Archive for August, 2007

Typical British understatement?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

From John Hilary, Director of Campaigns at War on Want, a British charity:

“Israel’s continuing disregard for international humanitarian law and human rights stands as one of the gravest injustices of the 21st century”

Although relatively young, the 21st century has seen 9/11, the Darfur tragedy, various atrocities perpetrated by Sunni and Shiite Arabs against each other in Iraq, bloody murder of civilians in Algeria, massive amounts of killing and maiming in several countries of West Africa (sometimes perpetrated by and against child soldiers), etc. I would count all of these things as violations of human rights.

And don’t forget the continued terrorism of the Palestinians against Israel, supported by Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The Passover Seder bombing in March 2002 was quite unjust to the 30 who died and the 140 who were injured! And this was only one of many such incidents.

The hyperbole is understandable, given the apparent focus of the organization:

War on Want, ostensibly a charity set up to fight worldwide poverty, recently published a guide on its website, entitled, “Towards a global movement for Palestine; a framework for today’s anti-apartheid activism.”

“Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions have gained currency in recent years as a series of strategies to pressure Israel in pursuit of justice for Palestinians,” the guide’s introduction said.

“Yet, it is clear that initiatives need to strengthen and gain greater popular support if they are to be an effective force in support of Palestinians,” it continued, before instructing readers to boycott Israeli goods, support a trade embargo against Israel, back the academic boycott against Israelis, and enforce a sports boycott. — YNet

Perhaps the group should be renamed ‘War on Israel’?

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Self-evident — and wrong!

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Sometimes the experts really blow it. A good example is what has become the conventional wisdom about dealing with the rogue states and radical Islamists of the Middle East. Barry Rubin explains how these policies are encouraging, rather than deterring, our antagonists.

Engage, Moderate, Split

By Barry Rubin

Engage, moderate, and split—that’s the mantra for Middle East policy of the wrong-headed in many foreign ministries, newspaper editorial offices, universities, and other places where the rapidly growing international bad-ideas industry is centered.

Yet nothing could seem more self-evident than these propositions. What could possibly be wrong with engaging radical forces, persuading them to change their ways, and breaking up their alliances?


An open letter to the Turkish Ambassador to Israel

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Ambassador Namik TanDear Mr. Ambassador,

You have asked Israel to “…’deliver’ American Jewish organizations and ensure that the US Congress does not pass a resolution characterizing as genocide the massacre of Armenians during World War I”.

Israeli officials tried to explain to you that Israel did not control American Jewish organizations such as the ADL, whose chairman recently issued a statement that (at least obliquely) recognized the Armenian Genocide committed by your Ottoman predecessors.

But you refused to accept this, saying “On some issues there is no such thing as ‘Israel cannot deliver'”.

Possibly you think that there is an international Zionist conspiracy which takes orders from Jerusalem, and it’s just a question of Israel issuing them. Coming from a country where journalists are jailed for ‘insulting Turkishness’, you expect orders to be obeyed.

Well, Mr. Ambassador, I have news for you.

The government of Israel (sometimes to its sorrow) does not control Jewish organizations, either right-wing or left-wing, in America, Israel, or anywhere else. Abe Foxman cannot be arrested for ‘insulting Jewishness’.

Your attempt to hold Turkish-Israeli relations hostage in order to force Jews to take a position that is contrary to their conscience is reprehensible, and in any event doomed. Jews will be Jews, they will not take orders, and they have very strong feelings about genocide denial.

My expectation is that the pressure will backfire, and Jews will close ranks and support the congressional resolution — even those who had previously stood aside for ‘practical’ reasons.

Update [28 Aug 1027 PDT]: The ADL has rehired Andrew Tarsy as New England regional director. Tarsy had been fired last week for opposing the (then) national organization’s position on the Armenian Genocide. See what I mean?

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Islamist extremism and public naivety

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Young people are made of soft clay. Sometimes we adults forget just how soft. And we don’t take seriously enough the absolute commitment that sometimes characterizes their enthusiasms.

The combination can be highly dangerous when a young person lives in a culture where there are plenty of adult mentors ready to channel this enthusiasm into jihad rather than skateboarding.

Ed HusainThis is the situation today in the ‘Asian’ Muslim community in the UK, as described by former jihadi Ed Husain.

Husain’s book, recently published in the UK and yet to appear in the US, is horrifying precisely because it documents so candidly the smoothness with which Husain was recruited to such misguided ruthlessness. He was gradually drawn into ever more intolerant circles, and became prominent within them – helping to galvanize the process by which the racist, misogynist and thuggish ideology came to dominate various colleges in East London a decade or so ago.

Husain himself was thus instrumental in the trend that saw Islamist separation politics rise and thrive; hatreds inculcated among thousands of recruits against nonbelievers and against Britain; the adoption of Islamic clothing by female students on campuses, open confrontation with utterly overwhelmed and impotent college authorities and, in what was for Husain a climactic, epiphanic incident, a murder just outside the grounds of his own Newham College for which he holds himself partially, indirectly responsible. “It was we who had encouraged Muslim fervor,” he writes, “a sense of separation from others, a belief that Muslims were worthier than other humans.” — David Horovitz [entire article recommended]

Husain confirms what we already know, which is the “staggering naivety on the part of the government, law enforcement and the educational authorities” about the seriousness and dimensions of the problem.

So far we do not have this kind of problem here in the US, because of the nature of the Muslim community here, which is smaller, less concentrated, and better integrated.

However, we have the same kind of naive attitude in some circles, which (for example) view any kind of profiling as tantamount to racism.

So for example, when an Israeli visitor explained El Al’s security procedures (which are entirely based on profiling) to some American friends, they were horrified. But by the simple process of subjecting individuals to greater or lesser scrutiny depending on who they are, El Al — unquestionably the most coveted target for terrorists in all of aviation — has chalked up an impressive safety record.

I’m looking forward to reading Husain’s book, and I would hope that politicians and educators will do so as well.

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Israel is different from Northern Ireland

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

With all due respect to Anne Carr and to the bloody intractability of the conflict in Northern Ireland, Ms. Carr doesn’t get it:

A Northern Ireland peace activist told an audience of Arabs and Jews at the St. George Hotel in east Jerusalem on Friday, “If we Irish can solve our conflict, then so can anybody.”

Anne Carr, who opened the first integrated (Protestant-Catholic) school in Northern Ireland in 1986, was delivering the keynote address at a conference organized by the Bereaved Families Forum as a part of its “Knowing it the Beginning” project, which aims to bring together families who have suffered loss from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that they can better understand each other…

“We have to work out a way of living together, respecting the dignity of each other, not creating a humiliating peace so we can feel contentment with our lot, and not resentment with our lot,” she said. — Jerusalem Post

There are of course some similarities between the Troubles and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in particular the employment of terrorism. But there are also fundamental differences.

The nationalists did not view the unionists as interlopers who must be killed or expelled from Ireland, as most Palestinians view the Jews in Israel. If they had come to power, they would not have ethnically cleansed the Protestant neighborhoods. The Roman Catholicism practiced in Ireland does not call for Catholics to hunt down and kill Protestants.

Although the British government may have sided with the unionists, they do not fire rockets into Catholic areas. Northern Ireland is not surrounded by hostile nations who wish to destroy the state using chemical or nuclear weapons, supposedly to help the Catholics.

There are not four or five million hostile Catholics in camps located in the Irish Republic who are not permitted to live normal lives, but are kept in a permanent state of limbo until they can be introduced into Northern Ireland to change the demographics (and incidentally, to wreak violent havoc).

The question in Northern Ireland is how the area will be governed. Will it be a part of the UK, the Irish Republic, or something in between? In the Mideast, one asks whether the Jews will keep their state or, after a bloody war which may become nuclear, the survivors will be dispersed again throughout the world.

The idea that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians can be solved if only the two sides could sit down and talk enough is seductive but false. This is in part because the Palestinians have a wholly unrealistic view of what they are entitled to in any settlement. The Palestinian position is based on a narrative which distorts historical facts, perverts justice, and does not admit that they bear any responsibility for their actions.

I said ‘in part’ because the other part is the fact that in the Middle East the Palestinians are just the tip of the iceberg. Israel is under siege by the entire Arab world, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are pumping large sums of petrodollars into support for Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas which directly confront Israel, and which shortly will be at war with her. There is nothing even remotely analogous to this in the Irish example.

So, while I am certainly in awe of the Irish, who may have ended a conflict that has been going on in some form or other for centuries, I suggest that there’s more than “working out a way of living together” that has to occur before there will be peace in the Middle East.

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