Archive for June, 2008

Dealing with the Devil

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Hamas childNews item:

A Hamas spokesman said Tuesday that his organization is committed to an Egyptian-mediated truce deal with Israel set to go into effect Thursday. Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas will commit to the “zero hour” declared by Egypt…

The MENA agency report cited an unnamed high-level Egyptian official as saying that both sides “have agreed on the first phase” of an Egyptian package to end the violence in the coastal strip.

It said the first phase is a “mutual and simultaneous calm” in the Gaza Strip which will start 6 a.m. Thursday…

 Government spokesman Mark Regev would also not confirm or deny a deal. “What is important is not only words but deeds,” Regev said. “If there is a total absence of terror attacks from Gaza into Israel and if there is an end to arms buildup in Gaza Strip and movement on the hostage Gilad Schalit that will indeed be a new reality.”

This sounds like the “first phase” will include stopping the rocket fire into Israel in exchange for Israel stopping incursions and air activity in Gaza. It may also include opening crossings into Gaza, etc. It will be interesting to see if Hamas will commit to making other factions like Islamic Jihad behave.

Unfortunately it also appears that Schalit’s release is not included. No doubt Hamas will only agree to free him in connection with a huge prisoner release.

Does Israel have the means to verify that arms smuggling has stopped? Probably only partially, if at all. So Hamas will continue to arm, even if an agreement to stop will be part of a later phase. And there are plenty of other things to keep them busy, like training and building fortifications.

What does Israel get? As long as the cease-fire lasts, freedom from rocket and mortar attacks.

What does Hamas get? Time to rebuild, to arm, and to train. Probably more, not less, smuggling. And most importantly, the ability to claim that they are a responsible governing power and to move toward international respectability.

The day that Hamas gets international recognition will be a black day for Israel. The next step will be a takeover of the Palestinian Authority — after all, they won the last election and are far more popular than Fatah, as well as militarily stronger. Such a takeover will put the arms that have been given to Fatah in Hamas hands, and will be analogous to the recent putsch in Lebanon which gave de facto control of the government and army to Hezbollah.

If the IDF is forced to withdraw from most of the West Bank, perhaps in the context of a ‘peace’ agreement, then Israel will be faced with hostile and frankly genocidal Iranian proxy regimes on its northern, southern and eastern borders.

Earlier Tuesday, during a session of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said that Israel was on a “collision course” with Hamas and that he adopted the stance of intelligence officials, who believed that a truce would be short and fragile.

“The IDF will respect a cease-fire but is also getting ready for a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip,” Ashkenazi added.

The real question is not if Israel will directly confront Hamas, but when. Anything that makes Hamas stronger or deters Israel — such as the improved military capability and increased respectability for Hamas that will result from a cease-fire — will make the inevitable confrontation more costly.

A cease-fire is a very bad idea whose time has apparently come.

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Who owns the word ‘peace’?

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

There was a time when people who were in favor of legalized abortion were called ‘pro-abortion’, and those who opposed it ‘anti-abortion’. But ‘pro-abortion’ sounded a little harsh, so the term ‘pro-choice’ was invented. The idea was supposedly that they do not especially like the idea of abortion, but are in favor of allowing women to choose it, if they, er, so choose.

But this was also a  stroke of PR genius, because it makes their opponents ‘anti-choice’, which has very negative, authoritarian connotations. Partly in self-defense and partly to emphasize the fact that they were also opposed to physician-assisted suicide, etc., the previously anti-abortion people became ‘pro-life’.

This was even better than ‘pro-choice’ because it made their opponents either ‘anti-life’ or, better yet, ”pro-death’!

In any event, my head spins when I hear either ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life’, and I have to take a second to translate it back into the much easier-to-understand terminology of pro- and anti-abortion.

Now, why am I talking about this? Because the same thing has happened to the word ‘peace’, which has been appropriated by the Left. In the context of the Mideast, being ‘pro-peace’ means being in favor of Israel making concessions.

Peace Now, Jewish Voice for Peace, Gush Shalom, the “pro-Israel pro-peace” J Street — all call for an Israeli withdrawal from the territories, the return of the Golan to Syria, negotiations with Hamas, etc.

Would these policies bring peace? Probably not. Returning the Golan to Syria, for example, would probably increase the chances of war by improving Syria’s strategic position. Negotiating with Hamas would strengthen Hamas and make it more likely for Hamas to get international recognition without mitigating its commitment to destroy Israel.  Withdrawal from the West Bank would lead to a Hamas takeover there. These events would lead away from peace, not toward it.

But my opposing the policies of the ‘peace camp’ makes me ‘anti-peace’ or even ‘pro-war’. What nonsense! Who gave the Left title to the word ‘peace’?

Those who advocate a posture of strength, not concessions are actually pro-peace. Perhaps the others should be called ‘pro-appeasement’ or even ‘pro-surrender’.

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A Manhattan Project for reform, and one for History

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

I just watched a History Channel documentary about the Manhattan Project. Leaving aside the feelings evoked by the outcome of it — the atomic bomb and its use in war — I was struck by something else: how American society was able to focus its energy (and that of numerous refugee Jewish scientists, I might add) to accomplish this massive undertaking, in every sense — scientific, technological, and organizational — and to do it in a remarkably short time and in the midst of an all-consuming war.

Could we do something similar in scale today?  I doubt it, although their are plenty of candidates for such a project, like the development of cheap energy sources independent of OPEC. But for various reasons (I have my theories, of course), we as a society seem to have lost whatever we had that made the Manhattan Project possible.

At which point my thoughts turned to Israel, which also achieved almost miraculous successes in the near past, like winning the War of Independence and the 1967 war, absorbing millions of refugees from Hitler and the Arab world, etc.

And yet, today she stands apparently impotent, facing her enemies on her borders and within them. Why? Are today’s threats greater than those in 1948? I don’t think so.

There are several explanations for this. One is the most obvious: the lack of leadership. Every day there is a Cabinet Minister saying there will be a large incursion into Gaza, there will be a cease-fire, there will be a medium incursion, there will be an incursion of unspecified size “to teach Hamas a lesson” followed by a cease-fire, etc. Every day there is something new, and the only common element is that someone is talking about it.

Similar situations exist with respect to policy toward the West Bank, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, etc.

What is needed is for responsible, competent, dedicated officials to analyze the situation, come up with the best — which does not mean perfect — policy, and then actually execute it. How simple it sounds, and how hard to accomplish! But we know, for example, that the present government is not responsible, competent or dedicated, and nothing will change until this does. Some have suggested that there are structural problems in Israel’s system for choosing leaders which is responsible for this; if so, it has to be changed too.

There is another problem which, if it can be imagined, is even more destructive than the first. This is well illustrated by Barry Rubin’s recent comment about “back channel” negotiations with the Palestinians: “I’ve been to those, the Israelis apologize and the Palestinians blame Israel for everything…”

Israelis need to stop accepting blame, apologizing,  and trying to appease their enemies. The post-Zionist attitudes which appear to infect so many Jews in Israel and elsewhere are no more than the old ghetto mentality which whispers to us to beg the gentile king for our miserable lives. In fact, history shows that the Jewish state has little to apologize for, and that the blame for creating and perpetuating the conflict and the various miseries (e.g., Jewish and Arab refugees) that surround it falls squarely on the Arabs. Sorry for those who demand ‘balance’ but this is true.

Maybe Israel needs a Manhattan Project for political reform, and another one for History. Because no nation, no matter how great, not the US and not Israel, can succeed if its leaders are more concerned with their personal fortunes or legal misfortunes than with the good of the state. And no nation can win an existential struggle by accepting the narratives of its enemies.

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Mearhemer & Walt still don’t answer Ostroff

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

The notorious team of Mearsheimer and Walt, whose slanderous article and book on the “Israel Lobby” has attracted so much attention, are presently speaking in Israel, invited by the left-wing “Gush Shalom” [Peace Bloc] group.

Here is one Israeli’s response to them:

An open letter to Professors Mearsheimer and Walt

From Maurice Ostroff
June 12, 2008

Dear Professors Mearsheimer and Walt,

Welcome to Israel. I sincerely hope you will enjoy your stay and gain a broader perspective of our tiny troubled country.

You may recall that we have been in correspondence before. In my open letter in May 2006, I raised a few questions arising from your original article on the Israel Lobby in the London Review of Books. You replied that you were preparing a lengthy “response to critics” in which you would address many of the issues I had raised and in December you kindly sent me a copy of your unpublished 81-page paper “Setting the record straight”.

While you did address some minor criticisms, you have not yet responded to almost all the points I had raised and I would be delighted if you would please address them now while in Israel. For example:

1. The Iraq war
As you claimed that were it not for the Jewish lobby, the US would not have gone to war against Iraq in 2003, I asked why you continue to ignore reliable reports that then Prime Minister Sharon and Israeli officials had warned the Bush administration against invading Iraq.

I expected that you must have been aware that Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, was reported as saying the Israeli government “…were telling us Iraq is not the enemy, Iran is the enemy. If you are going to destabilize the balance of power, do it against the main enemy”.

And although you stated that you relied on Jewish newspapers like the Forward, you seem to have missed a report in that paper confirming that PM Sharon advised Bush not to occupy Iraq and that AIPAC officials told visiting Arab intellectuals they would rather the US deal militarily with Iran than with Iraq.

2. Sponsors of Terror.
You claim that US policy towards Israel contributes to America’s terrorism problem, but you failed to respond to my reference to Alex Alexiev, vice president for research at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., who stated that Riyadh, flush with oil money, became the paymaster of most of the militant Islamic movements, which advocated terror. Even the most violent of Islamic groups, like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, receives Saudi largesse. Official Saudi sources indicate that between 1975 and 1987, Riyadh’s overseas development aid averaged $4 billion per year, of which at least $50 billion over two-and-a-half decades financed Islamic activities exclusively. The SAAR Foundation alone, which has been closed down since 9/11, received $1.7 billion in donations in 1998.

Nor did you respond to my statement that anti-American agendas dominate the majority of Muslim Student Associations at U.S. colleges.

3. Ehud Barak’s purportedly generous offer.
You referred to then PM Ehud Baraks’ purportedly generous offer at Camp David, and I suggested that the loaded word “purportedly” was inappropriate. Rather, you owed it to your readers to present the facts and allow them to form their own opinions as to whether the offer was generous or “purportedly” generous?

4. Campus Watch
You wrote about Campus Watch, “Pipes does not deny that his organization, Campus Watch, was created in order to monitor what academics say, write and teach, so as to discourage them from engaging in open discourse about the Middle East”. (The emphasis is mine)

As Campus Watch is known to encourage open discourse, I asked you to please explain your allegation that it attempts to discourage academics from doing just that. I also asked you to substantiate your claim that Pipes admitted that he discouraged open discourse.

5. Apparent bias
You have not responded to my suspicion of the bias evident from your writing about relations between “Tel Aviv” and Washington, rather than Jerusalem (Israel’s seat of government), and Washington.

6. Lobbies in context and the Arab Lobby
You did not respond to my contention that your concentrated focus on the Israel Lobby creates the completely misleading impression that it is the only influence on Congress, whereas in reality, the Israel Lobby is one of many dozens of interest groups that spend billions to convince politicians to pass or oppose particular laws.

Of course any serious study of the Jewish Lobby cannot avoid comparison with Arab influence on Washington. I cannot understand how, in the face of extensive evidence to the contrary, you conclude in your unpublished paper “setting the record straight” that there is no well-organized and politically potent Arab Lobby and little evidence that US politicians ever feel much pressure from pro-Arab groups. (The emphasis is mine)

You did not address, for example, my comments about Prince Bandar Bin Sultan who is reported to have participated in backstage intrigues, clandestine negotiations, and billion-dollar deals, all having to do with US interests in the Middle East and who was rated by Axis Information And Analysis (Aia), as almost the most influential foreigner in the USA.

I also mentioned that Aia refers to U.S.A.-Engage as one of the largest lobbying groups, uniting 640 giants of the American economy, a tenth of the leading banks, as well as associations of industrialists and farmers. The most prominent and influential members of U.S.A.-Engage work almost permanently in the Congress and have great influence over the mass media (partly because of their advertising expenditure).

On your own turfs in academia, Harvard and Georgetown each received gifts of $20 million from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. It is also common knowledge that the Carter Center has received large donations from Arab sources including the late King Fahd and his nephew, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.

In Craig Unger’s book, “House of Bush, House of Saud” Unger tells of Saudis investing as much as $800 billion into American equities, not only in blue chip companies but also in companies not doing so well, but linked to powerful politicians.

He also speaks of at least $1 million donated to each presidential library, emphasizing that the Saudis give to Democrats and Republicans alike. Prince Bandar has been quite frank. “If we give to our friends after you get out of office, the people in office will get the message”.

In an interview with Sentient Times, Unger said that over the last 30 years, the Saudis spent $70 billion on propaganda, the biggest propaganda campaign in the history of the world. The Israel Lobby’s influence is less than puny by contrast.

Nor can the stranglehold of OPEC be ignored. This blatantly monopolistic cartel threatens not only the US, but also the world economy. With oil soaring around $150, it is mind-boggling to consider that production costs average only about $6 per barrel for non-OPEC producers; and $1.50 per barrel for OPEC producers according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists May/June 2005.

Surely, in light of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you cannot be comfortable continuing to claim that there is no well-organized, politically potent Arab Lobby.

7. Conclusion
I wholeheartedly support your call for a civilized discussion about the role of lobbies in American foreign policy, but I ask you to recognize that by focusing only on Israel, you are diverting attention from the serious threat of fundamentalist extremism as opposed to the moderate Muslim religion that needs recognition and encouragement.

May I hope that in your public appearances in Israel you will address all or at least some of the queries I have raised.

Maurice Ostroff

The article originally appeared here and is reprinted with permission.

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Leave Iran alone, says Hans Blix

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Hans Blix, the former UN weapons inspector, joins the chorus of those who think that the US should not threaten Iran over nuclear weapons:

Former UN Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix criticized the United States on Thursday for keeping open the possibility of military action to force changes in Iran’s nuclear program…

“The military threat may well be counterproductive,” Blix said at a news conference. “It is more likely to strengthen the ranks in Iran.” — YNet

Not only should Iran not have to worry about military action against her illegal program, but she should be rewarded if she ‘suspends’ it:

“The rewards are more important, the carrots rather than the sticks,” he said. He said the United States and Europe should offer incentives – including support for Iran joining the World Trade Organization, improved economic relations and guarantees against outside attacks and attempts to topple the Iranian regime…

“So we’ve got to continue to work together to make it clear, abundantly clear, to them, that it’s their choice to make: They can either face isolation or they can have better relations with all of us if they verifiably suspend their enrichment program,” he said.

It’s important to realize that Iran’s foreign policy goals — the political, economic, and religious domination of the region, the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, the destruction of Israel and the end of the US as a world power — do not require the use, or even possession of atomic weapons. As Ami Isseroff pointed out, Iran recently cemented its control over Lebanon without bombing anybody, even conventionally.

Our policy needs to counteract the expansion of Iranian power, not just prevent their acquisition of WMD (although obviously this is important as well).

Helping the present regime stay in power, which is exactly what Blix is suggesting, is the wrong approach. The real problem here is not the means, but rather the ends. And apparently Blix is unmoved by the prospect of an Iranian Middle East, no Israel, and the US as a minor power, because this situation is what Ahmadinejad is trying to bring about.

Hans Blix in Iran

Hans Blix in Iran (courtesy Cox and Forkum)

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