel.  THEY were attacking US.  Our border guards were defending the borders of our sovereign land.  No country in the world would allow a hostile mob to breach its border and pour into the country to carry out kidnapping, mayhem and murder.  Furthermore, Hamas spokesmen have admitted not only that the so-called demonstrations were not peaceful (duh!) but that most of those killed by targeted Israeli fire (50 out of 62) were in fact Hamas members (armed and trained terrorists, but not wearing uniform).

Well, we all knew this, even the liberal media writing their columns and the TV cameramen taking their pictures knew this.  But, it is the perceived liberal wisdom, the well-accepted story that is completely opposite to the truth.  They were not poor, desperate civilians, they were an organized mob lead by Hamas terrorists, and they were not killed indiscriminately, but only if they approached the fence or if they fired at the IDF guards.  Think how differently this would have been reported if it were a Mexican mob attacking the US border.  Would they have been described as “poor and desperate” and the US response as “disproportionate.”  Indeed one can predict that the number of casualties (62 out of up to 30,000 a day is really indeed very small) would have been far higher.

Meanwhile, Israel was the host to the Giro D’Italia, the prestigious cycling event; Israel defeated Iran’s aggression from Syria; Pres. Trump ditched the Iran nuclear deal; Trump moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and an Israeli, Netta Barzilai, won the Eurovision Song Contest, voted for by millions of people around the world.  Life goes on, and in the final analysis who cares about the Gaza riots.  Hamas may have won the PR war, but the IDF prevented the incursion of these angry, destructive mobs into Israel, and that ‘s what really counts.  In a few years, this little Palestinian tantrum will be forgotten.  Israel hit back and destroyed about 30 Hamas facilities (hardly reported) and Hamas is running out of options.  They can win as many PR battles as they like, but it won’t get them any nearer to their tactical political goals.