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February 29, 2008

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 29, 2008 Solution From page 1A it on the table. The Arabs had extended the hand of peace. but now they faced "unprec- edented Israeli obstinacy," Arab League Secretary-Gen- eral Amr Moussa declared. Moderate Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan had hoped that a two- state solution, followed by a general Arab accommodation with Israel. would weaken the radicals and pave the way for regional stability. But concern is growing that with the Gaza Strip controlled by the radical Hamas and the West Bank dotted with Jewish settle- ments, any future Palestinian state would be truncated and unviable - and as such a source of friction rather than a guarantor of stability. Egypt, which-shares a border with Gaza, and Jor- dan which borders on the West Bank, are particularly worried. Both still see the two-state solution as a major strategic interest, but are growing more skeptical over the chances of achieving it. The Egyptians, in particu- lar. were jolted by the sight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians streaming over the Gaza border into Egyptian territory with the collapse of the Rafah border fence last month. They were distressed as well to hear some Israelis suggest that Egypt take responsibility for Gaza, as ithad until the Israeli occupation in 1967. In Jordan, the fear is that if a moderate Palestinian state is not established soon. Hamas radicals will gain control of the West Bank and pose a direct threat to the Hashemite Kingdom. So when Egypt and Jordan warn that the chances for a two- state solution are eroding, it is at least partly to press Israel to move more quickly toward one. The Saudi andArab League warnings could be seen in this light, too: The growing skepticism about the two- state option is very real. For a full-fledged Palestin- ian state, including the West Bank and Gaza, to emerge, first there would have to be an accommodation between Pal- estinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' moderate Fatah movement and the Iranian-backed Hamas. This is the thrust of much behind-the-scenes Saudi. Egyptian and Jordanian diplomacy. Indeed. they re- portedly are pressing Hamas to agree to cede its control of Gaza at the upcoming Arab League summit. But they are well aware that the chances of that happening are extremely low given Iran's unyielding opposition to anything that might help the moderate camp. Worse for the two-state option: Many Palestinian intellectuals, including some close to Abbas, are question- ing its merits. In a seminal op-ed in the British Guard- ian newspaper, Oxford-based scholar Ahmad Samih Kha- lidi--sometimes referred to as "Abbas' brain" argued. "Today, the Palestinian state is largely a punitive construct devised by the Palestinians' worst historical enemies. Israel and its implacable ally, the U.S. The intention behind the state today is to constrain Palestinian aspirations ter- ritorially, to force them to give up on their moral rights, renege on their history and submit to Israel's dictates on fundamental issues of sovereignty. "The temptation," Khalidi added later, "is to say thanks but no thanks." Instead, Khalidi warned that the Palestinians could "evoke [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert's worst night- mare," and go for a single state. "a genuine partnership in sharing the land" on the basis of one man, one vote. Other Palestinians are suggesting t'hat barring major progress toward viable statehood by December. the PalestinianAuthority should dissolve itself and hand the keys back to the Israeli military government. The struggle then would not be for statehood but for equal rights m a single binational state. This scenario is indeed one of Olmert's worst night- mares. On the last day of the Annapolis summit he declared that if the two-state solution collapses, "Israel is finished." What he meant was that in a one-man, one- vote unitary statemIsrael and Palestine together--the eventual Palestinian maJor- ity would spell the end of the Zionist notion of independent Jewish statehood. Olmert and Foreign Minis- ter Tzipi Livni claim they are making every effort to reach a deal that would pre-empt the one-state drive. Livni meets former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmad Qureia on an almost PAGE 15.~. daily basis to discuss the Core issues of borders. Jerusalem and refugees; other teams are working on every conceivable element of relations between Israel and a future Palestine: and Olmert and Abbas meet from time to time to assess and facilitate movement. What makes gauging prog- ress almost impossible is the fact that Livni and Qureia have imposed an effective news blackout. The lack of any record of progress has led some observers to conclude there is none, and this is what the Saudis and other Arab players are finding so frustrating. Then again, Olmert in private reportedly claims that he and Abbas already have wrapped up everything. If this is indeed the case, the two-state solution may still be saved. If not, the prospects for Israel. the Palestinians and the region as awhole look bleak. The window of oppor- tunity for two states for two peoples could be closing. t -I Obama From page 2A Israel skepticism--Ed Lasky faults Lake. who recently converted to Judaism, for having worked for the Carter administration and for living in the Berkshires. Much of the material ap- pearing in a number of Lasky articles and circulating in e-mails is similarly flimsy, especially his attacks on Malley, according to Obama supporters and some former U.S. diplomats. Like Ross. Malley was a senior adviser to the Clinton administration at the U.S.- Israeli-Palestinian talks at Camp David in the summer of 2000. Malley has differed with Ross and others over the degree of blame to be as- signed over the talks' break- down--Ross singles out the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat--but he does not solely blame Israel. And in public talks in Washington, he em- phasizes Israel's security as a critical element in formulat- ing policy. "He is not anti-Israeli, he is not a fanatic anti-Israeli." Ross told JTA. "To use these tacks is just wrong." The targeting of Malley led Ross and four other Clin- ton-era officials to publish a recent open letter defending his record. "Whatever differences do exist, there is no disagree- ment among us on one core issue that transcends partisan or other divides: that the U.S. should not and will not do anything to undermine Israel's safety or the special relationship between our two nations," the letter said. "We hive worked with Rob closely over the years and have no doubt he shares this view and has acted consistent with it." Soros~ the billionaire phi- lanthropist, has donated to Obama's campaign. He has also been critical of Israel and of pro-Israel orthodoxies, but the Holocaust survivor has cast his criticisms as mindful of Israel's security. Recently, he considered funding an alternative pro- Israel lobby, one that would more aggressively advocate for a two-state solution, while also maintaining Israel's security needs. Lasky links to a Soros article last year in the New York Review of Books to show that the financier is a-"fierce foe" of Israel. In it, Soros describes his thesis as follows: "Military superiority is necessary for Israel's na- tional security, but it is not sufficient." Despite what Obama sup- porters and some observers say are distortions and false- hoods, there's enough that would worry parts of the pro-Israel community, par- ticularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its allies. Brzezinski's time as Carter's national security adviser left a bitter taste among Israelis and pro-Israel activists. They perceived Brzezinski as creat- ing a false dichotomy between Israel's needs and the effort to recruit Middle Eastern states to America's side in the Cold War--a key point given that his overriding concern in the Carter administration was containing the Soviets. It didn't help that Brzezin- ski initially endorsed the views of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, academics who promulgated the thesis that the pro-Israel lobby funda- mentally distorts U.S. foreign policy. He later backtracked to a degree, suggesting that their book overstated its case. The Obama campaign says it does not take advice from Brzezinski, but has accepted his endorsement as a senior U.S. statesman, who says the Illinois senator has the best policy for extricating the United States from Iraq. Power, the lecturer from Harvard, is a more sensitive problem for the campaign. An expert on genocide who has worked with Jewish activists who press the case that the United States should have done more to stop the Holocaust during World War II. she served for two years on Obama's Senate staff and is a permanent adviser--but not. the campaign says, on Middle East-related issues. Still. she has published lacerating criticisms of Israel's first Lebanon war--although none that would be out of line with Israel's Labor Party. And in a 2003 Soros-funded sym- posium, she appeared eager to jump to the conclusion that Israel had committed war crimes in the West Bank town of Jenin. The Obama campaign has rejected efforts to paint her as anti-Israel, although notably, it does not address her writ- ings related to Israel. "Samantha Power is a Pu- litzer Prize-winning author of a book about the evil of genocide, which includes an extensive discussion Of the Holocaust, so for this smear e-mail to paint her as anti- Israel is outrageous." said a statement from the campaign that first appeared inthePalm Beach Post in Florida. Even as they defend Power, Obama campaign officials say she has little say on Middle East issues, confining her advice to issues such as the genocide in Darfur. U.S. Rep. RobertWexler (D- Fla.), who is arguably Obama's top congressional backer in Florida, told the Palm Beach Post that the e-mail campaign criticizing the candidate's advisers was a "lie." "Iwouldn'tbe involvedwith any candidate," Wexler was quoted as saying, "that didn't recognize Israel as a Jewish state, that didn't reject the Palestinian right of return, and that didn't demand that Hamas reject terror as a condition for talks with the Palestinians." 2.0 From page 2A too. spreading the message even further. "The message thus spreads not only across geographic boundaries, but also across social groups." explains Oboler. The"Israel is notacountry!" group, for example, attracted 35,000 members as of press time. Assuming each member has approximately 150 friends (a lowball estimate), then the group--which decries Israel as an apartheid regime and claims that Israel has no right to exist--will have been advertised to more than 5.25 million people. In response, several Face- book users established coun- ter-groups, such as the "Pales- tine is not a country" and even "causes" such as "Facebook needs to delete the group 'Israel is a terrorist country we all hate Israel!'" which more than 19,000 people have joined. Although "Israel is not a country!" no longer shows up in search results, "Israel: Terrorist State," "I Hate Is- rael," and some 75 groups like it still exist. With larger Jewisl~ orga~ nizations largely failing to combat anti-Semitism 2.0, much of the legwork has been left to individuals (many of therri under 40) who lack both financial backing and the time to devote themselves fully to tracking and wiping out anti-Semitism in this new medium for spreading hate. "They see something, get arinoyed and have to do something about it," Oboler says. "But there's no greater strategy behind it." Dovid, an Orthodox busi- nessman in his late 30s, is one of the lone rangers on YouTube, the video-sharing Web site that according to Alexa, a company that measures Web traffic--is the second- most visited site on the Web. He has posted more than 150 pro-Israel videos on You- Tube, generating more than 1.3 million video views and thousands of hateful and insidious comments (which is why he requested that The Jewish Week not print his last name). "A little over a year ago, I was searching YouTube and there was so much really, really vile stuff out there," he says. So he posted trailers from the 2005 movie "Ob- session: Radical Islam's War Against the West." "I wanted to get the mes- sage out there." he says, Using the name "CheckI- tOutNowNYC," he continued to spend hours each week searching for videos that highlighted a positive image of Israel and Jews, including one featuring Bob Dylan performing "Hava Nagilah." More than 50,000 people have viewed his video, "See the Humane Treatment of a Palestinian Woman by Israel," a three-minute NBC News clip about a female suicide bomber who entered Israel using a special medical permit but was caught with 20 pounds of explosives. Dovid labels each video with background information and resources for those interested in learning more. The number of page views is staggering, as are the more than 100 com- ments he receives a day. But it's very time-consuming, he says. "I wish there were 50 guys like me downloading videos and reposting them," Dovid said. He's since posted videos promoting Jewish organi- zations including Nefesh B'Nefesh and Efrat C.R.I.B. (Committee for the Rescue of Israel's Babies). Yet he wonders why these organiza- tions aren't creating their own YouTube channel and posting their videos themselves. "Super-large Jewish orga- nizations are really slow," he says. "But the goal is to get the videos out there. We need Jews to take a proactive stance to educate the public." A few Jewish organiza- tions are warming up to Faceb0ok. The Consulate General of Israel in New York and the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C both have Facebook pages, but they've each garnered less than 1,000 "fans." The ADL has a Facebook page, too, but it's a rather dormant unofficial page created by a high school student. Among the handful of organizations that are first beginning to explore social networking as a possible av- enue for promotion, most lack a comprehensive understand- ing of how Web 2.0 works. "Various organizations have a policy that they won't link to other sites," Oboler says. "This is counterproduc- tive. Web 2.0 is about shar- ing. The way a Web site gets popular is partly related to the number of links and how high up they are on Google." "Organizations especial- ly the younger ones--are now realizing that Facebook, You- Tube and other such Web sites are an important medium for reaching out to Jewish and non-Jewish students alike to talk about Israel," said Dani Klein, campus director of the pro-Israel activism group StandWithUs. StandWithUs often records on-campus events and lectures and posts them on the Web. "There will be 50 to 100 people in the room hearing the lecture, but the number of people who can watch it on the Web grows exponentially," Klein said. Since 2005, StandWithUs has been actively using Web 2.0 t c nnectwith Jewishand Pr - Israel students on campus. It created a Facebook page, posts events and uploaded videos to the Web site, including the protest against Iranian Presi- dent MahmoudAhmadenijad's speech at Columbia University. In addition to the StandWithUs Facebook page, the organiza- tion created a Facebook page for Israel, where Klein posts YouTube videos highlighting Israel's technological innova- tionsand humanitarian efforts, as well as important links and resources. In what may be viewed as a hopeful sign, the organization is in the process of creating a multinational online task force to monitor Facebook. YouTube and other Web 2.0 applications and find prob- lematic videos and groups that need responses. The task force would then work on posting educated, rational comments on these pages, hopingto sway those who joined anti-Israel groups out of peer pressure. "The people who started these groups are most likely in the top 10 percent who are staunchly anti-Israel," Klein said, adding that they are probably not easily swayed. Instead, StandWithUs will reach out to the majority of the group, who he calls "casual Palestinian supporters" who joined because their friends invited them or because "it's hip to be anti-Israel." "We'vealways known itwas a problem," said Klein. "As in- dividuals, we try to combat it. But we need to do more." Copyright 2008 and re- printedwith permission. Read the Jewish Week online at