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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: June 2010

Lessons from the Russian Spy Arrests

June 30th, 2010 - 5:21 pm

Since my earlier blog post on the Russian spy caper, I have been on the radio for two days on scores of nationwide radio programs, from small to large media markets. Hopefully, some of you may have heard some of these, and I hope that these segments have helped inform a new audience about both PJ Media and PJTV.

There has been much commentary in all usual outlets, along with some solid reporting, even in the New York Times. But many of those who have chimed in on what the arrest of these eleven people who signed up with the SVR,(the KGB’s successor agency) means have missed one point in particular.  Most of those writing have argued that the group did not get around to actually stealing and passing on any real information that would have helped the Russians, that much of what they sought was publicly available by a simple Google search, and that hence their twenty-year involvement was fairly benign and almost meaningless.

I do not think this is true. First, take the case of one of the eleven, Donald Heathfield, who received an M.A. in  Business Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School in the year 2000. One of his classmates was Felipe Calderon, who is now president of Mexico. Meeting and getting to know such up and comers in the international arena is precisely what the SVR wanted him to accomplish. As the report by Abby Goodnough makes clear, Heathfield was “smart and social,” “mysterious,” “a flavorful conversationalist” with a “dry wit,” as she was told by members  of his class. Everyone liked him, and such a man is always a welcome member of the party at events, dinners, cocktail parties and the like. Moreover, he traveled internationally, and he was the one member of his class who regularly kept up with all his classmates, knew where they were and what they were doing, and even visited them abroad. He was, one classmate said, a “joiner.”

Now just imagine what such a person could get for the Russians. Without having to get a government job himself, which the SVR thought might be too blatant a move that might expose them, he could meet with others who in fact were placed well to know important information about future American plans, on foreign policy steps to be taken, among other things. People gossip regularly to trusted friends, especially in the DC cocktail party circuit, even though they are not supposed to. Even a small slip about what someone of importance has learned could be quickly conveyed to the SVR, and when put together with other data, could prove to be important to learn about U.S. intentions.

In other recent cases, we have seen that some sleepers actually did get major government jobs. Recall the arrest last year of two Cuban agents who, picked out of college to be educated for jobs in foreign affairs, got their graduate school salaries paid. The husband of the pair ended up with a sensitive government job, from which he regularly provided the Castro regime in Cuba with top secret US information. Similarly, recall the case of Ana Montes, chief of the Latin American desk at the Defense Intelligence Agency, who after doing much harm, was found to be a Cuban agent who had access to every piece of important classified data. These two, unlike the eleven, were American citizens who enlisted in espionage out of ideological sympathy with the Castro government, not for money. But it shows that Russian-trained intelligence services like the Cuban one also cultivated sleeper agents whom they successfully activated.

Of the various commentaries that have been made about the eleven, a few stand out.  First, the article by Judith Miller and Doug Schoen notes that what they sought was “wide-ranging information about American life and government policy – from ‘intell’ about American nuclear weapons, the Congress, and the CIA’s leadership to Washington’s attitude toward Iran, Afghanistan, the strategic arms reduction talks, and even the gold markets.” Another group of them were holding what the indictment called  ”work-related personal meetings” with a New York-based financier who, Miller and Schoen write, “was active in politics, who could hopefully provide inside information about the White House, the Democrats, and indeed, the operations of foreign policy.”

This is hardly an unimportant set of goals.  Even if a single U.S. secret was not compromised, as they say may well be the case, it was not for want of trying. Indicting them on lesser charges than espionage, such as money laundering, is akin to indicting Al Capone for income tax evasion instead of murder and leading organized crime.

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It seems that some things never change. A few moments ago, this breaking story came in from the website of the New York Times. It seems, as this early report informs us, that ten Americans have been arrested for spying on behalf of Putin’s new Russia. The story has eerie reminiscences of the arrest, trial, and eventual execution of  Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, over half a century ago on June 19th, 1953 — only a week apart from the current date of these newly arrested accused spies.

Just as with the Venona papers, the U.S. government intercepted messages from Russian intelligence headquarters in Moscow addressed to two defendants — Richard and Cynthia Murphy of Montclair, New Jersey. This time, the government has let it be known how they came to find out about their involvement. With Venona, the codes that were being broken — and which led the FBI to have full knowledge of the existence of Rosenberg’s spy ring — could not be revealed out of concern it would alert the KGB to the fact that their top secret codes had been broken. Therefore, some spies they knew were guilty — like the top atomic spy Theodore Hall — got away with espionage. Hall refused to admit his guilt to the Bureau, and left for Great Britain, where he was able to have a distinguished lifelong career in science. Before he passed away a few years ago, he not only admitted his guilt, but bragged about how he had done his part to preserve peace, by helping the Soviets break America’s atomic monopoly.

Unlike Hall, the Rosenbergs and others, today’s spies have no ideological reasons to pursue their traitorous activity; their motivation is the old one — greed. The Russians undoubtedly were paying them big bucks! But what is of great interest is what goal the Russians had in mind: “To search and develop ties in policymaking circles” in the United States, as Russian intelligence instructed the Murphys. “You were sent to USA for long-term service trip,” Moscow central told them. “Your education, bank accounts, car, house- etc.-all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e., to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US and sent intels.”

That of course, is precisely what the Soviets did when they developed agents like Alger Hiss, Lauchlin Currie, Judith Coplon, Laurence Duggan, Duncan Lee, Harry Dexter White and many others. During the FDR years, these agents infiltrated various departments of government, with the intention of giving the Soviets advance knowledge of developing policy, as well as influencing policy, especially so in the case of Dexter White.

Many pundits have said, time and time again, that Barack Obama is similar to FDR, and his goals as president are to achieve the kind of change FDR attempted but could not complete. Evidently Russian intelligence feels the same. One of their control agents must have said to his colleagues, “We managed to infiltrate top government departments during the FDR years, when the US and the USSR were allies. Now that Barack Obama sees our current government as a solid ally, the opportunity has arisen to again accomplish great things for our service.”

How ironic and how embarrassing for the State Department and the Obama administration.  At least this time around, our FBI and CIA were on top of things, and have acted before the spies accomplished their goals. Let us be thankful for small blessings.

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This weekend, Oliver Stone’s new documentary,  South of the Border, his ode to Hugo Chavez and South and Latin America’s new quasi-Marxist and not so quasi dictators, has opened in New York City and Los Angeles, and will open nationwide in a week. It had a showing this past Wednesday at the AFI Silverdocs Festival in the Washington, D.C., area, and my article about it  appears today in the weekend edition of  the Wall Street Journal. I argue therein: “What Mr. Stone and his writers have presented is a standard far-left narrative that is part of a long line of propaganda films, a modern American version of the old agitprop. There are no dissenting voices in this film. Nor is there any mention of the fact that Mr. Chávez has closed down television and radio stations that disagree with him and arrested dissenting political figures.” The film is what you can expect from the likes of Oliver Stone, a virtual know-nothing who uses his celebrity and acclaim as a film director to spew out hatred for the country that has made him wealthy and influential.

Writing in the New York Times, Larry Rohter came up with many other examples of distortions and omissions in the movie. He notes that the “78-minute South of the Border is meant to be a documentary, and therefore to be held to different standards. But it is plagued by the same issues of accuracy that critics have raised about his movies, dating back to JFK. Taken together, the mistakes, misstatements and missing details could undermine Mr. Stone’s glowing portrait of Mr. Chávez.” Rohter goes on to pinpoint some of these in stunning detail.

Unfortunately, his film has been for some strange reason convincing otherwise intelligent people that in this effort, Stone has shown nuance.  The most egregious is the review of the film appearing at the Daily Beast, written by Allen Barra. His title, “When Did Oliver Stone Become Sensible?,” tells you all you need to know about Barra’s take. The answer to his question, of course, is that Stone did not.

But Barra does not pause, as I did and Larry Rohter has done, to raise any questions at all about Stone’s claims and methodology. Instead, Barra writes that “Oliver Stone’s documentary South of the Border is an even-tempered, cant-free look at a topic that has just about everyone north of the border, no matter what side of the political spectrum, foaming at the mouth.”  He goes on to even call Stone “the most sensible guy on the block.”

That is the problem with so-called documentaries. They are not objective, as many people think they are or should be. It is to Stone and writer Tariq Ali’s credit that they admit this freely. As Ali told Rohter: “It’s hardly a secret that we support the other side. It’s an opinionated documentary.”  Ali’s rationale does not hold water. Anyone watching the movie sees a narrative that presents their argument as total truthful fact, not as biased agitprop written to defend totalitarianism and Marxism. That is why someone like Barra can fall for it and believe it is nuanced and even-handed.

Of course, Barra reveals much about his own ignorance, writing: “They are all socialists who have distanced themselves in varying degrees from Marxism, they have all been democratically elected, and they have all been demonized, more or less, with Chavez representing the more and Lula, characterized as the closest to the center, the less.” In fact, most of them, especially Chavez, have not distanced themselves from Marxism. Chavez recently proclaimed himself a Trotskyist (the late Bolshevik, upon hearing this, certainly turned over in his grave) and the others, while elected, have to varying degrees endorsed Chavez and sought to replicate his anti-democratic methods. Of the group, Lula in fact has proved moderate, has alienated his left-wing base, and has until the recent agreement with Iran, worked with the United States.

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Writing in the June 28th issue of The Nation,  Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz present a lengthy article investigating the debate within the American Jewish community over supporting  the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel (BDS). While most Jewish groups, including liberal ones, recoil from the movement’s effect of delegitimizing Israel, the authors seem to gleam hope for its inroads on college campuses, where there is pressure, especially on Jewish students, to support BDS resolutions.

At Berkeley, where such a resolution was ultimately defeated, Jewish students spoke out against it. Speaking for many of them, one said: “We feel marginalized, we feel scared, we feel intimidated, we feel alienated” by the legislation.  But not to worry, claim Weiss and Horowitz, such worries surely “accompany any transformative social movement.”  To address their anxieties, Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouthi told the Berkeley students that they should not “stand in the way like those angry Alabama students 50 years ago blocking integration.”

In their article, Weiss and Horowitz make another specious historical claim about Arab Palestinian boycotts in the past:

Boycotts are not a new tactic for Palestinians. As far back as the 1936–39 revolt against the British Mandate, Palestinians incorporated general strikes and boycotts into their struggle.

Anyone who knows about the 1936-1939 “Arab revolt” knows that its main thrust was against British support of Jewish immigration to Palestine. In his classic book A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, Howard Sachar writes that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, demanded that “the British terminate Jewish immigration immediately.” The  Mufti’s strong-arm men then saw to it that an Arab general strike was enforced — a step that primarily hurt Arab business and agriculture, and that ironically stimulated the Jewish economy. The cost of the strike, Sachar points out, “to the Arabs themselves became increasingly punitive.”

Local supporters of the Mufti were joined by hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi forces who sought an armed Palestine rebellion, as Axis weapons were smuggled in for them to use. They engaged “in night assaults on Jewish farms, the destruction of cattle and crops,” and “the murder of civilians.” The final result of their long “struggle,” as Weiss and Horowitz call it, was 1300 casualties — 197 Arabs, 80 Jews and 28 British personnel killed. The cost to taxpayers in Palestine was over 6 million pounds.

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Lenin Does Vegas!

June 20th, 2010 - 2:43 pm

Well, that answers the question about what to do with all those Soviet era statues of Lenin that lie in the junkyard unwanted: send them to Vegas, where they can be surrounded by all the kitsch. Stand around long enough and you’ll see Russian visitors pose for photos in front of him. Old V.I.  stands ready to greet you if you enter to eat or drink at the Red Square at Mandalay Bay. (Click on each photo to enlarge.)

Those thankless ex-Soviets — who not only tore him down from wherever he once stood, but took off his head for good measure.

Having gone to last week’s American Freedom Alliance conference on the media at Pepperdine University, my wife and I decided to take a few days R and R in Vegas — where I believe every American ought to go to at least once.  There are a couple of good reasons to go. One is to view the gorgeous ceiling at the Bellagio hotel, as well as its art museum (extra cost, of course) and the sculptures in the lobby garden display.

The other is to see one of the productions by Cirque du Soleil, and if you are a  Beatles fan, the much heralded “Love,” which is now apparently their most popular production. Not only is it thrilling and imaginative, but you have never heard the Beatles in such incredible pristine pure sound — even if you have the most professional and expensive sound system at home.

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In a blog post yesterday, New Yorker writer and editor Hendrik Hertzberg, who admits to knowing me for decades, starts by saying that I am “disliked by many on the left,” which is putting it mildly.  But it is nice to know that despite all of my numerous heresies, Hertzbgerg still retains a “persistent soft spot” for me.  The feeling is mutual.

For his readers’ benefit, he goes through my checkered past, noting my stint as a Communist in my high school and college years (anyone interested can buy my memoir, Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left, and the Leftover Left, and read my own account) through my sojourn as a social-democrat and my current stance, which I prefer to say is that of an independent conservative centrist, who calls things as I see them without worrying about labels.  I’ll leave that to other people. And yes, Hertzberg writes, “It would not be entirely wrong to call him a neoconservative.” I take that as a compliment.

He continues to praise me for not being “an off-the-shelf right-winger.” That too is accurate; I haven’t been shy about criticizing many on the political right when I think they are wrong. It is also true that I acknowledge the difference between European social democracies and the advocates of totalitarian socialism and believe that the United States can cooperate in foreign affairs with moderate social democracies. But in terms of social policy, I argue that what Hertzberg ignores are the serious shortcomings of these states, whose inflated budgets are collapsing all through Europe and leading their governments into bankruptcy. The promise of social democracy as an alternative has fallen on hard times.

But Hertzberg goes on to say I have “undeniably fallen into bad company,” that being primarily PJ Media and also my evident sin of  writing for the Weekly Standard and Commentary. Somehow, Hertzberg neglects the flagship conservative magazine, National Review, for which I have written many articles and reviews. I don’t know if he would consider the Wall Street Journal “bad company” since I’ve written for them too. I am proud of all of my articles and reviews, and would not change a word of what I have written for any of these publications.

If I have fallen into this bad company, it is because other outlets in the so-called MSM somehow refuse to publish my articles and reviews. I do not think these articles are so far out that a credible open-minded magazine would not be able to run them, but somehow, that is not how their editors feel. I wish Hertzberg would look over some of these pieces. Even if it turns out he agrees with any of them, would he have let them into the New Yorker? To ask that question is to answer it.

What he leaves out is important. He praises me for knowing that “Joseph McCarthy was a liar and a scoundrel.” Indeed, that is my view. But he does not tell his readers that the most recent article I wrote reiterating that argument appeared in … National Review, the very magazine that at the time of Joe McCarthy’s influence supported him wholeheartedly! Writing soon after in the New York Times Book Review, David Oshinsky called my review of M. Stanton Evans’ recent book on McCarthy “devastating.”

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Billy Bragg and the Neighborhood Bullies

June 5th, 2010 - 11:32 am

Thanks to Sean Curnyn, the proprietor of the wonderful website RightWingBob.com, I have just learned that the British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg wrote one of the most vile and vicious songs honoring a terrorist dupe, the late Rachel Corrie. Bragg wrote it a few years ago, but until now (fortunately) I had not heard of it.(If you’re not familiar with the real story, please refer to the open letter I wrote a few years ago, which is available here.

Bragg, as many of you undoubtedly know, is a British leftie who considers himself someone in the tradition of both Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. With this song, as well as some of his other rather didactic and crude lyrics, he proves himself instead to be anything but a singer who gets what Bob Dylan is all about. Dylan, as most anyone who knows something about him realizes, is a subtle artist who eschews the kind of political venom that Bragg indulges in. Indeed, it was decades ago, in fact rather early in his long career, that Dylan abandoned the Old Left milieu that others were trying to force him into. His college friends in Minnesota have written about  how all their attempts to indoctrinate him came to naught, as did Dave Van Ronk in his own memoir.

Dylan absorbed what was best in the political culture that existed in New York City when he first arrived there, and soon transcended their world.  He decided first to stop sending songs to Broadside, the political song magazine published in mimeographed form by the late Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen, and broke with Sing Out! when its then Stalinist editor, Irwin Silber, wrote an open letter condemning him for turning inwards and deserting the left-wing path they wanted him to inherit. He made this clear when he wrote “Maggie’s Farm.”

Well, I try my best To be just like I am,

But everybody wants you

To be just like them.

They sing while you slave and I just get bored.

I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.

Later, when Dylan sang “Ihere’s something happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” some said he was addressing it to Silber. And as for the Left and their desire to put him in their straitjacket, he sang “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

What Bragg has done in this song is a desecration of all that Dylan stands for. He has used his melody of a beautiful and poignant song about the death of Hattie Carrol, which lyrically is the opposite of the didactic screed meant by Bragg to honor the opening of the “play” by Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner that I wrote about in my own letter referred to earlier. If it resembles anything, Bragg’s song is more in the tradition of the worst political songs penned by the late Phil Ochs, many of which, if one hears them today, are dated and sound turgid.

Bragg’s lyrics are so vile that he dares compare Corrie to the American Freedom Riders of the 60s. He also sings, as Curnyn writes, “ ‘Is there no place for a voice in America /That doesn’t conform to the Fox News agenda?’  That’s right, Billy: It’s all Fox, all the time, here in America now, even on the stage.” The song is so silly, only the British anti-Israel press would see fit, as the British Guardian did, to print such drivel.

Now that the so-called Free Gaza Movement is once again honoring the memory of their “martyr” by naming the ship that has now reached Israel after Rachel Corrie, we can expect new articles heralding her supposed martyrdom in the various web pages of the international left-wing.

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It seems many of our commentators who rush to condemn Israel have really lost it. Chief among them is the former New York Times foreign correspondent  in Central America and later Turkey, Stephen Kinzer.  The man was capable for many years of writing shrewd and insightful reports on Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 80’s, and later from Europe. And he is a well known connoisseur of American blues, who had a highly regarded radio show in Turkey that brought the genre to the attention of new listeners worldwide.

But now, writing about Israel, he has come up with what just might be the most misguided  analogy imaginable. On the Daily Beast website, Kinzer argues that the United States can solve the Middle East problem by simply treating terrorist fundamentalist Iran and democratic Israel as equivalent.  

The problem to Kinzer is that while the United States views Iran as “a pariah in the world” and “one of the major threats to global security,” the rest of the world sees Iran differently, as a country “no more or less threatening than any other.” On the other hand, they see Israel as a “violent, repressive [nation]” that is “contemptuous of international law.” This is how Kinzer also views Israel:

It has an active nuclear-weapons program but conducts it in secret; its security organs regularly kill perceived enemies of the state, both at home and abroad; its political process has been hijacked by religious fundamentalists who believe they are doing God’s will; its violent recklessness destabilizes the world’s most volatile region; and it seems as deaf to reason as it is impervious to pressure. Also: Its name begins with “I”.

He thinks we should stop doing things like working to gain support for “punishing new sanctions on Iran.” What we should do is to take Israel to task for already  being a nuclear power- rather than trying to stop Iran from becoming one. How unfair that we want “abject surrender” from Iran, and we let Israel get away with hell.

In Kinzer’s eyes, both Israel and Iran are “disturbers of whatever peace exists in the Middle East.” Come again? Iran wants to destroy Israel and arms Hamas and Hezbollah; Israel has sought and seeks a two-state solution- a Jewish state and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace, and is ready to negotiate and come to terms with any Arab nation that grants its right to exist. Yet Kinzer argues that we must treat them “by equivalent standards.”

I imagine if it was back in the early days of the Cold War, Kinzer would favor giving US atomic secrets to the Soviets, since we threatened Europe and world peace as much as the Soviets did. (Actually, that is what the Communists and fellow-travelers of the day advocated; some of them went to work for the KGB as spies-hoping to accomplish  that goal for the Soviets when they could not get US policy to do it.) 

And yes, Kinzer wants the US to equally pressure Israel and Iran to enact “higher human-rights standards.” Let me ask Kinzer a simple question. If you were a political prisoner or a Palestinian terrorist, would you rather be in an Israeli jail or an Iranian one?  If it makes no difference, I expect you to answer by choosing incarceration in Iran. Actually, Israel jails terrorists; they are not actually political prisoners. But as Kinzer sees it, both countries treat “honest critics as traitors of terrorists.”  That statement alone is a crude slander against Israel, and serves as an apologia for Iran, who claims inaccurately that its critics and non-violent demonstrators are terrorists.

The next blowhard is the ever more self-righteous New York Times columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof. Today, Kristof writes out of what he assures us is his pure motive, that of wanting to save “Israel From Itself.” I love the way columnists with bad advice preface their thoughts by giving us their good intentions—as if any Israeli with brains would take him seriously.

After all, he writes, Israel used  “lethal force on self-described peace activists.” Kristof does not pause to discuss the amassed evidence that the group on board the ship were really not peace activists, rather than a group of jihadists ready to spring a trap on boarding commandoes. Now, he writes, Israel is doing what the Palestinians used to do- lashing “out with force in ways that undermine [Israel’s] own interests.”

 As Ambassador Michael Oren points out in the same day’s Times in an accompanying op-ed, “the mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace. On the contrary, the religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis — both by their own hands as well as by aiding Hamas — and to destroy any hope of peace.”

Oren is clear as well about the raid’s actual intention. It was “not to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, but to create a provocation that would put international pressure on Israel to drop the Gaza embargo, and thus allow the flow of seaborne military supplies to Hamas. Just as Hamas gunmen hide behind civilians in Gaza, so, too, do their sponsors cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid.” And, he adds, “The real intent of breaking the embargo is to allow rockets to be transported to Gaza from Hamas’s suppliers in Syria and Iran. Israel has already intercepted several such ships laden with munitions.”

Kristof, however, writes in favor of the kind of pressure Oren is warning against; pressure that would enable Hamas to carry out its deadly aim, advised by liberal journalists like Kristof in the name of peace and security. Thus he tells Israel what it must do—freeze all settlements, do everything else Kristof thinks necessary to “make a deal more likely.” That Israel has made known time and time again its desire for a real deal is ignored; just as Kristof ignores the continual repetition by Hamas leaders that it never will accept Israel’s legitimacy, no matter what.

And yes, as proof that Israel is losing what Kristof calls its “support base” he points to the NYRB article by Peter Beinart, along with his repetition of the claim that General David Petraeus has disavowed many times, that the US favoring of Israel is breeding anti-Americanism and helping Al Qaeda.  So like Kinzer, Kristof knows the solution: Israel alone must act by quickly ending the blockade of Gaza. It has accomplished nothing, he says, except to make Gaza suffer.

Fortunately, for once, the editors of the Times offered its readers not only Oren’s article, but a powerful op-ed by Israeli writer Rabbi Daniel Gordis, who points out, contradicting Kristof, that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza; if anyone goes without food, shelter or medicine, that is by the choice of the Hamas government, which puts garnering international sympathy above taking care of its citizens. Israel has readily agreed to send into Gaza all the food and humanitarian supplies on the boats after they had been inspected for weapons.”

Gordis also points out that the blockade is both necessary and essential, because “Israel has as its foremost obligation the protection of its citizens. Given that, why should it have allowed the flotilla to enter without inspecting its goods? If the United States were to impose a blockade on Iran (which seems unlikely), and another country dispatched a string of ships in a similar operation, is there any chance the United States Navy would let them through without inspection?  Israel will, of course, endure tremendous international condemnation for this week’s events. Sadly, though, we Israelis are becoming somewhat inured to such criticism. And we know that we dare not capitulate now.”

To the Israelis, the so-called  constructive criticism coming from liberals like Kristof appear as myopic; the kind of advice they instinctively know has to be ignored and challenged.  As for Iran- both Kinzer and Kristof should take note of what Gordis points out:

Iran finances Hezbollah and Hamas and does everything it can to weaken and marginalize Israel, inching toward its vision of a world without a Jewish state. The West has known of Iran’s nuclear intentions for well over a decade, but has effectively done nothing. Israelis understand that we — and we alone — will have to ensure our security and our survival.

Israel alone wants peace, but as Gordis points out, it has not been able to “find anyone to make a deal with us.” Hence the kind of advice both Kristof and Kinzer give, if taken, would help only a terrorist state like Iran, and move the region even further away from real peace and security. Israel, he points out, has a good reaso to ignore such supposed well-meaning but dangerous advice; its geographic vulnerability does not allow it to “have the luxury of caving in to the world’s condemnation.”

Writing from the safety of the United States, both Kinzer and Kristof are in no position to give Israel any advice. The world is fortunate that when Israelis read these columns, the only result will be the sound of their incredulous laughter.

The truth about Israel and the terrorist flotilla is now apparent for anyone who wants to see. The problem, however, is the one various people, like Max Boot, have alluded to. Israel, by the way it dealt with the problem, handed Hamas and its opponents a major propaganda victory.  Daniel Pipes makes much the same point.  Nevertheless, this leaves no excuse for the various left-wing and liberal commentators who have seized the moment to find new reasons to bash Israel, and to portray it as the aggressor.  As Boot points out, “The so-called Gaza flotilla, comprising eight ships and roughly 800 participants, was not put together by peace-loving humanitarians primarily worried about relieving the suffering of Gaza residents.” Rather, it was a project of the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi, an ally of various global jihadist terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

So what Israel got was a PR disaster, from which it is now trying to recover. Nevertheless, some clearheaded mainstream foreign policy observers have seen the truth without a problem. Leslie Gelb is one of them. Gelb, former head of the Council on Foreign Relations and former New York Times top foreign affairs correspondent, writes:

Israel had every right under international law to stop and board ships bound for the Gaza war zone late Sunday. Only knee-jerk left-wingers and the usual legion of poseurs around the world would dispute this.(my emphasis) And it is pretty clear that this “humanitarian” flotilla headed for Gaza aimed to provoke a confrontation with Israel. Various representatives of the Free Gaza Movement, one of the main organizers of this deadly extravaganza, have let it slip throughout Monday that their intention was every bit as much “to break” Israel’s blockade of Gaza as to deliver the relief goods.

The problem is evidently that there are more “knee-jerk left-wingers” around than Gelb imagines. And many of them think of themselves as mainstream liberals who would not consider themselves part of Gelb’s category. So let us look carefully at the arguments and analysis of this ever growing group.

First, once again, comes Andrew Sullivan. The guilty party of course is both Israel and — you guessed it — the dreaded neo-cons. Writes the brilliant pundit, the people on board the flotilla were defending themselves from invaders. He does not mention that the Israeli commandos carried only paint guns they were told to try and avoid using, and pistols which they had to get permission to use. He claims that the analysis of people like Noah Pollak and Jennifer Rubin “is a function of a mindset warped by paranoia, enabled by utter arrogance, fueled by a sense of impunity.” Sounds like a case of the pot calling the kettle black to me.

On Sunday, Sullivan conceded that the “activists’” violence was “pretty abhorrent,” and that they are not “not followers of Gandhi or MLK Jr.” But he goes on to say that “it is in response to a dawn commando raid by armed soldiers. They are engaging in self-defense.” Sullivan, evidently now an expert in international law as well, sees the Israeli act as the Turkish government does, that of “inhumane state terror.” And Sullivan continually repeats that “the attack took place in international waters,” implying that fact in itself makes it illegal.

Again, as Gelb explained, “blockades are quite legal. The United States and Britain were at war with Germany and Japan and blockaded them. I can’t remember international lawyers saying those blockades were illegal — even though they took place on the high seas in international waters. There would be a general violation only if the hostile actions against the ships took place in waters under the jurisdiction of another sovereign state. Thus, for example, if the Israelis stopped the ships in Egyptian waters, that would have been a violation.”

That point was emphasized as well on Sunday night on the PBS NewsHour by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who pointed out: “Under international law, when there’s a case of a military blockade against a hostile entity — and we are talking about a hostile entity … Hamas in Gaza, a country under Article 51 of the United Nations charter…has a right to defend itself. By the same articles of war, the United States blockaded Germany during World War II in the open seas. Israel was well within its international rights.”

Next comes the indefatigable Peter Beinart, whose self-proclaimed commitment to Israel and liberal Zionism seems more and more to mean joining the anti-Israel group and abandoning any support of Israel in favor of  portraying  it as the aggressor.  Beinart blames not the commandos, whom he agrees were attacked by a mob, but the Israeli government and its American supporters.  Beinart says the Israeli embargo of Gaza is not meant to keep out arms — how Beinart knows this is something he evidently is alone privileged to have found out — but is meant instead to “to impoverish the people of Gaza, and thus turn them against Hamas.”

If that is the case, why does Israel regularly allow in aid of a humanitarian nature to Gaza, and why did it offer through a week of negotiations to search the ships for arms and then deliver the food and other items of a humanitarian nature to Gaza itself? As Oren noted, “Israel vowed to transfer that aid to Gaza. About 100 trucks of humanitarian aid, food and medicine go into Gaza every day. There’s no shortage of food in Gaza.”

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