Browsing Posts published in August, 2009

Journalism is dependent on the reporting of truths and not unsupported rumors.  Governments are responsible to ensure that the line between freedom of speech and libel are not crossed.

This week,Alan Dershowitz Alan M. Dershowitz, Harvard professor of law and author of many books, including, most recently, “The Case Against Israel’s Enemies,” published an article, “Sweden’s Shame.”

Dershowitz explains that, “Nobody is talking about censoring the Swedish press or imprisoning the writer of the absurd article. What we are talking about is expanding the marketplace of ideas to include a completely warranted condemnation of sloppy journalism and outrageous accusations that foment an already increasing anti-Semitism in Sweden. Freedom of speech is based on an open and vibrant marketplace of ideas.”

Michael Oren on CNN

In his first television interview as Israel’s new Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren sits down with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria to discuss his prospects for peace in the Middle East and on Iran.

Watch the full CNN segment here.

Read Fareed Zakaria’s Q&A, “Surprising Progress in the Middle East,” here.

Ambassador Oren

West Bank Success Story

The Palestinians are flourishing economically.  Unless they live in Gaza.

By Michael B. Oren

Imagine an annual economic growth rate of 7%, declining unemployment, a thriving tourism industry, and a 24% hike in the average daily wage. Where in today’s gloomy global market could one find such gleaming forecasts? Singapore? Brazil? Guess again. The West Bank.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the West Bank economy is flourishing. Devastated by the violence and corruption fomented by its former leadership, the West Bank has rebounded and today represents a most promising success story. Among the improvements of the last year cited by the IMF and other financial observers are an 18% increase in the local stock exchange, a 94% growth of tourism to Bethlehem—generating 6,000 new jobs—and an 82% rise in trade with Israel.

Since 2008, more than 2,000 new companies have been registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Where heavy fighting once raged, there are now state-of-the-art shopping malls.

Much of this revival is due to Palestinian initiative and to the responsible fiscal policies of West Bank leaders—such as Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad—many of whom are American-educated. But few of these improvements could have happened without a vastly improved security environment.

More than 2,100 members of the Palestinian security forces, graduates of an innovative program led by U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, are patrolling seven major West Bank cities. Another 500-man battalion will soon be deployed. Encouraged by the restoration of law and order, the local population is streaming to the new malls and movie theaters. Shipments of designer furniture are arriving from China and Indonesia, and car imports are up more than 40% since 2008.

Israel, too, has contributed to the West Bank’s financial boom. Tony Blair recently stated that Israel had not been given sufficient credit for efforts such as removing dozens of checkpoints and road blocks, withdrawing Israeli troops from population centers, and facilitating transportation into both Israel and Jordan. Long prohibited by terrorist threats from entering the West Bank, Israeli Arabs are now allowed to shop in most Palestinian cities.

Further, several Israeli-Palestinian committees have achieved fruitful cooperation in the areas of construction and agriculture. Such measures have stimulated the Palestinian economy since 2008 resulting, for example, in a 200% increase in agricultural exports and a nearly 1,000% increase in the number of trucks importing produce into the West Bank from Israel.

The West Bank’s economic improvements contrast with the lack of diplomatic progress on the creation of a Palestinian state. Negotiators focus on the “top down” issues, grappling with legal and territorial problems. But the West Bank’s population is building sovereignty from the bottom-up, forging the law-enforcement, civil, and financial institutions that form the underpinnings of any modern polity. The seeds of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called “economic peace” are, in fact, already blossoming in the commercial skyline of Ramallah.

The vitality of the West Bank also accentuates the backwardness and despair prevailing in Gaza. In place of economic initiatives that might relieve the nearly 40% unemployment in the Gaza Strip, the radical Hamas government has imposed draconian controls subject to Shariah law. Instead of investing in new shopping centers and restaurants, Hamas has spent millions of dollars restocking its supply of rockets and mortar shells. Rather than forge a framework for peace, Hamas has wrought war and brought economic hardship to civilians on both sides of the borders.

The people of Gaza will have to take notice of their West Bank counterparts and wonder why they, too, cannot enjoy the same economic benefits and opportunities. At the same time, Arab states that have pledged to assist the Palestinian economy in the past, but which have yet to fulfill those promises, may be persuaded of the prudence of investing in the West Bank. Israel, for its part, will continue to remove obstacles to Palestinian development. If the West Bank can serve as a model of prosperity, it may also become a prototype of peace.

Mr. Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Medal of Freedom

Medal of Freedom

On August 11, 2009, John Bolton, US’s former Ambassador to the United Nations wrote an op-ed regarding the awarding of the “Medal of Freedom” to Mary Robinson – thus creating a flurry of controversy due to her central organizing role as secretary general of the 2001 “World Conference Against Racism”; a conference that was virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

Mary Robinson’s Medal of Freedom
Anti-Americanism and anti-Israel activism win Obama’s approbation
By John Bolton (Wall Street Journal, 09/11/09)

Barack Obama’s decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson has generated unexpected but emotionally charged opposition. Appointed by then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as high commissioner for human rights in 1997-2002, Ms. Robinson had a controversial but ineffective tenure. (Previously, she was president of Ireland, a ceremonial position.)

Criticism of Mr. Obama’s award, to be officially bestowed tomorrow, has centered on Ms. Robinson’s central organizing role as secretary general of the 2001 “World Conference Against Racism” in Durban, South Africa. Instead of concentrating on its purported objectives, Durban was virulently anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and at least implicitly anti-American.

So vile was the conference’s draft declaration that Secretary of State Colin Powell correctly called it “a throwback to the days of ‘Zionism equals racism,’” referring to the infamous 1975 U.N. General Assembly resolution to that effect. President George W. Bush (whose father led the 1991 campaign that repealed the U.N.’s “Zionism is a form of racism” resolution) unhesitatingly agreed when Mr. Powell recommended the U.S. delegation leave the Durban conference rather than legitimize the outcome.

Ms. Robinson didn’t see it that way then, and she has shown no remorse since. In late 2002, she described Durban’s outcome as “remarkably good, including on the issues of the Middle East.”

Outrage over Durban reignited earlier this year when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did her best to get the United States to attend the successor conference (“Durban II”) to polish Mr. Obama’s “multilateralist” bona fides. Because the Durban II draft declaration reaffirmed Durban I’s hateful conclusions, even the Obama administration couldn’t swallow attending.

Durban is not the only reason Ms. Robinson should not receive the Medal of Freedom. Over the years she has actively opposed “the security or national interests of the United States,” one of the categories of eligibility for the Medal. Those in the administration who recommended her either ignored her anti-Israel history, or missed it entirely, as they either ignored or overlooked her hostility toward America’s role in promoting international peace and security. Or perhaps they share Ms. Robinson’s views.

One example, particularly significant today given the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, is Ms. Robinson’s strong opinions about the use of force. During the Clinton administration’s (and NATO’s) air campaign against Serbia because of its assault on Kosovo, for instance, she opined that “civilian casualties are human rights victims.” But her real objection was not to civilian casualties but to the bombing itself, saying “NATO remains the sole judge of what is or is not acceptable to bomb,” which she did not mean as a compliment.

In fact, Ms. Robinson wanted U.N. control over NATO’s actions: “It surely must be right for the Security Council . . . to have a say in whether a prolonged bombing campaign in which the bombers choose their target at will is consistent with the principle of legality under the Charter of the United Nations.” One wonders if this is also Mr. Obama’s view, given the enormous consequences for U.S. national security.

This February, asked whether former President George W. Bush should be prosecuted for war crimes, Ms. Robinson answered that it was “premature,” until a “process” such as an “independent inquiry” was established: “[T]hen the decision can be taken as to whether anybody will be held accountable.” In particular, she objected to the Bush administration’s “war paradigm” for dealing with terrorism, saying we actually “need to reinforce the criminal justice system.” Asked about Mr. Obama’s statements on “moving forward,” Ms. Robinson responded that “one of the ways of looking forward is to have the courage to say we must inquire.”

Ms. Robinson’s award shows Mr. Obama’s detachment from longstanding, mainstream, American public opinion on foreign policy. The administration’s tin ear to the furor over Ms. Robinson underlines how deep that detachment really is.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations” (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

Tweet4Shalit

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Tweet4Shalit

On August 28th, Gilad Shalit will celebrate his 23rd birthday.  However, it looks as if he will not celebrate his birthday with his family and friends; instead, this will be the 4th year that he “celebrates” his birthday while in terrorist captivity.

Israel is working hard to ensure his safe return home.

To raise awareness of Gilad Shalit’s story and to get support for his immediate release, various organizations have created “Tweet4Shalit” an event that will take place on Wednesday, August 26th.

“Tweet4Shalit” is a 24-hour Twitter event in which thousands of people on Twitter will tweet the hashtag #GiladShalit in the hopes of making Gilad a top 10 Twitter “Trending Topic.”

For more information at “Tweet4Shalit,” click here.

Don’t forget to take part in this important event from Wednesday, August 26th at midnight until Thursday, August 27th!