Archive for February, 2013

Erdoğan, Zionism and Islamophobia

Thursday, February 28th, 2013
Turkish PM Erdoğan creatively defines 'crimes against humanity'

Turkish PM Erdoğan creatively defines ‘crimes against humanity’

Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity — Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, at a UN summit on tolerance [!] in Geneva.

Funny, I have always thought that crimes against humanity were things like the Armenian Genocide, which for some reason Mr. Erdoğan failed to mention.

It is difficult for me to see how Zionism, the movement to allow the Jewish people to finally achieve self-determination in their own land, to finally end their contingent existence and subhuman treatment, compares to clubbing Armenian babies to death.

And why didn’t Erdoğan mention another ‘ism’, Palestinianism?

While Zionism says that Arabs may be citizens of a Jewish state, racist Palestinianism denies that Jews may live in a Palestinian one. Palestinianism calls for the destruction of the Zionist state, while Zionism advocates coexistence. And Palestinianism has been the father of the murderous terrorism that plagues the world today.

He did mention Fascism. He could have expanded on this, discussing the relationship between Hitler and one of the founders of Palestinianism, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Husseini incited pogroms in Mandate Palestine, raised an SS division that murdered Jews in Yugoslavia, incited a major pogrom in Iraq, made broadcasts for the Nazis calling on Arabs to kill Jews, helped former members of the SS find sanctuary after WWII, and more. Talk about crimes against humanity!

As the story linked above mentions, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who was sitting right behind the Turk, didn’t seem to notice anything amiss. Not surprising: the UN, which oozes multiculturalism, seems to draw the line at defending one particular culture, that of Jewish Israelis.

There are myriad speeches and resolutions introduced at the UN about the alleged plague of Islamophobia. One would think that Islamophobes are flying planes into Muslim skyscrapers and blowing up their tourist buses on a daily basis.

No, not quite. the problem seems to be that “Islamophobes” say nasty things. They say, for example, that Muslims treat women and non-Muslims as inherently inferior, deserving of fewer rights than male Muslims. You see? They are criticizing the religion of Islam and its divinely inspired shari’a! So what if non-Muslims and women actually have fewer rights in Muslim countries? That’s not the important part.

Islamophobes often mention the connection of Muslims to terrorism. But not all terrorists are Muslim. What about the American terrorist, Timothy McVeigh? And then, er, let’s see…

And anti-Islamophobia crusaders (oops, bad choice of words!) such as the ACLU are outraged at the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims, actually spying on what goes on in mosques, using informants. Whatever on earth happened to make the NYPD suspicious of Muslims? After all, there have only been 16 Islamic terrorist plots against New York City uncovered since 9/11!

Thanks are due to Mr. Erdoğan for creatively illustrating the meaning of ‘crimes against humanity’, and the ACLU for keeping us on our toes about Islamophobia.

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Bibi, tell him to take his promises and go home

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

News item:

When he visits Israel next month, US President Barack Obama will tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a “window of opportunity” for a military strike on Iran will open in June, according to an Israeli TV report Monday evening.

Obama will come bearing the message that if diplomatic efforts and sanctions don’t bear fruit, Israel should “sit tight” and let Washington take the stage, even if that means remaining on the sidelines during a US military operation, Channel 10 reported. Netanyahu will be asked to refrain from any military action and keep a low profile, avoiding even the mention of a strike, the report said, citing unnamed officials.

Translate “citing unnamed officials” as “the administration leaked.”

There is no way I can put an optimistic interpretation on this. There are four things that immediately come to mind:

First, Israel is asked to put its trust in the Obama Administration to deal with an existential threat. Simply, would you take this bet?

Second, the US armed forces are stretched extremely thin as a result of the budgeting policies of the administration, and now by the likely sequester of funds. For example, the USS Harry S. Truman, scheduled to deploy to the Persian Gulf this month, will not do so. The US is not in a position to ‘gear up’ for anything major.

Third, Obama is said to be offering this to Israel. What will Israel be expected to do in return? I don’t have to tell you, do I? Hint: it involves the Palestinians.

Fourth, the demand to ‘remain on the sidelines’ is a direct attack on Israel’s sovereignty as well as an invitation to disaster. When the first Tomahawk hits Iran, Israel will be attacked by Hizballah, which has stockpiled 50,000 missiles for just this occasion, and probably also by Hamas. Iran, too will throw whatever it can against Israel.

The policy of ‘no self-defense’ would result in the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Israelis. It is as stark as that.

And what is the reason for this restriction? There is no American interest served by it — wouldn’t it be better from a tactical point of view for the US and Israel to cooperate? The answer is ugly.

This is part of the deal because the Arab world (and especially the Saudis) finds it offensive when Jews dare to raise a hand to Arabs or Muslims. This is why Israel was required to suffer bombardment by Iraqi scuds during the Gulf War, and why it is expected to do nothing when Iranian proxies try to tear it apart.

And it is to their advantage in the long struggle to extirpate the Jews from the Middle East when Jewish Israelis die. It is beyond disgraceful that America will be complicit in this.

Obama’s policy is Saudi policy. That is where the irrational push to create a Palestinian state comes from, and that is where the handcuffs on the IDF are forged.

Netanyahu must tell Barack Hussein Obama to take his promises and go home.

Update [27 Feb 1901 PST]: Added the link after “Second” to J. E. Dyer article “Dead in the water: Obama’s military and the Iran nuclear threat.” I am not a military expert, but Dyer is. Rewrote last few paragraphs of the post for clarity.

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A third intifada?

Sunday, February 24th, 2013
Arab riots in Judea/Samaria

Arab riots in Judea/Samaria Sunday

Today there were riots in Judea and Samaria, as Arabs protested the death of a prisoner held in Meggido Prison, Arafat Jaradat.

Israeli authorities said that an autopsy, carried out in the presence of a Palestinian doctor, did not show signs of torture. The Palestinian Authority claimed, on the other hand, that there was evidence of bruises and broken ribs. Israel said there were rib fractures but they could be attributed to attempts to resuscitate Jaradat. No cause of death could be determined.

The usual suspects — Amira Hass of Ha’aretz, +972 magazine, etc., — all insist, with zero evidence except their hatred of the Jewish state, that he died as a result of torture. Further tests will be carried out, but the actual facts will not change the opinion of 99% of the people on either side of the issue.

Jaradat, 30, had been arrested after a rock-throwing incident in which an Israeli was hurt. There has been an increase in such attacks on Israelis recently. Khaled Abu Toameh reports,

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said over the weekend that he was in favor of a peaceful and popular resistance and that he and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal have reached agreement on the need for a peaceful intifada.

The two met in Cairo during a recent conference of Islamic countries.

Speaking during an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, Abbas said that he fully supported demonstrations against the security barrier and settlements, as well as Palestinian attempts to establish outposts in the West Bank, but stressed his opposition to violent measures.

“Armed resistance is banned,” he stressed. “This is a law and it is forbidden. It is also forbidden in the Gaza Strip.”

Let me translate this apparently Gandhian remark: Arabs are encouraged to engage in disturbances in which they will throw rocks and launch them from powerful slings at Jewish soldiers and civilians. They may also try to tear apart any of the unwary that they get their hands on, and they may throw homemade firebombs. They will do their best to place security forces in the position that they must use force to defend themselves.

The use of actual firearms and explosives, if such occurs (it will), will be attributed to members of extremist groups that the PA and Hamas do not control. Shootings and bombings will be deplored, but ‘understood’.

It is also important to understand the rationale and the goals of these disturbances. They are currently focusing on the ‘prisoner issue’, that is, the presence of Palestinian Arabs in Israeli jails for security-related offenses. Although many, including murderers, were released in trade for Gilad Shalit, Palestinians continue to engage in terrorism and continue to get arrested.

From the Arab point of view, this is insufferable: first, because any anti-Jewish activity is considered resistance to occupation and therefore is justified; and second, because they do not recognize the authority of the Israeli ‘colonialist’ government to arrest Arabs, whom they view as the indigenous owners of the land. The release of prisoners is one of the PA’s preconditions for negotiation with Israel, along with stopping construction in the territories and eastern Jerusalem.

But why heat things up just now?

Abu Toameh and other commentators have suggested that it is because of the impending visit of Barack Obama to Israel. Although Obama himself hasn’t said much about it, there are indications — particularly from the new Secretary of State, John Kerry — that a new push for an Israel-PA agreement is in the offing.

Kerry is prepared to look reality in the eye and force it to back down:

“We need to try to find a way forward,” Kerry said at his Senate confirmation hearing last month. He said the window to create an independent Palestinian state and to ensure Israeli security soon “could shut on everybody, and that would be disastrous.”

But creating an independent Palestinian state soon would be the worst possible way to “ensure Israeli security!” It’s hard to imagine what logical process went on in Kerry’s head to make this statement possible.

Perhaps the Palestinians do understand whatever drives the illogic of this administration. There will be another intifada; Palestinians will ‘suffer’ even more at the hands of Israel (nobody will talk about Syrians and Egyptians suffering far worse travail at Arab hands); it will be demanded that the US “do something” to “control Israel,” which is preventing “peace” by its intransigence.

The “window” argument given by Kerry will be invoked. Time is running out! Look at the rioting Palestinians… soon it will be impossible to get a “two-state solution!”

Barack Obama will bravely step in to take the political risks necessary to once and for all save Israel and the Palestinians from each other — which he will do by forcing more concessions from Israel, yet again. Of course it won’t fly, not easily, because Israeli leaders understand the consequences of another terror state a few miles from its population centers. Aren’t there other issues that Obama could focus on that are closer to American interests and more likely to bring success?

On contemplating the team Barack Obama has picked — Hagel, Kerry, Brennan — especially on a day like today, which happens to be Purim, one wonders if the supposedly ‘paranoid’ among us could possibly be justified in thinking that one of the very highest priorities of this administration really is to screw Israel?

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No ‘Respect’ for racist demagogue

Thursday, February 21st, 2013
British MP George Galloway

Galloway speaks in front of Hamas logo in Amman, Jordan, 2009, after being refused permission to bring ‘aid’ to Gaza through Egypt

I’m going to devote today’s post to one of my least favorite humans, George Galloway.

My U.K. readers already know probably more than they want to about him, but it occurred to me that others, Americans in particular, don’t know who or what he is. So I’ll do my best to remedy that.

Galloway, 58, is a member of the British Parliament for Bradford West, located in Yorkshire in north-central England. He was elected in 2012 by a landslide, receiving 56% of the vote; his nearest competitor got only 25%. Galloway, formerly a garden-variety leftist, was kicked out of the Labour party in 2003 because of his aggressive attacks on Tony Blair over British participation in the Iraq war.

In 2004 he joined a new left-wing party called “Respect,” which he and his faction shortly came to dominate. Galloway was the first MP elected by Respect, whose official ideology seems to be a sort of leftish populism.

Galloway has made it more than that, adding elements to appeal to Muslims (Bradford West was 38% Muslim in 2001, and is probably much more than that now). The party began to downplay some of the traditional left-wing causes like women’s and gay rights, while emphasizing opposition to the wars in Iraq an Afghanistan. Galloway himself may have converted to Islam (he is coy about this, perhaps to keep the few non-Muslim working-class votes that he receives). But he makes no pretense about appealing to Muslim interests — and prejudices.

What distinguishes Galloway from other many other demagogues — even in the UK — is his particularly vicious hatred of Israel, which extends to support for the Jew-hating Hamas. In 2009, he played a leading role in the “Viva Palestina” convoy to bring ‘aid’ to Gaza, which resulted in his being deported from Egypt. He often speaks against Zionism and Israel on his several radio/TV programs — in the UK, on a satellite channel linked to Iran and Syria in Lebanon and the US (on Pacifica station WBAI New York).

Hizballah, too, meets with his approval. “Hizballah is not and has never been a terrorist organisation. It is the legitimate national resistance movement of Lebanon,” he tells us. Ideology isn’t important as long as someone wants to kill Jews.

Galloway is always good for a rousing stump speech on the evils of Zionism and that “little Hitler state on the Mediterranean.” Just search for him on YouTube.

In short, Galloway is a man who has built a political persona and a career on hating Israel. Since explicit racial or ethnic hatred for groups of people is unfashionable — at least, in some parts of the West, although it is making a comeback — he must focus on abstract objects of hatred, like Zionism and Israel. His supporters aren’t deceived, and neither am I.

Galloway’s latest thuggish expression of hatred came with very little provocation. In response to an Oxford student who called for a peaceful, mutually agreed upon two-state solution, he suddenly asked “are you Israeli?” When the student answered in the affirmative, Galloway announced that he doesn’t debate Israelis, he doesn’t recognize the state of Israel, and stomped off — followed at a respectful few paces by his wife.

Watch him stomp:

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“An act of stupidity that will resonate for generations”

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi enjoys a lighthearted moment with Hillary Clinton, July 2012

Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi enjoys a lighthearted moment with Hillary Clinton, July 2012

The replacement of dictator Hosni Mubarak with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi has had serious negative consequences for Egyptian liberals, Christians, and women; for Israel, which now must treat Egypt as a hostile power rather than a peace partner; and for the US, which is in the uncomfortable position of financially supporting a radical Islamist, anti-American, antisemitic regime.

So did this have to happen? Some say yes, there was no way the 82-year old corrupt, brutal Mubarak could have been propped up (but note that the new regime is no less, possibly more, brutal and corrupt). And shouldn’t the Egyptian people be allowed to choose their own rulers?

If you listen to Rafi Eitan, a former Mossad official who led the capture of Adolf Eichmann in 1960, the answer is that it definitely did not have to happen — and the US is responsible. An interview with Eitan appeared today in the Times of Israel:

This slight man, with his trademark thick-rimmed glasses, did not mince his words when speaking of what he perceives as fatal American mistakes in handling the “Arab Spring” — particularly at that crucial moment in June 2012 when the administration could have imposed a secular president on Egypt, Ahmad Shafiq — and by doing so change the course of that country’s history. …

“The military unequivocally decided that [Ahmed] Shafiq will be president, not [Mohammed] Morsi,” Eitan told The Times of Israel. “But the Americans put all the pressure on. The announcement [of the president] was delayed by three or four days because of this struggle.”

Immediately after Egypt’s presidential elections in June 2012, Eitan spoke to unnamed local officials, who told him that with a mere 5,000-vote advantage for Islamist candidate Morsi, the military was prepared to announce the victory of his adversary Shafiq, a secular military man closely associated with the Mubarak regime.

But secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Eitan said, decided to favor democracy at all costs and disallow any falsification of the vote.

“This is idiocy. An act of stupidity that will resonate for generations,” Eitan said. “I also thought Mubarak should be replaced, but I believed the Americans would be smart enough to replace him with the next figure. Mubarak would have agreed to that, but the Americans didn’t want that; they wanted democracy. But there is no real democracy in the Arab world at the moment. It will take a few generations to develop…” [my emphasis]

If you believe that the ideology of radical Islamism represents a real challenge to the Enlightenment values of Western civilization,  then the takeover of the largest and most important Arab nation by the Brotherhood is a significant defeat for America and the West. Although historical analogies are notoriously misleading, in a sense it is as if the US had intervened on behalf of the Bolsheviks in 1917 or helped Hitler attain power in 1933.

The appeal to ‘democracy’ is particularly ludicrous. Although Morsi uses the word a lot, his actions in consolidating power in the hands of the Brotherhood have been anything but democratic. And the philosophy of the Brotherhood itself makes it clear that regardless of the means by which power is attained, the goal is a state — and ultimately an expansive caliphate — governed according to shari’a, ruled by religious authorities, a regime in which Muslims (male) will dominate all others.

It seems that the Obama Administration has made a distinction between Islamists, with al-Qaeda and Hizballah in the category of ‘bad’ Islamists because they have directly attacked us, while the Brotherhood and (for example) the Turkish AKP are ‘good’ because they have made the tactical decision not to wage war on us (at least not yet). But their ideology is no less anti-Western and anti-American.

If Eitan’s analysis — that the US chose to support Morsi because it would be ‘more democratic’ — is true, it reveals a shocking ignorance on the part of our leaders about the nature of the Brotherhood, of Egypt, and yes, the real meaning of ‘democracy’.

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46 minutes on Israel and international law

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Do you suffer from International Law Insecurity? Do you stutter incoherently when someone tells you that “Israeli settlements in the ‘West Bank’ are illegal under international law?” What about when they say “the International Court of Justice has judged Israel’s security barrier to be illegal?” Or when they call the area east of the Green Line “occupied Palestinian territory?”

Guess what? It’s all a bunch of crap, to use a technical expression.

Here, in one 46-minute lecture, is a clear explanation of what international law is and is not, and how it applies to some of the controversies around the Jewish state.

Eugene Kontorovich is Professor of Law at Northwestern University and an expert in international law.

Note: if you can’t see the embedded video, you can go directly to the source. Click here: The Legal Case for Israel.

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Smelling Chuck Hagel

Sunday, February 17th, 2013
AIPAC Gorilla

Image courtesy DavidDuke.com

My grandparents emigrated from Russia to the US before the revolution. They were the type that divided things, and people, into Good For The Jews or Bad For The Jews. They were wary people, who understood that a Jew always had to be careful, even in America. They could smell antisemitism, and they believed that a Jew could not count on the authorities, or on his non-Jewish neighbors if the worse happened. I was close to them, closer than to my Americanized parents, and I became this kind of Jew as well.

Most younger American Jews do not display this heightened awareness, this almost paranoid (but not unreasonable) consciousness of their Jewish marginality, as Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street explained to a NY Times reporter several years ago:

The average age of the dozen or so staff members is about 30. [J Street director Jeremy] Ben-Ami speaks for, and to, this post-Holocaust generation. “They’re all intermarried,” he says. “They’re all doing Buddhist seders.” They are, he adds, baffled by the notion of “Israel as the place you can always count on when they come to get you.”

That notion is not baffling to me and certainly wouldn’t have been to my grandparents.

My alarm bells went off when the President chose Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. I am not especially worried by officials of our government, even presidents, who are not particularly friendly to Israel. As Hagel himself said, they are American senators, or congressmen, or cabinet members, not Israelis. The trouble is that this guy — like another Obama nominee for an important post, Chas Freemanis way over on the hostile side.

Hagel’s problem with Israel is so consistent over time and over issues, that it’s hard to believe it is wholly rational. The most recent example is his 2007 statement (which he says he “can’t recall making”) that “the State Department was becoming an adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.”

The assertion that the State Department — that bureau which fought tooth and nail to prevent Harry Truman from recognizing the Jewish state, which does not believe that any part of Jerusalem belongs to Israel, and which maintains a US Embassy to ‘Palestine’ in the capital of Israel (which it doesn’t recognize) — is dominated by Israel, is beyond ludicrous. So why did he make it?

This statement is ‘ZOG’ (Zionist Occupation Government) stuff, an expression of one of the central anti-Jewish myths, that of a shadowy Jewish conspiracy pulling the strings that control our government. It fits with Hagel’s use of the phrase ‘Jewish lobby’, and his suggestion that the lobby “intimidates” US officials.

Hagel’s supporters are pushing this theme to the max. Stephen Walt wrote,

…if the lobby takes Hagel down, it will provide even more evidence of its power, and the extent to which supine support for Israel has become a litmus test for high office in America. [my emphasis]

Ah, the powerful lobby! Ask M J Rosenberg:

The onslaught is unprecedented. Never before has virtually the entire organized Jewish community combined to stop a presidential cabinet appointment because it deems the potential nominee insufficiently devoted to Israel. …

The onslaught against Hagel is unique however because the reason for it is not merely that he opposes the rush to war with Iran and favors negotiating an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The reason is because he dared to refer to the existence of the Israel lobby. He said this in 2008 in an interview with former State Department official, Aaron Miller.

“The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” but as he put it, “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”

That quote will likely doom Hagel’s candidacy because, if there is one institution that is considered untouchable, it is the Israel lobby and its power. [my emphasis]

Their theme is that “The Lobby” will “punish” Hagel and Obama for their disrespect. The same point is made by Patrick Slattery on (yes) DavidDuke.com:

AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which represent the official command center of organized American Jewry, have come out beating their chests over his public acknowledgement of the existence of the 800-pound gorilla of a “Jewish lobby.” On the other hand, “liberal” Zionists like Thomas Freidman and Peter Beirnart are defending Hagel, perhaps because nothing can draw public attention to the power of an 800-pound gorilla more than the gorilla ripping to pieces a respected public figure in broad daylight. [my emphasis]

All this diverts attention from other important questions about Hagel, like “is he competent to run the massive enterprise that is the Defense Department?” and, given his opposition to both economic sanctions and the use of force, “what does putting Hagel is in the chain of command of the US armed forces tell Iran about our resolve to stop them from getting nuclear weapons?” That may be the idea.

But that’s the business of our Senate, most of which unfortunately follows the President like a lapdog. As for me, I’m just a Zhid from a village in the Ukraine who knows when something, or someone, stinks.

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BREAKING: Is Hagel Jewish?

Friday, February 15th, 2013

So two Jewish academics, one American and one Israeli, co-author a report with a Palestinian professor, paid for by the US State Department, claiming that Palestinian textbooks don’t really incite hatred against Jews and Israelis, that Israeli books are biased too, and it’s just a question of different ‘narratives’. It turns out (are you surprised?) that it is a bunch of nonsense.

Dangerous nonsense, though, because the issue of ‘incitement’ is critical — that is, if the Palestinians teach their children that

Zionism is “a colonialist political movement founded by the Jews of Europe in the second half of the 19th century… [intent on] displacing the Palestinian people in Palestine from their land.”

and far worse, then it calls into question their desire to live peacefully alongside a Jewish state, as well as the advisability of Israeli concessions in order to reach an agreement with them.

In all, this is a small skirmish in one of many battles in the larger information war which is a major theater in the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. Despite being nonsense, it is an effective gambit due to the academic credentials of the authors and the ‘scientific’ pretensions of the report, even though the whole enterprise is based on faulty premises (read this for the ugly details). The State Department certainly got full value for its money.

Now I want to switch gears, because it isn’t the question of textbooks and incitement that I really want to talk about (check Palestinian Media Watch for more examples than you wanted to see).

Note that the two non-Arab co-authors happen to be Jewish.

I used to write ‘man-bites-dog’ stories about Jewish anti-Zionism. I would write, “with Jews like these, who needs antisemites?” I spent a lot of time trying to understand their apparently inconsistent behavior, given the importance of the Jewish state to the cultural and physical survival of the Jewish people. I wrote literally tens of articles on the subject of J Street, the phony pro-Israel organization, and about the recently-elected head of the Reform Movement, who was an activist in J Street and the New Israel Fund.

I have stopped being surprised at this. It no longer appears remarkable to me when I notice that the leaders of anti-Zionist groups are Jews, sometimes rabbis. I am beginning to sympathize with whoever it was who said that whenever he or she sees a Jewish name at the bottom of a letter to the editor, there’s no need to read it. I can only shrug when I note the overwhelming Jewish support for the most anti-Israel US administration since 1948. I don’t dislike Max Blumenthal as much as I disliked Yasser Arafat any more.

There are reasons for all of these things, in psychology and politics. I am no longer interested in them. I have always thought that my mission was, above all, to educate my Jewish friends about Zionism and why it is important for Jews to be Zionists. I am no longer sure that this is possible.

No, now there is only one overriding issue for me:

How do we get Chuck Hagel a Bar Mitzvah?

——
Note: No, I don’t really think Chuck Hagel is Jewish. There is no evidence for that, unless you count his over-the-top anti-Zionism.

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How the heck we got here

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
US embassy, Saigon 1975

US embassy, Saigon 1975

By Robert K. Vincent

Once upon a time (say, 50 years ago), we stood for something as a civilization. We had just fought some incredibly bloody wars which we could have easily avoided at that time by appeasing or ignoring Japan, Germany, and soon after, North Korea. In the course of these conflicts, we affirmed what we stood for as a society. Little things like democracy, religious tolerance, free speech, human rights, etc.

Then, we got involved in a war – largely, if imperfectly, in support of these principles – in a place called Vietnam. This war, like most wars, was not really about “bad guys versus good guys”, but “bad guys versus worse guys”. This kind of ambiguity is difficult for our rather idealistic polity to deal with. At the same time, we were in the midst of a kind of national soul-searching related to a very necessary civil rights movement, which revealed to ourselves and the world that we were not quite as perfect as we liked to believe ourselves to be.

Meanwhile, our allies in SE Asia were terribly corrupt. So much so, that in hindsight, perhaps it would have been best if we had let them fall early on before we got in too deep. But we did not; we chose to stand by them anyway for a variety of reasons, some more noble than others.

Our adversary was incredibly cunning, led by a singular military genius, General Vo Nguyen Giap. Despite being outgunned by the U.S. in every way that such things were normally measured, he discovered and exploited a new dimension of warfare related to the manipulation of public opinion through mass communications. While we were playing “chess” on a two-dimensional board that represented a clash of arms, our enemy was playing in three dimensions, in which there was also a “clash of perceptions” at play.

In this way, an outright invasion led by a ruthless army of guerrillas, fighting with no moral floor, using child warriors, combatants dressed as civilians, carrying out all manner of terrorism (sound familiar?!), became a “beleaguered liberation movement” pitted against a big bad bully imperialist (that would be us). Idealistic young people, attracted to the civil rights movement (for example), and thus filled with self-doubt about the morality of the society in which they lived, were easily co-opted and recruited into supporting this narrative.

And so, our leaders of that time — standing for the ‘traditional American values’ — were cast as hypocritical liars (and, being mortal, sometimes they actually did lie).  At the same time, murderous totalitarians bent on self-aggrandizement — to include the likes of Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, and Mao Zedong — became “hip” folk heroes. Atrocities like the Viet Cong massacre of civilians in Hue were largely ignored, while the inadvertent civilian casualties caused by American efforts to root out the terrorist guerrillas who hid behind them — (sound familiar?!) – were splashed across all of our news media.

In what proved to be a crowning propaganda achievement of our enemies in this war, our decisive defeat of a desperate action on their part — the “Tet Offensive” — morphed into a ‘victory’ for them in terms of public perceptions here at home: the only place it counts. This was incredible.

In the end, even though materially we could have easily won, we walked away, we abandoned our ally, and we lost. We, who simultaneously defeated Nazi Germany and Japan a scant 30 years before (not even).

Since, per the American narrative, “good guys” are never supposed to “lose”, the only way we could make sense of this to ourselves was to tell ourselves that we were the bad guys. Since only the “good guys” in any war “deserve” to win, lo and behold, the North Vietnamese communists became, in the eyes of many Americans, the “good guys”!  So, as a political culture, a huge segment of our population, starting with the generation who experienced that war and the resultant political fallout, passed this narrative down ever since, and it became particularly institutionalized in academia and the media: the organs of thought control. In effect, we have internalized that 2+2=5. Anyone who suggested otherwise – such as Vietnam veterans who knew differently — were cast in the popular imagination as embittered psychopaths or rednecks, likened to the disgruntled German WW1 veterans who claimed that their government ‘stabbed them in the back’. White is now black. We had lost our moorings. Once this occurs, anything can be rationalized.

Self-flagellation, contempt for anything resembling “patriotism” as this term was understood pre-Vietnam, a highly rationalized form of guilt-fed cowardice then went on to pass for “enlightened” thought… this has even become a perverse kind of “patriotism” in its own right! Such a mindset is now taken for granted as the “correct” way of looking at our country on college campuses today, and among many in the media and Hollywood as well.

After 40 years of this nonsense, we don’t know what we stand for anymore.

Fast forward to the present:

This dynamic explains, for example, how someone like Barack Obama could have considered himself as “patriotic” as John McCain. Objectively, this is simply absurd, but what I’ve described above is the paradigm by which he could convince himself of this lie, and how others could readily be persuaded to buy this garbage.  This is also how someone like Obama’s former communications director, Anita Dunn, could find it perfectly acceptable to sing the praises of Mao before a high school graduating class.  This is how someone like Obama’s former “green jobs czar”, Van Jones, could rationalize signing petitions that claimed Bush was behind 9-11, and so on.

In the current war against Islamic extremism, we have every advantage over our Islamist adversaries… except that, as I just noted earlier, we don’t seem to believe in anything anymore, except perhaps being comfortable. On the other hand, the Islamists know very well what they believe in, and horrendous though it may be (after all, the Nazis and Imperial Japanese were quite sincere in their “beliefs” as well), such naked commitment and confidence is very impressive to someone who believes in nothing (and, to put the final piece in the puzzle, if the Barack Obamas and Anita Dunns can’t bring themselves to believe in what America is supposed to stand for, but they feel driven to believe in something, then they will look elsewhere for their heroes, to Mao, to Che, to Castro, ad nauseam).

Building on this, our enemy has adopted and fine-tuned General Giap’s tactics, and this is no coincidence. In fact, Yasser Arafat traveled to Hanoi during the late 1960s in order to glean tactics for defeating a materially superior foe. General Giap’s book on such tactics is widely translated and circulated around the Arab world.  What is worse, our enemy today has financial resources with which to pursue these tactics that Ho Chi Minh could have only dreamed of.

Again, in the aggregate, as Americans, we don’t know what we are about, except for being comfortable. We are loathe to making any genuine sacrifices for anything. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, we embarked on the most expensive and second bloodiest war in our history.  In the course of a single battle in that war — Iwo Jima — we lost more American dead in the space of about a month than we did in the whole of our war in Iraq.  We endured near-universal conscription, we rationed food and other consumables, we grew “victory gardens”.  In the wake of 9-11, we were urged to “go shopping”.

In the absence of integrity, values, and most of all, genuine patriotism as these concepts were once broadly understood here, especially by many who were expected to set an example — from political leaders to celebrities — money dominates; everyone is for sale. Through petrodollars, the Arabs — among others, but they are most relevant with respect to the war we are now fighting — are making sure that we won’t do what needs to be done to win, if they have anything to say about it.  In this example, if the object of the game is to have the most toys, why not have a Swiss bank account that the Arabs can dump money into, if all one has to do for this largesse is beat up on Israel, or make excuses for Islamists? Sure beats working!

I highlight the Saudis here for a reason. On nearly every major relevant issue, Obama is doing precisely what they would have him do, up to the very edge of political possibility — but that is another subject.  What is most important here is how people who would presume to lead our country could become so shallow, so hollow, and so cowardly, as to leave themselves open to such malevolent influences.

That is ‘how the heck we got here’.

How do we get out? Keep trying to speak the truth about this everywhere we can, to anyone who will listen. But one should be warned:

The most dangerous, politically incorrect thing you can ever say in the America of today is to suggest that we really were on the right side of history in Vietnam, and that despite this, we simply gave up, walked away, and let those who were on the wrong side win anyway.  This is a political/cultural stink bomb of nuclear proportions.

Today, with the re-election of Barack Obama, our descent continues.  This is clearly evident in his cabinet picks for both Secretary of State in John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense in Chuck Hagel.  While both served honorably in Vietnam, these individuals are thoroughly steeped in the defeatism and amoral, opportunistic cynicism that has tainted American foreign policy since that time.

In the face of a resurgent Islamist movement, as recently evidenced by the attacks on our embassies this past fall, as well as an increasingly bold and assertive China, it is more important than ever that we recognize, confront, and defeat those who weaken us from within, before it is too late.

January, 2013

Robert Vincent, a U.S. Army veteran, obtained his BA in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Michigan, his MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago, and his MBA from the University of Findlay.  He lives and works in Northwest Ohio.

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To solve Syrian problem, cut the head off the snake

Monday, February 11th, 2013

The civil war in Syria is no longer just about Bashar al-Assad, and even less about the desire of some liberal Syrians to have a more democratic government, personal freedom and economic development. It has become the front line in the Iranian war against the West, whose intermediate objective is to eliminate Israel, seen as a US base.

From a report in the Washington Post:

Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve and protect their interests in the event that President Bashar al-Assad’s government falls or is forced to retreat from Damascus, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern officials.

The militias are fighting alongside Syrian government forces to keep Assad in power. But officials think Iran’s long-term goal is to have reliable operatives in Syria in case the country fractures into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

A senior Obama administration official cited Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria. “It’s a big operation,” the official said. “The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it’s important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on.”

Iran’s strategy, a senior Arab official agreed, has two tracks. “One is to support Assad to the hilt, the other is to set the stage for major mischief if he collapses.”

I think we can safely say that direct Iranian control of Syria via Hizballah is worse for Israel than the indirect control now being exerted via Bashar al-Assad. Despite the degree to which opposition to the existence of a Jewish state is fundamental to the Assad regime, it has been possible to convince the Syrian ruler that direct confrontation would lead to the total destruction of his military capability and the end of his reign. It is much harder to apply deterrence in the same way to a non-state proxy like Hizballah.

Even if Syria fragments along ethnic lines, which seems likely in the event of Assad’s collapse, a Hizballah-controlled enclave will serve Iran’s interests as a conduit to Hizballah in Lebanon:

In a divided Syria, Iran’s natural allies would include Shiites and Alawites concentrated in provinces near Syria’s border with Lebanon and in the key port city of Latakia. Under the most likely scenarios, analysts say, remnants of Assad’s government — with or without Assad — would seek to establish a coastal enclave closely tied to Tehran, dependent on the Iranians for survival while helping Iran to retain its link to Hezbollah and thereby its leverage against Israel.

Experts said that Iran is less interested in preserving Assad in power than in maintaining levers of power, including transport hubs inside Syria. As long as Tehran could maintain control of an airport or seaport, it could also maintain a Hezbollah-controlled supply route into Lebanon and continue to manipulate Lebanese politics.

There are other elements among the Syrian rebels who would also be dangerous, some associated with al-Qaeda, who could turn parts of what is today Syria into terrorist no-man’s lands.

Israel could theoretically support Assad to try to keep the status quo. But this means keeping Syria as Iran’s base in the eastern Mediterranean. Iranian arms would continue to be supplied to Hizballah in Lebanon, and certainly efforts to transfer more advanced weapons or WMD would continue. There is also the ‘small’ problem that this would mean supporting a mass murderer, someone who is coming to define the concept of a vicious despot. He is a son of a bitch, and he would not even be “our son of a bitch.”

Assad, after all, is only a a bit player in this drama. The real villain is the Iranian regime, which has colonized Syria and is colonizing Lebanon in its attempt to squeeze out US influence in the Middle East (and as a by-product destroy Israel and become the hero of the Muslim world).

Furthermore, Hizballah does not only threaten Israel. Its terrorist web spans the world, and it is becoming particularly powerful in Latin America. It is the tool Iran will use to confront the US, once it has gotten those pesky Jews in the Middle East out of the way.

Hizballah is so powerful that even the Europeans are afraid of it. Despite proof that Hizballah is behind the deadly terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, the EU is avoiding designating Hizballah a terrorist group.

The best answer is to do what Saudi king Abdullah recommended, to “cut off the head of the snake” by removing the Iranian regime. This will have to be done before Iran gets nuclear weapons, and it will have to be done by the US. Israel, for its part, will have its hands full defending itself against Hizballah’s Lebanese branch.

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Why some Israelis welcome rocket attacks

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
Israel's Iron Dome antimissile system fires an interceptor at Palestinian rocket

Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile system fires at a Palestinian rocket last November

Here is a report posted today on an Israeli blog called The Muqata:

Due to the rising tensions in the countries neighboring Northern Israel, the IDF has recently positioned multiple “Iron Dome” anti-rocket systems around Israel’s north.

Some of the installations are nearby to Israeli Arab villages, and NRG/Maariv reports that today a group of Israeli Arabs cursed the IDF soldiers manning the installation, and pelted them with rocks till the police arrived. …

The question is, why would Israeli Arabs hurl curses, harass and stone IDF soldiers — when the anti-rocket system protects them as well.

The answer depends on understanding the phrase “Israeli Arab” and other names for the same thing.

An Israeli Arab is an Arab who lived (or his ancestors did) in the area that became Israel in 1948. He has the right to vote in Israeli elections, utilize Israeli health care, receive state funds for schools, etc. He is neither required to sing “Hatikva” nor to serve in the IDF, but is expected to be loyal to the state and not assist its enemies or engage in terrorism.

In recent years some former Israeli Arabs have come to prefer to be called “Palestinian citizens of Israel.” They reject the description “Israeli” because for them there is no legitimate country called ‘Israel’. They define themselves as members of the ‘Palestinian people’, which has created itself entirely in opposition to the idea of Israel. Palestinian Arabs (inside and outside of Israel) believe an invented version of history in which a flourishing ‘Palestinian’ society was usurped by Zionist colonialists, culminating in a mass expulsion (the nakba). Here is a more accurate historical account.

In any event, these ‘Palestinians’ long for the day that the usurpers will be eliminated, the ‘refugees’ will ‘return’ (a discussion of the ‘refugees’ is here) and the beautiful pre-Zionist ‘Palestine’, which never existed, will be re-established. Some, who have adopted the Islamist ideology of Hamas — there is an “Islamic movement in Israel” which represents this ideology among the Arab population of Israel — believe that the Jews should be entirely driven out of the land, even killed.

As citizens of Israel these ‘Palestinians’ enjoy the highest standard of living of any Arabs in the Middle East, as well as more personal and political freedom. But they will not feel fulfilled in a political/ideological sense until the Jewish regime is replaced by an Arab or even Islamic one.

So what’s a few rocket attacks if they will help end Zionism and bring the millennium?

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Obama, Hagel, State Department stuck in 1970’s

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
Lining up to buy gas in New York City, 1973

Lining up to buy gas in New York City, 1973

The very first post that I wrote in this blog back in 2006 was about the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group and its non-sequitur assertion of the “linkage theory.” You will recall that the war in Iraq was going badly at the time, with Sunni and Shiite ‘insurgents’ killing large numbers of each other’s people as well as American soldiers. Here’s part of what they said:

Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East—the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism—are inextricably linked. In addition to supporting stability in Iraq, a comprehensive diplomatic offensive—the New Diplomatic Offensive—should address these key regional issues. By doing so, it would help marginalize extremists and terrorists, promote U.S. values and interests, and improve America’s global image…

The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

This was followed by a series of specific recommendations to “solve” the conflict, by forcing Israel to give up all territory it took control of in 1967, including the Golan, Judea and Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem. Of course this didn’t happen, and the bleeding in Iraq was stanched by the ‘surge’, the temporary deployment of additional troops plus the strategy of buying the support of indigenous Sunni elements in Iraq.

The opportunistic invocation of the linkage theory during the Iraq war crisis was yet another example of its persistence, despite the fact that even before the “Arab Spring” there was no reason to believe that it was true. Today it has been further falsified by events, as Jeffrey Goldberg made clear recently in a discussion of Chuck Hagel, another linkage theory advocate:

Come with me on a quick tour of the greater Middle East. The Syrian civil war? Unrelated to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. The slow disintegration of Yemen? Unrelated. Chaos and violence in Libya? Unrelated. Chaos and fundamentalism in Egypt? The creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank would not have stopped the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, nor would it have stopped the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Terrorism in Algeria? Unrelated. The Iranian nuclear program? How would the creation of a Palestinian state have persuaded the Iranian regime to cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons? Someone please explain. Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq? The unrest in Bahrain? Pakistani havens for al-Qaeda affiliates? All unrelated.

I’ll add that with regard to Iran, the theory is not only wrong, it is backwards — rather than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict influencing Iran to misbehave, Iran exacerbates the conflict by financing Palestinian terrorists!

As recently as 2010, President Obama professed belief in some form of the linkage theory, and Goldberg correctly asks,

Hagel wants to lead the U.S. Defense Department. I would like to know if he still believes in linkage. More important, I would like to know if Obama is still captive to this same, flawed concept.

The linkage theory was always a good excuse to pressure Israel, because it was an appeal to American interests, not Arab or Palestinian ones. This was especially useful between 1973 and the 1990’s when Arabs and Palestinians had a very poor image in the US, being associated with astronomical oil prices and terrorism. Since Oslo, it’s become more acceptable to say things like the following (from Obama’s notorious 2009 Cairo speech):

On the other hand [compared to the Holocaust!], it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.

Suddenly, it’s all about caring for the Palestinians. But why are the Palestinians in particular so deserving of help compared to other groups around the world, many of whom are much worse off?

Since 1967 and especially since 1973, US policy has consistently aimed to drive Israel back to 1949 lines. The arguments publicly made for this policy are intended to convince, but I don’t believe are actually the driving force behind it. There is of course the professional dislike of the Jewish state found in the State Department, going back to 1948 and Secretary Marshall and before. But I think there is something more concrete, too.

After the 1973 war, the Arab members of OPEC announced an embargo of oil to the US and other countries they deemed to have supported Israel:

Implementation of the embargo, and the changing nature of oil contracts, set off an upward spiral in oil prices that had global implications. The price of oil per barrel doubled, then quadrupled, leading to increased costs for consumers world-wide and to the potential for budgetary collapse in less stable economies. Since the embargo coincided with a devaluation of the dollar, a global recession appeared imminent. U.S. allies in Europe and Japan had stockpiled oil supplies and thus had a short term cushion, but the longer term possibility of high oil prices and recession created a strong rift within the Atlantic alliance. European nations and Japan sought to disassociate themselves from the U.S. Middle East policy. The United States, which faced growing oil consumption and dwindling domestic reserves and was more reliant on imported oil than ever before, had to negotiate an end to the embargo from a weaker international position. To complicate the situation, OPEC had linked an end to the embargo to successful U.S. efforts to create peace in the Middle East.

Needless to say, the US promised to give the Arabs what they wanted, and the embargo was lifted. But since then, we have kept our promise to our Arab ‘allies’, even as they have less and less influence on the price and supply of oil. Saudi lobbying and influence (directly and via oil companies) have effectively held our feet to the fire.

Now that the US is closer to energy independence, importing less oil now than at any time since 1987 (and more of that from Canada than anywhere else), the Saudis do not have anywhere near the leverage that they had in 1973.

Why don’t our policies reflect this?

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