Netanyahu’s New Friends

In my latest piece for Souciant, I look at Benjamin Netanyahu’s ineffectual “threat” to cut off the negotiations to nowhere with the Palestinian Authority if they reunify with Hamas.

Bibi clearly wants a situation where the US will back an Israeli refusal to continue negotiations, and Hamas joining a unity government gives him that. But in the longer run, that strategy might well backfire and, ironically, offer the best hope we have left for a peaceful resolution that both sides can live with.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Dear Readers,

I know this week I’ve stepped a bit outside of my usual space, and there is much to say about what is going on right now with Israel, Iran, Palestine, the US, the neoconservatives, and all the other cheery subjects I usually write about.

Well, I’ll be taking a couple of days off to enjoy the weekend and hopefully watch my beloved New York Giants pound the  stuffing out of the New England Patriots this Sunday. And then, I’ll be back to Middle East writing. Unless something just grabs my attention again.

Responses to Planned Parenthood Victory Show Media Bias From the Progressive Side Too

A few days ago, I wrote here about an article in the Washington Post that was clearly misleading to its readers.

That was an example of one way media distortion happens. Today, we saw another, this time from the left side of the political spectrum.

Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation

As I’m sure everyone out there is aware, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation had passed new regulations governing its grant process that would have ended its funding for Planned Parenthood. The ensuing outcry made them reverse their decision.

A great victory right? Well, yes, it was, but you would not know it if you read this Huffington Post article by Laura Basset. The headline reads: “Susan G. Komen Reverses Planned Parenthood Decision, Does Not Promise To Renew Grants.”

Sounds like not much of a victory at all, right? It certainly led some friends of mine to question the big win, and it led The Daily Kos to just about toss the whole thing out the window and call it a defeat.

Nonsense. This was every bit the victory it seems to be.

The issue for the HuffPo and Kos (really Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, whose article was mostly just echoed at Kos), is that there is no guarantee that Planned Parenthood will get its funding renewed at the next funding cycle.

Well, yeah. There isn’t. Guess what? There wasn’t such a guarantee before.

Grants are made, renewed, discontinued for all sorts of reasons. No grant is simply assumed to be renewed. If a foundation commits in writing to funding a program or organization till the end of time, fine. Otherwise, everyone has to go through the renewal process.

Sometimes there are political reasons that a foundation does not renew a grant. More often, there is simply a decision to use the limited resources at hand elsewhere, perhaps to start up a new organization or help one that is in more dire need than the one it had been funding.

That’s all there is here. That’s all there ever was. The status quo ante has been restored which is all Planned Parenthood ever wanted.

I don’t know if this is simply an example of lazy reporting by Basset and Sargent or if one or both of them wanted to make sure people didn’t get complacent about this issue. But in either case, they are misinforming their readers. Continue reading

Degel Shakhor (Black Flag)

The phrase “degel shakhor,” lierally “black flag,” refers to a principle in the Israeli military which is supposed to encourage soldiers not to carry out immoral orders. “Just

Ben Dunkelman in 1948

following orders” was not supposed to be an excuse.

Reality never measures up to ideals, and it is just as hard for Israeli soldiers to defy orders as it is for any other. This was true in 1948 and, as we have seen in the many reports from B’Tselem and the extensive testimonies of Israeli veterans that Shovrim Shtika(Breaking the Silence) has published, it is at least as true today.

But Bernard Avishai, in his latest blog piece, reminded me of the story of Ben Dunkelman, who refused to carry out an order to violate an agreement the IDF had made with the Arab citizens of Nazareth and expel those citizens from the territory the fledgling state held at the time. In the end, Dunkelman’s refusal spared Nazareth’s population from expulsion.

Avishai recounts the story with some important context, and you should check out his rendering. For this space, here is the Wikipedia summary, which gives you the basics of what happened.

In his autobiography, called Dual Allegiance,[3] Dunkelman tells the story of how, between July 8 and 18, 1948 during Operation Dekel, he led the 7th Brigade and its supporting units as it moved to capture the town of Nazareth. Nazareth surrendered after little more than token resistance. The surrender was formalized in a written agreement, where the town leaders accepted to cease hostilities in return for solemn promises from the Israeli officers, including Dunkelman, that no harm would come to the civilians of the town.

Shortly following the capture, Dunkelman received orders from General Chaim Laskov to expel the civilian population in the town, but he refused to implement these orders. The Israeli journalist and translator Peretz Kidron, with whom Dunkelman collaborated in writing Dual Allegiance, reproduced his record of Dunkelman’s account of the capture of Nazareth in a book chapter entitled “Truth Whereby Nations Live”: Continue reading

Just Sayin’…

Ha’aretz reports that Israel is asking the US to “prod” the Palestinians back to talks. OK, nothing new there, but what I found interesting was this:

The Prime Minister’s Office said that the conversation with Clinton lasted 45 minutes, and quoted Netanyahu as saying, “Israel is interested in continuous talks with the Palestinians while preserving the security interests of Israeli citizens.”

No doubt, there was some clumsy wording here, but doesn’t that sound an awful lot like Bibi is saying he wants endless negotiations while continuing to go about his business as usual?

Just sayin’…

Israel First Means Israel Last

In my piece this week at Souciant, I look at the rather ludicrous controversy around the Center for American Progress regarding a blogger’s use of the term “Israel-firster” to describe people whose view of US foreign policy is driven by their (or Netanyahu’s) view of Israel’s strategic interests. It’s a phony argument meant to extend the right-wing campaign against CAP, and it seems to have had some success. That is something that not only liberals, but anyone who believes in free and open political debate should take very seriously.