Archive for September, 2012

Islamorealism

Friday, September 28th, 2012
Mona Eltahawy vandalizes subway poster immediately prior to assaulting Pamela Hall and being arrested

Mona Eltahawy vandalizes subway poster immediately prior to assaulting Pamela Hall and being arrested

Satellite communications, the Internet, even cheap air travel have brought our society face to face with the Muslim world in a way that we couldn’t have imagined as recently as 1960. The issue of how we, Westerners, Christians, Jews, ought to deal with our meeting with this almost wholly foreign portion of humanity literally exploded into our consciousness in September 2001. Today, with the worldwide Muslim fury associated with (or taking as a pretext) the Innocence of Muslims video, we see that nothing has been settled.

Attitudes in the US are all over the map, from those who think that the problem is that our right of freedom of expression makes it possible for ‘intolerant‘ people like Nakoula Basseley Nakoula to provoke violence, to those who think that it is the Muslim propensity for violence when insulted (and it’s so easy to insult them) that is important.

The official response from our government has of course been to condemn violence. This is usually joined with a statement that while we find ‘denigration of any religion’ distasteful or worse, we can’t interfere with it (although we should note that Nakoula has been jailed for violating a — ridiculous — condition of parole forbidding him from using the Internet).

By a fortuitous combination of circumstances, the video controversy was quickly followed by yet another. In response to anti-Israel transit ads like this one,

— which, by the way, is much more professional and effective than anything our side does, managing to project an image of love and friendship while opposing Israel’s self-defense — blogger Pamela Geller managed to purchase space and install images like this one, below (it required a court order to persuade New York’s MTA to allow them):

These ads immediately provoked (are you surprised?) Muslim and ‘progressive’ outrage, and were immediately defaced. After all, vandalism (and assault) are considered by this crowd to be legitimate responses to expressions of ‘racism’, by which they seem to mean anything that offends Muslims.

The use of the word ‘savage’ (it’s a quotation from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged) seems to be the focus of those who object to the ad, who say that it claims that all Muslims are savages. Geller defended herself:

[The word 'savage'] is entirely apt. They claim that the ad refers to all Muslims, or all opponents of Israel. It doesn’t. It refers to those who rejoice in the murders of innocent civilians. The war on Israel is a war on innocent civilians. The targeting of civilians is savage. The murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens was savage. The relentless 60-year campaign of terror against the Jewish people is savage. The torture of hostage Gilad Shalit was savage. The bloody hacking to death of the Fogel family was savage. The Munich Olympic massacre was savage. The unspeakable torture of Ehud Goldwasser was savage. The tens of thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel (into schools, homes, etc.) are savage. The vicious Jew-hatred behind this genocide is savage. The endless demonization of the Jewish people in the Palestinian and Arab media is savage. The refusal to recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state is savage. The list is endless.

Unfortunately, ‘respectable’ voices in our society, even — especially — among Jews, are unable to understand what the deliberately outrageous, over-the-top Geller sees clearly. For example, here is what the head of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Richard ‘Rick’ Jacobs wrote in a recent NY Times op-ed:

By using the term “jihad” in the context of a war against savages, the ad paints Islam as inherently violent, evil and bent on overthrowing the Western democracies and their key ally in the Middle East, Israel — even though, for the vast majority of Muslims, “jihad” refers to a spiritual quest, not the more politicized idea of holy war.

Yes, these ads are lawful. But they are wrong and repugnant.

What other purpose can they have but to incite hatred against Muslims?

Jacobs is wrong about ‘jihad’. Daniel Pipes, unlike Jacobs a bona fide expert on Islam, explains that the primary meaning of the word is, as a matter of fact,

the legal, compulsory, communal effort to expand the territories ruled by Muslims at the expense of territories ruled by non-Muslims.

Pipes does recognize variant, more benign meanings. But to say that the “vast majority” of Muslims perceive it as a spiritual quest is silly. Even if the vast majority does not participate in violent jihad, hundreds of millions support it and all understand it.

The Obama administration removed the word ‘jihad‘ and others relating to Islam from the National Security Strategy document in 2010 for the same reason that Jacobs wants these ads gone: Muslims don’t like it when it is suggested that more and more Muslims today are becoming radicalized, supporting the attempt to expand the territory under Shari’a.

There is a debate over whether violent radicalism is inherent in Islam. This is stupid: Islam doesn’t have to be anything other than what Muslims think it is, and the fact is — as should be evident from the daily news broadcasts — that more and more Muslims think it should be radical and violent, and that radical Islamist regimes are replacing conservative ones all over the globe.

Calling attention to this isn’t inciting hate against Muslims — it is asking for us to realize that there is an enemy of what we call Western civilization, an enemy that has already showed us its savage side on 9/11 and in the Middle East, an enemy that does not want to coexist with us but wants to replace our civilization. This enemy is radical Islamism, an ideology associated with a religion, but no less an ideology than communism and fascism.

Rabbi Jacobs would like us to believe that the ‘vast majority’ of Muslims are just like Reform Jews, except that they say “allahu akbar” instead of the shema, and he would like the others to be invisible.

But it’s not rational (or safe) to ignore them, even if it were possible to ignore the open sewers of hate speech pouring from the media in Egypt, Iran, the Palestinian Authority, etc.;  the rockets falling on Israeli towns (559 so far in 2012); the vicious threats from Iran to destroy Israel; religious wars, terrorism and more.

As another ad that Rabbi Jacobs finds hateful says, “it’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism.”

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Israel should preempt Hizballah now

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
Hizballah rocket launcher. These are dug in throughout southern Lebanon

Hizballah rocket launcher. These are dug in throughout southern Lebanon

As Israel comes closer to a confrontation with Iran, we should note that Iran’s primary strategy is unlikely to be direct conflict with Israel. Iran’s air and missile forces, despite their bragging, are not sufficiently well-developed to support such a conflict.

Instead, I expect that they will depend on their main proxy, Hizballah. Hizballah can be expected to attack with its considerable missile forces and even to attempt ground incursions into Israeli territory. At the same time, Iran will try to leverage Western fears of terrorism and oil-supply disruption into pressure on Israel; so we can also expect to see terrorist attacks against Western targets.

The difficulty of destroying or seriously damaging Iran’s nuclear capability is much-discussed, but I think the neutralization of Hizballah will also be a major task, and one of more immediate importance. In the short term, the number of Israeli casualties and the amount of damage to the home front in a conflict with Iran will be proportional to the time it takes the IDF to end Hizballah’s ability to fight.

Hizballah is also an essential component of Iran’s long-term strategy, whether or not she succeeds in building a bomb. A nuclear Iran is more likely to pursue her interests in the region by threats and low-intensity conventional conflict under a nuclear umbrella than by actual use of atomic weapons, which would expose her to devastating retaliation.

In 2006, the Bush Administration gave Israel a month to finish Hizballah. Israel did not make use of the opportunity because of the incompetence of the government and top military commanders, complacency, lack of planning, poor intelligence, etc. I believe that these problems have been fixed to a great extent.

Although one might expect Obama to be less cooperative, it’s possible that the administration’s closeness with conservative Sunni interests — primarily Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or even Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — which are natural enemies of Hizballah, might lead it to wait before lowering the boom.

On the other hand, if Hizballah terrorists are car-bombing buildings in New York, Los Angeles or Washington, there will be enormous pressure on Israel to end the conflict (yes, it’s irrational, but we’ve seen this response before). I don’t think that Israel can count on getting a month this time.

If I were an Israeli planner I would think about  a preemptive attack on Hizballah — separately from and before attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, for the following reasons:

  • Hizballah is the most immediate threat to Israel
  • Hizballah will be Iran’s major weapon of retaliation if Israel strikes Iran
  • By not attacking Iran, Israel does not give the regime an excuse to disrupt oil supplies
  • The IDF can concentrate on defeating Hizballah
  • It’s always better to initiate than to respond
  • The chaos in Syria makes it easier to isolate Hizballah from its source of supply and keeps the Syrian military too busy to intervene

I would stress the importance of a short campaign, which will probably mean the use of massive force. Hizballah is very well dug-in in southern Lebanon, and an operation aborted by international pressure could be disastrous.

If Israel can be successful in removing Hizballah from the equation, Iran will be greatly weakened, Israel’s security and posture of deterrence will be strengthened, and the chances for future military action (or even diplomacy) to keep Iran from getting the bomb will improve.

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Morsi and NY Times mislead Americans

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

The New York Times published an interview with Egyptian President and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi today.

Morsi makes some interesting statements, like this:

If you want to judge the performance of the Egyptian people by the standards of German or Chinese or American culture, then there is no room for judgment … When the Egyptians decide something, probably it is not appropriate for the U.S. When the Americans decide something, this, of course, is not appropriate for Egypt.

I suppose this means that if they want to murder Christians we oughtn’t to judge them, while they reserve the right to attack our embassy whenever someone in the US makes a video that insults them. Unfair? What else could it mean?

He said several times that the US favors Israel over the Palestinians, and that this is a problem in relations between Egypt and the US. I would say two things in response: first, Egypt has never been a friend to Palestinian nationalism, except insofar as it could be used as a weapon against Israel. In 1948, Egypt established a harsh military occupation of the Gaza strip. Arab refugees were forced into refugee camps at gunpoint — by Egyptian soldiers.

Historian Efraim Karsh tells us,

[In 1948] the Egyptian government showed no desire to annex the Gaza Strip but had instead ruled the newly acquired area as an occupied military zone. This did not imply support of Palestinian nationalism, however, or of any sort of collective political awareness among the Palestinians. The local population was kept under tight control, was denied Egyptian citizenship, and was subjected to severe restrictions on travel.

In economic and humanitarian terms, the ‘plight’ of the Palestinians was far worse under Arab occupation before 1967 than after Israel took control of the territories. Karsh writes,

Under Israeli rule, the Palestinians also made vast progress in social welfare. Perhaps most significantly, mortality rates in the West Bank and Gaza fell by more than two-thirds between 1970 and 1990, while life expectancy rose from 48 years in 1967 to 72 in 2000 (compared with an average of 68 years for all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa). Israeli medical programs reduced the infant-mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000 (in Iraq the rate is 64, in Egypt 40, in Jordan 23, in Syria 22). And under a systematic program of inoculation, childhood diseases like polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and measles were eradicated.

No less remarkable were advances in the Palestinians’ standard of living. By 1986, 92.8 percent of the population in the West Bank and Gaza had electricity around the clock, as compared to 20.5 percent in 1967; 85 percent had running water in dwellings, as compared to 16 percent in 1967; 83.5 percent had electric or gas ranges for cooking, as compared to 4 percent in 1967; and so on for refrigerators, televisions, and cars.

This is not to say that the Palestinians are happy being ruled by Jews, which of course is devastating for their sense of honor and Muslim sensibilities. But it does make one wonder how much Egyptians have historically cared for their Palestinian Arab ‘brothers’.

Second, it is simply untrue that the US has favored Israel over the Palestinians, unless you understand this to mean that the US has not (yet) supported maximalist Arab demands for the replacement of Israel by an Arab state. The US has certainly pressured Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, and it is only the Palestinian desire to ‘have it all’ that has prevented a US-brokered Palestinian state from coming into being.

And here is something else that is untrue:

… he also argued that Americans “have a special responsibility” for the Palestinians because the United States had signed the 1978 Camp David accord. The agreement called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza to make way for full Palestinian self-rule.

“As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled,” he said. [my emphasis]

The sentence in bold is not presented as a quotation from Morsi. It is a simple statement of ‘fact’ by the Times’ writers, David D. Kirkpatrick and Steven Erlanger. Regardless of who said it, it is quite false. The Camp David agreement called for Israel to end its military government and withdraw troops from areas of the territories where a self-governing authority is elected by the Palestinians. These conditions have been more than met with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. Elder of Ziyon comments on the text of the agreement thus:

Camp David does not say that there will necessarily be a Palestinian Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza. It most certainly says nothing about a full Israeli withdrawal from the territories, only that its final status (and, by implication, its borders) will be up for negotiation after a transition period. And it explicitly says that there will be a redeployment of Israeli security forces – in order to ensure security for Israel – into locations that can only mean in parts of the territories, or else it would have just said “withdrawal of remaining Israeli forces,” period.

Indeed, the agreement also talks about joint Jordanian-Israeli patrols in Judea/Samaria!

By demanding “Peace and justice … for the Palestinians” as part of Camp David — and we know well how this is interpreted in the Arab world — Morsi can justify Egypt’s abrogating any part of the treaty that it chooses (although I doubt he will be returning the Sinai to Israel any time soon). This is important, because it will soon become a live issue as the Egyptians ‘reconsider’ the treaty.

The Times’ presentation is either incompetent (they don’t know what’s in the Camp David agreement) or dishonest.

What else is new?

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Enraged Zionists burn Apple stores!

Friday, September 21st, 2012
Map of Israel from iOS 6 Apple Maps which leaves out Jerusalem (courtesy Algemeiner)

Map of Israel from iOS 6 Apple Maps which leaves out Jerusalem (courtesy Algemeiner)

Violent demonstrations broke out in front of Apple stores all over the world when furious Zionists found out that the Apple Maps app on its new iOS 6 operating system does not show any capital for the State of Israel.

“It’s outrageous,” said one who called himself ‘Moshe’, as he heaved a brick at the stylish store in Manhattan. “Ya tapuchim bnei zonot,” he shouted, running from police officers. Others poured gasoline on a huge effigy of an iPad and set it alight while singing hatikvah.

When it became clear that not only was there no capital shown on the map of Israel, but that World Clock listed ‘Jerusalem’ without any country — the only city so listed — the fury reached a fever pitch, with Apple ‘geniuses’ running for their lives as mobs of enraged Jews broke into the stores, waving signs calling for the beheading of CEO Tim Cook and the reversal of the verdict in the Samsung patent suit.

“You can’t insult Zionism and get away with it,” said one rioter at Apple HQ in Cupertino, wearing a ski mask underneath his kippa. “We’re all Android users now!”

***

In case you are reading this in an Arab country and miss the satirical intent, I’ll make it clear that there were in reality no Zionist riots, despite the fact that Apple seems to be taking the position that the Jewish homeland has no capital, and that Jerusalem is located on Mars.

We will give Apple a few days to fix this clearly inadvertent bug in its new software, and to apologize. I’m sure they will.

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The Arab street says: “don’t bomb Iran!”

Thursday, September 20th, 2012
"The Street," last week in Egypt. But it could be anytime, anywhere. But it could be anytime.

“The Street,” last week in Egypt. But it could be anytime, anywhere.

News item:

The US has recently warned Israel that an Israeli strike on Iran will likely cause Egypt and Jordan to annul their peace agreements with Israel and sever ties, according to a senior Israeli official quoted by the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Thursday.

“These days, Arab leaders don’t rule their people. Rather, the street rules its leaders,” the official was quoted as saying. “An Israeli strike is exactly what the Iranians need: the entire Arab and Muslim street will go out to demonstrate.” …

“What we’ve been seeing with the anti-Muhammad film is nothing but a preview for what’s going to happen if Israel attacks,” the official was quoted as saying.

Well, sure. If they can use a stupid film made by some neer-do-well in LA as a pretext for violent ‘demonstrations’ against Western interests, they should have no problem being provoked by an actual bombing raid.

But by the same token, who cares? Anything can be used to provoke “The Street,” which is a cheap, easily deployed weapon in the hands of both the official leaders of the countries in question and the various radical groups.

Israel, of all nations, can’t let the Arab street set policy for it.

Would it help to point out that a nuclear Iran, which wants to set up a Shiite caliphate in the Mideast, also threatens Sunni Jordan and Egypt? No, because an Israeli attack is a win-win proposition for Arab leaders: they are saved from Iran, but they have another reason to stir up hatred against Israel. Guess they never heard of gratitude.

So what about the peace treaties? Again, who cares. The treaties are not accepted — they are considered treasonous, deals with the devil — by a huge majority of the inhabitants of Egypt and Jordan. The leadership has seen to it that there is the absolute minimum degree of normalization in relations. The Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt has said that they will ‘reconsider’ the treaty, which means that they can decide at any time that they can militarize the Sinai, if they dare.

It’s the IDF that prevents war, not the treaties.

And here is a point that American officials may have missed (h/t: Omri Ceren): the US wants Israel to make irreversible, highly concrete concessions to the Palestinians in return for a treaty. But if these treaties can be torn up by the anger of the street, then maybe they are not such a good idea. After all, Israel might have a need to defend itself again in the future.

Recently I mentioned to a friend that the peace treaty with Egypt turned out to be a bad idea. “Oh no,” he said, “we had 40 years of peace as a result.” But the truth is that Israel paid dearly in the coin of natural resources and long-term security for a temporary cease-fire, something which was guaranteed by the IDF anyway. Yes, Israel got US military aid in return — but so did Egypt, which has nobody to use it against except Israel.

Here is a lesson we can learn from history, both from the treaty with Egypt and the Oslo accords: a treaty is a piece of paper which is only good as long as both sides’ interests are served by it. Therefore we should never make a treaty in which permanent concessions by our side are paired with mere promises from the other, because their interests are always maximized by taking what we offer and giving nothing in return.

And while we’re learning lessons from history, let’s not forget this one: the Jewish people cannot afford to outsource its security, even to ‘friends’.

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How our media blew a story

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

In 2010, Egyptian officials claimed that shark attacks were a Mossad plot to disrupt tourism to the Sinai. More recently, Palestinian Arabs have blamed Israel for crop damage by wild pigs. Indeed, there is a Wikipedia entry devoted to Arab Zoological conspiracy theories, of which these are representative.

We laugh — gullible Arabs that believe this stuff, and their media that promulgates it! But how much better is American media?

When this week’s riots in which Americans were murdered and embassies destroyed broke out, national outlets like the AP reported that the film-maker responsible for “Innocence of Muslims” was “Israeli born” and the film was funded by “100 Jewish donors.” It soon turned out that this was false; and while some media updated their stories, many did not for several days.

The story now has legs, and is running around the world while the truth is still putting its pants on. The whole thing could have been avoided by careful fact-checking before going public with the fanciful story of the nonexistent “Sam Bacile.”

But that’s not the only way our media have blown this story. Following the administration’s line, many news stories today are still blaming an idiotic amateur film (if there even is a complete film behind the snippets on Youtube) for the coordinated, almost simultaneous riots around the world. Hillary Clinton called the film ‘disgusting’, its maker was brought in for questioning about a a possible parole violation, and the US asked Google to suppress it (Google said no).

But the film was a pretext and “Islamophobia” had little or nothing to do with the disturbances. In general, the goal was to boost the position of radical Islamists in many nations against moderate or nationalist forces. There is no better way to do this than a good anti-Western (especially US) outburst, and any excuse that works will be exploited.

The media are downplaying this angle, because it suggests that the administration policy toward the Muslim world expressed in the President’s Cairo speech of 2009 is dangerously wrong-headed, and because it supports the idea that free expression in the US should be limited in accordance with Muslim concerns, something the Administration also seems to believe.

This story is just one example. There are plenty more. If our media — with a few exceptions, like (sometimes) the Washington Post — could concentrate more on serious journalism and less on re-electing the President, the American people might be better informed than Egyptians reading about Mossad-controlled sharks and Zionist boars.

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A new beginning

Friday, September 14th, 2012

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.Barack Obama, Cairo, June 4, 2009

Sept. 11 -14, 2012:

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Bangladesh

Bangladesh

Cairo

Cairo

Gaza

Gaza

India

India

Iraq

Iraq

Jordan

Jordan

Lebanon

Lebanon

Libya

Libya

London

London

Pakistan

Pakistan

Sudan (OK, it's a German flag...)

Sudan (OK, it’s a German flag…)

Yemen

Yemen

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The President sends a message of submission

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
In Cairo yesterday: Arabic reads "Remember your black day 11 September" (CNN)

In Cairo yesterday: Arabic reads “Remember your black day 11 September”

Yesterday, Sept. 11, Islamist mobs attacked the American embassy in Egypt and our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In Egypt they destroyed our flag and replaced it with a black banner with the shahada written on it, described as “the flag of al-Qaeda“. In Libya, they attacked the building with RPGs or similar weapons, burned it to the ground and killed the US Ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three others.

The pretext for these attacks was rage over a trailer for a film about Mohammad, dubbed into Arabic and posted on Youtube. Here is an English version of a bit of the film, ungrammatically called “Innocence of Muslims.” The creators or funders of this silly movie, which hasn’t appeared in its entirety yet, were variously described as “Jews” or “Copts,” something which inflamed the masses even more.

Do you think it was an accident that these events happened on the anniversary of 9/11? I don’t. Similar ‘provocations’ against Islam can be found 365 days a year, not just on 9/11. Barry Rubin wrote:

But note well that everyone–except the Western media–understands that holding such a demonstration at the U.S. embassy in Cairo on September 11 means supporting the September 11 attack.

Rubin is only partly correct. The Western media are not the only ones who fail to see the symbolism of raising al-Qaeda’s banner on 9/11. Our President missed it as well. In his statement about the Libyan incident, he mentioned the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks as if it were merely an unhappy coincidence:

Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks.  We mourned with the families who were lost on that day.  I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.

Seemingly determined to get every important point wrong, he also said this:

Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.  We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.  None.  The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.

While he is at pains to say that it is wrong to “denigrate the religious beliefs of others” he does not even mention our commitment to the value of free expression!

Instead of saying that we will not permit our right to free expression to be inhibited by fear of violence, he distances the US from the film-maker, whose expression we “reject.” Yes, he seems to say, insulting Islam is wrong, but you oughtn’t to kill ambassadors over it.

Radical Muslims believe that it is perfectly acceptable for them to ‘denigrate’ other faiths in the most vile way — their Imams do so regularly, in Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, Iran, etc. — but they also believe that the proper response to “denigration” of their faith is violence.

There’s nothing “senseless” about it — it’s a logical consequence of their belief that Islam is superior to all religions. When infidels “denigrate” Islam, they violate the moral order of the universe, and the violent response of Muslims is demanded to put things right.

The President’s statement is a plea for Muslims to understand that we respect Islam, and a reminder for Americans to avoid expressions that could insult them. To those who sympathize with the ‘activists’, the statement is apologetic, submissive.

But he isn’t finished displaying weakness:

And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

What he should have said, of course, is that the US will apply its considerable power to avenge the murders of Americans, just like we did with their hero, Bin Laden. Not “work with the Libyan government” and not “bring to justice” — avenge.

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Latma’s Rosh Hashana greeting

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Don’t miss this!

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How not to keep Israel from bombing Iran

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Cartoon courtesy of Elder of Ziyon

There are no deadlines:

The U.S. is “not setting deadlines” for Iran and still considers negotiations to be “by far the best approach” to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Bloomberg in an interview published Monday.

Speaking to Bloomberg Radio on Sunday after the conclusion of meetings at an Asia-Pacific forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Clinton said that economic sanctions are affecting Iran and the U.S. is “watching very carefully about what [the Iranians] do, because it’s always been more about their actions than their words.”

And there are no red ones either, according to State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland yesterday:

QUESTION: Toria, your closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, is quite upset with a interview that the Secretary gave, particularly when she was asked about redlines or deadlines for Iran’s nuclear program. Do you have positions or levels in Iran’s nuclear enrichment that you consider unacceptable and that would force some sort of change to the current stalemate, let’s say?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we have been saying for many months, and as was clear when the Secretary was in Jerusalem earlier this summer, we have extensive and ongoing contacts with our close ally Israel to discuss the full range of security issues, but obviously to compare notes on the challenge posed by Iran, and we will continue to do that…

QUESTION: Well it’s a very – will you agree that it’s – are you – is there a specific policy of being – of constructive ambiguity here? Because, I mean, not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon means many different things to many different people. As you know, the Israelis have one definition of what it means to have a nuclear weapon, and maybe you have another one. So could you provide any –

MS. NULAND: Among the many reasons, Elise, why these consultations with Israel need to be constant, they need to be detailed, they need to be private. …

So we are absolutely firm about the President’s commitment here, but it is not useful to be parsing it, to be setting deadlines one way or the other, redlines. It is most important that we stay intensely focused on the pressure on Iran, the opportunity for Iran to fix this situation through the diplomacy that we’ve offered, and intensive consultations with Israel and all the other regional states, as we are doing.

Nuland seems to be trying to suggest that there is more going on under the surface with Israel, but Israel Hayom quoted “senior diplomatic sources in Jerusalem” saying that,

Hillary Clinton is speeding up the Iranian centrifuges with her erroneous public comments … Without a clear red line, Iran will not halt its race for nuclear weapons.  … not only do Clinton’s comments not deter Iran, they actually appease it.

So to recap: there are sanctions, but Iran’s 20 biggest trading partners have exemptions. Iran still refuses to let IAEA inspectors into its test site at Parchin, where it appears that experiments related to weaponization have been carried out. The IAEA also reports that Iran is carrying out computer simulations of the destructive power of nuclear warheads. Iran continues to add centrifuges to bolster its enrichment capabilities.

But the US is not prepared to issue an ultimatum. It will go no further than to repeat that “we will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” but it will not say — publicly or to Israel — how far it will allow Iran to go.

The Iranians understand this to mean that they can keep on doing what they are doing, which is putting all the pieces in place to sprint to the finish line when they choose to do so. It’s by no means clear that we will know when this is about to happen, or that we will be able to act quickly enough to stop it, even if we do know. It is also generally accepted that the ability of Israel by itself to prevent Iran from building a weapon is eroding with time.

The US has the power to issue a credible threat to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability, as well as a great deal of its military assets — missiles, air defense systems, etc. Such a threat would most likely cause Iran to pull back and would not actually have to be carried out.

By not doing this, the administration leaves Israel with only one option, which is to try to destroy or delay Iran’s program itself. While an American threat carries the risk that the Iranians will call our bluff and provoke a conflict, an Israeli attack guarantees one.

Incidentally, it should be mentioned that the former Israeli security officials like Meir Dagan who are opposed to an Israeli attack in the near term do not believe that Iran should be allowed to get nuclear bombs. They simply disagree with the PM and Defense Minister about when there will be no other way to stop Iran. If the US persists in allowing Iran to proceed, then even Meir Dagan’s red line will be crossed.

If the administration wants to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran, it has a strange way of showing it!

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The post-structuralist version of the Sermon on the Mount

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Ms. Butler fights the regressive “my side, right or wrong” with the liberating “your side, right or wrong.” It’s the post-structuralist version of the Sermon on the Mount: “Love thy enemy more than thyself.” But what if that enemy embraces a savage form of loving themselves and hating us? What if it takes an extreme interpretation of Muslims’ edict to “love and hate for Allah’s sake”? This enemy makes all our utopian and multiculturalist projects impossible. — Benjamin Weinthal and Richard Landes, “The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler

Judith Butler is an American academic (philosophy) known for her quick mind, impenetrable prose and anti-Israel activism. The quotation is from an article about the controversy surrounding her selection by the city of Frankfurt to receive its important Adorno Prize for excellence in philosophy, music, theater and film.

I’ll leave it to Weinthal and Landes to describe the particular trouble with Ms Butler and the Germans, and to others to evaluate her academic work, which (despite my philosophy degrees) is far beyond my understanding.

But I find the quotation above perceptive, illuminating perfectly how Westerners fail to conceptualize the struggle that we find ourselves in (or don’t recognize!) today. Despite our obsession with diversity, we fail to understand precisely how some cultures are diverse.

Virtually all humans favor their own family members, especially their children, over unrelated humans. This is an innate characteristic that can be explained as a result of natural selection: those humans who behave like this are more likely to pass on their DNA to future generations.

Tribalism is an expansion of this ‘family’ preference to larger groups — extended family, tribe, people, nation. The evolutionary argument to explain it is a bit more complicated: those groups made up of individuals who tend to favor members of their own group and to display hostility to other groups are more likely to dominate others, obtain choice land and hunting grounds, and survive as groups, thus promoting the survival of their members, who will pass on their ‘tribalist’ genes.

What we call ‘patriotism’ is a fellow-feeling that applies to a very large unit, the nation. It is an extrapolation of the same feeling that we have for smaller groups.

Natural selection works because of environmental pressures, so societies in different environments have evolved different degrees of tribalism. Nomadic peoples often come into contact and conflict with ‘strange’ groups that they must either dominate or be dominated by. Settled agricultural peoples, on the other hand, rarely meet strangers, and can even obtain an advantage by cooperating with neighboring tribes rather than fighting with them.

The Hebrew Bible is (among many other things) an expression of tribalism along with rules for cooperation when appropriate (e.g., treating the stranger who dwells among us well).  The ancient Hebrews were a nomadic people and behaved like one; later, the Prophets spoke to a primarily agricultural population.

Christianity and liberal Judaism went much further, suggesting that the favored treatment previously reserved for tribe members should be expanded to all humankind. Judith Butler and other Jewish anti-Zionists often claim that their anti-Zionism is based on Jewish ethics — by which of course they mean a very liberal or even Christianized Judaism, one which depends on a special way of reading the Torah (or often on not reading it).

Today, as has happened numerous times before in history,  massive cultures or empires are coming into conflict with one another. One side is radical Islam, whose basic principles are drawn directly from the culture of nomadic Arabs of the Seventh Century. Many of their leaders are Arabs, who are only a few generations removed from a nomadic lifestyle and whose culture reflects this.

On the other side we have people of European heritage, formerly farmers, whose culture was profoundly influenced by Christianity (even if they reject it today).

Both sides imagine their place on the spectrum of tribalism as an absolute moral principle. The Islamists are certain that the proper world order is for the infidels to submit, and violence and war in order to bring this about is not only not wrong, it is profoundly right.

The West, on the other hand, believes in peace and above all, cooperation. It believes that war is only justified in self-defense, that it is possible to solve all disagreements by negotiation and compromise, the way a farmer negotiates the location of a fence with his neighbor.

Many Westerners believe that their universalism is morally superior to — more evolved than — the tribal consciousness of the Islamists, and that, by means of education, the Islamists will come to share it. This is clearly nonsense.

Now along come the academics and extreme leftists of the post-structuralist, post-colonialist, post-Zionist and post-American variety who go even further. They don’t want to compromise, they want to collaborate with the enemy. They reject their own tribalism and find their own nations corrupt, but they can’t stop there. They go on to attribute nobility and moral goodness to their enemies, who want to slaughter them!

From a philosophical point of view, their position is contradictory. If Western tribalism is false, even evil, why is Islamist tribalism acceptable?

So although the West is much more powerful than the Islamists militarily, it unfortunately has chosen moral unilateral disarmament. The Islamists, although lacking the physical resources of the West, understand the psychological dimension of the conflict much more clearly and exploit it. They will negotiate until the cows come home, but the aim is always for them to win and for us to lose. The only game they play is a zero-sum game.

The Jewish people, the Europeans and the Americans have recently exhibited strong strains of tribalism and patriotism. The state of Israel would not exist, and the Axis would have won WWII if this was not the case. Could this have been lost in two or three generations?

We need to understand that a universalist civilization will not survive a contest with a tribalist one. If we don’t value our civilization, who will?

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Evergreen State — a total immersion experience

Sunday, September 9th, 2012
'Israeli settlement' built on Evergreen campus by "TESC Divest!" student group

‘Israeli settlement’ built on Evergreen campus by “TESC Divest!” student group

Recently I wrote a couple of posts about Rachel Corrie (here and here). I was particularly interested in what prompted her to go to Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement [ISM], a group which sends idealistic young Westerners to serve as human shields for Hamas or PLO guerrillas in the front lines of the low-intensity Arab war against the Jewish state.

A few of these ‘internationals’ have been seriously hurt, or, like Corrie, killed, sacrifices on the altar of anti-Israel propaganda.

How does it happen that young people are prepared to risk everything for a cause which, by any logic, is not theirs; and which, as causes go, is not especially pressing (the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza or Judea/Samaria are better off in every way than Palestinians in Lebanon, Copts in Egypt, Sunnis in Syria, etc.)?

The answer is that there are well-tuned systems set up on many of our campuses which recruit, process and send students off in service of the Palestinian Cause. These machines have a permanent nucleus of a few dedicated faculty members, which is orbited closely by student organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Student Association, Jewish Voice for Peace, and more.

There are also peripheral groups that support the projects of the central players, usually because of a perception of shared ‘colonial oppression’ — this sometimes includes LGBT groups, immigrants’ rights organizations, etc.

Students drawn into these psycho-political cyclotrons are insulated from all other voices, and what begins as a concern for human rights is amplified by contact with more and more extreme expressions of anti-Israel ideology until they fly off, completely one-dimensional, often white-hot with hatred for the Jewish ‘colonialists’, prepared to cooperate if need be with murderous terrorists because of their perception of the overwhelming justice and need of their Cause.

The Evergreen State College [TESC] of Olympia, Washington, where Rachel Corrie was recruited, has provided a disproportionate number of ISM volunteers. As I wrote before, faculty members Steve Niva and (former faculty) Simona Sharoni were mentioned several times in Corrie’s diaries as important influences on her decision to go to Gaza.

If we look at the overall environment of Evergreen, perhaps we can understand the way today’s Corries are submerged in the Palestinian narrative and Israel-hating ideology. A student group called “TESC Divest!” — which, for some reason does not appear in the list of official student organizations on TESC’s website — is the center of several boycott-divestment-sanctions [BDS] projects, as well as various “informational” activities and events.

TESC Divest! probably represents the majority of the students and faculty at Evergreen. For example, in 2010, Evergreen students voted to pass two BDS resolutions with huge majorities, both over 70%. And here is a list of faculty and staff that endorsed them:

Anne Fischel, Ph.D, Communication
Anita Lenges, Ph.D, Curriculum and Instruction
Bob Woods, M.F.A. Sculpture
Carolyn Prouty, D.V.M., Veterinary Medicine
Davi Zielinski Koska, Evergreen Staff, Community Activist
E.J. Zita, Ph.D., Physics
Elizabeth Williamson, Ph.D., English Literature
Erik Thuesen, Ph.D., Biological Sciences
Gillies Malnarich, Co-Director of the Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education
Jean Eberhardt, Evergreen Staff — [advisor mentioned in Rachel Corrie Diaries -- ed.]
Jon Davies, Ed.D
Jose Gomez, J.D. from Harvard Law School
Judith Gabriele
Larry Mosqueda, Ph.D., Political Science,
Laurie Meeker, M.F.A., Film Production
Lin Nelson, Ph.D., Spanish
Liza Rognas, M.A., Information Resources and Library Science,
Lori Blewett, Ph.D., Speech Communication
Marianne Hoepli
Michael Vavrus, Ph.D., Instructional Development and Technology
Paul McMillin, M.L.I.S., Library and Information Science
Peter Bohmer, Ph.D., Economics
Ruth Hayes, M.F.A., Experimental Animation
Sarah Ryan, M.A., Labor and Industrial Relations
Savvina Chowdhury, Ph.D., Economics
Susan Preciso, M.A., English
Ted Whitesell, Ph.D., Geography
Therese Saliba, Ph.D., English; Fulbright Scholar, 1995
Tony Zaragoza, Doctoral Studies, American Studies
Zahid Shariff, Doctor of Public Administration
Zoltan Grossman, Ph.D., Geography

And here are student organizations that also endorsed the resolutions:

Student of Color Union (SOC-U) — [because we are all colonized -- ed.]
Black Student Union (BSU) — [because Palestinians aren't racists -- ed.]
Native Student Alliance (NSA)
Women of Color Coalition (WOCC)
Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC)
Synergy
Evergreen Bike Shop — [because Palestinians are green -- ed.]
Counter Point Journal (CxPJ)
Mideast Solidarity Project (MSP)
Latin American Solidarity Organization (LASO)
Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA)
Developing Ecological Agriculture Practices (DEAP)
Women’s Resource Center (WRC) — [because Palestinians are feminists -- ed.]
Evergreen Queer Alliance (EQA) — [because Palestinians are LGBT-friendly -- ed.]
Hip Hop Congress

Evergreen State College is a total immersion experience — immersion in anti-Israel propaganda.

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