Archive for October, 2008

Republicans and Democrats both believe Mideast fairy tales

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Middle Eastern fairy taleRepublicans tell us that we should vote for John McCain because Barack Obama doesn’t understand the realities of the Middle East. Could someone please tell me how he could understand them any less well than the present Republican administration?

From the Lebanese Daily Star:

On Monday Lebanon and the US signed three military contracts worth $63 million in US grants to the LAF. The grants are aimed at providing the Lebanese Army with secure communications, ammunition and infantry weapons.

Beirut and Washington also set up a joint military commission in charge of organizing their bilateral military relationship.

“We discussed with [President Michel Suleiman] military cooperation between Lebanon and the US in light of the recent meeting at the Defense Ministry in the presence of a joint military commission,” [US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David] Hale said, referring to the Monday meeting between Defense Minister Elias Murr and US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Mary Beth Long.

Lebanon today is almost completely dominated by Hezbollah. Indeed,  the Lebanese government has issued ‘guidelines’ to permit Hezbollah to initiate military action against Israel, President Suleiman has supported Hezbollah’s pretext-for-war demands for the Shabaa Farms, and he even hugged terrorist child-murderer Samir Kuntar.

As Caroline Glick has pointed out, the Lebanese government and army cannot be depended on to oppose Hezbollah or Syria. The army, which is 1/3 Shia, will certainly not fight Hezbollah, and in fact — in 2006, before Hezbollah’s latest coup — assisted it in the war with Israel.

So, assuming that the administration correctly perceives the Iranian-controlled Hezbollah — an organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans since the early ’80’s — as our enemy, why are we arming forces in Lebanon that at best will not oppose it and at worst fight alongside it against our ally, Israel? Why are we in effect helping Hezbollah and Syria deny political rights to Christians and other non-Shiites in Lebanon?

Another example is the “Annapolis process”. Why is the US financing and arming the corrupt and unpopular Palestinian Fatah faction when it’s clear that it cannot — and wouldn’t if it could — oppose Hamas? Why is the US trying to force Israel to evacuate the West Bank, when that will guarantee, just as it did in Gaza, a Hamas takeover? Why is the US supplying Fatah with arms that will certainly fall into the hands of Hamas, as they did in Gaza?

In both cases, the Republican administration prefers to believe attractive fairy tales — that it has allies in the Arab world who will fight the Iranian terrorist proxies for it — to the truth, which is that the only Middle Eastern nation whose interests truly align with those of the US is Israel.

Is this any more realistic than the Democratic fairy tales about talking Iran into giving up its nuclear program?

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Islamophobia

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

I’ve recently written about antisemitism, so I thought I would give equal time to Islamophobia — especially since I and other Zionists are often accused of it. Here’s what the Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] says it is:

Islamophobia refers to unfounded fear of and hostility towards Islam. Such fear and hostility leads to discriminations against Muslims, exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political or social process, stereotyping, the presumption of guilt by association, and finally hate crimes.  In twenty-first century America, all of these evils are present and in some quarters tolerated. While America has made major progress in racial harmony, there is still a long road ahead of us to reach our destination when all people are judged on the content of their character and neither on the color of their skin or their faith. [my emphasis]

They add that the following (false) propositions are widely believed as a result of Islamophobia:

  • Islam is monolithic and cannot adapt to new realities.
  • Islam does not share common values with other major faiths.
  • Islam as a religion is inferior to the West. It is archaic, barbaric and irrational.
  • Islam is a religion of violence and supports terrorism.
  • Islam is a violent political ideology.

In order for an attitude to constitute Islamophobia, then, it must be an irrational prejudice, like racism or antisemitism, in which discrimination or hatred occurs based only on a person’s membership in a particular group.

It is not irrational, though, to feel fear and hostility towards a group which does intend, through violence or subversion, to replace democratic governments with theocratic ones. And this describes those Muslims that we call Islamists. Daniel Pipes defines ‘Islamists’ as

…individuals who seek a totalistic, worldwide application of Islamic law, the Shari‘a. In particular, they seek to build an Islamic state in Turkey, replace Israel with an Islamic state and the U.S. constitution with the Koran. — Pipes, “Counting Islamists

Although CAIR’s examples of Islamophobic belief do not apply to all Muslims, at least the last three propositions arguably are true of Islamists, such as members of Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and their supporters. There is no doubt that these groups explicitly believe in violent action to achieve their goals, and that their supporters applaud violent terrorism. There is no doubt that Shari’a — where it has been applied in Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example — is at odds with Western values.

It’s not relevant to this discussion whether these Islamists have ‘hijacked’ normative Islam, as is often said. The point is that they behave in barbaric and violent ways — or support such behavior — and justify this by an appeal to Islamic principles. Only a minority of Islamists are actually prepared to engage in violence themselves, but most would agree with statements like “violence is often justified in defense of religion”.

One question that is relevant is how many Muslims among the world’s 1.4 billion are Islamists. If it turns out to be a significant number, then a degree of concern — not prejudice, but concern — about Muslim influence in American society is justified. Pipes believes that the number of Islamists worldwide is between 10 and 15 per cent of all Muslims. Some communities have a much higher percentage, such as in the UK or among Palestinians, and others are lower. Overall, this is a huge number.

Pipes, by the way, is mentioned by CAIR as a disseminator of Islamophobic beliefs — but his careful distinctions between Muslims, Islamists and  Islamists who are terrorists refute this accusation, by CAIR’s own definition of Islamophobia.

If we draw the distinction between Islam (a religion) and Islamism (a political movement based on Islam) we can see that concern about Islamism is not irrational or unfounded. It is not a form of racism or ethnic prejudice. There may indeed be Islamophobia in the world, but this isn’t it.

But that doesn’t stop some people from confusing legitimate concern about Islamism with hatred for Muslims.

For example, one of these concerns is that some history textbooks recently adopted in California present a distorted, “sanitized” view of Islam. A report from the American Textbook Council (“Islam in the Classroom: What the Textbooks Tell Us“) includes the following discussion of the concept of jihad:

New definitions of jihad started to circulate in U.S. history textbooks and classrooms in the 1990s. The engine was a 1994 Council on Islamic Education [CIE] “guide” for publishers that maintained jihad meant “‘to exert oneself’ or ‘to strive.’ Other meanings include ‘endeavor, strain, effort, diligence, struggle. . . .’ It should not be understood to mean ‘holy war,’ a common misrepresentation.” Soon, jihad underwent a definitional overhaul. In this amazing cultural reorchestration, the pioneer was a Houghton Mifflin world history textbook, Across the Centuries, still firmly established in junior high schools. Across the Centuries said jihad is a struggle “to do one’s best to resist temptation and overcome evil.” Jihad was reimagined as an “inner struggle” and element of Muslim self-improvement. These changes reflected the intersection of multiculturalism, suddenly a trendy social studies construct, and Houghton Mifflin’s commercial ambitions in social studies. Then and later, appearing from nowhere, the California-based Council on Islamic Education would become a fixture on the textbook scene.

Other items such as shari’a, the status of women in Islam, etc. have similarly been made more palatable. A student educated from books like this would have no idea that Islamism existed. Yet when the editor of the  local Hadassah newsletter included a discussion of this in connection with Hadassah’s Curriculum Watch program, she was called a “hate-mongering Islamophobe”. Even by CAIR’s definition this is absurd.

CAIR and other similar organizations have done their best to exaggerate the amount of true Islamophobia in America and to promote an exquisite sensitivity to it on the part of Muslims and the ‘multiculturalism police’. The effect is to prevent an accurate understanding of Islam in all of its forms, and to make it more difficult to expose the activities of Islamist extremists.

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Jew vs. Jew

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Antony Lerman writes (“Jews attacking Jews“),

When I first started professionally monitoring and studying anti-Semitism almost 30 years ago, there was, broadly speaking, a shared understanding of what it was…

We Jews knew who the enemy was. Since Jews do not cause anti-Semitism, we fought those who peddled theories of the world Jewish conspiracy, Holocaust denial, blood libels. Except at the very margins, we didn’t fight Jews.

How things have changed. Today, bitter arguments rage about what constitutes anti-Semitism. When Jew-hatred is identified, it’s mostly in the form of what many call the “new anti-Semitism” — essentially, anti-Zionism. Others (this writer included) fundamentally dispute that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are synonymous.

But whatever position you take, it’s clear that a revolutionary change in the discourse about anti-Semitism has occurred: Practically no discussion about current anti-Semitism now takes place without Israel and Zionism being at its center.

Lerman goes on to decry the phenomenon of Jews bitterly attacking other Jews as ‘anti-Semitic’ simply because they may be anti-Israel:

The attacks are often vitriolic, ad hominem and indiscriminate. Aspersions are cast on the Jewishness of individuals whom the attacker cannot possibly know. The charge of Jewish “self-hatred” — another way of calling someone a Jewish anti-Semite — is used ever more frequently, despite mounting evidence that it’s an entirely bogus concept.

Of course he’s right that “Jew vs. Jew” is not helpful to the cause of preserving the Jewish people. But there really is a sense in which anti-Semitism has changed, especially since 1967.

Let’s go back to Germany in 1938. There was no problem in defining anti-Semitism — it was when Brownshirts wrecked your store and beat you up. In the US after the war it took a more subtle form, that of ‘restrictions’ on where Jews could live, ‘quotas’ on where they could study, etc.

As time went by American society became less suffused with manifestations of various forms of racial and ethnic prejudice, and anti-Semitism was primarily the province of the extreme and marginal Right — neo-Nazis like George Lincoln Rockwell (1918-67), and racists like David Duke. It goes without saying that neither Hitler’s SA, Rockwell’s American Nazi Party or Duke’s KKK attracted many Jewish recruits.

In the mid-1960’s Yasser Arafat — with Soviet guidance — turned the Palestinian public relations strategy around. David Meir-Levy wrote (History Upside Down, pp. 28-29),

Arafat was particularly struck by Ho Chi Minh’s success in mobilizing left-wing sympathizers in Europe and the United States, where activists on American campuses, enthusiastically following the line of North Vietnamese operatives, had succeeded in reframing the Vietnam war from a Communist assault on the south to a struggle for national liberation.

Ho’s chief strategist, General Giap, made it clear to Arafat and his lieutenants that in order to succeed, they too needed to redefine the terms of their struggle. Giap’s counsel was simple but profound: the PLO needed to work in a way that concealed its real goals, permitted strategic deception, and gave the appearance of moderation:

Stop talking about annihilating Israel and instead turn your terror war into a struggle for human rights. Then you will have the American people eating out of your hand.

At the same time that he was getting advice from General Giap, Arafat was also being tutored by Muhammad Yazid, who had been minister of information in two Algerian wartime governments (1958-1962):

Wipe out the argument that Israel is a small state whose existence is threatened by the Arab states, or the reduction of the Palestinian problem to a question of refugees; instead, present the Palestinian struggle as a struggle for liberation like the others. Wipe out the impression …that in the struggle between the Palestinians and the Zionists, the Zionist is the underdog. Now it is the Arab who is oppressed and victimized in his existence because he is not only facing the Zionists but also world imperialism.

The new approach was wildly successful, especially with the moderate Left, which had generally supported the somewhat socialist state of Israel. At the 2001 UN Durban Conference on Racism, this approach was refined, focused and amplified. Now Israel was presented as not only denying Palestinians their rights, but as doing so out of an essential racism. The false analogy with South African apartheid was pushed and similar remedies were proposed: delegitimization, boycotts, divestment, etc.

Thus in addition to the power of the anticolonialist theme, the potent element of racism was added. Especially in the US, where in recent decades the full horror of our own racist history had been coming to the surface in white society — along with powerful feelings of guilt — it was not difficult for Israel’s enemies to make anti-Zionism almost a religion on the Left, especially on college campuses.

Israel’s Arab opponents — especially Egypt and Syria, which absorbed numerous former Nazis who busied themselves with such projects as developing chemical weapons — had started adopting traditional European anti-Semitic themes almost immediately after the founding of the state. And the Palestinian Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had been an admirer of Hitler since the 1930’s, injected the same ideas into the Palestinian movement.

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that many Palestinians and other Arabs took to it like ducks to water. For one thing, the massive power of international Zionism serves as an explanation for the otherwise ‘inexplicable’ humbling of the Arabs at the hands of the numerically inferior Jews in 1948 and 1967. In addition, hatred of Jews is easier to develop and sustain than liking for Palestinians, something that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has found effective to exploit.

As a result we find that Jew-hatred is inextricably bound up with the anti-Zionism of the Palestinians, the Arab nations, and the Iranians. And as anti-Semitism has been compared to a virus, is it surprising that it has also affected many of the Western supporters of the Middle Eastern anti-Zionist cause?

So while Lerman is correct that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism don’t mean the same thing, many anti-Zionists are as a matter of fact also anti-Semites — and this includes some Jews.

In addition, there is a form of extreme anti-Zionism that can only be understood as a form of anti-Semitism itself (see my discussion of “Anti-Zionism and antisemitism“). And it is this extreme manifestation that characterizes many of the Jews that Lerman admits are “at the forefront of the growing number of anti-Israel or anti-Zionist groups”.

These anti-Zionists are fond of saying that “any criticism of Israel is branded as anti-Semitism”, and that therefore they are being ‘muzzled’, prevented from expressing their legitimate political views. But in some cases the shoe may fit quite well.

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The US tightens its grip on Israel’s defense capability

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

FBX-T X-band radar

FBX-T X-band radar system. The antenna is on the truck near the bottom of the photo.

The US is in the process of installing an FBX-T (“Forward-Based X-Band Radar-Transportable“) system in Israel. The system is not being sold or even leased to Israel, and it will be operated by American personnel. In effect, it is an extension of the US missile defense system’s data acquisition capabilities to Israel.

The radar has a range of about 1200 miles (1900 km) — about twice that of the radar presently used by Israel’s Arrow anti-Missile system. That means that it could detect Iranian and Syrian missiles immediately after launch, improving the chances that they could be intercepted.

“X-band” refers to the frequency of signals transmitted by the system, near 10 GHz. This corresponds to a wavelength of 3 cm; and the shorter the wavelength, the better the resolution of the radar. So it will be able to detect very small objects and more importantly to discriminate between different types of missiles — perhaps even to discriminate between missiles carrying warheads and dummies.

Yaakov Katz, in the Jerusalem Post, writes:

The radar’s arrival is not just meant to improve defense capabilities against Iran, defense officials noted this week. It is also America’s way of bolstering its presence in the region in the face of a growing Russian presence in Syria.

Moscow is renovating the Syrian port of Tartus, which will be used to house a permanent Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean. President Bashar Assad visited Moscow last month, and told the Russian daily Kommersant that Damascus was “ready to cooperate with Russia in any way,” including discussing deploying missile defense systems on Syrian territory.

“America has just as much interest in what is going on in the region as we do,” a senior Israeli defense official explained. “Keep in mind that while we will receive the radar data, the Americans will be controlling the system and using it for their purposes, as well.”

Israel did not even receive permission to have any personnel at the station. Although this will probably be explained by a desire to keep details of the system secret, probably the greatest concern is prevent Israel from using the data for its own initiatives — such as preemptive attacks on Iran or Syria.

The radar will also provide information on everything that flies — including small objects such as drones  — within its range. This will make it possible for the US to know immediately if, for example, Israel moves against Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon. TIME Magazine quoted some Israeli officials as ‘wary’:

The radar will allow the U.S. to keep a close watch on anything moving in Israeli skies, “even a bee”, says one top Israeli official who asked not to be identified. The U.S. may be a close ally, but Israel nonetheless has aviation secrets it would rather not share. “Even a husband and wife have a few things they’d like to keep from each other,” explains this source. “Now we’re standing without our clothes on in front of America.”

Israel will have no direct access to the data collected by the radar, which looks like a giant taco. It will only be fed intelligence second hand, on a need-to-know basis, from the Americans — unless the radar picks up an immediate, direct attack on Israel, Israeli sources claim. And Israeli officials expressed concern that the radar’s installation may anger Moscow, since its range will enable the U.S. to monitor aircraft in the skies over southern Russia. When the U.S. stationed anti-missile radar and interceptor systems in Poland and the Czech Republic — ostensibly directed at a future Iranian threat, although the Russians believe their own missile capability is its real target — Moscow warned those countries that the move could result in their being added to the target list of Russia’s missiles.

If the US wishes to prevent Israel from taking some action it always has had the capability of doing so. But at least until now, there has been the possibility of Israel taking action before the US knows about it.

Soon this will not be the case. This radar system may be intended as much or more to control Israel as to defend her. Israelis should be more than just ‘wary’ of abdicating their responsibility to defend the nation and placing it in the hands of others, whose interests are, after all, their own.

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Happy new year to everyone!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

News item:

Kadima head Tzipi Livni has made progress in her attempts to form a majority coalition, her aides said Thursday. Livni is attempting to convince the hareidi-religious Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties to join her in creating a Kadima-led government that would postpone general elections and allow her to serve as prime minister.

Representatives from UTJ demanded control of the Knesset’s Finance Committee in exchange for supporting Livni, aides said…Shas continues to demand an increase in child support payments for large families. — IsraelNN

Meanwhile, the disgraced Ehud Olmert remains acting PM while “stonewalling” police attempts to question him on corruption charges, and Syria may be constructing new nuclear plants.

Here in the US the financial crisis continues unabated, and of course people are blaming the Jews. And tonight we await a debate between vice-presidential candidates, one far beyond ‘unqualified’ and the other a world-class plagiarist.

What an incredible start to the new year!

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