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Why Do Academics and Artists Lean Left?

This morning I opened the Jerusalem Post and found these two articles next to each other:

Hamas PM: Only Armed Resistance Will Liberate Palestine

and

Israeli Leftists Demonstrate for PA Statehood in Tel Aviv

Those leftists can’t have all been unconscious when the PA returned to the Hamas fold last spring. They appear, then, to be choosing not to acknowledge it. How can they possibly justify that choice, considering the likely consequences of the reconciliation not only for Israelis but for Palestinians? What is going on here?

In the United States, life in the academy can be so effectively insulated from reality that it becomes possible to bury oneself up to one’s eyebrows in philosophies that contravene all evidence, history, and common sense. Here in Israel, though, it’s much harder to cut oneself off from reality to the extent generally necessary to wholeheartedly embrace the philosophies of the left.

Nevertheless, academics here are as susceptible as they are anywhere else to the temptation to deny reality, even when it’s literally screaming in their faces. Why is that? And the same seems to go for artists. Several of my favorite Israeli actors — world-class artists whose work I will go well out of my way to see for the sheer, awe-inspiring gratification of being witness to their talent — are proud, vocal, hard-core, die-hard leftists.

I don’t intend by any means to tar the entire academic and artistic communities of Israel with the same brush here. The word “dozens” in the first sentence of the second piece speaks rather poignantly to the sorry state of the Israeli left. But here, as much as anywhere else, the perception exists that an academic or artist who bucks the leftist trend is somehow anomalous, if not downright bent.

There are no doubt plenty of Israeli academics and artists who are right or center-right, but they certainly don’t make a public show of it. In the case of academics, that might speak to a fear of providing ammunition to the blithering mouth-breathers abroad clamoring for academic boycotts of Israel and Israelis. And who knows — maybe right-wing Israeli artists are also afraid of inviting hostile and even violent responses when they perform abroad. But it does appear that among these two communities in Israel, there’s something shamefaced about being an out-and-proud right-winger. A no-questions-asked embrace of the left offers a luxuriously comforting, pillowy embrace of collective self-righteousness, and that’s got to be tempting.

Maybe that’s all there is to it. When reality is painful, there’s a certain self-protective logic to a flat denial of it — especially when most of your colleagues are denying it too, and are enjoying the perks of the moral high ground. Or let’s think positive: maybe academics and artists try harder than the rest of us to see the other as individuals and not collectives, and enough of them have personal experience with individual members of the other that they can’t help but extrapolate good intentions to whole communities. Maybe scholarly and artistic pursuits are believed by their practitioners to transcend cultural boundaries (although in the case of Israeli academics, they are regularly barred from enjoying reciprocal consideration from their colleagues abroad, a point I don’t remember ever seeing addressed directly by an Israeli leftist).

Maybe it’s just good old-fashioned peer pressure. I’m stumped. What do you think?

Unintended Consequences of Statehood Bid? Spain Acknowledges that Israel Is a Jewish State

Okay — I’ll admit that I find it faintly comical that in 2011 it should still be considered both newsworthy and an indication of a substantive shift in diplomatic policy for a European senior government official to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state. Still, it would be churlish to deny that under prevailing bizarro-world circumstances, statements like that of Spain’s Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez before the United Nations General Assembly are important and necessary.

Jimenez noted — apparently for the first time — that Israel is the Jewish homeland, and said the Palestinian refugee problem needs to be solved in a way that does not compromise Israel’s character as a Jewish state. Haaretz expressed the hope that the announcement of Spain’s new position will encourage other countries to follow suit, particularly as Spain is widely viewed as pro-Palestinian.

Well, we’ll see. It is encouraging, though, to see even a single European statesperson claim openly that the assumption of a Palestinian right to their homeland implies a reciprocal Jewish right. I’d like to hope that this kind of thing might force Abbas to either explain his reconciliation with Hamas or break with them once and for all, but am not too optimistic on that score; he’s clearly been given a pass to run with whatever wolves he likes, and he has years of experience fine-tuning his talking points depending on the listener. Hamas, however, unlike Abbas and his cohort, can be counted on to stay on message: statehood, shmatehood. Palestine is all of Israel, not just a chunk of it. Game’s not over till they say it is. Stay tuned.

Palestine to Deny Citizenship to Palestinian Refugees

Yes, you read that right.

Evelyn Gordon has a jaw-dropping piece up on the Contentions blog at Commentary today in which she quotes Abdullah Abdullah, the PLO’s ambassador to Lebanon, who gave an interview last week with the Lebanese paper The Daily Star:

The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state…

This would not only apply to refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan or the other 132 countries where Abdullah says Palestinians reside. Abdullah said that “even Palestinian refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens.”

Abdullah said that the new Palestinian state would “absolutely not” be issuing Palestinian passports to refugees…

He makes the logic of this choice admirably clear (emphasis added):

“When we have a state accepted as a member of the United Nations, this is not the end of the conflict. This is not a solution to the conflict. This is only a new framework that will change the rules of the game. 

The Palestinian Liberation Organization would remain responsible for refugees, and Abdullah says that UNRWA would continue its work as usual.

The only Palestinians who will be entitled to citizenship are those residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who are not classified as refugees. They collectively represent a little more than half the population. To sum up, then: the entire refugee population of the diaspora, plus 45% of the residents of the West Bank and Gaza, will be refused citizenship of Palestine. That amounts to 4.69 million people (2.9 million in the diaspora, 689,000 in the West Bank and 1.1 million in Gaza).

Let me interject a personal note here. I have spent the past three months watching with admiration and gratitude as Arab workers built the structure of my new house. Some of them came from the territories. They were, to the last man, eminently professional, dependable, gracious, responsible, and fantastic with my kids.

It enrages me that Palestinian leaders — the supposed “peacemaking” crew, I mean; not the unapologetic, no-compromise freakshow that runs Gaza — would sell out not just my future, but the futures of men like these. And it enrages me still further that the disgusting choices those leaders make create an assumption abroad that all Palestinians, all Muslims indeed, are their mirror images. An entire population, the decent majority together with the indecent minority, is being stamped into the gutter of history by its own leadership. I can’t speak for the Muslim populations of Marseilles or Flanders or London or Ankara, and I am the last to gainsay our long struggle with Muslim violence here in Israel. But I am convinced that given a chance, this population could live beside us peacefully, were it not for a pathologically weak-minded leadership. What a tragic disgrace.

Lest anyone remain in doubt as to the true purpose of the statehood gambit in the minds of that leadership — a truncation of Israel as a step toward its eventual erasure — the woman Abbas has chosen to launch the bid at the UN, Latifa Abu Hmeid, is the mother of five terrorists. And not just garden-variety, small-time terrorists, either. Four of them are serving a combined total of eighteen life sentences for heinous attacks. (The fifth one — the “martyr” — is dead. Read more about them here.)

Hmeid might seem a curious choice as representative of Palestinian national aspiration, but from the point of view of Abbas et al, she couldn’t be better. As disastrous as Abbas’s embrace of the dark side might be for Israel, it is calamitous beyond measure for stateless Palestinians. Evelyn Gordon puts it well:

[T]he new state won’t provide these residents with any services: It expects UNRWA – or, more accurately, the American and European taxpayers who provide the bulk of that organization’s funding – to continue providing their schooling, healthcare, welfare allowances, etc….Thus, aside from the 2.9 million Diaspora refugees, a whopping 45  percent of the new state’s residents will also remain stateless, deprived of both citizenship and services by the country the world fondly imagines is being created to serve their needs.

But of course, the PA doesn’t want a state to serve its people’s needs; it wants a state to further its goal of destroying Israel. Hence the refugees can’t be given citizenship; that would undermine its demand to resettle them in Israel, thereby destroying the Jewish state demographically.

And if the price is leaving half its people in stateless squalor for the next several decades or centuries, it’s a perfectly acceptable one to pay for the goal of killing the Jewish state. Just like Latifa Abu Hmeid thinks one son dead and four in jail is an acceptable price to pay for the goal of killing Jews.

A Pre-Statehood Declaration Cri de Coeur

At the end of this week, Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), President of the Palestinian Authority, will declare the establishment of the State of Palestine at the UN. The state’s welcome by well over 100 member states has already been assured. The recent reconciliation of Abbas’s PA with ever-bloodthirsty Hamas — which, together with the statehood maneuver’s tactical end-run around bilateral negotiations, has throttled all life out of the Oslo Accords — will be politely elided by learned commentators and bedazzled diplomats. President Obama, who is committed (quite properly) to veto the statehood declaration, will be embarrassed and diminished.  (Indeed, his bush-league mishandling of every element of this situation might prove to be the culmination of his weird campaign to transform the presidency into befuddled, hapless irrelevance.)

I don’t mean to be overdramatic about this, but what might be lost in the clamor of mixed jubilation and hysteria when Abbas takes the floor could be the death knell of Israel.

I read an article in New York Magazine this morning about Obama and his relationship with American Jews. Boilerplate sanctimonious blue-state guff, mostly, larded with snotty backhand swipes at anyone who looks askance at Abbas as a negotiating partner or who questions the premise of land for peace (we’re all “right-wing Likudophiles,” apparently — who knew?; Bibi’s coalition is “surpassingly volatile;” Ed Koch is now “loopy” for having revised his opinion of Obama over Israel; American Jews are notable for the “earsplitting volume of the collective megaphone they wield,” and so on and so forth). This bit particularly appealed (emphasis added):

In [Bibi’s] speech to Congress…he spelled out demands that were maximal by any measure: recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for negotiations, a refusal to talk if Hamas is part of the Palestinian side, an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and absolutely no right of return for Palestinian refugees.

I’m on board with all four, so I guess I’m off the charts.

I’ve read enough of this kind of bilge to find it vaguely entertaining, and the author’s faith in the good intentions of his president is, in its own delusional way, rather touching. But what gets under my skin — what makes me about ready to rend my garments, in fact — is the spectacularly self-righteous, utterly self-confident assertion made again and again by this and so many writers of similar ilk: that the only thing that’s standing in the way of a peaceful future is Israeli intransigence. This writer is fully convinced that the product of a cessation of Israeli settlement-building and a withdrawal from territory to the 1967 lines (with swaps!, he keeps shouting, as if that will reassure us) will be the dawning of a beautiful new era. We will “remain both Jewish and democratic, satisfy Palestinian national aspirations, facilitate efforts to contain Iran, alleviate the international opprobrium directed at [us], and reap the enormous security and economic benefits of ending the conflict by taking up the task of the creation of a viable Palestinian state.”

To which I say: your fantasies might kill me, pal. But I gather you’re comfortable with that.

Yes, I caught the tush-covering sidelong reference to the years of rocket fire that ensued after we withdrew from Gaza. That was nice. Don’t half-acknowledge the permanently traumatized city of Sderot and then dismiss it into irrelevance. Own the fact that you fully recognize what will really result from further territorial concessions: the Sderotization of the rest of this country. Don’t preach to me that it’s my obligation to cut off my arm to satisfy your selective sense of historical justice. Especially if you’re likely to get a certain pleasing frisson out of the spectacle of my bleeding to death.

The author of the piece lauds Obama for having the courage to give it to us straight — for being a true friend, in other words.

In attempting to apply tough love to Israel, Obama is trying to make a stalwart ally see that undertaking the painful and risky compromises necessary for peace with the Palestinians is the only way to preserve the Zionist dream—which is to say a future as a state both Jewish and democratic. His role here is not that of the callous assailant but of the caring and sober brother slapping his drunken sibling: The point is not to hurt the guy but to get him to sober up.

We sobered up in 2000 and pulled out of Lebanon. We sobered up in 2005 and pulled out of Gaza. Look what it got us.

I don’t know what’s waiting for us on the other side of Friday. Whatever it is, I’m not expecting it to be good.

Rioters Assault Israeli Embassy in Egypt; Ambassador Evacuated

Egyptian rioters storm Israeli embassy, photo via Washington Times

Three are dead and about 1,200 injured following the storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo by thousands of Egyptian citizens on Friday. The crowd destroyed a security wall surrounding the embassy while police and soldiers stood by, apparently unclear how to react. Once the embassy walls had been breached, soldiers began firing shots into the air and using tear gas; the rioters responded with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Rioters tore down, shredded, and set fire to the Israeli flag, then set about trashing the embassy offices, hurling papers out of the windows and rampaging through the hallways.  Six members of the embassy’s staff were trapped inside the building for thirteen hours until they were rescued by Egyptian commandos. “The mob penetrated the embassy and at the end there was only one wall separating it from six of our people,” an Israeli official told The New York Times. The Israeli Air Force evacuated the ambassador, along with about 85 other Israeli diplomats and their families. A state of emergency has been declared in Egypt.

Rioters are reported to have also “menaced” the nearby Saudi Arabian embassy. Saudi Arabia is blamed by many for the slow pace of retribution against toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Rioter holds Egyptian flag at Israeli embassy, photo via NY Times

Haaretz reports that the Americans prodded the Egyptians to rescue the Israeli staff members to prevent an even more serious crisis from developing. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called Supreme Military Council head Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and warned him of “very severe consequences” should any of the Israelis fall into the hands of the mob. The U.S. source quoted by Haaretz noted that it took Tantawi two hours to answer Panetta’s call, and according to an Israeli source, he refused to come to the phone at all to speak to Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu or DM Ehud Barak. Netanyahu was eventually able to reach the head of Egyptian intelligence, Gen. Murad Muwafi, while Barak called Panetta.

The motivation for the attack is said to be popular outrage at the alleged killing by Israel of five Egyptian border guards when Israeli forces pursued terrorists back into Egyptian territory following the coordinated infiltration and assault on Israeli civilians near Eilat last month. The character of the mob suggests another layer, however: it consisted substantially of Ultras, who are identified by the Times as “hard-core soccer fans.” A few days ago, violence broke out at a soccer match that left the Ultras wanting revenge on the police. The Israel-bashing may have been, for at least a good chunk of the participants, an opportunity to throw rocks or worse into the faces of police officers.

Voices across the political spectrum in Egypt, from liberals to Islamists, have condemned the embassy attack, with young leaders of the revolution going so far as to call a press conference to criticize the military for failing to provide adequate security.  (It is also to be noted that the rioter who scaled the flagpole and ripped down the Israeli flag that had hung there for thirty years is today a national hero, and has been given an award by the governor of Giza.)

Israel is watching with a kind of sober dismay as its relationship with Egypt disintegrates in parallel with the crisis in its relationship with Turkey, a pair of messes that form a grim backdrop to the ominous, and imminent, declaration of statehood by the Palestinians. Haaretz, true to form, blames Israel for all of this: Egypt and Turkey apparently hate us because of Operation Cast Lead in 2008, and the Palestinians hate us for being, well, us. For his part, Bibi is busy thanking the Americans for stepping in to help, vowing Israel’s allegiance to the Egyptian peace treaty, and making sure we’re prepped for whatever treats the Palestinians have in store for us following their torpedoing of the Oslo Accords on the floor of the Security Council later this month.

The Egyptian military council, which has been trying to maintain a revolution-friendly face while keeping some semblance of control over the country, is going to have to commit itself one way or the other, and soon. The embassy assault “has led to a complete loss of credibility in the [Egyptian] government internationally from all directions,” an unnamed Western diplomat told the Times. In a striking reversal of course, the military council said last night that it will reactivate the “emergency law” that permits extra-judicial detentions in the wake of the violence. An end to indefinite detention without trial was one of the signal demands of the protesters during the revolution that brought down Mubarak.

You Take London, I’ll Take Tel Aviv

Taxicab used in terror attack at Tel Aviv nightclub - Reuters

I watched a video yesterday, before Hurricane Irene moved in on New York, in which a Queens resident who had been instructed to evacuate explained his refusal to leave. He said that he had no idea how much police presence there was going to be in the immediate aftermath of the storm and could not risk leaving his store unprotected in case of looting. This obviously rang a bell in view of the recent violence in London, in which — as Paul Rahe has discussed at Ricochet — Turks and Kurds defended their persons and property with sticks and billiard cues, putting their own liberty at risk in the process. Dr. Rahe’s more recent posting on the subject indicates that the British disease — the willing sacrifice of the citizen’s right to defend himself and his property — has infected the American legal system.

God knows we have a lot on our plate here in Israel, but as I’ve argued many times before, I feel a fundamental sense of security here — a security that appears to be evaporating rapidly in other, allegedly saner parts of the world. It’s based on two fundamental principles: that the right of self-defense is non-negotiable, and that a defense force must have some teeth to be worth the name.

On the first point: steam usually pours out of my ears when the international community instructs us, as it so reliably does, to apologize for our effrontery in defending ourselves. The events in London have given me a new perspective on this. It’s not just Jews or Israelis who are expected to submit to thug rule. Everyone is now expected to submit to thug rule. It’s Robert Fisk’s beating writ large: you’ll take it and like it, because it’s all your fault, anyway.

Here in Israel, we have never had the luxury of forgetting how to identify good and evil, or indeed of forgetting that there are, in fact, two such things. The stubbornness here of a basic, unfashionable moral code puts us into range of a lot of short-range fire (both metaphorical and literal), but gives us a strength that’s more reassuring, in these frightening times, than I can adequately describe.

The second point — that there are people nearby whose job is to protect me, and whom I can depend on to do their absolute best — is brought home for me every time there is an attack, when our soldiers and police materialize out of nowhere to prevent greater harm to our citizens. A friend told me recently about the time she missed a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv literally by inches — she had just turned a corner when a huge explosion took place. She was amazed by two things: the overall calm (no screaming, no swarms of people running in panic) and the “sea of green”: the wave of soldiers who swept in almost instantly to secure the area.

Very early this morning, a 20-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Nablus carjacked a taxi in south Tel Aviv (stabbing the driver in the hand in the process) and plowed it into a police roadblock that had been set up to protect a nightclub, HaOman 17. After hitting several people with the taxi, the terrorist jumped out, screamed “Allahu Akbar,” and started stabbing. He was wrestled to the ground by Border Police.

The suspect is believed to have targeted this particular nightclub because it was hosting an end-of-summer party for more than 2,000 Israeli teenagers, thus marking him as an old-school Palestinian terrorist (c.f. the Dolphinarium nightclub bombing, the Sbarro bombing, the ice cream store attacks, and so on). Not one of the kids inside the club was injured or even aware of what was happening until after it was all over. That none of those children’s families is in an agony of grief this morning is due to the foresight, planning and heroism of the Border Police, who had been placed on high alert to protect the event.

Eight of the policemen were hurt, one critically, as they struggled to prevent the assailant from reaching the entrance to the club. Had the roadblock not been in place, and the policemen less determined, the headlines could be far worse today. This system is not foolproof by any means: we need look only as far back as a week and a half, to the infiltration and multi-pronged terror attack near Eilat to see the consequences of even a partial lapse. But of all the things there are to fear here, being left to fend for myself against the monsters — and then being blamed for doing so — is not one of them.

Would There Be A Tea Party if Hillary Were President?

Hillary Clinton

It’s come to this: The New York Times Magazine is now openly wondering, “What Would Hillary Clinton Have Done?”

Setting aside for the moment the implications of the Democrats’ flagship paper essentially announcing (or seeming to announce on the headline level, which, for many readers, probably amounts to the same thing) that it has lost faith in Obama, there was a suggestion buried in the text that leaped out at me:

Yes, [Hillary] might have bitten off the ear of a Tea Partier by now. Then again, there might not have been a Tea Party.

Is that true? Rick Santelli would presumably not have melted down on the floor of the Chicago Merc if Obama had not decided to “subsidize loser mortgages,” and Keli Carender would not have conducted the Porkulus Protest in Seattle had Obama not proposed a $750 billion stimulus plan. So is the Magazine onto something? Or are Clinton and Obama similar enough that the Tea Party would have come into existence even if she had been the one to take office?

(The author of the piece, Rebecca Traister, believes their presidencies would indeed have been strikingly similar. Clinton’s failures in this alternative universe would not, however, have had anything to do with her policies, just as Obama’s failures have nothing to do with his. The fault lies with the Republicans — otherwise known as “regressive obstructionists” — whose “stated goal was not to fix things but to keep the president from fixing anything.” Just so we’re clear.)

Day Two of the New War in Israel

Here’s a quick update, some more detail about the events of yesterday, and an insta-analysis.

New violence since yesterday’s carnage: Palestinians in Gaza shot ten Grad and Qassam rockets into Israel this morning, aiming at Ashkelon, Beersheva, Ashdod, and Kiryat Gat. One hit a building in an industrial area in Ashkelon, injuring six, one seriously. Another landed in the courtyard of a yeshiva in Ashdod, leaving two in serious condition and eight lightly injured.

According to the Jerusalem Post, responsibility for this morning’s attack has been claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which the paper identifies as an “extremist Islamic group.” Yesterday’s extremely well-coordinated series of attacks is believed to have been planned and executed by a group called the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), an Islamist gang that has set up residence in Gaza (probably much to Hamas’s displeasure, not that they’ll admit it) and which is theorized in some quarters to be an Al Qaeda offshoot. One of their senior figures was killed in the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza last night.

Also last night, three Qassams were shot from Gaza into Israeli communities in the Western Negev; no injuries were reported.  Israeli residents of the area have been advised to stay close to bomb shelters.

The IDF believes that 15 to 20 terrorists took part in yesterday’s attack. Five were killed in battle with Israeli soldiers or by self-detonation and another two (so Egypt claims) by Egyptian soldiers, so most of them got away.

According to Haaretz, the terrorists entered the Sinai from Gaza through the smuggling tunnels, then drove about 200 kilometers south to reach a spot on the border with Israel “protected only by a tattered wire fence, about 15 kilometers north of Eilat”. The IDF had received intelligence, I believe from Jordan, that an attack was imminent, but was under the impression that the enemy’s object was to kidnap a soldier. I’m reading reports that the IDF had beefed up its forces to prevent this, but the terrorists don’t seem to have had any trouble infiltrating Israel.

After crossing into Israel at around noon (this appears to have been another surprise for the IDF, which thought a dead-of-night infiltration more likely), the terrorists took up positions at 200 meter intervals along Route 12, the road to Eilat, and waited. About a half-hour later, Egged Bus 392 drove by. They opened fire, injuring seven passengers (mostly soldiers).

Another bus, this one empty, and a few cars then approached on Route 12. The terrorists opened fire again, killing four occupants of one car — two sisters and their husbands who were on their way from Kfar Saba (the next town over from where I live) to Eilat for a holiday — and the driver of another. The empty bus stopped. A terrorist ran up to it and detonated himself, killing himself and the driver.

At this point, two Israeli army vehicles showed up. One chased a terrorist and ran him down, killing him. Soldiers in the second vehicle engaged another terrorist, and in the ensuing gun battle, Staff Sgt. Moshe Naftali of Ofra was killed. He was buried this morning.

Police, more army and IAF helicopters arrived at this point. Israeli soldiers killed the terrorist who had killed Naftali. One terrorist attempted to down an Israeli assault helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, but missed.

Haaretz reports that “two terrorists [waiting] in Sinai were killed after policemen from Yamam, the special anti-terror unit, pursued them a short distance into Egyptian territory.” Other terrorists, meanwhile, were firing mortars at a civilian work crew that was working on the border fence. (No one was injured.)

IDF sappers then found and dismantled bombs that had been planted along the side of the road.

At 6:45 pm, terrorists opened fire yet again, this time at a Yamam force patrolling the border. One policeman was killed — his funeral is taking place as I write this — and another was wounded.

Insta-analysis:

  1. These events confirm everyone’s worst fears about the Egyptian revolution. Sinai is apparently a free-for-all now. Note that one of yesterday’s gang didn’t bother to infiltrate Israel; he blew himself up next to a group of Egyptian soldiers on the Egyptian side of the border. This ever-more-confident, blood-hungry freakshow represents as much of a problem for normal, sane Egyptians as it does for us, but the Egyptian army is either unable or unwilling to take them on in a serious way.
  2. The roadside bomb ambush that was set up to kill the Israeli soldiers who arrived on the scene suggests a level of sophistication that might mean Al Qaeda is directly involved. Al Qaeda is known to be in Gaza now. They are not taking direct credit for yesterday’s events, but are being liberal in their praise, and are instructing us to expect more violence.
  3. As Barry Rubin notes, not only Hamas but Fatah too is openly pleased with the turn of events. He offers these quotes from a Fatah website: ““Our Lord is with the heroes”; “[I] call for resistance in Gaza with rocket fire and suicide bombings and the Glory of God and His Messenger”; “Tribute to the Heroes of each attack no matter what their affiliation”; “God is great and victory is coming.” I suggest we tack this response up next to the reconciliation with Hamas and the unilateral end-run around Israel regarding Palestinian statehood and face the blitheringly obvious reality that Fatah has set fire to the Oslo Accords, stomped on their ashes, and tossed them into a pit of lime. Stop shoving us at Abbas et al. and pretending they want anything less than the death of Israel. For us to be subjected to pressure on this score, let alone guilt tactics, is obscene. Oslo is dead. Enough already.
  4. I understand Israel is thinking of building a wall on the Israel-Sinai border. Swell. I look forward to someone reassuring me that that is not our idea of an ultimate solution. We can’t ghettoize ourselves out of the mess we’re in in this neighborhood. You’ll surely ask me what I’d suggest as an alternative, but some of my ideas can’t be expressed in so decorous a forum and others are simply not workable on a practical level. As Israel is not permitted to respond the way any other country on earth would when its territory is invaded by terrorists and its citizens and soldiers murdered, our options might be limited to the point of suicidal.

Wave of Terror Kills Seven, Injures 40 in Southern Israel

Israeli soldiers injured during terrorist attack; photo by Yossi Ben, AP

In a dramatic — and strikingly well-organized — escalation of the terror war against Israel, a string of attacks took place today about twelve miles away from the southern resort town of Eilat, near the Egyptian border. The New York Times describes this as “the most serious assault on Israeli territory in more than two years” and notes that this is the deadliest day for Israel since Netanyahu took office two and a half years ago.

The terrorists infiltrated Israel through the Sinai border. They managed to get in with guns, explosives, mortars and rocket-powered grenades, which they used in a coordinated attack spread over a period of seven hours. Seven Israelis are reported dead so far: six civilians and one soldier.

The timeline runs as follows:

  1. At noon, terrorists in a car opened fire on a public bus, Egged #392, traveling from Be’er Sheva to Eilat. Seven were injured. The terrorists were presumably aware that as today is Thursday, the bus could be assumed to contain many soldiers. (In Israel, soldiers often travel home from base on Thursdays for the weekend. )
  2. When soldiers rushed to the scene to assist, multiple explosive devices were detonated near them.
  3. Five minutes after those explosions took place, mortar shells were fired from Egypt into Israel; no injuries were reported.
  4. Israeli security, meanwhile, set up barricades and located the car from which the initial drive-by shooting took place. A gunfight ensued in which two to four of the terrorists were killed.
  5. At 1:10 pm, an anti-tank missile was fired at a private Israeli vehicle, injuring seven.
  6. Minutes later, another anti-tank missile was fired at another private vehicle, killing six.
  7. At 6:00 pm, Israeli aircraft hit Gaza. At least six Palestinians were killed, reportedly including a senior “resistance” figure.
  8. At 7:00 pm, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF chief Benny Gantz were giving a press conference at the scene of the attacks, terrorists opened fire nearby, gravely injuring another two.

I’m afraid I’m too upset right now to offer any sober, dispassionate analysis, other than to say that off the top of my head I cannot recall any other series of attacks to rival this one in terms of coordination. This is not Hamas’s standard modus operandi. They’re getting help. They’re also, judging by number 8 on the timeline, getting rather cocky.

Egypt is claiming that the terrorists didn’t come from Egyptian territory, which is a rather bold assertion considering the state of near-total lawlessness that currently reigns in the Sinai Peninsula. (To wit: the five uncontested and unsolved recent terrorist attacks on the Egyptian natural gas pipeline that supplies Israel and Jordan.) Hamas, meanwhile, is accusing Israel of orchestrating today’s attacks as a pretext for “aggression” against Gaza.

Hamas leaders in Gaza are reported to be in hiding.

Jewish Americans Weigh Rick Perry

Governor Rick Perry

Jewish American voters are getting their knickers in a twist (sorry — reading too much British news lately) over Governor Rick Perry’s conspicuous Christianity. Two items in particular have set off alarm bells — the prayer rally he led this month and his reference to having been “called” to the presidency.

I confess that the first item did give me pricklings on the back of my neck. I like Perry very much on policy, but if he’s going to suggest, through word or deed, that real Americans are only those who invoke Jesus to save the country from its discontents, he and I will quickly part company. I am not saying he has explicitly made any such allegation, but prayer rallies calling on any particular deity to rescue the country contain an implicit threat toward those Americans who aren’t members of the club.

This kind of thing has the potential to morph into the dark side of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us. ” That may be far from the candidate’s intention, but I can understand why Jewish Americans — and Muslim Americans, and atheists, and everyone else in America who isn’t Christian — might be wondering a little anxiously just where the crowd under that tent will take the Jesus-invoking impulse.

Ricochet’s own Jennifer Rubin, whom the Jerusalem Post identifies as “a bellwether of Jewish conservatism,” put her concerns about the rally thus:

His words at the event were restrained but not ecumenical. And his use of public office to promote the Christian event was, to me, inappropriate. The event, while scheduled last December, is still reflective of the man who would be president. Would he do this in the Oval Office? Does he not understand how many Americans might be offended? Is he lacking advice from a non-Texan perspective?

As to the second point — Perry’s reference to having received a “calling” to the presidency — come on. If anyone in American politics has ever believed he had a divine calling, it was Barack Obama. No one who swooned at Obama’s messianic message during his campaign has any business criticizing Perry for claiming a heavenly inspiration.

Prayer rallies notwithstanding, conservative American Jews are impressed with Perry’s record of job creation and heartened by his longstanding warmth toward Israel. During a visit here in 2009, he said, “When I was here for the first time some 18 years ago and I was touring the country, the comparison between Masada and the Alamo was not lost on me. I mean, we’re talking about two groups of people who were willing to give up their lives for freedom and liberty.”

Jewish Democrats, for their part, couldn’t be happier with Perry’s cross-waving. ThePost cites a statement by the National Jewish Democratic Council in which it “encourag[es]” Perry to run, “given that his record will help repel American Jews and remind them why they support Democrats in historic numbers.”