Monday, November 30, 2009

Modern Warfare 2 Saga: Hate on the Infinity Ward Forums.

A contributor called "Gil" has informed me that he and a number of other Israeli bloggers started a thread on the Infinity Ward forums requesting that an Israeli flag be added to the multiplayer function of Modern Warfare 2. Although most of the people who responded on the thread were very supportive of the idea, and some weren't, there were a noted few who responded with hateful comments not unlike what you might see on the Huffington Post. It is unfortunate that even the gamer population can display this kind of attitude. Some of the comments were deleted by the mods (good for them!) but many, many others remain on the thread as of the last time I checked. Click the link below to read some of them.

Videos You Should Watch: "Palestinian Mythology"

This Youtube video is one that I have bookmarked for a while because it is a concise, to the point way of proving what happened in 1948 (i.e., that most of the Palestinian Arabs left because of fear, not because they were forced out by the Jews). Especially interesting is in the middle, where the film investigates Deir Yassim. I plan to start posting this link on the HP whenever someone brings up the "massacre" there. The film is by Pierre Rehov, a respected French Jewish filmmaker, famous for revealing the truth about Mohammed al-Dura.

HPW: Tony Blair Defends Israel on I/P Situation

Yesterday the Huffington Post published a New York Times editorial written by Tony Blair, ex-Prime Minister that defends President Obama's choices regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here's an example of a quote from it:

"And I do emphasize that as well. The president set this at the beginning. This is, to my mind, the big difference from what has come before. At the very beginning of this administration, he set that as a core strategic objective. I have absolutely no doubt he holds to that and whatever the difficulties and the obstacles; we have to find a way through. And personally, although as I say I am optimist by nature, I believe we will."
Sounds pretty positive, right? Yet for some rather unusual reason, there was a lot of negativity from the talkbackers in the comments thread. I am thinking that it is more directed at the messenger rather than the message itself, as Tony Blair was the leader of Britain during the Iraq invasion and apparently was in favor of it. So even though he agrees with Obama on some issues, he is still lost forever in the minds of the HuffPosters.

Where I was confused was in many attacks on the New York Times itself. It's one thing to disagree with a paper, but in this thread it only tangentially had to do with the subject. I guess people who feel strongly about the NYT would take any venue to attack it. Oh, they didn't forget to bash Israel as well! Let's take a look at some of the individual remarks.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Daoud Kuttab Exemplifies Palestinian Arguments

In his most recent article on the Huffington Post, Daoud Kuttab, a prominent Palestinian journalist, envisions how the next Palestinian election might go and mentions Marwan Barghouti, another Palestinian politician that recently appeared on The Daily Show. He describes Barghouti as someone who "was arrested and sentenced to a long prison term on charges that he led the Second Intifada, which had begun two years earlier, and ordered some of its military attacks."

Did you get that? "military attacks". One poster, "adamsquared" asked Kuttab about this odd description of suicide bombings, arguing that it was disingenuous to characterize Barghouti as a military leader when he had in fact chosen sites for terror attacks. Kuttab himself responded with the following quote:

Daoud Kuttab
"If we are talking about those planning and executing attacks in which civilians were killed, we can look at the last war on Gaza for which a UN appointed Crime of war judge has reported that israel (and also Hamas) committed crimes of war and possibly crimes against humanity. In wars everyone is involved in violence, let us look at all sides of the conflict if you wish"

Here we have the first rule of Palestinian defense: point the blame somewhere else, anywhere else, but especially at Israel. Kuttab's quote had nothing to do with Barghouti or his article, he instead decided it would be best to remind everyone how evil Israel is because of Cast Lead. This argument is of course completely insubstantial and wouldn't fool a middle school debate student, but anti-Israel posters try it all the time. Luckily, "adamsquared" wasn't fooled, and asked Kuttab again how he could "whitewash" Barghouti's record and pointed out that Israeli crimes does not excuse Palestinian (Barghouti's) crimes. Kuttab came back with this:

Daoud Kuttab
"You may be surprised that I do agree with you, that Israeli crimes don't justify crimes by Palestinians. That is why that I mentioned Hamas when I made the remark. My point is that all sides have plenty of blood on their hands and no one side can claim to be innocent."

Rule number 2: Try to seem re-conciliatory and point out that both sides have done wrong (have "blood on their hands"). No one will disagree with you because you seem so balanced and objective, even though you have made a moral equivalence between fighting terror with unintended side effects and intentionally murdering innocent civilians. Kuttab cannot disagree with "adam" that Barghouti is a terror leader, but rather than admit he is wrong and should have included that information in his article, Kuttab prefers to bob and weave and talk about extraneous issues. When arguing with an anti-Israel personality, it is very important to keep them on the specific topic you are talking about. Otherwise, you get a conversation like this one, where the original point is lost under mounds of extraneous rhetoric and side issues.

Costa Rican President Says, "Palestinians Don't Need Army"

While we were on break I missed this article, but it's quite an interesting turn of events. Costa Rican president (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Oscar Arias not only visited Israel and talked about his vision of the future there, but he also said that he felt that a militarized Palestinian state was simply unnecessary:  "A small, poor state like Palestine doesn't need an army."

It's worth mentioning that Costa Rica also doesn't have an army, which I believe is a unique claim in this world of ours. The truth, of course, is taht Mr. Arias is correct: If the Palestinians are making peace with Israel, then they really have no reason to have an army at all, except to make themselves feel better about themselves and less vulnerable. Many HuffPosters have defended their feelings and a fabricated "right" to a military. I can understand why the Palestinians won't want to be completely at the mercy of the IDF even when the occupation ends. But they are at the mercy of the IDF right now, and will be in any real way once they have their own state anyway, Palestinian army or no. Ultimately, if the Palestinians want a state to run as they wish, Israel needs to approve it first. I'm glad to see that there are some world leaders who aren't toeing the Palestinian party line and can at least try to approach the situation objectively.

The "Free Speech" Defense

Yesterday a news report came in about a newspaper called the Daily Planet being accused of anti-Semitism.

No, not that Daily Planet. This is the one published from Berkeley, California by Editor-in-Chief Becky O'Malley. Basically the people who are making the accusations are accusing the DP of a clear-cut bias against anti-Israel editorials and articles, making a comparison of an addict (which you can read about in the article). If you are interested in finding more details about the kinds of articles that the Berkely Daily Planet publishes, you can read the Ynet article above or check out DPWatchdog, a site that monitors what is published.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkey Day Announcement

The Brothers of Judea will be taking a four day hiatus for the Thanksgiving weekend. For decoration, here's a picture of my dog:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Settlement Freeze!

Netanyahu's government has just announced that they are going to enforce a ten-month settlement freeze and use the time to resume peace talks. Netanyahu also called on the Palestinians to resume talks and called the move a "painful and far-reaching step," but a necessary one in the pursuit of peace. However, this is worth mentioning that the settlement freeze only applies to the West Bank, not East Jerusalem. But considering Netanyahu's coalition and what he has claimed in the past, this is a pretty big concessions.

Naturally, this move gains Israel no good will at all on the Huffington Post. Negative comments are already appearing with such remarks as "they are half-stepping," "this is meaningless," "is this a joke?" "this means absolutely nothing," "this only sounds like a good idea if you were born yesterday," etc. I don't have the inclination or the time to do a complete watch post on that thread, you can check it out yourself.

It's become clear to me at this point that nothing Israel does will ever satisfy many of the haters who post on the HP, which is just as well because Israel isn't trying to satisfy them. President Obama and the other world leaders are watching, and they are watching Israel make concession after concession in the hope that the Palestinians will reciprocate...but the Palestinians aren't budging. Sure, this announcement isn't what America wanted to happen, but considering that Netanyahu just a few months ago claimed that they would continue building despite Obama's reservations. How much longer can Abbas remain intransigent? Just yesterday he was complaining that Obama wasn't doing enough, yet he continues to be the one that won't resume peace talks. Sure, he can rely on the mindless support of the Israel-haters on the Huffington Post, but (as much as they might think so) they aren't the only people on the planet.

HuffPoWatch: Israel Readying New Cutting-Edge Arms

This morning the Huffington Post published an article about the new defenses that Israel is creating, not only to defend against nuclear attack from Iran, but also from lower-tech rocket attacks. The vast majority of the article was talking about new tech that was strictly defensive in nature, including Iron Dome and a new upgrade to its Arrow defense system against nuclear strike. Unsprisingly, this led to an outpouring of hatred from the Huffington Posters, because it fits their politically-correct paradigm that Israel is trying to start yet another war, and the threats to them posed by other nations simply "aren't real" or otherwise dumbed down. We'll start with an interesting and anti-Semitic comment in the fully moderated talkback thread:

More Jewish Control of the Mainstream Media in America We Are Told Does Not Exist
By: Saladin
It talks of “judicially sanctioned” killings done to “intimidate” the political opposition and to “quell pockets of ethnic unrest around the nation“. It goes on to point out in worried tones that “the trend” towards executions were a response to the “political tumult” following the June presidential election and that this month a “fifth person” connected to the protests was sentenced to death.
“Judicially sanctioned killings” designed to “intimidate” political opposition? Hmmmmm, now where have we heard about this before about a million, billion times?????
Oh yeah, that’s right IN ISRAEL, EVERY DAY FOR THE LAST 60 YEARS.

-So not only do we have what's basically slander, as it makes a false claim with absolutely no information to back it up, it contains the myth of Jewish control of the media. At least this time he was courageous enough not to pretend it was "Zionist" or "Israeli" control, he said what he thought. Or since it's a copy-and-paste bomb, what other people told him to think.

Huffington Post Talkback, circa 1941

"Can we just talk for a minute about all this aid we are sending to Britain? It has to be millions if not billions of dollars at this point. It's ridiculous! We just got out of a depression, and we need that money here! No, I don't care that we give money to other places too! I want to know why we're helping Britain with this Hitler guy. He's their problem, not ours. We need to look out for our own interests, and Britain's interests and ours don't coincide in the least! Hitler is Europe's problem, it doesn't have anything to do with us. We're spending valuable American treasure and blood to prop up a racist, colonialist entity. and I for one won't stand for it!"

"What's that? You claim that Hitler wants to conquer the world? Ridiculous! Preposterous! He must have been mistranslated. And I don't want to hear claims about what his forces are doing to the people who they conquer. There's no evidence of anything going wrong, and if you have any I want to see them. Besides, can you imagine the horrible suffering inflicted on the innocent German populations by those awful British? Remember, they are our allies and they are doing it with our money and our weapons! Truly, the shame that the US plays in this massacre will play on our consciences for generations. We need to cut off this so-called "ally" right here and now. Once they no longer have a big brother backing them up they'll make peace immediately and this whole silly war will end. Besides, what have the British done for us lately? Need I remind anyone that they burned down the White House in 1812? They're not our real allies."

"And let's not forget: The British brought this on themselves. If they hadn't treated the Germans so badly in the Treaty of Versailles in 1918 none of this would ever have happened. Of course the Germans would have been mad after being treated like that, even though they didn't even start the war! The British reap what they sow, they die by the sword. Besides, they're colonialist and racist, aren't they? They deserve to be hung out to dry, we shouldn't associate ourselves with them. Maybe this Hitler guy would open up a little bit and mellow out if only we opened some trade relations with him and gave him a little bit of respect, you know? He's just misunderstood, there's no need to get all militant just because he invaded a couple of countries and dissolved democracy in his home country. War is not the answer!

"Why yes, I am from San Francisco. Why do you ask?"

HuffPo User Profile: Americafirst2008

As the "hate Israel" crowd goes on the Huffington Post talkbacks, Americafirst2008 is strictly small time. He pops up only every now and then, spews some hatred and then moves on. He's notable for two major reasons: First of all, he appears to be somewhat conservative in his mindset. His hatred of Israel is motivated not by a politically correct liberal paradigm but instead by his desire for America to take care of itself and only itself. His ranting is therefore principally against US aid to Israel, claims about Israeli spies, "traitors" in America who disagree with him that Israel isn't totally evil, and so forth. Going through his posts, it has been made clear at this point that he is a card-carrying anti-Semite, as he makes it clear his problem is with Israel and the Jews and only with them. This is matched by attacks on the memory of the Holocaust and his favorite insult "judeofascists," equating Jews with Nazis without the slightest hesitation.

Update: This user has since been banned from the Huffington Post.

Second, AF2008 goes to other threads such as ones about Chinese spying and US-Canada relations to preach his anti-Israel rhetoric. This makes the comments off topic, which is even further a violation of the code of conduct, and yet they continue anyway. Read the comments belong and you'll find even more goodies.

Americafirst2008 has been active since December of last year. He has 198 posts at this time, and 20 fans. Most of his posts appear to be anti-Israel in nature, so get ready for a long haul. I should point out that he repeats himself quite often, and I don't copy posts with the same message over and over, so he actually has more here than he seems:

UN Suggestions

The United Nations often tells Israel to do things. Israel doesn't usually do what they ask. Because of this, people on the HuffPost call Israel all sorts of names, most notably "a rogue state." When I wasn't paying attention, apparently the UN became God and anyone who disagreed with them became a heretic. The problem with this kind of thinking has a couple of different aspects:

-There are lots of nations who ignore what the United Nations tells them. The United States is probably the biggest one, but really all you need is to look at members of the Security Council and their buddies (like Sudan). So the point is: If the criteria for being a "rogue nation" is not following non-binding UN resolutions, then the UN is full of them. Israel doing this is not particularly unusual.

-Consider this point, which I thought of a couple of weeks ago: The United Nations has done absolutely nothing for Israel, except that they endorsed a plan that created it (something that would have happened anyway). The UN constantly makes life harder for Israel, rallies the nations of the world against it even when they ordinarily wouldn't, and so forth. But then it expects Israel to listen to it whenever it tells Israel to do something, even if that suggestion is dangerous or even suicidal.

If you put it in a metaphor: Consider an abusive, absent father and his son. The son has been hurt by his father many times over the course of his life, and yet his father still considers him to respect him and give him money for booze. How long does the son have to deal with it before he tells his father to leave him alone? Sure, his father was responsible for giving him life, but how long does that gain him goodwill when he clearly does nothing to deserve it?

The point is: Respect and deference is a two-way street. There is no way that Israel is going to listen to the UN if they think that the UN is a pack of bigots who are only out to destroy them. They simply won't, no matter how loud the Huffington Posters whine. If the UN wants Israel to listen to them, they need to listen to Israel in return. Israel made it clear many times before Cast Lead that the rocket attacks were intolerable and they would use force to stop it, but the UN could care less as long as it was Jews being bombed. But then they expected Israel to just hold everything when they counterattacked just at the UN's say-so. That's no way to run an international organization.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HuffPoWatch User Profile Update: Ray01

This is an update to the HPW User Profile we made for the user "ray01". Ray01 has been banned from the Huffington Post, for "anti-Semitism" according to another user. Another victory for the good guys. Thanks HP for trying to keep such hate away from your website.

Turkish Problems Finished!

Yesterday this article was posted:

The crisis in the relations between Turkey and Israel has ended, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday evening after meeting Israeli Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer in Ankara.
"There has always been an open channel of communication between the countries, and therefore there is no need for a new beginning," said Davutoglu, "We are willing to resume our role as mediators between Israel and Syria."

As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Turkish FM called on the sides to "launch a new era."

Yay! It's like when I was a kid and fighting with my parents and they'd tell me we were going to "erase and start over." Not that I don't hope that things between Israel and Turkey are going to improve. It's just that this whole cycle of break-up and make-up happened pretty quickly, by diplomatic standards, taking only a year. Still, good news is always welcome in that area of the world.

Mythbusting: The Unkillable Terrorist

I hear the argument a lot, more often directed against the insurgents that America is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistn, but it also applies to the Palestinian terrorists that Israel is fighting. The argument goes like this: "Terrorists operate in and among civilians. So when you fight them, and kill civilians, you are only increasing that hatred towards you. You make it easier for the terrorists to recruit more people to their cause, and therefore fighting the terrorists using bombs and guns actually makes their job easier."

Needless to say, I don't entirely agree. Assuming that using violence against a population makes them angry and therefore that they will start supporting your enemy assumes that you are fighting the Incredible Hulk: That as he gets angrier, he gets stronger.

There is a fallacy here in the sense that it assumes that the victims of your attack will react in exactly the way that that the speaker expects them to. Yes, someone who has lost a loved one in a bombing during a war might pick up a gun and try to get revenge on the people who killed him or her. But he might also leave the country, curl up in a ditch and cry, become a priest, join a humanitarian organization, become a worker for peace, start a new life, or kill himself. There is no way to claim that people will react in the way you think they will every single time just because it fits the anti-war argument that you are trying to make.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Example of a Post: Defending Yourself is Racism

"If you choose to support the Palestinian Jews you are saying that the Jewish children are more deserving than the Palestinian children..."
You know, it's really pretty sad that I have to even write a response to this absurd kind of argument, but people make it ALL THE TIME. Although it's usually framed along the lines of "When Israel defends itself, it makes the decision that Israeli lives are more valuable than Palestinian lives. How can they do this? It's abject racism."

This argument is ridiculous! And yet people on the Huffington Post make it with a straight face.
Point One:
-It's the responsibility of all nations to defend their people. The reason why a government is put in power is to protect the people who elected them. The reason why armed forces are created is to protect the nation that created and funded them. A nation defending itself is not racism, and can never be racism. A government has no choice but to favor the lives of its own people over that of the enemy. Especially in the case of Israel defending themselves against Hamas. The option not to fight was already taken out of their hands. To accuse Israel of racism when they decided to fight is either to slander Israel or to show absolutely no understanding of the way that international relations and governments work. Pick one.

Point Two:
-Huffington Posters who make this kind of argument also defend to the death the Palestinian "right" to either defend their people or to "resist" Israeli occupation or to "fight" for justice. Yet they never seem to consider that Israeli children dying so that Palestinians don't have to stand in line at a checkpoint could ever be racist either. Nor would it be, if it were not for the accusation made above against Israel. Again, the Huffington Posters endorse a double standard where when Israel uses force, it's racism. When the Palestinians use force, it's justified. People who make this kind of argument have no sense of moral equivalence. Therefore, they have no credibility.

Modern Warfare 2 Update: Robert Bowling

According to Wired magazine, Robert Bowling is "MW2's community manager"..."the liaison between the players and Infinity Ward". I looked him up, he has a Twitter account and a website, I found his email address and sent him an email asking him about the lack of the flag of Israel in the game. Hopefully he'll respond soon and we'll find out what the deal is. If any of you want to email him with this question and get an answer back before I do, please let us know and we'll post it here.

HuffPoWatch: Holocaust Denial on the HP

I was doing my morning perusal of the Huffington Post this morning and I clicked on this thread, which is about a fashion shoot which took place at a Holocaust memorial and how that caused some controversy. I personally didn't care too much one way or another, but any thread about the Holocaust is sure to bring people out of the woodwork who say things like "Remember, it wasn't just Jews killed in the Holocaust", "why are there only memorials for the Jews killed in the Holocaust", etc. Bad enough, but I never expected to see posts like these two:

Elie Wiesel vs Encyclopaedia Britannica
Wiesel has been one of the most prominent spokesman for the very sizeable group of people known as Holocaust survivors. [According to Norman Finkelstein of the City University of New York in his book The Holocaust Industry published in the year 2000, ‘The Israeli Prime Minister’s office recently put the number of "living Holocaust survivors" at nearly a million’ (p.83)]. Wiesel has chaired the US Holocaust Memorial Council and has been the recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal and Nobel Peace Prize...
Time Magazine, March 18 1985:
‘How had he survived two of the most notorious killing fields [Auschwitz and Buchenwald] of the century? "I will never know" he says. "I was always weak. I never ate. The slightest wind would turn me over. In Buchenwald they sent 10,000 to their deaths every day. I was always in the last hundred near the gate. They stopped. Why?"
Compare this with Encyclopaedia Britannica (1993), under ‘Buchenwald’:
"In World War II it held about 20,000 prisoners.. Although there were no gas chambers, hundreds perished monthly through disease, malnutrition, exhaustion, beatings and executions."
Posted 02:59 AM on 11/23/2009

It's now official - there's been no actual shortage of Holocaust survivors:
'The Israeli Prime Minister's office recently put the number of "living Holocaust survivors" at nearly a million' (extract from The Holocaust Industry by Norman G. Finkelstein of the City University of New York, published by Verso, London and New York, 2000, p.83).

Statement by Richard Lynn, Professor Emeritus
University of Ulster, December 5, 2005:
"I've checked out the six volumes of Churchill's Second World War and the statement is quite correct - not a single mention of Nazi 'gas chambers,' a 'genocide' of the Jews, or of 'six million' Jewish victims of the war.
Eisenhower's Crusade in Europe is a book of 559 pages; Churchill's Second World War totals 4,448 pages; and De Gaulle's three-volume Mémoires de guerre is 2,054 pages.
In this mass of writing, which altogether totals 7,061 pages (not including the introductory parts), published from 1948 to 1959, one will find no mention either of Nazi 'gas chambers,' a 'genocide' of the Jews, or of 'six million' Jewish victims of the war."
Posted 02:53 AM on 11/23/2009

I immediately posted a response to each post and saved the posts for this blog post. When I checked back about fifteen minutes later, however, both posts were gone. So good job to the mods, I didn't even have to flag them as abusive! Although, note the time stamp on these posts. They were posted at about 3 in the morning, and only when I responded to them at 9:00 am were they removed. So they were up all night for anyone to read. On the other hand, we can hardly expect the HP moderators to be up at 4 in the morning checking to make sure no Jews are offended by anything posted. These posts are still a very interesting indicator of some of the minds who frequent the Huffington Post.

First of all, you may not understand why these posts are Holocaust denial. It's OK, we're all here to learn. According to Wikipedia's definition of Holocaust denial, "Holocaust denial begins with the premise that the Holocaust as it is understood by mainstream history did not occur". So when the poster suggests that not quite as many Jews were killed in the Holocaust as we all think, or that Buchenwald did not kill quite as many Jews as recorded, that is still a form of Holocaust denial, even though he does not come right out and say it. His post about Churchill's, De Gaulle's, and Eisenhower's writings, though, does come right out and say it.

I should also point out he cites Norman Finkelstein's book The Holocaust Industry, which I have not read. But if it's cited by a Holocaust denier in order to make the case the Holocaust didn't happen, I would be seriously concerned if I were the Fink. He probably isn't, though.

It's incredible to believe the Holocaust, one of the most well-documented events recorded in modern history, is still be denied by people today, but these posts remind us those people are out there and want to spread their message. We must never forget, no matter what lies these people weave.

HuffPo User Profile: Goefel

Good old Goefel has been on the Huffington Post since January 2009, has only around 300 comments, and 10 fans. The vast majority of his comments has been devoted to attacking Israel, it's supporters (both on the Huffington Post and elsewhere), and making anti-Semitic comments. Though he shies away from the more direct anti-Semitism, he does often reference double standards against Israel, the "hasbara" attack, and attacks on Israel's existence. Of course, there were plenty of hate labels ("apartheid') and insults against anyone who disagreed with him.  Although Goefel has relatively few comments, the majority of them by far were anti-Israel, and practically all of those were hateful or referenced anti-Semitic tropes. Here's the business:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nations of Children

I have recently been observing an autistic child whose family is from a foreign country. Part of their culture is that the youngest child (that's him) is babied. And because he is autistic, this is taken to an extreme. So even though this child is four, his family is still feeding him, and when he first came to our program, he wouldn't eat. Not because he wasn't hungry, but because no one was feeding him and he didn't know any other way to consume food.

Now the child is working on speaking, identifying colors, people, professions, shapes, and so forth. We recently had his parents come in for observation. When the child knew they were there, he refused to speak and wouldn't use the skills that we knew he had. Some of the staff hypothesized that he did this because, if his parents knew that he could do all of these things, they would ask him to do it at home. There were different expectations at home, he is expected to do much less there. Therefore, when he saw his parents, he took that to mean the expectations were lower. This is not to say that he is lazy or unmotivated. It is simple human nature to avoid work, no matter what age or culture you live in. This child may have what we consider a disability, but he can still be pretty crafty when he wants to be.

So maybe I have a bit of a one-track mind, but this got me thinking about the Arab-Israeli conflict and the way that nations can sometimes settle into a pattern. We hear the terms "spoiled children" and "spoiled brats" a lot, and it is usually directed at Israel, at least on the Huffington Post. The talkbackers claim that Israel is only mistreating the Palestinians because America is "spoiling" them, like a parent or a "big brother who protects them from harm." Israel only takes measures to protect itself because it knows America will back it up, and if only that aid would stop Israel would be too scared to fight back and there would be peace. But no, Israel is a big baby that throws tantrums every time some of their people happen to get killed by rockets. Waah.

If you're going to apply that metaphor to both sides, I think it has some merit. But it also applies to the Palestinians as well, on many different levels. And in my opinion, much more so. We'll start by talking about economic dependency. As much as the HPers love to tout that Israel is a "welfare state" because of US aid, Israel's dependency is nothing compared to that of the PA. If all aid to the PA was cut off, what little economy they have would fall apart utterly. The good news is that between aid from other nations and from UNRWA, the Palestinians will continue to receive aid far into the future, and no one expects them to produce anything in return. The Israelis may be getting free guns, but the Palestinians are the child who is still being fed by his parents. You would think the Palestinian leadership would be humiliated by the fact that they can't even feed their own people, but then again they are lining their pockets with that money, so I guess they won't complain too loudly.

Unfortunately, this economic dependence becomes even more troublesome when it comes time for the Palestinians to declare their own state. As we have discussed in the past, the Palestinians stand to lose a lot of money when they form a state and make peace with Israel. It's not in their business interests to make peace. If this doesn't cause you to worry, I don't know what else to tell you.

Example of a Post: "In this light..."

Happy Sunday to everyone. We have another example of a post for your perusal, as well as my thoughts about it.

"Can we ever speak truth to power?
It seems to me that the existence of the State of Israel is and always has been predicated upon the right of one group of people, in this case the Jewish people, to take land and property away from an indigenous population by force. Whether we are talking thousands of years ago, or today, or tomorrow, we are dealing with a situation wherein one group of people believes that they literally have a God-given right to take ownership of a piece of the Earth by any means necessary.
It is impossible to argue with religious or political dogma and expect any outcome other than to agree to disagree, but in any discussion that does not involve religion, it is generally considered illegal and immoral to forcibly take something away from another person. If someone tried to take a piece of land away from a farmer in Montana by force, he would expect to be met with furious armed resistance. So, why should attempted robbery in Palestine be considered any differently than attempted robbery in Montana, Mississippi, or anywhere else on Earth?
It is in this light that we need to look at was been happening in Palestine for the last 100+ years, since the inception and promulgation of the most recent policy called "Zionism", the right of Jewish people to the land that is the center of so much suffering and conflict."

1. As we all know, but this poster does not, the Jews and the Arabs were both the indigenous population at the time of the Partition. Most of the Arab population of Palestine had moved there less than 100 years ago (around 1880-1900) and most of the Jewish population followed in 1900-1930s. But there were indigenous Jews and Arabs both living in Palestine "since time immemorial". That attempt to portray the Palestinian Arabs as the sole inhabitants of the land until the evil Jews came in and kicked them out is completely false.

2. Zionism is a mostly secular movement. It has less to do with God and more to do with a historic connection to the land. Religion was certainly a motivating factor for the movement, but it is not what the movement based it's claim on. On the other hand, the Muslim religion states that all land once owned by Muslims belongs to them forever (IIRC). Palestine is no different. Just look at the Muslim clerics preaching "death to Israel" from the pulpit and ask yourself which religion is really to blame for this conflict.

3. First of all, no one was going to force anything away from anyone in 1948. The Arabs living in Israel could continue living their lives like nothing had changed. Only after those very Arabs rose up and attacked the Jews did the Jews fight back and sometimes force them out. Second, the "Montana farmer" example is flawed on two levels: the land did not belong to the Palestinians, so they had no right to defend it with deadly force, and therefore no one was taking "their land" away from them. Attempted robbery is only a crime when you are stealing someone's property, not something they think should be their property.

HuffPoWatch: Israel's Enemy From Within.

Remember that article about the craaazy settlers? Well after a couple of days on the Huffington Post, it attracted hatred like flies to fly paper. At this point it is approaching 200 posts, but maybe by the time this goes up on Sunday things will have changed significantly. Anyway, the hatred on the HP talkbacks were not limited to just against the settlers. In the first three comments, we had our first blatantly anti-Semitic comment:

Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination."

As I discussed here, under the definition of anti-Semitism is the accusation that Israel is a "racist endeavor," because it denies the Jews the right of self-determination. Here, the user claims that Jewish self-determination and nationalism (aka Zionism) is racism. This is discriminatory, because it implies that only Jews are unworthy of those basic human rights of determination and statehood. And because it is discriminatory against Jews, it is anti-Semitic.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Daily HuffPo: 11/20/09

There's been quite a few articles published on the Huffington Post centered on Arab-Israeli stuff, and I lack the time at the moment to go through them all. It's particularly ironic seeing as how the two news stories I published yesterday are still missing in actions. Here's a quick list:

We got an article by David Sussa about Khaled Abu Tomeah, who I wrote about yesterday. It's very moderate, and has received only two comments.
MJ Rosenberg is back with another anti-Israel article. This time, he places the fault of the entire conflict at the foot of AIPAC and the "Israel lobby," including "Israel-firsters" and "neo-cons" in Washington. You really have to read it to believe it.
Jamal Dajani wrote something about the goings on of the peace process, though this time it doesn't have much of a political message. I include it to show that the HuffPo can't get enough I-P related editorials.
Daoud Kuttub published a piece about how the Palestinians should declare statehood unilaterally to join the crowd at the HP, only this time he calls it "an inevitability."
Azeem Ibrahim wrote an Iran-related article, claiming that Israel is safer than we think. His logic is that Iran won't launch a full exchange because of MAD, but admits that the danger of them transferring nukes to H&H and others remains. Awesome.
And later that evening Ray Hanania wrote an article with his standpoint on what should happen. It's good, fair and moderate. But at this point the fixation that the HP has with Israel/Palestinians is starting to become clear. How many articles do we really need? I might write with more detail about this phenomenon later.

The US-Palestinian Relationship

There's already been a lot that has been written about the US-Israel relationship. How strong is it, what is it based on, where is it going, and so forth. I'm not going to contribute to that any more, as it seems like you have three different opinions for every two people speaking about the subject. Instead, I'm going to talk about the relationship between the United States and the Palestinians.

On the face of it, the United States would appear to be one of the best friends that the Palestinians have. They are the highest single donor of money to UNRWA (and at one point accounted for 75% of its total budget), and they give millions more in private donations (203 million in 2007). The United States also pressures Israel into making concessions, which make the lives of Palestinians easier, even when Israel was unwilling to do so on their own. The US has also not asked for anything in return from the Palestinians, though its aid to Israel often comes with strings attached.

What Does "Pro-Palestinian" Really Mean?

I've only recently been introduced to the writings of Khaled Abu Tomeah. He is a Palestinian who rejected the ideology of his brethen and has been writing for years now, spreading a message of peace and rationality. Naturally, more than a few of his fellow Palestinians want him dead for it.

In this article, he speaks about the damage that so-called "pro-Palestinian" activists are doing, when they are in reality anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, or anti-Semitic. You can find plenty of both in the real world, as well as on the Internet, where Matt and I do our research. I am reprinting the article here:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

HuffPoWatch User Profile: MarcusT

UPDATE: This user has now been banned from the Huffington Post.

We have one of the worst offenders this evening on HuffPoWatch, MarcusT. Marcus has been a member of the HP since February 2008, has 61 fans and 4873 posts. Zach and I have slogged through 3000+ of them to bring you the worst of his statements. I encourage you when you read these posts to click on the link above each one, a lot of them are context dependent, in that they are responses to posts or are sarcastic. I tried to mark the sarcastic ones when I could.

The user has the following techniques: frequent spamming of anti-Israel articles or phrases (like quotes from Ben-Gurion), insulting or belittling pro-Israel posters, calling for Israel's destruction through advocacy of the one-state solution, attacking Israel in general (its people, its right to exist, its actions), and of course, a few anti-Semitic statements thrown in for good measure. There's a heck of a lot of posts, I didn't count how many, and we'll be adding more as he is still an active user. Check out these posts, but I don't recommend reading them all at once. They might make you sick.

News the HP Doesn't Cover

The trouble with reading only the Huffington Post is that for some reason they don't cover a lot of important news stories, especially where the Middle East is concerned. On some level, I don't blame them, as it is impossible to cover everything that is going on. The trouble is that their decisions about where to grant priority are unfathomable. Here are a couple examples of news stories that I read today:

A Hamas-linked charity is offering a million dollars to any Israeli Arab who abducts an IDF soldier. That's right. The people are allegedly "starving," but the charities would rather use their resources convincing Israeli Arabs to betray the only country that grants them freedoms their fellow Arabs can only dream about.

Remember that Saudi campaign against Yeminite rebels, that I posted about on November 5th? Well, it entered its second week yesterday. Here's what's been going on while you were out:
-The Saudis set up a six mile "kill zone" on Yemeni land. In other words, they are "occupying" it, though the Yemeni government is refusing to cooperate with their actions.
-The Saudis are blockading Yemen's southern coast, in an effort "to keep fresh supplies" out of the hands of the rebels.
-Yemen has barred journalists from the region, so no reports of casualties are coming out.
-The rebels attacked a Saudi military base across the border with rockets. At least they targeted the military.
-1,400 Saudis and 175,000 Yemenis have been displaced.

But the Huffington Post decided that neither of these stories were worthy of mention. They decided instead to publish today one more article about those craaazy Jewish settlers, and placed it on the front page of the World section. Because apparently you can never have too many anti-settler articles.

Like I said, I don't think the Huffington Post has an anti-Israel agenda, hates Jews, or anything of that sort. But when there is such a strange dichotomy as we can see here, I'm not sure what to think.

An Irony of History

If you haven't already heard of the book "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East," then I highly suggest that you check it out. There's lots of information in there that mainstream news will not cover, and it doesn't always rule in favor of Israel (though it does agree on the big stuff). One of the stories from within it is the following quotation:

"To my mind, the Zionist are now the key of the situation-the problem is, how are they to be satisfied? With 'Great Jewry' against us there is no possible chance of getting the thing thro'- it means optimisim in Berlin, dumps in London, unease in Paris, resistance to last ditch in C'nople [Constantinople], dissension in Cairo, Arabs all squabbling among themselves. As Shakespeare says, 'Untune that string and mark what discord follows."
It was written by Sir Mark Sykes, the chief British diplomatic negotiator, and he wrote it in March 18, 1916. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term 'Great Jewry,' it's a reference to the myth of Jewish global domination. In other words, Sykes believed that if the British didn't grant the Jews the state that they wanted, they would respond by making things impossible for the British across the world.

How ironic that one of the most endearing forms of anti-Semitism (as well as one of the beliefs most referenced on the Huffington Post) would have contributed to Israel's creation in this way. To open up another can of philosophical worms, if it weren't for anti-Semitism, would Israel have ever been created?

Settlement Perspective

Another argument made by the anti-Israel posters on the Huffington Post is essentially this: "The Israeli settlements are the worst thing ever. They are comparable to some of the worst actions in the world today, they are a legitimate cause of Palestinian violence, Israel is therefore a racist violent oppressor state, etc." These posters honestly believe the settlements are one of the worst problems in the world today. So, in an effort to put the building of settlements into context, I have made the following list. It's a list of world conflicts, past and present, by number of civilians killed and whether or not those deaths were intentional, starting with the most deaths at the top. I used no outside sources, relying on so-called "common knowledge" but I'm pretty sure I'm right. If there are any drastic errors, let me know.

1. Genocide in Darfur/Holocaust. Millions of civilians killed, intentionally.

2. Civil War in the Democratic Republic of the Congo/World War II. Millions of civilians killed, unintentionally.

3. War in Iraq. Thousands (if not millions) of civilians killed, unintentionally.

4. Second Intifada. Hundreds of civilians killed, intentionally.

5. Operation Cast Lead. Hundreds of civilians killed, unintentionally.

6. Palestinian suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Dozens of civilians killed, intentionally.

7. Israel fighting Palestinian terror. Dozens of civilians killed, unintentionally.

8. Settlers burn orchards, beat Palestinians. No civilians killed, civilians injured, intentionally.

9. Settlers build houses. No civilians killed or injured.

In this context, isn't it abundantly clear the settlers are nowhere near the kind of crimes that exist elsewhere in the world? Where is the HPers' sense of perspective?

Here are some examples of posts if you think I'm exaggerating.

A great column. We should investigate these "charities". Supporting extremist settlers is immoral. These people are part of the attempt to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homeland. Many of the extremist "settlers" are engaged in terrible crimes against the Palestinians. These crimes include destruction of property and physical attacks on Palestinians.

If a Palestinian charity supported individuals and groups of Palestinians engaged in similar violence, the organizers of the charity would probably be brought up on criminal charges.

If they're [pro-Israel posters] secular and moderate, why would they support violent religious extremism [settlers]?

Thurday Evening Political Cartoon

I wish I could draw, because I have lots of great ideas for political cartoons. Here's one I found on a Facebook group. It's really harsh,  but I think it makes the point pretty well:

I kind of wish the HPers would be able to read this and stop for a minute and think about what they are doing. If I were another sort of internet user I might spam the threads with the link, but that would be stooping to their level. Longer post to follow.

Interview with a "Terrorist"

A while ago on the Huffington Post, the blogger Sharmine Narwani posted an interviewwith two leaders, Usama Hamdan from Hamas and Ammar Mousawi from Hezbollah. I found these statements to be extremely illuminated and in this post we'll be examining the words of these leaders. We should keep in mind two things: first, these leaders are the foreign representatives of these organizations and second, even when they were in the position to lie unchallenged, they were still unable to make reconciliatory statements, as we'll see below. Let's begin:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Role of the Settlements

There is a lot that has been said, will be said, and should be said about the settlements. And I am not going to talk about everything I have to say on the subject here and now.

Let me preface by saying that if I had a magic wand Power Ring and could pick the settlements up and move them to Israel, I would definitely do so. Because on many levels they cause more trouble than they are worth. However, they are worth something, and they do play a vital role in solving the conflict. Now, to a HPer that might sound crazy. The settlements are illegal, they take "Palestinian land," they inflame tensions even further, and so forth. All of which will be discussed in due time. For now, however, hear this out.

Huffington Posters like to rail against the Israeli leadership for building the settlements and changing the "facts on the ground." And I'll be the first to agree that changing those facts while negotiating (though they are not constantly negotiating) is not the best move. However, consider that without the settlements nothing would change.

Imagine this scenario: There are no settlements, but the occupation stays as it was since June 1967. The two sides are negotiating not over land, but this time over another Palestinian demand: The "right" of return. It goes down like this:

PA: Grant us the right of return!
Israel: No.
PA: (launches suicide bomber campaign)
Israel: (launchers counter attack)

And the cycle repeats. The Palestinians keep making demands, Israel says no, and the violence continues. The only thing that changes is that people get killed,  but other than that the politico-social map doesn't change at all. The Palestinians will no doubt suffer more, but the Palestinian leadership has already shown that they don't care about that. Meanwhile, the Israelis will not change their position on the "right" of return, in fact it is the one demand they cannot grant. Further, no left-wing government will stay in power if the Palestinians try to force them into making concessions. So the cycle repeats: Demands, violence. More demands, more violence.

However, the reality is that the settlements do exist. Now, whenever negotiations fall through, the settlements expand more. The longer the Palestinians make ridiculous demands, the less land they will have available for their future state. Without the settlements and their constant threat of expansion, the Palestinian leadership would have no incentive at all to make peace quickly. They would instead wait forever, crying to the world about how much they are suffering, and launch terrorist attacks against the Israelis, trying to bully them into concessions.

The settlements play a critical role: They are in fact the only incentive for the Palestinians to negotiate quickly, and to make concessions for their state. Without the settlements, nothing would change.

Example of a Post: "Morally Responsible"

We have another example of an HP post here, which is a very interesting one. It's all about how Americans should feel responsible for Israel and therefore should stop Israel from doing its thing.

"We are morally responsible for the actions of Israel because when Israel drops those bombs that they are so fond of on the heads of women and children in Gaza, they don't say 'Made in Israel' they say 'Made in the USA'. We gave you these weapons, we are responsible for the actions of Israel.
When our senators, representatives and mayors of major cities (Bloomberg) go pay homage to Israel, this empowers Israel to continue their inhumane treatment. The people of America elected these officials to office. We are responsible for the actions of Israel.
When UN Resolutions and constructive suggestions to boycott and sanction Israel are presented and we block these resolutions, we are responsible for the actions of Israel.
When former NYC residents arrive in Israel and decide they want to build a house on contested land, we allow them to travel freely to and from Israel, even though they are criminals. We are responsible for the actions of Israel.
When Arabs decide that their only way to get out attention is to plough planes into our skycrapers because nothing else works, we are responsible for their actions because we are responsible for the actions of Israel.
Do you understand now? Your attempts to detract from the wrongs of Israel make not a bit of difference to Americans because we have supported your murder and oppression of the indigenous people of Palestine for far too long. We don't want this on our National Conscience anymore."

1. US citizens are "morally responsible" for the actions of Israel because Israel uses US made weapons. First of all, the US sells weapons to lots of countries, not just Israel. According to this article, the main recipients of US weapons are China, Egypt, and India! Are we morally responsible for China's oppression of the Urghurs? Are we morally responsible for Egypt's capture and exile of gay men? Are we morally responsible for everything India does with our weapons? This user doesn't seem to think so. Only Israel, for some reason, is doing such terrible things that the US is suddenly responsible for its action.
In the USA, we don't hold gun companies responsible for people killed by the guns they make. You can argue about whether or not that's a good thing, but the point is that's a precedent. The same precedent should be applied to Israel. Israel buys our weapons and does what they want with them. The argument that we made them and are therefore responsible for what's done with them does not hold any water.

2. And then, because our senators and representatives visit Israel, that somehow translates into being A-OK with Israel's "inhumane treatment". Newsflash for this poster: Obama bowed to the Saudi king, but he probably doesn't think it's a great thing that women in Saudi Arabia aren't allowed to leave the house (or maybe he does, I dunno). The point is, you can visit other places and respect the people there without supporting every single thing they do.

3. OMG allowing people to move to Israel! What's wrong with us?

4. September 11th was a "cry for help" from the Arabs because we're not paying enough attention to them. What a load of garbage. Osama bin Laden said himself the 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with Israel, and the fact is America pays lots of attention to the Arabs. It's just not the unadulterated support this poster apparently wants.

5. It's fascinating that you don't want Israel's "murder and oppression" on your conscience, but by supporting the Palestinians you apparently don't mind having their "murder and oppression" on your conscience. By the way, it seems pretty presumptuous of you to speak for all of America. I, for instance, don't feel bad supporting Israel at all.

HuffPoWatch: Israel Angers US With West Bank Construction

It's yet another thread about those evil settlements and the HP crowd are all over it! We got the usual array of complaints: Israel is stealing land, Israel has no respect for the United States, Israel controls the United States, Israel doesn't want peace, blah, blah, blah. I will say that the moderators have been doing a good job responding to posts I flag as abusive, already two of them are gone that I know of and hopefully more will go in time. So good job moderators! And now, without further adue, the posts and my comments:


If you're like me and have a dichotomy of interests in both video games and the Arab-Israeli conflict, then I can't recommend enough that you check out this game called "Peacemaker." The game itself costs about $20 to buy, but you can play a free demo of it off the website

Basically, the game lets you play as either the Prime Minister of Israel or the President of the Palestinian Authority. On your turn, you can take certain actions in certain places. The Israelis can release prisoners, shoot a missile at a terrorist's home (not as effective as it sounds), freeze settlements, deploy police and army,
etc. The Palestinians can crack down on local terror groups, make appeals to the UN, or release prisoners of their own (I think). The tricky part is that you have to keep your own people, your opponents people, and the UN happy, or at least not angry. If you mess up too badly, the Israeli government votes you out, a Third Intifada starts, or the Palestinians drag you out to the street and kill you. Any way, you lose. To win, you need to implement a two-state solution, which for the Palestinians also means declaring your own state. Take too
long with that, and your people will be unhappy.

Even if you only play the demo you will find, as I found, that it's really *really* hard. No matter which action you take someone will be unhappy, so you basically have to run a massive balancing act. Military force alone won't work (I tried that) nor will simply cracking down on the terror groups (I tried that too). No matter which side of the conflict you will endorse, you will definitely get a better understanding of the difficulties and intricacies of the situation. And I know that it made me very happy that I wasn't leading either side. I think I would go crazy under the pressure.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Operant Conditioning and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

There's an accepted concept in psychology known as operant conditioning, drawing on the works of B.F. Skinner and Edward Thorndike. You can read about it more detail here, but if I might simply put it into one line: "When an action is positively reinforced reinforced, it will continue to be performed. When it is negatively reinforced, it will be less likely to be performed."
In other words, when people are rewarded for their actions, they will continue to take that action. When they are punished for it, they will not. And this is something that applies to all people and animals, whether we like it or not. Sometimes we can overcome it, but it's difficult to do, as all of us are susceptible to it. As with all things, this can be applied to the Arab-Israeli conflict. And unfortunately, it works for both sides, and it works both for and against peace. Here are some examples.

The Israelis:
Against Peace: Assuming that the key to peace is Israeli concessions (at least on some level), operant conditioning has trained them to resist making concessions. When Israel withdrew from the territories during the Oslo Accords, it led to the second intifada. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, it led to an increase in rocket attacks.
You might claim that there were other factors to outbreaks of Palestinian violence, but Israelis probably won't see it that way. They see that concessions lead to pain, and will associate the two in their mind. They are going to be less likely to give unilateral concessions in the future, and we are seeing that now with Netanyahu's administration. The Palestinians might claim that Israel's government is just "hardline," "extremist," and "warmongering," but the reality is that Israelis have been conditioned by the Palestinians to take this point of view.

Towards Peace: On the other hand, the Israelis have also been conditioned that sometimes concessions do work. They have also found (in their peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt) that when their neighbors sign a peace treaty, they will stick to it. The belief that all Arabs hate Israel and will never make peace (if it ever truly existed) is being conditioned out by the cooperation of Egypt and Jordan.

Example of a Post: "The Rabbi Said So"

A disturbing trend that has begun on the Huffington Post is posts similar to the one below:

The Rabbi says it's ok:

"Rabbi Yitzhak Shapiro, who heads the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in the Yitzhar settlement, wrote in his book "The King's Torah" that even babies and children can be killed if they pose a threat to the nation. "
Posted 02:46 AM on 11/14/2009

There are many other posts of this nature that I don't feel like copying to this post, but trust me, they are out there.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Anti-Semitism on the Huffington Post Master List

Update: This is no longer being updated, but we're keeping it around as a relic of a bygone era. So it goes.

Before Matt and I started this blog, we begin keeping a list of all the anti-Semitic comments we could find on the Huffington Post. This post will be where we keep them, and will remain in a sidebar for future reference. It will also be updated as new material eventually becomes available.
This includes it all: False comparisons, accusations of a "Zionist occupied government," and straight up insults. It is worth noting that quite a few of these posts have been deleted, and some of the people who wrote them have been banned. However, just the fact that we were able to see them and record them is a prime example of how lackadaisical the Huffington Post moderation system is. Without further ado, let's get to it:

HuffPoWatch: Israeli Troops Kill Palestinian Along Gaza Border

Over the weekend, the Huffington Post published this article, complete with a misleading headline that implies the Palestinian was standing there minding his own business. The actual information shows that there was (as usual) a bit of a controversy about exactly what happened. The IDF claims that the Palestinians involved were trying to plant an explosive device on the fence. The Palestinians claim they were bird hunting. But in the minds of the Huffington Posters, as determined by the fully moderated talkback thread, the facts were already determined as soon as the article was written: Evil Israelis killed innocent Palestinians in cold blood. There was also a decent amount of personal attacks and insults against pro-Israel posters.

Dry Bones on Cognitive Dissonance

Richard Landes posted this very pointed Dry Bones cartoon over on his blog "The Augean Stables."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Words We Use

Referring to a Jew as a "Nazi" is like referring to a black person as a "n-word."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Modern Warfare 2 Snubs Israel

I recently purchased a copy of the highly-anticipated video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 produced by video game company Infinity Ward under overall developer Activision and I must say that I was not disappointed. The multiplayer alone has caught my attention for hours of gameplay, and I am looking forward to seeing more of what the game has to offer. However, the subject of this post is not about what is included in Modern Warfare 2, but rather what is not included.

In the multiplayer part of the game, there is quite a few options for customization. You can change clan tags, emblems, and so forth. But what makes MW2 different is that there are also titles that a player can add over his or her name. Most of them are silly gamer titles like "Sureshot" and "Pyromaniac," and you can read about them here. For example:

What is of interest to us, however, is that included in these possible titles are a simple flag decal, without writing. There are around 30 countries available to picked this way, going all the way from Brazil to America to Britain to Denmark to China to Australia and New Zealand. Saudi Arabia and Iran were even possibilities. The Israeli flag, however, is pointedly not included. You can read a complete list of the flags available here.

I for one would like to know why Israel was excluded. The in-game explanation is that the characters play as part of Task Force 141, which allegedly is a multinational military force. Apparently Israel, despite having the fourth largest military as well as some of the best special forces in the world, was left out. Within the context of the game world, this flat out doesn't make sense. Even Tom Clancy knew that Israel would be included in any fictional multinational force that was fighting non-state actors.

If you would like even more evidence that Israel's exclusion was intentional and not an oversight, consider that Modern Warfare 2 lets the player use Israeli-made weapons, including the TAR-21 assault rifle, the Uzi submachine gun, and of course the ubiquitous Desert Eagle. Apparently Infinity Ward was willing to borrow Israel's toys, yet leave them out of the game itself.

Perhaps Infinity Ward didn't want to deal with the controversy of including Israel as part of their fictional army? Well, it's a little bit late to avoid controversy. Modern Warfare 2 has been taking flak for weeks now because of their decision to include a level in which the player, working undercover as part of a terrorist cell, is forced to shoot innocent civilians in an airport. Infinity Ward knew this was going to cause problems, so I was asked when I first booted up the game if I wanted the option of skipping the level in question. Compared to something like that, including Israel hardly seems like much of a sacrifice.

Let's be clear: I'm not accusing Infinity Ward, Activision, or the other MW2 developers of being biased against Israel. But this blatant exclusion of Israel, especially considering the use of Israeli weapons, surely smells like discrimination to me. I intend to contact Infinity Ward and ask them why they made this decision, and also tell them that I would be willing to pay extra money if an Israeli flag emblem was included in a future expansion pack or downloadable content. I suggest that you write them and inquire as well.

The best way is to go right to the overall developer, Activision, and write them seeking an explanation. Here is the link. Hopefully writing to that will give us an answer.

If you feel like writing Infinity Ward a letter, here's the address:

Infinity Ward
15821 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 590
Encino, California

Activision's Corporate Headquarters phone number (310) 255-2000

I'll probably post a copy of my letter to Activision tomorrow.

UPDATE: Matt has found a new contact person named Robert Bowling. Pay him a visit too if you get the chance.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mythbusting: On Palestinian Land

If you debate the Arab-Israeli conflict for long enough, whether on the Internet or in person, you will eventually come to hear this argument. Some people may take longer to break it out than others, but eventually they all get there:

"Of course the Palestinians are justified in using terror! The Israelis are on their land!"
"Israel is occupying Palestinian land. The Palestinians are within their rights to resist that occupation."
"You would fight back if someone took your land."
"All Israel needs to do is get off the Palestinians' land and they will make peace."
"How can you make peace with someone when they steal more of your land every day?"
"How would you like it if I came into your house and kicked you out of it?"
"The settlers are stealing the Palestinians' land. This is theft and Israel should stop them immediately. If not the Palestinians should take justice into their own hands."
"Israel exists on stolen land, therefore it should be dismantled."
"Israel stole the Palestinians' land, of course they are going to fight back! And they should be compensated for that loss, in the name of justice."

All of these arguments have one thing in common: They are all built upon the foundation that "Palestinian land" exists and Israel is infringing upon it in one way or another. However, the truth is that there is no such thing as "Palestinian land" in the way that the anti-Israel posters use the term. Not now, and not ever. I will go on to explain why.

An Eye-Opening Comment

The other day Matt and I had a brief conversation with a local HuffPo blogger named Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, in his article comparing Israel's fence to the Berlin Wall. He also referred to the security fence as an "apartheid wall" in his headline so I think that should give you an idea right off the bat of where his politics are coming from. Anyway, Matt challenged him by pointing out that the Palestinians were suicide bombing en masse before the fence came up, and here was Mr. Shihab-Eldin's response:
"Lets not play the number game. This isn't about whether Israelis killed more Palestinians or vice versa.
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and the right to live. That is the only way to answer your question."
 This is a perfect example of what the folks over at Little Green Footballs might call "moonbat logic." A quick one-line definition of that term is: "An extreme leftist, throwing aside logic for political convenience." I think that is what we are saying here with Mr. Shihab-Eldin.

You see, to the leftist, the only thing that matter is human rights. Of course, human rights are very hard to quantify, legalize, or break down into real world terms. So what happens is that the leftist hijacks the terms of "human rights" to further an agenda, which naturally leads to hypocrisy, as all humans have "human rights" and the two terms often contradict each other.

Let's take a look at this current example: The fence saves lives. Mr. Shihab-Eldin can't dispute this, because it's very difficult to defend a position that calls for the dismantling of a life-saving device. It would be like if he writing a column against seatbelts, it leads to an uphill battle. So what he does instead is switch to the language of "human rights." Yeah, the fence might save lives, but it also violates Palestinian "rights" and so therefore it should be removed immediately. In fact, this is true with everything that violates Palestinian "rights." It should be dismantled immediately without argument, and anyone who disagrees should be labeled as "against human rights" and ridiculed.

The problem with this (as Matt and I quickly pointed out), was that the Israelis have human rights too. If the Palestinians are going to use the loss of the fence as a launching pad for their own efforts to infringe on Israeli human rights, then isn't that a closed argument for the fence's continued existence? If you take the language of human rights out of it, it makes it even more obviously: The fence saves lives, so it remains. It would be like claiming that seat belts shouldn't be required because it's a violation of my human rights to sit uncomfortably while driving.

And this is where the language of human rights breaks down. Because human rights cannot be quantified, when you have two human rights violations that contradict each other (Israeli right to life versus Palestinian right to freedom of movement), you have an argument that quickly goes nowhere. Because there is no overall authority that dictates which human rights take priority in a conflict. All you can do is shout at each other about who's rights are more important. One would think that the right to human life would supersede all of the others, but apparantly Mr. Shihab-Eldin and his cheering squad on the Huffington Post would disagree.

Example of a Post

Quick post today, I wanted to highlight an example conversation on the Huffington Post. In this article (a news piece about one of the firefights that occur daily along the Israel-Gaza border), one user posted the following quote:

"One was slightly wounded and taken to the hospital, and the other three were taken into Israel by Israeli troops, he said.
The military later returned the body of one of the men to the hospital, he added. The official did not identify the deceased, describing the body as that of a man his 20s."
I am, horribly, reminded of reports of wounded Palestinians being taken by Israeli and their dead bodies returned minus various vital organs. I trust this is not the case in the present instance." [emphasis added by me]

Not only are those reports completely fabrications, but there is no reason to bring them up in this context other than to attack Israel. I challenged "Theou" with a post of my own:

" "I am, horribly, reminded of reports of wounded Palestinians being taken by Israeli and their dead bodies returned minus various vital organs."

Reports that have absolutely no basis in reality. I would appreciate it if you ceased spreading libelous rumors like that one."

I challenged the accuracy of his post and asked him to cease. An appropriate course of action for Theou or other posters would be to provide evidence of his original point (which we know to be impossible) or to admit he is in error.  I waited for such posts to arrive.

However, they did not arrive. Instead, thanks to a new function on the Huffington Post, I could see the responses to my post even before (or if ever) they cleared moderation. These posts, even if they do not end up being published, are good examples of the beliefs of some of the HPers.

"Wouldn't be beyond a country that systematically starves 1.5 million people for this long to also harvest their organs. Either "Izzyrael" has the worst health care in the world or there's more to be explained."
replied Nov 13, 2009 at 15:11:48 by persianadvocate
[note this user's name]

"Libelous rumors....­.baaawaaah­aaaahaaaa, "Izraylis" excel in the art of that!"
replied Nov 13, 2009 at 15:03:14 by skialethia

"You'd know all about "hav(ing) no basis in reality," wouldn't you? That could probably be your epitaph."
replied Nov 13, 2009 at 14:41:23 by SpaghettyIrish

"Might want to discuss that with the news sources that reported it, not someone who repeats it. Until they've retracted it, people will likely continue to believe that there's some truth to it.

And anyways, what are you going to do? Sue Theou?"
replied Nov 13, 2009 at 14:01:41 by gbrooks

Ad hominem attacks, denial of Theou's responsibility for posting lies, and twisting logic to suggest Theou might be right all along. So far, only "skialethia"'s post has gone through, but if that one is cleared by moderation, it's hard to believe the rest won't make it through either. Just another example of the civil discourse present on the Huffington Post.

All of the posts described above went through, as well as another by "LincolnParkChicago" that basically said, "no there's enough evidence to warrant an investigation, something fishy is happening" and linked to a Counterpunch article. I'm not going to link to that article, but it was based entirely on the anecdotal evidence of individual Israelis participating in organ trafficking and a hearsay book by some guy. Luckily, all of those posts except "gbrooks"'s above were eventually removed by the moderation, so hooray! The original Theou post remains unfortunately, but since my post calling him out on it remains I think it counts as a victory.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Letter to the Huffington Post

To the Huffington Post:

I have been a longtime reader and fan of yours, but I wanted to bring something to your attention. It is my understanding that as a news site, you are responsible for maintaining impartiality at least on some level. However, I feel that on a number of different topics, a "pushing" of a certain agenda has become apparent. I refer to the number and subjects of the op-ed pieces that are published in your opinion section.

The first topic I am referring to is a recent one. As the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall was observed this week, you published a number of articles comparing Israel's security barrier to the Berlin Wall. These include:

Queen Rania of Jordan, published November 9th entitled: "Another Divisive Wall,"
Then another article on the same day by Robert Naiman: "Mr. Netanyahu, Tear Down This Wall."
On the 10th you published another piece by Kevin Coval, "The Wall: 20 Years After Berlin."
And finally, on the night of the 11th (yesterday), you published yet another article by Ahmed Shihab-Eldin: "Celebrating Berlin While Enabling Israel's Apartheid Wall."

I also noticed that you did not publish even one article presenting "the other side of the story," explaining how making this comparison is fallacious.

HuffPoWatch: Abbas Resists U.S. Pressure to Resume Peace Talks

Well, the title of this latest article says it all. Abbas refused to resume talks with Netanyahu, clinging to his demand for a complete freeze on the settlements before he would come to the table. Whether you feel like this is a legitimate demand or not, who would come forward and defend someone who refuses to talk? As usual, the Huffington Post came forward to defend Abbas' intransigence. And as usual, it's Israel's fault that he won't negotiate. Somehow I think if it was Netanyahu refusing to resume peace talks, the HuffPosters would not be blaming the Palestinians. Short post today, so no cut:

"He is sick of being stabbed in the back."

"don't blame him one bit . . . I agree with him . . israel must stop building illegal settlements before the peace talks can resume . . . . the continued building of illegal settlements undermines the peace process"

"pressure for peace talks or bullying to concede to Isre@l's wishes?"

"I have to congratulate Abbas on's 100% clear that Israel is NOT interested in negotiations and the US is NOT an honest broker
the US wants phony talks to distract attention from the screw up they've gotten themselves in in Afghanistan"

"Good for him. Seems far too often Israel only wants to talk peace when world opinion begins shifting too far away from them, which gives them time to steal more land."

"What an opportunity. An opportunity to talk about a process that might lead to talks about a peace process that might lead to peace if the Palestinians let the Israelis have their way on every issue.
White bigots in the 1930s deep south gave blacks more 'rights' than Israel gives the Palestinians."
"I don't blame him. Hillary's b.s. praise for Israel's "restraint" for only building 3000 settlement homes in the occupied zone was really the final straw. Why should he bother if we're (United States) merely going to praise the oppressor for merely pushing in the knife and refraining from pushing in and twisting the knife?"

"[To a pro-Israel poster] Shed your persecution complex and you might gain a little credibility.
btw, Where is the mysterious arms ship Israel captured and says is full of "civilian specific" arms for Hizbollah? You know, the box and crates that the ships crew says were not opened and inspected on the there would be witnesses to what if anything was actually in the boxes?
The Israeli propaganda Factory has gone strangely silent.....for supposedly catching the "enemy" red-handed."