Saturday, October 16, 2010

An Islamic Republic in Lebanon

Benjamin Weinthal

Is there a Churchillian lesson to be found in Ahmadinejad’s visit this week to wildly enthusiastic Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon?

If one thing has become clear, it’s that Ahmadinejad’s radical-Islamic curtain has descended over Lebanon. Practically all of Lebanon’s political parties euphorically welcomed Ahmadinejad at the presidential palace. Um Ali, a Lebanese woman who is, like Ahmadinejad, a Shiite, said, “God willing, we will have an Islamic Republic in Lebanon.” Israel’s foreign-ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, deemed Ahmadinejad’s trip the equivalent of a “landlord coming to inspect his domain.” The Obama administration is, for the most part, sitting on the sidelines as Iran continues its domination of Lebanon’s government and broad swaths of the population. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reacted as if she were observing a labor-management dispute instead of tackling jingoistic, revolutionary Iranian Islam. Clinton said, “We would hope that no visitor would do anything or say anything that would give cause to greater tension or instability in that country.” But Ahmadinejad’s presence — and the role of his wholly owned subsidiary, the terrorist entity Hezbollah, which is a controlling part of the Lebanese government — is about Iran’s domination of the Mideast region.

The Obama administration has always prioritized Israeli-Palestinian peace talks over keeping Iran from spreading its military tentacles throughout the Mideast, even in the face of Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weaponry. Plainly, President Obama’s Mideast policy is limping on both legs.

In March, Clinton and Obama got more rankled over Israel’s building an apartment complex in an East Jerusalem neighborhood than over Hezbollah and Ahmadinejad’s laying the foundation for a new war against Israel. On Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered his curtain raiser for Iran’s ruler in a video speech to a mass demonstration in Beirut, urging that Israel be “wiped out of existence.” In South Lebanon, a mere two miles from Israel’s border, Ahmadinejad stated on Thursday that the “Zionists will disappear” and “occupied Palestine will be liberated.” These statements did not raise a word of outrage from the U.N. or Europe.

Last week, writing in the New York Post, Claudia Rosett aptly described the power politics of Lebanon and the U.N./U.S. failure to stop Iran’s proxy war against Israel. She wrote, “Too often, the United Nations serves as a fig leaf for politicians, including American ones, while obfuscating or even perpetuating conflicts. In Lebanon, for instance, the U.N. has had peacekeepers in place since 1978. Under their noses the Iranian-backed terrorists of Hezbollah stockpiled weapons for the 2006 summer war with Israel. Under the gaze of a now-expanded U.N. peacekeeping force, Hezbollah is reportedly rearming, with deadlier weapons.”

What can the West do to raise Iran’s radical-Islamic curtain in Lebanon and the Mideast? What would Winston Churchill suggest? The U.S. Congress should pull the plug on the $100 million in military assistance planned for Lebanon’s army, which is de facto controlled by Hezbollah. The U.S. State Department should immediately sanction Russian, Chinese, and European gas and energy companies that conduct business with Iran. Sanctions are taking an enormous toll on Iran’s fragile economy, and the last, best chance to prevent military strikes against Iran’s regime is to strangle its vulnerable energy and financial sectors.

Friday, October 15, 2010

East Jerusalem building a go?

As Iranian leader's visit to Lebanon ends, PM Netanyahu says Israel will remain wary of ties between Beirut, Theran; will 'know how to defend itself against such developments'

Attila Somfalvi
Israel News

As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon draws to an end, Israel remain wary of the latter's strengthening ties with Tehran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that,"Unfortunately, Lebanon is rapidly turning into a satellite of the ayatollahs' regime. This is tragic for Lebanon, but Israel will know how to defend itself against such developments." Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon included several public speeches, in which he vehemently attacked Israel, saying that "Zionists are the enemies of humanity," and promising that the "Zionist regime will not last long."

"the world should know that eventually the Zionists will be forced to go and will not last long. They are enemies of humanity and will have no choice but to surrender. Palestine will be liberated through the force of faith," Ahmadinejad said, speaking before masses gathered in the southern Lebanese city of Bint Jbeil Thursday afternoon.

"We've heard cursing and abomination from the Lebanon border today," Netanyahu said. "The best answer to these blasphemies was given here 62 years ago. We shall continue building and creating our country and will be prepared to defend it," he added.

Meanwhile, A Hamas official in Gaza, Dr. Khalil Abu Layla told Iranian news agency Fars that the Hamas government hoped Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Gaza, just as he visited Lebanon.

"We hope Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad visits Gaza, but we must remain logical because such a step would involve a series of dangers," he said.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"It Doesn't Stop"

Arlene Kushner

Sorry. Before I touch other bases, as I indicated yesterday I would, I must follow up just a bit more on the "offer" made yesterday by PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo. To whit, that if the US and Israel would provide a map of Israel showing the pre '67 lines as the borders of Israel, then the Palestinian Arabs might recognize Israel as a Jewish state. It seems the State Department jumped on this with delight, with spokesman PJ Crowley declaring at a press conference last night that "this is exactly the right conversation that the Israelis and Palestinians need to have to be exchanging ideas on how to advance this process to a successful conclusion."

But he was just a tad premature. For Khaled Abu Toameh, writing with Herb Keinon, reports in the JPost today that Rabbo "has come under attack for expressing his willingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state....A number of Palestinian factions, including the ruling Fatah movement, condemned Rabbo and called for his dismissal."


I didn't consider Rabbo's suggestion serious from the get-go, for it's clear that we are not about to present a map defining the Green Line as our border in exchange for getting the PLO to acknowledge that we are a Jewish state. And Rabbo darn well knows this.

Actually, Rabbo was countering something that Crowley had said earlier: that the Palestinian Arabs should respond to Netanyahu's suggestion that he would consider another short freeze if Israel were recognized as a Jewish state. We wouldn't do that for a freeze, he was saying, but maybe if you acknowledged the '49 lines as your true border, we might. Flippant, really.

But a desperate US doesn't let go, grasping for ways to keep the "process" alive. This is even as Crowley acknowledges the core of the problem. When asked at the press conference if a map as suggested by Rabbo could be presented, he answered, "what they’re asking for is the essence of the negotiation – what are the borders of a future Palestinian state, and conversely, what will be the borders of the Israeli state."

Well...good morning! The Palestinian Arabs do not want honest negotiations, they want everything promised to them before they sit down at the table. That's why a freeze was so wrong-headed as well, for it presumed to provide an implicit acknowledgement, up front, that the land on which our communities sit is going to be part of a Palestinian state.

It's all a bit tiresome. Because the Obama administration continues to play the game as if it's real.

Rabbo, you should know, has -- unsurprisingly -- since denied he ever offered to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.


For the record, UN Security Council resolution 242, of 1967, says that borders must be determined by negotiations, and that Israel is not required to withdraw at all within Judea and Samaria until that issue is resolved.


Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, speaking to Army Radio on Tuesday, said, "I don't know a single minister in the Septet [the seven-person inner Cabinet] who thinks it's possible to reach a deal [with the PA] in the foreseeable future."

The realism of these words is heartening. Dare we hope this means they would balk at further "gestures for peace"?


Charles Levinson, writing in the Wall Street Journal, reports that as prospects of a peace deal dim, opposition to PA President Mahmoud Abbas is mounting within his own party, Fatah. There is increased pressure for bringing in a new generation of leaders. The emerging faction is not supportive of peace negotiations with Netanyahu. Favored to replace Abbas, according to Levinson, is Nasse al-Qudwa, 51, a nephew of Yasser Arafat (which fact perhaps tells us all we need to know).


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is currently visiting in Lebanon, to our north. It is an official visit; he was reportedly invited by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. The fact that it is not merely an informal connection between Hezbollah, supported by Iran, and the president of Iran make this all the more unsettling.

Mark Regev, Netanyahu's spokesman, commented, "Iran's domination of Lebanon, through its proxy Hezbollah, has prevented Lebanon from being a partner in peace and turned Lebanon into an Iranian satellite and a hub of regional terrorism and instability."

Once a renegade terrorist group, Hezbollah now sits within the government -- first participating in elections in 2005. After gaining 57 of 128 seats in the legislature as of the 2009 elections, and essentially establishing veto power, Hezbollah was asked by Prime Minister Saad Hariri to join a unity government. While Sunnis in Lebanon continue to voice opposition to Iranian influence in Lebanon, Hezbollah represents a powerful Shiite Lebanese faction in alliance with Iran. The Shiites were out in force, too, cheering on Ahmadinejad.

It should be noted that President Suleiman is himself a Christian Maronite.


Analyst Jonathan Spyer, who says Ahmadinejad has come to deliver a message, quotes Fares Soueid of the Lebanese March 14 alliance: “The message is that Iran is at the border with Israel... Ahmadinejad, through this visit, is saying that Beirut is under Iranian influence and that Lebanon is an Iranian base on the Mediterranean... The Iranian president is here to say that Lebanon is a land of resistance and to reaffirm his project of a continuous war with Israel.”

Spyer notes that this is not news for Israel, which has been on alert in the north. But I will say this is unsettling in its bold implications. Ahmadinejad, speaking in Beirut yesterday, called Lebanon a "university for jihad." Today he is due to speak at Bint Jbail, which is just a few kilometers from Israel. Originally he had been scheduled to come down to our border and throw a stone at Israel, but that statesmanlike act was scratched from the schedule.


Some analysts see Ahmadinejad's presence as a bid to either have Hezbollah completely take over Lebanon and/or start another civil war there.

What we cannot forget, however, is the likely desire to also influence what happens to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is charged with investigating the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Reportedly, indictments by the Tribunal, which include charges against Hezbollah operatives, are close. The intent would be to get the present government to dissociate itself from this judicial process.


In August, after an unprovoked ambush attack by the Lebanese army on an IDF unit, resulting in the death of one Israeli officer, US Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY) -- who chairs the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee -- and Howard Berman (D-CA) -- Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee -- moved to hold up the release of $100 million in funds that had been approved for Lebanon. Now with the Ahmadinejad visit, they are more adamant than ever regarding the inadvisability of releasing those funds.


The term Pallywood was coined a few years ago by Richard Landes, Boston University professor and Israel advocate. It refers to alleged filmed news reports of violence by Israel against Palestinian Arabs that is actually staged.

See can see an example of it here: (The voice over is that of Landes.) The Al-Dura case represents the most blatant instance of this.


But now we have a new case of Pallywood, involving a Jew -- David Be'eri --- in a car, in the area of Silwan in Jerusalem, surrounded by rock-throwing kids, one of whom was hit by the car and lightly injured as he sought escape.

Lenny Ben David has a good overview on his blog -- complete with pictures, and video of a second attack on a woman and her daughter at the same site almost immediately after the first. He offers important analysis of what happened during this staged attack-- such as the observation that there were multiple photographers present and waiting.

Lenny says it, but let me repeat it: rocks can kill. It is not innocuous pebbles that are being aimed at the windshield of the car in question. (I believe you can see one of those rocks on the front seat of the car of the woman who was attacked.)

(If the above doesn't open, go to the website -- -- and scroll down.)

Caroline Glick provides a perspective with more background on the incident:


On Monday, the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child held an emergency session precipitated by this incident. There was concern about the child who was hit, but also a broader concern about children involved in destructive and aggressive behavior. Since July, there have been 450 (this is not a typo) cases of rock-throwing in Silwan.

Border police and policeman in the area regularly contend with attacks by rock-throwers.

There is concern, in particular, about rock-throwing incidents on the road to Mount of Olives cemetery, where Jews go to visit graves. Meir Indor, head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, testified that twice he has been at the funerals of terror victims at the cemetery, only to find that people were stoned as they left. On both occasions it happened when the funerals ended at the same time that school in the area let out. "It's like rock-throwing is part of their school program."

On Tuesday, a large rock thrown by Arabs hit the front windshield of a minivan carrying a delegation of Knesset members who had toured Silwan.


You undoubtedly remember the horrendous terror attack near Hevron that killed four innocent people (one of whom, Talia Eames, was nine-months pregnant). Talia and her husband Isaac left behind six orphans.

People here in Israel please note: A musical program, "The Renaissance Show, "will take place in Hevron to benefit these orphans:

The program will be held at 8:30 PM on Tuesday October 19th, in Hevron, at the Gutnick visitor center next to the Machpela, in the "Field of the Patriarchs ."

For additional information, contact Hava Shmulevich: 054-572-2904,


A new American Jewish Committee survey shows that the approval rate for Obama among American Jews is dropping.

Currently, 51% of Jews approve of the job Obama is doing, compared to 44% who disapprove. The last time the AJC did a survey, in March (six months ago), 57% approved, and back in May of 2009, there was a 79% approval rating.

As to the way Obama is handling US-Israel relations, only 49% approve, with 45% disapproving. Six months ago, 55% approved his handling of US-Israel relations.

A full 95%, believes that the Palestinian Arabs should recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

see my website

PA wants ancient Jewish cemetery at Mount of Olives….Barak is willing


This is not an issue that Israel can compromise on.

The fact is that it is dangerous, even today, for Jews to visit the graves of their loved ones and ancestors on the Mount of Olives.

And that mountain is considered “occupied.”

While many people discuss the issue of the Old City of Jerusalem in any final status discussions, there is very little written about the Mount of Olives. Yet that ancient burial ground has no sanctity nor history for Arabs or Muslims (although it has meaning for Christians.) There should be no question that this holy spot should remain under Jewish control. And yet, last month, Ehud Barak hinted that the Mount of Olives can be placed under a “special regime” – meaning, at least partial Arab sovereignty.

The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem: Why Continued Israeli Control Is Vital

Nadav Shragai

* The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, that the Palestinians demand to transfer to their control, is the most...

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Netanyahu’s Declaration of Independence

By Ted Belman

According to Dr Yitzhak Klein, Style and substance in Netanyahu’s governance, when PM Netanyahu demanded recognition in exchange for a temporary and partial freeze, it was his Declaration of Independence. In doing so he threw down the gaunlet to the Whitehouse, The Arab League, Labor and Mahmoud Abbas.

1. White House

Netanyahu chose his political ground carefully. Nothing is likely to generate sympathy for Israel’s position on Capitol Hill and within the American Jewish community as insistence that the Palestinians simply acknowledge that Israel is the Jewish state. Their refusal to do so will seem incomprehensible to most Americans.

2. The Arab League. Netanyahu’s statement was a challenge to let the Palestinian issue slide, and no longer allow it to interfere with the quiet alliance between Israel and moderate Arab states now shaping up over Iran. This, of course, undermines what is supposed to be one of the Obama administration’s rationales...

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Love without borders

David Suissa

What is it about Evangelical Christians and their support for Israel that really gets to me? I understand what makes some Jews - especially liberal Jews - nervous about this group: their conservative values (on issues such as abortion and separation of church and state); an uncompromising stance on the Middle East peace process; the theological slant to their support for Israel; and a propensity among some of them to proselytize to Jews. Still, I couldn't help but be moved last Saturday night as I listened to Pat Boone talk about his deep and emotional connection to Israel. Boone was speaking at the home of Howard and Elayne Levkowitz with Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and guest scholar-in-residence at Young Israel of Century City.

At his talk earlier that morning in synagogue, Eckstein was passionate but walking on eggshells. This is a highly "unorthodox" Orthodox rabbi who for the past 35 years has spent most of his time with Evangelical Christians, drumming up support for Israel and raising tens of millions of dollars for the Zionist cause. He might be a graduate of Yeshiva University who can easily quote Soloveitchik, but he's equally at ease quoting Paul and the Gospels. (He was so sensitive to his surroundings that he said "J" instead of Jesus.)

Eckstein's message was twofold: One, Israel supporters must value the support of millions of Evangelical "ambassadors" for Israel throughout the world; and two, Jews need to strengthen their faith in God. We must remember, Eckstein said, that our first covenant with God was through Abraham, and it was based on faith. To strengthen our identity as Jews, we must incorporate this covenant with the subsequent covenant at Sinai, thereby enriching and deepening our Torah observance and connection with Israel.

Faith certainly permeated the discussion Saturday night between Boone and Eckstein. In front of a packed house, Eckstein talked about his epiphany almost 40 years ago, when he roomed with an 86-year-old black Baptist pastor on an organized trip to Israel. As a newly ordained 26-year-old rabbi from New York, Eckstein couldn't understand the pastor's passion for the Holy Land. That is, until the pastor told him: "Moses got to see the Promised Land; I get to walk on it."

Boone talked about one of his first encounters with rabbis, one of whom was highly skeptical and said to him: "If you really love us, then just leave us alone," to which Boone replied: "But I can't - you're God's people."

This is how the evening went: love for Israel on top of love for Israel and love for Jews on top of love for Jews. There was something almost non-Jewish about it. Jews don't talk a lot about love. It's not something that turns us on. We're more into debate, argument, challenge and outrage.

Christians love to love. We love to kvetch.

It's this unconditional love for Israel that unsettles me. Why do we find so little expression of it among Jews? Is it because we confuse love with support for policy? That is, if we disagree with Israel's policies, do we find it difficult - even impossible - to express unconditional love for Israel? And how many Israel supporters who disagree with Israel's policies can honestly say that their love for Israel is, in fact, unconditional?

Can you imagine, for example, a group that calls itself pro-Israel, like J Street, ever doing a "Love for Israel" event where they just celebrate Israel? Can you even imagine them leading their followers in "Hatikvah" at the beginning of their next convention?

A lot of this made more sense to me when I reflected on a conversation I had last week with my friend Gary Judis and some of his Zionist friends. The subject was the worldwide movement to delegitimize the State of Israel, and the consensus among this group of businessmen was the following: Enemies of Israel are not looking for a debate. Their aim is not to engage but to undermine. Their opposition is not open to reason.

In short, their hatred is unconditional.

So, as I left the discussion last Saturday night, I started to put two and two together. Why am I so moved by the Evangelicals' unconditional love toward Israel? Well, maybe simply because it is unconditional.

How better to fight unconditional hatred than with unconditional love? What better weapon against the forces working to delegitimize Israel than a force that unequivocally loves Israel? Of course, we should never stop doing what we do best: argue, debate, challenge and rebuke.

But we can't love the process more than we love Israel itself. For Israel supporters, unconditional love is the emotion that ought to trump all others; the emotion that fuels and gives meaning to our actions. I can challenge my child and rebuke him, but I can never forget to show him unconditional love.

Our debates over Israel have become coarse and divisive. One reason is that in our zeal to express tough love, we have forgotten about pure love.

We don't have to agree with the theology or politics of an Evangelical like Pat Boone, but by expressing his unconditional love for Israel last Saturday night, he gave a group of Jews his version of tough love.

David Suissa is the founder of OLAM magazine, and a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. He can be reached at .

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Where Are We Now?"

Arlene Kushner

With regard to the possibility of face-to-face talks, it's all been a bit nonsensical. Because even if there were talks held, there would be no meeting of the minds. But at this point the situation has generated to something akin to ludicrous.

I wrote two days ago about the fact that Netanyahu offered to consider a limited extension of the freeze if the PA would recognize Israel as a Jewish state. That was rejected out of hand, of course -- something I believe Netanyahu anticipated would happen. He was out to expose the Palestinian Arab position and intransigence. But, following this, Nabil Sha'ath made another demand on behalf of the PA: No temporary freezes any more, he said. "What is needed is a full cessation of settlement activities. How can settlement continue on the lands that were supposed to be traded for peace?" And, this freeze should include Jerusalem. There will be no coming to the table unless Israel agrees on these points.

That's when it became perfectly clear that the PA was opting out.


Today's JPost carried a front page story -- written by three journalists, including Khaled Abu Toameh -- that cited a Fatah official who said the peace process based on a two state solution was over. Mahmoud Aloul, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said that, "The Palestinian Authority made every effort to avoid reaching this conclusion, but the Israeli racist policies led to the failure of the peace process."

Opting out, indeed. And missing no opportunity to sling mud at the same time. They, who have made it clear they wouldn't want a single Jew in their state, call us "racist."


Now it has come down to the point of mockery. Said PA senior official Yasser Abed Rabbo today, the PA might ("in accordance with international law," whatever that means) consider recognizing Israel as the Jewish state, if Israel withdraws to the pre '67 lines, which he, erroneously, calls borders: "We officially demand that the U.S. administration and the Israeli government provide a map of the borders of the state of Israel which they want us to recognize...If this map is based on the 1967 borders and provides for the end of the Israeli occupation over all Palestinian lands..."

He is not serious. Mark Regev, Netanyahu's spokesman, referred to this as the “Palestinian Authority running away from the issue [of establishing borders through negotiations]."


The US is playing a nonsensical game of looking for a way out of this impasse. (It reminds me of: "Children, now, now. Let's work this out. Be nice.") But it's not a serious-minded impasse with both sides really wanting to sit down, yet stuck on some point that makes it difficult. From the beginning Abbas wanted no part of this business and made that clear by putting up roadblocks. (I will not address here what Netanyahu truly did or did not want, no matter what he said.)

I would say -- although I must qualify this, as one can never be sure of anything in this part of the world -- that the notion of Israel negotiating with the PA is likely finished for now.

I feel relief, if this is so. Because I have feared what we might have been squeezed into conceding at that table. It would be a dangerous business with statements made even tentatively coming back to haunt us.


But there is no way to say that we're home free. As if we are ever "home free."

In fact, I want to look at what seems to me the reason why Abbas and company stiffened their demands in just the last couple of days, making it clear that they weren't interested in considering compromises to make it possible for them to come to the table.

I wrote in my last posting about the two visiting foreign ministers from France and Spain, Kouchner and Moratinos, respectively. And how they were interested in "helping" in the "peace process." If you remember, Kouchner gave an interview to a PA paper, in which he said the "Security Council option" could not be ruled out.

Well, a third dignitary also showed up here yesterday: Finland's president, Tarja Halonen.

I know that Abbas met this week with Kouchner and Moratinos in Amman, and I believe Halonen was part of that meeting. Her itinerary included stops in both Jordan and PA territory. But if she wasn't at that meeting, then Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb certainly was.

In fact,The Jordan Times, in discussing this meeting between Europeans and PA officials reports that the representatives of the PA said they have six options as to how to proceed (six?), "including unilateral declaration of an independent Palestinian state without an agreement with Israel..." Of the six, only this was specified.

And what do you think these European trouble mak... excuse me, I mean diplomats said to Abbas? It is not likely that they encouraged him to lower his demands regarding the freeze and sit at the table and hammer things out. What is most likely the case is that they stiffened his back, either jointly or one at a time, giving him a sense of increased strength about the possibility of going it alone, via a unilateral declaration. I believe he has been encouraged, even if only subtly, in his plans. I believe he has heard how eager Europe is to see the formation of a Palestinian state, without delay.


So, unless Obama pulls a rabbit out of a hat, and speedily, we'll soon be able to stop thinking about the freeze and all the rest. And breathe a sigh of relief on that score.

Nor need I offer any pretense with regard to my pleasure that what Obama tried to push artificially, for political purposes of his own, but with great disregard for our rights and security needs, will likely fail. If even the prospect of direct talks disappears before the elections (something he has been trying mightily to forestall), he will be greatly chagrinned.

Of course, he has only himself to blame. For excessively raising hopes, for setting unreasonable time tables, and for himself originally demanding that we freeze construction, making it difficult for Abbas to do less.

What I ponder -- although it's unlikely we'll ever know -- is what Obama thinks of European statements and behavior now. And how angry he is at Abbas, though he'll be loathe to admit any anger at all.


But then, after we find we can breathe that sigh of relief, it will be time for the best diplomats and lawyers and international strategists that our nation has to apply themselves to what is likely to be coming down the road within the next ten months or so. It is roughly in August of 2011 that PA Prime Minister Fayyad has said he would be ready to unilaterally declare a state. Petitioning of the Security Council, if that is the way he would opt to go, would proceed next. Or, alternately, seeking the backing of Europe and possibly the US.

This will be a time when American supporters of Israel will need to act to maximum effectiveness.


Focus of my recent posts has been almost exclusively on this issue. I will end here, and hope tomorrow to look at a number of other significant matters.

see my website

Badi’s Very Bad Choice: The Key to Understanding the Contemporary Middle East

Barry Rubin

When the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood--the main opposition group in Jordan and Egypt, and the most powerful Muslim group in Europe ,calls for Jihad against the West, people better sit up and take notice.

A number of colleagues and writers are astonished that my story, Muslim Brotherhood Declares War on America; Will America Notice? hasn't been echoed in the mass media or elsewhere. Those in Egypt know about this dramatic development by the world's biggest Islamist group. As for the United States, my question has been answered: No, it didn't notice. Now the Egyptian Brotherhood'ss new leader has made still another extremist sermon urging Muslims to launch Jihad, following the example of Islam's founder, Muhammad, and in terms almost identical with Usama bin Ladin's rhetoric. Clearly, this is a new policy that's going to have huge consequences for Egypt, the region, and U.S. interests.

But there’s one particular sentence spoken by Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi that holds the key to understanding what’s going on now in the Middle East.

Here’s the sentence:

"The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life."

If you are looking at a root political cause for revolutionary Islamism here it is. (In religious terms, of course, it can be traced to basic Muslim texts. The combination of these two ingredients is what makes revolutionary Islamism so volatile and widely popular.)

But do take the time to go through this sentence’s meaning with me and I believe you will find it worthwhile. The central question for the Middle East for many decades has been this:

Why is it—especially since we are a superior people (Arabs) with a superior religion (Islam)--are we behind the West?

How that question has been answered has been the core of Middle Eastern politics. Let’s call it The Question.

From roughly around the 1880s into the 1930s, and even until the 1950s, the main answer given might be called the liberal developmentalist perspective. The West’s advances were seen as being technological, institutional, and intellectual. The distinguished historian Albert Hourani called this “the Liberal Age.”

What was needed, said the leaders, in answering The Question was to adapt and adopt Western techniques. If, for example, the Ottoman Empire or Egypt had a constitution and a multi-party parliamentary system; built up educational institutions; and created private enterprises they, too, would flourish.

These reformers, of course, made it sound too easy. Some were secular-oriented, others thought Islam could be modernized. Ironically, the latter—like Muhammad Abdu and Rashid Rida--are often seen in retrospect as pioneers of radical Islamism even though they were the opposite.

For many reasons, the liberal age failed. One chief factor was that the Arab societies were not ready for such changes and they could not easily be imposed from above. Another was the fact that authoritarian systems—like fascism in the 1920-1940 period and Communism in the 1950-2000 era--seemed more successful and attractive than moderate democracy.

Rampant corruption and extremes of class injustice were prominent as was imperial intervention (most notably in Egypt). To some extent, the failure to prevent Israel’s creation in 1948 made the existing system seem incompetent though I’d argue the fault was more due to the radical nationalists and Islamists than to the liberals. (I deal with this issue in my book, The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict.)

Yet fail the Liberal Age did and in came radical Arab nationalism. The transitional moment was July 23, 1952, when Egyptian officer overthrew the monarchy and quickly banned the multi-party system. Ever since then, radical nationalists have dominated. Their answer to the key question has been:

The reason we are behind is not mainly due to any internal failing but to the oppression of imperialism and Zionism. The solution is to have nationalist governments with dictatorial control and state domination of the economy. These regimes will fight, defeat the West, destroy Israel, bring Arab unity, and bring rapid development and prosperity.

Briefly, these regimes failed to deliver on any of their promises. They led their peoples into losing wars and generally (except for oil and gas riches) stagnant economies. These nationalist governments were generally repressive and corrupt, too, and there was much discontent. The collapse of the Soviet bloc, their main ally and model, also discredited them.

One reason for this failure is a flaw in their formulation of The Question, an error they share with the Islamists. Once you put the blame on external forces and deny the need for internal reform (less statist control, democracy, changes in the status of women, modernizing Islam, getting along with the West, making peace with Israel) you ensure that you will remain backward.

What is required to begin with is an admission of—to use William Shakespeare’s words:

“Men at some time are masters of their fates:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

And so here we are in the early twenty-first century with the Arab nationalist regimes under challenge by revolutionary Islamists. Though the Islamists go back as modern political organizations to the mid-1920s, they really revived in the 1980s. The Iranian revolution and the jihadist war in Afghanistan were important factors but so was the increasingly obvious failure of the nationalist regimes.

Small new liberal movements have also arisen, somewhat parallel to those of the past but putting more stress on human rights and democracy than on technology and formal institutions. Yet they are very weak. The nationalists, the existing regimes, are far more powerful than they are; so are the Islamists.

At least, though, the nationalists and their regimes are worn down by a half-century of experience and failure. For them, one might again quote from Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, perhaps the greatest political play of all time:

“Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”
The nationalists are fat and sleek; the Islamists lean and hungry."

Many in the West answer as Mark Antony did to Caesar, “Fear him not, Caesar; he's not dangerous.”

But Caesar is smarter. He knows Cassius is a fanatic, a man who cannot be bought off by flattery or presents, who is single-mindedly focused. So he explains:

“He loves no plays…he hears no music;
Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort
As if he mock[e]d himself and scorn[e]d his spirit
That could be moved to smile at any thing.
Such men as he be never at heart's ease
While they behold a greater than themselves,
And therefore are they very dangerous.”

And so are the Islamists. So how do the Islamists deal with The Question? By saying:

The reason we are behind is not mainly due to any internal failing but to the oppression of imperialism and Zionism, the treason of our governments, and above all our abandonment of Islam. The solution is to have proper Islamic governments with dictatorial control, state domination of the economy, unity through a new caliphate, the systematic rejection of Western culture and non-technological ideas, and making our society conform to Islamic law as we interpret it. These regimes will fight, defeat the West, destroy Israel, bring Muslim unity, and fulfill Allah's commands.

And here is where Badi’s statement fits in as the proposed solution:

"The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life."

Not through solving problems by compromise; not by ending foreign conflicts; not by better educational systems that are open to science and other imported ideas; not by modernizing Islam; not by granting equality to women; not by democracy; not by human rights. No and no and no. But only by:

“…jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life."

Jihad they want and Jihad they will get; death they want and death they will get; a generation of warfare they want and a generation of warfare they will get. They will fail and their claims seen to be hollow. Unfortunately, it will take about fifty years for that to happen. The result? Arab and Muslim-majority countries will be left even further behind the rest of the world.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

Calling all Democracies

Samara Greenberg

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) convened in Geneva yesterday with an agenda that singled out Israel. At the meeting, two reports were produced - one a follow-up to the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead and the other a report on the Gaza flotilla raid in May 2010. As usual, Islamic states and their allies used the meeting as an opportunity to criticize Israel, accusing the country of acting with cruelty and careless violence. For example, while the Palestinian Authority accused Israel of painting the Jewish state "with the blood of victims," Turkey told the council that Israel "must put an end to its culture of violence." In addition, Libya, a recent addition to - and stain on - the UNHRC, called to put Israeli leaders on trial for war crimes.

Israel, which is not a council member, has been singled out by the UN body since its creation in 2006. Over the last four years, out of 40 resolutions criticizing countries, 33 were against Israel and only seven for the rest of the world's countries combined. Out of 10 emergency debates that convened, seven did so against Israel. Meanwhile, the world's worst human rights violators - countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and China - all enjoy impunity. AND THE OBAMA GOVT IS GOIONG TO SEND AN ENORMOUS PACKAGE TO THE SAUDIS. REMEMBER THE HUMAN RIGHTS THAT DEPRIVED 3000 AMERICANS OF THEIR LIVES ON 9/11 INVOLVED THE SAUDIS!!

UN Human Rights Council members are elected by regional constituencies, giving Islamic states and their allies a majority in the body. Indeed, only 20 of the 47 nations on the UNHRC are considered "free" by Freedom House, which means the majority of the council's member nations do not allow their people to enjoy basic human freedoms.

Four years after its creation, not only is the state of the UNHRC ironic, it is deplorable. That the UN body has become a hotbed of criticism against a democracy but a safehaven for the world's worst tyrannies and makes a mockery of the United Nations and every free country worldwide. Moreover, it does a grave disservice to the citizens living under true oppressive regimes by taking the spotlight off their plight.

Actions always speak louder than words. It is time for democracies, starting with the United States, to stand up for freedom and the values the UN was founded upon by walking out on the UNHRC and exposing the body for what it really is.



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Deepening Insanity"

Arlene Kushner

I have been away from my computer for personal reasons-- very positive family reasons. I thank G-d for these events, which keep me on mark and sane.

Now that I return to the news, which is something less than wonderful, I find the "re-entry" heavy. Today's posting will focus on certain key issues, with more to follow soon.
Before the Arab League met last Friday, statements from the US government indicated positive expectations -- the hope that the League wouldn't kill the process by telling Abbas not to come to the table. It was clear that a great deal of lobbying of certain Arab governments had been done.

The outcome, however, is not exactly what Obama had hoped for.

The League decided it would give Obama a month to try to get Israel to extend the freeze. If this effort failed, then it was going to have to meet again and decide what to do next, for Abbas was correct not to negotiate if the Jews were building houses in Judea and Samaria.

People in several quarters read this as a blatant threat: put the screws on Israel and deliver, or else. The best that could be said from the US perspective is that Obama had been cut some slack (who knows, perhaps at his request, when he realized he couldn't achieve more), so that the time of Arab League reassessment and possibly the final shutdown of the talks would not come until after elections.


What this means, quite clearly, is that the pressure on us will be mounting. Especially in the days immediately after elections. The Arabs are grabbing the opportunity to squeeze us hard.

Whether because of the opposition of members of his coalition; or because -- as some reports continue to insist -- he knows his reputation for reliability (which is already compromised) would be destroyed if he caved after pledging he would not; or because he knew that what Obama was offering in return was close to worthless, Netanyahu in point of fact has not agreed to resume the freeze. This is enormously important and cause for tentative gladness. We still must watch what happens in the weeks ahead.

Given the veiled threats of the Arab League, caving now would be the worst thing he could do. It would be cooperating with Obama's attempts to appease the Arabs.


At the opening of the Knesset's winter session today, Netanyahu said:

"I made this message clear in quiet ways last month, and I am saying it here, now, in public: If the Palestinian leadership will say unequivocally to its people that it recognizes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, I will be willing to gather my government and ask for another suspension of construction for a limited time."

I think this was a safe bet, because he knew that the PA response would not be positive. And, indeed it was not: it was rejected out of hand.

Netanyahu also indicated that the US was working on other proposals. Aaron Lerner of IMRA suggests today that, in offering to freeze in exchange for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Netanyahu has agreed in principle to a freeze extension and it's now a matter of finding his price.

Said the prime minister,"and we are considering [the US proposals] seriously in relation to Israel's interests, first and foremost security and the promise of continued existence."

Excuse me? The promise of continued existence? I would most fervently hope so!! Does he intend to suggest that he sees some of the proposals as possibly threatening our existence? Or is he merely trying to demonstrate how careful he's being on the nation's behalf?

Nope, not home free yet, by any means.


Aside from Arab League threats, there are those coming from Abbas directly. He has suggested that he might ask the US to recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state established within the '67 lines (Green Line) -- and there are reports that he has asked the Arab League to help convince the US to do this. Alternately he has said he might take this to the UN Security Council.

In such a situation, a great deal would depend upon Obama. The policy of the US has been to oppose unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and insist on resolution via negotiations. If he maintains this position, he will both reject requests that the US recognize such a state, and veto it in the SC.

What is more, technically the Security Council should not be able to "recognize" a new state. There is absolutely no precedent for it doing this. As a matter of fact, a SC resolution -- #242 of 1967 -- says that the borders of Israel must be determined by negotiations (and that Israel requires secure borders beyond the Green Line). And so, this shouldn't happen.

The problem I see is that there is a tendency today to blithely circumvent rules. Right now, Israel's response is that this is unrealistic and represents no more than a "mirage": a way to threaten Israel. Let us hope this is where it stays.

I will be doing some further research on this.


It occurs to me, not for the first time, that concern about possible attempts by the Palestinian Arabs to go for a unilateral declaration of statehood might be fueling Netanyahu's expressions of enormous, indeed excessive, eagerness to come to the table. It may be that he wants it to be very clear that refusal to continue talks came from the other side, and not us. He wants to be able to say, Look, world, we were ready to sit down and resolve all issues, so don't force something on us because the other side refused to talk -- don't reward them for their refusal.


Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner are here, seeking to involve themselves in "peace negotiations." Moratinos said that as the largest donor to the PA, the EU should be more involved in the process. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been angling for this for some weeks now.

Most infuriating of all is what Kouchner said in an interview yesterday with the PA daily Al-Ayyam.

France, said Kouchner, preferred a negotiated settlement for a two-state solution, but an appeal to the Security Council was still a possibility.

"We want to be able to soon welcome the state of Palestine to the United Nations [as a member state]. This is the hope and the desire of the international community, and the sooner that can happen the better..

"The international community cannot be satisfied with a prolonged deadlock [in negotiations]. I therefore believe that one cannot rule out in principle the Security Council option.

"But the establishment of the Palestinian state must come as a result of the peace process and be the fruit of bilateral negotiations."


Huh? If the Palestinian state must comes as the result of bilateral negotiations, going to the SC is not an option.

Did he intend this as a threat: We really want to work with you to help resolve the issue via negotiations, but just know, if this doesn't work, we might support the SC option.


And so, once again, my hero of the hour, no matter that I sometimes disagree with him, is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He is so "undiplomatic."

"I don't expect you to solve the problems of the world," he told Kouchner and Moratinos yesterday on their arrival, "but I certainly expect that before you come here to teach us how to solve conflicts, you will deal with the problems in Europe and solve those conflicts."

After solving the conflicts in the Caucasus and Cyprus, and after making peace between Serbia and Kosovo, then they can come here "and we will listen to your advice."

"In 1938, the European community decided to appease Hitler instead of supporting Czechoslovakia and sacrificed [it] without gaining anything. We will not be Czechoslovakia of 2010. We will ensure the security of Israel."

Was the international community trying to make up for all its failures by pushing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in one year, he wondered. "What about the struggles in Somalia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Sudan?"

Lieberman further said that the results of the efforts of the international community will not bring calm, but likely "an explosion like what happened after Camp David in 2000."

You might like to let Lieberman know that you appreciate his directness on behalf of Israel:

Fax: 02-640-8921 E-mail:


Even before these representatives of France and Spain arrived on our shores yesterday, our government had expressed displeasure at the official upgrade to "mission" status of the PLO delegations in each of their capitals. It is clear that Washington, which had upgraded its PLO delegation to the status of "delegation general" in July, set the tone for these nations -- with France following shortly thereafter and Spain in September.

The message of our government in each instance was that this was giving the Palestinian Arabs a "free prize" at a time when they were not being flexible.


see my website

Monday, October 11, 2010

France May Recognize Unilateral PA Country

Chana Ya'ar
A7 News

France has threatened to recognize a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinian Authority if final status talks with Israel are “delayed.”

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was quoted Sunday in an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper al-Ayyam as saying his government would not rule out the possibility of recognizing the unilateral establishment of a new PA country.

Kouchner, who himself is Jewish, said France would consider the option if PA talks with Israel were to suffer from “delays,” although Paris preferred the two-state solution to be negotiated between the two entities. A United Nations-brokered resolution to the years-long deadlock, however, remained an option, he said.

“The international community cannot be satisfied with a prolonged deadlock,” he said. “I therefore believe that one cannot rule out in principle the Security Council option,” he added, according to the AFP news agency.

Earlier this year, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned he would move to unilaterally declare statehood in 2011 if no agreement had been reached by that time.

Fayyad, who formerly worked for the World Bank, is popular with the international community, although he has made few allies among his own government and has made a number of enemies.

He was later forced to backtrack from the statement after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told interviewers that he opposes the unilateral establishment of a PA state.

Lieberman Rejects Pressure

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, rejected pressure by Kouchner and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos in a meeting in Jerusalem Sunday night.

“Before you teach us how to resolve conflicts here, I expect at the very least that you solve all the problems in Europe,” Lieberman reportedly told the two men.

“In 1938 the European community decided to appease Hitler instead of supporting the loyal ally Czechoslovakia, and sacrificed it without gaining anything. We have no intention of becoming 2010's Czechoslovakia and will insist on Israel's vital interest,” he said. .

Iraq's Oil Industry

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
Hudson New York
October 11, 2010

Iraq's release of its full statistics for oil production in August 2010, illustrates the continuing decline of its oil industry since the end of 2009. In August, total output stood at 55.4 million barrels, compared to 61.3 million barrels in December, 2009. Consequently, government revenue from petroleum has dropped, with earnings at $3.9 billion in August compared to $4.4 billion only half a year earlier. The reality of these trends lies in stark contrast to announcements from Iraqi officials that followed the completion of the second round of petroleum bids, which resulted in ten contracts being signed with foreign companies such as the Russian firm Lukoil and Royal Dutch Shell. The Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani had claimed that Iraq could boost production capacity from the current level of approximately 2.5 million bpd (barrels per day) to around 12 million bpd in six years, rivaling Saudi Arabia's capacity of 12.5 million bpd. Similarly, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has affirmed that additional revenues generated by increased oil production would not only help to pay off Iraq's foreign debts of roughly $120 billion, but also solve problems of reconstruction.

It is extremely unlikely, however, that Iraq will meet these targets for expansion of the petroleum industry. Current trends aside, the World Bank estimates that $1 billion in investment is required just to maintain present production levels because of the outdated and damaged infrastructure such as ports and pipelines, among others. Meanwhile, a boost to 5 million bpd will cost $30 billion over the next eight years. By contrast, Saudi Arabia's production capacity is the result of 75 years of development worth hundreds of billions of dollars, without the problems of three decades of warfare and sanctions, or a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy from which Iraq suffers.

Further, where Saudi Arabia ranks 13th out of 183 countries in the World Bank's 2010 "Ease of Doing Business Index," Iraq stands at 153rd (a drop of three places from the 2009 index). The reasons for such a large difference include the fact that Iraq's economy is still largely centralized and state-managed -- a legacy of what Daniel Pipes describes as the "Stalinist nightmare of Saddam Hussein"-- as well as the general lack of security and stability in the country caused by an Al-Qaeda insurgency of around 2000 members as well as the ongoing political stalemate.

These are all big obstacles to attracting the investment needed to develop the oil industry, despite the contracts signed with international firms: the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) gave Iraq the worst score of seven (on a scale from zero to seven) on its credit risk classification system. Likewise, a July survey of 300 business executives by the Economist Intelligence unit in July found that 64% believed that Iraq was too dangerous to invest in right now.

It is not surprising that certain analysts considered the various pronouncements from Iraq's politicians mere rhetoric -- perfectly understandable as the second round of bidding was relatively successful in terms of the number of deals agreed to. The government therefore saw the event as a sign of Iraq's return to a prominent position in the world's oil-market after 30 years of war and sanctions. After all, the first oil-bidding round in June 2009, which was broadcast live on Iraqi television and began with 22 companies placing bids, turned out to be an almost complete failure as only one deal, with a consortium from British Petroleum (BP) and China's CNPC, was agreed to.

This lack of success arose from the fact that the Iraqi government was thinking far more in terms of profits for the state, rather than on creating workable business deals that foreign firms could accept.

While it is to be expected that foreign firms will be able to increase petroleum production and repair damaged equipment and infrastructure in the coming years, Iraq's political elite might do well to think about toning down their unrealistically high ambitions for the nation's oil industry, and make it a priority to move the country away from sole dependence on petroleum revenues, which presently account for 70% of GDP and 90% of government income.

The best way to go about this would be to diversify Iraq's economy by gradually liberalizing the predominantly centralized, command infrastructure. Such a policy might entail reducing the number of permits required to build on a given site: at present, 14 permits are required to build anything in the country, on average, and take 215 days to complete.

Streamlining this bureaucracy would not only allow reconstruction efforts to proceed more swiftly and mitigate Iraq's housing crisis, but also reduce corruption by introducing more transparency into the system. It would be a shame if Iraq fell victim to the oil curse that afflicts many of its neighbors: the sooner dependency on oil revenues is reduced, the better for the country's future.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is an intern at the Middle East Forum and a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University.

Where Is That Gate Exactly?

My Right Word

The UK Telegraph reports on a new gate in Jerusalem:

Israeli plan to build a new Jerusalem gate condemned by Palestinian government

The Palestinian Authority has denounced a potentially explosive Israeli plan to build a gate in the Ottoman walls of Jerusalem's storied Old City as a provocative move that could undermine peace talks.

But Haaretz, no friend of Israel in Jerusalem, writes: The new gate will be an entry to a tunnel that would be hewn through the rock under all the layers of the city, beginning between Zion Gate and Dung Gate, leading to a four-story parking garage under the current parking lot not far from the Western Wall.

The Pals. go ballistic and also go wrong:-

Palestinian minister of religious affairs Taleb Abu Sha'ar warned that a devastating war is likely to happen between Muslims and Jews as a result of Israel's escalating Judaization plans in occupied Jerusalem, the latest of which in Al-Buraq wall square, west of the Aqsa Mosque. In a statement on Wednesday, Abu Sha'ar said that the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) in Jerusalem declared a plan to widen and change many Palestinian places in the old city of Jerusalem, especially the opening of a new door in the wall of the old city.

Now the entire Western Wall Plaza 'belongs' to Al-Aqsa?

And what do we hear from across the Jordan River?


The Royal Jordanian Committee for Jerusalem affairs has warned of a Zionist plan aimed at gaining full geographic and demographic control of the area surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied Jerusalem by displacing the Palestinian population and Judaising the identity and landmarks of the holy city. In a press statement the secretary general of the committee, Abdullah Canaan, said that the Occupation is working toward the implementation of the Judaisation policy in Jerusalem through wide scale excavations and implementation of several commercial and tourist projects...[including] tunnels and electric elevators on the land belonging to the Al-Buraq site and below it

Inexact location reportage can cause a religious war, it seems although the Pals. penchant for propaganda over any semblance of truth is a contributory factor.


The Telegraph reporter in Jerusalem, Adrian Blomfield, was the paper's Moscow correspondent since October 2005. Before that he was the East Africa correspondent.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Iconoclast

The New English Review

Mohammed Abdul Aziz's advice on Islam has cost Britain quite enough

This is Douglas Murray

Which public servants should be paid more than the Prime Minister? Some might argue for an outstanding police chief or NHS executive. But not even the most devout defender of the status quo would nominate someone whose work is at best pointless and whose advice apparently given to the Government is potentially dangerous. Mohammed Abdul Aziz is a senior adviser within the Department for Communities and Local Government, working on, among other things, the "Prevent" strategy to curb home-grown extremism. He has visited several countries on our behalf, via such initiatives as "Projecting British Islam".

Mr Aziz has also been involved with the East London Mosque; the London Muslim Centre; the Muslim Council of Britain; the Commission for Racial Equality; the Equal Opportunities Commission; the Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism; the European Network Against Racism; and the UK Race and Europe Network.

This attempt at a one-man clean sweep of the Muslim quangocracy is all very well, but there are two rather large problems.

First, the advice Mr Aziz gives. The Daily Telegraph revealed this year that Mr Aziz had suggested that the new Government build closer ties with the controversial East London Mosque. He said that ministers should be willing to share a stage with groups that promote "a message of divisiveness, expressing intolerance towards other communities in the UK", and to treat privately with organisations that might support "violent extremism in Britain". Last night he apparently claimed that this was "completely untrue"

As so often, the more divisive and sectarian you are, the better chance of being heard by government. But the second problem – the lunatic punchline – is the premium we pay for this service.

Mr Aziz runs an organisation called Faithwise Ltd, the directors of which are himself and his wife. This summer, the Centre for Social Cohesion, of which I am the director, used the Freedom of Information Act to ask the Department for Communities and Local Government about its dealings with Mr Aziz over the previous year (though he had been its adviser since 2007).

What we turned up was extraordinary. Faithwise was retained to provide "strategic consultancy". Mr Aziz's organisation worked for 156 days for £113,394 – £725 a day, or at least £175,000 per annum, pro rata, rather more than the £142,500 the PM gets. Mr Aziz said his pay included VAT and operational costs.

While Mr Aziz has been contracted to central government, Faithwise has had significant "Prevent" funding from local government.

One final organisation that Aziz has had links with, the Islamic Forum of Europe, is dedicated to changing the "very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed… from ignorance to Islam".

The Government may never summon the courage to tell the Islamists where to go, although the department said yesterday that Mr Aziz's role was being reviewed. But it could at least ensure that money is spent more wisely than this.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Avi Davis

The resumed Israeli- Palestinian peace process is not four weeks old and it seems to have already been reduced to the realm of a Gilbert and Sullivan farce. Utilizing the issue of the West Bank settlement construction freeze as a point of contention, the two sides now appear to be negotiating over whether to negotiate. U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, acting as a harried go-between, is frantically seeking a breakthrough, just on the issue of whether the two sides can be coerced to meet face to face again.
The reasons for the impasse are ostensibly clear: neither the Israeli leadership nor the Palestinians wish to be seen as weak by bowing to the others' demands on settlements. But a more incisive observation would be that progress in talks will not occur because the results might actually shatter the peace.

This might sound like an absurdity to some, but the facts are these: Besides the murderous assault on an Israeli family near Hebron on September 5, violence on the West Bank has been so minimal over the past two years that Israel has willingly reduced the strength of its security apparatus there. Palestinians can now travel more freely between the territories and Israel proper. In fact, not since the mid-1980s has there been such freedom of movement on both sides.

This is set in the context of the unprecedented economic boom occurring on the West Bank and Gaza. Housing prices in Ramallah have risen nearly 30% in the past twelve months and housing starts are the envy of any Western country. The Nablus stock market was the second best-performing in the world in 2009 (after Shanghai). Both Nablus and Ramallah boast gleaming new cinemas, where the latest Hollywood hits are played. The Nablus venue even hosted a film festival in June of last year.

On September 6, Dr. Oussama Kanaan, the International Monetary Fund's chief of mission and resident representative for the West Bank and Gaza, reported that West Bank growth in the first quarter of 2010 was a staggering 11%.

Even more astounding are the figures for Gaza. According to Kanaan, the Gaza Strip is undergoing a similar boom with a 14% growth for the first quarter. Contrary to media reports of destitution and mass starvation, the urban areas of Gaza are bustling with life, with new restaurants and hotels opening and over the summer, the coast filled with beach goers. No one has produced credible evidence of mass shortages of anything.

In June 2009, the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl related how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a moment of rare candor, had told him why he had turned down Ehud Olmert's offer in 2007 to create a Palestinian state on 97% of the West Bank. "In the West Bank we have a good reality," Abbas explained. "The people are living a normal life."

He might have also added that the maintenance of the conflict is good for business. The new housing boom benefits mostly not ordinary Palestinians (the Palestinian jobless rate still hovers around 25% and is undewritten by foreign aid) but rather elite leaders who own the major Palestinian trucking, cement, and construction companies in the region. The reinvigorated construction industry in the Jewish settlements, dormant now for ten months, is also a harbinger of business for the Palestinians who provide construction supplies and labor for these projects.

It is clear then that the Palestinians have entered into a comfortable, if less than open modus vivendi with their Israeli adversaries. It is only the naive Obama Administration that fails to appreciate this reality. Insisting that the two sides work out their political differences only serves to irritate open wounds and harden entrenched positions from which neither side, for domestic political reasons, is ever likely to retreat.

With the threat of a nuclear Iran giving rise to tacit military cooperation between Israel and other moderate Arab states, Hamas hemmed in and the West Bank Palestinian leadership in thrall to their new found prosperity, the Arab-Israeli conflict is beginning to look more manageable - and even harmonious - than at any time in recent memory.

Is that peace? Perhaps not. But it is a long way from open conflict. And in a region of the world where the dogs of war are ever ready to tear each other to shreds, these sleeping dogs might be best left to lie.

Avi Davis is the president of the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles. He blogs at The Intermediate Zone and On the Other Hand.

Page Printed from: at October 10, 2010 - 07:49:04 AM CDT

Under the cover-up

Julie Szego
October 9, 2010

A bikini ban for a Ramadan event at a public pool should not be taken lightly as it puts fundamental freedoms of Western society on the line.

A COUPLE of weeks ago a report surfaced about families being ordered to cover up before attending a public event to avoid offending Muslims during next year's Ramadan in August. It involved VCAT approving a bikini ban for a community event to be held at Dandenong Oasis, a municipal pool. Dandenong Council, and pool managers YMCA, successfully sought an exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act to compel ''participants aged 10 and over'' to ''ensure their bodies are covered from waist to knee and the entire torso extending to the upper arms'', and to refrain from wearing ''transparent clothing''. Controversy erupted: tabloid TV lapped it up, talkback callers fulminated, bloggers pontificated, politicians, including Premier John Brumby, were quizzed. Amid the outrage came the predictable and inflammatory warnings that the ruling was evidence of a sinister plan to ''Islamise'' Australia.

The ruling enforcing what VCAT described as ''minimum dress requirements'' for Muslims was certainly novel. I'm not aware of any other instance in which the tribunal has made a religious dress code mandatory at a public venue - as opposed to a place of worship - let alone at the local swimming pool. In fact, the ruling was so novel that for some it simply couldn't sink in.

Perhaps this is why some of the fair-minded people in my orbit initially doubted the story's veracity. After reluctantly conceding it was indeed true, they still thought the thunderous response over the top. We're talking about a one-off, two-hour event, they argued. It will be held when the pool is closed to the public and normally used for a women-only swimming session, the attendees of which are almost all Muslims. And hey, aren't we all covering up to be sun-smart now anyway? (OK, maybe not in the middle of August.) Let's keep things in perspective, they said.

Well, I agree perspective is crucial. And seen from a wider and deeper perspective, the Dandenong pool episode is neither trivial nor insignificant. It is but one example of human rights laws producing outcomes that restrict rights. It raises tough questions about how far public authorities ought to go in accommodating cultural practices that sit uneasily with mainstream Western values.

And it exposes some disturbing and hypocritical currents in progressive thought, a point best and fittingly made by a Dandenong-based Muslim women's group, set up to help newly arrived Afghan migrants integrate into Australian society. ''I've spoken to a lot of women; they don't want this,'' Women's Better World president Mandy Ahmadi told the Dandenong suburban newspaper, flagging her campaign to overturn the ruling. ''Enough is enough … why run from the Taliban to come to this?''

And yet, as Ahmadi's ''enough is enough'' phrase might suggest, the VCAT ruling was not the first example of authorities bending to accommodate religious sensibilities at Melbourne's public pools. Dandenong is not the only municipality to allow gender-segregated swimming. The practice is now almost routine: a development that has unfolded largely under the public radar and therefore attracted scant debate. Viewed against this trend, the VCAT decision is perhaps less of a leap than it first appears.

First some history. When a proposal was floated in 1992 for women-only swimming sessions at Brunswick Baths, all hell broke loose. Preferential access to public facilities is a contentious subject and for good reason. Women-only gyms, gay bars and men's clubs obviously serve a role in the private sector. And any ethnic or religious group can similarly hire out public facilities for private functions and set whatever rules they fancy.

But municipal services are a different story. Brunswick Council had argued the sessions were needed because many women in the municipality were prohibited, for cultural reasons, from swimming in the presence of men. Councillors also claimed that many other women weren't comfortable using the baths because of ''sexual harassment'' or body image issues.

The then Equal Opportunity Board invited submissions on the proposal and received ''a mountain of correspondence''. Angry scenes played out at town hall meetings. One outraged ratepayer, David Smith, explained that his wife and daughters had found it surprising that women would want to return to an era of segregation.

An issue also emerged about whether single-sex sessions would fully satisfy Islamic requirements for modesty. Sheikh Fehmi Naji el-Imam of Preston mosque was quoted as saying that a conscientious Muslim woman should not be seen in the company of women who did not observe the dress teaching. In other words, non-Muslim women turning up in skimpy bathers would pose a problem.

Cr Cathy Lanigan, described as ''a member of the council's socialist left majority'', was willing to accommodate Sheikh Fehmi's concerns. ''We think the needs of most [of the Muslim women] will be met if non-Muslim women wear either one-piece bathers or a T-shirt over their bikini tops,'' she said.

Interestingly, Lanigan did not dispute a reporter's suggestion that the swimming proposal was part of a ''radical feminist political agenda''. I would have thought bowing to clerical demands on how women of other faiths ought to dress reflected a radical Muslim agenda, if anything. But remember this thread because to some extent we're still tangled in it.

The board rejected the Brunswick proposal but it proved to be a temporary setback for the cause. A few years later, councils renewed the push for segregated swimming, and they commissioned research into their communities to bolster their case. Most councils also sought the less visible - and more politically palatable - option of holding sessions outside pools' normal opening hours.

During the past decade or so, VCAT has approved out-of-hours segregated swimming at many councils. I tried to count how many, but tired of the task after hitting double digits.

There's a degree of fiction here; a legal sleight-of-hand. It presumably would take a brave council, and even braver tribunal, to endorse a ''Muslim women only'' swim session. But most ''women-only'' sessions are conducted with Muslim requirements in mind, even if non-Muslims can turn up and even if, as appears to be the case, a small number do. Most councils base their VCAT submissions explicitly around the needs of Muslim women. (One pool in the municipality of Melbourne suspends women-only sessions during Ramadan because so few women attend at that time.) Nearly all these councils also obtain approval to staff the sessions with women only.

The cultural sensitivity goes further still. A spokeswoman for Brimbank City Council, for instance, said their swimming sessions took place in ''visually secure surroundings''. In other words, there's no danger of women being glimpsed in the pool by passers-by. (Such ''security'' is a key demand of some Muslim communities.) And while every council I contacted denied that dress codes applied during the sessions, some of the responses suggested the issue was murky.

The Brimbank spokeswoman explained that ''participants should be dressed appropriately, as is expected of a centre used by children and families''.

The City of Darebin's acting mayor, Gaetano Greco, was more candid. ''We don't impose a particular dress code,'' he said. ''However, women attending should be respectful of Islamic beliefs.''

I admit to being uneasy about our public municipalities treading so carefully around religious sensitivities, particularly when doing so under the banner of ''women-only'' access, with its (radical) feminist overtones.

But there is another side to this issue because at the centre of this debate are real women whose lives have been improved by these sessions. All very well for the likes of me to lecture about the sanctity of our secular public space, being at perfect liberty to roam through it.

In its 2006 application to VCAT for segregated sessions, Brimbank led evidence about the large number of disadvantaged women in the municipality. Many are refugees and recent arrivals from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. They tend to be poor and isolated. The council even produced data showing some residents had a lower-than-average life expectancy. Research had indicated swimming was an activity these women were keen to participate in, and that it would bring health and social benefits. But without segregated sessions, the women would never experience the joys of the pool.

It is a powerful argument in support of women-only sessions. The dilemma is a tricky one, and I don't pretend to have all the answers. But flowing from this is a reasonable question: namely, what's next? If the experience overseas is any guide, we're on a slippery slope.

Britain gives some hint of what's ''next''. Last year, the Telegraph newspaper reported on swimmers being forced to comply with Muslim dress codes during weekly segregated sessions at six public pools. In the most extreme case, Croydon Council in south London instructed on its website that ''during special Muslim sessions male costumes must cover the body from the navel to the knee and females must be covered from the neck to the ankles and wrists''. Some British Labour MPs slammed the dress codes as ''divisive''.

WITH the Dandenong Oasis ruling - which is what came ''next'' here - we're now almost in Britain's league. Greater Dandenong mayor Jim Memeti defended the ruling as part of a council strategy to promote ''greater respect, tolerance and understanding of others''. And yet this strategy is directly contradicted by the demand for ''tolerance and understanding'' being made of one side only, namely the non-Muslims.

The most noteworthy criticism of VCAT came (again) from a Muslim woman, Sherene Hassan of the Islamic Society of Victoria, who feared the dress code would undermine the purpose of the event in fostering harmony. (The media blow-up suggests that she has already been proved right.) Otherwise, the official defenders of liberty and human rights fluffed it. Liberty Victoria said the curtailing of liberty at the public pool was reasonable because the event was to be held out of hours. Human Rights Commissioner Helen Szoke compared the bikini ban to dress codes in pubs. Really? Banishing thongs in pubs is about preserving decorum. But surely appropriate dress at a swimming pool would be, err, bathers?

A request to cover up, however politely made, is layered with intimate messages; about men lusting and women being lusted over, about the dangerous and vaguely shameful nature of sexuality. Such ideas run counter to the West's more than 500-year struggle for individual freedom - including both freedom of religion and freedom from religion - and for gender equality. Our public authorities ought to be pushing back hardest when these values are under threat. Yet this is precisely where they've been buckling under pressure.

The community workers and VCAT officials who sought and made the Dandenong ruling probably congratulated themselves for their ''tolerance''. Possibly there are a number of like-minded people who would happily attend the Ramadan function and dress as a Muslim for the night. And when the party's over, they could go home and spread the message of tolerance to their daughters, who are, one assumes, free to visit the local pool wearing as little or as much as they wish.

But what about the young Muslim girl who is beginning to question some aspects of her religious heritage, and wants the same room to move as the daughters of these ''tolerant'' folk? What if her ideas about how a ''conscientious'' Muslim woman ought to behave differ from those of Sheikh Fehmi? What if she dreams of ditching her burqini for a bikini?

Isn't there at least an argument that all these publicly funded, respectfully modest and ''visually secure'' swimming sessions undermine her bid? And what message does the Dandenong ruling send her? Here are the civic institutions of liberal, secular society effectively saying: your cultural practices are so sacrosanct, so unassailable, that even non-Muslims must comply with them.

Shouldn't they instead be resisting attempts to water down our fundamental human rights, which exist for the benefit of all? We don't have to go the way of France and force people to break out of their traditions and join us by the democratic poolside. But neither should we be blocking their path to greater autonomy in the name of ''tolerance''.

If the Dandenong story made you uncomfortable, trust that instinct. It means the line, to which we've been steadily edging closer, has now been crossed.

Thanks to Ronit Fraid