Archive for January, 2013

America and Israel

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

America and Israel

What if Americans woke up to hear on the morning news that Canada had tens of thousands of missiles, many with chemical warheads, aimed at them? And that the Canadian government — a vicious enemy of the US itself — was losing control of these weapons, which were in danger of falling into the hands of terrorist groups that were sworn to destroy the US?

And what if, at the same time, it was reported that Mexico — whose president had recently called Americans “bloodsuckers, warmongers … descendents of apes and pigs,” and said that Mexicans should “nurse their children on hatred” for the US — was descending into chaos, unable to feed itself but still, above all, obsessed with hatred for its neighbor.

If that wasn’t enough, suppose the newscaster reported that terrorists who had taken over a coastal strip of California from the Mexican border to Monterey — who had pelted the rest of the country as far as Washington DC and New York City with deadly missiles a few months ago — had instituted military training in high schools to produce the “next generation of resistance fighters” who would “liberate the land” occupied by those pesky Americans.

Finally, what if, say, Venezuela was developing nuclear weapons and every other day one of their officials promised to root out the ‘cancer’ that was the US?

Boker tov, people, welcome to Israel.

I didn’t mention that the UN is planning yet another resolution condemning Israel, or that Jew- and Israel-hatred is reaching new heights worldwide, especially in Europe and of course the UK. Or that the president of the US, Israel’s main ally, has nominated three more or less anti-Israel candidates for Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and CIA director.

But despite all this, Israel just completed a free and fair election — not so usual in the Middle East — in which the major issues were social and economic. Surveys (like this one last year) show Israelis to be happy overall. Israel’s economy is doing well, although there are concerns about rising inequality and a housing shortage (but there is also a recognition that these problems can and should be solved). There is a broad consensus in Israel on questions of national security, including the need to attack Iran if it is about to obtain nuclear weapons, and on the unlikelihood of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Here in the US, the nation is bitterly divided on left-right lines. There is no consensus on how to deal with either security or economic issues. The Congress is suffering from permanent gridlock. The economy is slowly improving, but employment is not — and that appears to represent a structural change in the kind and number of jobs available. Many states and municipalities are close to bankrupt (California and Fresno come to mind). Infrastructure is decaying and we don’t seem to have the will to fix it. The middle class is becoming harder to get into from below, and harder to stay in. Americans don’t (yet) have to worry about missile attacks from Mexico, but its prestige and ability to protect its interests abroad have fallen sharply.

Despite the existential threats, Israel is in some important ways doing better than we are. And if it succeeds in weathering its primarily external threats, it will be around for a long time. The US, on the other hand, while still enormously powerful, seems to have lost its way.

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Jew-hatred in Egypt and Britain

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

There’s lots of excitement in the Jew-hatred department lately. First, of course, is the not so stunning revelation that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi thinks that Jews are “bloodsuckers, warmongers, the descendents of apes and pigs” and that Muslims should “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.

Morsi iced the cake in a recent meeting with several members of the US Senate:

“He was attempting to explain himself … then he said, ‘Well, I think we all know that the media in the United States has made a big deal of this and we know the media of the United States is controlled by certain forces and they don’t view me favorably,’” [Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del] said.

The Cable asked Coons if Morsy specifically named the Jews as the forces that control the American media. Coons said all the senators believed the implication was obvious.

“He did not say [the Jews], but I watched as the other senators physically recoiled, as did I,” he said. “I thought it was impossible to draw any other conclusion.”

“The meeting then took a very sharply negative turn for some time. It really threatened to cause the entire meeting to come apart so that we could not continue,” Coons said.

Multiple senators impressed upon Morsy that if he was saying the criticisms of his comments were due to the Jews in the media, that statement was potentially even more offensive than his original comments from 2010.

“[Morsi] did not say the Jewish community was making a big deal of this, but he said something [to the effect] that the only conclusion you could read was that he was implying it,” Coons said. “The conversation got so heated that eventually Senator McCain said to the group, ‘OK, we’ve pressed him as hard as we can while being in the boundaries of diplomacy,’” Coons said. “We then went on to discuss a whole range of other topics.”

Although it took the NY Times several weeks after the story broke to notice it, there is nothing surprising about his attitude, as a Muslim Brother, as Andrew McCarthy explains:

Contrary to the fairy tale weaved by apologists for Islamists on both sides of America’s political aisle, Jew hatred is not a pathogen insidiously injected into Islam by the Nazis (with whom Middle Eastern Muslims enthusiastically aligned). Nor did the ummah come by it through exposure to other strains of anti-Semitism that blight the history of Christendom. Jew hatred is ingrained in Islamic doctrine. Consequently, despite the efforts of enlightened Muslim reformers, Jew hatred is — and will remain — a pillar of Islamist ideology.

You may recall hearing this little ditty from the Hamas charter — often echoed by ministers of the Palestinian Authority and in the preachments of Brotherhood jurist Yusuf al-Qaradawi, on whose every word millions hang weekly on al-Jazeera (or is it al-Gore?):

The Day of Resurrection will not arrive until the Muslims make war against the Jews and kill them, and until a Jew hiding behind a rock and tree, and the rock and tree will say: “Oh Muslim, Oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!”

Again, these are not sentiments dreamt up by “violent extremists” waging a modern, purely political “resistance” against oppressive “Zionists.” The prophet’s admonition that Muslims will be spared the hellfire by killing Jews is repeated in numerous authoritative hadiths (see, e.g., Sahih Muslim Book 41, No. 6985; Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 56, No. 791).

Hadiths, it is worth emphasizing, are the recorded actions and instructions of Mohammed, who is taken by Muslims to be the “perfect example” they are to emulate. And in case you suppose, after years of listening to Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama, that the prophet must ultimately have come around on the Jews, you might want to rethink that one. Another hadith, relating Mohammed’s dying words, recounts his final plea: “May Allah curse the Jews and the Christians.” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 8, No. 427.)

This incident is interesting as a litmus test for our officials and politicians: will they continue to pretend that Brotherhood and Morsi are ‘moderate’ and worthy of our support and ignore the evidence that they are a bunch of racist, atavistic, megalomaniacs, and Jew- and Christian-haters? So far, the Obama Administration hasn’t done so well, rewarding Morsi with a gift of completely unneeded (except to attack Israel) F-16s and Abrams tanks.

Well, after all, Morsi is Egyptian (even if he does have a Ph.D from USC). What do you expect, that he should have the same enlightened consciousness as a Westerner? Like, for example, British MP David Ward, who compared Israeli “atrocities [inflicted] on the Palestinians” with the Holocaust (never mind that there were no such “atrocities”).

And, for another example, cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, whose cartoon was published on Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain:

sunday times cartoon

Hmmm, nothing anti-Jewish here, just “criticism of Israel,” right? In case you really don’t get it, note the exaggeratedly ‘Jewish’ physiognomy of the caricature of Netanyahu, as well as his posture and expression, his claw-like fingers, the implication of murderous malice. And then add the bloody ‘mortar’, and you see that this is a classic expression of Jew hatred.

As politics, it doesn’t make sense. Jonathan S. Tobin writes,

In the face of slanders such as this cartoon about Netanyahu, the facts are almost beside the point. The cartoon will be defended as fair comment about Israel’s security fence that the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders depict as a war crime. That this strictly defensive measure was made necessary by the Palestinians’ campaign of suicide bombings that cost the lives of a thousand Jews in the last decade goes unmentioned.

The willingness of Israel-bashers to appropriate the Holocaust to promote a new generation of anti-Semitic imagery is rooted in a worldview in which the actions of the Palestinians, or their consistent refusal to make peace are irrelevant. If even a fence to keep out suicide bombers can be seen as criminal then it is obvious that no terrorist outrage or act of hateful incitement (such as the Egyptian president’s belief that Israelis are the “descendants of apes and pigs”) is worthy of censure so long as Israelis are standing up for themselves and refusing to be slaughtered as the Jews of Europe were 70 years ago.

In order for it to be considered a defensible point of view about the Middle East, you’d have to believe the artist and the editors who condoned its publication know nothing of why Israel built a security fence or that the terrorist campaign that it was built to stop was preceded by repeated Israeli offers of a Palestinian state that were refused and answered with war.

As Tobin says, where Israel, Jews or ‘Zionists’ are concerned, the facts are beside the point.

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How the usual suspects got it wrong

Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Yair Lapid, who came in a surprising second in Israel's election

Yair Lapid, who came in a surprising second in Israel’s election

For the past couple of years, the line pushed hard by the American Jewish anti-Zionist Left — the ones that love Israel so much they want to destroy it in order to save it, Peter Beinart, J Street, Thomas L. Friedman, Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Reform Movement, the New Israel Fund, etc. — has been that American Jews have become distanced from Israel because it has moved sharply to the right, abandoning democracy and liberal values, becoming a racist theocracy.

For example, here’s Friedman in December:

Israel’s friends need to understand that the center-left in Israel is dying. The Israeli election in January will bring to power Israeli rightists who never spoke at your local Israel Bonds dinner. These are people who want to annex the West Bank. Bibi Netanyahu is a dove in this crowd. The only thing standing between Israel and national suicide any more is America and its willingness to tell Israel the truth. [emphasis in original]

And here is Daniel Sokatch of the New Israel fund just a week ago:

If the polls are correct, on January 22, Israelis will elect the most right-wing government in Israeli history. It is likely to be even more hardline than the current coalition, on whose watch Israel’s relations with the Obama administration soured over disagreements over Iran, Israel’s expanding settlement enterprise, and the moribund peace process.

Oops.

How many times do I have to say it? These idiots do not have a clue about what Israelis think, what their priorities are, and of course how they vote.

This election was anything but a victory for the right wing. The Likud, perhaps in part because of the replacement of some relatively moderate members of its list with those farther to the right, ended up with far fewer seats than predicted. Although the new Bayit Hayehudi party — among those, in Friedman’s words, “who want to annex [parts of] the West Bank” — did remarkably well for its first election, it, too did less well than expected.

The big surprise was the second-place finish of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. Centrist, concerned with social issues — including Haredi draft-avoidance — and the cost of apartments and food. So much for theocracy.

Interestingly — at least, it should be interesting to Sokatch, Friedman, Beinart, et al — there was little discussion during the campaign of “the peace process,” “the occupation” and the “two-state solution” with which they are obsessed. Everybody in Israel, with the exception of the European- and NIF-funded Left, knows that the “peace process” is dead because there is simply no common ground between the Israeli need for security and the Arab desire to destroy Israel.

No, the issues uppermost in their minds are Iran — and here, most Israelis have confidence in Netanyahu — and questions of social and economic policy.

In other words, after survival, Israelis are concerned with how best to improve the functioning of their democracy, how to share the burdens and distribute the benefits of their free society — exactly the areas in which the patronizing liberal American Jews think that they know better than the ‘primitive’ Israelis!

Now that they have been proven wrong, will they shut up? Of course not. But they should. As a person who has lived in Israel and the US, who today is close to children and grandchildren living in Israel and therefore can compare the two systems, I can say that I am far more worried about the future of democracy in the USA than in Israel.

Yes, Israel lives in constant threat of war, but most of its people have better access to good health care than Americans do. Yes, the cost of apartments is astronomical, but I am confident that this will shortly change, while the goal of home ownership is moving farther away for many Americans. And our political process…

My advice to Beinart, Friedman, Jacobs, Sokatch and friends is that they should just leave Israel alone — it is dealing with its problems well enough by itself — and concentrate on fixing things here in the US.

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John Brennan’s romance with Islam

Monday, January 21st, 2013
Obama CIA pick John O. Brennan

Obama CIA pick John O. Brennan

One of the first things Barack Obama did after taking the oath of office (which he actually did on Sunday, January 20, as prescribed by the Constitution) was to submit a list of candidates for cabinet-level posts. One of these was Secretary of Defense, and his nominee was Chuck Hagel. I’ve had a lot to say about Hagel’s views about issues related to Israel, all bad.

But this post isn’t about Hagel. It is about another cabinet-level appointment, that of John O. Brennan, Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser (actually “Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Assistant to the President”) as head of the CIA.

What do we know about Brennan? He held several important posts in the CIA, including station chief in Saudi Arabia from 1996-9. His academic background includes the study of Arabic and Arab culture; he received a BA in political science from Fordham University, including a year abroad at the American University in Cairo, and an M.A. in Government specializing in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He speaks Arabic ‘fluently’.

Now there is nothing wrong with having this kind of background. After all, insofar as the threat of terrorism is a major concern, and almost all terrorism today emanates from the Arab and Muslim world, the CIA director can’t know too much about it.

But on the other hand, there is the phenomenon of the ‘Arabist’ — the Westerner who studies Arabic and is so taken by the culture that he adopts the Arab worldview and politics. T. E. Lawrence is probably the most well-known, but contemporary examples abound (for example, the academic Juan Cole).

If you  believe that the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism is related to specific grievances held by ‘extremists’ who are exploiting the essentially peaceful religion of Islam for their purposes, then possibly having a CIA director who is an Arabist is not a problem.

But on the other hand, if you believe that we are experiencing the beginnings of a true civilizational conflict between Islam and the West, then it could be a big problem indeed.

So is Brennan an Arabist in this sense? I’m not sure.

In February 2010, Brennan spoke to Muslim students at NYU in a meeting ‘facilitated’ by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). His talk can be found in these four video clips: here, here, here, and here.

In the first one, he says that Islam is “a faith of peace and tolerance and great diversity,” something which I suspect the Coptic Christians of Egypt would dispute. He can be heard speaking in somewhat rusty Arabic. He describes meeting Muslim students from various countries including “Palestine,” and refers to “al-Quds, Jerusalem” — where, he says, the three faiths for whom the city is holy show that they can coexist despite tensions (but he fails to note that this has only been the case since the city has been under Jewish control!)

Later, he discusses at length the problem of prejudice against Muslims in America and the need to protect their rights, but he does not mention the very real lack of rights experienced by non-male or non-Muslim populations in Muslim-controlled lands.

He praises the Saudi monarchy for the stewardship of the holy cities of Islam and the haj, but does not talk about the brutal, medieval darkness of that kingdom where slavery flourishes and petty thieves have their hands cut off.

He praises ISNA and other Muslim organizations for working to protect the rights of Muslims, but does not mention their involvement in fund-raising for Hamas or other terrorist groups, or their connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, he criticizes the US government for interfering with the obligation for Muslims to practice zakat — charity.

Brennan is 100% on board with the Obama policy that our enemies consist only of “al-Qaeda and its extremist allies,” organizations that have distorted the peaceful nature of Islam. In fact, he opposes the use of the word ‘jihadists’ to refer to Islamic terrorists, because

They are not jihadists, for jihad is a holy struggle, an effort to purify, for a legitimate purpose. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing holy or pure or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.”

As I argued in response to similar remarks in 2009 — Brennan misunderstands the nature of our enemy:

Doubtless Osama bin Laden believes that his jihad against the US is a “holy struggle for a moral goal”. But Brennan’s definition leaves out the historical meaning of ‘jihad’ as an expansionist, offensive struggle against non-Muslims, an aspect which is still very much part of the concept in the minds of many present-day Muslims (for an exhaustive and persuasive analysis of this topic, see Daniel Pipes: “Jihad and the Professors“)…

… jihad in this sense was highly important in the past and has been reemphasized by modern Islamist thinkers like al-Banna and Qutb.

Brennan clings to the idea that we can somehow undercut the spread of violent Islamist ideology by employing economic development and education to fight the “ignorance” that allows al-Qaeda to recruit:

I think Brennan underestimates the pull of the militant Islamist ideology itself, especially in Arab cultures. After all, the leadership of radical groups like al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hizballah, etc. are all well-educated, and in the case of bin Laden, quite wealthy. It can be argued that in some cases — like the Palestinian Arabs, who have probably been the recipient of more Western ‘development’ aid than any other similar group — there are religious/cultural pathologies that work against political stability and economic development, as well as making the culture fertile ground for radical ideologies.

So when Brennan suggests that we need to attack these ‘conditions’ as well as fight ‘extremists’, he misses two points:

  1. The ‘extremists’ are not just a small group of crazies, but part of a significant faction of fundamentalist Muslims who — while they may not themselves engage in violent jihad — accept the ideology of militant Islamism which promotes it. As long as this is the case, there will always be a supply of ones who are violent.
  2. Unless the cultural and religious issues that make it hard for societies to develop in what we Westerners see as a positive direction (democracy, economic development, fair allocation of resources, etc.) can be counteracted, Western attempts to ameliorate poverty, lack of education and political repression will be seen as so much cultural imperialism.

Since 2010, militant Islamism has made great advances in the Middle East, and it is becoming harder and harder for those like Brennan to claim that it is a distortion of the peace and beauty that is “mainstream” Islam. Has he changed his thinking?

We may find out. Unlike the position he holds today, his new job requires Senate confirmation.

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Fiamma Nirenstein’s political journey

Friday, January 18th, 2013
Fiamma Nirenstein

Fiamma Nirenstein

Sometimes I read something that is so on-target and illuminating that I want to say “stop what you are doing and read this now!

Fiamma Nirenstein is an Italian journalist who was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 2008 and was Vice President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

She has just announced that she is leaving politics and making aliyah to Israel.

She wrote the piece below in 2003. You can substitute ‘Netanyahu’ for ‘Sharon’ and she could have written it yesterday.

It is a bit long, but if you never read anything else that I suggest, please read this:

How I became an ‘unconscious fascist’
By Fiamma Nirenstein

In 1967 I was a young communist, like most Italian youngsters. Bored by my rebellious behavior my family sent me to a Kibbutz in the upper Galilee, Neot Mordechai. I was quite satisfied there, the kibbutz used to give some money every month to the Vietcong. When the Six Day War began, Moshe Dayan spoke on the radio to announce it. I asked: “What is he saying?” and the comrades of Neot answered: “Shtuyot,” silly things. During the war I took children to shelters; I dug trenches, and learned some simple shooting and acts of self defense. We continued working in the orchards, but were quick to identify the incoming Mig-im and the outgoing Mirage-im, chasing one another in the sky of the Golan Heights.

Click here for the rest…

Shabbat shalom.

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‘Peace process’ gone but pressure remains

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Barry Rubin:

…any talk of Israel-Palestinian negotiations, peace process activity, compromise diplomacy, and all that stuff is meaningless now and here’s why:

The UN General Assembly made the Palestinian Authority (PA)-ruled entity a non-member state. Many in the West rationalized providing supporting votes or abstentions by saying this would do no harm and make Palestinians feel good…

Those of us who opposed this change explained that it means destruction of the 1993 Oslo agreement and the “peace process,” as moribund as it was, by handing the Palestinian Authority (at least on paper) everything it wanted without a single compromise on its part, not even living up to previous commitments.

And since the PA has just thrown away all the previous agreements it made with Israel, why should Israel pin its fate on some new one? Just as the PA took all the benefits it could from the Oslo agreement and then tore it up the same thing would happen–with a far more dangerous situation resulting–with a peace treaty in which Israel pulled out of the rest of the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Why is it that this issue is never even mentioned in the Western mass media, or by “experts” and politicians as a central aspect of the problem?

Mahmoud Abbas has now ordered that official documents bear the name “State of Palestine” rather than “Palestinian National Authority,” marking the end of the Oslo framework. Rubin continues,

In other words, the UN General Assembly’s action was the single most effective sabotage to a two-state solution since the Palestine Arab leadership’s rejection of a two-state solution based on partition in 1947. Much of the media, “experts,” and Western politicians will no doubt blame Israel and especially the Netanyahu government for the absence of a diplomatic miracle. In fact, though, Israel’s stances have now been rendered irrelevant in this regard. [my emphasis]

In a speech on January 4, Abbas made clear that he sees the Palestinian goal not as the establishment of a peaceful state alongside Israel, but the replacement of Israel by an Arab state. Jonathan D. Halevi describes it,

In his speech Abbas avoids all mention of a historic compromise with Israel that would bring the conflict to an end. Nor does he mention the land-for-peace formula, the establishment of a Palestinian state beside Israel, recognition of Israel, or Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Instead, Abbas chose to reemphasize that the Fatah movement has not changed since the day of its establishment – marked by its first anti-Israel terror attack on January 1, 1965 – and that the Palestinian people remain on the path of struggle. The keywords in his speech were the “dreams” and “national goals” to be achieved; that is, “historical justice,” as the Palestinians view it. Translated into the language of action, that means, according to Abbas, “realizing the dream of return” of the Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants.

Abbas reinforced his uncompromising message with a pledge to continue the path of struggle of previous Palestinian leaders, mentioning the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who forged a strategic alliance with Nazi Germany, and heads of Palestinian terror organizations who were directly responsible for the murder of thousands of Israeli civilians, including Halil al-Wazir Abu Jihad (Fatah), Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (Hamas), Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi (Hamas), Fathi al-Shikaki (Islamic Jihad), George Habash (Popular Front), Abu Ali Mustafa (Popular Front), Abu al-Abbas (Arab Liberation Front), and Izzadin al-Qassam (leader of the jihad war against the Jewish Yishuv and the British in the 1930s).

Abbas refrained from setting red lines for the “Palestinian struggle,” condemning terror, or denouncing Palestinian terror organizations and leaders. All of these, in his view, are equal and suitable partners in the Palestinian struggle, and their ideological platform, even if it is terrorist and/or radical-Islamist, is a source of inspiration for the Palestinian people in their ongoing endeavor to achieve their national goals.

In short, no more ‘peace process’. But that doesn’t mean the end of diplomatic pressure on Israel. On the contrary, the thugs on the ground in Europe and the Obama Administration now simply want to impose the UN’s diktat on Israel.

In an ugly salvo in this direction, the administration spoke through the pen of the friendly Jeffrey Goldberg:

In the weeks after the UN vote, Obama said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” With each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation…

…what Obama wants is recognition by Netanyahu that Israel’s settlement policies are foreclosing on the possibility of a two-state solution, and he wants Netanyahu to acknowledge that a two-state solution represents the best chance of preserving the country as a Jewish-majority democracy.

I find it impossible to believe that Obama honestly thinks that construction anywhere east of the Green Line is what prevents an agreed-upon two-state solution. And it cannot have escaped his attention that the Palestinians are not on board for any kind of ‘solution’ that isn’t totally one-sided.

Nevertheless, he plows on, playing the good cop to the Europeans’ bad one, pretending that the pressure is for Israel’s own good. For some reason, no issue seems to be as important in US and EU policy than shrinking Israel.

Israel can go along with the program and endanger its chances for survival, or it can run the risk of whatever sanctions the Europeans and the US may dish out.

Neither option is terribly good, but in my opinion Israel should take the unilateral steps necessary to protect its security — and let the EU and Obama do their worst.

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A tale of two Chucks

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

With the support of Democratic NY Senator Charles Schumer, Chuck Hagel is now almost certain to be confirmed as Secretary of Defense.

Israeli and pro-Israel sources in the US have been very critical of the nomination (here are some of their objections). As a Senator, Hagel consistently voted against resolutions supporting Israel and condemning antisemitism. He opposed sanctions on Iran, called for negotiations with Hamas and did not support branding Hizballah as a terrorist organization. He has severely criticized Israel whenever (as in 2002, 2006 and 2008-9) it was forced to take military action against terrorists.

Hagel has consistently held to the (absurd) ‘linkage theory’, the view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core problem of the Middle East, and needs to be ‘solved’ — that is, Israel must withdraw from all territories conquered in 1967 and a Palestinian state created — before other issues (like Iranian nuclearization and the spread of radical Islam?) can be dealt with (see also here as well as here).

As opposed to Hagel, Chuck Schumer has been one of the most pro-Israel members of the Senate. In 2010 he sharply criticized President Obama’s policy towards Israel:

“This has to stop,” he said of the administration’s policy of publicly pressuring Israel to end construction in Jerusalem.

“I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk,” Schumer told Segal. “Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel. They, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there.

“If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, ‘Why should we negotiate?’” Schumer said.

Schumer is critical to Hagel’s confirmation. Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake explain:

What seems abundantly clear is that if Schumer could make his decision on Hagel in a political vacuum, he would probably vote no. But he can’t. Schumer is widely regarded as the next leader of Senate Democrats and, as such, his opinion matters a great deal. If Schumer signaled that he would vote no, it would give cover for other Democrats to follow suit — a domino effect that almost certainly would destroy Hagel’s chances.

Schumer, of course, knows that. And he doesn’t want to own the defeat of (and blame for) a Cabinet nominee put forward at the cusp of Obama’s second term. So, if personally Schumer has reason to oppose Hagel, politically he has every reason to support him.

Schumer, being one of the smartest strategists in the Senate, understands that he likely holds Hagel’s fate in his hands. Given those stakes, our (educated) guess is that if Hagel is apologetic about some of his past statements during his meeting with Schumer, the New York Democrat will find a way to say yes.

Well, Cillizza and Blake nailed it. Schumer talked to the President and met with Hagel. And in a truly remarkable statement in which he credits Hagel with changing his mind on every Israel-related issue, endorsed him:

When Senator Hagel’s name first surfaced as a potential nominee for Secretary of Defense, I had genuine concerns over certain aspects of his record on Israel and Iran. Once the President made his choice, however, I agreed to keep these reservations private until I had the opportunity to discuss them fully with Senator Hagel in person.

In a meeting Monday, Senator Hagel spent approximately 90 minutes addressing my concerns one by one. It was a very constructive session. Senator Hagel could not have been more forthcoming and sincere.

Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him…

On Iran, Senator Hagel rejected a strategy of containment and expressed the need to keep all options on the table in confronting that country. But he didn’t stop there. In our conversation, Senator Hagel made a crystal-clear promise that he would do “whatever it takes” to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including the use of military force. He said his “top priority” as Secretary of Defense would be the planning of military contingencies related to Iran. He added that he has already received a briefing from the Pentagon on this topic.

In terms of sanctions, past statements by Senator Hagel sowed concerns that he considered unilateral sanctions against Iran to be ineffective. In our meeting, however, Senator Hagel clarified that he ‘completely’ supports President Obama’s current sanctions against Iran. He added that further unilateral sanctions against Iran could be effective and necessary.

On Hezbollah, Senator Hagel stressed that—notwithstanding any letters he refused to sign in the past—he has always considered the group to be a terrorist organization.

On Hamas, I asked Senator Hagel about a letter he signed in March 2009 urging President Obama to open direct talks with that group’s leaders.

In response, Senator Hagel assured me that he today believes there should be no negotiations with Hamas, Hezbollah or any other terrorist group until they renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Senator Hagel volunteered that he has always supported Israel’s right to retaliate militarily in the face of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas. He understood the predicament Israel is in when terrorist groups hide rocket launchers among civilian populations and stage attacks from there. He supported Israel’s right to defend herself even in those difficult circumstances.

In keeping with our promises to help equip Israel, Senator Hagel pledged to work towards the on-time delivery of the F-35 joint strike fighters to Israel, continue the cooperation between Israel and the U.S. on Iron Dome, and recommend to the President that we refuse to join in any NATO exercises if Turkey should continue to insist on excluding Israel from them.  Senator Hagel believes Israel must maintain its Qualitative Military Edge.

Regarding his unfortunate use of the term “Jewish lobby” to refer to certain pro-Israel groups, Senator Hagel understands the sensitivity around such a loaded term and regrets saying it.

I know some will question whether Senator Hagel’s assurances are merely attempts to quiet critics as he seeks confirmation to this critical post. But I don’t think so. Senator Hagel realizes the situation in the Middle East has changed, with Israel in a dramatically more endangered position than it was even five years ago. His views are genuine, and reflect this new reality…

I think that such a radical conversion by Hagel is unlikely, given both the substance and tone of his remarks over the years. But apparently Schumer buys it, and that means that unless something totally unexpected happens, so will a majority of senators.

Death by a thousand snowballs

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

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This happened in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish state, yesterday.

No big deal, right? Apparently nobody was hurt. Snowballs are harmless. Just a few badly-brought up teenagers misbehaving.

Wrong — it is a very big deal, because it negates the whole idea of a Jewish state, which is supposed to be a place where people are not humiliated for being Jews. And in fact, this particular incident was low on the scale of antisemitic violence compared to the attempted murders (sometimes not just attempted) that are carried out against Israelis every day in Jerusalem, in areas of Arab population in pre-1967 Israel, and of course in the territories.

Possibly this explains (but doesn’t excuse) the embarrassing fact that passers-by didn’t intervene. Who would leave the safety of his car to confront these hooligans alone, perhaps to face violence worse than snowballs?

It is also a big deal because it is not accidental. Arab Jew haters see every injury that they can inflict on Jews and Israel as “resistance to occupation.” That includes everything from snowballs to auto theft to arson to stonings to stabbings to bombings that kill tens of Israelis.

The Arabs think they are winning, finally reversing the temporary victories of the Jews in 1948 and 1967. They see that little by little we are giving up, that we don’t have the strength to hold on to what our soldiers were able to conquer. How much blood was shed for the Temple Mount, and who holds it today?

Snow sculpture of Hamas "M75" rocket built on Temple Mount (h/t: Elder of Ziyon)

Snow sculpture of Hamas “M75″ rocket built on Temple Mount (h/t: Elder of Ziyon)

As a result, they push harder. This is as true on the streets of Jerusalem, in the E1 corridor of Area C,  and on the roads of Judea and Samaria, as it is at the UN.

Israel’s response to Arab pressure cannot be to appease it. The teenagers in the video are not tormenting Jews because they are frustrated that there is no “2-state solution” — they are expressing their desire that there be no Jews in ‘their’ land, just as the Palestinian media daily expresses the opinion of their leadership that ‘Palestine’ stretches from the river to the sea.

It should be clear by now to everyone that the more we feed Palestinian nationalism (which is no more than anti-Zionism), the greater its appetite — and the more frequent its violent manifestations.

Anyway, there is no more framework for appeasement, as Mahmoud Abbas has declared that there is no longer an Oslo-created “Palestinian National Authority,” only a “State of Palestine.”

One way for Israelis to become proactive, to stop the chipping away at Israel’s sovereignty and self-respect, will be to elect right-wing candidates in the upcoming election, who will make the official policy of the state match the reality that there is no ‘peace process’, and begin to take the steps necessary to annex the parts of Judea and Samaria required for Israel’s security.

The Temple Mount is also of tremendous symbolic and practical importance. It cannot be that Jews can only go there under police protection, and are be arrested for praying, while Arabs can build models of Hamas missiles in Judaism’s holiest place! And it cannot be that Jews are chased through the streets of Jerusalem for being Jews.

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Chemical weapons are Assad’s insurance policy

Friday, January 11th, 2013
Bashar al-Assad speaks in Damascus last week

Bashar al-Assad speaks in Damascus last week

Recently the NY Times reported that the Assad regime had commenced mixing the ingredients to produce Sarin gas and loading it into 500-pound bombs.

But not to worry (for a while), said the Times, thanks to the intrepid Barack Obama and his international friends:

What followed next, officials said, was a remarkable show of international cooperation over a civil war in which the United States, Arab states, Russia and China have almost never agreed on a common course of action.

The combination of a public warning by Mr. Obama and more sharply worded private messages sent to the Syrian leader and his military commanders through Russia and others, including Iraq, Turkey and possibly Jordan, stopped the chemical mixing and the bomb preparation. A week later Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said the worst fears were over — for the time being.

Well, actually not, because the article also strongly implies that the process went on for a week before Assad, obviously shaking in his boots over the “sharply worded” warnings, stopped it.

Now today it is reported that US officials admit that there is no way to prevent Assad from using the weapons that were prepared:

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged that it will be nearly impossible to prevent the Syrian government from using its chemical weapons, so the US must rely on deterrence and continue warning Syria that using them would be unacceptable.

“The act of preventing the use of chemical weapons would be almost unachievable,” Dempsey said during a Pentagon press conference. “You would have to have such clarity of intelligence, you know, persistent surveillance, you’d have to actually see it before it happened, and that’s — that’s unlikely, to be sure.”

All that would be necessary would be to load the filled bombs onto aircraft, which could be done in a matter of minutes or hours. The threat that he would use these weapons provides Assad with a good insurance policy against foreign intervention, freeing him to unleash the full force of his large conventional arsenal against rebels.

It also helps that some of the extremist rebel organizations are less palatable to the US and European nations that are providing limited support to the rebels than the Butcher of Damascus himself.

In a recent speech, Assad affirmed that he had no intention of stepping down. It is not unimaginable that he can pull it off.

It’s doubtful that any of the likely replacements for the Assad regime would be better actors. And the chaos that might reign before the succession is settled could permit weapons to fall into the hands of Hizballah or other terrorist groups.

This is actually the most dangerous possibility. It’s generally thought that Israel warned its neighbors that the use of any form of weapons of mass destruction — nuclear, chemical or biological — would be met with massive retaliation, presumably nuclear. Egypt and Syria both had chemical weapons capability in 1973, as did Saddam Hussein during the Gulf war. These were not used, and the restraint was not due to humanitarian feelings. It is not clear to what extent Hizballah could be deterred in this way — and certainly al-Qaeda could not.

I’m sure that the West and Israel would welcome the replacement of Assad by a liberal, democratic, social-media-savvy regime. But that isn’t going to happen.Whomever wins will most likely slaughter their former opponents, despite the outrage in the West.

It could be that the best outcome for everyone except his enemies would be the survival of Assad.

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Egypt collapsing, people will have to eat F-16′s

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
Egyptian F-16's

Egyptian F-16′s

David P. Goldman (‘Spengler’) has been chronicling the decline and impending collapse of the Egyptian economy since the end of the Mubarak regime. With the tourism industry decimated, natural gas sales to Israel and Jordan halted by endemic terrorism, crime rampant, etc., Egypt’s foreign currency reserves will soon be gone. Agricultural production is down, and even in good times, Egypt does not produce enough food to feed its 83 million people.

When the money runs out, either Egypt will receive massive aid from other nations, or Egyptians will face starvation. Last month, Goldman wrote,

  • The Food Industries Association warned Nov. 27 that lack of foreign exchange to purchase food commodities may reduce food imports by 40% during the next several months. Egypt imports half its total food consumption. Upper Egypt already is suffering a drop in food supplies (I presume other than state-subsidized bread) by 40%. Banks are refusing to  provide financing for food imports because importers are already deeply in arrears.
  • The Misr Beni Suef Cement company shut five plants due to a natural gas shortage.
  • An epidemic of bird flu threatens to destroy Egypt’s chicken population because of a lack of natural gas to heat poultry farms.
  • Egypt’s government electricity company warned that the provision of power is in danger because government agencies are 15 billion Egyptian pounds (US $2.5 billion) in arrears on their electricity bills.
  • Gas and diesel supplies at filling stations are down 70% from normal levels since President Mohammed Morsi’s constitutional declarations.
  • Shortage of fertilizer has cut agricultural exports by 10%, according to the Agricultural Export Council, and it is likely that overall production has fallen by a similar margin.

In thirty-five years of following debt crises in emerging economies, I have never seen anything like this. Latin American economies suffered from hyperinflation during the 1970s and 1980s, but no-one went hungry, because the economies in question all exported food, while Egypt imports half its food. The difference between Egypt and a banana republic is — the bananas.

Egypt is not the only Middle Eastern country facing a crisis — according to Goldman, all of the non-oil-producing Arab countries (e.g., Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen) are in trouble. It doesn’t help that rising demand for food from the more functional economies in East Asia has pushed up prices.

While Islamists like to say that “Islam is the solution,” radical Islam is precisely the opposite. Because of its negative effects on women, Christians, the educated middle classes, secular education in general, etc. — not to mention the disruptions caused by violent extremists — Islamism is death to economic success.

Naturally, one ‘solution’ to a problem caused by the incompetence of Muslims is to attack Israel and the Jews. Essam el-Erian, an adviser to President Morsi, recently announced that Jews of Egyptian descent living in Israel should give up their property to Palestinian ‘refugees’ and return to Egypt, since Israel was about to be destroyed.

Unfortunately for him, el-Erian forgot that Egyptians hate Jews even more than they hate Israel, and was forced to resign after the Islamic Jihad organization complained that the re-introduction of Jews would “rot the Egyptian economy” [they should be so lucky as to have Jewish businessmen!] and that Shari’a requires Muslims to kill Jews.

If that isn’t surreal enough, what is the Obama Administration doing in the face of the imminent collapse of the largest and historically most important and powerful state in the Arab world, now ruled by an anti-Western and anti-Semitic radical Islamic regime (which it helped bring to power)?

Why, giving them advanced F-16 aircraft, of course.

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Benter’s back

Monday, January 7th, 2013
Billionaire mathematician Bill Benter and wife

Billionaire mathematician Bill Benter and wife Vivian

It shouldn’t come to any of us as a surprise that, like any political campaign, getting yourself confirmed as Secretary of Defense takes big bucks for advertising, lobbying, PR, etc.

So who is funding the ‘campaign’ of Chuck Hagel, whom Jennifer Rubin called “the most anti-Israel nominee in recent memory (in either party)?”

Josh Rogin tells us:

…without White House assistance before Monday’s official nomination and without a staff of his own, Hagel was ill-equipped to fight the onslaught of negative publicity coming from his many critics, and his critics were able to set the initial frame and tone of the coming confirmation debate.

But over the last two weeks, Hagel’s friends in the Democratic political world have come to his aid, principally by rounding up senior former officials to write supportive op-eds and funding an advertising effort to spread the world that Hagel does in fact have bipartisan support.

The Cable has learned that a large chunk of that pro-Hagel money is coming from one Democratic donor, gambling legend Bill Benter, who is working with the Podesta Group, a Washington lobbying firm, to support pro-Hagel advertising.

Benter is the shadowy mathematician with CIA and Arab connections who figured out how to beat the odds at Hong Kong’s Happy Valley race track, and funneled more than $800,000 through an ‘associate’, the even shadowier Connie Esdicul, into the up-and coming J Street organization in 2010.

J Street, if you have forgotten, is the fake “pro-Israel” lobbying group which has consistently worked against Israel’s interests in Washington — also with Arab connections — all the while claiming that they are doing it for Israel’s own good.

Just like, er, Chuck Hagel. In fact J Street supports Hagel, and its positions on Iranian sanctions, Hamas, etc., almost precisely agree with his. Which, surprisingly enough, are the same as those of George Soros, another big J Street funder, and of President Barack Obama.

This is one of those times that I wish the antisemites were right, and that there was actually a semi-covert, powerful and well-funded Jewish lobby forcing the captive US (“Zionist-occupied”) government to do its bidding.

Instead, there is a Jewish community sharply divided on many political issues — and a large part of that community has decided that if it comes down to a choice between Israel and what it calls ‘progressive values’, they’ll choose the latter.

And this is alongside a semi-covert, powerful and well-funded anti-Israel lobby, which is not at all divided about what it wants.

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Jewifying the opposition

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

It’s now almost certain that the president is going to nominate Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. An announcement is expected tomorrow or Tuesday.

Just like when the plan was to appoint Arabist Chas Freeman to a sensitive intelligence post, the strategy has been to leak the planned appointment, then respond to opposition by ‘Israelifying’ the objections, and ‘Jewifying’ the opponents.

In other words, administration surrogates are doing their best to make the public think that objections to Hagel are all related to his anti-Israel politics (don’t just ask me — ask Iranian Press TV), and that opponents to his nomination are doing the bidding of the ‘Jewish Lobby’ (as Hagel himself called it).

Freeman’s Saudi and Chinese connections did him in. He wasn’t a member of the Senate who could expect to receive many votes out of collegial courtesy. The administration saw the handwriting on the wall and didn’t push it.

But this time the calculations are that Hagel can make it. This is despite the fact that many Senators will vote against him because his positions on issues of national security and foreign policy are far to the left of the mainstream for that body. What can you say about someone who opposed economic sanctions on Iran and a resolution calling Hizballah a “terrorist organization,” and suggested that the US president negotiate with Hamas?

It’s not as though there aren’t other good candidates, including some who are much more experienced in the details of running the complicated defense establishment, such as the highly competent Michelle Flournoy.

Unfortunately, the administration has succeeded in making the issue of Hagel all about Israel and Jews, rather than about a potential Secretary of Defense with little practical experience who seems to think that a nuclear Iran is acceptable. One wonders if the president himself views it this way, and sees the nomination as a way to punish and humiliate Israel (and perhaps the “Jewish Lobby”).

That would be really, really stupid, a classic case of allowing the anti-Israeli tail to wag the dog of real American interests.

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