Category Archives: Israeli – Palestinian Conflict

Who is winning the Gaza War of Attrition?

Published in the October 11, 2021 issue of the Jerusalem Report.

Image source: Amir Cohen, Reuters

During a recent presentation, I was asked how Israel could get rid of Hamas from Gaza. My answer surprised and upset her. I said, you can’t. She also was displeased when I described what mowing the grass meant. More on that later.
Welcome to Israel’s unending War of Attrition with the jihadists of Gaza. In 2005, prime minister Ariel Sharon showed a leopard could change its spots. The champion of Israel’s settlement movement in the disputed territories, Sharon, completely withdrew Israel’s military and civilian presence from Gaza, the area Israel captured in its defensive of war of 1967. In one bold stroke, Sharon changed the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict forever.

But was it for the better? Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20.

The Israeli public was profoundly divided on the wisdom of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Many Israelis thought that the security implications of a complete withdrawal were too risky to take. They remembered just five years earlier, when the Israeli army left Lebanon, it was perceived in the Muslim world as a victory of resistance. Yasser Arafat watched Israel’s retreat from Lebanon, reinforcing the lesson that violent resistance works. Just two months after the Lebanon withdrawal, he started the Second Intifada. A nightmare of homicide bombers terrorized the heart of Israel and permanently transformed an Israeli electorate from Center-Left to Center-Right.

Once the disengagement began, the images of Israeli soldiers removing their fellow countrymen from Gazan settlements, with tears streaming down the soldiers’ and civilians’ faces, left an indelible imprint on the Israeli psyche. At the time of the disengagement (withdrawal), American media outlets and politicians across the political spectrum said that if the Palestinians of Gaza fire even one rocket or send a suicide bomber into Israel, the world will have Israel’s back.

So how would the Palestinian Authority respond to a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005? This was not just a gesture but the whole shebang, 100% of the disputed land in the Gaza Strip. For good measure, Israel withdrew from four settlements in Samaria, a down payment on a future disengagement from the West Bank if they passed the Gaza test. Many believe that if Sharon didn’t suffer a debilitating stroke, he would have implemented a unilateral disengagement from the West Bank.

Within weeks after Israel withdrew from Gaza, the Palestinians destroyed the thousands of greenhouses Israel left for the Palestinians as a goodwill gesture to provide thousands of jobs for the residents of Gaza. Worse, Palestinians dug up many kilometers of piping from those greenhouses and underground civil infrastructure to build improvised missiles to target Israeli communities on the Gaza border, converting plowshares into swords, as it were. It created a state of continual traumatic stress disorder that continues for tens if not hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians, as Hamas’ range and accuracy of the missiles provided to Hamas has improved every year. This is in addition to the innocent Gazans who suffer retaliation on their doorsteps because Palestinian terrorists deliberately fire their rockets from Palestinian neighborhoods, a war crime by anyone’s definition. What about those European nations that said they would have Israel’s back if missiles from Gaza were directed against Israeli civilians?
Over 1,000 missiles were shot from Gaza into Israel within the first six months after disengagement when Gaza was under Palestinian Authority control, the PA being the supposedly moderate peace partner. With the support of American progressives, those nations vociferously condemned Israeli retaliation, ignoring the disgraceful use of human shields.
When Israel tightened the borders into Gaza, not allowing dual-purpose materials to enter, materials that are used to build missiles and underground tunnels, the progressives called Gaza the world’s largest outdoor prison. Leaving out context became a device to advance an anti-Zionism agenda. Using images of injured Palestinian children who were cynically placed in harm’s way for public relations points to demonize Israel became the standard. In 2007, a Hamas coup ended the PA presence in Gaza, and Israel now had an army of terror on its border for the foreseeable future, creating a long War of Attrition.

Fast forward, 15 years – the War of Attrition endured four significant kinetic wars in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2021 fought between Israel and Hamas. That is not counting the continuing incendiary balloon attacks terrorizing Israeli border communities or the accompanying Hamas-controlled riots that feature live fire, Molotov cocktails and rocks, with Palestinian civilians placed between Israeli troops and the terrorists. This month, an Israeli border police officer died of his wounds after Palestinian terrorists targeted him, evoking celebration not only in Gaza but more ominously in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

So why doesn’t Israel just conquer the West Bank and eliminate Hamas, ending the Gazan War of Attrition?

Some say that is precisely what they should do. But most Israeli security and military experts strongly resist this temptation, saying the result will be a continuing nightmare, even worse than the status quo. Israel does not want to be responsible for the lives of millions of Gazans, most of whom despise Israel and are full of antisemitism. Coexistence is not part of their vocabulary.

What about handing it over to the Palestinian Authority?

Let’s start with the unpopularity of the PA among Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank. Corruption, stealing hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid for their personal benefit, is an excellent place to begin. Despite claiming their pure Islamist virtues, Hamas is a corrupt entity, ruling by fear and intimidation.

Even if Israel gave the keys to Gaza to the PA, the jihadists in their midst would continually undermine their rule, with perpetual civil war a likely result. The unrest would also incite the West Bank to rise up. As it is now, the secret reason that the West Bank remains in PA control is the intelligence and cooperation Israel gives to the PA security forces to suppress Hamas.

So how about giving Gaza back to Egypt, and let them deal with their Arab brethren? Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and any right-thinking Egyptian leader says no-thank-you.

This brings us back to Hamas. Can they change their spots, transforming from jihadists whose charter not only calls for the destruction of Israel but is a blatantly antisemitic manifesto? Like their Iranian patron, their Islamist ideals outweigh the economic benefits of compromise. The carrot and stick approach has not worked. Hamas, if they choose, could transform Gaza into Dubai in a decade, raising all Palestinian economic prospects while having complete autonomy. But they have no interest.

They are willing to wait for as long as it takes to wear out Israel, i.e., attrition, as their best path to conquer and extinguish the Jewish state. The lesson they learned from America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza is that both Israel and America will withdraw or collapse over time. Making the lives of Israelis miserable with repeated wars is their prescription for success. And they know that they have a patron in Iran who can open up a multi-front war against Israel from the north, sending 150,000 missiles throughout the state.

Israel is left with a perpetual, never-ending War of Attrition. There is a continual low-grade conflict terrorizing the Israeli population on the Gaza border with intermittent escalations, sometimes turning into full-scale war. With no other recourse, Israel “mows the grass” every few years to degrade the Gazan arsenal, buying some time before the War of Attrition begins anew. Doing the same thing over and over again is insanity and certainly not sustainable for the long term.

What are the alternatives?
1. A full-scale war to eliminate Hamas with Israel taking over Gaza. Very unlikely.

2. A full-scale war that decimates Hamas but leaves it in power, lengthening the time until the next war.

3. A full-scale war and handing the keys to the current PA. The result may be even more chaotic and destabilize the West Bank.

4. Responding with overwhelming retaliation for every Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad attack rocket attack, using the Powell doctrine of disproportionate use of force. It might work if not for the international community and the current US administration putting Israel upon the ICC docket for war crimes. There is a different standard for Israel and the rest of the world. According to The New York Times, the US mistakenly killed seven civilians to prevent an ISIS bomber from targeting Kabul airport. It turns out there probably wasn’t an ISIS attempt at all. Just imagine the international uproar if Israel killed seven Gazan children and the target wasn’t even real.

5. Waiting for a new and non-corrupt PA leadership to work together to hand Gaza over to their control. That could take generations, if not centuries.

6. Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy recommends dialogue with Hamas, reaching a long-term ceasefire. That will only happen if the jihadist leopard changes its spots.

7. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid “proposes a new vision for Gaza”: economics for quiet. That has been tried again and again. Hamas has a Sunni Jihadist ideology and economics along won’t change the situation.

8. The default answer is to continue to mow the grass, the status quo. Not very satisfying or perhaps sustainable, but the default position seems to be the only choice.

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has energized the Palestinians of all stripes, making them even more resistant to ending the Gazan War of Attrition. Further American withdrawals from Syria and Iraq will only reinforce the Islamist belief that a Western-oriented Israel will also collapse over time.

According to an article by Dan Diker and Khaled Abu Toameh, “The Taliban’s Palestinian Partners: Implications for the Middle East Peace Process”: Following the Taliban takeover, the Palestinian Authority issued a statement that compared the US withdrawal to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict…. Palestinian sympathy and support for the Taliban have far-reaching implications for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. The Islamists, according to their understanding, have humiliated the Americans, making it impossible for the PA to agree to any US peace proposal that would require any Palestinian concessions. If the PLO’s ruling Fatah faction were to align with moderate Arab regimes that oppose Hamas and Taliban-style Islamism and that have signed peace agreements with Israel, they would be perceived by the Palestinian public as weak, pro-Zionist, and pro-American.”

The American withdrawal will reverberate throughout the Middle East, weakening allies and empowering jihadists who will be the ones who determine how long Israel’s War of Attrition will last. But the American withdrawal’s implications and consequences for how the Palestinians will react are under-appreciated and may not even be on the radar of American foreign policy thinkers. That is a blind spot and a danger to American national security interests going forward, not to mention Israel. But it is Israel that has a front-row seat as Iran tries to encircle Israel and create a ring of deterrence to prevent Israel from striking the Iranian nuclear weapon program. 

Is the Palestinian Authority secular or Islamist?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas adjusts his glasses as he listens during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not pictured), in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 25, 2021. (photo credit: ALEX BRANDON/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Published in The Jerusalem Post.

Everyone knows Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood and is a religiously-motivated Islamist organization. But what about the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas? The United States and its European allies continually refer to the PA leadership as secular. Is that true?

This is an important question to ask as American ideas for ending the conflict, as well as the Oslo Accords, are premised on the idea that Palestinians and Israelis will make permanent territorial concessions in a final peace agreement. This would be unlikely if the PA’s decisions are based on an Islamist perspective of land transfers, and would explain in part why the conflict is still ongoing. This is not just a theoretical question, as US President Joe Biden again called for a two-state solution in his first remarks to the UN this week.

So let’s read some of the words of Abbas addressing Palestinian university students. This is not unrepresentative of what he has been saying for a lifetime. Ask yourself; does this sound like a secular or an Islamist leader?

“In the name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate… Allah the Supreme spoke the truth. We will continue to stand firm and carry out Ribat [religious war for Muslim control] in Jerusalem and its surroundings until Judgment Day. Then the believers will rejoice in the victory of Allah.”

So it needs to be asked: Do the PA and the PLO – like their Hamas brethren – believe that once an Islamic entity ever controls land, it can never be considered legitimate to cede that land to infidels (even if those Jewish infidels were there first, two millennia before the Islamic conquest)? PA Abbas, PA TV, PA-sponsored mosques and media have repeatedly referred to the conflict in Islamist tones as a basis to eliminate Israel from the Islamic Waqf.

If that is true, then the western foundational principles of two states for two peoples are built on quicksand. At the very least, it is counterproductive, but more likely, it is a prescription for future intifadas. Israeli leaders are well aware of this.

In 2004, I spoke to former US president Bill Clinton about the Camp David and Taba negotiations and the need for an “end of conflict” resolution. That would mean once a document was signed between the parties, neither would have any further legal claims. Clinton said both then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former prime minister Ehud Barak insisted upon this, but he didn’t understand why it was so important.

It is not surprising that a sophisticated person like Clinton, who was so invested in the Middle East conflict, didn’t understand this Israeli demand. It was because he did not think that the PA could have an Islamic religious basis for its geopolitical decisions. He should have been given a clue when Arafat told him that there was never a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, a fantasy that not only delegitimized Judaism but Christianity too.

For insight into the Islamic religiosity of the PA, listen to the words of Mahmood Al-Habbash. He is the most important religious figure in the PA, who Abbas appointed as his closest adviser on Islam and the PA’s Supreme Sharia (Islamic law) Judge.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, he tells Palestinians of the West Bank under the control of the PA that the conflict with Israel is an uncompromising religious war for Islam against Israel and Jews. Israelis/Jews are the “enemies of Muslims.” The ultimate battle described in the Quran will “lead to great destruction for the ‘Children of Israel.’ The conflict here in Palestine between us and the criminal occupation… between good and evil.” “Normalization means that you agree to natural relations with your brother’s murderers… with the enemies of Prophet Muhammad.”

Sounds pretty jihadist to me. But does the State Department read the transcripts of the PA and their appointed leaders?

This year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We have to start putting in place the conditions that would allow both sides to engage in a meaningful and positive way toward two states.” It now appears that the Biden administration is pushing Israel to acquiesce to the reopening of the American consulate in East Jerusalem, which it foresees as the future capital for a Palestinian state.

If Blinken and Biden decide to dip their toes in the troubled waters of a negotiated-conflict solution, the PA’s Islamic religious predisposition should not be papered over. The PA should be seen as it is, and anyone in the administration who is genuinely looking for a lasting or sustainable solution should want that as well. Repeating the mantra of two states for two peoples won’t work if one side can never accept a Jewish state on what they perceive as once Islamic-held land.

It should become a standing American prerequisite that before the US enters into any mediation for a negotiation to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; both the Israelis and Palestinians agree that at the end of the talks, both are willing to sign an end of conflict agreement. That would end in perpetuity all claims to the territory from each other, fully accepting the legitimate rights of the other party in an internationally accepted legal document. This is also assuming they can get past the uncompromising PA demand for a “right of return” of everyone who has at least an ancestor considered as a refugee from Palestine.

If the Palestinians refuse, it exposes their genuine desire for all of the Islamic Waqf – the entirety of Israel.

According to Palestinian expert, Khaled Abu Toameh, speaking on an AIJAC webinar, the “PA has never actually looked at the Arab-Israel conflict as a dispute over land, amenable to compromise. However, their embrace of Islamism can only make any prospect of a two-state resolution even more distant and difficult.”

Better to know now than to keep repeating the same mistake again and again. Then negotiations could transition to a long-term ceasefire and focus on economically empowering the Palestinian people.
This week the State Department spokesman said the US seeks to “pave a path to negotiations.” But negotiations with what end? Can any State Department official see outside the box of their long-standing flawed foundational policy and see the PA/PLO as they are, religiously motivated, not as how they wish them to be, Westernized and secular?

Is Israel preparing for the inevitable civil war in the West Bank?

Hamas Brigade, from The Hill

Published in The Hill.

As President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken ponder how to entice the Palestinian Authority (PA) to negotiate with Israel, a far more significant problem is being ignored. The Biden team marched along, facilitating a transfer of money to the PA and reopening the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem, another Palestinian demand, without tangible reciprocity. But this will not reveal the elephant in the room: an inevitable, coming uprising by Hamas in the West Bank. 

For full analysis, read in The Hill.

How ‘constructive ambiguity’ has failed Israelis and Palestinians

Source: Getty

Well-meaning American negotiators over the years have done a disservice to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. To try to bridge the perhaps insurmountable gulf between the warring parties, diplomats have employed Henry Kissinger’s diplomatic tool of “constructive ambiguity” to obscure the profound ideological divides. This is not just the old adage, “I gave it the old college try but failed.” The consequences of failed negotiations and unfulfilled expectations using ambiguous language “to disguise an inability to resolve a contentious issue” can lead directly to bombs exploding on Israeli buses and an atmosphere of mistrust that moves the parties even further apart. 


Read the rest from The Hill.

MEPIN Thought of The Day

Image: Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh outside the Old City of Jerusalem, Tuesday, June 15, 2021 | Photo: Oren Ben Hakoo 

Imagine a group of American Congressmen and women standing in front of the US Capitol encouraging a foreign power to conquer Washington.

Yesterday the leader of the Arab Joint List of the Israeli Knesset stood at the old city of Jerusalem with a group of Arab Knesset members and said, “On these walls, the flag of Palestine will be hoisted, and Jerusalem will be the capital of reconquered Palestine.”

This is one of many seditious statements over many years from leaders of the Arab Joint List. There should be no rationalization of these seditious statements. In America, there would be an overwhelming call on both sides of the aisle to remove those members of Congress that called for the overthrow of their nation’s Capitol.

The complexity and contrast become even starker as a new Israeli coalition was sworn in this week with the support of an Islamist Arab leader Mansour Abbas, who choose pragmatism over rhetoric. With incendiary bombs targeting Israeli communities in the South, Israeli retaliation, and the raw nerves in the wake of the Israeli flag day march in Jerusalem, the new Israeli government has its hand full to keep the desperate members of its coalition together. Its collapse would please both ends of the spectrum, Bibi and Hamas.

New York Times Letters to the Editor

Photo Credit: thewrap.com

Letter to the Editor #1 

Re: Israel Moves Toward Coalition Deal That Could Sideline Netanyahu, May 30th news article.


The article states Prime Minister Netanyahu’s long tenure has left a “lasting legacy. He shifted the fulcrum of Israeli politics firmly to the right —and presided over the dismantling of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”

The Israeli polity shifted from center-left to the center right not because of Mr. Netanyahu, but because of the Second Intifada beginning in 2000. That was when President Arafat rejected a Palestinian state and East Jerusalem as his capital and started the bloody Intifada of homicide bombers in Israeli malls, restaurants, and busses. Israelis were shocked and realized that their hopes for compromise with their Palestinian neighbors were an illusion. In 2008, an even more generous offer of 100% of the West Bank, East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital, and even control of the Temple Mount was rejected by the moderate Palestinian President Abbas. 

For all of his triumphs and faults, Netanyahu did not dismantle the peace process or move Israel to the right. That was the Palestinians themselves, who could have had a state at least five times over the last 73 years. 

Letter to the Editor #2

Re: There Is a Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Guest Essay, May 27th). 

Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s article says that a two-states-for-two-peoples (Arab and Jewish) solution is the only “answer to the national aspirations of both the Jewish people and the Palestinians.” 

Interestingly, she chooses not to mention the most significant event that occurred during her tenure as Foreign Minister, that when Prime Minister Olmert offered Palestinian Authority President Abbas 100% of the West Bank with land swaps, East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and internationalization of the Temple Mount, Mr. Abbas never even responded. He was not willing to give up the demand for an unlimited right of return of descendants of Palestinian refugees that would demographically destroy the Jewish state, as well as signing an end of conflict agreement to end all future claims.

Ms. Livni says that neither side will ever accept the narrative of the other and won’t convince the other of “who has more rights to the land.” That may be true, but what is needed is for each side to respect the narrative of the other and be willing to compromise. Only then will the possibility of a resolution of the conflict come into view.

Is this the start of Israel’s first Jewish-Arab civil war?

Published in the Jerusalem Post.

Palestinian Israelis refuse to acknowledge the dilemma they put Jewish Israelis in when they choose to align themselves with the enemies of the Jewish state.

FIREFIGHTERS EXTINGUISH a police car in Lod that was torched along with shops and other property by Arab residents rioting in the city last Wednesday. (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

 In 2003 at the height of the Second Intifada, I tagged along with a group of American Conservative Rabbis who went to Israel to show solidarity with the Jewish state. We were brought to the King David Hotel to hear from then-foreign minister Shimon Peres, and the event was covered by Israeli television. During the Q&A, I asked Mr. Peres if there was a fifth column brewing in Israel among Israeli Arab citizens, “fifth column” being a term used for citizens who sympathize and support an external enemy.

Peres looked at me with an angry stare, and I will never forget what he said to me. “I do not like that expression. I do not like that term.” He then proceeded to march off the stage.

The point in telling this story is that for generations, Israeli leaders have not been willing to contemplate the possibility of a painful truth of what Palestinian Citizens of Israel (PCI) truly believe about living as citizens in the State of Israel. Suppose that the most Israel can offer PCIs (Israeli Arabs) – full rights, recognition of their Arab identity and economic empowerment, while simultaneously accepting the responsibilities of living as minority citizens in a Jewish state – doesn’t meet the minimum they can accept, namely the eradication of the Jewish nature of the State of Israel?

Too many PCIs and anti-Israel activists believe Judaism is only a religion, not a legitimate national movement of a people or a civilization. Despite having freedom of speech, religion and the press, and elected Muslim members in the Knesset, and being freer than any other Arabs in the region, Israel to them will never be a democracy so long as it retains the Jewish nature of the state and the Jewish right of return for Jews living in the Diaspora.

In 2018 I wrote an article titled, “What Do Palestinian Citizens of Israel Want?” This was based on a MEPIN/Keshet seminar I helped organize in which we met with Arab academics and school children and Israeli Arab mayors, and visited Arab colleges, teachers and human rights organizations. That was just the beginning. To deny that PCIs have faced discrimination in allocating government funding, infrastructure and employment opportunities would be to deny reality. As Yossi Klein Halevi said, “Palestinian Israelis have a profound sense of dislocation, humiliation and grievance going back to 1948. Palestinian Israelis are conflicted, as the country they reside in is at war” with their brothers over the Green Line.

But then I asked Palestinian Israelis, if all the economic inequities were magically erased, would they then accept living in a Jewish state assuming the responsibilities of minority citizens? None said yes, proving this is an existential, not an economic issue. They do not believe Israel ever had a right to be created on land that was once Islamic or was their ancestral home.

The current Gaza war between Israel and Hamas may not differ from the three previous military actions (2008, 2012 and 2014) between Israel and the terrorists in Gaza. Israel will not risk the lives of its soldiers or innocent civilians embedded within Hamas military assets in an attempt to replace Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and then having to take charge of civil services for the Gazan people. It will “mow the grass” and hopefully buy a few years of deterrence.

What is different about this war is that the Palestinian Arab street in the West Bank and Palestinian citizens of Israel are openly cheering on Hamas. Hamas told PCIs to “rise up” against “our enemy and yours.” And a not too insignificant number of Israeli Arab citizens responded by lynching Jews, burning synagogues and fomenting pogroms. This is of existential importance, especially when 21% of your population empathizes with an enemy who wants to end your existence. Far-right Jewish nationalists attacking Arabs in retaliation have fanned the flames of violence. They also need to be condemned and incarcerated – one standard of justice and the rule of law for all.

So does Israel have a civil war on its hands? Are the Abraham Accords in danger of collapsing because of the allegation that Israeli security entered al-Aqsa Mosque for no reason? Can’t the world see that Hamas has exploited a land dispute involving just a few Arab families to weaken the Palestinian Authority and prevent a groundbreaking possibility of an Israeli Arab party joining a coalition as a full stakeholder?

So, where do we go from here?

Palestinian Israelis complain about job discrimination because employers favor Israelis who served in the military. But when presented with the option of compulsory non-military civil service to match fellow Jewish citizens, leveling the playing field for employment opportunities, they overwhelmingly reject that option. There is almost no acknowledgment that they, too, have the responsibilities of citizenship.

You can’t complain you aren’t getting your fair share when you refuse to do compulsory civil service to match the time young Jewish citizens give to the nation. Palestinian Israelis refuse to acknowledge the dilemma they put Jewish Israelis in when they choose to align themselves with the enemies of the Jewish state.

Israeli Arab politicians elected to the Knesset, except for Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am party – who seemingly prioritized the PCIs he represents and who wants to work with the Israeli government – have bordered on treason for years. Mansour Abbas’s pragmatism is a significant reason that Hamas wanted to fight a war at this time, lest Arab citizens in Israel look towards a new path that could reconcile them with the Jewish majority.

The Middle East is in flux, and Israel may be facing one of the most critical tipping points in its history. How Israel deals with its Arab minority over the coming years may rival in importance the threat of 150,000 Hezbollah missiles and Iranian nuclear weapons capabilities. As Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, the internal Jewish-Arab violence is “no less dangerous than the Hamas rockets…. We must not win the Gaza battle and lose at home.”

What CIA’s John Brennan teaches about mainstreaming anti-Semitism

by Dr. Eric R. Mandel and Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser

Published by JNS.

source: https://www.youtube.com/

The Clinton White House public relations “war room” mantra was never to let any charge go unanswered. Today, many people believe that being selective about which charges to respond to is a more prudent course to avoid bringing undue attention to unpleasant issues. For Israelis and pro-Israel Americans, the choice is not always so clear, especially when falsehoods and slander arrive daily.

This choice came front and center in April, when former CIA director and New York Times opinion writer John Brennan singled out Israel for not living up to his moral standards. He claimed Israel should be more “empathetic” to the Palestinians because of the Jewish legacy of “unspeakable violence perpetrated against them.”

This double standard applied only to the Jewish state and not to any other nation on earth, which got many American and Israeli Jews quite upset. David Harris, the mainstream head of the AJC, tweeted, “Using Jewish history, (the) Holocaust, as a cudgel against Israel is obscene.” Newsday deputy editor Batya Ungar-Sargon went further, saying, “There’s a word for holding Jews to a higher standard than everyone else: It’s called anti-Semitism.”

So would it be better to keep silent and not add any more fuel to the fire, bringing even more attention to Brennan? After all, he is a respected pundit on the progressive MSNBC cable network, and pointing out his offensive remarks could bring more mainstream Democrats to his defense. Should Jews remain silent, hoping that these types of incidents will pass? The real question is: When has it ever been good for Jews to keep quiet about anti-Semitism? If done respectfully, pointing these things out becomes a teaching moment and hopefully an opportunity for those who didn’t mean to cross a line to recant their words. With Israel being accused by “The Squad” in Congress, J Street endorsing legislation to limit military funding of Israel and the once venerable but now anti-Israel Human Rights Watch perversely claiming Israel is an apartheid state, it’s time to speak up to each false charge.

If Brennan’s remarks were an isolated incident, then perhaps it could be passed over with some behind-the-scenes education. But in his case, his default position is to target Israel. In December, when he accused a nation of “state-sponsored terrorism” and flagrantly violating international law, he wasn’t talking about Iran but saved those words for Israel. Unfortunately, this is a much bigger issue than Brennan, as it represents a mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism.

Brennen blames Israel for the absence of a Palestinian state, ignoring what we all know, that PLO/Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas could have had a state in 2000 and 2008, as well as eastern Jerusalem as their capital. In his essay, he considered it wrong to end funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA), even though it perpetuates the conflict by advocating for their so-called “right of return.” That is the demand that all the many descendants of Arabs who left Palestine up to 72 years ago be given the right to return to the place they or their ancestors left, thereby in effect overwhelming and conquering Israel. This month, even the European Parliament called for a review of UNWRA funding because of the hate and violence it teaches for both Jews and Israelis.

You wouldn’t know it from Brennan’s remarks, but most Israelis have empathy for Palestinians living over the Green Line. Many Israelis try to work together with them in political and economic ventures. But the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other Palestinian factions forbid “People to People” initiatives, ostracize, intimidate and arrest Palestinians who work with Israelis and publicly brand them as collaborators. What the P.A. encourages is the ongoing struggle against Zionism in all its forms, including violence. It spends about 7 percent of its budget (more than $350 million a year) on salaries and stipends to reward convicted and dead terrorists, and their families.

The majority of Israelis are still in favor of a two-state for two people’s solution. However, to Israel’s enemies, “two states” means an entirely Arab state in the West Bank and a binational state with an unlimited right of return of the descendants of refugees to Israel. In other words, two Arab states. No people on earth score higher on the anti-Semitism scale than the Palestinians, thanks to their indoctrination of hatred beginning in early childhood.

In the Times essay, Brennan’s sympathy for the Palestinian cause is apparent. He begins his article by personalizing the “humiliation” of a Palestinian child and her father at an Israeli checkpoint, described in a documentary that he recommended to President Joe Biden. He then added his memories from 1975 that corroborated the brutal unfeeling Israeli and the victimized Palestinian image.

Checkpoints are not nice places for either party. However, in the last 15 years, the number of checkpoints has diminished dramatically. Almost all of them are located on the 1967 lines or around Jerusalem to control the entrance of Palestinians to Israel itself. Traffic inside the territories under P.A. control is mainly unimpeded. Unfortunately, and ignored by Brennan, checkpoints are made necessary because they are the entry point for many terror attacks within Israel, most recently the two on May 2.

Brennan chooses not to add any personal anecdotes to tug at your heartstrings of equally compelling stories of Israelis murdered by Palestinians who crossed into Israel. There was the incident of two men hiding rifles within prayer rugs and killing Jewish soldiers at point-blank range at a checkpoint near Bethlehem. An American physician tried unsuccessfully to remove the bullet from the soldier’s heart on the way to the hospital as a last-ditch effort to save the young soldier. Does Brennan have empathy for these Israeli victims?

What worries us no less is that these misconceptions were the views of the CIA director from 2013 to 2017 while in office. With such distorted views of Israel, it wasn’t surprising that the Obama administration adopted a disappointing approach towards Israel, orchestrating UNSCR 2334, which adopted most of the Palestinian positions, labeling any Israeli presence over the 1949 Armistice (1967 Line) a war crime. One would hope that future CIA directors would work hard to have a balanced, nuanced and in-depth knowledge base without prejudice when advising the president. Americans should be concerned about the politicization of intelligence.

Far-right violent attacks against Jews get headlines, but anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism coming from more leftist sources that have the sympathy of the press is given a pass. Let’s be clear that criticism of Israel and pro-Palestinian views are acceptable as part of free speech. However, present and past U.S. government officials are expected to uphold a high standard. That standard is not met by citing a one-sided litany of complaints against Israel to advocate a double standard that wouldn’t be expected of any other country and demand what amounts to national suicide. Israel is a lone democracy with the rule of law for all its citizens in a sea of authoritarian regimes where anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, denial of rights to women, LGBTQ, minorities and suppression of the press are considered normal.

Perhaps Brennan can write about that in his next essay.

MEPIN Thoughts for the Weekend

Replying to the following reporting.


Two media events struck me this weekend. The first was the lack of mainstream media reporting that Palestinian Authority President Abbas’ Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for shooting rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian population areas this Saturday. Isn’t this the government that President Biden just restored funding to?

The second story involves NPR and their reporting of the recent riots in Jerusalem. The story reported that right-wing Israelis were marching in Jerusalem, screaming death to Arabs, while attacking Palestinians leaving Damascus gate after Ramadan prayers. 


What was not reported was that this was in reaction to videos circulating on social media of those same Arabs attacking religious Jews in Jerusalem on previous nights. Of course, there is no justification for attacking anyone, and certainly not for screaming death to Arabs, but the situation was complex. This was classic reporting of facts out of context to advance an anti-Israel political viewpoint. It was an opinion disguised as news. 


Just to be clear, the only person interviewed by NPR in the report was a so-called Israeli activist who parroted the anti-Israel narrative. Unfortunately, nuance and balance are not on the agenda if they get in the way of progressive activism. 

Israel’s northern border: An Iranian threat underappreciated by the US

Previously published in the Jerusalem Report. Written with Sarit Zehavi.

A view of Mount Bental on Israel’s northern border, Source: Sarit Zehavi

Does the US fully understand Iran’s grand designs for the Middle East?

The Iranian regime presents its long-term strategic plan to export the Islamic revolution as a religious duty. Establishing civilian communities and loyal fighters in surrounding lands to further its sphere of influence and exert control is an integral part of their plan.

The goal is to make these tribal communities financially dependent on the Islamic Republic while proselytizing Shi’ism and increasing the respect for their brand of Shi’ism in these vulnerable populations. Israel watched this strategy play out in Lebanon and is now seeing it implemented in Syria and Iraq.

In 2018, after Syria’s President Bashir Assad regained control of southern Syria with Iran and Russia’s help, Iran began cultivating and investing in the local Syrian population. It used a strategy that helped civic organizations along with economic investment. Iran planned to turn southern Syria into a dependent front line against Israel, mimicking the infrastructure and populace under Hezbollah’s control in Lebanon.

The research and educational think tank Alma (co-writer Sarit Zehavi is the founder and CEO) has uncovered civic foundations under Iranian control in Syria, receiving direct funding from Hezbollah and Iran. At the same time, their combatants are embedded within the civilian Sunni population.

According to Alma’s research, after the reconquest of southern Syria, there was a concerted effort to take over mosques and establish Hussainiyas (Shi’ite religious gathering sites). The goal was to ingratiate themselves with the population who would become dependent on Iran for all aspects of their economies, education, and religion.

The Iranian-controlled axis from Tehran to Beirut includes Shi’ite brethren, and co-opted Sunnis, Druze, and Alawites. Iran’s imperialistic ambition is always on the lookout for opportunities to embed itself within local populations to exert new influence. Whether it was the instability of the Arab Winter in 2011 or the chaos that followed in the Syrian civil war, Iran has a single-minded focus on perpetuating its revolutionary plans and dominating the Middle East and beyond.

To understand what is happening in Syria, you need to understand Lebanon. Since Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government with cabinet ministries, it allows them to transfer monies to themselves. The estimated amount of financial support Hezbollah sent to the Lebanese provinces of Tyre, Bint Jbeil, and Marjayoun in 2020 was twenty-two billion, one hundred thirty million Lebanese pounds for health, education, and social services. Unfortunately, there is little counterweight from the Lebanese government to oppose Iranian influence as it provides few public services to its people, especially in Hezbollah-dominated regions.

Iranian-controlled Hezbollah fills the void, providing the daily necessities, a terrorist organization masquerading as a social movement to create dependency and willing soldiers. Hezbollah is also the dominant political organization that effectively controls an impotent Lebanese government. Shockingly, there are still European nations that treat Hezbollah as a legitimate political entity, making a disingenuous moral distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wings.

The Achilles heel of American foreign policy is that it changes every four years with a presidential election. The US is profoundly disadvantaged in creating long-term planning to oppose Iranian influence. In contrast, authoritarian regimes like Iran, Turkey, and Russia can remain in place for decades, knowing they can strategize for the long term.

Today, Israel’s north is in the hands of the Iranians. Israel knows it, but the US doesn’t fully appreciate it, minimizing the Supreme Leader’s and his Revolutionary Guards’ apocalyptical words as hyperbole and rhetoric. The US incorrectly believes that sending one hundred forty million dollars a year to the Lebanese Armed Forces provides an effective counterweight to Hezbollah. When Iranian and Hezbollah leaders deliberately lie (taddiyah), it is part of a grand strategy to defeat the greater and lesser Satans – the US and Israel. What all American administrations since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 have in common is a difficult time fully comprehending the Iranian Twelver Shi’ite mindset that prioritizes Islamist imperial desires over its people’s well-being.

US Democratic Party administrations’ single-minded focus on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal) in dealing with Iran serves them poorly in understanding Iran’s goals. In particular, it distracts from what is likely to be the arena for the next major Middle East War on Israel’s northern border, with Iran calling the shots.

For decades, US Congress members have visited Kofi (café) Annan, a coffee shop at an old Israeli fortification on Mount Bental that looks into Syria’s Golan. In plain sight is the abandoned old city of Quneitra that seems just a stone’s throw away. They were told that this was Israel’s quietest border, at least until the start of the Syrian civil war. Today Iran has created and controls civilian life in the Quneitra, Daraa, and Suwayda districts of southern Syria, in plain sight of Cafe Annan. The civilian establishment solidifies the long-sought-after Shi’ite Crescent across the Middle East, an Islamist conduit for the transfer of precision-guided weapons systems and military personal, as part of an extended-range plan to destroy Israel.

In March 2021, Hezbollah chief Nasrallah looked directly into the camera and told the world that if we had “accurate (precision-guided) missile factories, we would tell everyone with “pride.” But “we don’t have anything of the kind.” On the contrary, Alma has overwhelming documentation of weapons depots, launching pads, and missile factories throughout Lebanon and Syria.

It should make everyone pause because they are embedded in civilian neighborhoods. Especially in Beirut, Hezbollah hides missile launching sites and rockets within heavily populated civilian areas. Using Wikimapia, an open-content collaborative mapping project site on the internet, Alma exposed rocket launching sites next to Al Rassoul Al Azam Hospital. Another production site for Iranian Fatah-110 missiles is located in the Ghobeiry neighborhood, near the Lebanese Ministry of Labor, another civilian facility. Prime Minister Netanyahu also exposed missile factories in the Alelichi neighborhood under four seven-story residential buildings’ housing foundations, next to a medical center and church. In the Shuifat area, a missile factory is hidden under civilian housing and is next to a mosque.

Can you imagine the international uproar if Israel, in retaliation for a Hezbollah attack against Israeli civilians, struck a mosque or apartment house from where the missiles were fired?

In January, Alma Research and Education Center published a connection between two military facilities and a Lebanese charity. The Islamic Shi’ite Waqf Committee in Burj al Barajneh is complicit in hiding Hezbollah’s Fatah 110 missile launch sites within Beirut. The Hussein Maktabi High School and the Burj al Barjneh-America Football Stadium are situated next to missile sites. Launchers and missiles were found not only next to the hospital but next to the Al Aytam petroleum facility, many restaurants, and the Ansar football (soccer) field.

The local Lebanese council members demanded the Lebanon Armed Forces investigate the use of a hospital by Hezbollah, but the LAF claimed there was nothing there. They are simply intimidated by Hezbollah. The local council members resigned in protest, not wanting to be blamed if another massive Beirut port explosion occurred under their watch.

Iran and Hezbollah have taken notice of Alma’s embarrassing exposés. The research center in Galilee is now in the Islamist’s crosshairs, literally. Hezbollah made public the exact coordinates of Alma’s research and educational facility in Galilee, where Congress members often visit. Alma has been cyber-at-tacked multiple times by Iran and its proxies.

This is what Hezbollah posted on its page: “Who is Alma? The Zionist Alma Center is an educational and research center dedicated to fabricating security lies on the northern borders of occupied Palestine and educating Zionist opinion-makers, research centers, academia, and others on how to make innocent civilians a military target in war.”

Nasrallah said, “Hezbollah points the finger of blame and repeated claims, that Alma is nothing more than a branch of the Israeli government.” In reality, Alma is independent and receives no funding from the IDF. Scapegoating to deflect your deficiencies is a tried and true formula of Islamist regimes. Facts are inconvenient problems when you have brainwashed those who have trusted you to protect them, and you not only fail to deliver but put them in harm’s way by using your people as human shields.

Why is Hezbollah taking this so seriously? In part, the information Alma exposes is damaging, as it justifies Israel’s repeated attacks to thwart the Iranian missile threat. But even more critical is that Hezbollah’s strength is that it receives the support of the Shiite population. If it loses the people’s help, its legitimacy could crumble. Exposing missiles and launchers next to schools, hospitals, residential neighborhoods, and sports facilities have struck a nerve with Hezbollah. They know that this is a line in the sand that the local population may not stand for as it purposely endangers their families and neighborhoods.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi has made clear that Hezbollah’s human shield strategy doesn’t grant Iran’s Hezbollah proxy immunity against future attacks. Israel will attack legitimate military targets as long as the military advantage outweighs the civilian loss. And yes, this is according to international law. In response, Nasrallah has said there is no difference between Israeli civilians and soldiers, an old story first told by the Palestinians to justify terrorist attacks on Israeli innocents.

Hezbollah and Iran are banking on winning a propaganda war against Israel. The global community would judge Israel harshly if more Lebanese are killed than Israeli civilians, a cynical battle of moral equivalence.

In a future Israeli northern war, Iranian-controlled militias that have partially withdrawn from Syria could quickly return to Israel’s Golan border in great numbers if the border gets hot. Missiles could fly this time from not only Lebanon but Syria, Iraq, and even Yemen.

Israel knows it will have to strike fast before the diplomatic fallout constrains its efforts, as the Israeli people who will suffer terribly will demand an overwhelming response, knowing the Lebanese and Syrian human shields will be paying the price.

Israel is worried that if the US rejoins the JCPOA, sanctions relief will directly flow to Iran’s proxies. That will increase the chance for war. The Biden administration should hold fast to sanctions no matter how immovable the Iranians are on the JCPOA, especially if they want to minimize the chances for a northern Israeli war with Iran and its proxies. At the very least, the sanctions against Iran for missiles and terror will be maintained.