Archive for June, 2008

Leave Iran alone, says ‘human rights’ advocate

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

We should lay off Iran’s nuclear weapons program, says a “human rights” advocate, because Iran is using it as a reason to increase repression of internal reformers:

Rights advocates say dozens of activists have been prosecuted and condemned to prison sentences, some with lashes. They say arrests, detention and judicial harassment are common practice. They say journalists, lawyers, students and trade unionists are particularly targeted.

Spokesman of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Hadi Ghaemi, says Iran has taken advantage of the International Community’s fixation on the country’s nuclear issue to increase repression in the country.

“As the military threat against Iran increases, indeed, the government uses that to solidify the current situation and increase its repression. And, human rights defenders inside Iran are very much opposed to the continuing threat made against Iran,” he said. “It has made life very difficult for them. And, if there is any kind of military action against Iran, be it a very limited one, it will give a license to the government to completely uproot any semblance of civil society in the country.” — VOA News (6/2008) [my emphasis]

This is truly breathtaking in its stupidity. Iran is developing nuclear weapons in order to facilitate its goal of exporting revolutionary, fundamentalist Shiite Islam. Of course the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad want to repress reform at home; it’s part and parcel of the same project.

Repression has increased greatly since Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005, and the authorities are making good use of everything that the US does and says, not only our silly ‘fixation’, to justify it. For example, for the past several years the US has been funding radio broadcasts, websites, international human rights organizations concerned with conditions in Iran, etc.

Since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice unveiled the program [in 2006], a wide array of activists — teachers, women’s rights campaigners, labor organizers, students, journalists and intellectuals — have faced interrogations, detentions, imprisonment and passport confiscation over suspected links to the new U.S. funding, activists and human rights groups say. Iranian officials have charged that Washington is supporting the kind of soft revolution that transformed Eastern Europe. — Washington Post (4/2007)

Indeed, the same Hadi Ghaemi, who is an analyst for Human Rights Watch, was quoted in the Post article:

Dozens of Iranian activists are paying a price since the announcement of the $75 million, and practically everyone who has been detained over the past year has been interrogated about receiving this money…

US officials on their part have emphasized that no funding is given directly to Iranian reformers. Of course, that doesn’t stop the security forces from using it as an issue. Does anyone really think that the crackdown would stop if the US backed off? Would they lack questions to ask dissidents?

Ghaemi is correct in decrying the violations of human rights committed by the Iranian regime. But his advice for the US appears to be that we should take no action of any kind — not against the nuclear program and not even to indirectly help those Iranians who oppose the fundamentalist program of Ahmadinejad’s regime.

In other words, Iran should be allowed to achieve her goals of regional domination, the elimination of Israel, and — ultimately — the end of the US as a world power.

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Israel cannot live with Hamas

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

News item:

Fear of a weak cease-fire agreement which would work to the advantage of Hamas led a majority of ministers to express their support on Tuesday for escalated measures to end the threat of rocket attacks to southern Israel, with many of them calling for the launch of a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip…

Meanwhile, defense officials said Monday night that during a security meeting following the cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak would push for a “medium-level military operation” in Gaza before agreeing to an Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas…

According to the sources, Barak plans to ask Olmert to approve an operation that would make Hamas “pay a price,” and only afterwards agree to a cease-fire.

Here is the scenario I expect:

  1. The IDF mounts a limited operation into Gaza, suffers some casualties overcoming Hamas fortifications.
  2. Hamas screams bloody murder, claims huge civilian casualties. They are already preparing the ground for this with the US and other players.
  3. The US forces Israel to withdraw before even the limited operation meets its goals.
  4. Israel agrees to cease-fire with only slightly damaged Hamas. No effective guarantee against arms smuggling is implemented (because the only effective one is Israeli control of Egyptian border).
  5. Hamas claims victory, continues to arm, Israel is limited in possible responses by terms of cease-fire.

There are even worse scenarios, including international involvement in the terms of the cease-fire, which could make them even worse for Israel. Certainly Hamas will insist on opening crossings, prisoner releases, etc.

There is only one solution to Hamas, and that is a large operation that will destroy it as a functioning organism. Yes it will be hard, yes it will have unpleasant consequences, yes Israel will also have to worry about Hezbollah, etc.

There is a fallacy I recall from a basic logic course, called argumentum ad consequentiam. It means arguing that “If P is true, then that will be very bad. So P is false”. Baldly stated it looks foolish, but how many times have you heard “the negotiations must succeed — there’s no alternative”?

Or, in this case, “We can live with Hamas, because the alternative is war”. But can Israel live with Hamas?

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Israeli thinks Palestinian ‘struggle’ should be rewarded

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Let’s look at this paragraph and try to guess who wrote it:

Israelis and Palestinians involved in the talks on borders, an issue considered to be relatively “easy,” say there is a big gap between the reports on the talks’ progress and the reality around the negotiating table. It seems Olmert’s representatives expect Mahmoud Abbas to allocate to Israel larger pieces of territory than those Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton discussed with Yasser Arafat in 2000. This means that after seven and a half years of struggle, thousands of dead, tens of thousands injured and enormous economic losses, a weak Palestinian president is being asked to surrender principles that a powerful leader would not dare give up.

The author is clearly sympathetic with the Palestinian ‘struggle’. If he said this to me, I would point out that while some of this struggle is comprised of guerrilla warfare against the IDF, a great deal of it took the form of murder by terrorism — hundreds of Israeli civilians were killed since 2000, in suicide bombings, shootings, stabbings, rocket and mortar attacks, etc.

I would point out that the offer made by Barak and Clinton in 2000 was really quite extraordinary — despite Arafat’s lies — and represented a huge compromise by Israel, a compromise whose implementation would have almost torn the state apart, forcing the relocation of more than 100,000 Jews, the loss of Judaism’s most holy sites, etc.

If that wouldn’t have been a sacrifice for peace, I don’t know what would count as such, and I would have contrasted that willingness to sacrifice with the hard line taken by Yasser Arafat, who began the ‘struggle’ our writer mentions (I would have used the word ‘war’) in response to this offer of peace.

The writer says that Arafat would not give up his ‘principles’. The use of the word ‘principle’ in connection with Arafat makes me gag, but I would have pointed out that the ‘principles’ which Arafat would not give up were primarily the right of ‘return’ and complete sovereignty over Jerusalem, and not arguments over borders.

The writer suggests that Arafat would not ‘dare’ to accept Israel’s offer. This is always the Palestinian line, that they would like to have peace but the ‘extremists’ won’t let them. But Arafat proved that he was the extremist when he paid and commanded terrorists while the ‘peace’ talks were going on and when he funded the huge Karine A arms shipment.

The writer seems to be saying that by virtue of their ‘struggle’, the Palestinians today deserve a better deal than they were offered in 2000! They’ve struggled so hard, how can we offer them less than they’ve earned?

OK, so who wrote this? Who thinks that Palestinians should be compensated for their hard work and sacrifices in murdering Israelis?

None other than Akiva Eldar, Diplomatic Affairs Analyst for the great Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. Eldar’s bio says that he majored in Economics, Political Science, and Psychology. He must have been asleep in Psychology class when they discussed the phenomenon of abuse victims identifying with their abusers.

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No solution short of regime change

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Recently there’s been talk about a lame-duck Bush administration bombing Iran. And yesterday Shaul Mofaz threatened that Israel would do so (my local newspaper headlined the AP story “Israeli threatens to bomb Iran”, which caused me to do a double take when I read it as “Israel threatens…”).

But the real danger may not be only from actual bombs in Iranian hands. In “The real danger from Iran“, Ami Isseroff argued,

The prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons is frightening because of what the Iranian government – the Islamic Republic of Iran – stands for, and because of the goals that it announces day and night, and its apparent readiness to achieve them by all means possible: a world without Zionism and America, an international Islamic caliphate, a Middle East dominated by Iranian radical Shi’ism.

…Iran is not just, or primarily, dangerous because it might develop nuclear weapons. Iran is dangerous because it is trying to undermine the United States and the west, and allies of the United States, including but not limited to Israel. The nature of the Iranian program was dramatically illustrated only a few weeks ago in the Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon, quietly blessed by the Doha agreement. While most of the Arab world and the west looked on with benign unconcern, some Arab clerics voiced their deep concerns. Iran’s supreme leader has again insisted that Iran is not seeking to make nuclear weapons, and that just might well be true. So what? [The late] Imad Moughnieh and Hassan Nassrallah and their activities represent the real danger from Iran…

…what if Iran “only” attains the nuclear fuel cycle and renounces nuclear weapons? What if they strike a deal with the west – no nuclear weapons, in return for economic support? Will Iran become a benign country? Picture Iran with no nuclear weapons, but as rich as Germany or France, and still committed to overthrowing the influence of moderate Islam, the west and Israel. Picture a world in which Iran controls the price of oil and decides who gets it, and installs radical Shi’a regimes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other countries. Yet they haven’t dropped a single atom bomb on anybody and they do not [yet] have any bombs. That scenario is far more realistic and probable than a nuclear attack on Israel, and it represents a devastating threat. Iran already controls Syria and Lebanon, and they bid fair to control the Palestinian authority. Who is next? [my emphasis]

Isseroff does not suggest a solution. He concludes,

The first step in solving the problem is to understand the real danger. By offering to “trade” other concessions for a pledge not to develop nuclear weapons, and by focusing only on this issue, the west is playing into the hands of Iran.

The conclusion that we must draw from his analysis is that there is no solution to the problem of Iran short of regime change. Yes, it is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but this won’t be sufficient to prevent her from reaching her goals as proclaimed by Ahmadinejad.

And this is why Barack Obama’s announced policy of “aggressive, principled diplomacy” is unlikely to work. Obama said,

We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If you abandon your dangerous nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives – including the lifting of sanctions, and political and economic integration with the international community. If you refuse, we will ratchet up the pressure.

The only part of this that is concrete and (maybe) verifiable is stopping the nuclear program. Do we really think Ahmadinejad would stop supporting Hezbollah? Do we really think that the West would insist on the rest if he would agree to put his nuclear ambition on hold? Do we really think that he would give up what has been the primary goal of Iranian policy since 1979, the replacement of US and Saudi influence with a Shiite hegemony in the Middle East?

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Palestinian terrorism comes to America, 1968

Friday, June 6th, 2008

Robert F. Kennedy, June 5, 1968

Yesterday was exactly 40 years since Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles by Sirhan Sirhan — a Palestinian terrorist. Kennedy was a strong supporter of Israel and so a natural target.

Sirhan, an Arab Christian born in East Jerusalem in 1944 and an immigrant to the US in 1956, was a passionate antisemite and Arab nationalist (see “Why Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Robert Kennedy“). There is no question that Sirhan, while obviously unbalanced, knew what he was doing and did it for his cause:

During Sirhan’s trial his mother related how the intense feelings of the Palestinians remained with the family even though they had been far removed from the conflict when they immigrated to America. She told of how her family had lived in Jerusalem for “thousands of years” and she spoke of the bitterness and hatred of the Israelis who had “taken their land.” Mary Sirhan believed her son had killed Robert Kennedy because of his Arab nationalism. She said, “What he did, he did for his country…”

Following his arrest Sirhan told one of the court-appointed psychiatrists, George Y. Abe, about his political philosophy. Sirhan told him he was solidly anti-Zionist and disgusted at the way Jews in America had such a strong influence within the American political system. Sirhan said he believed Robert Kennedy listened to the Jews and he saw the senator as having sold out to them.

Sirhan’s lawyers downplayed the political reasons for the murder:

From the beginning both Sirhan’s lawyers and the U.S. media sought to portray the assassination of Robert Kennedy as the act of a deranged individual bent on seeking fame and notoriety.

The New York lawyer Emile Zola Berman, a Jew, became one of Sirhan’s lawyers and was praised for defending a Palestinian. However, he may well have been used by the defense team to prevent the political aspects of the crime from being addressed. It was Berman who advocated Sirhan’s defense be built around the plea of “diminished capacity,” to prove that Sirhan had been mentally ill. Sirhan protested and told his lawyers, “Have you ever heard the Arab side of the story?…I mean on the TV, the radio, in the mass media?…That’s what bugs me! There’s no Arab voice in America, and goddamn it, I’m gonna show ’em in that courtroom. I’m gonna really give’em hell about it.” During the trial, Sirhan repeatedly voiced his political motives but his lawyers went ahead with their trial strategy.

This parallels another, more recent case. The trial of Naveed Haq, who shot one woman to death and injured five others when he invaded Seattle’s Jewish Federation in July 2006, ended in a hung jury this week. Haq, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, was clear about his motives as well:

He spewed anti-Israel and anti-Jewish slurs during the attack while decrying the Iraq war and Israel’s 2006 conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Haq made similar comments on a video shown in the courtroom prior to the trial’s start.

According to a court memorandum, Haq told a 911 operator during his shooting rampage, “I’m not upset at the people, I’m upset at your foreign policy. These are Jews. I’m tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East.” — JTA

But apparently one juror was convinced by defense arguments that Haq was legally insane.

These acts are irrational in the context of our society — who knows if Robert Kennedy’s death advanced the Arab cause? — but in the Middle East, where martyrdom is admired and compromise is considered emasculation, it’s another story.

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