Archive for July, 2008

Incident at Na’alin

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Incident at NaalinBy now, everyone has probably heard about — or seen — this:

(IsraelNN.com) A soldier has been arrested for allegedly firing rubber bullets at a detained Arab rioter during the violent July 7th Naalin demonstrations, following the release of a videotape of the incident.

The tape was released by the left-wing B’Tzelem organization and shows the soldier shooting a rubber bullet at the feet of Ashraf Abu-Rahma while he was being detained by Israeli forces for violence during the riot. The demonstration, protesting the construction of the security fence through the Arab town of Naalin, is one of many in the area that have turned violent over the past months.

The handcuffed detainee was hit in the toe and not seriously injured. An officer nearby either ordered the soldier to shoot, or simply to scare him. The video has been shown over and over on worldwide media.

The Palestinians could not have made up a better issue, although if they had made it up Abu-Rahma would be as dead as Mohammed Dura.

Given what is happening at Na’alin, he probably deserved far worse than a bruised toe (after due process, of course). But what is important here is not whether IDF soldiers should shoot rubber bullets at prisoners (they shouldn’t), not whether the soldier and/or officer should be punished (they should, and the punishment should be increased by ten for sheer stupidity) and not even whether the security fence has cut off Palestinian residents from their lands.

Here’s the protocol, repeated day in and day out:

Palestinian ‘activists’, left-wing Israeli Useful Idiots like b’Tselem, and foreign helpers from such organizations like the ISM (the organization that brought Rachel Corrie to Israel), etc. find a place where the security fence abuts a Palestinian village, and try to tear it down. The media have been alerted and are out in force.

Think about how other countries would handle this! In many of them there would not even be a demonstration, since prospective participants would expect to be beaten to a pulp or met with live fire from the outset (and there wouldn’t be any journalists present). Israel is, as usual, placed in a difficult position because security forces must prevent the fence from being destroyed and protect themselves while using minimal force and permitting access to the press.

When security personnel — sometimes police but often IDF soldiers or reservists with only minimal training and equipment for riot control — arrive, they are attacked with weapons ranging from stones and Molotov cocktails to assault rifles, the demonstrators trying as hard as possible to provoke ‘overreaction’. It’s especially helpful to the cause when a child or foreigner is injured or even killed.

This serves the purpose of focusing the world’s attention on the security fence, on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the territories, and on the human rights aspects of incidents such as Abu-Rahma’s bruised toe.

It buttresses the contention by Palestinians and their supporters that the conflict is primarily about ‘the occupation’ (with a systematic ambiguity about whether they are talking about the occupation of 1967 or that of 1948).

But this is emphatically not what the conflict is about. It is a peripheral effect, not a central cause. Supposing that the world’s ‘peace’ activists really wanted to bring peace  between Jews and Arabs, here are the actual issues that they should start by being concerned about:

  1. Since before the founding of the State of Israel, the Arabs and Persians have been trying to prevent any form of Jewish autonomy in the Middle East. Tactics have included conventional warfare, terrorism, and lately asymmetric proxy war.
  2. Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran have recently engaged in a massive buildup of forces aimed at Israel, including chemical, biological, and soon nuclear weapons, and have made no secret of their intentions.
  3. Palestinians have been led to believe by the Arab/Persian world that they can and will reverse the outcome of the 1948 war by ‘armed struggle’ — and their friends have supported and financed this struggle, prevented solutions to issues such as Palestinian refugees, and encouraged terrorism.

These are the forces that have driven the conflict in the past and drive it today. These are the forces that will continue to bring wars and death. It’s unfortunately a tribute to Arab public relations skill that they have managed to misdirect the world’s moral opprobrium away from their aggressive, genocidal struggle and turn it against Israel’s attempts at self-defense.

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Is Obama as uninformed as he seems?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

With the exception of the nine years that I spent in Israel, I have never missed an American election, not even off-year primaries. I have always taken my responsibility to vote very seriously. So this coming Presidential election — which comes at a point of real historical crisis for the US — has seen me struggling mightily in an effort to find out what the candidates actually know about the critical issues and what they would be likely to do if elected.

Barack Obama is particularly impenetrable. Because of the multiple constituencies that he is trying to appeal to, he is unlikely to  be too specific. He’s an excellent speaker and has plenty of backup and preparation — his foreign policy staff numbers 300, according to the NY Times. And of course pre-election promises have historically had little relationship to presidential actions.

But candidates, even smooth ones like Obama, sometimes reveal their degree of competence on an issue despite careful programming.  Obama’s AIPAC statement that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided” and its immediate retraction in the face of howls from Arabs and the Left was instructive and very disquieting. Obviously this was one issue that Obama had not understood.

Now Obama has made another statement on the Middle East, and unfortunately it is a doozy. Thanks to Martin Kramer for catching this:

I think King, King Abdullah [of Jordan] is as savvy an analyst of the region and player in the region as, as there is, one of the points that he made and I think a lot of people made, is that we’ve got to have an overarching strategy recognizing that all these issues are connected. If we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian process, then that will make it easier for Arab states and the Gulf states to support us when it comes to issues like Iraq and Afghanistan.

It will also weaken Iran, which has been using Hamas and Hezbollah as a way to stir up mischief in the region. If we’ve gotten an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, maybe at the same time peeling Syria out of the Iranian orbit, that makes it easier to isolate Iran so that they have a tougher time developing a nuclear weapon.Obama on Meet the Press, July 27, 2008. My emphasis.

Keep in mind that he uttered this pernicious nonsense after his visit to the Middle East, after his intensive discussions on Mideast issues! Kramer calls it “The Myth of Linkage“, and it appears in the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report, as well as in statements by Jimmy Carter and Obama supporter Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Obama’s statement indicates either 1) he spoke without thinking, 2) he has no understanding of the intentions and strategies of the players in the region, or 3) he — like Carter, Brzezinski and Baker, wishes to provide a justification for a blatantly pro-Arab and anti-Israel policy.

I suppose alternative 1) is the best we can hope for.

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Lame ducks can be dangerous

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

As the Bush Administration draws to a close, lots of things are possible.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni came out on Sunday against American efforts to have Israel reach an interim agreement with the Palestinians before the end of US President George W. Bush’s term based on the diplomatic talks that she has led.

Speaking at a Kadima rally in Jerusalem that was closed to the press, Livni expressed concern that the Bush administration would pressure Israel, as president Bill Clinton did at Camp David before he left office in 2001.

“I purposely am not setting deadlines [for the negotiations with the Palestinians], because I think that’s very bad,” Livni said. “I very much don’t want to be in the same situation that Ehud Barak was in at at Camp David of the end of an American administration finishing its term and trying to put pressure on everyone to bridge gaps that cannot be bridged.”  — Jerusalem Post

Indeed.  Gaps about Jerusalem and refugees, just for starters. And security: the West Bank cannot be allowed to become another Gaza, which is certainly what would happen if the IDF were to withdraw from it today.

Those to the right of Livni claim that she is just trying to position herself for the coming elections. She has been involved with ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and  has been accused of offering dangerous concessions. So she is trying to disassociate herself from them before a disadvantageous agreement is signed.

I think the truth is that the government of Israel has been pressured by the US to take part in the process and — including Livni — has been doing its best not to make too much ‘progress’. The Palestinians have done their part in obstructing an agreement, by insisting on outrageous conditions, assuming that US pressure will force Israel to give in, basically to commit suicide.

But isn’t the Bush Administration pro-Israel? Didn’t it permit Israel to wage war against Hezbollah for several weeks?

Actually, the Bush Administration is several things, depending on whose influence is ascendant at any time. The so-called ‘neo-cons’ were relatively pro-Israel, but they lost much of their power after the early failures in Iraq, to be replaced by the same oil interests and pro-Arab State Department circles that have been determining US Middle East policy for generations. Their point of view is expressed clearly in the Iraq Study Group report.

This group is close to Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab oil powers, and is quite worried about the expansion of Iran’s sphere of influence in the region; so it wouldn’t make them unhappy to see Hezbollah — which Caroline Glick called “the Foreign Legion of the Iranian Republican Guard” — weakened or destroyed.

The drive to force an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is often attributed to a desire on the part of the US President for a Nobel Prize. That may have been Bill Clinton’s idea, but in this case I think a desire to go down in history is a minimal part of the motivation.

I’ve mentioned that in the mid-1970’s, Henry Kissenger made a promise to the Arabs that while the US would always support Israel’s existence, she would work to undo the outcome of the 1967 war. Remember that this was after the huge shock to the US economy brought about by the Arab oil boycott, instituted to punish the US for supporting Israel in 1973.

The official explanation of the effort to obtain a US-Palestinian ‘peace’ agreement is that the dispute is somehow central to all Mideast issues and that solving it is the key to solving them. But this is obvious nonsense. The real reason is that, in an era of skyrocketing oil prices, the Saudis and Gulf Arabs are demanding that Kissinger’s committment — and undoubtedly others that have not been publicized — be met.

As I’ve written before, Israel is prepared to give up land, but only if it will lead to real peace. And prior experiments in this direction have been less than successful.

The US, on the other hand, is simply interested in Israel giving up land.

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Positional play

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

News item:

A mysterious explosion in a suburb of Teheran that killed 15 people last Saturday was likely an attack on a Iranian military convoy carrying arms to Hizbullah, the Telegraph reported Friday…

Last Saturday’s incident was the latest in a series of mysterious explosions in the Islamic republic.

In May, Iran blamed British and US agents for an explosion at a mosque in Shiraz that had just been the site of a military exhibition. In 2007, more than a dozen Iranian engineers lost their lives while trying to fit a chemical warhead to a missile in Syria. A few months earlier, a train apparently carrying military supplies to Syria was derailed by an explosion in northern Turkey.

If indeed Israel or the US is behind these events, there is something to keep in mind.

These operations are enormously dangerous for the operatives on the ground.  Especially in Iran, the CIA or Mossad would not be likely to risk them unless the payoff was relatively large.

That means anything that might significantly delay the Iranian nuclear program, or change the balance of power between Israel and Syria or Hezbollah. Chemical/biological weapons for Hezbollah would probably count, or perhaps anti-aircraft systems.

The analogy between war and chess is not accidental.  In the early stages of a game of chess, a player tries to position his forces so that when the violence escalates the enemy’s assets will be bottled up or neutralized. Sometimes a piece is sacrificed in a trade for one of conventionally lower value in order to obtain a positional advantage.

Of course real war is infinitely more complicated than chess, with more than two players and many more pieces, pieces whose capabilities, unlike those of chess pieces, are often unknown until they are actually used. But the concept of position is fundamentally the same.

Today the US and Iran are engaged in the early stages of a game in their protracted match.  This game will involve another Israel-Hezbollah clash — after all, Hezbollah exists only for one reason, to oppose Israel — and the positional sparring has begun.

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Arab Thinking 101

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Westerners were shocked at Samir Kuntar’s reception in Lebanon. Arab presidents and prime ministers greeted him, al-Jazeera even threw a birthday party for him. But actually there is nothing surprising about it given the Arab world-view.

What I do find surprising, on the other hand, is the way our leaders keep flunking “Arab Thinking 101″.   

Being a Terrorist Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry
By Barry Rubin

The number-one mistake people make trying to understand the Middle East is refusing to believe folks here think differently from themselves.

Virtually every development in the Middle East should remind us of this reality.

Yet as Captain Ahab hunted the white whale, as prospectors hunt for gold, as…well, you get the idea, so is the hunt for the great Arab moderate. There are Arab moderates, some very smart and brave people. The problem is none are in positions of power and all must shut up or face repression and being defined by fellows as enemies of the people.

The view of the Middle East held in much or most of the Western media, academia, intellectual circles, and large sections of governments is a fantasy having nothing to do with the region.

One should work against dangerous extremists with the Saudi, Egyptian, Jordanian, Moroccan, Kuwaiti, UAE, and Iraqi governments as well as the Lebanese pro-independence forces, though these all have multiple faults. But you must know the limits. And you can’t work with the Iranian, Syrian governments, Hamas and Hizballah or Muslim Brotherhood, even against al-Qaida which is ultimately–despite September 11 — a far smaller threat.

Still, one must face the fact that the last half-century’s most basic lessons have evaporated, partly due to Western policy mistakes — of excessive softness, not toughness — but mostly to the incredible power of the region’s political and intellectual system.

What keeps the region crisis-ridden, extremist, undemocratic, and unstable is not merely a system imposed by evil regimes on an innocent public. Yes, regimes continue their self-serving Arab nationalist, semi-Islamist, anti-Western, anti-Israel, demagogic messages urging the masses to support their local dictator. But this is what the public wants to hear. Rulers would be in far more trouble if they told the truth.

The glorification of the terrorist Sami Qantar is widely seen in the West as showing something is deeply wrong in the Arabic-speaking world. Yet there’s also much denial. The New York Times explained Qantar’s attack had gone terribly wrong when he murdered Israeli civilians. In fact, this was the raid’s purpose.

In another article, the Times intoned: “The United States, Israel and some of their European allies have begun to recognize that their policy of trying to defeat their enemies by isolating and vilifying them has failed.” Yet it was Iran, Syria, Hizballah, and Hamas that dispatches the Qantars on missions against not only Israeli but also Iraqi and Lebanese civilians.

If the extremists should not be vilified should they be praised? If they should not be isolated should they be embraced? Is the correct policy the feting of murderous Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad in Paris or parleying with the genocidal-oriented Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran? Why did the U.S. government welcome the Syria-Iran-Hizballah victory in knocking down Lebanon’s moderate government? Who’s the villain in Iraq, the United States or the terrorists?

Well, for the Arabic-speaking world, the true heroes are still the terrorists. What horrified me most is not radicals cheering Qantar but that most relative moderates feeling compelled to do so. At the airport to greet him were leaders of Lebanon’s anti-Syrian, anti-Iranian Druze and Christian groups as well as the ambassadors from Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, and Morocco.

To avoid being discredited, relative moderates must affirm that anyone who murders Israeli children is a hero. That’s the measure of how far — despite daily headlines to the contrary — the region is from Arab-Israeli peace.

Yet it’s untrue the prisoner exchange has strengthened or encouraged the radicals. The truth is even worse: No matter what happens they’ll do exactly the same things. If every operation and casualty is a victory, a profit-loss calculus doesn’t apply. They’ll kidnap if there’s a prisoner exchange; they’ll kidnap if there’s no exchange. Triumph is continuing the struggle. Violence, death, and instability is cause for celebration.

Charles Harb, a Lebanese professor, claimed in the Guardian, “The Secret of Hizballah’s Success” is that its ability to get back some prisoners and bodies or force Israel out of south Lebanon “is in stark contrast to what ‘Arab moderates’ could show for in the same decade they spent negotiating with the Israeli state.”

The Saudi-backed, London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat, however, reminded readers that Hizballah’s success cost “$5.2 billion in losses and 1,200 dead” in the 2006 war. In addition, the south Lebanon war took almost 20 years, and Israel would have withdrawn far sooner if it had not been trying to block attacks against its territory.

The claim that Arab moderates have gained little through negotiation is also quite wrong. By negotiating with Israel, Egypt got back the Sinai, reopened the Suez Canal and western Sinai oilfields, and received about $60 billion to date in U.S. aid. The PLO got the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank, putting more than two million Palestinians under its rule. Thousands of its prisoners were freed (more, of course, were taken because of its continuing violence), many billions of dollars in aid were obtained, and it could have had a Palestinian state if it so desired.

So who came out better, Egypt and the PLO (especially if it had really stuck to negotiating) or Hizballah?

Psychologically, the Arabic-speaking world says Hizballah because the “honor” gained through fighting and not yielding the dream of total victory trumps material benefits. Better martyrdom than compromise, better resistance than prosperity.

As long as this is true, there’s no hope for peace; even those who know better are dragged into shouting militant slogans. This doesn’t fit Western concepts of pragmatism, expectations that militants are just aching to be transformed into moderates, or that settling grievances through concessions defuses hatred.

That’s why policy prescriptions based on those premises are disastrous. While the West concludes that trying to defeat enemies by isolating and vilifying them has failed, the other side concludes its policy of trying to defeat its enemies by violence, vilification, and intransigence is working. That means more of the same: many decades more of the same.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit http://www.gloriacenter.org.

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Needed: a Reconquest of Labor

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Ha’aretz reports:

A Palestinian bulldozer driver went on a rampage in downtown Jerusalem on Tuesday, wounding at least 24 people, just weeks after a similar attack in the capital left three dead.

The driver was identified as a 22-year-old resident of East Jerusalem who held an Israeli ID card. Police sealed off possible escape routes into the predominantly Arab area of Jerusalem and were searching for two suspects who fled the scene, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Another day, another jihad-by-heavy-equipment.

A. D. GordonTime to ponder the words of A. D. Gordon:

We [the Jewish people] have become accustomed to every form of life, except to a life of labour–of labour done at our own behest and for its own sake. It will require the greatest effort of will for such a people to become normal again. — People and Labour, 1911

Now it is true that every people have many individuals who shun physical labour and try to live off the work of others… We Jews have developed an attitude of looking down on physical labour…. But labour is the only force which binds man to the soil… it is the basic energy for the creation of national culture. This is what we do not have, but we are not aware of missing it. We are a people without a country, without a national living language, without a national culture. We seem to think that if we have no labour it does not matter – let Ivan, John or Mustafa do the work, while we busy ourselves with producing a culture, with creating national values and with enthroning absolute justice in the world. — Our Tasks Ahead, 1920

The early kibbutzniks took Gordon seriously and learned how to farm, how to build, and how to defend themselves, things that most Diaspora Jews had forgotten. The Zionist idea that Jews would possess the land only when they were the workers as well as the owners of it was called “kibush ha’avoda“, the Conquest of Labor.

Israel is at a turning point today (see Daniel Pipes, “Samir Kuntar and the Last Laugh“). Lots of things have to change to get the country on the right path, but it wouldn’t hurt to start with a Reconquest of Labor.

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J Street poll dishonest, misleading and flawed

Monday, July 21st, 2008

The J Street organization, which bills itself “the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement” has released a new survey of the American Jewish community.

I want to discuss just one particular ‘finding’ from this poll, because it shows how J Street and others use polling deceptively.

Perhaps, more remarkable is [American Jews’] attitude on the basic dichotomy that often captures the debate – that is, when push comes to shove, does military superiority or a peace agreement better provide Israeli security.  On this fundamental question…Jews favor a peace agreement by a 50 to 34 margin

J Street’s technique is to conflate two questions, one trivial and true and the other significant but false. The polling data naturally supports the trivial one, but the interpretation claims to have proven the significant one.

Here’s the question that gave rise to the numbers above:

  1. Israel cannot rely on peace agreements with its enemies to provide security, and in the long run, Israel can only achieve real security by maintaining its military superiority; or,
  2. Israel must always maintain its strong military, but in the long run, Israel can only achieve real security through peace agreements that end conflicts and establish internationally recognized borders.

The first thing that you notice is that these questions don’t present clear-cut opposing positions.  Alternative 1 says that “Israel cannot rely on peace agreements” but alternative 2 says that “Israel must always maintain its strong military”. If Israel could rely on peace agreements, then why would it need a strong military?

What the question basically comes down to is this: “Which would be better, a strong military with peace agreements that end the conflict, or military superiority without such agreements?” And the obvious, trivial answer is  “of course it would be better to have an agreed end to the conflict!” And this is what 54 percent of American Jews believe.

But this trivial proposition is not the one that J Street claims to show. Rather, they want us to believe that a majority of American Jews think that a ‘peace agreement’ provides ‘better security’ than military superiority.

And that’s not all. The question posits abstract “peace agreements that end conflicts”. But this kind of agreement, the holy grail of Israeli-Arab peacemaking is nowhere on the table today. The question is so hypothetical as to be meaningless.

There’s more, lots more, including this false dichotomy:

After we presented a mixture of hawkish and pro-peace messages, we re-asked this series of questions and the “firm support” number was unchanged.

Did it occur to the writer that it is quite consistent to be “hawkish” — that is, to believe that “military superiority” is necessary to the continued existence of the state — and to want peace? And that it is reasonable to think that the “peace efforts” that are presently under way are actually more likely to lead to war than peace? So maybe it’s not so clear who is pro-peace and who is not.

And — oh yes. One minor methodological point.

Gerstein | Agne contracted the research company YouGovPolimetrix to administer the survey by email invitation to its web-based panel, which is regularly updated and consists of 1.2 million Americans.

This poll is not a random sample, the sample was allowed to select itself! Self-selection bias is one of the most elementary errors that can be made in opinion research.

To slightly twist a remark by Mark Twain, there are lies, damn lies, and opinion polls.

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Gordon Brown sympathetic to dead Jews, less so to live ones

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

News Item:

[British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown told reporters that Britain will always be a genuine friend of Israel, and guaranteed that the Jewish State’s security is of top concern for the United Kingdom. He added that he understood the obstacles [in the region], but “also the opportunities” that lie ahead.

Britain hasn’t been a friend of Israel since the Balfour Declaration (1917), which it has been trying to take back ever since. Britain turned its back on the Jews in the 1930’s when it closed the door on Jewish immigration to Palestine just as Hitler began his genocidal project. Later, near the end of the mandate, it tilted sharply toward the Arabs and aided them in their war against the new Jewish state.

Earlier Sunday, Brown called on Israel to stop settlement construction, and offered additional financial support and police training to the Palestinian Authority government.

Britain here demonstrates its genuine friendship with Israel by arming and training its enemies, just as it did for the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948.

The British leader said economic prosperity was the key to peace, and urged an easing of Israeli travel restrictions in the West Bank that have hindered commerce.

He promised British support in developing housing, industrial parks and small businesses…

Brown said he supported those who understand that “the prospect of prosperity encourages people that the return to violence is something that is an unacceptable price to pay, and something that should be rejected.”

Of course, it’s all due to ‘Israeli restrictions’, not mentioning the reason that these restrictions exist. If there weren’t ‘restrictions’, would the Palestinian economy thrive? Take, for example, Gaza when Israel totally withdrew all her forces, and Jewish donors presented the Palestinians with a profitable system of hothouses growing flowers for the European market. There were no ‘restrictions’, but in an orgy of hatred the hothouses were destroyed and the Palestinians went into the rocket business full time.

As if it had anything to do with economics! Palestinian politics is not the politics of rational decision-making, in which the goal is to improve the lot of the population. Rather, it is a contest between extremist groups, gangs with guns competing to see who can kill the most Jews, which group can get the most with the least compromise, and who is most likely to bring the about day that all of Israel is replaced by an Arab state, the nakba reversed.

It’s hard to believe that sophisticated people like Gordon Brown actually believe that they can move the Palestinians away from violence and toward a desire for peace with aid of any sort — particularly military assistance (Palestinian ‘police’ are more like an army than a police force). Certainly the billions that have already been pumped into the Palestinian hole have not done so in the slightest.

My conclusion is that they do not actually believe this, but present it for public consumption; the real motivation is to appear to be doing something that will lead to an Israeli withdrawal from the territories. This is demanded by the Arab world and by a large segment of Brown’s constituency.

Brown’s first stop in Israel was Yad Vashem, the country’s official Holocaust memorial, where he attended a ceremony for the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany.

Sympathy for dead Jews is cheap, even free. Standing up for the self-determination and security of live ones is another matter entirely, one on which Britain historically has a very poor record.

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No Palestinian Mandela

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Abbas with Haniyeh

Mahmoud Abbas appoints Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh leader of short-lived unity government (2007) as the Original Terrorist looks on approvingly from above

Barack Obama is embarking on a Grand Tour of Europe and the Middle East. Among other places, he will go to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Why?

If Mahmoud Abbas were a great leader, a Palestinian Nelson Mandela as it were, then it would make sense. But he’s not: he’s a man who thinks the murderers of children are heroes, and  his goal, unlike Mandela’s desire for reconciliation, is the ethnic cleansing of the Land of Israel of Jews.

If Mahmoud Abbas, although not a Palestinian Mandela, were at least a representative of his people, then it would make sense. But the majority of Palestinians openly support Hamas, and most of those who follow Abbas are paid to do so.

In fact, Abbas is no more or less than a second-rate terror gangster that the Bush Administration — in need of a Palestinian ‘leader’ in order to meet its commitments to Europe and Saudi Arabia — has chosen to prop up, with the help of a compliant Israel.  Without US money and IDF protection, Abbas would be gone in a flash.

The Bushies say that we have to do this, otherwise we’ll get Hamas.  But the truth of the matter is that we will get Hamas anyway, unless Israel finds the will (and gets a green light) to go after Hamas and wipe it out.

The NY Times claims that Obama has 300 foreign policy advisers. You’d think that at least a few of them would be clear-sighted enough to understand this. After all, why continue a “failed Bush policy”?

But if Obama is elected, chances are — judging from his puerile misunderstanding of the nature of the common enemies of the US and Israel  — that we will be lucky if his policy is no worse than Bush’s.

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The contrast has never been so stark

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Kuntar free in Lebanon (AP)Now the Hezbollah deal has been consummated and Israel has received the bodies of its soldiers. Child-murderer Samir Kuntar is free, enjoying a hero’s welcome in Lebanon, feted not only by Hezbollah’s Nasrallah but also by the President and Prime Minister of Lebanon, and the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

I was strongly opposed to the deal because of its sheer irrationality. Didn’t it invite more kidnappings? Didn’t it ensure that the price that will be paid for Gilad Schalit will be even more outrageous? Didn’t it legitimize the terrorist Hezbollah even further?

But maybe it presents an opportunity to break through the fog of lies created by our enemies — lies about their own goals and motivations and about the nature of Israel, Israelis and Jews.

To everyone who thinks that terrorism against Israel is the product of ‘extremists’  and that Israel needs to make peace with ‘moderates’ like PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Lebanese PM Fuad Saniora, etc.: How moderate can they be when they applaud terrorist murderers Samir Kuntar and Dalal Mughrabi, hold them up as heroes and examples?

To everyone who’s said that the conflict is primarily about human rights: Do you still believe this?

The contrast between Israeli and Arab society has never been so stark. Listen to an al-Jazeera TV host tell us what a Palestinian state would look like:

Ghassan bin Jiddo: Twelve men, led by a woman called Dalal Al-Maghrabi, managed to establish the State of Palestine, after the whole world had denied them their right to do so. They turned a bus, going from Haifa to Tel Aviv, into a temporary capital of the State of Palestine. They raised the white, red, and black flag at the front of the bus, singing, shouting, and dancing like children on a school trip.

There were real children on a trip on that bus, and 13 of them died in the temporary capital of Palestine, shot or burned to death by Mughrabi and her men. This is the peaceful Palestinian state that Arab societies yearn for. And this is the kind of declaration of statehood they cheer about.

Hezbollah, Fatah, Hamas, et al. have all said that the deal is a great victory for the ‘resistance’, showing how much stronger and more resolute they are than the Israelis, who stupidly care enough about the bodies of soldiers that they would suffer enormous humiliation and strategic damage to get them back.

On the contrary.

It illustrates the difference between civilized people and…something else.

There will be another confrontation between Isarel and Hezbollah, and soon enough with Hamas as well. Israeli soldiers will go into battle knowing the nature of the nation standing behind them as well as the nature of the enemy.  The results will speak for themselves.

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Barack Obama, imperialist thinker

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Barack ObamaBarack Obama is the target of this well-aimed blow, but his thinking is exemplary of that of the majority of so-called “opinion leaders” in the US: Journalists, academics, and politicians. 

Mr. Obama, Meet Mr. Jihadi
By Barry Rubin

Barack Obama says regarding his thoughts after 9/11:

The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

and that my friends is what you get with a Harvard education.

It is sort of like the famous scene from Indiana Jones in reverse.

You may remember that Jones is confronted by a sword wielding powerful warrior (Afghan-type clothes) who swings his sword at him showing off his great skill. Jones pulls out his gun and shoots the guy once. This brought a big laugh when I saw the film in a theatre. This is called: Western technology wins.

Now here’s my version. Jones, the epitome of modern sophisticated man in his expensive clothes and superior education, confronts the man with a brilliant series of arguments as to why it is in the warrior’s interest to focus instead on raising his living standards, make peace, and get his own state. The warrior pulls out a small knife and cuts off Jones’s head. Jones’s colleagues then say that Jones had it coming due to his past sins, that we must understand the suffering that led to this violence, this shows the need for more negotiations and concessions, etc.

This is called: asymmetric warfare.

While Obama poses as the great cosmopolitan there is something very much in common between his statement on the September 11 terrorists and what he has to say on the rural and small town Americans, who he believes are attracted to their views only through low living standards, ignorance, and the follies of religion.

No one can think in a manner different from him. No one can hold another belief system and act on it. They are merely evincing, to use the Marxist term for it, false consciousness. He will educate them both directly by material goods and by proper information.

Ironically, this is the epitome of imperialist thinking and it is also intolerant and demeaning in the way that historic racism was. To run a country you must understand that other people have their own set of beliefs and interests; that they think differently from you; that you just cannot buy them off; that their behavior is not just a result of your mistakes in the past but of their own history and culture (which determines even how they react to your own behavior).

Not to mention the fact that the September 11 hijackers mostly came from wealthy families and the wealthiest of them all was Usama bin Ladin.

He might have grown up partly in Indonesia, he may have lived as a Muslim until age 10, but Obama’s mentality is extraordinarily unsuited to understand the Third World, Middle East (or other dictatorships), terrorists (and their far more numerous supporters), or even the American people as a whole.

Perhaps Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran put it best, if I might paraphrase him: Anyone who thinks we staged a revolution because of the price of watermelons is a fool.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit http://www.gloriacenter.org.

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The Palestinians: a class act

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

News item:

[Palestinians] heaped praise on Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar, who killed four people in 1979, and Dalal Mughrabi, the Fatah woman who led the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre that claimed the lives of 36 people.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza took to the streets to celebrate the prisoner deal. Chanting slogans in support of Hizbullah, many distributed candy and pledged to continue the fight until all Palestinian prisoners were freed.

Palestinians also demonstrated in support of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been charged with genocide in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently visiting Malta, welcomed the prisoner swap and sent greetings to Kuntar.

[A top Fatah official] described Kuntar as a “big struggler” and Mughrabi as a “martyr who led one of the greatest freedom fighters’ operations in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“Samir, Mahmoud Abbas here. I just wanted to congratulate you on getting out of the Zionist jail. All of us Palestinians are proud of your big struggling against Zionist oppressor 4-year-old-girls.”

“I hope it doesn’t bother you too much that you are sharing the spotlight with Dalal Mughrabi, who, although a woman and probably a whore, killed 27 Zionists (13 of whom were children), as well as Hassan al-Bashir, although the millions that he murdered were only black Africans who are worthless except as slaves.”

“But you have to admire someone who commits a big genocide, don’t you, Samir? Did you know that I was an admirer of the greatest freedom fighter of them all, Adolf Hitler? I even wrote a book defending him.”

“We are having a great party today, just like we did on 9/11, celebrating the defeat of the racist Zionists. Keep up the struggle!”

The Palestinians: truly a class act.

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