Monday, November 30, 2009

Military aid tops Sleiman agenda during Washington visit

By Elias Sakr
Daily Star staff
Monday, November 30, 2009

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman is expected to make a three-day visit to the US on December 12, for talks with President Barack Obama. The pair are slated to discuss Lebanese-American bilateral ties, Lebanon’s outlook on the Middle East peace process and a potential increase in US military aid to the Lebanese Army.

The president is also expected to hold talks with several top US officials, address the American Congress and meet delegations of Lebanese expatriates.

(Full article)

Anybody awake there in Washington?

Nasrallah calls for ending political sectarianism, national defense strategy of Lebanese army alongside Resistance
30 November 09

"He (Nasrallah) mapped out his party’s policy on a national defense strategy, saying that Lebanon needs to confront Israeli threats with a popular resistance supported by the people and a national army that ensures the country’s stability and security. “Adopting the choice of the Resistance allowed Lebanon to achieve real independence and safeguard its sovereignty,” he added."

For One Man, Israel's Big Gas Find Is Bittersweet Victory

Charles Levinson
Wall Street Journal
30 November 09

HERZLIYA, Israel -- Two natural-gas fields in Israel's Mediterranean waters were found in January to contain enough resources to meet Israel's energy needs for 20 years -- a huge find after more than half a century of lackluster carbon exploration here.

But for Yossi Langotsky, who for 10 years has been the driving force behind the project, the gusher was a bittersweet victory. He has been drilling holes in the Promised Land for nearly four decades, in a mostly futile search for energy. A month before drilling started on what would become the largest find in Israeli history, his financial backer pulled out. That forced him to relinquish his stake -- today valued at an estimated $350 million.

Debbie Hill for the Wall Street Journal

Yossi Langotsky was forced to relinquish his stake in a natural-gas project shortly before drilling started on the largest find in Israeli history.

"After 60 years of no success in oil exploration here in Israel, a miracle took place, and I lost out 30 days before it happened," says Mr. Langotsky, 75 years old.

The pivotal role played by Mr. Langotsky in the historic discovery is undisputed. The two fields are named for his daughter, Dalit, and granddaughter, Tamar.

The fields, which won't start producing gas until 2014, are relatively modest by Mideast standards. But they have already triggered a frenzy in the country's quiet energy industry.

Since January, Israeli oil companies' stocks have soared, some rising as much as tenfold. In 2009, oil companies have invested between five and 10 times as much in Israel exploration as at any point in the country's history, says Yaakov Mimron, head of Israel's Petroleum Commission.

In recent weeks, two international companies, including Houston-based Noble Energy Inc., which led the team that made the gas find in January, separately began extensive and costly 3D seismic surveys of more offshore prospects. A Noble spokesman said they expect to drill new wells next year.

In the past 60 years, oil companies have drilled about 450 wells, but choked out just 20 million barrels of oil, less than Saudi Arabia churns out in three days.

Israel's dearth of oil in a region awash in it became a national joke. "My closest friends laughed at me," says Mr. Langotsky.

(Read full article)


Derisionist History

Benny Morris
The New Republic
28 November 09

(This review of Avi Shlaim's book by Benny Morris, is loaded with insights into the distorted world of Post-Zionist historians, their judgments, and their conclusions. While not for everyone, if you follow Benny Morris, this is a good piece.)

Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations

By Avi Shlaim

(Verso, 392 pp., $34.95)

Avi Shlaim burst upon the scene of Middle Eastern history in 1988, with the publication of Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. Before that, as a young lecturer at Reading University in England, he had produced two books, British Foreign Secretaries Since 1945 (1977) and The United States and the Berlin Blockade, 1948–1949 (1983), and several revealing essays on modern Middle Eastern historical issues in academic journals. But it was Collusion Across the Jordan, with its 676 pages of solid and well-written research, that thrust him into the academic limelight.

Shlaim’s book traced the thirty-year relationship between the Jewish Agency for Palestine and, later, the government of Israel and Prince Abdullah (later King) of Transjordan (later Jordan), focusing on their secret friendly ties and mutual interests--the “collusion” of the title--during the 1948 war, and their unsuccessful secret peace negotiations, which were suspended just before Abdullah’s assassination by a Palestinian gunman in July 1951. Shlaim argued that Abdullah and the leadership of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine/Israel, were united in their fear and their hatred of Haj Amin Al Husseini, the leader of the Palestinian national movement, and also in coveting the territory of Palestine; and so they agreed, in the run-up to the 1948 war, to “collude” to prevent the Palestinians from establishing a state.

Bowing to the realities of power, Shlaim contended, the Hashemite king and the Zionists agreed to divide the territory between themselves. As it turned out, and despite fierce Israeli-Jordanian clashes in and around Jerusalem, this is exactly what happened in the course of the war, the Jordanians occupying and eventually annexing the West Bank--the core of the area allotted by the United Nations partition resolution of November 1947 for a Palestinian Arab state--and the Jews establishing the state of Israel on the remainder (minus the Gaza Strip, also allotted to the Palestinians, which Egypt occupied in the course of the war and held until 1967). And following the war, the two countries embarked on peace negotiations, but failed to conclude a deal. Shlaim argues that it was an unconciliatory Israel that was largely responsible for the diplomatic failure--as it was, also, for the failure to explore properly the options for peace with Syria and Egypt that opened up, in his view, in those immediate postwar years.

Much of Shlaim’s spadework, especially relating to Zionist-Arab diplomacy before, during, and after the war, was original, but his thesis itself, about the nature of Jordanian-Israeli relations before and during 1948, was not. Israel Ber--who had served as an important officer on the General Staff of the Haganah, the Yishuv’s main pre-state militia that changed its name later to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and on the General Staff of the IDF in 1949–1950 (before his resignation, he headed its Planning and Operations Department)--had suggested the “collusion” thesis in his book Israel’s Security: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, published posthumously in 1966. And Dan Schueftan and Uri Bar-Joseph had presented and analyzed it in their learned and well-argued works, A Jordanian Option (1986) and The Best of Enemies (1987).

But Ber’s was an unannotated political essay by a discredited man--he was jailed in 1961 as a Soviet spy--and it appeared only in Hebrew. Schueftan’s work also appeared only in Hebrew, and Bar-Joseph’s drew little attention. Shlaim certainly did his work more thoroughly, and he wrote with verve and elegance. Though one or two critics suggested that Shlaim had given too much weight to oral testimony elicited decades after the events described, Collusion Across the Jordan enjoyed wide acclaim. Some of that, without a doubt, was owed to what was seen as the book’s anti-Israeli slant.

(Read full article)


Friedman and the Narrative

Yaacov Lozowick
Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations
30 November 09

Thomas Friedman has garnered plaudits from the hawks for his most recent column:

The Narrative is the cocktail of half-truths, propaganda and outright lies about America that have taken hold in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11. Propagated by jihadist Web sites, mosque preachers, Arab intellectuals, satellite news stations and books — and tacitly endorsed by some Arab regimes — this narrative posits that America has declared war on Islam, as part of a grand “American-Crusader-Zionist conspiracy” to keep Muslims down.
Yes, after two decades in which U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny — in Bosnia, Darfur, Kuwait, Somalia, Lebanon, Kurdistan, post-earthquake Pakistan, post-tsunami Indonesia, Iraq and Afghanistan — a narrative that says America is dedicated to keeping Muslims down is thriving.
Although most of the Muslims being killed today are being killed by jihadist suicide bombers in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia, you’d never know it from listening to their world. The dominant narrative there is that 9/11 was a kind of fraud: America’s unprovoked onslaught on Islam is the real story, and the Muslims are the real victims — of U.S. perfidy.
Sorry, but I'm not impressed. The narrative (or The Narrative) wasn't created after 9/11; it has been aimed at Israel and to a degree at America for many decades. A totally dishonest narrative about how Israel is the source of all evil in the Mideast has been the meta-narrative in the Arab world for generations; 9/11 was its result, not the other way around, because America is regarded as Jewish, or controlled by Jews.
Nor is this Arab pathology particularly novel. Europeans of the Left were convinced Jewish capitalists were behind all evil for the past 200 year, perhaps more, even as Europeans of the Right were convinced Marxism and all its spawns were cynical Jewish inventions. Read Voltaire and you'll be surprised how central the nefarious Jewish influences are that he identifies.
Need I mention the Christian ideas about the Jews and their roles in history and theology? Hardly savory, many of them.
Now I'm not saying hatred of Jews has always been universal, nor that it's the central plank of history. Not. But to look at the post-9/11 world and be surprised by the centrality and potency of antisemitic ideas and their derivatives seems, to me, a bit lightweight.

Wooing the Israeli Center

Evelyn Gordon
30 November 09

(Interesting insights and well written, as can be expected from Evelyn Gordon. She also shares many of the doubts and worries as the rest of us. Time will tell)

The 10-month settlement freeze announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week entails obvious risks, from the danger of being perceived as vulnerable to pressure to the time bomb of what happens when the 10 months end. And if the goal is to placate the Palestinians, Arab states, Europe, or the U.S., it also entails few rewards: all have already declared it insufficient (though some deemed it a “positive” first step).

But the freeze, like Netanyahu’s speech last June outlining his principles for a two-state solution, is probably aimed first and foremost at a domestic audience. And on this level, it may be sound tactics.

One lesson Netanyahu learned from both his first term as prime minister and his time in Ariel Sharon’s government was the importance of keeping the Israeli Center behind him. He currently faces two major problems — a nonexistent peace process and a likely need to order military action against Iran — that are liable to result in widespread international condemnation, escalated anti-Israel terror, pressure for potentially dangerous concessions, and perhaps even sanctions. To withstand this, he will need solid domestic support, which means he must convince the Israeli majority that neither problem is his fault: that he truly tried to restart peace talks and thereby also spur international action on Iran, given the West’s claim that such action would be easier if peace talks were progressing.

Faced with similar circumstances — a stalled peace process, a looming Iranian threat, growing international pressure, and consequent eroding domestic support — Sharon decided to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. That achieved its goal: it got the Israeli Center behind him. But the price, in terms of both security and Israel’s image (as January’s Gaza war showed), was horrific.

(Continue article)

A classic Big Lie
29 November 09

How many times have you heard something like this:

Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are illegal and an obstacle to peace.

The statement is misleading or false in at least three ways:

First, there is no such thing as ‘Palestinian land’ unless you mean land owned by individual Palestinians, and most Israeli ’settlements’ in Judea and Samaria are built on state land or land purchased by Jews.

The original Palestine Mandate (and the Anglo-American Convention of 1924) specified only that there would be a ‘Jewish National Home’ within its borders; it did not specify that all of it would constitute this home. But it also did not specify that any particular part of it would be a Palestinian Arab state. One might add that in 1922, Britain split off the better part of the Palestine Mandate and gave it to the Hashemites to create an Arab state of Transjordan, which could well be considered a partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab parts.

The 1947 General Assembly partition resolution did call for a division the land into Jewish and Arab states. But this was not accepted by the Arabs, and was not implemented as a result of the invasion by the Arab states in 1948. The Jordanian military aggression and annexation of this area was therefore illegal; in principle, it belonged to the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs.

The actual boundaries that define what the Jordanians decided to call “the West Bank”, which prior to 1950 was called “Judea and Samaria”, were entirely accidental, being the cease-fire lines of 1949. There is no treaty, Security Council resolution, or other basis in international law to say that the cease-fire lines define an Arab state. Indeed, the famous Security Council Resolution 242, as everyone knows, calls for

(Continue reading...)


Parsi's Precedent

Backspin/Honest reporting
30 November 09

At the Huffington Post, Trita Parsi argues that the US can and should stop Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear facilities. He even cites this precedent:

On August 2, 1990, almost a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Iron Curtain divide, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Within months, the George H. W. Bush administration carefully assembled a coalition of states under the UN flag and defeated the Iraqi army and restored Kuwait's ruling family, the House of Sabah. The Bush senior administration saw particular value in ensuring that the international coalition contained numerous Arab states. But to get the Arab's to join a war alongside the US and against another Arab power, Israel needed to be kept out of the coalition.

This turned out to be a tricky issue, particularly when Saddam Hussein hurled thirty-four Scud missiles at Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities, in an obvious attempt to lure Israel into the war . . . .

Just as Israeli retaliation against Iraq in 1991 would have been devastating for the US, an Israeli preventive attack against Iran today would spell disaster for US national security.

The Israeli debate over deterrence vs. undermining coalition forces was as anguished as Parsi goes on to describe. There was the added uncertainty -- which Parsi doesn't acknowledge -- of Saddam's Scuds being outfitted with chemical or biological warheads. Fortunately, Saddam Hussein didn't raise the stakes with a non-conventional attack.

Parsi expresses no concern for the threat Iranian nukes pose to Israeli national security (and Palestinian national security, for that matter).

We've seen that the Israeli public is remarkably resilient in the face of Iraqi Scuds, Palestinian Qassams and Hezbollah Katyushas. But Parsi's then-and-now comparison breaks down because air strikes on Iran would be to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.


Manipulating the marketplace of ideas

Gerald M. Steinberg
NGO Monitor
27 November 09

For over a decade, European governments have been major sources of funding for dozens of Israeli and Palestinian organizations claiming to promote human rights and similar moral causes. While these groups are known as "nongovernmental organizations," or NGOs, they are, in fact, selected and nurtured by foreign governments. And as seen in research to be discussed in a Knesset conference on December 1, their agendas are more political than moral.

This often hidden support helps pay for expensive newspaper advertisements, such as those recently announcing B'Tselem's 20th anniversary; the salaries of lawyers involved in dozens of High Court cases about the security barrier, treatment of Palestinian terrorists, etc.; the Geneva Initiative's conferences and booklets; and a flood of statements submitted to the United Nations condemning Israeli policies. Recipient NGOs have a major influence on many issues in our lives, and on the decisions of our democratically elected government.

Although foreign funding for Israeli NGOs is labeled as support for "civil society," this is false advertising. Organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, B'Tselem, Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, and many more, cannot claim to be rooted in Israeli civil society when they are funded both directly by the Swedish government, and indirectly through budgets provided by the same government to the Diakonia church organization. This process is repeated by another 15 governments (including Norway and Switzerland), as well as the European Commission, which between them fund more than 50 similar organizations.

The nature and scale of European influence is unique - in no other case do democratic countries use taxpayer money to support opposition groups in other democracies. Imagine the French response to U.S. government financing for radical NGO anti-abortion campaigns in Paris, or for promoting Corsican separatists under the guise of human rights. Would Spain tolerate foreign government funding of NGO campaigns involving the violent Basque conflict? But here, as in other areas, Israel is singled out and subject to different rules.

(Continue reading...)

500,000 Iranian Centrifuges

Tehran ups the ante again as diplomacy goes nowhere.

Wall Street Journal
30 November 09

Mohamed ElBaradei caps his contentious and ultimately failed 12-year stint as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency today, having spent many years enabling Iran's nuclear bids only to condemn them in his final days in office. Mr. ElBaradei combined his rebuke of Iran with his familiar calls for more negotiation, but we'll take his belated realism about Iran as his tacit admission that Dick Cheney and John Bolton have been right all along. Let's hope the education of the Obama Administration doesn't take as long.

As if to underscore the point, yesterday the Iranian government ordered up 10 additional uranium enrichment plants on the scale of its already operational facility in Natanz, which has a planned capacity of 54,000 centrifuges. That could mean an eventual total of more than 500,000 centrifuges, or enough to enrich about 160 bombs worth of uranium each year. Whether it can ever do that is an open question, but it does give a sense of the scale of the regime's ambitions.

The decision is also a reminder of how unchastened Iran has been by President Obama's revelation in September that Iran had been building a secret 3,000 centrifuge facility near the city of Qom. The IAEA's governing board finally got around on Friday to rebuking Iran for that deception, a vote the Administration trumpeted because both Russia and China voted with the United States. But perhaps only within the Obama Administration can a symbolic gesture by the IAEA be considered a diplomatic triumph.

(Full article)

Just Say No

Marc Prowisor
Yesha Views
29 November 09

The Israeli media is flooded with Bibi’s “10 month Settlement Freeze”. Jackals from every side of the political spectrum are racing towards this fresh road kill to get whatever piece of flesh they can before the carcass is picked clean.

The Left is discreetly declaring a victory, making sure their shouts of joy are not over heard by too many, less it endanger Bibi and cause him to bare his soul. Barak has rarely smiled as much, and now is seeking a small army to enforce his will of destruction against the residents of Yehuda and Shomron. Like vultures, they hover, waiting for opportunity to gorge and fill themselves on others misery.

The Right on the other hand is in a frenzy, bolting every which way attempting to find the proper tool to dislodge this boulder that has fallen, blocking the highway of continued presence in our heartland.

Each side has been making emergency meetings, drawing new lines of confrontation as Bibi and his minstrals take a breather and enjoy the confusion they have caused in the political arena in Israel, the Obama administration, and lets not forget, our “not peace” partners, the Palestinian Authority.

I question Bibi’s loyalty to Israel, who is he serving? There is nobody benefitting from this latest “effort” to restart the negotiations with the Arabs.

Bibi was elected to serve Israel’s interest, and Israel’s interest alone. I don’t recall seeing his name on any US electoral list. While we do not see what goes on behind the closed doors of the White House, we can be sure that Israel’s well being is no longer on the US agenda. There latest requests prove this, among them, releasing more terrorists, passing over more key security points to Dayton’s Army, sorry, I meant to say the Palestinian Security Force, and of course more “Land for Peace” with Jerusalem as the main course. I understand this, as the US President believes his future and the US wellbeing lies in the Arab and Muslim world. It is his job to look out for the US as best as he can and to his best understanding. The fact that this present administration in the US will probably cause more damage to the US and it’s citizens will only be realized in the soon to be future, but that is another subject.

Bibi is hurting us, and us alone. He claims his intentions are noble, yet forgive me as I must join the others from all sides condemning him, his strategy, and his lack of strength when confronting the world. Many Jews around the world took pride in his words during some of his past speeches, of course many understood that this was just empty rhetoric, something needed to fill dead air, a pity, maybe his speech writers should be members of the Knesset.

(Continue reading...)

The Obama Administration’s Giant Problem: How to Get the Palestinians to Negotiations without Pressure and Threats?

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
29 November 09

The Obama Administration now has a huge problem in its Israel-Palestinian policy about which no one is yet speaking. Since the White House lacks the stomach to deal with it the problem won't be evident for some time, except perhaps to the readers of these words.

Here’s the issue. It’s simple. It should be obvious: How is the Obama Administration going to get the Palestinians to the table now that Israel has proved itself flexible, ready for negotiations, and willing to make peace. Because, despite President Obama's claim in his Cairo speech that the Palestinian situation is "intolerable" and they are ready to do a deal, that just isn't true.

After eight months of back and forth, Israel has agreed to freeze construction on West Bank settlements. Despite the Administration’s earlier promise to get something for Israel from the Arab side in exchange for this concession, the White House failed completely.

The White House did issue a statement setting forth its own ideas for a peace agreement which, while asking big concessions of Israel also promises several very important things that Israel wants. (On this,
see here). But skepticism is understandable: Will the Administration just keep taking away from what Israel gets by adding to what it gives the Palestinians hoping to appease the latter into negotiating seriously?

The bottom line, however, is this: The Obama Administration has run out of unilateral concessions it can demand from Israel. The Palestinian Authority (PA) still refuses to do anything. It merely whines, complains, and demands more. Every time Israel makes a concession, the PA says it is worthless. Now it is insisting, just as a start, that Israel also stop all construction in Jerusalem and make the freeze permanent.

To put it simply: A pressure Israel only policy won't work because Israel won't give any more and no matter of Israeli concessions will change PA policy any way. The PA will, following its pattern, argue: you got us this much, now get us some more.

So what is the Obama Administration going to do? To get the PA to talk it must either get more from Israel, which is unlikely, or—gasp!—pressure the PA.

In principle, the PA should be eager for talks. Obama believes that the Palestinians situation is "intolerable," so aren't they eager for progress? And also the PA owes Obama big-time. The United States pressures Israel on its behalf; gives it military training; diplomatic support; and lots of money. Obama has made speech after speech promoting their cause and exalting the Palestinians without any real criticism.

He could ask for concessions. He could demand concessions. He could pressure them for concessions.

And what’s the big concession? Come negotiate and get your state, which would be the same size as all the pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza Strip, plus billions of dollars in compensation payments, pretty please?

Yet it is hard to see this happening. Why? The traditional reason for not wanting to pressure the Palestinians is that US. governments thinks it must prove itself champion of their cause in order to gain backing from the Arab and Muslim world.

With the Obama Administration, however, there is something more. First, it hates to pressure anyone (or at least anyone except Israel). Second, it is less fond of Israel. Third, it sees itself as progressive and Third World in its orientation and thus has a horror of pushing anyone perceived to be on the “left” by the strange definitions prevailing today.


Bibi Versus The Iceman

Obama and Bibi Netanyahu as battling SuperHeros : Dry Bones cartoon.

I thought that I'd draw Obama and Bibi Netanyahu as battling SuperHeroes, but they came out looking like a pair of phony costumed TV wrestlers putting on a show!
* * *
The Arab-Israeli conflict will end when the Arab states accept the existence of a Jewish State in the region as natural. Political correctness requires that we ignore this obvious truth and pretend that the problem is simply a border dispute between "Palestinians" and Israelis.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Breaking News: Tehran OKs Ten Uranium Enrichment Facilities; U.S. Government Begs Iran to Negotiate

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
29 November 09

Iran's government announced a cabinet-level decision approving construction of ten new facilities to make enriched uranium, defying the United States and the UN. U.S. reaction so far? Please please talk with us . This is the moment for the president to make that "My fellow Americans..." getting tough and imposing high sanctions speech, showing leadership and urging Europe to follow him. Why is it one doubts that will happen?

This is not just another slap, it is a hitting over the head with a two by four. It’s getting pretty obvious that Iran doesn’t want to make nice no matter how hard the West and particularly President Barack Obama tries. There’s a broader lesson here: if you apologize, they take it as weakness. If you take too long to react, they use it as an opportunity to advance. If you make a concession they demand more. If you pass a resolution, they laugh in your face.

At some point in history, perhaps Western leaders, academics, and intellectuals will understand this. How about today?

After all, the Iranian regime has now approved a plan to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities (start building five; start planning five more). Get it? You criticize us for building one, so our answer is to build 10. You criticize us for building one in secret, so we do it right before your eyes.

What are you going to do about it? Come and get me, copper! You don’t like it? Go drink the Nile. And a lot of other expressions which require words I don’t use but an example has two words, the first of which has four letters and the second of which is “you.”

It should be noted that this probably isn't going to happen. When the regime starts talking about 500,000 centrifuges that is a fantasy, so is the idea of building ten facilities. It's a largely--but not necessarily totally--demagogic response. Yet it also indicates the likelihood that Iran will build (is building? has already built?) more facilities.

(Read full article)

Iran Speeds Up

John Podhoretz
29 November 09

Iran has announced its intention to build ten new nuclear-enrichment sites. What? How could this be? Surely the international community’s outrage at Iran’s deception, which then led last week to a really strong letter to the editor—excuse me, scolding from the International Atomic Weapons Agency—was going to teach the Persians a thing or two!

It would seem logical to assume the purpose of these multiple sites is to make a successful military strike to downgrade or destroy Iran’s nuclear bomb-making capacity difficult to the point of impossibility. It would be hard enough for Israel or the United States to stage a complex series of simultaneous surprise aerial bombings against four locations; from four to fourteen would certainly be beyond Israel’s capacity and would significantly strain our own.

Remember when everybody was saying, including in the Democratic primary for president, that it would be unacceptable for Iran to get the bomb? Remember when President Bush said those who allowed Iran to get the bomb would enjoy the same reputation in the annals of history as the Western leaders at Munich?

Questions people are afraid to ask Salam Fayyad

David Bedein/Arlene Kushner
28 November 09

In his column of November 20, "Salam Fayyad builds Palestine," Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz describes "two staunch Jewish supporters of Israel" - Sen. Joe Lieberman, former vice presidential candidate, and Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - "nodding their encouragement" at a recent Ramallah press conference, where Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad explained how he was preparing Palestinians for statehood. The piece goes on to outline a Palestinian state in formation, regarding security forces, the economy and civic institutions, with an optimistic sense of what the PA is achieving.

Regrettably, Lieberman and Berman did not use the press conference to raise some troublesome questions.

Since these American elected officials let that opportunity pass, perhaps it was Horovitz's journalistic responsibility to explore these matters, to offer a more balanced picture. Instead, he alluded to "staunch supporters of Israel nodding their agreement" - conveying the notion that, except for some technical problems, all is well.

Questions that Lieberman, Berman or Horovitz could have asked would have included:

• Renunciation of the PLO state of war with Israel.

The charter of Fatah - the predominant element in the PLO and the PA - to this day continues to call for the destruction of Israel. Written in 1964, before Israel controlled the West Bank and Gaza, it uses the term "Palestine" to refer exclusively to Israel within the Green Line. The charter declares that "Liberating Palestine is a national obligation," and that "Armed public revolution is the inevitable method" for doing so. This cannot be dismissed as an irrelevant anachronism. Last August, Fatah held its first General Congress in 20 years. Hope was held out for a charter revision, with violence officially renounced, but it never happened. Instead, Fatah continued to unambiguously embrace "armed resistance" to liberate Palestine. Why is this so?

• Cessation of incitement via changes in PA-produced textbooks.

(Continue reading...)

Birthday Wishes

Noah Pollak
29 November 09

Shulamit Aloni, a former head of Israel’s Meretz Party, gave an interview to Yedioth on her 81st birthday. “It’s hard for me to say a kind word about the state today,” she said.

“No one should be speaking this nonsense about ‘blood on the hands.’ Since 2000, with the launching of the second intifada, we have murdered thousands. We too have blood on our hands,” she remarked.

“We need to release those demanded (by Hamas) immediately,” she went on. …

“We are a nefarious people. What we are doing in the West Bank is worse than all the pogroms done to the Jews.” But she qualified her statement by saying she was “not referring to the Nazis, but the Cossacks.”

Conventional leftist self-hatred, as these things go. But this comment on Israeli politics was interesting:

“The Right has two left hands, but the Left doesn’t even exist today,” she said.

Here’s some free political advice: That’s because most Israelis don’t loathe their country, and they know the Aloni-Meretz faction does.


Global Peace Index: The Profection of Distorted Research

Farid Ghadry
Reform Party of Syria (RPS)
29 November 09

"We, Syrians, if not for the poverty and the oppression, would sleep far better than any Israeli could ever do, who is harassed and terrorized by violent Middle East dictators, UN dormant officials, and western policy makers with deeply rooted dislike for success."

Washington DC - November 29, 2009 (Farid Ghadry Blog) -- Vision for Humanity has just published its Global Peace Index for 2009 in which it highlights the various GPI rankings it follows for 144 countries.

On its own website, VFH states: "Peace is the prerequisite for the survival of society as we know it in the 21st century. It lies at the centre of being able to manage humanity’s many and varied challenges, simply because peace creates the optimum environment in which the other activities that contribute to human growth can take place." It also makes this interesting claim: "But the structure, causes and value of peace need to be better understood."

After reading their index, it is obvious that the structure, causes, and value of peace is misunderstood by VFH.

For example, GPI ranks Syria as the 92nd country out of 144 and Iraq as the 144th country. Iraq is at the bottom of the heap. In its first line item analysis, GPI claims that Syria has fought ONLY ONE conflict between 2002-2007 in which 25 people or more died.

We do not know whether they mean the number of deaths by the Syrian proxy called Hezbollah who sparked a war in 2006 or Hamas, another Syrian proxy, who sparked yet another war in 2008. Or maybe the Syrian regime itself, which started acts of terror against Iraq in 2003 -- killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis -- and continue to this day unabated. Or maybe the mysterious hundreds of killings in Lebanon at the hands of the Syrian regime itself.

There are four conflicts we know of, yet GPI lists only ONE. Most of the other line items were similarly distortive.

Syria, under the Assad regime, is very much involved in Iraq's destruction and Iraq, under a democratically elected government, is at the receiving end of terrorists crossing from Syria and the terror masters in Iran. For an institution feeding off the respected Economist Intelligence, the ranking is upside down.

Syria, with Assad ruling, should be at the bottom because it is destabilizing the whole Levant region and beyond. Any good researcher would be able to see the pattern followed by the ruling Alawite minority in Damascus as a tactic for surviving to govern brutally 22 million hapless Syrians.

(Continue reading...)

A minor correction

Leftist coalition operating anti-Israel boycott website gets it wrong

Hagai Segal
29 November 09

The leftist boycott industry against Israel is becoming increasingly sophisticated with the passage of time. For example, the Coalition of Women for Peace operates an English-language website that presents a comprehensive list of plants that are related to the settlements in one way or another.

All the plants on the web site are presented as ones that benefit at the expense of an occupied nation. The site is called "Who Profits?"

However, the Coalition of Women for Peace does not make do with just providing the names of plants, the kind of goods they produce, and their exact address. The website also provides the names of the owners, perhaps so that one of these days it would be possible to bring them to trial at the International Court of Justice at The Hague on charges of committing crimes by benefiting from the occupation.

Among other names, until this weekend at least the website noted that a woman called Noa Alon is one of the owners of a Jewish food-processing plant in the West Bank.

Well, for the benefit of the highly moral European followers of the website, I will note that Noa Alon has not been the owner of that plant for a long time now. A Palestinian terrorist murdered her as well as her young granddaughter, Gal Eisenman, in a suicide attack at Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood about seven years ago.

Both grandmother and granddaughter have been laid to rest in the small cemetery in the West Bank community of Ofra, not too far from the industrial zone where the plant was located before it was relocated to the kosher side of the Green Line.

I wonder whether their very burial there also constitutes a type of benefit of the occupation.

The Militarization of Sex

The story of Hezbollah's halal hookups.

Hanin Ghadar
Foreign Policy
25 November 09

Hanin Ghadar is Managing Editor and Writer - NOW Lebanon

Mohammad, a 40-year old Lebanese Shiite who lives in Hezbollah's stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs, was holding forth on the virtues of resistance, loyalty, and sex. "You could create the most loyal army by providing political power, social services and fulfilling the desires of your men -- namely, sexual ones," he declared.

"And Hezbollah has been very successful in this regard," Mohammad continued. It is hard to disagree. Hezbollah liberated South Lebanon from Israeli occupation, expanded the Shiite community's political power within the country, and has provided social services, such as health care and education, to its constituency since the 1980s. Today, it is also working to fulfill the sexual needs of its supporters, though a practice known as mutaa marriage.

Mutaa is a form of "temporary marriage" only acceptable within Shiite communities, one that allows couples to have religiously sanctioned sex for a limited period of time, without any commitments, and without the obligatory involvement of religious figures. In conservative Muslim societies known for their strict sense of propriety, mutaa offers an escape clause. The contract is very simple. The woman says: "I marry myself to you for [a specific period of time] and for [a specified dowry]" and the man says: "I accept." The period can range between one hour and a year, and is subject to renewal. A Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man, but a Muslim man can temporarily marry a Muslim, Christian, or Jewish woman, as long as she is a divorcée or a widow. However, those interviewed for this article confirmed that Hezbollah-the "Party of God"-has allowed the practice to spread to virgins or girls who have never married before, as long as the permission of her guardian (father or paternal grandfather) is obtained.

Temporary marriage has long been practiced by Shiites around the world. However, it has recently become more commonplace in Lebanon, notably within Hezbollah strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs and in southern Lebanon after the 2006 war with Israel,

Hezbollah's recent encouragement of this phenomenon highlights the compromises it had been required to make in order to remain the preeminent force among its domestic Shiite constituency. As the party gained strength due to its effectiveness in fighting Israel, it was forced to cope with the reality that many Lebanese Shiites did not share the Iranian-inspired religious beliefs of Hezbollah's leaders. They came to dominate a community that was shaped by the secular leftist trends of the 1970s and 1980s, and the cosmopolitan culture embodied by Beirut. Today, Lebanese Shiites are exposed to pop icons such as sexpot singer Haifa Wehbe, countless Western advertisements and programs, and technological innovations such as online dating. Allowing these Shia to balance their sexual desires with their support for the "Resistance" against the "Zionist entity" is a vital ingredient to Hezbollah's staying power.

(Continue reading...)

How to end terrorist kidnappings
28 November 09

News item:

Voice of Palestine radio quoted Egyptian sources on Saturday as saying that in an unusual move, security around the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been beefed up, speculating that the added security could signal the imminent transfer of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit from Gaza into Egypt…

The sources also said that when Shalit is transferred from Gaza into Egypt he will be examined by Red Cross medical teams as well as Israeli and French teams, in addition to the German mediator. Israel will simultaneously free 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, the sources said…

Senior Hamas officials said Thursday that the talks had hit a snag over some of the Palestinian prisoners the Islamic group wants freed, including Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Sa’adat…

Hamas is demanding, among other the prisoners, the release of Ibrahim Hamad, head of the group’s military wing in the Ramallah area, Abdallah Barghouti, a bomb engineer, and Abbas a-Sayad, the Hamas head in Tul Karm who planned the 2002 massacre during Passover in Netanya’s Park Hotel. These three prisoners are considered responsible for the murder of hundreds of Israelis.

Other names mentioned in the Arab media are Hassan Salame, who was involved in planning the suicide bus bombings in the mid ’90s, and Jamal Abu al-Hijla, head of Hamas in Jenin, who was convicted of taking part in planning and funding several suicide attacks during the second intifada.

Unfortunately, Israel has close to zero leverage. Hamas has held Shalit for three years and can keep him for as long as it likes. The Netanyahu government is under tremendous pressure from the media and others to get Shalit out no matter how much it costs. Although I’m sure the families of the terrorists would like them released, Hamas can afford to be far less responsive to its public than Israel! And of course the conditions under which Palestinian prisoners are held in Israel are far better than those faced by Shalit.

(Continue reading...)


The “Coup” in Iran and What it Means

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
28 November 09

For a couple of years it has been visible; for months the opposition has been talking about it. What’s happening is the gradual takeover of a huge amount of power by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Iranian government has generally been radical since the revolution, 30 years ago. But now the most extremist faction of all has taken over, pushing out its rivals.

Of course, Spiritual Guide Ali Khamenei is the most powerful man in Iran. But obviously he has no problem with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being president and the IRGC becoming the power behind the throne.

This is important because the IRGC is the most fanatical and risk-taking part of the regime. It is very much committed to expanding the revolution and maintains the regime’s links with foreign revolutionary and terrorist groups.

Oh, and it will also be the institution that will have actual possession of Iran’s long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

Not only are these people nobody can make a deal with, but they are also the ones most likely to make a war some day.

The BBC reports that the IRGC now controls one-third of Iran’s economy, either openly or through front groups. This is probably too high. But more than one-third is controlled either by the IRGC or foundations under the control of regime hardliners so the basic idea isn’t far off. Moreover, Ahmadinejad has been appointing former IRGC commanders to a lot of top jobs, including cabinet ministries and provincial governorships.

Now the group has won a $2.5 billion contract to build a big railroad project. And the IRGC is taking control of intelligence, running key prisons, and taking custody of political prisoners.

This is one reason why foreign observers can underestimate the regime's stability. With the IRGC playing such a central role, so well-armed, united, and ready to fight, any serious threat of a revolution or internal collapse would be blocked, no matter how much bloodshed it takes. The opposition and those critical of the regime are also aware of that fact.

(Read full article)

UN Palestine Day (1978)

UN Palestine Day (1978) Dry Bones cartoon - .

Today's Golden Oldie is from November, 1978. Yup, I did this cartoon thirty years ago this month!!

One year earlier the General Assembly of the United Nations (in Resolutions 32/40B of December 2nd, 1977) had proclaimed an annual “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” to be held the following November.

November was chosen because it was in November 1947 that the General Assembly of the United Nations passed the famous resolution 181, known as the Partition Plan, which recommended the partition of Palestine into “Arab” and “Jewish” states.

When I did this cartoon in 1978 it was thirty years after the first anniversary of the Arab rejection of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

As of November 2008 another thirty years have slipped by with continued regional rejection of the Jewish state as the only "glue" that holds our Arab neighbors together.

Your thoughts?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bibi's bad week

Caroline Glick
27 November 09

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu weakened Israel this week. And he did so for no good reason.

Thursday's headlines told the tale. The day after Netanyahu bowed to US pressure and announced a total freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria for ten months, Yediot Aharonot reported that the Obama administration now wants Israel to release a thousand Fatah terrorists from prison.

The Americans also want Israel to allow US-trained, terror-supporting Fatah paramilitary forces to deploy in areas that are currently under Israeli military control. Moreover, the Americans are demanding that Israel surrender land in the strategically crucial Jordan Valley to Fatah.

And these are just American preconditions for starting negotiations with the Palestinians. According to Yediot, if those talks ever begin, the White House will demand that Israel accept a Palestinian state in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza and agree to ethnically cleanse all the areas of Jews.

So far from winning American support or at least causing the White House to ease its bullying, US President Barack Obama sees Netanyahu's decision to implement a militarily irrational, bigoted policy of prohibiting Jews from building in Israel's heartland as a drop in the bucket.

THE TRUTH is that Israel should not be in the business of negotiating the right of Israeli cities and villages to exist and prosper. The notion that it is acceptable to demand that Jews not be permitted to live in Judea and Samaria - or anywhere else in the world - is not a notion that Israel should countenance.

That being said, putting the so-called "settlements" genie back in the bottle is a tall order. After all, Israel agreed to place it on the table in the 1993 Oslo agreements and made its willingness to dry out Jewish communities explicit with its acceptance of the so-called road map in 2004. To take Israeli communities off the agenda it would be necessary to repudiate these deals.

Given what it will take to remove Jewish communities from the negotiations chopping block, it makes sense that Netanyahu has not moved in that direction since taking office. But willingness to discuss these communities is not the same as giving them away for nothing. In discussing the dispositions of these towns and villages, at a minimum Netanyahu should have taken advantage of the fact that the Americans, the Europeans and the Arabs all consider the so-called "settlements" to be the most important obstacle to peace.

(Continue to full article)

Dershowitz, for the Opposition

Noah Pollak
28 November 09

A week and a half ago, Alan Dershowitz took the stage in a packed auditorium at Fordham Law School in Manhattan. He was supposed to debate Richard Goldstone, the author of the Goldstone Report. But the august international jurist refused, telling the organizers that Dershowitz had “demeaned” him. So Dershowitz stood a copy of the Goldstone Report on the table in the author’s place. And then he demolished the report and eviscerated its author with remarkable clarity, passion, and brilliance. A truly memorable performance.

And finally, the video is up. It’s listed as 93 minutes long, but a great deal of that is Q&A at the end. The presentation itself takes only 45 minutes.

This video plus much more can be found at

The Trouble with Soft Diplomacy: Endless Resolutions on Iran, No Resolution of the Issues

Barry Rubin
The Rubin Report
27 November 09

In its own view, the Obama Administration has won a considerable foreign policy victory in the International Atomic Energy Agency vote to condemn Iran’s nuclear program. Winning such triumphs is the whole goal of a patient policy by the Obama Administration to cultivate wide support for criticizing Iran. The problem is that this is not the same thing as doing something about Iran.

The key development is that only three countries—Cuba, Venezuela, and Malaysia—supported Iran. China and Russia backed the U.S. position. It is being implied that this signals the possibility that they might support material sanctions against Tehran.

But that’s not true and thinking otherwise shows a real structural failure in how even supposed experts nowadays think about international affair. Voting for a resolution is a substitute for taking action, a fact that might prove to be the bane of the Obama Administration.

In addition, while the resolution is being touted as tough, it I based on an incontrovertible set of simple facts. Iran was criticized for two things: continuing to defy the previous UN resolutions by enriching uranium and building a secret nuclear facility.

It’s like passing a resolution to criticize, rather than arrest, someone you just saw pump a half-dozen bullets into a murder victim and then being pleased that it was nearly unanimous.

(Read full article)