Archive for January, 2012

Talking about political Islam

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Non-Muslims in the West are beginning to be divided into two groups: those who believe that it is possible and necessary to talk about political Islam, and those who see that discussion as religious prejudice, and therefore taboo.

The present American administration falls into the latter group. While it is committed to fighting against those who are waging war — jihad — against us, it has abstracted the violence from its religious/ideological context, and has done its best to forbid our government and law enforcement agencies from mentioning the context.

This is a logically incoherent position, and prevents us from taking appropriate actions to protect our liberal, secular and democratic way of life.

One of the main problems is that the ideology of political Islam calls for both violent and non-violent action to change the nature of society — American and European society — in accordance with Islam’s ideal, which is as different from ours as seventh-century Arabia is from the 18th century Enlightenment.

For example, recently we have been hearing about the ‘moderate’ Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It is true that the Ikhwan (Brotherhood) is not presently engaged in actual warfare with the West, the way al-Qaeda is. But thanks to Raymond Ibrahim, we have a statement by Dr. Muhammad Badi, leader of the Brotherhood since 2010 that explains its true objective:

Dr. Muhammad Badi, supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said: “The Brotherhood is getting closer to achieving its greatest goal as envisioned by its founder, Imam Hassan al-Banna. This will be accomplished by establishing a righteous and fair ruling system [based on Islamic sharia], with all its institutions and associations, including a government evolving into a rightly guided caliphate and mastership of the world.” Badi added in his weekly message yesterday [12/29/11]: “When the Brotherhood started its advocacy [da’wa], it tried to awaken the nation from its slumber and stagnation, to guide it back to its position and vocation. In his message at the sixth caucus, the Imam [Banna] defined two goals for the Brotherhood: a short term goal, the fruits of which are seen as soon as a person becomes a member of the Brotherhood; and a long term goal that requires utilizing events, waiting, making appropriate preparations and prior designs, and a comprehensive and total reform of all aspects of life.” The leader of the Brotherhood continued: “The Imam [Banna] delineated transitional goals and detailed methods to achieve this greatest objective, starting by reforming the individual, followed by building the family, the society, the government, and then a rightly guided caliphate and finally mastership of the world” [emphasis added by Ibrahim].

This is somewhat incompatible with the principles of our Founding Fathers, isn’t it!

Especially in Europe after the mass murder committed by Anders Behring Breivik, any deviation from politically correct speech about Islam is criticized as “right-wing extremism,” tantamount to neo-Nazism. For example, in a fascinating interview, the Norwegian blogger Peder Jensen (‘Fjordman’) described his experience:

I have never once met Anders Behring Breivik in my entire life and have been checked out of the case by the police after an extremely thorough investigation that at best operated at the very fringes of what could be considered legal. I am obviously aware of the fact that I am one of the many people who have been quoted a number of times in ABB’s so-called manifesto. I intensely dislike this, as most sensible people would do in my place, but since all of my writings are available on the Internet there is, sadly, little I can do about that. I see no reason why others should be held accountable for the acts of an insane person they have never met.

I did seriously consider quitting as a writer in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks due to the immense international pressure on my person at that time and because I genuinely felt horrible about being quoted by such a man. Being dragged into the Breivik case against my will is the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life. After coming to my senses and recharging my mental batteries I decided to continue after all. I remain dedicated to the truth. Whatever was true before Breivik is also true after Breivik. If I ever quit as a writer I want this to be my own choice, not something I am forced to do by others.

Although Jensen vehemently opposes multiculturalism and calls for an end to Muslim immigration into Europe, he has never advocated violence against Muslims or left-wingers. He is not a racist or extremist, although he is regularly called such, as well as blamed for the murderous actions of Breivik.

If we want to survive as a culture, we cannot continue to ignore reality, to live in a world undergoing a titanic struggle while pretending that the struggle does not exist.

Is it possible for the Enlightenment-based West to coexist with Islam? Is it true a priori that Islam must be expansionist? We need to understand Islam in order to find out.

We can start on the road to understanding by dropping the rules of political correctness. It is possible to distinguish between opposing an ideology that wishes to harm us and irrational prejudice without making rules about what we are allowed to say, and what ideas we are allowed to entertain.

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Good prenatal care = racisim and militarism

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

The degree of sheer lunacy displayed by some Israel-haters continues to amaze me.

A few months ago, a writer in the UK Guardian, Deborah Orr, argued that the 1000-1 ratio of Arab prisoners swapped for Gilad Shalit was an indication of Israeli racism. As if Israel had decided to accept the enormously disadvantageous swap and release convicted murderers and other terrorists, because Jews are superior to Arabs! There is no imaginable logic in her argument, only the desire to slander Israel.

Nothing, I thought, could possibly top the stupidity of that.

I was wrong. A Dutch writer, Ilse van Heusden, has published an article in Trouw, a daily newspaper, in which she proposed that the high level of prenatal care provided to Israeli women (Arab women as well as Jewish ones, I might add) is an indication of — guess what — Israeli racism and militarism. The article was antisemitically entitled “The chosen people must be perfect.” (The full article, in Dutch is here, and a Google translation is here).

Here are some quotes:

To be pregnant in Israel is comparable to a military operation. Countless echos and blood tests should produce the perfect baby, nothing can be left to the luck of the draw. The state demands healthy babies and a lot of them too. …

Children should not only be perfect: what makes things even more loaded, is the Israeli demand for many children. The state promotes having children, including a large family.  The then Minister of Social Affairs Shlomo Benizri explained in 2002: “The fear of losing uniqueness of Israel compels us to take action, so we are not a minority in our own country.” The battle with the Palestinians is fought with birth rates. It’s about numbers of Jews, the future of the country. The former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said that the Palestinian womb is the strongest weapon. [my emphasis]

As the blogger “Missing Peace” notes, Benizri was not talking about the birthrate, but about the uncontrolled influx of illegal immigrants and foreign workers. He also points out that National Insurance allowances for children in Israel are much smaller than in the Netherlands. But who cares about facts, when you can accuse Israel of a Hitler-like program of eugenics for military purposes?

As someone with four Israeli grandchildren (and one on the way) I can tell you that the state doesn’t “demand” anything. What it does is provide the best possible care, at a level that the average American woman unfortunately do not come close to receiving, for pregnant women.

This is a bad thing?

Update [1325 PST]: Speaking of insane Israel-haters, I forgot to mention the Israeli graduate student, Tal Nitzan, who wrote a paper arguing that IDF soldiers dehumanize Palestinian Arab women by not raping them. Yes, that’s what she said. And she received high praise from her adviser for it.

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Letter to a progressive friend

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Dear _________,

I’m not sure exactly how to put this. I need to tell you that you have been taken in by an audacious and massive hoax. Please — don’t stop reading. It isn’t that you’re stupid or uncaring. Actually I think you fell for it to a great extent because of your intelligence, as well as your highly developed ability to empathize with the situations of people less fortunate than yourself — your essential humaneness.

You are a person who has always dedicated a great deal of energy to helping others, who gives to organized charities and to beggars on the street, who often supports policies that will be disadvantageous to you personally because you believe they will bring us closer to a just society. You have even placed yourself at some risk by participating in demonstrations in which someone (not you) might provoke the police to arrest participants, even handle them somewhat roughly.

I am not speaking with tongue in cheek. I admire you. The world would be a far uglier place without people with your kind of sensibility.

The hoax in question has been developed over the past 40 years or so and is calibrated to be effective on people like you. Its objective is to make you believe that in a particular context, black is white, evil is good, lies are truth and genocide is justice.

Of course you know what I’m talking about. “Here he comes again with his obsession about Jews and Israel,” you think. But today I am not going to try your patience with all of the usual arguments — the appeals to the real history of the Middle East, the discussion of who is and isn’t ‘indigenous’, the analyses of international law, the exposure of this or that anti-Israel lie, the revelations of the true intentions of some of the players, the predictions of the possible consequences of various courses of action. I do that in my blog every day, and there are many others who do it better.

No, I just want to try to plant a seed of doubt in the elaborate garden of falsehood — of deliberate falsehood with the most evil of aims — that has flourished around good people like you, nourished by those who are, shall we say, not such good people.

The source of this garden is a Big Lie. It’s complicated, but the main part of it is that Israel a powerful Western colonialist power doing the kind of evil things colonialists do, and being resisted by the people it exploits.

The truth is that Israel is a small nation surrounded by enemies who, for religious, racial and ideological reasons, have been trying to snuff it out since the beginning.

So what do I have to do to make this apparent?

More than 40 years ago I met a woman who would have described herself as a radical leftist. She occupied public buildings (they did that back then, too) and was registered to vote on the Peace and Freedom ticket. One day — I don’t know how the subject came up — she mentioned  that she was strongly opposed to legalized abortion.

I was surprised. Naturally, she was a strong feminist, and abortion rights (I don’t think they had invented the euphemism “pro-choice” yet) was part of the left-wing and feminist catechism (so to speak!). I had always favored legal abortion myself. Almost everyone I knew — except Catholics whom I believed were brainwashed by their Church — thought that “a woman has a right to control her body.”

My friend wasn’t a Catholic, wasn’t brainwashed by anybody, and she explained her position logically. It was obvious to me that she was right and I was wrong. I had simply never entertained such ideas before.

I think this is how it is with progressives and Israel.

Back in the 1960’s, Israel’s enemies had lined up with the Soviet Union, and the conflict was a proxy for the Cold War. At that time, Arab leaders were fond of saying things like “the sands of the desert will be drenched with Jewish blood” and this didn’t endear them to most Westerners. But Yasser Arafat took the advice of those who understood us a bit better, and who had developed propaganda to a fine art. Instead of a struggle to cleanse Arab land of the Jewish presence, it was recast as a War of Liberation. The ‘Palestinian people’ — an entity that some Arabs had recently insisted did not exist — was presented as an oppressed indigenous people and Israel as a colonial power.

Click. Suddenly the Jews, who had shortly before had been the very paradigm case of an oppressed minority, were the oppressors. It was just like Vietnam!

Actual history was forgotten as whole structures of myth were built. These myths developed primarily in academic environments, where a neo-Marxist point of view constituted the political conventional wisdom. For psychological reasons, a whole generation of Jewish and Israeli scholars embraced and adumbrated this position. Some, like Ilan Pappé, were astonishingly dishonest; others, like Tom Segev, were more subtle and simply placed more emphasis on certain facts than others.

The academic world in the US, particularly the ‘better’ colleges and universities are suffused with anti-Israel sentiment. In addition to the Jewish anti-Zionists mentioned above, there are more and more Middle Eastern academics — in many cases, in ‘Mideast Studies’ departments funded by grants from Saudi Arabia — who use their academic freedom to agitate against the Jewish state.

A whole propaganda industry has now developed, pumping out atrocity stories to an eager public, which has by now become prepared to believe anything bad about Israel, no matter how outlandishly false or exaggerated.

Well-educated people like you, who empathize with the oppressed, are perfect targets for the Big Lie.

I am asking you to do just one thing: please entertain the idea that maybe you are wrong about this. I can point you at reliable sources. It’s always possible to admit that you’ve been wrong, even admirable.

Oh, the woman I mentioned who was opposed to legal abortion? She’s still a leftist, still a feminist — and she’s pro-Israel, too.

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No big deal

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012
About 20% of Israel's citizens are Arabs

About 20% of Israel's citizens are Arabs

There are three ways of looking at the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arabs.

One is to worry about the increasing anti-state radicalization — it’s sometimes called ‘Palestinization’ — of some of them.

Another is to claim that they are an oppressed minority living under a vicious apartheid regime.

And the third is to relate the everyday experience of Israeli Jews. Here is a copy of an email I received today:

Most Israelis have enough ordinary experiences of interactions with Arabs to know how malicious is the interpolation of “Apartheid” into a complex discussion like the one about Israelis and Arabs co-existing.

Here are four mundane data points to which I can speak personally. Most Israelis can surely add to the list:

1. To buy medicine for the family, I go to a pharmacy – either one of the commercial chains or in special cases to the pharmacy of the health fund (Kupat Holim). Most of the time, in most of those places, the pharmacist serving you, usually in a pleasant or at least professional way, is an Arab. My wife was at the Kupat Holim Me’uhedet pharmacy in central Jerusalem Sunday night. She told me afterwards that all four of the pharmacists behind the counter here are Arabs, chatting to one another in their language. No big deal.

2. Related to point 1: A family member is in the final stages of getting her degree in pharmacy. She says that the class in her year at her (major Israeli) university is about 50% Arab. No big deal.

3. Another family member is getting a degree in dentistry. At her (major Israeli) university, in her year, she counted heads and says the Arab students are exactly 80% of the class. No big deal.

4. I’m frequently in the pediatric wards of several Israeli hospitals. I can’t quote exact numbers, but in most such wards and at most times, the population of Arab patients is around 50% of the total – all (naturally) receiving the same level of excellent care and service. No big deal.

None of this is a big deal at all. In fact, these small points are only noteworthy because of the ugly allegations against Israeli society that assert such a very different reality. Israeli society doesn’t deserve a gold medal for creating a live-and-let-live environment. But to call it an Apartheid society?

Rather than argue with those Israel-hating ideologues, provided they are open to facing reality and not excessively closed-minded, I find you can reframe the discussion by simply holding their hand, so to speak, and walking with them into an Israeli pharmacy, hospital or faculty library. Or visit the Rami Levy supermarket in Gush Etzion [located in the ‘territories’].

Even then, of course, some people will see what they want to see and prefer not to let the facts or their lying eyes get in the way.

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What must be done about Iran — soon

Monday, January 9th, 2012
The Strait of Hormuz

The Strait of Hormuz

I wonder if the West is finally starting to take Iran’s nuclear program seriously. According to US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta,

“We made very clear that the United States will not tolerate the blocking of the Strait of Hormuz,” Panetta said. “That’s another red line for us and that we will respond to them” …

Panetta also said the U.S. would consider it a “red line” if Iran begins to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran insists it is enriching uranium only for civilian power plants and research, but the U.S. and its allies fear the program could be used to develop high-grade nuclear fuel for warheads.

“Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon?  No,” Panetta said. “But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is, ‘Do not develop a nuclear weapon.’ That’s a red line for us.”

It sounds as though we will allow them to do all the development that they wish, as long as they do not actually build a weapon. Sanctions so far have been too mild to be effective as Iran continues to enrich uranium and do other development activities that are prerequisites for a deliverable weapon. A new hardened facility for enriching uranium (and perhaps other work) has recently come on line. I would call this ‘development’, even if it is as yet incomplete.

What this means is that the window between Iran crossing the US red line and becoming a nuclear power is getting smaller. It’s obvious that Iran intends to go as far as it can. And since the only ‘development’ activity that we are certain to detect is a test of a nuclear device, that becomes a narrow window indeed.

It’s been suggested that the process can be stopped with sanctions, choking off Iran’s economic life by interfering with its oil exports. But even if this were done and Iran agreed to end its nuclear program, we would need to set up an effective system of controls to prevent it from continuing development in secret. I have my doubts as to whether this is possible, and even whether the Iranian regime would agree to stop under the most strict sanctions.

The first law of sanctions is that they don’t work very well on dictatorial regimes, because the regime can always allocate scarce resources to itself and its pet projects. Saddam Hussein not only did this, but he manipulated the “oil for food” program (remember that?) to enrich himself and his cronies.

In any event, Iran has already threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in response to an oil sanction. Although Panetta said that the US has the ability to reopen it if needed, from the point of view of the West this cannot be allowed to happen. Even if there is no supply crisis, the uncertainty and unavoidable speculation that would ensue would drive oil prices through the roof.

The shaky European and US economies would be struck another crushing blow at exactly the worst time. True unemployment in the US, if you count those who are not looking for jobs, may be as high as 20%. Can you imagine the result of gasoline doubling in price? The threat of closing the strait is probably a greater short-term danger to the West than Iran getting nuclear weapons! I doubt that the West will risk it.

Why not just do nothing and allow Iran to get the bomb? Can’t it be deterred like the former Soviet Union? There are several reasons why this is a poor option.

First, even without exploding the bomb, Iran can use it to provide an umbrella for its expansionist policy, allowing it to gain control of the entire Gulf region and its oil, at which point it can wage economic warfare on the West.

Second, it will provoke a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, with countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt feeling the need to protect themselves against their historic enemy.

Third, unlike the Soviet Union, there is an irrational religious element in the regime’s ideology which might permit it to actually use the weapon — possibly against Israel — in spite of the consequences, or transfer it to terrorist factions. A “balance of terror” between Israel and Iran would be much more precarious than that between the US and the Soviets, for various reasons.

Finally, if we do nothing, Iran will proceed with its program until Israel, out of simple self-preservation when its red line is crossed, will be forced to attack Iran itself. The strike will be less effective than what  the US is capable of, and will provoke the same Iranian responses.

What would be an effective military option? I suggest that the best approach is to hit Iran in such a way as to  neuter it militarily, by destroying as much of its naval, air and rocket forces as possible, while also damaging its nuclear installations to the greatest possible extent. At the same time, the US Navy must act to keep the straits open. The lesson of Iraq is that we should not attempt to conquer or occupy the country — if there is to be regime change, it will have to be initiated by the indigenous resistance movements (which we can assist, of course). Such an operation can be considered a ‘police action’ to eliminate an immediate threat, not an attempt to create geopolitical change.

We know that Iraq will respond by trying to attack US forces in the region and Israel, which is why the strike must be focused on Iranian military assets as well as its nuclear program. It will undoubtedly unleash Hizballah against Israel, which will fire massive rocket barrages as well as attempt to invade the northern part of the country. But if war with Hizballah is inevitable — and most analysts think so — then it will be better for it to be preemptive and coordinated with a US attack on Hizballah’s patron, Iran.

Those who are opposed to a US attack on Iran like to imply that it is Israel’s problem, and that the US ought not fight to protect Israel. I fully agree, as long as the US doesn’t interfere with Israel’s self-defense. But a nuclear Iran is no less a danger to the US and the West, if not in such apocalyptic terms. The Iranian regime today is following a policy that will change the balance of power in the world against the West and in favor of radical Islam if not stopped. The threat of losing control of a large portion of the world’s oil reserves to a hostile Islamist power, which would lead to the destruction of Western economies, can’t be ignored.

Today this is the most important issue in the world, far more important than relations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, for example. Future historians may see it as a major turning point, depending on what we do. There is no acceptable non-military option, and the cost of acting can only go up with time.

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