Saturday, October 31, 2009

Clarity Bedevils J Street and the Obama Administration

Jennifer Rubin
31 October 09

The Washington Post reports:

The House of Representatives on Tuesday is poised to pass a nonbinding resolution condemning a controversial U.N. report on alleged Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip that has become a major complication in Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s diplomacy in the Middle East this weekend.

It seems this makes the Obama moral equivalence game a bit more treacherous. Hillary Clinton is meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, while the administration can’t quite bring itself to issue an unequivocal condemnation of Goldstone’s handiwork. (”The administration has previously said that the report is flawed but raises “important issues and serious allegations,’ and it has urged Israel to investigate its conduct in the conflict more closely.”) It is oh so inconvenient to have a stark statement of support for Israel and one of condemnation for yet another attempt to de-legitimize Israel’s right to self-defense.

It is making others squirm as well. As Josh Block of AIPAC notes, all the “mainstream” pro-Israel groups back the resolution. But not the J Street crowd. In a pathetic bit of projection, J Street’s head Jeremy Ben-Ami declares that the resolution ”puts members of Congress in an uncomfortable box” because of alledged inaccuracies in the resolution. Puleez. Congress feels no discomfort; it is J Street that is in a bind, caught with its sympathies showing.

J Street and the administration it seems would rather not make too much of a fuss over Goldstone’s Israel defamation. Their reaction however only highlights their own lack of understanding of the stakes not only for Israel, but for any democracy that must fight terrorists who chose to attack from behind the skirts of old women and the cribs of toddlers.


Tensions Inside Hezbollah, Assad Using Der Spiegel for Sinister Purposes

Reform Party of Syria
30 October 09

Tensions Inside Hezbollah, Assad Using Der Spiegel for Sinister Purposes

(RPS Intelligence) - - The directorate in the IRGC responsible for Hezbollah in Lebanon has sent a letter to Nasrallah seeking an audit of the funds Iran disburses to Hezbollah on an annual basis. No details of how far back the audit was supposed to cover.

In the aftermath of the fallout of Salah Ezzedine, the Madoff of Lebanon, Iran is suspicious that funds it disbursed to Hezbollah may have been diverted for personal use. What triggered the letter was the knowledge that some of the Hezbollah high-level operatives who lost money with Ezzedine were people of middle-class means to begin with.

As a result of the letter, Nasrallah traveled secretly to the Biqa'a valley in Lebanon for a high-level meeting to discuss the request by Iran.

On another front, Der Spiegel of Germany is preparing a long report on Syria in which it interviews Jamil al-Sayed, one of the main security figures arrested in Lebanon in the aftermath of the Hariri assassination. Our sources tell us that al-Sayed will divulge in the interview that he has been asked by the Lebanese and the UN investigative body to point his fingers at Syria as the main culprit behind the Hariri murder.

Al-Sayed visited Syria several times recently.

RPS sources claim that his visits to Syria were to prepare for the interview by the security apparatus and to provide false intelligence cooked-up in Damascus to derail the UN investigation by using Der Spiegel.

Iran Rejects Deal on Nuclear Weapons’ Issue: Engagement is Dead but the Obama Administration Won't Admit It

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
30 October 09

The great experiment of engaging Iran seems to be over but the Obama Administration refuses to admit it.

This shouldn't be a surprise. As the Iranian regime's record shows, it stalls, maneuvers, gives vague promises and then doesn’t deliver, but only after they’ve taken your concessions. Do you know how many years the talks with Iran have gone on without yielding fruit and letting Tehran develop nuclear weapons every day? Answer: Seven.

Do you know when the “deadline” originally was for Iran to stop its nuclear program “or else”? Answer: Approximately September 2007.

But the Obama Administration doesn't want to admit that the new Iranian counter-offer is unacceptable because it would have to give up its dreams of a deal and actually do something in response.

Even the New York Times headlines its story: Iran Rejects Nuclear Accord, Officials Report

Here’s the best article on the subject of the current deal/no deal from the sober Financial Times. The headline is “Tehran seeks big changes to nuclear deal.”

It concerns Iran’s response to questions about whether it would transfer two-thirds of its enriched uranium outside the country to make into a special non-weapons material that can only be used for medical purposes. (Note: it can be changed back into weapons-usable uranium in about four months or so.)

After interviewing officials, the newspaper concludes that the Europeans are ready to reject Iran’s demands now as “unacceptable” but the United States isn’t. It writes:

“The comments indicate the US remains more willing to show patience than either Britain and [sic] France. While London and Paris have at times made known their reservations about the agreement, it is seen in the US as a test of President Barack Obama's policy of engagement.”

In other words, the U.S. government is now lagging behind Britain, France, and presumably Germany on this issue. So who is the United States trying to keep on board if the key European allies are all saying: forget this nonsense, we have to put on more pressure!

I suggest there are three answers:

--President Barack Obama’s world view which insists that all problems are resolvable by talking and making concessions, and which fears confrontation.

--The president’s domestic constituency and colleagues (not all of them) who simply don’t comprehend that Iran and radical Islamism are threats.

I am positive, given some of her public statements, that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton knows this is all sheer nonsense. And just as the U.S. government has fallen behind its European counterparts, the White House has fallen behind the State Department.

--Someone else. Here’s the hint:

"We remain unified with our Russian and French partners in support of the IAEA draft agreement - it is a good and balanced agreement," said the US, signaling Washington's hope that Iran could yet agree to the original deal.”

That’s right, Russia. But we know that Russia won’t ever agree to sanctions and serious pressure on Iran. For one thing, everyone in the world but the Obama Administration knows that the Russian leadership wants America to fail internationally. And for another thing, Russia is Iran’s ally.

So America’s policy is being held hostage by a president with no experience or understanding of international affairs, a set of ideas that makes failure inevitable, trying to please a country which is an ally of the adversary, and a dictatorial regime whose president believes that his country is going to conquer the whole Middle East (and on some days, the world).

And here’s a good joke: It was only--what?--four years ago that U.S. officials under the Bush Administration were making fun of Europe as wimpy and incapable of taking a tough stance on international issues. Now the goo is on the other foot!

What a mess. BUT how long into 2010 can they spin this before Washington is going to have to recognize the talks are going nowhere?

Pressuring Israel To Sign A Peace Agreement Will Not Bring Peace To The Middle East

Alex Grobman
UCI Exclusive
29 October 2009

The failure to find a solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict has lead to a number of questionable conclusions about what a peace agreement might achieve. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who served as envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East on behalf of the U.N., the European Union, the U.S. and Russia, believes that many of the problems facing the West today are a direct result of the inability to resolve this dispute.

"How can we bring peace to the Middle East unless we resolve the question of Israel and Palestine," he asked. A peace settlement would provide clear confirmation that different faiths and cultures can be accommodated in the region, and "would not only silence reactionary Islam's most effective rallying call but fatally undermine its basic ideology."1

Solving the Arab/Israeli conflict will not bring the Middle East closer to resolving their fundamental problems notes the American Jewish Committee's David Harris. If the Jewish state did not exist, would the Iranians and the Iraqis have fought an eight-year war in which a million people were killed? Would it have precluded the Iraqis from invading Kuwait in 1990? Would the Iraqis have refrained from using chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds?2

Without Israel would the Saudis have ceased promoting their Wahhabi form of Islam that regards non-Muslims as infidels? Did al-Qaida attack the U.S. in 2001 because of Israel? Osama bin Laden did not even mention the issue in his primary complaints against the West. Would the Shi'a/ Sunni conflict that began with the creation of Islam completely vanish? Would the Sudanese halt the murder and plundering in Darfur?3

The Arab/Israeli conflict centers on three basic questions: Does Israel have the right to exist? If she does, then where should the borders be? And what would be on the other side of the borders? The Arab refugee problem is among the most conspicuous and strident problems in the Middle East.

As Middle East expert Bernard Lewis explains, their suffering is real and heart wrenching, but in comparison with the millions of other refugees who escaped or were driven from their homes in Europe, Asia, Central America, Africa and other places and who have no representation, no backing and no support, they are more fortunate.4

Yet even if a solution could be found for the Arab refugees and Israel managed to establish a serviceable relationship with the Arab states, the major problems in the region would remain unresolved. There are religious and economic human rights issues that need to be addressed, democratic institutions and an independent judiciary that have to be established, social justice needs to be promoted, and rampant corruption, nepotism, intolerance, terrorism and religious fanaticism has to cease or at least be tempered.5

Regional cooperation will not be possible as long as tension exists between Iran and the majority of the other Arab states. Iran is a "classic imperial power," with the determination and ability to reshape the area to its wishes.6

Iraq is no longer a major power center in the Middle East, and will not be one until a strong central government is re-established, the society becomes united, and sectarian violence comes to an end. A full-scale civil war involving other Arab countries is a worst-case scenario.7

Few countries in the area produce goods and services that would interest others to buy in significant quantities, so that sophisticated manufactured goods have to be imported from outside the region. Until these factors change, the Arabs will not reap the benefits of integrating into the global economy.8

Of the 22 members of The League of Arab States, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Morocco, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia-are "traditional monarchies." Algeria, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Tunisia are "Authoritarian Regimes." Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, and Somalia are amongst the "world's most repressive regimes."9

There are 330 million Muslims in the Middle East, yet only 486,530 living under Arab regimes are under democratic rule. This is 0.15 per cent of the total.10

Under repressive Arab regimes, there is extensive poverty, illness and illiteracy. The UN reports that 25 percent of their populations cannot read or write. Imam Ali Ibn Ali Taleb, an Islamic leader and fourth Caliph (head of state), said, "If God were to humiliate a human being HE would deny him knowledge."11

Free political expression is prohibited, access to information and knowledge is limited, and women are disenfranchised. From the time they gained independence in the past century, a number of families and Army officers have governed these countries whether it is the Al Sabah's in Kuwait, the Al Saud's in Saudi Arabia, the Al Qaddafi's in Libya or the Hashemites in Jordan. They do not share power, have created police states to maintain their positions, and earn billions in commissions purchasing vast quantities of weapons.12

In contrast to the Arab states, Israel is the only parliamentary democracy in the Middle East where there is universal suffrage with numerous political parties and candidates competing in highly spirited elections. Seventy-six percent of more than Israel's six million citizens are Jewish and 23 percent are non-Jews-mostly Arabs. Israel has six universities rated among the top in the world with The Hebrew University is in the leading 100. The country spends $110 a year per person on scientific research while the Arabs spend $2.13

The world's largest producer of antibiotics is Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which is in the top 20 pharmaceutical companies and among the largest generic pharmaceutical companies in the world.14

Israel is a major contributor in technology, heath-care and medicine, the environment, and security and the war on terrorism.15

Compelling Israel to make futile concessions will not produce peace with the Arabs and will not solve the problems with Arab states. They are separate issues. Middle East veterans Dennis Ross and David Makovsky found that for the most part, Arab regimes develop their foreign policy based on their own primary concerns that are not connected with the U.S., Israel or the Arab/Israeli conflict. Such linkage has "misled" the U.S., and produced "counterproductive" policies. American diplomatic efforts in the Middle East will continue to fail as long they maintain this fiction that these two conflicts are connected. 16

1. Tony Blair, "A Battle for Global Values," Foreign Affairs, January/February 2007. Blair is not the first to articulate such views. See also James A. Baker and Lee H. Hamilton, "The Iraq Study Group Report," The Baker Institute, (December 6, 2006): 39; Brent Scowcroft, "Getting the Middle East Back on Our Side, New York Times, (January 4, 2007) : Jimmy Carter, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006), 12-13); Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. (Oxford University Press, 2006), 316-332; Richard W. Tucker, "Our Obsolete Middle East Policy," Commentary (May 1983): 21-27; Herb Keinon, "Israel-Palestinian conflict is key," The Jerusalem Post (January 2, 2007); Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Myths, Illusions & Peace: Finding A new Direction in the Middle East. (New York: Viking, 2009), 6-7, 12-30.

2. David A. Harris, "It not about Israel," The Jerusalem Post (December 30, 2006).

3. Ibid; for an analysis of the conflict between the Shi'a and the Sunni, please see Bernard Lewis, "The Shi'a," in From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East. (New York: Oxford University Press), 290-298.

4. Bernard Lewis, "The Other Middle East Problems," in Middle East Lectures Number On, Martin Kramer, ed. (Tel-Aviv: The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East Studies of Tel Aviv University, 1995): 45-46.

5. Sami Alrabaa, " A Guide to the Mideast Tinderbox," Kuwait Times News (January 3, 2007); Youssef Ibrahim, "Who's Your First," The New York Sun (January 11, 2007); Richard N. Haass, "The New Middle East," Foreign Affairs (November/December 2006); Toby Dodge, Inventing Iraq: The Failure of Nation Building and a History Denied, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003; Mshari Al-Zaydi, "Who Is the Master of the Middle East?" Asharq Alawsat (December 12, 2006); Uriya Shavit, "The Road to Democracy," Azure No. 26 (Autumn 2006); "Renowned Syrian Poet "Adonis': We in Arab Society, Do Not Understand The Meaning of Freedom," MEMRI Special Dispatch Series-Number 1393 (December 14, 2006); Benjamin Balint and Daniel Doneson, "Israel and the Arab Spring," Azure No. 22, (Autumn 2005).

6. Haass, op.cit.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Farrukh Saleem, "Arab vs. Israel," The International News (January 4, 2007);; "A special report to the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights;"Youssef Ibrahim, "Who's Your First," The New York Sun, (January 11, 2007).

10. Farrukh Saleem, "Arab vs. Israel," op.cit. ;; "A special report to the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights," op.cit..; Youssef Ibrahim, op.cit.

11. Saleem, op.cit.

12. "Arab Human Development Report 2005: Empowerment of Arab Women," Online; "Arab Human Development Report 2003: Building a Knowledge Society"; Harris, op.cit; Sami Alrabaa, "Only Flies Are Free In Arab World," Kuwait Times News, (September 6, 2006); Youssef Ibrahim, op.cit.

13. Saleem, op.cit.

14. Teva, Online.


16. Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, Myths, Illusions & Peace: Finding A new Direction in the Middle East. (New York: Viking, 2009), 15.

Dr. Grobman is a Hebrew University trained historian. His is the author of a number of books, including Nations United: How The U.N. Undermines Israel and The West, Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? and a forthcoming book on Israel's moral and legal right to exist as a Jewish State to be published by Balfour Books.

Yitzchak Rabin's Legacy, The Altalena

Batya Medad
Shilo Musings
30 October 09

(Excellent piece from Batya Medad that brings perspective of a bigger picture)

The Israeli media is now full of 1984-style programs and statements in memory of their idol, Yitzchak Rabin. In contrast, many of us remember a different Rabin and a different Israeli History.

Yitzchak Rabin was a David Ben Gurion loyalist, a Palmach officer, an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Chief of Staff, twice Israel's Prime Minister, who was murdered(assassinated) after a public appearance at a Left wing rally, fourteen years ago. Since then Israel's Left, media, politicians, academics etc have used it as the springboard, justification for massive character assassination against anyone who dares to disagree with their opinions and ideology.

If this was literature, instead of history, it would be written as a classic case of poetic justice, "...a literary device in which virtue is ultimately rewarded or vice punished, and often in modern literature by an ironic twist of fate intimately related to the character's own conduct."

That brings us to the Altalena, a tragedy caused by vile hatred of Jew against Jew. It dwarfs the despicablesezon, when Ben Gurion's followers gave names of fellow Jews to the British to have them arrested and worse.

In 1948, Menachem Begin's Irgun had managed to buy much-needed arms for the battle for Israel's Independence. An agreement had been reached with the new provisional government concerning how they were to be used and distributed, with a priority for freeing Jerusalem's Old City. But David Ben Gurion tricked him and ended up sending his soldiers, including Yitzchak Rabin, to attack the ship, sink the weapons and murder Jews.

"Begin had meanwhile boarded the Altalena, which was now heading for Tel Aviv. He hoped that it would be possible to enter into a dialogue with the Provisional Government and to unload the remaining weapons peacefully. But this was not the case. Ben-Gurion ordered Yigael Yadin (acting Chief of Staff) to concentrate large forces on the Tel Aviv beach and to take the ship by force. Heavy guns were transferred to the area and at four in the afternoon, Ben-Gurion ordered the shelling of the Altalena. One of the shells hit the ship, which began to burn. There was danger that the fire would spread to the holds which contained explosives, and the captain ordered all aboard to abandon ship. People jumped into the water, whilst their comrades on shore set out to meet them on rafts. Although the captain flew the white flag of surrender, automatic fire continued to be directed at the unarmed survivors. Begin, who was on deck, agreed to leave the ship only after the last of the wounded had been evacuated."

The late Shmuel Katz, told me that he had always believed that the main goal of the attack was to assassinate Menachem Begin, whom Ben Gurion considered his strongest rival. Menachem Begin, always the noble gentleman, in his naive innocence could never accept such a theory, nor would he demand apologies and cheshbon nefesh, accounting of the soul, from those who attacked him and his followers.

In Psychology there's a principle called projection, "Projection also appears where we see our own traits in other people..." That explains why Menachem Begin and Israel's pro-Jews in the Land of Israel Right wing do not constantly verbalize character assassination and incitement against the Left, but the Left always does it against the Right.

The Israeli Left has a documented history of discrimination and violence, for example the Altalena and Amona, against the Right, though they have no problems constantly proclaiming us as violent and guilty of attacking fellow Jews.

Israeli society is still suffering from pre-State hatreds and the Yitzchak Rabin murder is being utilized as a tool against a large and growing segment of the Israeli public. I don't know if we'll ever really know who was behind that assassination. I just know that the Left has enthusiastically adopted it as their mantra, their weapon of choice against loyal and innocent Jewish citizens.
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Column One: Silencing dissent in America

Caroline Glick
30 October 09

Former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold should probably buy himself a flak jacket. Gold is scheduled to debate Richard Goldstone at Brandeis University next Thursday and the anti-Israel forces are organizing quite a reception for him.

Goldstone, who chaired the UN Human Rights Council's commission charged with accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, has become a darling of the anti-Israel Left in the weeks since his report accusing Israel of committing both war crimes and crimes against humanity was published last month. And anti-Israeli leftists don't like the idea of someone challenging his libelous attacks against Israel in a public debate at a university.

In an e-mail to a campus list-serve, Brandeis student and anti-Israel activist Jonathan Sussman called on his fellow anti-Zionists to disrupt the event that will pit the "neutral" Goldstone against Gold with his "wildly pro-Zionist message." Sussman invited his list-serve members to join him at a meeting to "discuss a possible response."

As the young community organizer sees it, "Possibilities include inviting Palestinian speakers to come participate, seeding the audience with people who can disrupt the Zionist narrative, protest and direct action." He closed his missive with a plaintive call to arms: "F**k the occupation."

Apparently the aspiring political organizer never considered another possibility: listening to what Gold has to say.

It seems rather unfair to pick on a small fry like Sussman. A brief Web search indicates that Gold's would-be silencer divides his time fairly equally between publishing rambling, Communist verses to paramours and calling for the overthrow of the US government.

The problem is that Sussman's planned "direct action" against Gold is not an isolated incident. On college campuses throughout the US, Israelis and supporters of Israel are regularly denied the right to speak by leftist activists claiming to act on behalf of Israel's "victims," or in the cause of "peace." In the name of the Palestinians or peace these radicals seek to coerce their fellow students into following their lead by demonizing and brutally silencing all voices of dissent.

This, by the way is true regardless of where the speaker fits on the pro-Israel spectrum. Earlier this month former prime minister Ehud Olmert - who during his tenure in office offered the Palestinians more than any of his predecessors - could barely get a word in edgewise above the clamor of students at the University of Chicago cursing him as a war criminal.

While many commentators claim that the situation on college campuses is unique, the fact is that the attempts of leftist activists on campuses to silence non-leftist dissenters regarding Israel and a host of other issues is simply an extreme version of what is increasingly becoming standard operating procedure for leftist activists throughout the US. Rather than participating in a battle of ideas with their ideological opponents on the Right, increasingly, leftist activists, groups and policy-makers seek to silence their opponents through slander, intimidation and misrepresentation of their own agenda.

CASE IN point is J Street. The 18-month old, multi-million dollar American Jewish political action committee held its inaugural convention this week in Washington. J Street seeks to present itself as the representative of a silent majority of American Jews. However, its signature positions - while in line with the Obama administration's policies - are deeply discordant with mainstream American Jewish views.

J Street asserts that Israel must freeze all Jewish construction beyond the 1949 armistice lines; that Israel should withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines, including in Jerusalem and expel all Jews now living beyond the 1949 armistice lines; that the absence of peace is due to the absence of a Palestinian state; that Israel used excessive force in Operation Cast Lead and the Goldstone Report is legitimate. J Street also opposes both sanctions on Iran and military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Just how profoundly out of synch these positions are with the American Jewish community was made clear with last month's publication of the American Jewish Committee's 2009 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion.

According to the survey, a majority of US Jews oppose the Obama administration's call for the prohibition of Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Similarly, the vast majority of US Jews rejects the call for Israel to surrender parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians; believes the cause of the Palestinian conflict with Israel is the Arabs' desire to destroy Israel rather than the absence of a Palestinian state; and supports Israel's right to defend itself against Palestinian terror. A whopping 94 percent of American Jews believe the Palestinians should be required to accept Israel's right to exist as a precursor to any viable peace. Finally, a solid majority of American Jews supports either a US or an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear installations.

But no matter. Facts are no obstacle for J Street. Just as Sussman smears his opponents to discredit dissenting views, so J Street has not only misrepresented its own place on the American Jewish ideological spectrum. It has misrepresented the position of mainstream American Jewish groups on the ideological spectrum. Owing no doubt to the fact that most American Jews self-identify as liberals, J Street condemns organizations like AIPAC and the ADL as right-wing or conservative or hawkish to try to make American Jews feel uncomfortable supporting them.

At its conference this week J Street's radicalism was on full display. According to the JTA account, one panel discussion featured members of Congress debating the proposition that American Jewish money controls US foreign policy. Congressman Bob Filner (D-California) was reportedly the darling of the crowd for arguing that indeed, Jewish money exerts inordinate and destructive influence over US foreign policy.
(page 2)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Weekly Commentary: Palestinian State Without Final Status Agreement Recipe For Disaster

Dr. Aaron Lerner
29 October 09

Who would gain from the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state before an agreement is reached on final status issues?

President Shimon Peres claims that this will somehow promote peace and stability, but he doesn't offer much substance to his argument beyond a "best case assumption" that things will be so good for the Palestinians when they have a sovereign state that they will bend over backwards to behave themselves.

This is a pretty insulting take on the will and determination of the Palestinians to achieve their aspirations.

It doesn't require much imagination to come up with a Palestinian plan of action to exploit Palestinian sovereignty to facilitate increasing security and other pressures against the Jewish State.

And this with most of the world "understanding" if not downright accepting and even applauding the argument that the Palestinians had every right to continue with their "struggle against the occupation" given that final borders and other key issues had yet to be agreed upon.

Israel's enemies would come to the aid of sovereign Palestine on a scale magnitudes greater than current clandestine operations.

Israel's friends would counsel the Jewish State to show more "flexibility" and accept various Palestinian demands, in order to bring peace, arguing that "after going so far and making so much "progress" (aka concessions) it would be irresponsible for Israel to jeopardize this by taking a "hard line".

All this while Israeli security operations would be subject to even greater international review, criticism and even sanctions as they are carried out within sovereign Palestine.

And let's not forget that a sovereign state is a sovereign state even if it should violate the conditions under which it was formed.

When Mr. Peres makes this proposal he shows himself to be more an anarchist than a diplomat.

And the last thing we need in this region is to add to its instability.

UN Guide

UN anti Israel Bias, antisemitism : Dry Bones cartoon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

British police to tackle UK-funded torturers on the West Bank

Tom Gross
NRO Blog
28 October 09

The Mail on Sunday (which is the Sunday sister paper of Britain’s Daily Mail) reports that:

The British government is sending police and intelligence officers to the West Bank to try to stop a wave of brutal torture by Palestinian security forces funded by UK taxpayers. Their mission is to set up and train a new “internal affairs” department with sweeping powers to investigate abuse and bring torturers to justice.

On Saturday a senior official from the Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank and its security agencies, admitted that torture, beatings and extra-judicial killings have been rife for the past two years, with hundreds of torture allegations and at least four murders in custody, the most recent in August. British detectives will also train the Palestinian police and Preventive Security forces in how to question suspects without torturing them.Britain spends £20 million a year funding the forces responsible for the abuse.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Nasser al-Shaer, a former academic from Manchester University who was deputy prime minister in the short-lived Hamas Palestinian Authority government elected in 2006, said many of those released from detention in recent months were telling the same story – of torture, including beatings, being suspended from the ceiling, and electric shocks.

Now none of this is new. In spite of what the paper says, it has been continuing not just for the past two years, but since Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and took over most of the West Bank in 1993. What is new is that a major newspaper (The Mail On Sunday is one of Britain’s highest circulation respected newspapers) is reporting on it.

Of course, the abuse of human rights and use of torture is even worse in other “moderate” Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan, and far worse in non-moderate countries like Syria (which yesterday the European Union eagerly signed an Association Agreement with).

Many Palestinians I know yearn for the days when Israel ruled the West Bank before Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah took over most of the Palestinian-populated territories.

Meanwhile, as Palestinian detainees are being tortured to death in Palestinian Authority jails, Palestinian prisoners (including convicted terrorists) in custody in Israel are studying for Israeli university degrees (at Israeli taxpayers’ expense) and also given cable TV, IPods and dental treatment – but international human rights groups instead criticize the treatment of prisoners in Israel, whose deputy foreign minister and former ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon narrowly escaped being arrested in Britain for “war crimes” yesterday.

And the world community that routinely and harshly condemns Israel even when Israel hasn’t done anything wrong, has failed to condemn the Katyusha rocket fired from Lebanon which narrowly missed an Israeli town last night.

It is a strange world.

The United Nations Is Outraged Again, Or: Department of Mideast Static

Paul Greenberg
Jewish World Review
27 October 09

It won't do, at least not in polite society, to propose wiping a country off the map. That mantra has been left to Iran's raving leader.

Instead, this year's tactic at the always-busy United Nations is to deny Israel the right to defend itself. Which would lead to its destruction soon enough. And that would be the practical effect of bringing its generals and ministers to trial for their "war crimes" in Gaza. That's where the Israelis, after absorbing years of rocket attacks across their southern border, went in and attacked the source of the attacks. Their border with Hamas-controlled Gaza has been quieter since.

Naturally the United Nations, which is a lot better at condoning aggression than enforcing the peace, is outraged — and doing its best to stir things up again. Its "Human Rights" Council, which has little if anything to do with protecting human rights, especially in Islamic dictatorships, has demanded that Israel be brought before the International Court of Justice for daring to defend itself.

With fine impartiality between aggressors and defenders, an investigation sponsored by the UN produced a report that blamed both Hamas and Israel for their conduct during the late unpleasantness in Gaza, ignoring expert testimony and the conclusions of the Israelis' own extensive investigations.

The UN's Human Rights Council then turned its dubious report into another of its customary anti-Israeli resolutions. The prejudice here was so blatant that even the author of the report said he was saddened by the partisan use to which it was put.

The U.S. delegation and a few scattered European ones objected to this kind of lynch law, but both China and Russia, those great exemplars of human rights, joined the mob. So did the Arab bloc, another bastion of human rights.

The result: A biased jury brought in a biased verdict. What a surprise. Let it be said that at least this arm of the UN has been consistent: According to one count, 80 percent of the condemnations it's ever issued have been aimed at the Jewish state.

In the irony-free precincts of the United Nations, the chairman of the UN's Arab bloc this month is the delegate from Sudan, whose government presided over the genocide in Darfur, which is rapidly being forgotten.

These days even the United States, under our new administration, is adopting a softer, gentler tone toward the genocidal regime in Khartoum. For that matter, Washington is moving to "engage" Teheran and Moscow, too. And the military dictatorship in Burma to boot. Any regime that really violates human rights can hope to get a sympathetic hearing from this new crew at the State Department.

Nothing is likely to come of this latest diplomatic provocation at the United Nations except another delay in the always-stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But any chance of those negotiations succeeding has always been only an abstraction. Even if the Israelis negotiated under this threat from the UN, with which Palestinian rump state/militia/gang/Iranian front group would they negotiate with? The one in Gaza or Damascus or Beirut on the West Bank?

The essential aim of the Arab side in this "peace process" that produces regular incidents and sporadic wars has never been to create a Palestinian state next to the Jewish one. Or that objective could have been achieved at almost any time during the past century by accepting one of the many proposals for partition of that overly promised land — going back as far as the Peel Commission of 1937. Or as recently as the Oslo Accords of the 1990s. Or the summit that Yasser Arafat walked out of in the waning days of the Clinton administration in 2000.

Failure has followed failure because this diplomatic charade has never really been about creating still another Arab state in the Middle East but about destroying the Jewish one.

CNN Waters Down the Israeli Response

CNN fails to provide any Israeli reaction to a flawed Amnesty report.

Honest Reporting/Backspin
29 October 09

Utilizing the "halo effect," whereby because of their humanitarian focus, non-governmental organizations are insulated from scrutiny and are regarded as above reproach by the media, Amnesty International has published a report accusing Israel of denying Palestinians access to water supplies.

Media outlets, including AP, AFP, Reuters, BBC, The Independent, Sky News, The Age and the Irish Times, were happy to promote Amnesty's allegations. The Times of London even ran with the provocative headline: Palestinians suffer under Israeli water torture.

While the above media did, at least, include some limited responses from Israeli officials, the CNN report below from Paula Hancocks did not even bother to supply any Israeli reaction whatsoever.

Send your considered comments to CNN on its feedback form, asking why Paula Hancocks has failed to carry out the most basic of journalistic norms.

Regarding Amnesty's report itself, Officials at the Israeli Water Authority told theJerusalem Post they were never given an opportunity to present information to Amnesty researchers, nor respond to the Palestinian allegations. They also say the report's figures are deeply flawed.

Moreover, NGO Monitor claims Amnesty's report was timed to boost a campaign to boycott Israel. Indeed, a US speaking tour kicks off next week with Omar Barghouti addressing the Loyola Law School in LA on the topic "Palestine: Thirsting for Justice. Israel’s Control of Water as a Tool of Apartheid and a Means of Ethnic Cleansing."

A Jerusalem Post editorial addresses the issues:

It [Amnesty' report] set out to examine the assumed victimization of the Palestinians. Thereafter, everything proceeded true to pattern. The inevitable bottom line is that the Palestinians are aggrieved. No blame is apportioned to them. The causes of the situation aren't considered. . . .

Additionally, the Israel Water Authority notes that, when all water uses are combined, it emerges that 149 cubic meters are available per capita per annum for Israelis, and 105 cu.m. for Palestinians. The difference, though not negligible, is far from Amnesty's claim of a super-acute shortage, well below the World Health Organization recommended minimum allotment. Water availability to Israelis has fallen sharply in recent decades. In 1967 it stood at 500 cu.m. - so today's figure represents a 70% drop. Until the Six Day War, Palestinians could count on a mere 86 cu.m. yearly. Their situation has improved by 22%.

Had it been given the opportunity, the Water Authority would also have highlighted that Israel supplies water to the PA well in excess of its 1995 Oslo Accords undertakings. Systematically overlooked by Amnesty, meanwhile, are Palestinian breaches of these accords - including pirate drilling, water theft and routine damage to pipelines, failures to purify waste water (despite massive contributions by donor nations), irrigating crops with fresh rather than reclaimed water, dumping untreated sewage into streams, severely contaminating Israel's Coastal Aquifer and forcing Israel to deal with PA sewage.

It is very hard to resist the conclusion that Amnesty's report was commissioned to serve a specific agenda.

See also The Issue of of Water Between and the Palestinians (pdf format), a document published in March by the Israeli Water Authority.


Lawfare Update: Al Haq Canada case dismissed with partial costs

NGO Monitor
September 2009 Digest: Vol. 8, No. 1
29 October 09

(Another one for the good guys!)

On September 18, 2009, a Montreal court dismissed a lawfare case brought by the Bil’in Village Council, with the assistance of the Palestinian NGO “Al Haq” (funded by Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, Sweden [via Diakonia], Ford Foundation, Christian Aid, Norway) and Israeli attorney Michael Sfard. The case was filed in June 2008 against three Canadian corporations involved in construction projects in the town of Kiryat Sefer (Modi’in Ilit). The village council and Al Haq claimed that these corporations were “aiding, abetting, assisting and conspiring with Israel, the Occupying Power in the West Bank, in carrying out an illegal act” and acting in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The Court found that the plaintiffs had “select[ed] a forum having little connection to the Action in order to inappropriately gain a juridical advantage,” and that there was no basis to plaintiffs’ claim that it was impossible to obtain a remedy in the Israeli court system. It further noted that plaintiffs had relied on judicial statutes that require the consent of the Canadian Attorney General – consent the plaintiffs never obtained. In addition to dismissing the case, the Canadian judge awarded the defendants partial costs (part of the defendant’s legal fees), underlining the particularly frivolous nature of the case.

This dismissal is the latest rejection of Al Haq’s strategy to exploit Western courts for political goals (“lawfare”). Its two suits (2006 and 2009) filed against British government officials to stop weapons sales to Israel were also rejected.

Media Coverage of the Middle East: Just the facts versus context

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
29 October 09

One of the most perplexing paradoxes of the media is the battle of facts versus context. We want the media to be as objective as possible—“Just the facts, ma’am,” as police sergeant Joe Friday famously said on the Dragnet American television series of the 1950s and 1960s. Yet on the other hand we want some reasonable degree of context without which the “facts” are not only confusing but misleading.

Nowadays the problem is much more with the “context” than with the “facts.” Newspaper articles, and even more television news, are full of what is called “analysis,” which means the reporter’s own opinion. Since almost all the journalists seem to think along pretty similar lines this intensifies the problem.

And on top of that still another contemporary problem is the self-censorship of the journalists since they want to direct your thinking toward things they believe to be “good” and away from what they consider to be “bad.”

Aside from personal bias is the desire to be perceived by others as holding the “proper” opinions combined with the fact that journalists know they will no longer be punished for crossing the line in slanting stories—no matter how outrageous they do it as long as they stop short of provable plagiarism. (I was going to add outright fabrication, too, but even that is almost always successful.)

While total objectivity is impossible to obtain, if there was such a thing as a scientific Objectivity Meter its level in the Western media would have been going steadily downward.

The fact that bias has now become conscious and deliberate makes matters far worse.

Two of the most common examples I’ve seen—and I’ve actually heard journalists and academics admit that they lied “in a good cause” here—are the following. First, deliberately understating the misdeeds and extremism of Iraq and later of Iran “so as not to give [George W.] Bush an excuse to attack them.” Second, they have deliberately understating the misdeeds and extremism of the Palestinian leadership or groups so as to “help” the cause of peace. I call this: the Lying for Peace movement.

Yet sometimes stories, too, cry out for more context. True, these two reporters should be praised for doing their job in presenting the facts plus a limited reasonably accurate context and balance. Still, the reader must learn how to do his or her own analysis. So I have selected two relatively banal pieces to illustrate this point.

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 25: “Palestinian elections scheduled” by Ben Hubbard, Associated Press:

“”Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that his government would hold presidential and parliamentary elections on January 24, regardless of whether it reaches a power-sharing deal with the extremist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.”

Really? On January 24 are we going to be watching the elections? Of course not. As long as the Palestinian Authority (PA) doesn’t control the Gaza Strip it will never hold elections. And the problem is that the way things are going it will never control the Gaza Strip which will remain in Hamas’s hands.

As an aside, it is truly amazing that the world seems set on consolidating Hamas’s control over that territory even though it is a Taliban-like, terrorist, and openly antisemitic regime whose policies will leads repeatedly to violence and block any hope of there being peace. Condemnations of Israel for defending itself, the appropriation of massive amounts of money for reconstruction, and other steps protect and preserve a regime which is up there with Libya and North Korea on the scale of repression.

“Hamas criticized the announcement, deepening the rift between the Islamic group and Abbas' secular Fatah movement, which have led dueling governments in Gaza and the West Bank for the last two years.” Later the article does say: “Hamas seized by force in 2007.”

Well, actually Hamas seized power by violence. You will hear over and over again that they won the elections. They did, made a government coalition, and then seized total power, wiping out all opposition. Consequently, the regime in Gaza did not come to power by elections.

The article correctly states—and this is perhaps the context most needed—that this is “a vote that many see as unlikely to happen, given Hamas opposition.”

Then, too, the article notes:

“The latest round of Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks fell apart…when Hamas refused to sign a reconciliation agreement after Fatah accepted it.”

So the burden for the failure is put on Hamas. Yet is this something in the Palestinian Authority’s favor? As I have often noted—and as the PA continually demonstrates—the PA is far more interested in making a deal with Hamas than with Israel, and it is impossible to have both.

The second article is “Jerusalem rocked by clashes: Israeli police fought Palestinian protesters near the Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City,” by Richard Boudreaux, October 26, originally appearing in the Los Angeles Times:

“Israeli police stormed the grounds of Al-Aqsa mosque yesterday, using clubs and stun grenades to subdue stone-throwing Palestinians in the worst clashes in a month of unrest in and around Jerusalem's Old City.”

But then the article does, what happens so often, a false balance at the cost of misstating the facts by saying:

“The rioting…sprang from rising tensions stoked by Jewish and Islamic extremists that could keep Jerusalem and its contested holy sites on edge for weeks.”

In the history of the conflict—with its many riots in Jerusalem—there has never been one that has less to do with any Jewish action. The riots were called for by the PA’s ruling party, Fatah; Hamas, Hizb al-Tahrir, and the radical Islamic movement among Israeli Arabs. These statements were made publicly.

So what part did Jewish extremists play? Well, there was a group of French (not Israeli and probably not even Jewish) tourists who were taken on a tour of the Temple Mount. Radical groups spread the false story that these were Jewish extremists trying to pray there and this was used to trigger riots.

By the way, Fatah and the PA needed riots to “prove” their militant credentials after they committed the unforgivable sin, in the eyes of the radicals who dominate the Palestinian movement, of accepting President Barack Obama’s request to let others take the lead in pushing an anti-Israel report at the UN.

Oh, did I say that false rumors were spread by Fatah, Hamas, Hizb al-Tahrir, and the Islamic Movement? I should have added that false rumors are also being spread by the Los Angeles Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In fact, it endorses the following slanders:

“It is also expected to keep Israel on the defensive against international criticism like that registered yesterday by Egypt, Jordan, and the Arab League over what they called Israeli provocations at Islam's third-holiest shrine.”

Well, sure Israel will be kept on the defensive if you join in the chorus of falsehoods.

Kindly, the article adds, “Israel denied starting yesterday's trouble.” Since you have no facts whatsoever to the contrary you perhaps should attest to the accuracy of that denial.

Again, these are small routine articles, but they are just a small part of the daily waterboarding of Israel in all too much of the Western media in all too many stories.

It’s no wonder that people in the West don’t understand the Middle East very well.

Hezbollah and the new regional reality

Firas Maksad and Anthony Elghossain
27 October 09

The bombing of the Marine barracks at Beirut Airport some 26 years ago by a suicide truck bomber killed 241 US servicemen and led to an American withdrawal from Lebanon, where it had sent soldiers to establish some sort of peace, eight years into the country’s complicated civil war. While the bombing forced an eventual American withdrawal and once again changed the course of the conflict, it can be argued that it was also the opening salvo in Iran’s fight for hegemony in the Middle East, a battle that is very much raging today.

In ushering in a new era of war against the United States, the bombing, for which the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has long been blamed, helped cultivate the notion that state-supported militant groups could harass the United States into retreating from a robust tradition of foreign policy adventures in the region. Over the past quarter-century, the Islamic Republic has built a forward operating base in Lebanon (through its local proxy, Hezbollah), an alliance with Syria, and considerable influence in Iraq to complement its domineering presence in the Persian Gulf.

Iran’s current nuclear program must be understood as part of this broader challenge to the United States and the existing order in the Middle East. From the ashes of the Marine barracks, Iran and Syria have nurtured Hezbollah from a rag-tag militia into a formidable army-cum-pseudo-state. It is Hezbollah’s entrenchment that has altered the region’s strategic calculus and which best reflects how Iran perceives the conflict.

A new regional reality

First, Hezbollah will ultimately serve as Iran's advance guard in a regional confrontation. The Party of God already demonstrated its military capacity in 2006 by fighting Israel to a standstill and retains a network of operatives in Latin America, West Africa, and the United States itself.

Second, at a deeper level, Hezbollah is a manifestation of Iranian ideology and a franchise of the Iranian Revolution. The concept of Hezbollah as a disciplined, determined and zealous organization has electrified the region and has helped Iran create an arc of influence from the Persian Gulf to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Iranian largesse and Syrian facilitation have allowed Hezbollah to build schools, hospitals and utilities as well as rebuild neighborhoods destroyed by Israel. In the same vein, Iranian military support and ideological guidance have helped Hezbollah defy Israel and irritate Sunni or moderate (read pro-western) regimes in the region.

Thus, while the authoritarian regimes in Tehran and Damascus have failed to provide their people with the level of prosperity and freedom they would have liked, Hezbollah has, by and large, made a decent stab at providing for its constituents both through its social services and its largesse. Thus the Party of God is far more than a tactical nuisance - it strives to be an existential alternative for the people of the Middle East.

What to do

And so today, it can be argued that Iran is winning right where the battle began 26 years ago on the Beirut airport road. The United States must respond at every level, doing for the Lebanese state and its other allies what Iran has done for Hezbollah and Hamas.

For starters, the United States must maintain its post-Cedar Revolution economic and diplomatic support for Lebanon, such as the $67.5 million allocated by USAID's 2009 budget for Lebanon. Similarly, the US should support Lebanon's pending accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and provide assistance to related reform efforts as well as military aid to bolster Lebanon’s woefully feeble army. The latter will go a long way in convincing those Lebanese who support Hezbollah’s armed presence as long as the national army is weak that statehood can only come with genuine state institutions.

Yet, while America should continue its support for Lebanon, it cannot end there. To protect progress, Washington must adopt a firm stance against rejectionists in Tehran and Damascus. The problem is the regimes themselves; engagement, sanctions, or war will not change their world-view overnight.

The U.S. must pursue a policy of active containment to exhaust such regimes in the long term and prevent them from violating clear and enforceable "red lines" in the short term. When engagement stalls, targeted financial and economic sanctions should follow. Congress must legislate, and presidents must implement, sanctions to discourage Syria and Iran from milking new administrations for concessions while the clock ticks out every four years.

At the same time the U.S. should make clear that it will intensify sanctions and diplomatically isolate the Assad regime if Syria continues to support insurgents in Iraq and militias in Lebanon. Washington should also, subject to reliable intelligence and the advice of the military command, establish a time horizon beyond which it would adopt a more robust policy, including a military option, if Iran refuses to cease its nuclear program and submit to IAEA inspections.

There is no need to stir the pot now. Engagement may bear fruit. Nevertheless, the Marine barracks bombing on October 23, 1983 should serve as a lesson in vigilance. All too often, to paraphrase a Marine who survived the attack, the United States is "caught with its pants down." Best it not happen again.

Firas Maksad is a Middle East analyst. Anthony Elghossain is a former journalist for Lebanon's The Daily Star and a J.D. candidate at The George Washington University Law School.

Amid slumping popularity, Hamas boycott call over elections suggests Israeli Gaza policy may be working

Robin Shepherd
Robin Shepherd Online
29 October 09

Cast your mind back to January of this year. Remember all those slogans and banners saying: “We are all Hamas now”? Remember all those BBC reports whose subtext was always that Operation Cast Lead could only succeed in stirring up the hornets’ nest? It’s the familiar narrative, of course: radicalisation is the product of oppression and occupation; the siege can only produce a siege mentality; Hamas can only benefit from Israel’s attempts to root them out. Talks not bombs are the solution.

Well, it doesn’t seem to have quite panned out that way. Hamas announced yesterday that it would forbid the people of Gaza from participating in elections announced for January in the Palestinian territories by Mahmoud Abbas. It seems that popular support for the Islamist terror group has collapsed since Cast Lead to the extent that Hamas would face a rout if elections were held any time soon. That doesn’t quite fit with the narrative, does it?

In reality, opinion polls (barely reported in the western media of course) have been showing for some time that ordinary Palestinians in the Gaza strip are somewhat less forgiving of Hamas than many of its western apologists.

As far back as February, a poll from the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion showed that support for Hamas in Gaza had fallen to 28 percent from 52 percent the previous November.

A poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center this month put support for Hamas at just 18.7 percent in the West Bank and Gaza compared with 40 percent for Fatah. Polling for Gaza alone put support for Hamas at 24 percent as against 43 percent for Fatah (see link below).

If the polls are accurate and if Hamas is as frightened of facing its electorate as it appears to be, this represents a pretty devastating blow to the critics of Israel’s Gaza policies.

Of course, no one but a fool would suggest that this all means Hamas is on the way out. It is quite capable of ruling without popular consent, and there is always the danger that it could trigger a new wave of attacks on Israel to deflect attention from its failings.

The point is, however, that we now have pretty convincing evidence that the Gaza campaign (and the ongoing sanctions regime) did not constitute the exercise in futility that western critics have been so quick to characterise it as.

The war against terror is a long war. There may be no such thing as a total victory. But sustained pressure can yield results.

I really wonder whether this interpretation is one you are likely to be hearing as you turn to the mainstream media for news and analysis in the weeks and months ahead. Care to place any bets?

To see the full breakdown of Palestinian opinion on a range of issues, see the second of the above mentioned polls here:

To purchase my recently published book on the broader subject, click here:


'Israel's Self-Described Greatest Concern'

Jeffrey Goldberg
The Atlantic
28 October 09

I'm telling people who are worried about the hijinks at the unofficial J Street bloggers' panel not to become overly bothered by it; it was a clownish event, and the people on the panel were marginal figures except in the rather circumscribed universe of anti-Zionists-with-Jewish parents (where they are giants).

I couldn't go to the conference, as I've explained earlier, but I have heard from many people who attended, and they describe to me an organization still finding itself. The leadership of J Street seems drawn from liberal pro-Israel circles. The average participant in the conference, they said, seemed somewhat to the left of the leadership (included in this group are the sort who often begin statements on the Middle East with "As a Jew," as in, "As a Jew, I am appalled/shocked/perturbed/ etc. etc.' These are the sort of people caught booing Rabbi Eric Yoffie for condemning the Goldstone report.)

The most problematic thing I've heard so far is the make-up of the panel meant to discuss Iran. In the program, Iran was
described as "Israel's self-described greatest concern and strategic threat," which is a bit too distancing a description for me, but never mind that. The panel featured Hillary Mann Leverett, who, with her husband, Flynt Leverett, is an apologist for the Iranian regime. Goldblog Iran-Panel-Reporter-At-Large Tali Yahalom told me that the consensus on the panel, which also included Trita Parsi, who also does a lot of leg-work for the Iranian regime, was that Iran doesn't think about Israel, doesn't care about Israel, and certainly doesn't want to obliterate Israel. Here are some of Hillary Mann Leverett's thoughts:
Hillary Mann Leverett: Tehran has asked for an extension of the deadline for its response to a proposal to shed most of Iran's low-enriched uranium out of the country. ... Many commentators here in the U.S. and Israel have attributed this delay to political divisions in Tehran ... (or to) quote-unquote typical Iranian negotiating behavior, that they're just merchants in the bazaar, haggling away to get the most that they can in a very deceptive atmosphere. I believe these characterizations are fundamentally misleading.

... Too often, Iran's security concerns are dismissed in the U.S. and in Israel as false or manufactured, reinforcing the stereotype of Iranians as chronically duplicitous and unprepared to keep any commitment they enter into. ...
Those stereotypes are simply not supported by the historical record. ... They are fundamentally racist -- if someone were to criticize Israeli diplomacy by referring to rabbis as lying and conspiring behind their beards, as far too many commentators accuse Iran's mullahs of lying and conspiring behind their beards, we would rightly -- and I'd be the first to -- denounce that as an anti-Semitic stereotype."
One small point worth making: Rabbis aren't in charge of Israel. Mullahs are in charge of Iran. This is a fact that probably does seem relevant to most people, though not to Hillary Mann Leverett.

Never Give Up

Jennifer Rubin
29 October 09

Bob Kagan asks a salient question: What will the Obama administration do when it’s clear (well, clearer than it has been) that we’re being played by the Iranian regime? He explains:

So now the test results are in: Iran’s intentions, it seems, are not good. Tehran apparently will not accept the deal but will propose an alternate plan, agreeing to ship smaller amounts of low-enriched uranium to Russia gradually over a year. Even if Iran carried out this plan as promised — every month would be an adventure to see how much, if anything, Iran shipped — the slow movement of small amounts of low-enriched uranium does not accomplish the original purpose, since Iran can quickly replace these amounts with new low-enriched uranium produced by its centrifuges. Iran’s nuclear clock, which the Obama administration hoped to stop or at least slow, would continue ticking at close to its regular speed.

Kagan implores the Obama team to show some spine and move ahead with sanctions to show we mean business. And really, if we didn’t get snookered by the Russians, they, in exchange for our selling out the Poles and Czechs on missile defense, “should come through by joining in sanctions.” Right? But like Kagan, I find it hard to believe that any objective evidence of “failure” will be taken to heart. We’ll simply double down, extend the deadlines, and continue the “hard work of negotiating.”

We’ve already refused repeatedly to take no for an answer on a series of deadlines, and have already absolved Iran for maintaining the secret Qom site. So why should we suddenly show some fortitude? We’ve already beckoned the mullahs back into respectable international company. We’re going to be the skunk at our own garden party?

The Obama team’s devotion to engagement has become a religious-like devotion. Contrary facts are reinterpreted to maintain the core ideology. We must simply be faithful and patient. As Kagan notes, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that ”engagement is an end in itself, not a means to an end.” If engagement ever stopped, we would have to dosomething. And if the vision of a grand multilateral international community doesn’t quite match reality we might — oh my! — have to act on our own. The imposition of American military power we’ve already been warned isn’t going to “permanently” solve anything. (Not like shipping part of Iran’s uranium to Russia to be replaced in a year, huh?)

Much damage has already been done by the faux negotiating. The Iranian regime has solidified its position and taken on an air of legitimacy. News of its suppression of dissent and brutality is out of the headlines. We’ve been enablers in the snuffing out of Iranian democratic protests. (Defunding them certainly went a long way in that direction.)

So will Obama show us he is the savvy negotiator and tough guy his ardent fans think he is? C’mon, it’s not like we’re talking about Fox News or the Chamber of Commerce.


Why Are Egypt's 'Liberals' Anti-Semitic?

As recently as the 1930s, Jews held ministerial posts in the country.

By Amr Bargisi and Samuel Tadros
Wall Street Journal
28 October 09


Today Egypt will play host to the 56th Congress of Liberal International (LI), which bills itself as the world federation of liberal and progressive democratic parties. Among the nearly 70 parties represented by LI are Britain's Liberal Democrats, Germany's Free Democrats and the Liberal Party of Canada. In the U.S., LI's Web site cites the National Democratic Institute as a cooperating organization since 1986.

In Cairo, the visiting delegates will be hosted by the Al-Gabha, or Democratic Front Party (DFP). Western liberals (in the old-fashioned sense of that word) are always delighted to discover like-minded people in the Third World, and perhaps nowhere more so than in Arab countries. Yet, at least in Egypt, there's a dirty little secret about these self-described liberal parties: They are, for the most part, virulently anti-Semitic.

Consider the case of Sekina Fouad, a well-known journalist who also serves as the DFP's vice president. In an article published earlier this year, Ms. Fouad dismisses any distinction between Jews and Israelis, the reason for which is "the extremity of the doctrine of arrogance, distinctiveness and condescension [the Jews] set out from and seek to achieve by all means, and on top of which blood, killing, terrorizing and frightening."

She corroborates this argument with an alleged statement by "President" Benjamin Franklin, asking Americans to expel Jews since they are "like locusts, never to get on a green land without leaving it deserted and barren." Needless to say, Franklin never made any such statement.

Nor is Ms. Fouad some kind of outlier. Take Ayman Nour, who contested the 2005 presidential election under the banner of his own party and was subsequently jailed for nearly four years.

Immediately after his release earlier this year, he attended a celebration organized by opposition groups—including the Muslim Brotherhood—in the northern city of Port Said, commemorating "the first battalion of volunteers from the Egyptian People setting off to fight the Jews in 1948." The word "Jews" was stressed in bolded black lettering on the otherwise blue and red banner hanging above the conference panel. Yet far from trying to distance himself from that message, Mr. Nour got into the spirit of the conference, talking about "the value of standing up to this enemy, behind which lies all evils, conspiracies and threats that are spawned against Egypt."

Then there is the case of Egypt's oldest "liberal" party, Al-Wafd, whose eponymous daily newspaper is one of Egypt's most active platforms for anti-Semitism. Following President Obama's conciliatory Cairo speech to the Muslim world, columnist Ahmed Ezz El-Arab faulted Mr. Obama for insisting that the Holocaust was an actual historical event.

These examples are, sadly, just the tip of an iceberg. What makes them all the more remarkable is that, contrary to stereotype, they do not have particularly ancient roots in Egypt. Until Egypt's Jews were expelled by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and '60s, Egypt had a millennia-old, thriving Jewish community. As late as the 1930s, Jewish politicians occupied ministerial posts in Egyptian governments and participated in nationalist politics.

But all that changed with the rise of totalitarian and fascist movements in Europe, which found more than their share of imitators in the Arab world. When Egypt's monarchy was overthrown in 1952 by a military coup, anti-Semitism became an ideological pillar of the new totalitarian dispensation.

Since then, Egypt has evolved, coming to terms (of a sort) with Israel and adopting some market-based economic principles. But anti-Semitism remains the glue holding Egypt's disparate political forces together. This is especially true of the so-called liberals, who think they can traffic on their anti-Semitism to gain favor in quarters where they would otherwise be suspect.

Westerners, who tend to treat Arabs with a condescension masked as "understanding," may be quick to dismiss all this as a function of anger at Israeli policies and therefore irrelevant to the development of liberal politics in the Arab world. Yet a liberal movement that winds up espousing the kind of anti-Semitism that would have done the Nazis proud is, quite simply, not liberal.

Messrs. Bargisi and Tadros are senior partners with the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth.