Friday, November 05, 2010

"Back to the Madhouse"

Arlene Kushner

Lest anyone have mistakenly imagined that my last posting about hope (which now exists!) signaled a whole new ballgame, with problems instantaneously diminished on all fronts, I state unequivocally that I was not saying that this is the case. Whether Obama takes to heart the message of the voters remains to be seen, although prospects are dim. What we must remember, as well, is that all the old players are still in place: the new members of Congress don't take their seats -- and some who are already members, their new elevated positions -- until January. Obama might see this period of time as a "window of opportunity" for advancing his agenda.
I refer to this in particular because of a new announcement from the Palestinian Arabs. PA president Mahmoud Abbas went to the Arab League a month ago to seek backing for his position on not returning to the table unless Netanyahu institutes a freeze. The League said they would give Obama a month to bring Israel in line before deciding what position to take. Time is now just about up.

However, unsurprisingly, the US is now being given two more weeks. PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat is in Washington and delivered this news to US envoy George Mitchell. According to the article in today's JPost, "Erekat told reporters that American officials said they were working around the clock to find a resolution, but that it would probably take two or three more weeks to do so."

Really, now? I've heard rumors -- sometimes greatly varied in nature -- predicting something happening after the election. And I've pondered why it would be after the election, when Obama so much needed this "diplomatic success" before the election. And I see two most likely answers.

One is that Netanyahu is considering caving on the freeze now, but deliberately stalled so as to not give Obama that victory. Unlikely, but indeed possible. In which case I say, good that there was not that pre-election victory for Obama -- good that we saw a very solid Republican House victory. But chaval, chaval -- how unfortunate that it might happen at all.

Two, and more probable, is that, now that the election is passed, Obama is prepared to lean on us harder. In this case all the strength we can muster will be required of us. No caving.


Very ominous is the report that outgoing head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen Amos Yadlin gave to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee this week:

"The next conflict, even if it is limited in scale...will be much bigger, much broader, and with many more casualties than we saw in Operation Cast Lead or the Second Lebanon War.

"Such a conflict...will be played out on two or more fronts; moreover, Israel's enemies believe that the only way to overcome Israel's deterrence is through long range missile fire and improving air defense capabilities.

"...the cutting-edge anti-aircraft system that Syria has purchased from Russia could send the IDF and IAF's capabilities back to their status in the 1970s Suez years...

"With the S-300, we are talking about relatively cheap missile but no less deadly...In addition...the Russians are upgrading older Syrian weapons systems to make them far more advanced.

"...the Syrians are conducting intense efforts to acquire extremely advanced weapons -- so advanced that everything just off of the production line in Russia ends up in Syria.

"...Israel [has] detected the Iranians laying the groundwork for two new nuclear sites..."


I am, as should be obvious, not a military strategist. Nor do I have inside information with regard to military strategy. My own intuitive impulse, however, on reading this Yadlin report, is that at some point pre-emptive action is required. Do we sit here like sitting ducks, while the enemy (enemies? they're all supported by Iran, finally) amass weapons and decide on the time for hitting us?

I am reminded of the citation from Barry Rubin, with regard to Obama's policy, that I provided yesterday:

" appeasing, flattering, and engaging, Obama has avoided any open crisis or confrontation. This makes it possible to tell the American public that things are going well, they are not hated, and there is no new impending war.

"Of course, the problem with this approach is that a crisis postponed is a crisis intensified."

L'havdil, G-d forbid that our government should function as Obama's does. And yet, and yet... It's easy to keep things quiet in the meantime, and lend the impression that all is relatively OK. Making a decision for a strike, or for war, that will bring Israeli deaths, is a difficult thing to do. But are we postponing a crisis that will only intensify?

Part of the problem, of course, is that we're on our own, as the Obama policy has diminished US deterrence in this part of the world.


In doing research last year on what was called Dayton's troops (the PA "security forces" being trained by the US, ostensibly to take on Hamas), I came to the very uneasy conclusion that in time these forces might yet turn on us. There was a precedent for this, and I saw two circumstances that could lead to it happening again:

First, if expectations were raised that there would be a Palestinian Arab state, and those expectations were then dashed. It would be presented by the PA as Israel's fault, and the forces could well vent their frustration on us.

And then, if there were reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. How could it be, I asked in my report based on that research, that the US was strengthening forces to fight Hamas when it was not yet clear whether Hamas would ultimately have some influence upon or command of those forces.

Now we are, of course, seeing that not one, but both of these situations might yet evolve. A number of related news stories merit attention. I share two here.

[] The Palestinian Arab news agency Maan reported yesterday that:

"Members of armed Palestinian groups will be protected under security arrangements that are a part of a planned unity agreement, a senior Fatah official in Gaza said Thursday.

"We are protecting resistance which is committed to the political decision."

[] The PA, alarmed by an increasing lack of discipline among the US-trained security forces (reportedly the result of an influx of younger men), is considering "Islamic indoctrination." So far, PA officers have drafted a guidebook based on a publication used by the security forces in Saudi Arabia. (Saudi Arabia??) In addition, Muslim clerics may be brought in.

This, in particular, rings bells. Loud bells.

What was it Obama says about a democratic PA state?


In today's JPost, Khaled Abu Toameh reports that Abbas, prior to reconciliation talks due to resume in Damascus, says that the PA will not share security with Hamas. There is no elaboration in this article of the Hamas response to this, but my guess is that shared responsibility for forces would be a Hamas demand.


Danny Seaman, who has served for years as Director of the Government Press Office, is a hero of mine because of his unabashed Zionist zeal and his actions on behalf of Israel. Now Seaman is leaving his position, although not of his own volition.
Please see the interview of Seaman by editor David Horovitz, in today's JPost. His accusations are exceedingly serious and should be taken to heart.

Danny, I personally salute you and wish you well.


Shabbat is so very early at this time of year, and so all other news will have to wait for another day. I end with this moving and upbeat video that brought me to tears. What one brave and caring human being can do!

(With thanks to Ruth N.)


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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Fakestinian Lies Taught to Israeli Schoolchildren


Laura: Israel’s educational system must weed out the leftists who are teaching children the invented history of the invented “palestinian” people and demonizing their own. This revisionism of history will demoralize the current generation of Israelis and make them falsely believe that they are usurpers of arab land, rather than the rightful heirs to the Jewish homeland and the true indigenous people of Israel. They must be taught the truth that the arab-muslims are the real violent conquerors occupying Jewish land. The same sort of demoralization is taking place in America where a politically correct educational system and media have been guilting Americans into believing our history is fraught with evil and that we stole another peoples land. Whereas Columbus Day used to be a major holiday celebrating the discovery of America, today kids in school are taught that Columbus was evil. The very term “native American” in referring to Indians was coined for the purpose of creating the impression that those of us whose ancestors came from Europe don’t belong here, that we are usurpers. Well I was born in America, so that makes me a native American. When referring to Indians we must call them Indians and never use the term “native American”. We need to stop conforming to the left’s terminology and narrative of American history. Just as we must stop using terms they created with regard to Israel like “palestinians” in referring to the Arabs occupying Israel. We must never use the term “west bank” in referring to Judea and Samaria and we must no longer use the term “East Jerusalem” as Jerusalem is ONE city. Our side must also stop saying “occupation” or “occupied” territories in referring to the Jewish presence in part of the Jewish homeland of Judea and Samaria. And finally never again should we use the terms “settlements” or “settlers” in referring to Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.

The Palestinian narrative is a falsification of history
If true peace is ever to reign among Israel and its Arab neighbors, it is important that the Arabs recognize that what they call the Nakba was a self-inflicted tragedy.

By Moshe Arens, Haaretz

The legendary TV sleuth Columbo used to question witnesses to a crime he was investigating by confronting them brusquely: “Just give me the facts,” he would say. He was not interested in hearing conflicting subjective accounts of the kind that appear in Akira Kurosawa’s famous film “Rashomon,” where each of the witnesses to a crime gave his subjective impression in mutually contradictory ways. The facts, that is all he wanted to hear. The facts, that is what is required of those who teach history to our children in school when they teach the history of Israel’s War of Independence.

Some years ago, the Ministry of Education instructed schools to teach our children the “Palestinian narrative” in addition to the Jewish (Israeli? ) narrative of the events of Israel’s War of Independence. Now that this instruction has been countermanded, a demand is voiced by some that the “Palestinian narrative” nevertheless continue to be taught in our schools. Are there really two narratives which our children should be taught? Is history no more than a collection of conflicting narratives?

The “narrative” mode of history is something of recent vintage, a fad not likely to persist. It is the facts that we want our children to be taught in history lessons. There may be different interpretations of certain events that may need to be elaborated, even when the events themselves have been established beyond doubt. It is only when the actual course of events has been difficult or impossible to ascertain that there is room for presenting different versions.
As a matter of fact, the narrative form of teaching history seems to have struck root primarily in Israel. Would anyone suggest that in American schools the "Japanese narrative" of the American-Japanese conflict during World War II be taught alongside the "American narrative"? Is the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 no more than the American version? Or how about teaching in Russian schools the "German narrative" of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941? This seems too preposterous to contemplate.

So why is this happening in Israel? Yes, there is a "Palestinian narrative" of the 1948 war, and it is called "Nakba." But as every student of that war and the still-living witnesses know only too well, the Nakba version is no more than a pack of lies. No juggling and politicized interpretations of the events of that war, in which one percent of the Jewish population fell fighting against the Arab attack, can change the fact that the Arab world - the local Arab militias and the regular armies of the neighboring Arab countries, plus Iraqi forces - attempted to destroy the Jewish State in a war they started immediately after the UN resolution dividing western Palestine into Jewish and Arab states in November 1947.

Six thousand Jews - soldiers and civilians - fell in that war fighting against the Arab onslaught. Where the Arabs were successful the Jewish population was killed or deported, and all Jewish property was destroyed. What happened in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and in the Etzion bloc in May 1948 when they fell to the Jordanian Legion was a portent of the fate that awaited the entire Jewish community had the Arabs won this war. All this has been effaced in the "Palestinian narrative."

Is it suggested that this falsification of history should be taught to schoolchildren - Jews and Arabs - in Israel?

It is true that the Arab population of Palestine suffered grievously during that war. But it is also beyond doubt that this tragedy was brought on them by the decisions taken by the Arab leadership. It is essential that this part of the history of Israel's War of Independence, of the "Israeli narrative" if you like, be taught in our schools to Jewish and Arab children alike. And if true peace is ever to reign among Israel and its Arab neighbors, it is important that the Arabs recognize that what they call the Nakba was a self-inflicted tragedy.

Just as real peace could come to Europe after World War II only after Germans abandoned the "German narrative" and accepted the true history of the war that Germany started, so only abandonment of the "Palestinian narrative" and acceptance of the true sequence of the events of 1947-48 can serve as a basis for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

"Hope Renewed"

Arlene Kushner

The Republican win in the House of Representatives and near-win in the Senate on Tuesday certainly give great hope to all of us who have been despairing of the direction the US government has been following the last two years. The current situation certainly doesn't mean that all problems are over, but it does indicate a new course. In the vast electoral dissatisfaction with Obama policies that is reflected by the vote, we see the possibility of a return to sanity. One only need listen to the words of the presumptive new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, to perceive that new direction.


Pundits are offering all sorts of predictions as to how the newly constituted Congress will affect both the political and diplomatic situation. My own crystal ball does not seem to be functioning at the moment, so the best I can offer are tentative hypotheses. Some thoughts -- both my own and those garnered from others:

What is coming through loud and clear are statements from House Republicans concerning their intention to be activist and to reverse current trends -- regarding the national deficit, unemployment, health care and more. The House does control the purse strings, and we must pray they will be able to fulfill those intentions at least in some imperfect measure, acting in ways that will strengthen America.

It is being said that because the two houses of Congress will be controlled by different parties, this will cause a stalemate with regard to passing legislation -- with the Democratic Senate blocking what the Republican House would seek to advance. But I'm not entirely convinced that the divide on votes taken in the Senate on important issues will necessarily correspond to party lines. I suspect that some Democrats may be more willing than would normally be the case to cross the aisle. Riding on Obama's coattails is a very risky business for any Senator who will stand for election in 2012. A show of independence might be considered politically advantageous, and since the Democratic majority in the Senate is very slim...

It is also being said that the fact that they don't control both houses will serve the Republicans well. It will save them from accusations of being the cause of problems when things go wrong, and will enhance the possibility of a big Republican win in 2012.


Yet another major point of speculation concerns how Obama will be handling all of this. Comparisons are being made with what happened to Bill Clinton in 1994, at midterm of his first presidential term, when Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress. Clinton, an astute politician, took the pulse of the nation and moderated his policies (e.g., on welfare) -- thereby setting the stage for his re-election in 1996.

Conventional wisdom has had it that Obama is too arrogant and too insular to make such pragmatic adjustments. While I don't particularly care for her broader perspective, Maureen Dowd, writing in The NY Times the other day, did strike a tone that caught my fancy:

"Barack Obama became president by brilliantly telling his own story. To stay president, he will need to show he can understand our story. At first it was exciting that Obama was the sort of brainy, cultivated Democrat who would be at home in an episode of 'West Wing' [a TV show about the White House]. But now he acts like he really thinks he's on 'West Wing,' gliding through an imaginary, amber-lit set where his righteous self-regard is bound to be rewarded by the end of the hour."

Thus, at first blush, it came as a bit of surprise that last night Obama admitted to having taken a "shellacking" in the election and suggested that changes may be in order.

The Washington Times was not impressed, however. The Times editorial observed:

"...Despite that meek concession, he doesn't appear to have gotten the order voters sent: Cease and desist. The Obama agenda has become a zombie, dead but continuing to walk among us.

"'We were in such a hurry to get things done,' he said defensively. 'We didn't change how things were done.' The president apparently believes the American people were objecting to the process that created current troubles and not the product...Perhaps if his failed 'stimulus' program and bloated budget deficits had been explained better, the American people would have given them a stamp of approval.

"To the contrary, voters fundamentally rejected Mr. Obama's preference for government action as the solution to all of life's problems. The president pledged that he would find ways to be more effective in his job, but what the voters really want is for him to rethink his job description."


It has been observed that the campaign just ended was focused to a very great extent on domestic affairs. But, of course, here in Israel our first concern is how the election will impact our relationship with the US and how it will affect US policy towards Iran. Our government, as is appropriate, has no comment on the election results, but surely is privately delighted.

If nothing else, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18th), who has been serving as ranking Republican in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, should be resuming her position as Chair of that committee -- a position she held before the Democrats gained control of the House in the 2008 election. Ros-Lehtinen is one very sharp lady, and one of Israel's best friends in Congress.

In addition, Eric Cantor (VA-7th) -- another staunch supporter of Israel -- is now slated to be House Republican Whip (thus becoming the highest ranking Jew in the House ever).


Pundits are so mixed in their opinions of how Obama will respond now with regard to foreign affairs and "the peace process" that there is no hint of a consensus.

There are those who think he was merely waiting until after the election to come down harder on Netanyahu (so as to avoid alienating Jewish voters); and there are those who believe that the Republican victory will give him pause on this score.

Some say that since he recognizes the national discontent with domestic affairs, he will devote himself to this. Others believe that he will push on with the "peace process" in the (deluded) expectation that this can bring him a win he has not been able to achieve domestically -- especially as the Congress will be gridlocked with regard to national affairs.

Jackson Diehl, writing in the Washington Post, believes that "the next 14 months will produce plenty of presidential action on foreign policy." And David Broder, of the same paper, actually advances the possibility that Obama will lead the US in a confrontation with Iran (with an eye on the 2012 election). That's a real stretch, but, if only...


Barry Rubin in -- "How Many Barack Obamas Do You Need to Change a Light Bulb?" -- suggests that how Obama responds now depends upon whether he is "both pragmatic and a politician, ideologue who has no grasp of the real world." Rubin says it's hard to tell what he is, but my vote is firmly with clueless ideologue.

Interestingly, Rubin says that while Obama's Middle Eastern policies have failed:

"...we see the secret...which has worked relatively well for him at home: try to maximize quiet and minimize conflict. What many have failed to recognize is that by appeasing, flattering, and engaging, Obama has avoided any open crisis or confrontation. This makes it possible to tell the American public that things are going well, they are not hated, and there is no new impending war. On terrorism, the United States has been lucky to avoid some new catastrophic attack. It is possible to argue credibly, then, that things are going okay.

"Of course, the problem with this approach is that a crisis postponed is a crisis intensified. As Iran moves toward nuclear weapons, the radicals advance, Lebanon is lost, the Turkish regime joins the enemy, Hamas is made secure in the Gaza Strip, the U.S. position in the region deteriorates."

And when will all of this come back to bite Obama within the domestic scene? "The interesting question then is whether the foreign policy disaster will be clearly visible before or only after the 2012 election."

"...if Obama is going to change course someone on his team is going to have to persuade him to do so.

"Secretary of State Hilary Clinton can't do it because she is distrusted as a political rival. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates can't do it because he is distrusted as a Bush Administration carry-over and is too much of a careerist to speak out. This leaves the White House staff, the most ideological and internationally inexperienced sector of the government. The national security advisor is now a 'yes-man' who isn't going to persuade the president of anything."


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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Israel Revokes Diplomatic Privileges for Qureia, Dahlan

Chana Ya'ar
A7 News

Former Palestinian Authority chief negotiator and prime minister Ahmed Qureia is no longer able to simply drive his car to Jordan through the Allenby Crossing.

Israel has downgraded Qureia’s status, as well as that of Fatah security chief Mohammad Dahlan, who had also been accorded the diplomatic privilege. Although the government said it had notified Qureia prior to his trip Wednesday, the PA official nevertheless tested Israel’s resolve by driving to the Allenby Bridge, where he found his way blocked by IDF soldiers.

Qureia, currently the chairman of the PA parliament, was told that that he could continue through the crossing by bus if he wished, but chose instead to return home.

Only PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and PA prime minister Salam Fayyad have retained the privilege of crossing into Jordan in their private vehicles, according to the IDF Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (CoGAT), Eitan Dangot.

According to security sources, the move came in response to statements by Qureia slamming Israel’s policies in Judea and Samaria, and his threats that the PA would have no choice but to resort to violence if final status talks collapse.

Abbas has repeatedly dragged his feet on launching the talks over the past year, despite frequent calls by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the PA to come to the negotiating table.

After finally agreeing to talks several months ago, Abbas nevertheless reneged after two meetings, when a 10-month freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria expired as scheduled on September 26.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Former Iranian Revolutionary Guard: Iran Will Bomb Israel

IsraelNN Staff
A7 News

Speaking from an undisclosed location, with his voice digitally altered to protect his true identity, former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Reza Kahlili told Israel National Radio's Yishai Fleisher that Iran would not hesitate to use nuclear bombs against Israel. [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government] will use the nuclear bomb against Israel, they will use it against Persian Gulf countries, and they will use it against Europe to bring about that last hadith (Islamic commentaries on sayings and activities of Mohammed and his companions) that calls for total chaos, lawlessness, and havoc in the world, which creates the circumstance for Imam Mahdi (the Islamic messianic figure) to appear."

Kahlili bemoaned the oppression of the Iranian people by their government, and told Fleisher about the circumstances which made him leave the Revolutionary Guards and become a spy against them for the American CIA. His new book, "A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran", details his experiences fighting against a regime he says is tyrannizing his people.

Kahlili (whose real name is hidden from the public for fear of reprisals against him and his family) grew up in Tehran in an upper-middle class family. Educated in the United States in the early 1970's, Kahlili – like many Iranians during that dramatic time – returned to Iran after the Islamic revolution of 1979 to help build his country.

"During the Shah era (prior to the Revolution)… it was a very open society. Muslims, Christians, and Jews. They enjoyed each other, the community was a happy community, and everybody was free to pursue their goals and take advantage of opportunities provided. Iranians were wealthy…there was laughter and joy, and I've reminisced about those times many times," said Kahlili.

But discontent brewed in the society. "The only thing lacking at that time was political freedom, freedom of speech... Sometimes people were taken to prison and tortured – but nothing like what goes on today in Iran," said Kahlili. "But that was the weakness of the Shah. Perhaps we didn't understand the limitations of the era we were living in, but people wanted more."

When the revolution took place with overwhelming public support, Kahlili believed it would increase freedom and democracy amongst the people. He decided to return to Iran. At the recommendation of a childhood friend, he joined the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an ideological militia with a generalized power in the army and amongst the populace.

Despite its reputation for extremism and cruelty, Kahlili says the average Guard member was an ordinary worker who showed up on time, chatted with co-workers, did his work, and went home at the end of the day. "However," he said, "there were radicals – the minority in the Guards - who would do anything, including torture, rape and kill anybody who opposed the regime, including members of the Revolutionary Guard themselves. If anyone was found to be in any way active… against the regime, they would be taken to prison and horrible things would be done to them."

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's regime veered sharply away from the westernized country the Shah had fashioned, becoming a stern Islamic republic with a theocratic constitution. The brutality with which the Supreme Leader's dictates were carried out soon began to disillusion Kahlili.

"The Ayatollah was imposing his will on the people and had lied to them," said Kahlili. He described one scene at Evin Prison in northwest Tehran which so disgusted him that he decided he must do anything he could to bring down the regime upholding these practices.

"Once they gathered young kids – 15, 16, 17 years old – in the courtyard, and they picked one of them, hanged him from a tree, and mutilated him in front of the others, just to bring pain and horror into the hearts of these young people," said Kahlili. "[At the prison] they would rape teenage girls before they would execute them just to deny them Heaven, because, based on their ideology, a virgin who was executed would go to Heaven."

It was too much to bear for Kahlili. "I was shocked, I was horrified, and totally heartbroken and wanted to do everything I could possibly do to bring down this vicious regime, and that's when I decided to travel to the United States." Kahlili ultimately made contact with the CIA, which utilized him to provide information on schemes of the Revolutionary Guard and associated terror organizations. Over the years, he provided information about Iranian payments to Palestinian suicide groups.

Today's Iran is essentially the same as that of the Ayatollah, according to Kahlili. President Ahmadinejad portrays himself as a folk leader in the country to garner support, an Islamic leader who will bring freedom to the oppressed. "The fact of the matter is that they have oppressed and suffocated, raped, tortured and killed thousands of Iranians just to stay in power," said Kahlili. "They are the most brutal dictators that the world has ever seen, and they are vicious, and they care less about the well-being of the Palestinian people or others…They are not the defender of the oppressed, they are not concerned with the well-being of the Middle East, they are post-modernist killers."

Kahlili also noted that despite Ahmadinejad's fierce anti-Semitism and personal desire to eradicate Israel, the average Iranian does not hate Jews. "Before the Revolution, we had many Iranians who were Jews, and there were many marriages between Muslims and Jews. The Iranians do not look at Jews, the Iranians do not look at Israelis the same way as the Iranian government." Kahlili said. "[The Iranian people] would welcome anybody – they would welcome Israel – to help them get rid of this regime." .

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Mahmoud al-Zahar, senior Hamas figure, recently attacked the West's values and permissive lifestyle

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center


1. Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar1 was recently interviewed by several Arab and Western media. He used an opportunity (interview with Reuters) to strongly attack Western values and the West's lifestyle (particularly tolerance for homosexuality, secularism, gender equality and sexual permissiveness). He emphasized the superiority of Islamic morality over that of the secular West and defended Hamas' Islamization of the Gaza Strip. 2. Mahmoud al-Zahar also stressed his opposition to every form of negotiation with Israel, reiterated Hamas' objective of founding an Islamic state on all the territory of "Palestine," and promised that Hamas would not abandon the path of jihad and the "shaheed project." However, he defended Hamas' post-Operation Cast Lead restrained policy of rocket fire, saying that it was Hamas' "right" to arm itself by all available means to "defend the Palestinian people."

3. Mahmoud al-Zahar's attack on the West and its values and his proclamations of adherence to the path of jihad for the annihilation of Israel express Hamas' genuine extremist Islamic ideology expressed in its charter. That ideology of sometimes marketed euphemistically, ambiguously and misleadingly to important individuals and groups in the West, often from the extreme left, and to human rights organizations, whose basic worldview is totally different from that of Hamas.

4. Mahmoud al-Zahar (and other senior Hamas figures) actually speaks of defending Hamas' "right" to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip, as it has been doing since the end of Operation Cast Lead (January 2009). His remark about rearmament illustrates the need for the oversight of shipments into the Gaza Strip because of the trend of smuggling weapons by sea and overland. The weapons smuggling orchestrated by Iran strengthens Hamas' military power and increases the terrorist threat to Israel from the Gaza Strip.


Attacks on Western Values and Lifestyle

5. On October 28, 2010 Mahmoud al-Zahar was interviewed by Reuters. He strongly attacked the West and its values:

A. "The West," he said, "is floundering in immorality," and therefore has no right to criticize Hamas for the way it governs the Gaza Strip. He accused the West and Europe of promiscuity and hypocrisy saying that Islamic traditions deserved respect because "we have the right to control our life according to our religion, not according to your religion. You have no religion, You are secular." (ITIC emphasis)

B. He viciously attacked the West's secular lifestyle: " You do not live like human beings. You do not [even] live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticise us?" He denounced France, which recently passed legislation forbidding women to wear full face veils [burqas] in public, saying "We are the ones who respect women and honour women ... not you," he said. "You use women as an animal. She has one husband and hundreds of thousands of boyfriends. You don't know who is the father of your sons, because of the way you respect women."2 (ITIC emphasis)

6. Mahmoud al-Zahar's remarks accurately reflected Hamas' positions and the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' parent movement, as expressed in the Hamas charter.3

Defense of the Islamization of the Gaza Strip

7. Mahmoud al-Zahar also spoke about criticism of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip and its stringent laws. He said, "Is it a crime to Islamise the people? I am a Muslim living here according to our tradition. Why should I live under your tradition? We understand you very well, you are poor people. Morally poor. Don't criticise us because of what we are." (ITIC emphasis).4

8. Since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, it has promoted the gradual Islamization of the Gaza Strip, intended to translate the vision of the establishment of a Palestinian stated based on Islamic law into reality. The process, enforced by the de facto Hamas administration and also used as a tool for reinforcing its control, has been manifested in daily life by the passage of a series of radical Islamic laws and regulations, forcing the population to conform to Islamic behavior codes, the establishment of Islamic economic entities (such as banks) and intensifying Islamic education in the formal and informal educational systems.

The Conflict with Israel

9. In a speech given on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the death of Palestinian Islamic Jihad founder Fathi Shqaqi, Mahmoud al-Zahar said that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were an integral part of Palestinian lands and that no Palestinian state would be established on less than "all Palestine." He promised that Hamas would not abandon the "path of jihad" and the "shaheed project." He added that the Qur’an proved that "there is not future for the Zionists among us," and claimed that the CIA had issued a report that Israel would not last longer than 20 years (Al-Quds TV, October 27, 2010).5

Hamas' Restrained Policy of Rocket Fire

10. Interviewed by the London-based Al-Hayat, Mahmoud al-Zahar defended Hamas' restrained policy of rocket fire. He justified the detention of squads launching rockets from the Gaza Strip belonging to networks which did not accept Hamas' authority. He said that after Operation Cast Lead an agreement for a lull had been brokered by Egypt, signed and accepted by the various factions. When rogue operatives violated the agreement by launching rockets of their own accord, it would, he said, open the door to anarchy. He also said that those rocket launching squads were rebelling against their own factions. He added that some of the factions which had complained that Hamas did not let them launch rockets into Israel territory had not fired so much as once shell throughout Operation Cast Lead, were now trying to market themselves by firing rockets (Al-Hayat, October 30, 2010).

11. Since the end of Operation Cast Lead Hamas has maintained a restrained policy of rocket fire and has also enforced it on the rogue networks, for the most part successfully. The policy is a response to Israel's deterrent power, and its objective is to allow Hamas to rebuild the military and civilian infrastructures damaged during Operation Cast Lead. The relative quiet resulting from the policy is being exploited by other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip (especially the Palestinian Islamic Jihad) to advance their own military buildups and build up their forces with the aid and support of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Hamas has replenished and even increased the stockpiles of weapons at its disposal before Operation Cast Lead both by smuggling them into the Gaza Strip and by improving its capability to manufacture them itself. It now has, in our assessment, an arsenal of 2,500-3,000 rockets, including Iranian-made Fajr rockets with a range of more than 60 kilometers, or just over 37 miles (i.e., from the Gaza Strip to the center of Israel).

1 One of Hamas' founders and a member of its political bureau. Is often interviewed by the Arab, Palestinian and foreign media.


3 For further information about the Hamas charter, see the March 21, 2006 bulletin, “The Hamas Charter” at


5 Hamas also denounced pamphlets recently issued by the PLO relating to a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders side by side with the State of Israel, claiming it was a distortion of history. The de facto Hamas administration also stated that there was no statute of limitations on the so-called "right of return" and that no national or international factor had the authority to cancel it (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, October 26, 2010).

"Moderate Muslims or Not?"

Arlene Kushner

I have decided here to visit a subject that I've been struggling with for some many weeks now. It began when I reported on a talk here in Jerusalem by Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum. To combat radical Islam, he said, we must deny legitimacy and forums to radical Muslims and those who front for them, and at the same time give legitimacy to, provide forums for, and promote moderate Muslims.

No way! cried many of my readers. Is he kidding? What "moderate" Muslims? Now, Daniel Pipes is one very sharp guy; although I had hesitation with regard to what he said, I was not prepared to discount his position without further investigation. And so, I have read a good deal of material and dialogued with several persons more knowledgeable on the subject than I. It was important to me to achieve some sort of clarity for myself, and for you, my readers.


My conclusion at this point -- with regard to whether there are moderate Muslims -- is both "Yes and No." This is a matter of enormous complexity.

Broadly, on an international scope, what we are looking at when we talk about radical Islam is the Arab world, plus Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We're dealing with Shia Islam and a radical, fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism. Even Hamas right here in Gaza is Islamist and seeks an international caliphate governed by Sharia law.

But these places I've just alluded to do not constitute the whole of the Islamic world -- which is not a monolith. As one expert I communicated with put it, there are actually several different Islamic worlds, or spheres, which differ in their nature. It had already been apparent to me that Israel is forging excellent relationships with Muslim states in Central Asia -- part of the former Soviet Union. Such states as Khazakhstan and Uzbekistan. But I've learned more: that, for example, Morocco has passed a law against polygamy even though this is permitted by Sharia law.


This is ultimately encouraging information. It tells us that a more moderate Islam is possible. It comes, however, with a qualifier: The question is whether the existence of these more moderate Muslim nations remotely impacts the radical Islamic world with which we must contend. And the answer, as far as I can see, is that it does not. Neither the mullahs of Iran, nor Nasrallah of Hezbollah, nor Mashaal of Hamas, etc. etc., are even marginally influenced by Muslims in Central Asia or northern Africa. We must deal with this radical bloc of Islamic states as if it were a monolith, and with utmost seriousness and stringency.


As to Muslims in the US, there are people -- such as the courageous psychiatrist and author Wafa Sultan (originally a Muslim from Syria, today religiously non-practicing in the US) -- who say there are no moderates.

But a more nuanced view is possible. The expert I cited above, who is from a major US think tank and spoke on background, began by pointing out that many Muslims in the US come from places such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where a radical perspective prevails.

However, perhaps more pernicious, he said, is "the hijacking of the Muslim 'voice' writ large in the US. This has a great deal to do with the emergence of Muslim Brotherhood fronts like CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations, which acts ostensibly as a 'Muslim civil liberties organization'] and their activism. Simply put, there is no alternative Muslim voice here in the US currently, so the Muslim Brotherhood ideology rules the day by default.

"I think there is a great deal more plurality in the Muslim population in the US than meets the eye. However, drawing out these difference requires us to break the monopoly currently held by the Muslim Brotherhood...

"There’s much more that can be done on this score, but it’s very much a trickle down phenomenon. After all, it’s bound to be difficult to discourage Islamist political action groups – or to encourage moderate ones – when Islamists are getting appointed to government office and being feted by the FBI, State, etc."


And here, my friends, we have essentially the point of view embraced by Daniel Pipes. It's a more optimistic view than that of someone who says no Muslim is a moderate. Some hope, however dim at the moment, does exist.

But, if the situation is to change, there is much required of conscientious,aware and concerned Americans. As long as "Islamists are getting appointed to government office and being feted by the FBI, State, etc." the attempt to bring moderates to the forefront will be stymied.

Americans cannot allow themselves to be intimidated any longer by political correctness, which at present has run totally rampant in the US. I cannot think of any situation more shameful than what happened at Fort Hood: Doctors at the hospital knew the radical views of terrorist Major Nidal Malik Hasan but were afraid to speak out; because of their fear, people died.

What is dangerous for American freedoms and heritage must be recognized. Those who have associations with or provide a front for groups that are dangerous must be identified. Where radical Muslims work within the system, they must be exposed. And when elected official provide a cover of legitimacy for those associated with radicalism, they must be called to accountability.


And then, presuming we would like to encourage the moderates, how do we actually identify them?

Seems a simplistic question, but most assuredly, it is not.

I myself was caught not long ago. I had written about Raheel Raza -- a Muslim woman who is a member of the board of the Muslim Canadian Congress -- after seeing a video of a talk she gave. She had seemed great -- voicing opposition to the Ground Zero mosque and embracing rights for women. Surely a moderate. But someone familiar with the Muslim Canadian Congress wrote to tell me it is anti-Israel: supports boycotts and participated in a hateful anti-Israel march.

Uh oh. Is it possible to be a "moderate" Muslim and anti-Israel? One lawyer I communicated with, who had experience in anti-terror work, thought perhaps yes. But Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch says absolutely not -- that this is part of the Jihad mentality. And in the end, I would concur.

Spencer went on to speak about another influential member of that same Congress, whom he would not trust at all. Because I then googled him, and found what seemed to be impressively moderate credentials, I was left aghast at the absolute complexity of what we are dealing with here. These people are highly skilled at dissembling.


I share here comments from an article -- entitled "Rep. Keith Ellison, the Islamists Man on Capitol Hill" -- found on the website of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), established and directed by anti-terrorism expert Steve Emerson:

"As a U.S. representative, Keith Ellison's primary responsibility is to represent his constituents in Minnesota's 5th congressional district.

"The first Muslim elected to Congress, Ellison, a Democrat, also seems to feel an obligation to be the voice of Muslim Americans in Washington. That alone would not be an issue. But in his two terms, he has established a disturbing record of promoting and defending radical Islamists who hide beneath a veneer of moderation.

"When those organizations are criticized, Ellison often jumps to their defense. He also travels the country to raise money on their behalf. In 2009, Ellison spoke at three fundraising dinners for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and provided videotaped remarks at others..."

And there's more. For example:

"In November 2008, Ellison, interviewed at CAIR-Tampa's 6th Annual Banquet by a local radio station, urged support for Sami Al-Arian, who pleaded guilty in April 2006 to conspiring to provide goods and services to the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Evidence in Al-Arian's 2005 criminal trial showed he was a member of the PIJ's governing board and that he solicited donations by praising the group's terrorist attacks."

This is how far it has come.


Not surprisingly, Ellison is one of those who knows how to play the political-correctness card: According to the IPT article, at a banquet during which Ellison touted "Muslim finance" as a solution to the US subprime mortgage crisis, he also stated that "Americans should 'thank God' for groups like CAIR who were working to safeguard their liberties against a reprise of the Salem witchcraft trials.".


I have become convinced that there are Muslims who are genuinely opposed to terror, but support the institution of Sharia law. Spencer certainly says this is the case -- although he hastens to caution that such persons, who certainly appear more moderate than Muslims advocating violence, are not moderates. Understood. Those promoting Islamic law would dispense with the liberal democracy that is America and replace it with a repressive, authoritarian system.

Who, then, are moderate Muslims? Definitions would vary, but I would suggest that they are persons who:

[] Support rights for women

[] Are opposed to terrorism and do not lend support to groups that do advocate terrorism

[] Do not seek to institute Sharia law and will honor the law of the land in which they reside

[] Are genuinely pluralistic -- honoring the rights of other religious and cultural groups without intention to impose their beliefs and practices

[] Are not anti-Israel


see my website

Monday, November 01, 2010

Media Coverage of U.S.-Israel-Palestinians: Who Gets It, Who Doesn't

Barry Rubin

Gets it. The Washington Post:

“Egypt's backsliding is not Mr. Obama's fault. But Mr. Mubarak's actions reflect a common calculation across the Middle East: that this U.S. president, unlike his predecessor, is not particularly interested in democratic change. Mr. Obama has exhibited passion on the subject of Israel's West Bank settlements; he and his top aides have publicly pressured, and sometimes castigated, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. If the president is similarly troubled by Mr. Mubarak's defiance, he has yet to show it.” Doesn’t get it. The New York Times:

"We think the burden is on Mr. Netanyahu to get things moving again. The settlements are illegal under international law, and resuming the moratorium, which expired on Sept. 26, will in no way harm Israel's national interest. But Mr. Abbas also has to recognize that the issue has become a distraction from the main goal of a broader peace deal. The two leaders must not squander this chance."

Right [sarcasm]. Israel should make still another unilateral concessions because you’ve forgotten all the unilateral concessions it has made in the past at your insistence, when it got shafted, and then you began the cycle over again.

And there's also the usual phony bilateralism: Both sides are wrong, the argument runs, but Israel has to do something material and the Palestinians don’t.

But why is there a “burden” on Israel’s prime minister when supposedly it is the other side that is suffering so greatly and is so unhappy with the status quo. Isn’t it up to the side that most (supposedly) wants and needs change to do something to bring it about?

Are you really so stupid to think that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is just foolishly falling for a distraction? Or maybe getting “a broader peace deal” is not his “main goal.” Did that ever occur to you? Will it ever occur to you?

Of course they will “squander” this chance. Maybe you, and a lot of other conventional wisdom viewpoints on the Middle East, should start thinking about why you are always wrong. It shows how blindly foolish the New York Times is that the headline for this misguided editorials is: "Enough Game-Playing." Who's playing games with other people's lives?

The Plumber's Tale: Why The American System is Going Down the Toilet

Posted: 31 Oct 2010 01:00 PM PDT
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By Barry Rubin

In order to save water, in a place where there has never been a real water shortage, the local government requires the installation of low-flow toilets in all homes. Unfortunately, though, these toilets tend to become stuffed up even when treated with the utmost care. This annoying problem happens repeatedly. Sometimes it can be fixed by flushing multiple times or using the plunger; at other times nothing works.

When all else failed, the plumber is summoned and arrives for an expensive service call. After fixing the toilet, he explains as he takes the check, "This is how I make a lot of money nowadays. You might," he laughs, "be surprised to learn that I voted for Obama."

But, he adds, apologetically, "I always explain to people that they should flush twice as much in order to avoid this problem."

What a perfect metaphor: Without any great need to do so, government mandates what kind of toilets people must have. The supposed purpose is to save water, though there is no shortage. And the result is that it costs everyone more money, does more damage to the environment, and even uses even more water!

How could one possibly explain the contemporary U.S. political, economic, and social situation better?

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,

The Middle East: Where Crazed Extremism is the Average

Posted: 31 Oct 2010 12:29 PM PDT
By Barry Rubin

This is the kind of thing that really characterizes the situation in the Middle East. Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group even more radical than Hamas, held a rally in Gaza City which drew an estimated 100,000 people out of a population of approximately two million.

Since the Gaza population has a number of children far higher than the United States and women’s participation would also be limited, this is equivalent to a rally in the United States of, say, twenty million people.

Of course, this comparison would have to be adjusted for the short distances people would need to travel to participate in a Gaza rally, but the point is valid nonetheless. A demonstration for an extremist group in Gaza can draw something like forty times more than any possible collective activity of this sort might obtain in the United States.

Imagine how many people the Hamas regime might mobilize for a demonstration if it tried. Remember, this rally is in support of a movement that is exclusively terrorist, lacking even the comforting veneer of social welfare programs that lets groups like Hamas fool the most naive Westerners. Islamic Jihad stands for genocide against Jews, the destruction of Israel, no negotiations ever.

Not that Hamas, of course, is any great moderate force. Indeed, Hamas officials spoke at the rally, and often use Islamic Jihad as a cover. Oh, they’d say, we’re observing the ceasefire but we just can’t stop—wink, wink, nudge, nudge—Islamic Jihad from launching those rockets.

Think of the world view held by the participants and the huge number of Hamas and even Fatah supporters regarding how things work, what America is like, what Israel is like, or the most basic concepts of logic and reality held by Westerners. There is an enormous gulf here which will only be bridged many decades from now.

The demonstrators chanted, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” These aren’t metaphors: They mean it. So do Hamas, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood groups, and many others. In fact, so do the governments of Iran, Syria, and several more.

Benny Morris: "The 1948 War Was an Islamic Holy War"

Summer 2010, pp. 63-69 (view PDF)

Benny Morris is professor of history in the Middle East Studies Department at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva, Israel. For many years, his academic work has provoked controversy on both sides of the political spectrum. One of the group of "New Historians" who sought to re-write the Zionist view of Israel, his notoriety stemmed from an argument, based on a wide reading of sources, that most of the Arabs who left their homes in what had been British Mandatory Palestine did so as a result of the 1948 war and in that sense were "driven out" by the Jews. However, unlike other "New Historians" like Ilan Pappé and Avi Shlaim, Morris was and is a staunch Zionist. Any criticisms of Israel's behavior he may have had were, he states, permanently changed by the events of 2000, which saw Yasser Arafat turn down a more than generous peace offer by Israel and the start of the second intifada.[1] He has since revisited the controversies of 1948 in two books and many articles, using fresh materials to modify his political views. More broadly, he takes a strong political position with regard to Islam, arguing, with the late Samuel Huntington, that there is a global clash of civilizations that sees Islamic fundamentalism in a state of conflict with the West. The following interview appeared in Yedi'ot Aharonot, May 14, 2010. The excerpts below, without ellipses, focus on issues related to the war of 1948. It was translated from Hebrew by Jonathan Adam Silverman.[2] The introductory remarks to the sections are by Amira Lamm, the interviewer.—The Editors
The Emergence of Controversy

Benny Morris
Prof. Benny Morris has always had an inclination to take history one step forward and bring it to the edge of consensus. "I am not a historian who conceals things," he says. "There are historians who are always preoccupied with concealing things, but I always have believed it is important to teach the truth. Many people are deterred from publishing things of this sort because they believe this will undermine self confidence and the feeling of justice inherent in Zionism, and if we lose this feeling of justice, it will weaken us. I don't think this is correct. It is more important for people to know the truth, and if this causes them to be a little unsure in their self justification—so let them be a little unsure."

Both in his book and in our conversation, a different Benny Morris emerges: Every time I mention the sensation the book is creating, he hastens to put the fire out: In the book itself 1948: History of the First Arab-Israeli War, even when difficult facts come up, Morris tries to preserve balance and composure.

He is considered one of the leading "New Historians" and was essentially the historian who first coined the expression, at the end of 1988, in an article he published in an American scholarly journal. "Just then, a group of books by Tom Segev, Avi Shlaim, and me came out, and there was good reason to see a new wave in this," he explains. "We were the first to employ archives. Before then, everyone wrote about the Zionist enterprise on the basis of testimonies, recollections, and wishful thinking."

Amira Lamm: Are you saying that if they had had all the documents to which you had access, the accounts by the "Old Historians" would have looked different?

Benny Morris: No, they would have written different books from ours anyway. It is also a question of perception: We were young, a more left-wing generation and less establishment oriented, so we could also see the documents in a more sober and open-minded way.

In the context of that "sober and open-minded perspective," he wrote among other things the books Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, Righteous Victims, and The Road to Jerusalem. Each has aroused powerful emotional debates. In Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, Morris claims that the Palestinians did not leave their homes willingly in 1948 but were chased out. This is not a simple claim even today, and definitely not when it was first articulated in 1988, five years before Oslo, when the repercussions of the first intifada were still reverberating [in Israel]. "I was burned at the stake," says Morris. "Shabtai Tevet claimed that the things I wrote served the needs of the PLO; it questioned all the myths in the accepted Zionist narrative. The establishment turned its back on me." Morris, holding a doctorate in history from Cambridge University, found that no university would hire him.

It was Ezer Weizman, then Israel's president, who finally gave Morris an official seal of approval. Weizman heard Morris say in an interview that he was considering leaving Israel, and he invited him for a chat. "I came to the president's house, and he started asking me questions. I think he wanted to determine if I am really a good historian and if I am really anti-Zionist like they accused me of being. During the meeting he went to the bookshelf, pulled down his autobiography, On the Wings of Eagles, and paged through until he reached a passage about the refugees. He asked me to read it. I read it, and it sounded reasonable to me; he wrote that some of the refugees were expelled and some ran away. I told him that this description was fair and balanced.

"So he shouted for his office director, 'Shumer,' and Aryeh Shumer flew in. Weizman told him: 'We need to find a job for this fellow.' Shumer went out and started phoning every university president in the book. This was already evening, and he could not reach anyone. He said to me: 'Go home, you will hear from us.' I then lived a fifteen-minute walk from there, and when I opened the door to my apartment the phone was ringing. It was [Avishay] Braverman phoning, the president of Ben Gurion University. And he said, 'Don't worry Benny, you have a job.' And I have been there ever since."
The First Round of Modern Jihad

Over the years, Morris has had his share of troubles. After he accused the Palestinians of being responsible for the failure of the peace talks, some claimed that he had swung right. Lately, some claim he has swung left again. On the basis of his new book—far-reaching, historical research on Israel's first year in creation—it is hard to judge. Morris spent three years rummaging in archives in England, the U.S., and Israel, putting one piece of the puzzle next to another and building a work of history, well aware that outside they were already waiting for him with their knives drawn. "The left wing and the right wing will both find things to attack in the book," he says. "Anyone who wants can find things to bash the Arabs with; and anyone who wants can find things to bash the Jews with. The book has everything in it, because that's the nature of history: it is really quite intricate."

But despite his desire to exercise restraint, the book's central thesis, its basic idea, is a powder keg: If until now the War of Independence was characterized as a "territorial struggle between two national groups or a political battle with a military façade," in his new book, Morris claims that the facts necessitate a different assessment: "The War of Independence was a jihad—an Islamic holy war" as well as a territorial and political war.

Lamm: You mean a religious war from square one?

Morris: What I discovered in the documentation relating to the war, at least from the Arab side, was that the war had a religious character, that the central element in the war was an imperative to launch jihad. There were other imperatives of course, political and others—but the most important from the enemy's perspective was the element of the infidels who had the nerve to take control over sacred Muslim lands and the need to uproot them from there. The decisive majority in the Arab world saw the war first and foremost as a holy war, but until today historians have not examined the documentation that proves this. In my view, they have also ignored Arab rhetoric of the day, which universally included religious hatred against the Jews, because they thought the Arabs adopted this as normal speech that did not emanate from deep mental resources. They thought this was something superficial, that everyone talked like this. But I am positive the Arab spokesmen in 1948 did go beyond this and clearly and explicitly talked about jihad.

Lamm: Where did you find this exactly?

Morris: During my research I found a British document that described a fatwa [religious edict] by the ulema at Cairo's Al-Azhar University calling for jihad. The ulema are religious sages, who represent one of the highest authorities in the Sunni Islamic world. The Al-Azhar ulema declared a worldwide jihad involving every believing Muslim: There is a need to mobilize for a holy war, to return Palestine to the bosom of Islam and annihilate the Zionists.

I'm not sure I understand why historians have not paid attention to this until now. It could be that I paid attention to it more because we live in an age when jihad has clearly raised its head. It is a bitter struggle between a black Islamic world and an enlightened world, and I think that in 1948, the War of Independence here was the first round of jihad post-World War II.

Lamm: What exactly does that mean?

Morris: The meaning is not simple: If this is a religious war, it revolves only around absolutes. Out of such absolutes it is extremely difficult to derive any compromise. So, for example, between Israel and Hamas, I strongly doubt there will ever be any compromise. Perhaps there will be tactical posturing, but there can never be basic compromise. They do not accept us because, from their perspective, this is Islamic land. Allah commanded them to annihilate us, and that's precisely what they wish to do.

In 1948, the standard Israeli perception was that [the Arabs] were all simply backward peons who understood nothing. But this is nonsense. Just as in 2006, when they voted for Hamas. We said this was because Hamas hands out gifts and free milk. This was a mistake, however. They know exactly what they are voting for, just like the Arabs in 1948 knew. Religion is extremely important for them and assassinating the Zionists is also extremely important. The fact that this war was essentially religious is also reflected in the fact that after the war, it was not possible to negotiate peace between Israel and the Arabs as certain individuals thought might happen.

Lamm: But what about the peace agreements that were signed with Jordan and Egypt?

Morris: It is a cold peace. Perhaps in the view of the men who signed, at least Sadat, it was a tactical peace. Regarding Sadat, I personally believe he signed mainly under the shadow of concern over Israel's atomic bombs. He believed that Egypt would be obliterated if there was another round of war against Israel, and in order to protect Egypt, he felt he had to reach peace with us. He thought in terms of tactics lasting decades, fifty years, 100 years, that another generation will deal with us. He was a man of faith. He never really conceded on his dreams.

Hussein [of Jordan] is a different case. Hussein was educated essentially as a British gentleman. He was never a religious man and never had anything to do with jihad. But the Arab people in his populace never reconciled themselves with the peace or with the existence of Israel. The religious element in the conflict has only increased over the decades, and now this element is also prominent in large segments of the Jewish community here, which complicates the picture even more.
The Brutality of War

In accordance with the theory of Arab jihad against the Jewish yishuv [pre-state community] in Palestine, Morris sees the War of Independence as "a just war for defense and existence." But this does not prevent him from also describing in the book atrocities that Israeli soldiers committed during the fighting. During his archival expedition, for example, he came upon a letter that an Israeli soldier wrote from prison to Ben Gurion. Morris explains:

"It seems that he and two other soldiers raped a Palestinian girl in Acre, murdered her father in front of her eyes, and also finally murdered her. They were sentenced to three or four years in jail. This one soldier wrote to Ben Gurion asking for a reprieve. Ben Gurion refused. In the final analysis he received a relatively light sentence for an extremely savage crime."

This isn't the only case, and in fact Morris accounts for a dozen rapes of Palestinian women in his book, including the rape of a 12-year-old Jaffa girl. "I believe there were more than a dozen,"[3] he says, "[but they are not discussed] because women in general and Arab women in particular prefer not to talk about this."

Lamm: However, you only relate one case of a "near rape" of an Israeli woman.

Morris: This incident took place in Gush Etzion. A young woman named Aliza, who was a Haganah wireless operator, jumped into a pit to protect herself from a sudden barrage of bullets. Two Arab Legion soldiers who heard her shouts pulled her out, and it seems they tried to rape her. An Arab Legion officer shot them both to death with a Tommy gun and rescued the young woman by placing her in an armored car. Except for this incident, I found no documentation for other things like this.

Lamm: So, from Israel's side this was a brutal war in your view?

Morris: Compared to the wars of other nations, the number of these criminal acts is low. But it is true that if you compare this to the behavior of the Israeli army in other wars, there were more black deeds in 1948. There were people who lost control of their inhibitions. There were people who came out of the death camps in Europe and this stuck in their minds. They wanted to take revenge on the goyim [non-Jews]. There were men who fought for an entire year because the Arabs forced them to fight. They felt they were coerced into war, and they wanted to avenge the deaths of their comrades in arms. Every nation has stains on its history. And the black deeds in this war are one of the stains on our history. One needs to study these things and derive conclusions.
Deir Yassin and After

Lamm: You also devote much attention in the book to the incident of the killings in Deir Yassin. Is this the biggest stain in your view?

Morris: What happened in Deir Yassin has two meanings: One for the Jews and one for the Arabs. For us the most important thing is that what happened there helped in a big way in instigating the general flight of Arabs from all around the country. The Arabs talked about Deir Yassin on radio broadcasts and, all the time, inflated the character of the atrocities that took place there. Arabs in Haifa, Jaffa, and elsewhere frightened themselves by shouting, "Deir Yassin, Deir Yassin," and the villagers would run away. We know this for a fact, that in Haifa and Jaffa, the Arabs thought that the Etzel[4] was coming to do to them what they had done in Deir Yassin. On the Arab side, Deir Yassin has a different meaning: It is the symbol or embodiment of everything that happened in 1948. For them Deir Yassin epitomizes Jewish evil.

But this is not the sole and exclusive atrocity. There were places where there was even more killing, like Lod, where 250 people were killed, many of them it seems noncombatants, and they also killed prisoners inside a mosque. And there was also a slaughter in the sand dunes in Jaffa that I reveal in the book: After the Haganah took control of Jaffa, about a dozen corpses were found in the sand, and in their clothes were Israeli ID cards—which indicates that this thing happened after the Haganah took control of Jaffa and distributed ID cards to the inhabitants there.

Lamm: In the book you compare the expulsion and flight of the Palestinians from Israel to the way in which the Jews abandoned their homes in Arab countries. Are these things truly parallel? How do they offset each other?

Morris: Firstly, I prefer the word flight: In general the Arabs fled; afterward we destroyed their villages and did not permit them to return. There were only cases of expulsion in a few places.

With regard to your questions, these are cosmological issues, and as a historian, I can't answer them. What I can say is that the war caused the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem; and to the same degree, the war also caused the flight of the Jewish communities from their homes in Arab countries. Their property was also confiscated, and the numbers are relatively similar. Israeli politicians from that period, like [Israel's second prime minister, Moshe] Sharett, for example, said in 1949 that this was an exchange of populations. But this was not planned. This is what history created.

There is logic in this. But also a contrast. The problem of the Jewish refugees was solved, and they were absorbed in Israel and other places while the Arabs never absorbed their refugees, and the problem has remained an open sore.

Lamm: And the fact that they did not absorb "their" refugees is supposed to alleviate our bad conscience?

Morris: About this each reader needs to decide for himself; I don't deal in conscience. This isn't what a historian is supposed to do.
The Military Balance

The book is also filled with data: relations of forces, quantities of weapons. And here Morris shatters another myth: the idea that the Israelis were few and fought with sparse weapons against many well equipped Arab armies. "The number of Arab armies participating went down during the war," states Morris. "After the first round the Jordanians actually tried to leave the war. Indeed from the first, they did not want to enter it. And after Lod and Ramle, they were already completely out of the picture. After a certain period, the Syrians also ceased fighting, mainly because they ran out of ammunition and because they understood that in the fullness of time they would lose. The only ones who remained to the last rounds in October, November, and December were the Egyptians."

Lamm: So it wasn't the few against the many?

Morris: Potentially, the Arab countries were far stronger than the Jewish yishuv. The Arab countries had tens of millions of inhabitants. But they did not properly mobilize for the war, and their armies were, therefore, relatively small. The Jewish yishuv on the other hand took pains to recruit a very large army. Out of a population of roughly 650,000 to 700,000, around 100,000 were recruited, which is a tremendous number. So if you compare populations, indeed it is a matter of the few against the many. But when you compare the number recruited on each side, it seems we had an advantage in numbers not only relative to the Palestinians but also relative to the Arab armies participating.

There was also a big gap in motivation, insofar as the Israeli soldiers knew that they were fighting for their lives and the lives of their families. The soldiers who came from Iraq or from Egypt knew they were not fighting for Baghdad or for the Nile Valley, and the Arab populace did not really wish to fight.

Lamm: And the Palestinians? Did they fight for their homes and villages?

Morris: Among the Palestinians, the men from the middle class and the upper class did not enlist for the war. You did not see dozens of members of the Husseini clan, attorneys, government officials, and physicians enlisting for the war. But afterward they were among the first who fled because they were the ones who could rent a house in Beirut while for the poor it was somewhat harder to flee. All of them were primarily interested in saving themselves. In other words, making money and showing loyalty to the clan. This was much more important to them than loyalty to the nation.

Regarding the national spirit: National political awareness was then quite weak among the Palestinians, and this casts much doubt indeed on the credibility of the concept of the "Palestinian people" in 1948. This was hardly something clear or palpable then, but it took hold later. One of the important indications of this is their inability to establish a national militia. Each separate city and village had its own isolated group of soldiers.

One also should remember that we did not win easily, and to lose 1 percent of the population (around 5,800 killed on the Israeli side) is a very high percentage. Numbers like these would be intolerable in a normal society.
Fog of the Future

Lamm: You conclude the book with the question: "Was 1948 a passing front, or an endless flame inscribed on the region's flesh? The answer is concealed in the fog of the future." You leave a big question mark about the future. What were your feelings on concluding the book?

Morris: I think the last sentence says what I felt: That there was a victory in 1948, but this did not ensure the existence of the state of Israel ad infinitum. Our success in 1948 aroused in the Arab mind a reaction of rejection and a tremendous desire for revenge. The Arab world adamantly refuses to condone our existence. Even if peace treaties have been signed since then, the average Arab, the educated man in his home, and the soldier in his fox hole persistently refuse to recognize Israel. This is a terrible tragedy for both nations. And if peace between the nations is not achieved, one of the nations will end tragically.

Lamm: Are you optimistic about Israel's chances?

Morris: It is hard to find reasons for optimism. The Arab world and the Muslims that support it are getting stronger, and shortly they may have possession of atomic weapons. This does not bode well for the future here. I also do not see a settlement on the horizon between us for the next fifty years. In order for that to happen, there needs to be a great weakening of the Arab world. This definitely will happen when the oil runs out. But this will not happen for another fifty or 100 years. Who knows when?

So, yes, if Israel survives the next fifty or 100 years, and the Arab world weakens, it is likely to be easier to reach peace. On the other hand, in scientific terms, the whole Zionist experience is a miracle, so that you cannot foretell what will happen. Indeed everything that has happened here until today flies in the face of logic.

[1] Ari Shavit, "Survival of the Fittest: Part I, Part II," Ha'aretz Friday Magazine, Jan. 9, 2004; idem, "Survival of the Fittest? An Interview with Benny Morris," Ha'aretz Friday Magazine, Jan. 9, 2004.
[2] Editor and publisher of SARTABA Publications.
[3] For details of several of these rapes, see Ari Shavit, "Q & A_with_Benny Morris," Jewish Journal, Jan. 29, 2004.—Eds.
[4] A modern acronym for the Israeli militant organization, Irgun (Ha'Irgun HaTzva'i HaLe'umi BeEretz Yisra'el), which carried out the Deir Yassin attack.—Eds.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Overseas aid is funding human rights abuses

By Peter Oborne

The curious modern creed that foreign aid is automatically virtuous has its origins in two powerful social phenomena: the collapse of trust in politics, and the cult of celebrity. Ambitious politicians crave the stardust that attaches to pop stars such as Bono. Meanwhile, their strategists have noted that while the membership of mainstream political parties is in freefall, organisations such as Oxfam and Save the Children boast millions of supporters.

New Labour was the first to take advantage. Tony Blair’s decision to create a separate Department for International Development (DFID) ensured the endorsement of Bono and others, while making a very plausible grab for the Oxfam vote. This posed a problem for the Conservative Party, which had a long-standing and well-founded scepticism about foreign aid. The economist Peter Bauer, one of Margaret Thatcher’s gurus, had notoriously claimed that there was no measurable link of any kind between foreign donations and economic development. If anything, thought Bauer, aid probably hinders growth, as it leads directly to corruption, the misallocation of resources and the erosion of civil society.

With the arrival of David Cameron, the Tories gave up. One of his early moves was to invite Bono to the party conference. The new leader’s international development spokesman, Andrew Mitchell, embraced the New Labour paradigm. Teams of Tory ministers and MPs accompanied Mitchell to build schools in Rwanda. There was a naked calculation behind this idealism: to rebrand the Conservative Party.

All this may have been admirable. But the cross-party consensus on overseas aid was dangerous. There was no one to investigate reports of embezzlement and express scepticism. Meanwhile, spending soared from £2.6 billion in 1999 to £6.5 billion in 2005, and a prodigious £8.7 billion in the current financial year – approximately £300 for each and every British family. The process reached its apotheosis in last week’s spending review. With cuts in almost every other department, DFID emerged the clear winner, with spending projected to rise by an extraordinary 37 per cent over the next four years.

Such a massive splurge would perhaps be welcome if we could be confident that the money was well-spent. But throughout the New Labour years, there was no attempt to establish this (and the Tories and Lib Dems did not want to express a dissenting view). This cosy consensus was finally broken last week with the publication of an authoritative report from a most unexpected source – the respected humanitarian organisation Human Rights Watch.

The study, which concentrates on Ethiopia, shows how the system works in practice. The findings are horrifying. The country is one of our biggest recipients of aid, with a DFID budget of nearly £300 million and a staff of 250 officials. Yet Human Rights Watch has shown that DFID is incompetent to monitor, let alone account for, the prodigious sums it disburses. Much more troubling, it has proved beyond doubt that hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money is being spent to keep in power an unpleasant and authoritarian Maoist government.

It is important to address the report in detail because, although published more than a week ago, it has been ignored. Labour’s international aid spokesman, Harriet Harman, has made no reference, most likely because it exposes negligence under New Labour. The same applies to Mr Mitchell, now International Development Secretary. The conspiracy of silence extends to the British media, where only this newspaper has given the study any coverage. It is easy to explain this omerta: at a stroke, Human Rights Watch has smashed every conventional piety about foreign aid, and therefore raised very awkward questions.

The facts are grim. Ethiopia is in effect a one-party state whose president, Meles Zenawi, has a shocking record of human rights abuse. Last May’s general election, in which the ruling party secured some 99.6 per cent of the parliamentary seats after a long, vicious campaign of intimidation, provides ample evidence.

For years DFID has collaborated – there is no other word – with Zenawi’s dictatorship. We have donated massive amounts towards food aid, fertiliser, health and education. Rather than administer this aid, we have – unforgivably – allowed Zenawi and his thugs to use it for political manipulation and control. Starving people get told they can only have food if they support the ruling party. Teachers have received donor funds – but only in return for spewing out official propaganda. One British-backed programme, designed to train civil servants, has been adapted to indoctrinate trainees in the loathsome ideology of the ruling party.

The implications of the Human Rights Watch report (based on months working undercover, often in remote and dangerous areas, by a researcher) stretch far beyond Ethiopia. It seems likely that the same abuse of aid goes on in other countries. Rwanda – beloved of the modern Conservative Party – is an obvious case. Here again we are dealing with a culture of repression, what amounts to a one-party state and a president who has just been returned with an improbable share of the vote (93.08 per cent). Licensed assassination and the jailing of opponents and journalists characterised the election period. Yet DFID has been happy to fund the National Electoral Commission, which tolerates blatantly undemocratic elections on a jaw-dropping scale, and the so-called Media High Council, a state-affiliated body which has recently suspended the country’s two most popular independent newspapers.

The brutal truth has to be declared. DFID has enjoyed at best mixed fortunes since it was founded in 1997. Its seven-year presence in Iraq after the 2003 invasion has been an unmitigated and extremely expensive disaster, and Afghanistan looks like turning into a similar story. Yet so fixed is the cross-party belief in the virtue of foreign aid, that it alone was last week exempted from the hostile and rigorous scrutiny of costs that other parts of government were forced to endure.

To be fair to DFID, it is very hard to contribute aid to countries such as Ethiopia and Rwanda without getting too close for comfort to the regime, however unpleasant. It is harder still – perhaps impossible – in war zones. That is why some argue that the real goal of foreign aid should not be democracy and human rights, but simply to remedy urgent human suffering.

But denial is no way of dealing with these issues – especially not when George Osborne appears determined to prove the truth of the old remark that foreign aid is a mechanism for transferring money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. It is time for a public debate which entertains the possibility that Bauer might have been right, and Bono wrong. Above all, we need to end the dirty culture of silence that suppresses any talk of the deep complicity between the aid lobby and human rights abuse.