July 31, 2007
Clowns and others

Here are a couple of stories for those cynics who are sure that politics is something for the uncivilized, and enjoy occasional proof.

In the last Israeli national election, large numbers of voters turned up their noses at all the established parties. Predictions were, and eventually realized, for record low turnout.

Close to election day, a sizeable number discovered the Pensioners' Party. It had run several times in the past, but never got enough votes to make it into the Knesset. Now, however, it seemed to have an energized leader.

Rafi Eitan is a wizened 80+, with eyeglasses that look like the bottom of coke bottles. But he has an impressive record, and remains vibrant. Not all of his accomplishments are widely viewed as positive. The best was his leadership of the team that snared Adolph Eichmann. Less popular was his management of Jonathan Pollard, and according to Pollard and his supporters, abandoned him to capture and a life sentence in the United States.

Pre-election predictions were that the Pensioners' Party might win enough votes to get over the threshold for entering the Knesset. As a result of publicity on the news programs, more and more Israelis, including young adults, saw it as a way to cast a protest vote that might just improve the condition of the country's aged and other poor folks.

The results gave the Pensioners seven seats, and made them an attractive target of Ehud Olmert's efforts to construct a governing coalition. He made Eitan the head of a new program to deal with pensioners, gave another new old MK the Ministry of Health, and passed out some other goodies.

After the election, commentators wondered what would come of the Pensioners' Party. Except for Eitan, people knew very little about its Members of Knesset. Would they demonstrate parliamentary skills, and do something that would allow them to repeat their electoral success?

Eitan has enhanced his reputation as a wise man who speaks frequently and intelligently on national issues, especially those concerning security. He has shown himself to be a good soldier, loyal to Olmert. The Ministry of Health never was very much. It usually caves in to the more powerful Health Maintenance Organizations and hospitals, and enforces few of the regulatory powers at its disposal.

A year and one-half after the election, there is no evidence that the condition of the country's aged has improved as a result of the Pensioners' Party's activities. But the party has provided us with a couple of juicy stories. For a month, the police have been investigating a charge of sexual harassment. The wife of one Pensioner MK accused another Pensioner MK of enticing her into a bedroom, and of telling her that she had a nice ass.

Now there is a financial scandal. The police are being asked to look into a conspiracy among party leaders to remove from one of their number the authority to co-sign party checks, and to put another person's name on the authorized list without following normal procedures. Party leader Eitan is claiming that all is well, but he is refusing to answer questions of a well-known radio personality.

One public opinion survey showed the Pensioners' Party likely to get three seats in the case of an election, down from the seven won the last time. An even more recent poll showed them barely at two seats, and marginal to the minimum percentage that would entitle them to any seats.

For those following the activities of the Palestinians, there is a story to match that of the Pensioners. It is not a case of corruption, insofar as that is so common among the Palestinians as not to warrant news coverage. What we are seeing is a community leader once again scuttling his own people's chance of any progress.

Last week the media made a big point about a new declaration of policy by the Fatah Party, which used to run everything and is now in charge of a rump polity in the West Bank. The declaration omitted the customary endorsement of an armed struggle to liberate Palestine from the Zionists.

Hopeful Israelis and others saw this omission as a good sign. Maybe the Palestinians, after 60 years, were recognizing the limits to their power and getting ready to deal.

Not quite. After a few days of criticism from unreconstructed Palestinians, the Fatah Prime Minister announced,

"Palestinians have a legitimate right to resist the Israeli 'occupation' . . . 'What is the essence of resistance, especially in light of the current occupation? . . . Does is not begin with all possible efforts to strengthen the permanence of the Palestinian citizens on their land? That is precisely the government's agenda.'"


Such backtracking is not going to increase the enthusiasm of Israelis for helping Fatah hold onto the West Bank. Without that help, the prime minister and others may, before long, be hanging from the lampposts, with Hamas ropes around their necks. Israel does not look forward to the West Bank in Hamas' hands, but it knows what to do. Should that happen, I would not expect that many lampposts will remain standing, or that there will be enough electricity to light those which are.

In my eyes, politics is the greatest hope of maintaining civilization. Disagreement and argument is the essence, followed by voting to select leaders, and among leaders to select the policies to be followed.

Politics is also a profession to be learned. The untrained can ruin it for the rest of us. Clowns may win an election, but are not likely to do more than provide a circus afterward. Those who vote for an unknown entity may get what they deserve.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 02:33 AM
July 29, 2007
New and old voices from the Christian right

When I was an Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia 1966-68, I neither hid nor emphasized that we were Jews. I do not recall if there was an organized community in Athens. The children were too small to worry about their religious education. I remember a lunch with a senior colleague who spoke with pride about the progress being made at the university. "Now we are good enough to attract northerners to the university, like Ira. Soon we may be good enough to attract Jews." I perceived the remark to be philo-Semitic, rather than anti-Semitic. Another of my senior colleagues invited graduate students and young faculty members to his home. His evenings featured the singing of Christian hymns.

When the Six Day war occurred, I was invited to a meeting in one of the better homes. I may have been the only Jew among the lawyers, physicians, businessmen, and university people, all worried about Israel and all donating money. It was my first encounter with support for Israel among religious Protestants, especially Baptists and other Fundamentalists.

Since then the phenomenon has become well known. It includes pastor-led visits to the Holy Land, which combine Christian sites in Jerusalem and the Galilee, a dip in the Jordan, a flag-waving parade in Jerusalem, a song fest with Israeli tunes in Hebrew, and expressions of support for Israel and the Jewish people. Back home, the preachers and their flocks have been important in the support of Republican presidents, especially Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Their intense opposition to abortion, stem-cell research, plus support for prayer in the schools and faith-based social programming provokes the concern of liberal Jews, especially the Conservative and Reform varieties. However, their ringing endorsements of Israel go over well with most American Jews, and earn photo opportunities with Israeli prime ministers.

The same groups have made significant contributions to campaigns to aid Israelis in distress, as in areas affected by Hizbollah rocket attacks during the summer of 2006, and absorption programs for Russian and Ethiopian immigrants. Occasionally there are missionaries who seek to spread their faith, but they are less prominent than enthusiastic supporters who have adopted the label of Christian Zionists.

Some of their sweeping endorsements of all that Israel does (and sometimes wanting more) may embarrass the more nuanced Israelis, but they are good to hear against the efforts of Presbyterians and others who wanted to punish Israeli aggression and occupation by disinvestments at the least. We learned to filter out demands that we replace the Muslim structures on the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary with the Third Temple, and apocalyptic rhetoric that would have Jewish survivors accept Jesus in the end of days.

Now there are nuances on the Christian right. Some pastors are speaking about a fair solution, and justice for both parties. Not surprisingly, there is a limit to Christian congeniality. Against the new voices are some old ones. One quotation from a recent issue of the International Herald Tribune http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/29/news/church.php

"God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a covenant in the Book of Genesis for the land of Israel that is eternal and unbreakable, and that covenant is still intact . . .The Palestinian people have never owned the land of Israel, never existed as an autonomous society. There is no Palestinian language. There is no Palestinian currency. And to say that Palestinians have a right to that land historically is an historical fraud."

Whatever develops from this will join the fall out from the Palestinian civil war, and may leave at least a small mark on the Middle East. We hear that President George W. Bush wants to see the declaration of a Palestinian state before he leaves office. President Shimon Peres, with substantially less authority, still dreams of a New Middle East.

We'll see. It may be exciting.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 10:15 PM
July 27, 2007
It is easier dealing with the implacable

It is easy dealing with an implacable enemy. With Hamas in control of Palestine, Israel's options are simple. The government can remain on the good side of the world's humanitarians by providing enough food, fuel, water, and electricity to keep the population alive, but no more. The IDF tries to keep them off balance with occasional targeted killings, and nightly sweeps to collect a few more of the bad people for the swelling population of security prisoners, now said to be about 11,000.

What happens when Hamas gains control over Gaza and Fatah flees to the West Bank? Then the problems begin for Israeli policymakers.

Fatah is the party of Yassir Arafat, and his successor Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazan). These are the people who have targeted Israeli civilians since the 1960s, and provide most of Israel's security prisoners. But compared to Hamas, they have a high incidence of secular Muslims, and are willing to say that they will live in peace alongside Israel.

The latest pronouncement of Fatah policy does not mention an armed struggle against Israel. Wow. However, it does adhere to the goal of a Palestine in pre-1967 boundaries, a capital in Jerusalem, and the treatment of refugees according to United Nations decisions.

Alas, they are forced to say nice things at the present time. It is either get some assistance and protection from Israel, or face the prospect of Hamas taking over the West Bank. The folks currently holding on to the West Bank remember one colleague thrown from the roof of a 15 storey building in Gaza, and several others found guilty in street corner trials and punished very severely, very quickly.

Let's assume that the concept of pre-1967 boundaries is sufficiently flexible to give Israel the large settlements over those boundaries, and that "Jerusalem" is large enough and ambiguous enough to give them a capitol complex somewhere in what they will call al-Quds (the holy city). The stickier problems are all those United Nations General Assembly resolutions recognizing the right of return for Palestinian refugees. They are non-binding in terms of international law, but fall within what Palestinians call their non-negotiable rights.

Are we still in square one?

We are for the sizeable number of Israelis who do not trust Palestinians, reinforced by the casualties of intafada al-Aqsa, the daily news that some Fatah factions insist on continuing the armed struggle, and the expectation that Abbas will be as spineless in West Bank as he was in Gaza.

Yet a sizeable number of Israelis are always willing to give peace a chance. One of them is now the prime minister, and another the foreign minister. Other ministers have signed on to their program, and are talking about giving up substantial parts of the West Bank. Yet other ministers are expressing caution or outright skepticism.

Our leaders and the rest of us will be arguing about this for some time. Nonetheless, present gestures include the freeing of some prisoners, decisions to stop hunting Fatah militants who sign on to a peace commitment, supplying arms to Abbas' security forces in the West Bank, and continuing the hunt after Hamas militants and those Fatah militants who have not signed on to peaceful co-existence.

One awesome problem on the road to the future comes from all those Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank. The withdrawal from Gaza produced an intense mobilization of religious Zionists (modern Orthodox) against further withdrawals, reinforced by every rocket from Gaza that lands on Sderot or other towns in Israel. Tom Friedman and his friends condemn the settlements as Israel's deal breakers, and argue that the government must remove them.

No one in the government is saying they can do that now, or soon.

Our recent walks revealed a bus stop with discarded lounge chairs. Surprisingly, the neighbors who scavenge amidst the trash have not taken them. Perhaps it is their gesture in behalf of co-existence. It is a bit hot to sit outside during the day (38 C 100 F), but the evenings are pleasant enough to gather and argue about our future.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 09:59 PM
July 19, 2007
Shame on us

It is not difficult to accuse the Palestinians, including those who are citizens of Israel, of scuttling all chances for peace by insisting on extreme demands.

Jews also are not angels in this process.

This week the Knesset passed, by a vote of 64 to 16, the first reading of a bill to forbid the leasing or sale of Jewish National Fund land to non-Jews. Read that Arabs, but perhaps as well the estimated 300,000 non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere granted the possibility of citizenship under the Law of Return because they are related to a Jew. And what about all those Americans and others with Jewish fathers but not Jewish mothers? Reform rabbis recognize them as Jews, but not the Orthodox who manage the Israeli Rabbinate. Can they buy an apartment on Jewish National Fund land if someone whispers to the JNF that they are not really Jewish?

The bill is intended to skirt around a Supreme Court ruling that ruled against JNF policy. The bill must pass through two more votes in the Knesset, and there will be a fair amount of public controversy before then. Nonetheless, the lopsided vote, with an absolute majority of the Knesset on the side of supporters, suggests that the chances are good for a public embarrassment.

Those in favor of the legislation note that the Jewish National Fund began collecting money from Jews around the world early in the 20th century for the express purpose of buying land in Palestine for Jewish settlement. Formally it is a non-governmental organization, but it is also integrated into the government establishment. The Israel Land Authority administers for the JNF its substantial land holdings. The Land Authority has twisted and turned when an Arab wants to buy a home on JNF land. It has traded its own state land for JNF land in order to accommodate the Arab. On occasion this has occurred only after a court order. The new law may complicate this process further, if it is enacted and if it manages to avoid the snares of the Supreme Court.

And what will it do to all those people who think of themselves as Jews, but do not pass muster with the Orthodox Rabbinate? That will depend on how much trouble one or another zealot wishes to make.

We are talking about legislating against Israeli citizens. Arabs comprise 20 percent of Israel's population. They do not threaten to flood Jewish neighborhoods with undesirables any more than ultra-Orthodox Jews, who also make life miserable for those who are allergic to them.

Restricing property transfers to non-citizens is conventional, and provides all that is necessary to protect Israel from the uncounted millions in the region who might want to overewhelm us with their presence.

It is no surprise that the principal sponsor of the bill is a member of the National Religious Party, and a leading figure in the movement of settlers. This suggests a combination of religious and nationalist motivations. But what about the secular members of Knesset who gave the bill its majority?

An optimist may be tempted to say that they are teaching the Palestinians a lesson: Jews, too, can put outlandish demands on the table; if Palestinians cease the demands that would end the chance of agreement, Jews will make it possible for Israeli minorities to live like minorities in other western democracies.

A pessimist would fear that the secular MK's who voted for this bill really believe that JNF land should be forbidden to non-Jews. If this is true, they are aligning themselves with all those who support restrictive covenants, and insist that rights of private property allow one to discriminate against Jews, Catholics, Asians, African-Americans and others who can afford the price, but fall outside the realm of the desirable.

Israel prides itself on morality. Often it deserves the self-praise. Not this time.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 11:53 PM
July 14, 2007
Giving peace a chance-- mutually

One of Israel's principal challenges, and perhaps its greatest, is to live alongside the Palestinians.

It is far from easy, insofar as much, perhaps most, of what we hear and read from the Palestinian political and intellectual elite (inside and outside of Israel) is their monopoly of justice, and demands that Israel cannot accept. Prominent examples are an extensive right of return, and Israel's giving up the concept of a Jewish state for a "state for all its people." The last is code for giving so many privileges to a 20 percent minority of the population as to threaten the western, democratic nature of the society. Israel may not be Paradise for all its people (or any of its people), but it is the best for its majority and minorities that the Middle East has produced in modern times.

Currently the more pressing problem is the Palestinians outside of Israel. They begin a few hundred meters from these fingers, and are mixed with substantial Jewish settlements and a very recent history of violence.

Just this morning we are hearing the responses to the government's decision to allow two aged Palestinians, with the dried blood of numerous Jewish women and children on their hands, to enter the West Bank in order to give Mahmoud Abbas enough votes to form a government without Hamas.

The government's point is to give, once again, an Oslo like opportunity for the Palestinians to create institutions that look like a state, in the hope that they will take the advantage in a way that is not threatening to Israel. The exercise is limited to the West Bank. What is called the Hamastan in Gaza remains beyond the pale. Israel provides enough food, fuel, and electricity to hold off starvation, but not much more. If it is risky to predict events in the West Bank, it is foolhardy to predict them for Gaza.

Israel's government is again giving peace a chance. It will free about 200 Palestinian prisoners, agree to stop hunting a hundred or so more who sign statements foregoing violence, and let those two old terrorists give their votes to Abbas.

The families of those killed and injured are expressing themselves. The aged mother of a young girl killed in 1974 spoke of her pain, and we heard a poem the child wrote in behalf of peace shortly before she embarked on a school trip that ended badly. Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Israel Our Home party, is sure there is no chance Abbas can create a responsible regime. He knows of other Palestinians who might succeed, but he is not releasing their names.

With pathos on one side and nonsense on another, it is not easy to manage Israel's gestures for peace.

Many Israelis learned long ago that they cannot manage the details of the Palestinian regime. Macro demands we can make: no violence; no incitement that assures continued violence. Micro management is not for outsiders.

The problem is not only Israeli. George Bush and friends did not learn from the Kenney-Johnson follies in Vietnam. Avigdor is not likely to be any more successful in picking Palestinian leaders and telling them what they can do than John or Lyndon were in Vietnam, or George in Iraq.

Israel's government is not likely to be innocent. If the Palestinian authority continues to demand the entire West Bank and an extensive right of return for the refugees of 1948 and 1967, it will be disappointed. If the old terrorists express themselves in behalf of continued armed resistance to Israeli occupation, they may not be allowed out of the West Bank. If the new regime does not take significant steps to curtail the violent among its people, and tone down the incitement of armed resistance, Israel will treat it like the old regime.

Giving peace a chance means just that. It does not mean surrendering to Palestinian dreams. So far the Palestinians have come close to destroying Palestinian nationhood. They may yet succeed in that miserable scenario if their political and intellectual elites do not give peace a chance.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 11:31 PM
July 11, 2007
All is not fair, in love or war

It used to be said that all was fair in love and war. Not any more, in either love or war.

Today the emphasis is sex, which we are enlightened enough to know is not always the same as love.

It began on last evening's news, with a report that the former brother-in-law of Haim Ramon had hired a firm of private investigators to reveal that the woman who accused Ramon of an improper kiss was something other than how she presented herself.

The timing was strange. Ramon has been convicted of sexual harassment, served his time in a public service job, and was at least partly refurbished by an appointment as government minister.

Not only did the former brother-in-law's effort seem superfluous, it did not work. The intended target of the investigation latched on to the fact that she was being harassed yet again. She reported it to the justice ministry, and produced a day of embarrassment for the private investigators, Ramon's former brother-in-law, and Ramon himself. It is too early to know if the minister will be unrefurbished. There are challenges claiming that his ministerial appointment was improper.

The next chapter appeared this morning in the weekly book review supplement of Ha'aretz. The lead review, on page one, is of a woman's book arguing that sex over 60 still has its merits. The cartoon that accompanied the review was explicit, even if the body portrayed was not of museum quality.

Great for us old folks. But there is a worrisome follow-up.

Early morning radio reported that yet another Member of Knesset was being accused of sexual harassment. By 10 AM his identity was public: a member of the Pensioners' Party. By 2 PM his accuser was on radio. She sounded like someone who, as reported, was an activist in the Pensioner's Party. She accused the MK, among other things, of telling her that she has a nice ass.

We are not finished.

A mid-afternoon headline dealt with the latest claim being made to the Supreme Court, as part of its consideration of the plea bargain that did not include the weightiest charges against former President Moshe Katzav. Police records indicate that while questioning him, Katzav denied telephoning to one of his accusers, who had worked for him in the presidential mansion. Alas, records show that he phoned her 689 times, many of them after midnight.

Dare I finish this report? It is not yet time for the evening news.

There are also reports of impending war: Syria is strengthening its forces opposite the Golan Heights, and its spokesman is ridiculing Israel's posture with respect to peace talks. Just a month ago the government collected our gas masks, in order to clean them and update the medications in each kit. Now the word is that there are not enough gas masks ready for distribution.

The latest prediction of Iranian nuclear weapons is 2009. United Nations officials want Israel to turn over to it a bit of land that Israel has occupied since 1967, even before experts figure out if the area is part of Lebanon or Syria. Hezbollah is said to have more missiles than prior to last year's war. There is still no word that the two Israeli soldiers missing in Lebanon are even alive, despite last year's truce agreement requiring their release. There has been another rain of rockets and mortars on southern Israel.

Hearing about sex is more fun, even if occasionally gruesome.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 07:52 AM
July 07, 2007
Two books, neither recommended

A professional journal asked me to review Jimmy Carter's Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. A Palestinian student, on the occasion of a party to celebrate the completion of his masters thesis, gave me a copy of Nakba: Palestine 1948 and the Claims of Memory, edited by Ahmad H. Sa'di and Lila Abu-Lughod.

I read them both, with a mounting sense of discomfort. It does not bother me so much that both books portray Israeli contributions to Palestinian misery. We live amidst intense dispute. Defense and preemption are violent. Not every action of a uniformed Israeli would stand a test of morality. History is sufficiently knotted with attack, counter attack, deception, and personal tragedy to hinder any simplistic assertion of who started it, and what was more or less justified.

What bothers me in both books are themes of Palestinian self-pity, and an almost complete lack of willingness to accept any responsibility for their misery. The product is self-destructive. The Palestinian narrative, which Carter adopts and reinforces, works against any compromise or concession that can end the bloodshed.

Carter is not entirely one sided. Several times he notes that a continued lack of peace stems from the failure of Palestinians and other Arabs to recognize Israel's right to exist, and their violence against its civilians. Critics of Carter's book should recall that his pressure at Camp David in 1978 produced a peace treaty with Egypt. It ranks as one of the best services of an American president for Israel. Israelis, Egyptians, and Carter are unhappy with the follow-up to that accord. Nonetheless, it has held, and brought significant benefits to both Israel and Egypt.

Carter joins the Palestinian cause by putting the greater blame for continued problems on Israel's intransigence. He writes that it has not negotiated in good faith; it is intent on seizing Palestinian land for the sake of Jewish settlers in violation of international accords that it has accepted; and it is walling off segments of Palestinian territory from one another in a way to make the functioning of a viable state impossible.

The basic flaw of Carter's book, justifying the label of dishonesty, is its title. "Apartheid" is a loaded word, associated with the widely condemned racist regime of South Africa. In the book, and in numerous presentations, Carter has indicated that Israel itself is not an apartheid society. I see the term denied whenever I meet with one of my Arab students, chat with an Arab friend in the gym, or when I hear of yet another Arab family moving into our largely Jewish neighborhood and sending its children to the Hebrew-language primary school.

Carter emphasizes that apartheid is in Gaza and the West Bank: closed and separated, and with areas of the West Bank cut off from one another with Israel's barriers of fences and walls along with numerous checkpoints on the roads. He sees the barriers as violations of international law, and as assurance that Palestinian animosity will continue to fuel violence. Here and there he agrees that Israel has a right of self defense, but only if it built the barriers on the international border or within its own territory. Sometimes even this would violate his norms, insofar as it would prevent Palestinians from working, receiving social services, or visiting religious sites in Israel.

What most seems to arouse Carter is the barriers' protection of the settlements built for Jews on Palestinian land, and the roads which only Israelis are permitted to use.

There are several problems in the distinctions Carter would like us to accept. First, the prominence of apartheid in the title overcomes his efforts to refine his accusation. Secondly, the concept of apartheid, and the principal feature of its ugliness, is racism. However, Israel's barriers are not racist but territorial. They are not directed against Arabs. but against Palestinians who are not residents of Israel. Arabs circulate freely within Israel, calling themselves "Israeli Arabs" or "Palestinians living in Israel." Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank have been violent. More than 80 percent of them polled by Palestinian organizations have expressed support for the violence against Israeli civilians. Just as any country can set itself off from danger and enter other countries in actions that are basically defensive, Israel can claim a right to construct barriers in order to protect its citizens from a continuation of the violence that has killed more than 1,000 of them--the great majority civilians--from 2000 onward. Against Carter's claim of Israel's intransigence is the record that Israel made what was arguably a generous proposal. Yassir Arafat rejected it, and moved to the incitement and management of violence.

In short, Carter is throwing at Israel one of the dirtiest words he can find, yet it does not fit the situation, even after his bending and twisting to justify its use.

Carter's rhetoric about the barriers being built on Palestinian land also deserves comment. It falls afoul of the problematic border between Israel and what is called the West Bank. A reasonable view is that the land is disputed; not clearly Israeli or Palestinian. If the barriers come to define the border, the responsibility will be at least partly a product of Palestinian rejectionism and violence. The barriers are part of a war that continues.

The Berlin Wall came down. Israel is inserting numerous border crossings into the barriers. Israel's Supreme Court has halted the construction of sections, or demanded their dismantling, when convinced that damage to Palestinian interests outweigh the security arguments. How often the gates will be open, how thorough the inspections of Palestinians wanting to cross, and how long the barriers remain, will depend on Israel's conception of a threat from Palestinian violence.

Nakba (catastrophe) continues the theme of Israeli injustices, with barely a hint of what the Palestinians contributed to their problems. Rape is prominent in the book, serving as an parallel to Carter's ugly word of apartheid. Contributors cite Israeli sources for a dozen or so cases rape during and after the 1948 war, and assert that there were more. They also write about rape as a metaphor, which includes Israeli property development, typically described as ugly, said to be the rape of Palestinian land.

In November, 2001, I heard an American of Palestinian origin talking on the BBC about a radio play dealing with the raping of Palestinian women in Israeli jails. I learned that an Israeli-Palestinian civil rights organization had investigated a number of charges, and found nothing to support them. BBC broadcast the story without question, as if rapes of Palestinian women were a regular occurrence in Israeli jails

Several contributors to the Nakba anthology discuss what they call the massacre of Jenin in 2002. The Palestinian narrative is that the IDF killed 3,000 civilians. Human Rights Watch, usually unfriendly to Israel, put the death toll of Palestinians at 31 fighters and 22 civilians. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers died in the same operation.

Jenin, like the larger story of Palestinian Nakba, did not occur in a vacuum. The Palestinian flights or expulsions in 1948 were part of a war in which Palestinian fighters were active, and in which some 6,000 Israelis lost their lives. The attack on Jenin came as part of Israel's response to an especially ugly suicide bombing at a Passover Seder that killed 30 celebrants and injured 140.

A key element in the Palestinian narrative is the notion of refugee camps. The term appears throughout Nakba. The implication is something temporary, like tents whose residents are waiting to return home. The reality is poor urban neighborhoods, with substantial dwellings that have provided shelter for several generations. Dependence comes with the food and social services provided by United Nations and other organizations, which themselves live off the notion of refugees who somehow cannot settle themselves into anything like a permanent existence of self-sufficiency.

Misery occurs to Israelis and to Palestinians. It will continue as long as the Palestinian narrative emphasizes the land that was lost, and which must be returned. Change happens. People move. One can no more identify the "original inhabitants" of Palestine than those of Germany, Great Britain, or the United States. People who live in the past limit their opportunities for the present and the future. It does not help when they obsess on tendentious claims of injustice, like Jimmy Carter's assertion of apartheid, or the Palestinians' rape of history.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 10:04 PM