Monday, July 29, 2002

THE ECONOMIST TELLS US WHAT IT REALLY THINKS: The Economist's distaste for Israel was recently dissected by the Jerusalem Post, a piece which drew this response. I wasn't convinced by the magazine's self-defense. But even if I had been so tempted, this online account of the fallout from the Shehade killing would have ended any such thoughts.
As might be expected, the article argues that the killing meant that Israel was unwilling to take the chance that the oh-so-promising "ceasefire" efforts would come to fruition. Even they can't deny the following:
[J]ust prior to the attack on Gaza, Hamas’s spiritual leader, Ahmad Yassin, had made some sort of offer to end suicide bombings, though it is not clear what he wanted in return, or what he meant precisely by this. He seemed to have demanded Israel's withdrawal from the recently reoccupied Palestinian cities, release of recently detained Palestinian prisoners and an end to the assassination of Palestinian leaders, in return for a halt to bombings inside Israel proper. He made this offer after prodding from the PA and Saudi Arabian and European diplomats. No Israeli government would have been able to agree to such a deal, which would have left soldiers and civilians in the occupied territories targets for attack.
Notwithstanding that accurate conclusion, the article concludes that mysterious "others"
argue that Mr Sharon’s government should have deferred Mr Shehada's assassination to test an initiative that may not have brought a total end to violence but might at least have prevented the continued slaughter of innocents—whether these are travelling in buses in West Jerusalem or sleeping in their beds in Gaza City.
So the proposed ceasefire, which would have left all Israeli targets inside the West Bank and Gaza as fair game, would have prevented "the continued slaughter of innocents." Killings of Israeli settlers would thus not qualify as "slaughter of innocents." Ergo, Israeli settlers, regardless of whether or not they are peaceful civilians, are not innocent and are deserving targets of murder.
SHOULDER TO SHOULDER: Amir Oren argues in Ha-aretz that the reaction to Israel's killing of Shehade shows that U.S. sees itself as fighting the same enemies as Israel, to an unprecedented degree:

Washington's strongest expression of support could be found in the American announcement to the UN Security Council, that from now on it would only accept censure of Israel in the Palestinian context in conjunction with condemnations of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade. And fellow Security Council member Syria was once again asked to expel the terror command headquarters from Damascus.
The Shehadeh affair showed that there has indeed been a fundamental shift in America's approach to the region: For the first time in their histories, Washington and Jerusalem are now fighting the same enemies. Before September 11 and before Yasser Arafat's decision to continue to cling to terror, the front had never been this united. During the Cold War, America's cool calculations of the "Israel - asset or burden?" balance sheet dipped against Israel (for strategic considerations) no less than in favor of Israel (for political considerations), and even though, since the days of David Ben-Gurion, Israel has been firmly in the American camp, it was never too interested in clearly assigning the role of enemy to the Soviets.
...In a lecture he delivered earlier this year, the CIA's deputy director of operations, Jim Pavitt, explained American intelligence's failure to penetrate Al Qaeda - the failure to penetrate the agents who are so critical for the supplementing of electronic data-gathering. It is a zealous and almost familial organization, said Pavitt; aliens would not be absorbed in any way. "I personally doubt that anything short of one of the knowledgeable inner circle personnel or hijackers turning himself in to us would have given us sufficient foreknowledge to have prevented the horrendous slaughter that took place on the 11th," said Pavitt.
This is why Pavitt and his colleagues are so astounded by the intelligence and operational triumphs of the Shin Bet and the IDF in thwarting terrorist attacks. President Bush has outlined the fight against terror, as a major effort, to the entire American system. The institutionalization of this fight - including the recent formation of an Office of Homeland Security - is drawing in its wake governmental agencies and officials whose sympathies are not usually with Israel.

He also cites a little comic relief which I had never heard before:
Terrorism has been considered an American adversary since the '70s, but then it was perceived simply as another, secondary arrow in the Soviet quiver. Typical of that era is the weekly terrorism report prepared by the CIA around Christmas of 1974: PLO head Yasser Arafat praises a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv (Chen Cinema, Popular Front); there are concerns about a possible assassination attempt on prime minister Golda Meir during a visit to New York and Canada; and the CIA warned that "a new organization, the composition of which is not known, that calls itself `The Ebenezer Scrooge Martyrs' Group,' is plotting an attack on the annual courier flight operated by the Government of North Pole, and its prime minister and chief courier, S. Claus." In that oh-so-innocent era, this amusing bit of levity was considered acceptable. Osama bin Laden wiped the smirks off their faces.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

THE ALIENATOR: I haven't read Caleb Carr's book on terrorism yet, but if yesterday's NYT op-ed concerning the Israeli attack on Shehade is any indication, he should stick to novels.
Regarding the condemnation directed at Israel after the attack, Carr writes:
The reason was not Mr. Shehada's death ... but the fact that the Israeli military and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon understood that the attack in a densely populated neighborhood, at night, would result in many civilian deaths. The raid was nonetheless ordered — and the world received its clearest demonstration yet that the Israeli government is prepared to knowingly inflict substantial civilian casualties in its response to Palestinian suicide attacks.
Despite Carr's assertions, it appears that Sharon did not, in fact, know that the attack would kill many civilians. And a big reason for the criticism was that the seeming carelessness with civilian lives was a great exception to Israeli practice and capabilities - in other words, a recognition of the fact that Israel had not been "prepared to knowingly inflict substantial civilian casualties in its response to Palestinian suicide attacks."
Carr also says:
The Sharon government is more diplomatically isolated than ever, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two Palestinian groups widely reported to have been considering a trial cessation of attacks against civilians, now say they will step up their assaults.
"More diplomatically isolated than ever?" I won't bring up 1967, 1982 (when President Reagan publicly placed a photo of a Palestinian child casualty on his desk) or any number of past dates. What about Operation Defensive Shield in April, when international public opinion was ready to string Israel up for nonexistent "massacres?" Is Isarel's international standing so much worse than it was then? I doubt it. For evidence, see this report that the President is not interested in taking up the cause most dear to the hearts of Middle East "sophisticates," an end to Israeli settlements.
And about that supposed "cease-fire," see this piece, as well as this summary from the Times of London:

If those Palestinian terror groups under Yassir Arafat’s leadership were ready to end suicide bombings then such an initiative would be hugely welcomed in Israel. But the proposal floated would not have ended attacks on Israeli soldiers, did not bear the signatures of any Palestinian leaders and comes after all too many protestations of peace more honoured in the breach than the observance.
Above all, the ceasefire offer did not have the backing of Hamas, the organisation led by the intended target of Monday night’s attack, Salah Shehade. Given his record, and that of his organisation, the likelihood of any cessation of hostilities from Hamas seems wildly improbable.

I haven't studied the larger historical issue of the effects of civilian killings in warfare, but I'm suspicious of his historical claims given Carr's misstatements regarding the present.
UPDATE: Orin Judd directs me to his review of Carr's book, which seems plausible. It seems all too convenient to say that a usually-evil tactic is always counterproductive. Before operation Defensive Shield in April, it was apparent that Palestinian terrorism was working, despite its evil.
THE NEW YORK TIMES' CRONY CAPITALISM: It's been discussed before, but Jonathan Rauch writes beautifully about how the New York Times is using the state's power of eminent domain to its own ends - just like they (justly) excoriate George W. Bush for having done when he owned the Texas Rangers.
And if that's not enough NYT hypocrisy for you, check out this Jack Shafer piece pointing out, gently, that Bill (Pardoner of Mark Rich) Clinton may not be the best source to denounce corporate turpitude:

[W]here does Bill Clinton get off slagging the Republicans for thwarting his proposed laws when he shredded the laws on the books by giving a complete pardon to accused financial felon and fugitive Marc Rich? And where does the New York Times get off giving Clinton a soapbox to lecture the GOP without once mentioning the Rich case?
RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL PUNDIT: "MuslimPundit" Adil Farooq has returned, at long last. He discusses the meaning of the term "jihad."