Senator Schumer: Be a statesman.

iran-us-states-deal-sanctions

photo courtesy of rt.com

Senator Schumer,

I studied your position on the Iran Deal, which was posted on medium.com. It seems well reasoned and thorough, proceeding logically from point to point. However, there is one key flaw which runs through all the arguments. There is a false premise, an unstated assumption that Iran not only intends to build a nuclear weapon, but that they intend to use it. It is beginning from the position that we are and always shall be mortal enemies, that one of us must be destroyed. Continue reading

War and economics: where is Bernie Sanders’ 12th step?

There’s much to like about Bernie Sanders, but can he really help us kick the war habit?

Occupy Democrats and US Uncut have a handy macro going around that highlights Bernie’s 11 point economic agenda. It’s big. It’s important. It’s to be lauded. And if we’re not to have Bernie, it’s to be emulated. But we’ve also seen the devastating effect war has had on our economy, to say nothing of the lives lost to our wayward military adventurism. Below you’ll find my own reasons for supporting this 11-point economic plan as well as some serious consideration of his missing 12th point. Continue reading

Separate and not equal

Israel’s emphatic election result embraces the Apartheid state

Separate and not equal

Separate and not equal

Israel’s new Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, now has a mandate from Israelis to implement his policy: no Palestinian state, and preferential rights for Jewish Israelis.

Let’s be quite clear where that takes you: Apartheid South Africa.

75% of Israel’s population is of Jewish descent; a little over 6 million people. But the overall population of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is 14 million.

In a unified state, without any prospect for Palestinian independence, Jewish Israelis are instantly a minority group. Netanyahu has to ensure that Jewish Israelis continue to “rule” and so, just as importantly to his manifesto, is that Jewish Israelis must have more rights to protect them from that majority. Continue reading

The contrails have it: Iron Dome is a dud

The effectiveness of missile defense can scarcely be inferred from the “sound and light show” that is Iron Dome.

Iron Dome battery deployed in the field. (Photo: Israel Defense Force / Wikimedia Commons)

Iron Dome battery deployed in the field. (Photo: Israel Defense Force / Wikimedia Commons)

Contrails, the wake of an aircraft, are usually created by water vapor in its exhaust. When you hear them mentioned these days, it’s usually an attempt to paint them as “chemtrails,” the supposed product of a secret government program for spraying chemical or biological agents on the public to various ends. But contrails happen to be key to the effectiveness — or lack thereof — of Israel’s iron dome mobile missile defense program. Continue reading

Israel projects its own nuclear behavior on to Iran

Israel and Iran: It takes one to know one ― or think it knows one.

Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel

Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel

In a story that seems to have gone unremarked upon by other journalists, on March 31 at Inter Press Service, Gareth Porter reported:

The Barack Obama administration appears to have rejected a deal-breaking demand by Israel for an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons programme as a condition for completing the comprehensive nuclear agreement. Continue reading

Ever wonder exactly why the U.S. keeps Israel’s nuclear secret?

Hint: it’s not just the Israel lobby.

Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor, c. 1968. Image Wikimedia Commons

Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, c. 1968. Image Wikimedia Commons

In a piece titled The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal at the Guardian, Julian Borger writes about how Israel began its nuclear-weapons program.

The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft [more on that down-post ― RW], include today’s staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway. Continue reading

“World War Z”: Israel’s best foot forward?

Are zombies the key to peace between Israel and Palestine?

WorldWarZ “A Hollywood movie starring Brad Pitt posits a right of return for Arabs and Jews?” asks blogger levi9909 at Jews sans frontieres.

 An anonymous poster at 1971 Productions blog provides some background on World War Z (with emphasis added and, where applicable, sic):

According to the novel [by Max Brooks, Metropolitan Books, 2006] a key occurance near the beginning of the zombie pandemic takes place in Israel. While every other nation dismisses the zombie threat as a ‘non-news’ item, Israel takes proactive steps with the closing of its borders to everyone except uninfected Jews and Palestinians.

… The book details how the state takes steps to protect itself via the building of “The Wall”, turning the nation into a literal prison state. All Israeli, non-Israeli Jews, and Palestinians and descendants of pre-1948 Palestinians who lived abroad, are allowed to return to Israel to live behind this wall after being screened for the disease. Also in order to scale back on the amount of land it has to secure, the government unwillingly pull back from the West Bank and most other areas they had seized, before sealing themselves in.

… the Palestinians and The Jews ‘live happily ever after’ in peace and unity.

An anonymous commenter replied (again, sic):

I’m pretty certain that if zombies were attacking the Middle East, Israel will only let Jews inside its boarders and let the Arabs and the rest of the world die. They will NOT save the Palestinians. Max Brook’s tries to make the Jews the only civilzed nation on the planet, while all the Muslim nations act crazy and die.

In a trailer scene reminiscent of Colson Whitehead’s poignant Zone One (Anchor, 2011), zombies overrun an enormous wall. I had read Brooks’s dazzling novel, but forgot the details, and was wondering where the wall World War Z’s zombies were scaling was located. Upon watching the movie with my son and learning that it was outside Jerusalem, one couldn’t help but draw a comparison with Israel’s West Bank and two Gaza Strip barriers. Nor the obvious analogy of, as some Israelis see it, hordes of Arabs in the form of Palestinians overrunning their country. Meanwhile, evocations of Christians invading during the Crusades made it especially unsettling to see Jerusalem thus ravaged.

I then watched closely to see if those admitted into the walled compound that Jerusalem had become included Arabs. The fast-moving action and dialogue slipped by me and I was unable to pick out Arabs or hear references to their admittance. In any event, it seemed to have underplayed, as opposed to Brooks’s novel, in which the crisis seems to bring out the best in Israelis.

In his novel, however, either to advance the narrative, reflect his political concerns, or both, Brooks took the opportunity to eliminate two “existential” threats to Israel.

From the 1971 post:

… a threatened yet ironically safe Tehran takes a less than proactive step to quell the sudden influx of Pakistani refugees crossing Baluchistan into Iran. With India all but destroyed by the zombie virus, many Pakistanis who cannot fly out of the country see Iran as the next best alternative. Launching a misjudged nuclear strike against Karachi, Pakistan responds to Iran in a likewise manner, ensuring the annihilation of both countries in the process.

Finally, some brief observations about whether the film works. The case can be made that it’s the zombie film to end all zombie films. Whether all those in the interim since George Romero’s 1978 horror classic Night of the Living Dead – which cashed in on a trifecta of powerful drama, genuine shock, and a social conscience – were even necessary is a moot point. World War Z features the revved-up variety of zombies, which amps up the action, but forfeits the suspense inherent in zombies’ traditional slow gait.

Nevertheless, World War Z is an exciting and moving film. Furthermore, the much criticized ending might seem tacked on, in part because it’s scaled down from a cast of skatey-eight million. In a Vanity Fair piece about the problem-plagued making of the film, director Marc Foster said of the final scenes: “The maximum amount of actors or human beings on that set were 20.” Some movies start small and end big; others start big and end small, an arguably more satisfying strategy.

Is Israel proof that an armed society can work?

The burden is on those of us who advocate gun control to prove that deterrence doesn’t work with firearms.

At the Tablet on December 17, Lial Lebovitz attempts to explain (in a piece titled) Why Israel Has No Newtowns. First, he notes that, in the United States

… astute thinkers tried to look past their indignation and heartbreak in search of sensible policy alternatives. Not surprisingly, they often ended up looking to Israel. … A popular statistic spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter: Only 58 Israelis were killed by guns last year, compared with 10,728 Americans. … Assault rifles are banned, registration is necessary, and a whole system of checks and requirements is in place to keep weapons out of the wrong hands.

But, Lebovitz points out that, while assault rifles are banned in Israel, it’s surprisingly easy to obtain a handgun. (In particular, note what I’ve italicized.)

Security guards, obviously, are permitted their guns, but so are men and women who work in the diamond industry, or who handle valuable goods or large sums of cash. Anyone who lives or works in an “entitled residency”—code for a high-risk area, meaning the settlements—is permitted a weapon, no questions asked. Retired army officers can easily obtain a license, as can anyone who has inherited a gun from a friend or a relative. [Bad pun alert. — RW]  The upshot: Anyone can come up with an excuse to legally own a gun.

“How, then,” Lebovitz asks, “to explain Israel’s relatively low rate of gun-related deaths?” His argument now becomes familiar. He quotes Lior Nedivi, who he describes as an “an independent firearms examiner in Jerusalem and the co-author of a comprehensive report comparing Israel’s gun laws and culture to that of the United States.”

“An armed society,” Nedivi wrote, quoting the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, “is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”

Lebovitz adds:

When everyone has a gun, guns are no longer seen as talismans by weak, frightened, and unstable men seeking a sense of self-validation, but as killing machines that are to be handled with the utmost caution and care.

He fails to explain, though, exactly why said “weak, frightened, and unstable men” no longer turn to guns for “a sense of self-validation.” What follows is equally familiar.

… ever more stringent gun control is bad policy: As is the case with drugs, as was the case with liquor during Prohibition, the strict banning of anything does little but push the market underground into the hands of criminals and thugs. Rather than spend fortunes and ruin lives in a futile attempt to eradicate every last trigger in America, we would do well to follow Israel’s example and educate gun owners about their rights and responsibilities, so as to foster a culture of sensible and mindful gun ownership.

It’s the old deterrence argument. When applied to nuclear weapons, those of us in the disarmament community know that deterrence is, at best, a short-term solution. In fact, it’s the epitome of a fragile peace. But, I’m forced to admit that the implications for an armed civil society are not nearly as dire, since one mistake won’t result in the destruction of large portions of the world, as with nuclear weapons. Neither is civil war in the United States, Israel, or Switzerland (another heavily armed society) likely. Thus, it’s left to those of us in favor of steeper gun regulation to present arguments and data refuting the belief that gun possession is an effective form of deterrence.

In the interim, though, it’s difficult to disagree with what Jill Lepore wrote in her outstanding April 2012 New Yorker article on the history of gun control in the United States.

When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

Iron Dome’s effectiveness is not an argument for missile defense

It’s one thing to intercept a Hamas rocket, another to shoot down an inter-continental ballistic missile.

The success of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which has intercepted 80 to 90 percent of the rockets launched from Gaza, is viewed by many as a cause for celebration. Worse, it’s being used as evidence that missile defense works.

In fact, the odds that missile defense can protect a state from inter-continental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear weapons are slim to nonexistent.

Equally troublesome, it’s an ongoing bone of contention between the United States and Russia. The United States seeks to implement defense systems in Europe ostensibly to protect the NATO countries from — however hypothetical — a nuclear attack by Iran.

Perhaps partly because of how preposterous the Iran pretext sounds and because it serves the purposes of the Russian defense establishment, Moscow views missile defense in Europe as an even larger affront to the stability of nuclear deterrence than missile defense on American soil. Currently, aside from a radar installation in Turkey, U.S. missile defense in Europe is deployed only on ships in the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, drawing conclusions about missile defense from Iron Dome is like comparing apples and oranges. At Foreign Policy, Yousaf Butt explains.

That this small battlefield system has been so successful against the relatively slow-moving short-range rockets doesn’t mean that larger and much more expensive missile defense systems, such as the planned NATO system, will work against longer-range strategic missiles that move ten times as fast.

In other words, Iron Dome is not missile defense, it’s rocket defense (which, in fact, is also a subsection of U.S. missile defense).

In contrast to the short-range Hamas rockets, which fly through the atmosphere during their whole trajectory, the longer-range ballistic missiles … spend most of their flight in space. For decades it has been known that trying to intercept a warhead in space is exceedingly difficult because the adversary can use simple, lightweight countermeasures to fool the defensive system [such as] cheap inflatable balloon decoys.

Furthermore

… an 80 percent-effective tactical missile defense system against conventional battlefield rockets — such as Iron Dome — makes a lot of sense. If 10 conventional rockets are headed your way, stopping eight is undeniably a good thing. The possibility of stopping eight of 10 nuclear warheads, however, is less [impressive] since even one nuclear explosion will inflict unacceptable devastation. Just one nuclear-tipped missile penetrating your missile shield is about the equivalent of a million conventional missiles making it through.

Nor should we forget that

Even the largely successful Iron Dome system, while providing a worthy cover has not provided normalcy for Israeli citizens: the terror is still there.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

Let my people go

We have finally invented the internet. In current form, the internet allows for things like the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and the documenting of a tragic school building collapse in China. It reveals the terrible innards of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. This is a limited window of opportunity wherein information passes freely from person to person without direct interference. Let’s use it.

One Palestinian is dead and nine others wounded in an accident on the fence that keeps the people of Gaza from entering Israel. One side thought the fence was safe. The other side thought the fence was under attack. 6,000 miles away, I know about the ceasefire. I do not know what conditions were like on the ground. I hope everyone is committed to peace.

Palestinians began firing homemade rockets and mortars into Israel in 2001, after their land was surrounded by two fences, one kilometer apart, a no man’s land wherein any unidentified person might be shot. In 2005 Israel withdrew all troops from the Gaza strip.

In January 2011, the Gaza Youth Manifesto for Change appeared, declaring:

We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal-dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, home-made fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

This is truth. We can now share it. The internet facilitates free speech by democratizing the means of production. What does this mean?

Leveraging Operation Pillar of Defense into an attack on Iran

To the Netanyahu administration, attacking Gaza may be killing two birds with one stone.

The Netanyahu administration stands poised to use Iran’s real or imagined influence over Hamas, as well as Iron Dome’s effectiveness, as justification for attacking Iran.

“At first glance,” writes Haaretz columnist Amir Oren, “Operation Pillar of Defense seems to be aimed at the Palestinian arena, but in reality it is geared toward Iranian hostility against Israel.” In fact

… the dark cloud in the Gaza skies might serve as an alternative, or preface to, an Iran operation. … Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have not given up the dream of carrying out a major operation in Iran. …

Hamas often uses Iranian missiles, but, writes Oren

So as not to leave a shred of doubt, [an] IDF Spokesman emphasized that “the Gaza Strip has become Iran’s frontline base.”

In fact, Hamas is considered closer these days to Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar than Iran. Regardless

… the intelligence assessment of casualties likely to be sustained on the home front during an operation in Iran, based on the assumption that the Arrow antimissile system is used (although it has yet to demonstrate actual interception capabilities ) [and will] duplicate the performance of the Iron Dome system. … constitute calculations in favor of an Iranian operation. … Should Operation Pillar of Defense [succeed,] the political leadership, buoyed by strong performances from the intelligence and other branches, [may] try to extrapolate from this operation and transpose it to other places.

In other words, if the Netanyahu administration succeeds in sending the message that Hamas’s will is Iran’s command, and that Israel’s missile defense will afford it protection from Iran’s retaliation, it may feel it then has license to attack Iran.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

Jabari assassination brought Hamas negotiations to premature end

Israeli last to know that his negotiations with Ahmed Jabari were as doomed as the man.

In an oped in the New York Times, Gershon Baskin, who negotiated with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit, publicly revealed how the Netanyahu administration scuttled Israel’s most recent negotiations with Hamas.

On the morning that he was killed, Mr. Jabari received a draft proposal for an extended cease-fire with Israel, including mechanisms that would verify intentions and ensure compliance. This draft was agreed upon by me and Hamas’s deputy foreign minister, Mr. Hamad, when we met last week in Egypt.

Thus does Baskin

… believe that Israel made a grave and irresponsible strategic error by deciding to kill Mr. Jabari. No, Mr. Jabari was not a man of peace; he didn’t believe in peace with Israel and refused to have any direct contact with Israeli leaders and even nonofficials like me.

But

… Passing messages between the two sides, I was able to learn firsthand that Mr. Jabari wasn’t just interested in a long-term cease-fire; he was also the person responsible for enforcing previous cease-fire understandings brokered by the Egyptian intelligence agency. Mr. Jabari enforced those cease-fires only after confirming that Israel was prepared to stop its attacks on Gaza. The goal was to move beyond the patterns of the past.

Though Gershon Baskin doesn’t personally reproach the Netanyahu administration for attacking during negotiations, it certainly seems like he had the rug pulled out from under him.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

What happens when Denis Hamill mouths off about Ahmadinejad's presence at the UN on Yom Kippur?

Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur - GottliebGoyim collide.

Yesterday I had the misfortune of stumbling into this little bit of bigoted, hypocritical, inflammatory, and ignorant trash at the New York Daily News:

Ahmadinejad’s Yom Kippur UN speech an outrage for New York City

You simply do not invite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a pure evil crackpot Holocaust denier who wants to see Israel obliterated from planet Earth, to the United Nations on Yom Kippur, a Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

Oh, the ironies abound here.

First would be Hamill’s apparent failure to understand the observance of Yom Kippur, for instance, as described at chabad.com as part of the observance the day before: Continue reading

A bromance made in hell: when Bibi met Mitt

“We can almost speak in shorthand. … We share common experiences and have a perspective and underpinning which is similar.”

Thus does Michael Barbaro quote Mitt Romney in a New York Times article titled A Friendship Dating to 1976 Resonates in 2012. Of whom does Romney speak? Another Mormon deacon? Bain & Company founder Bill Bain? Barbaro explains.

… in 1976, the lives of Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu intersected, briefly but indelibly, in the 16th-floor offices of the Boston Consulting Group [headed by Bill Bain before he founded Bain & Company], where both had been recruited as corporate advisers. … That shared experience decades ago led to a warm friendship, little known to outsiders, that is now rich with political intrigue.  Continue reading

Sen. James Inhofe, climate change denier, the Bible only proves you don't understand words.

Senator James InhofeJust the other morning, I ran across this article from ThinkProgress:

Inhofe: God Says Global Warming Is a Hoax

That article links to a short clip from an interview Inhofe gave to one Vic Eliason at Voice of Christian Youth America to promote his book The Greatest Hoax:

“Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that “as long as the earth remains there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.” My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Continue reading

President Obama drinks the Israel "delegitimization" Kool-Aid

In his report on the Oval Office meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for the New York Times, Mark Landler writes:

Mr. Netanyahu, according to the official, argued that the West should not reopen talks with Iran until it agreed to a verifiable suspension of its uranium enrichment activities — a condition the White House says would doom talks before they began.

In other words, don’t hold talks until a goal of the talks has been reached before the talks themselves. In the United States we’re familiar with that practice from the Bush administration. It also parallels the Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 which prohibited U.S. diplomacy with “any Iranian official who poses a threat to the United States.” Continue reading

Israel's 1981 Osirak attack poor precedent for attacking Iran

Israel’s 1981 attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor is, along with other episodes such as the Six-Day War and Operation Entebbe, is the stuff of Israel’s military legend. Some are citing it as a precedent for attacking Iran’s nuclear-enrichment facilities. As Bennett Ramberg wrote in 2006 for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (behind a pay wall) about the Osirak attack’s applicability to Iran:

A dramatic military action to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation, the June 7, 1981 strike left a legacy that echoes today in the “all options are on the table” drumbeat emanating from Washington and Jerusalem. The seemingly straightforward message to Iran and other would-be proliferators: Abrogate nonproliferation pledges in this post-9/11 era and risk being “Osiraked.” Continue reading

Review – Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace In A Time of Peril

Our Last Best Chanceby Samantha Berkhead

Author: King Abdullah II of Jordan
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.: New York, 2011

It seems oddly prophetic that Jordan’s King Abdullah II published his first book when he did. Our Last Best Chance, a memoir pressing the need for peace in his region of the world, was released just as Tunisia’s revolutionary uprising blazed a trail for the Arab Spring of 2011—-a wave of citizen protests washing across the Middle East, the full implications of which remain frustratingly veiled to many.

From Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf to Bill Clinton’s My Life, books authored by state leaders usually get published while they are not in the position of power for which they’re known. This trend makes Abdullah’s book all the more intriguing—-Our Last Best Chance was written and published just over 10 years into his reign. Continue reading