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October 31, 2010: First Things First

February 25, 2011

I would like to begin today with an article — “Are US Officials Understanding and Responding to the Middle Crisis? Ya Think?” — by Barry Rubin, director of the Gloria Center.
 
As to that “Ya think?” Rubin explains: “There’s a relatively new American idiomatic expression, ‘Ya [you] think?’ Said sarcastically, it means: Wow, duh, the answer to that question is really obvious!”
 
Rubin uses this expression over and over, to point out all of the issues in the Middle East that are really obvious, but that the Obama administration hasn’t gotten right.  For example:
 
“The New York Times reports that the U.S. government is ‘increasingly alarmed by unrest in Lebanon, whose own fragile peace is being threatened by militant opponents of a politically charged investigation into the killing in 2005 of a former Lebanese leader.’

“Ya think? Lebanon has been taken over (or recaptured, if you wish) by the Iran-Syria anti-American, revolutionary Islamist, terrorist-sponsoring axis, operating largely–though by no means completely–through their client, Hezbollah. Might this be of some concern for U.S. policymakers?
 
“Four years ago, Lebanon was run by an independent-minded, pro-Western government that would have preferred peace with Israel (though knew that was impossible), opposed Iran, and saw radical Islamism as its antagonist. Today, Lebanon has been ‘lost’ in large part through Western (don’t forget France’s responsibility) weakness and inaction….
 
“Speaking of Syria…the Washington Post reports that Syria just doesn’t seem to be responding to administration efforts to engage, moderate, and pull that country out of Iran’s orbit.

“Ya think?

“During the last almost two years there has been example after example of Syria opposing all aspects of U.S. policy; sponsoring terrorism to kill Americans in Iraq and against Israel; sabotage the Israel-Palestinian peace process; dominate Lebanon; help Hamas and Hezbollah; and build an ever-tighter alliance with Iran.

“And now people in Washington are starting to notice this? So what will the administration do, end engagement with Syria and take a tough line? Ya think?”
 
Rubin mentions a good many other situations in which the US has read the situation wrong and has failed to act in a manner that might improve the situation:
 
“Should I mention the total reversal of U.S. policy on Hamas from trying to undermine that radical Islamist group’s rule in the Gaza Strip to believing Hamas will fall if Gaza becomes prosperous?

“Should I mention that most Arab governments are shocked at U.S. expressions of weakness and want a strong American policy to protect them from Iran and revolutionary Islamists?”
 
This last one, above, I ask you to note carefully.  It’s something I’ve alluded to multiple times and will continue to refer to yet again as necessary.  This puts the lie, definitively, to US claims that the Arab governments require an Israel-Palestinian Arab peace treaty before they will help Obama take on Iran.
 
Please, see the entire piece for yourselves:
 
http://www.gloria-center.org/gloria/2010/10/are-us-officials-understanding
 
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There has been a reaction in several quarters to news that originated with a couple of Arab papers, most notably Asharq Al-Awsat, regarding quiet talks allegedly going on between Israel and the US regarding an innovative way to solve the impasse of a “two-state solution.” The suggestion being floated is that areas such as Jerusalem be given to the Palestinian Arabs, but that Israel then be permitted to lease parts of Jerusalem for some 40-100 years.
 
I hasten to advise you that I have found no corroboration of this from either an Israeli or American source.  Unless there is such corroboration, it would be highly premature to respond to this as if it were solid news. 
 
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The good news is that there has been an informal poll done by the JPost of the members of the Security Cabinet and the full Israeli Cabinet.  The Post’s conclusion is that Netanyahu would be unable to secure backing in either forum for an extension to the building freeze. 
 
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The UNRWA representative stationed at the UN, Andrew Whitley, has long been my favorite UNRWA spokesman, because he’s more honest than the rest.  On several occasions I’ve called him and received answers that I would not have received from anyone in this part of the world associated with UNRWA.  Now he’s leaving, and recently he delivered what I can only consider his parting shot:
 
“If one doesn’t start a conversation soon with the refugees for them to consider what their own future might be — for them to start debating their own role in the societies where they are rather than being left in a state of limbo where they are helpless but preserve rather the cruel illusions that perhaps they will return one day to their homes [left in 1948] — then we are storing up trouble for ourselves.
 
“We recognize, as I think most do, although it’s not a position that we publicly articulate, that the right of return is unlikely to be exercised to the territory of Israel to any significant or meaningful extent.
 
“It’s not a politically palatable issue, it’s not one that UNRWA publicly advocates, but nevertheless it’s a known contour to the issue.”
 
Bless this man for telling the truth!
 
In the process of doing so, however, he caused several near-heart attacks.  Not politically palatable?  This is something simply not to be said.  Never mind that the so-called refugees are miserable because of their limbo situation, in which they are deprived of human rights.  Never mind that this has radicalized them, so that there is a direct link between their situation and the emergence of Hamas in Gaza over a period of years well before the take-over.
 
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First to respond were UNRWA officials here who totally disassociated themselves from this statement.  Sustaining the refugees until they “return” to Israel constitutes the very raison d’etre of UNRWA, which maintains a staff of some 24,000 people who provide the refugees with services.
 
Then Jordan, which not only fully rejected this statement, but also sent a letter to UNRWA director-general, Filippo Grandi, informing him that they condemned the statement.
 
What’s Jordan’s problem here?  Fear of getting stuck with some of those refugees, most likely.
 
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Lastly, we’ve now heard from Sa’eb Erekat, PLO negotiator, who strongly protested Whitley’s remarks in a letter to UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry. 
 
Praising UNRWA for its speedy distancing from Whitley’s remarks, he wrote:
 
“The Palestinian refugee’s right to return to their homes and lands is one of the most important rights.  The Palestinians haven’t given up this right since the nakba [catastrophe] that happened in Palestine in 1948…and they never will give up this right.
 
“…despite Israel’s insistence on denying the Palestinians’ right of return to their homes and lands, the right of return was legitimate in accordance with international law and UN resolutions, first and foremost Resolution 194.”
 
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Well, I’m here to tell you that there is no “right of return” in international law.  Resolution 194 was passed by the General Assembly, whose resolutions are no more than recommendations that have no standing in international law
 
Actually, the oft-cited paragraph 11 of this resolution, says, “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date..”  This leads us to questions regarding the desire of potential returning refugees to live in peace with us.
In 1949, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Muhammad Saleh Ed-Din, wrote, “Let it therefore be known and appreciated that, in demanding the restoration of the refugees to Palestine, the Arabs intend that they shall return as the masters of the homeland, and not as slaves. More explicitly, they intend to annihilate the state of Israel..”  Many similar statements followed.

For further details, see my original report on UNRWA from 2003, page 11, at: http://www.israelbehindthenews.com/library/pdfs/UNWRAReport.pdf

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When I wrote recently about “fact-free” Middle East negotiations, I spoke about distortions and misrepresentations of the truth so thoroughly promoted by the Palestinian-Arabs that they are widely accepted as fact.  Focused as I was on issues of borders and Jewish rights to the land, I did not discuss this particular misrepresentation of fact.  But it’s a big one that has done immeasurable harm.  And so I welcome the opportunity here to revisit this issue.
 
No other refugee group in the world is told that they have a “right” to return whence they had come.  If the situation makes it possible, return is pursued; but the majority of the world’s refugees end up elsewhere.  The goal of the agency that handles all of the world’s refugees except the Palestinian Arab refugees — UN High Commission for Refugees — has as its mandate helping refugees get on with their lives fully as quickly as possible.
 
Of course, sending the refugees back into Israel is part of the PLO plan for destroying us without resorting to war.  And this is why Erekat will not entertain any other solutions to the refugee problem. 
 
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While we are on the subject of the UN, broadly, I want to touch on this, as well:
 
When PM Netanyahu announced earlier this year that Rachel’s Tomb outside of Bethlehem and the Machpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron were to be officially Israeli heritage sites, there was protest from the UN.
 
Now the UN has said that both Rachel’s Tomb and the Machpela are integral parts of the “occupied Palestinian territories.”  In point of fact, both are under Israeli control.  When large parts of Hevron were turned over to the PA as part of the Oslo Accords, a Jewish area, under Israeli jurisdiction was delineated; that area contains the Machpela.  Similarly outside of Bethlehem, the map was drawn as part of the Accords so that the Tomb remained in Israeli hands.
 
To add to the outrage, Rachel’s Tomb now has been recognized by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a site worthy of preservation as a mosque — Mosque of Bilal Ibn-Rabach.  The site has never been a mosque, and was until recent years was readily recognized by Arabs in the area as Rachel’s Tomb. 
 
Said PM Netanyahu with regard to this: 
 
“The attempt to disconnect the nation of Israel from its heritage is absurd.  If the places where the Jewish nation’s forefathers and mothers — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel — were buried 4,000 years ago is not part of the Jewish nation’s heritage, then what is heritage site?”
 
He “regretted that an organization which was created to promote the heritage of historical sites around the world was trying to for political reasons to uproot the connection between the nation of Israel and its heritage.  This attempt won’t succeed…”
 
Of course it won’t succeed, and of course our prime minister had to make a statement.  But to expect anything akin to fairness from the international community would be pointless.  This is a cardinal lesson in what we are up against and precisely how corrupt the UN is.
 
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I heartily recommend the most recent satirical video, Latma, produced by Caroline Glick.  Perhaps you’ll enjoy it as much as I did:
 
http://www.carolineglick.com/e/2010/10/jamil-and-awad-do-jihad-and-to.php  (scroll down for the video)
 
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“The Good News Corner”
 
This is straight from the JPost’s Health and Science Page:
 
“There are 325 million Arabs in 22 Middle Eastern countries and other lands, but the first and so far the only registry for potential unrelated Arab donors of bone marrow or stem cells — which have the ability to cure certain cancers and other serious disorders — is at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem.”
 
Not only does this registry exist, but efforts are made to publicize its existence, and the need for testing, in Arab Israeli cities, towns and villages.
 
How about that? Save this information to use when we are accused of being racist or “apartheid.”
 
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http://arlenefromisrael.squarespace.com/current-postings/2011/2/25/october-31-2010-first-things-first.html

 

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