Saturday, January 12, 2008

Our Ambitions for the Middle East

January 12, 2008; Page A9

During President Bush's visit to Dubai on Monday, he will find a big city like no other that has risen from the Arabian desert. The joke making the rounds here is that the crane should be designated as Dubai's national bird, so extensive is the engineering activity. We also plan to keep on investing in markets and businesses abroad, including in our own neighborhood, where economic development has long been uneven. Our plans do not flow from mere ambition; they are a necessity. Consider that only 3% of our revenue is from exports of diminishing crude-oil reserves; 30% is from tourism, and there's increasing revenue from manufacturing and other sectors such as hospitality, technology and transportation.
[Dubai Photo]
The Burj Dubai tower rises in Dubai. The world's tallest building since July 2007, it has also become the tallest free-standing structure on earth.

But to term our emirate "Dubai Inc.," as some do, suggests that commerce, more than anything else, is our leitmotif. It is true, of course, that Dubai has been a trading port and a commercial hub for several centuries . But the ethos of Dubai was, and is, all about building bridges to the outside world; it was, and is, about creating connections with different cultures.

As a child, I learned how important it was to establish an enabling economy where the government provided incentives and an ethics-based regulatory environment, but left it to the inventiveness and energy of the private sector to expedite economic growth.

I learned my capitalism in the bazaars and boardwalks of Dubai. And perhaps the fundamental question that I learned to always ask was: How can we serve as agents of positive change? That's why I prefer to call Dubai "Catalyst Inc."

We live in a tough neighborhood. We live in a country that has been surrounded by difficult issues for several decades -- the Iraq-Iran war, the invasion of Kuwait, the current war in Iraq. Despite all that, Dubai has learned how to reinvent itself and cope.

We believe that helping to build a strong regional economy is our best opportunity for lasting social stability in the Middle East. That's why, for instance, we strongly support the new Gulf Common Market , which was launched on Jan. 1 and which will eventually lead to more regional economic integration, enhanced intra-Gulf trade, and a common currency for the six countries that form the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

There are more initiatives underway, many of which are aimed at ensuring prompt payment of salaries, and improvements in working conditions for unskilled foreign workers. While capitalism doesn't always create egalitarian societies, I like to think that in Dubai we are making the effort to cast the net wide when it comes to sharing prosperity.

I also like to think that we in Dubai also learn from our mistakes. We have had some object lessons. The Dubai Ports episode in the U.S. last year was one.

We analyzed our experiences, and we now approach our international investments in a much more holistic manner. We take the time to analyze the social, political and economic landscape, identify the stakeholders, and then carefully prepare the way by ensuring that the concerns of all parties are properly addressed. When disputes occur, we generally find a way to work through them.

When there was resistance to our investment in some European bourses, we listened carefully to various arguments and then successfully negotiated our way through the situation. As with CEOs in corporate boardrooms, leaders of sovereign nations need to act collaboratively in order to engender progress.

It doesn't take the visit of a capitalism-boosting American president for this region to freshly understand that it needs to accelerate economic progress.

When you look at the region, there are parts that are behind compared to the rest of the world -- behind when it comes to the economy, business and social development. We would like these less-developed parts of the region to be like Europe, Japan, Singapore and the rest of the industrialized world.

Nearly 1.5 billion people live in our neighborhood, and more than 50% of them are under the age of 25. In the Arab world alone, some 80 million young people -- out of a total population of 300 million -- are seeking jobs. I look at these young people as extraordinary resources for nation-building. If we can take our vision beyond Dubai, I think we can save a lot of young people from humiliating unemployment, from becoming extremists.

Education and entrepreneurship are the twin underpinnings for building a safer world. With these two institutions, we'll have fewer angry young people, fewer frustrated youths ready to embrace radicalism because they have nowhere else to turn.

I am often asked, "What does Dubai really want?" Well, here's my answer: What we want is the continuation of a journey that began with my forebears. I truly believe that human beings have a tremendous capability of changing and improving their lot. Change and modernization are inevitable in this age of galloping globalization. But we in the Middle East need to continually and carefully calibrate that change in the public interest.

I am also often asked, "What are Dubai's political ambitions?" Well, here's my answer: We don't have political ambitions. We don't want to be a superpower or any other kind of political power. The whole region is over-politicized as it is. We don't see politics as our thing, we don't want it, we don't think this is the right thing to do.

We are engaged in a different type of war that's really worth fighting -- fighting to alleviate poverty, generating better education, creating economic opportunity for people, and teaching people everywhere how to be entrepreneurs, to believe in themselves.

Humility and tolerance run deep in the Maktoum family and are very important in trying to serve one's people. I am anchored in that tradition, which is why my favorite activity is listening .

I always ask: How can I help? What can I do for people? How can I improve people's lives? That's part of my value system. It's too late for me to change that system, but it isn't too early for me to say to the world that the Dubai narrative is all about changing people's lives for the better through smart capitalism, willpower and positive energy.

Sheikh Mohammed completed two years as ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, and vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, earlier this week. His memoir will be published later this year.
Comment: This piece on behalf of Dubai talks about building bridges to the international community and becoming a Japan, Singapore, etc. However, it ignores that it boycotts Israel and has no plans to include the progressive economy of Israel in its efforts to reach the outside world.


Fitzgerald: Bush, a "Palestinian" state, and "Palestinian" propaganda

“Viable"..."contiguous" -- words used by President Bush to describe a "Palestinian" state

A "Palestinian" state is not "viable." It has no natural resources and no human resources. It would have far too many people, because of the fantastic size of Arab families, an overbreeding that is deliberately encouraged in order to swamp, so it is hoped, the Infidel enemy. It can only exist on the basis of permanent handouts from others. Let those handouts come from other Arabs, and stop the payments from the Infidels.

As for a state that is "contiguous," that would mean that Gaza and the West Bank would somehow meet through a corridor of land. But such a corridor of land would cut Israel in two. Israel would no longer be "contiguous."

Does Bush know the terms of the Mandate for Palestine, or what that Mandate (one of many mandates planned, though all the others resulted in four Arab states, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan -- four of the present twenty-two members of the Arab League) was supposed to achieve? Does he know what its dimensions were supposed to be? Does he know anything about the history of the Ottoman vilayets that came to constitute Mandatory Palestine? Does he know about land ownership -- with 90% of the land being owned by the Ottoman state, then passing to the Mandatory Authority, and then to its intended and rightful successor, the state of Israel? Does he know anything about the massive infusion of Arabs, chiefly from Egypt and Mesopotamia, on top of those who had arrived in the 1840s, as veterans of Abd el-Kabir's campaign in Algeria, or with Mehmet Ali, and who, along with the later arrivals, are now depicted as having been there "since time immemorial"? No, I don't see how someone so ignorant and so dumb could, since almost no one, including the very intelligent, know much or anything about that.

And the Israeli government seems peopled with those who have never learned, or chosen to forget, everything I have mentioned, and a good deal else I might have mentioned, and would have, had I not been concerned for my own health, and the effect on it of my own fury.

And speaking of those who have never learned, a Jihad Watch reader recently claimed that “a substantial percentage of Robert's fans are fundamentalist Christians who are simply to eager to bash another major religion they deem to be ‘wrong.’ Rather than have peace established in the Middle East and deprive Islamic Supremacist of their complaint that US unfairly supports Israel, you would keep the status quo because of your BIBLE. How is that far removed from the actions of Islamic Supremacists?"

Actually, there are quite a few atheists in this particular foxhole. Atheists who happen to know the history of the treatment, or mistreatment, of Jews and other non-Muslim (and non-Arab) minorities in the Middle East. Atheists who know the history of the Jews, including what happened in "Palestine" after the Muslim invasion. Atheists willing to do research into the cadastral (land ownership) records, and the demographic records, of that dusty part of the Ottoman Empire that, split between several vilayets and the separate sanjak of Jerusalem, did not have more than 100,000 people in the mid-19th century, with 15,000 in Jerusalem -- a plurality of them, even then, Jews. Atheists who know perfectly well why Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Jan Christiaan Smuts, and others who founded the League of Nations found it right, found it proper, found it just, to establish a Jewish State, among the various mandates. Four Arab countries came out of those mandates, while the Kurds and the Armenians never had the promises made to them fulfilled, and the Jews received a dimidiated territory -- only historic "Palestine" west of the Jordan.

And that, of course, is precisely the territory that everyone should know perfectly well that the Arabs and Muslims have no intention of letting the Israelis permanently possess, no matter how many further territorial and other absurd concessions the Israelis are forced to make. Their entire negotiating history for the past 59 years has been to give up, give up, give up, tangible gains for promises that are always and everywhere eventually breached. This should come as no surprise for those who follow the Treaty of Al Hudaibiyya, and as Majid Khadduri points out in War and Peace in the Law of Islam, Muhammad's example in that treaty, the 10-year hudna with the Meccans, broken by him after 18 months, is normative for Muslims.

Yes, there are plenty of atheists, Protestants and Catholics too, and Hindus and Buddhists, who realize all this. And would you believe it? There are even Muslims of the Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only variety, and certainly every Muslim apostate I have ever met, who are deeply worried about, concerned about, the State of Israel, and who refuse to contemplate any further surrenders to the Lesser Jihad that will forever be conducted against it.

Not everyone who supports Israel, contrary to the silly stereotype, is a holy-roller Bible-thumper. In fact, it only takes two things. It takes specific historical knowledge, and moral sense. And even if one lacks that knowledge, and that sense, one should know that any further triumphs by Arab Muslims, either by pressuring Israel into still more idiotic and dangerous concessions, or by accepting the Arab narrative that attempts to disguise the Lesser Jihad as a "nationalist struggle" of that recently-invented (circa late 1967) "Palestinian people" (see Zohair Mohsen on this), will only whet, not sate, the Muslim appetite. In other words, all you have to know, now, if you are a non-Muslim, is that any concession, anywhere, to Muslim demands by any non-Muslim people or state, will be bad for all non-Muslims.

That is what many Infidels are coming to recognize. And in so doing, all the hard work of all those Arab, Muslim, and "Palestinian" propagandists over the past forty years is coming unraveled, coming undone.

Friday, January 11, 2008


President G.W. Bush: “One of the interesting breakthroughs has been that the Israelis have come to believe, that it's in their long-term interest that we work toward a Palestinian democracy [state], otherwise, the demographics will overwhelm the Israeli democracy.” (Oct. 3, 2007, Lancaster, PA Chamber of Commerce). President Bush echoed that message at GOP fundraisers in Texas and NY. However, the assumption that Jews are doomed to become a minority, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, defies demographic reality, as documented by the World Bank, the Palestinian Health and Education Ministries, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), Gallup and the groundbreaking study by the Zimmerman-led American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG):

1. Israel’s Jewish fertility rate (2.8 children per woman) is the highest in the industrialized world and trending upward.

2. Israel’s Jewish-Arab fertility gap has been reduced from 6 children in the 1960s to 0.8 child in 2007. Arab fertility has declined 20 year faster than projected by the ICBS.

3. A 36% increase in the annual number of Israeli Jewish births – between 1995 and 2007 – while the number of annual Israeli Arab births has stabilized at 39,000. The one million Olim (Jewish immigrants) from the USSR have contributed significantly to the robust increase: They arrived with a typical Russian fertility rate of 1 child per woman, and are speedily catching up with the secular Jewish fertility: 3, 2 or 1 children per woman.

4. The World Bank documents a decrease in Palestinian fertility rate (a 32% gap between Palestinian projection and actual documentation of six year old youth!) and acceleration of Palestinian net-emigration.

5. Reduced population growth rate in Judea & Samaria has been caused by: high emigration (since the 1950 Jordanian occupation, accelerating since the 2000 2nd Intifadah and further escalation since the 2006 Hamas victory) and declining fertility. Fertility decline has been triggered by reduced teen-pregnancy (which is a key Arab demographic competitive edge), all-time-high divorce rate, unprecedented use of contraceptives, transformation from rural society (70% in 1967) – where each child is a helping hand - to urban society (60% in 2007) and expanded higher education, especially for women (higher median wedding age).

6. According to a March 17, 2006 Gallup study, Arab women – in Gaza, Judea & Samaria and the “Green Line” – prefer less children, while Jewish women prefer additional children. Prior Gallup studies suggest that actual fertility tend to converge with fertility preference.

7. The number of Judea & Samaria Arabs has been inflated by 70% (1.5 million and not 2.5 million!), by counting overseas residents, including Jerusalem’s Israeli Arabs, over-projecting birth, projecting net-immigration, etc. The Jewish majority west of the Jordan River has been robust and long-term since the 1960s – 67% without Gaza and 60% including Gaza, compared with a 33% minority in 1947 and an 8% minority in 1900. Since 1882 – the beginning of modern day Aliya (Jewish immigration to Israel) – the Jewish population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean has grown 164 times, while the Arab population grew 6 times. Since 1949, the Jewish population grew 9 times, while the Arab population grew 3 times.

8. President Bush’s Israeli advisors have misled him: Demography constitutes a strategic asset, not a liability, for the Jewish State. Anyone contending that there is a demographic machete at the throat of the Jewish State is either drastically mistaken or outrageously misleading!

Bush Brands Israel As Aggressor

This afternoon President Bush made a public statement on the "peace process" at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

His statement is making headlines that are damaging to the State of Israel.

For example, he said, "The point of departure for permanent status negotiations...seems clear: There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967." By making this point, President Bush has let the Palestinians off the hook. While the President refers to the "Roadmap" he is simply giving the Palestinians a free pass on the central provision that the first stage of the Roadmap is the successful end to terror strikes against Israel.

This, everyone knows, has never happened.

Instead Israel is now the aggressor that must make the most important concessions. Israel must move its defense forces out of what Bush calls the occupied territories. Israel security concerns are skimmed over with statements calling on the Palestinians to control terror. Something they have never done.

And to add insult to injury Bush clearly states that he believes Israel must loosen its control of Jerusalem.

The Bush Administration has gone from treating Israel as an ally against our nation's common enemies to pressuring Israel to make dangerous concessions when there is no partner for peace.

Little Green Footballs calls Bush's initiatives The State of Delusion.

Bush's change of course can not go unanswered. If you have not signed our petition to save a united Jerusalem please do so and pass it along for others to sign and circulate. From the same web-page you can send letters to Olmert and Bush.

While we are disappointed by President Bush's tone we are not defeated in our campaign to save Jerusalem and Israel.

This past week we sponsored a Human Chain around Jerusalem that demonstrated Israel's commitment to a united Jerusalem. Our efforts in Israel have educated tens of thousands of people to the dangers facing Jerusalem. We will continue these efforts.

Bush Bashed: While President Bush was forcefully interjecting himself into Israeli domestic politics (lecturing members of the government coalition to support Olmert's lead) Eli Yishai of Shas told the President that it is ridiculous to sign a peace accord with Abbas since he only controls half of the Palestinian land and that Jerusalem can not be divided. While Shas should not be in this government with those views Yishai deserves credit for confronting the President with some truths.

And in a private meeting, Netanyahu also told Bush to lay off Jerusalem and to abandon this dangerous peace initiative he is currently pursuing.

Libyan Envoy Sparks Criticism at Security Council

BENNY AVNI - Staff Reporter of the Sun
January 10, 2008

UNITED NATIONS—Libya stopped the Security Council from criticizing Sudan yesterday and prevented the condemnation of a rocket attack against Israel, sparking criticism of the North African nation's ability to function as a responsible member of the U.N.'s most important body. According to two senior Western diplomats, the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, Giadalla Ettalhi, resisted in closed-door negotiations the adoption of a statement publicly criticizing Libya's ally, Sudan, and condemning an attack against Israel. Mr. Ettalhi, the diplomats said, must have been "well aware" that it would be expected to do this as one of his first acts as president of the Security Council.

Asked about the issue, Mr. Ettalhi, citing diplomatic protocol, said he would not comment on internal council consultations.

Libya assumed a temporary seat on the 15-member council on January 1, wherein Mr. Ettalhi immediately became its rotating president. After council statements are agreed upon, they are customarily read by the U.N. body's president in front of television cameras, and they are widely available.

Yesterday's disagreement came after the U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, briefed the council, accusing Sudan of obstructing the deployment of a joint U.N.-African Union force in Darfur to protect civilians subjected to atrocities, which America has defined as genocide. Mr. Guéhenno also said member states were slow in contributing troops and material to the force. Sweden and Norway announced yesterday that they would not send 400 troops to join the force. Mr. Guéhenno also told the council that a local Sudanese army commander had made a phone call to U.N. officials, confirming that his troops were responsible for an armed attack against a U.N. convoy in Darfur on Monday. Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, however, told The New York Sun yesterday that the phone call could have been faked. He denied Sudan's involvement in the attack, placing the blame instead on rebel leaders and troops of the armed forces of neighboring Chad.

Separately, Mr. Guéhenno detailed to the council events surrounding the firing of two rockets Tuesday on the Israeli town of Shlomi, near the border with Lebanon. Because of a thunderstorm, Mr. Guéhenno told reporters that the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon — the largest U.N. peacekeeping operation — was unable to detect the firing of the rockets. After two days of hand-wringing, a U.N. spokesman released a statement last night that read: "If it is determined that there was firing from within Lebanon, the incident would be a serious violation" of the Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

After the State Department yesterday announced a plan to introduce new arms sanctions against Sudan, America tried to sponsor a council statement condemning the attack on the U.N. force in Darfur. But China, Russia, and Libya resisted any reference to Sudan's complicity in the attack. Libya was the only member later that resisted a separate, French-proposed statement that would have "strongly condemned" the rocket attack against Israel.

"If a country today asked the Security Council not to condemn anymore any attacks against Israel, then we will have a problem," the French U.N. ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said. "It will be a setback." He added that the proposed statement on Lebanon was "balanced."

Ms. Magazine Blocks Ad on Israeli Women

January 10, 2008 ― Ms. Magazine has long been in the forefront of the fight for equal rights and equal opportunities for women. Apparently that is not the case if the women happen to be Israeli.

The magazine has turned down an AJCongress advertisement that did nothing more controversial than call attention to the fact that women currently occupy three of the most significant positions of power in Israeli public life. The proposed ad ( The Ad Ms. Didn't Want You To See) included a text that merely said, "This is Israel," under photographs of President of the Supreme Court Dorit Beinish, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik. "What other conclusion can we reach," asked Richard Gordon, President of AJCongress, "except that the publishers - and if the publishers are right, a significant number of Ms. Magazine readers - are so hostile to Israel that they do not even want to see an ad that says something positive about Israel?"

When Director of AJCongress' Commission for Women's Empowerment Harriet Kurlander tried to place the ad, she was told that publishing the ad "will set off a firestorm" and that "there are very strong opinions" on the subject - the subject presumably being whether or not one can say anything positive about Israel. Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal failed to respond to a signed-for certified letter with a copy of the ad as well as numerous calls by Mr. Gordon over a period of weeks.

A Ms. Magazine representative, Susie Gilligan, whom the Ms. Magazine masthead lists under the publisher's office, told Ms. Kurlander that the magazine "would love to have an ad from you on women's empowerment, or reproductive freedom, but not on this." Ms. Gilligan failed to elaborate what "this" is.

"The only conclusion that one can reach from this behavior is that Ms. Magazine feels that an ad highlighting the accomplishments of three incredibly talented and dedicated women would offend their readership. Since there is nothing about the ad itself that is offensive, it is obviously the nationality of the women pictured that the management of Ms. fears their readership would find objectionable . For a publication that holds itself out to be in the forefront of the Women's Movement, this is nothing short of disgusting and despicable," stated Mr. Gordon.

Ms. Magazine has a long record of publishing advertisements rallying readers to support reproductive choice; opposing the Religious Right; highlighting the fragility of the pro-Roe v. Wade majority on the Supreme Court; charging that "Pat Robertson and his Religious Right cohorts don't like individual freedom;" announcing support for the "struggle for freedom and human rights;" opposing the Bush administration's campaign to fill federal courts with judges who "will reverse decades of progress on reproductive rights and privacy, civil rights, religious liberty, environmental protection and so much more;" as well as accusing the Bush administration of being "bent on rewarding big corporations and the rich, turning back the clock on women's rights and civil rights, and promoting a U.S. empire abroad."

"This flagship publication of the American women's empowerment movement publishes ads that are controversial in the general culture but not so among its readership," Ms. Kurlander said. "Obviously, Ms. believes our ad would enflame a significant portion of their readers."

Mr. Gordon added, "What really amazes me is that just recently, in their Winter 2007 issue, Ms. ran a cover story with a picture of Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi with the heading in big letters: "This is What a Speaker Looks Like." While Ms. has every reason to be proud of Speaker Pelosi and her accomplishments, as are we, the only discernable difference between Speaker Pelosi and Speaker Itzik apparently is that Speaker Pelosi is not Israeli."

Mr. Gordon noted that while Israel was apparently too hot to handle, Ms. Magazine did not extend that taboo to Arab and Moslem women. "What is even more amazing is that, while refusing to publish a simple ad praising three very notable women, women who embody the ideal that Ms. Magazine seemingly espouses, Ms. has run a cover article in the Fall 2003 issue on Queen Noor of Jordan, has featured a number of articles on Muslim women, and even ran an article in the Winter 2004 issue entitled, 'Images of Palestine,' which discussed the Ramallah Film Festival and gave sympathetic reviews to films concerning 'the liberation of South Lebanon' from Israel as well as numerous films which portrayed terrorism as legitimate 'revolutionary' activity against Israel and miscast Israel's activities to counter terrorism as 'oppressive.'"

"Clearly Ms. has changed a great deal from the days when AJCongress members and leaders of the AJCongress' Commission for Women's Equality - including Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug and Ms. co-founder Letty Pogrebin - were at the forefront of the Women's Movement that led to the creation of Ms. Magazine."

AJCongress President Gordon concluded, "Ms. has the right to turn down our ad. But in exercising that right, it has spoken loudly about itself and its readership, and their lingering hostility to Israel."

Mr. Gordon and Ms. Kurlander are available for further comment. Contact David Twersky at (212) 360-1586 or

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bush in Jerusalem : An Intellectual and Moral Travesty

Prof . Paul Eidelberg

The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has assigned some 10,000 police and security personnel to protect President George W . Bush, who has come to Israel to promote peace between Jews and Arab Palestinians . What an absurdity!

The Olmert government has ordered Israeli security forces to close all entries from Judea, Samaria , and Gaza to prevent Palestinian terrorists in these areas from killing the American President, who is committed to establishing in these same areas a Palestinian state . Can anything be more absurd? Apart from those living in the world of make-believe, no one really expects genuine peace between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East . Even Middle East expert Dr, Daniel Pipes, who supported the Israel-Egypt peace treaty of March 1979, has admitted the treaty has been a failure . Let me review his November 21, 2006 article "Time to Recognize Failure of Israel-Egypt Treaty".

To begin with: Ninety-two percent of respondents in a recent poll of one thousand Egyptians over 18 years of age called Israel an enemy state . In contrast, a meager 2% saw Israel as a friend to Egypt. [Meanwhile, their Palestinian brethren are openly committed to Israel's annihilation, in evidence of which, enough to mention the election of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya as the Palestinian Authority's prime minister two years ago . ]

In Egypt , hostile sentiments express themselves in many ways, including a popular song titled I Hate Israel , venomously antisemitic political cartoons and terrorist attacks against visiting Israelis . Egypt's leading democracy movement, Kifaya, recently launched an initiative to collect a million signatures on a petition demanding the annulment of the March 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty!

Moreover, the Egyptian government has permitted large quantities of weapons to be smuggled into Gaza to use against Israeli border towns . Yuval Steinitz, an Israeli legislator specializing in Egypt-Israel relations, estimates that fully 90% of PLO and Hamas explosives come from Egypt .

Cairo may have no apparent enemies,says Pipes, but the impoverished Egyptian state sinks massive resources into a military build up . According to the Congressional Research Service, it purchased $6 . 5 billion worth of foreign weapons in the years 2001-2004, more than any other state in the Middle East . [In fact] Egypt has the tenth largest standing army in the world, well over twice the size of Israel's!

Dr . Pipes avows that the Israel-Egypt treaty harmed Israel in two ways . First, it made sophisticated American arms available to Egypt . Second, it intensified anti-Zionism . Pipes lived nearly three years in Egypt in the 1970s, before Anwar Sadat's dramatic trip to Jerusalem in late 1977 . He notes that although Israel was plastered all over the news, anti-Zionism hardly figured in conversations. Egyptians seemed happy to delegate this issue to their government. Only after the treaty, which many Egyptians saw as a betrayal, did they themselves take direct interest . The result was the emergence of a more personal, intense, and bitter form of anti-Zionism.

Pipes then points out that the same pattern of hostility was replicated in Jordan, where the 1994 treaty with Israel soured popular attitudes . To a lesser extent, the 1993 [PLO-] Palestinian accords [with Israel ] and even the aborted 1983 Lebanon treaty prompted similar responses . In all four of these cases, diplomatic agreements prompted a surge in hostility toward Israel.

Defenders of the peace process, answer that, however hostile Egyptians' attitudes and however large their arsenal, the treaty has held; Cairo has in fact not made war on Israel since 1979 . However frigid the peace, peace it has been.

To this Pipes replies: "If the mere absence of active warfare counts as peace, then peace has also prevailed between Syria and Israel for decades, despite their formal state of war, Damascus lacks a treaty with Jerusalem, but it also lacks modern American weaponry." Does an antique signature on a piece of paper offset Egypt's Abrams tanks, F-16 fighter jets, and Apache attack helicopters?

"I think not", says Pipes . In retrospect, it becomes apparent that multiple fallacies and wishful predictions fueled Arab-Israeli diplomacy:

* Once signed, agreements signed by unelected Arab leaders would convince the masses to give up their ambitions to eliminate Israel .

* These agreements would be permanent, with no backsliding, much less duplicity .

* Other Arab states would inevitably follow suit .

* War can be concluded through negotiations rather than by one side giving up .

"The time has come", says Pipes, to recognize the Egypt-Israel treaty usually portrayed as the glory and ornament of Arab-Israel diplomacy ­as the failure it has been, and to draw the appropriate lessons in order not to repeat its mistakes.

No wonder Dr . Pipes is no longer a member to the Institute of Peace to which he was appointed by President Bush a few years ago . His assessment of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty makes utter nonsense of the President's current peace mission to Israel . This mission may secure Ehud Olmert's job as prime minister despite the Winograd Report. Most assuredly, it will not bring peace to Israel .

To the contrary, the intellectual dishonesty and moral cowardice underlying the collaboration of the Mr . Bush and Mr . Olmert can only endanger Israel's existence .

Tell Bush the Truth

Isi Leibler
January 10, 2008

Prime Minister Olmert has announced that in the course of his meetings with President George W. Bush, besides discussing Iran, he intends to reassure the president that Israel will remain highly flexible and make every effort to enhance the status of our "peace partner," Mahmoud Abbas. Such a message would be utterly inappropriate. Now is the time for our prime minister to speak the truth to President Bush. He should alert him that under current circumstances, no meaningful outcome from our negotiations with the Palestinians is likely, and that raising false expectations could be highly counterproductive.

President Bush is a true friend of Israel. In contrast to his predecessors, once he recognized the evil and duplicitous nature of Yasser Arafat, he severed relations and effectively marginalized him. He also brought to an end the era of moral equivalency during which Palestinian murderers and Israeli victims were both regarded as equal components of a senseless cycle of violence. In addition, Bush endorsed Israel's right to defensible borders and became the first Western leader to state that when boundaries are finalized, demographic facts on the ground will need to be taken into account - a clear endorsement for Israeli retention of the major settlement blocs. And at Annapolis, despite all its ambivalences, the president unequivocally reiterated that Israel is a "Jewish state," bluntly contradicting the Palestinians, who vowed that they would never come to terms with a Jewish entity.

Indeed, unless the White House reverses these policies, history will judge President Bush as the most pro-Israeli president to date, a leader who resisted pressures from many of his allies to appease the Palestinians and courageously maintained a principled approach toward the Jewish state.

Regrettably, over the past year there have been ominous indications that the State Department has begun tilting its policy against Israel and reverting to its former failed strategy of appeasement.

The offensive remarks recently expressed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, comparing Palestinian suffering with the discrimination she as an African-American underwent from white supremacists, exemplify a new confrontational stance. She has also been adopting language reminiscent of moral equivalency, implying that both parties to the conflict are equally culpable.

The atmosphere became further strained when, on the eve of the Presidential visit, Rice described Jewish suburbs of east Jerusalem - specifically mentioning Har Homa - as "settlements." With Olmert having impulsively ceded to the Americans the role of determining adherence to the road map, a real confrontation with the US is looming.

In a similar vein, the brutal pressures exerted over the past year by Rice against Israel have, for the first time, led to a questioning of her role as an honest broker. This followed a series of tough demands on Israel to "ease the suffering of the Palestinians" by making further unilateral concessions which impacted disastrously on Israel's security.

The most glaring example was the insistence that Israel give up the Philadelphi Corridor, which enabled the flood of armaments into Gaza from Egypt. But even as the arms continued to pour in, Rice demanded that Israel reduce checkpoints, release terrorists and provide arms to PA security forces, arms that were subsequently employed against Israelis.

These actions have already resulted in the murder of innocent Israeli civilians, and will inevitably lead to more bloodshed.

Some of these disastrous changes may have been avoided had the Israeli government displayed a modicum of resistance to the initial American pressures. Regrettably, Israel frequently anticipated and even exceeded American demands.

For example, it was Prime Minister Olmert, not the Americans, who dispensed with the road map requirement that the terrorist militias be dissolved before the commencement of final status negotiations. It was Israel which requested that Congress waive conditions it intended imposing in relation to financial aid to the PA.

Public support for Israel may be at a peak in the US, but one cannot expect the US administration to be more supportive of Israel's security requirements than its own government.

Were it anyone other than Ehud Olmert, one would expect the prime minister of Israel to urge President Bush to uphold the fundamental principles relating to fighting terror and Islamic fundamentalism which he has promoted over the years. Instead of groveling to illusionary peace partners and automatically succumbing to every American demand, our prime minister should appeal to the president to frustrate State Department initiatives designed to make Israel a sacrificial lamb to compensate for the "bigger picture."

President Bush should be reminded that the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria is not the by-product of an Israeli invasion but the response to an Arab invasion designed to wipe Israel off the map. Even so, the majority of Israelis would today support the creation of a Palestinian state; but certainly not an extended Hamastan.

Our prime minister must surely urge President Bush to demand that the Palestinians now confront reality. In recent weeks, three young Israelis have been brutally murdered by members of the Fatah militia under the control of Abbas. Surely President Bush will appreciate that if, under such circumstances, Israel continues making unilateral concessions, all the wrong messages will be conveyed to the Palestinians. If there is to be a serious process, President Bush must demand that Abbas now substitute action for his duplicitous words and belatedly dismantle the terrorist militias under his jurisdiction.

The president should also be reminded that vicious incitement against Israel continues unabated at every level of Palestinian society. And that it is unconscionable to demand that Israel collaborate in creating a state under whose jurisdiction, shaheeds (suicide bombers) will continue to be sanctified and their families compensated with state pensions. Not to mention an educational system which encourages Palestinian children to accept martyrdom while killing Jews as a noble sacrifice.

Above all, our prime minister should impress upon President Bush that before Israel considers further concessions in the framework of a final status agreement, the Palestinians must come to terms with Israel as a Jewish state. Having recently proclaimed that he would not renege on this issue, it is surely outrageous for Prime Minister Olmert to now publicly proclaim that he is satisfied because he "thinks" that Abbas "accepts Israel in his soul." So long as the Palestinians persist with their so-called Arab right of return, they are effectively proclaiming that they will never reconcile themselves to coexisting with Jewish sovereignty. That remains the source of the conflict.

President Bush must now take a public stand. He would demonstrate that he is no lame duck by bluntly telling Abbas the truth, insisting that if he remains either unwilling or unable to undertake steps to curb terrorism and incitement, he can no longer qualify as a peace partner.

Finally, President Bush should be reminded of his repeated declarations warning that the appeasement of jihadism has in every instance only served to embolden terrorists everywhere. Appeasement not only contradicts the president's own agenda and threatens to destroy his legacy, it also symbolizes a violation of all that our civilization represents.

The writer is a veteran international Jewish leader.

Israeli Police Campaign to Silence Voice of Opposition

Hana Levi Julian and Baruch Gordon

Three people were taken into custody and their literature confiscated as they were handing it out to foreign journalists outside the Dan Panorama Hotel in Jerusalem Wednesday night. The Dan Panorama is where most of the journalists who are covering the Bush visit are lodging. Plans to distribute the material to foreign journalists were put into place last week as a joint project of the Center for Near East Policy Research and the National Council of Young Israel, a Jewish American organization with chapters in every state. "A number of activists with several organizations were working on assisting the Center to distribute this crucial information to the foreign media," said activist Suzy Dym in an exclusive interview with Israel National News.

English-speaking volunteers came Wednesday evening to speak with visiting journalists outside their hotel, and present them with views and materials opposing the establishment of a Palestinian state in Israel.

Volunteer Yosef Hartuv gave a Fox TV cameraman a booklet presenting the majority view in Israel which opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Fox cameraman is seen in the picture below holding the literature as he carried on a 20-minute conversation with him. According to Hartuv, the cameraman said, "This is very interesting. I'll get this stuff to my producer."

The literature handed out was a booklet authored by Arlene Kushner entitled, "Fatah as 'Moderate': A Hard Look Post-Annapolis, published by the Center for Near East Policy Research at the Beit Agron International Press Center in Jerusalem. The booklet may be viewed in its entirety by clicking here.

According to eye-witnesses, Police Superintendant Chaim Moshe approached the cameraman and confiscated the booklet from him. Officer Moshe then told the volunteers that they were not allowed to stand there and talk with the journalists.

"One policeman said we can't stand in front of the hotel, that we should go to the corner, so that's what I did," related Jeff Daube, another volunteer at the site.

Daube wrote what happened next in a blog post:

"Approximately 20 minutes later, a policeman comes down to the corner where I had been standing and taps me on the shoulder asks me for my teudat zehut [ID card] and tells me to come with him. He then told me to get into the police car with Yehudit Dassberg and Susie Dym, two colleagues who were there for the same purpose. They did not tell me at the time why I was being taken in but Susie told me in the car that they found the material either seditious or contain incitement -- I am not sure which. Later it became apparent that they claimed we were creating a public nuisance. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Dym was not willing to be taken in for questioning: "I told them that I cannot agree to be detained because I need to talk to these foreign reporters, that that's what I came to Jerusalem for." "Then you are arrested," responded the police officer, "for distributing seditious (treasonous) material."

Dym said Police Superintendent Chaim Moshe told her if she didn't "come along quietly" that they would use "considerable force" against her.

At the Russian Compound, Dym was formally arrested while the other two were detained.

Approximately one hour later, all three were released, their personal belongings were returned -- minus the booklets -- and the charge against Dym was dropped. "They haven't really charged us yet, but they still could," she emphasized. "We like to hope that in a democracy that doesn't happen, but we know it does."

Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Israel National News on Thursday that the three volunteers were released "after it became clear there was no security threat involved and there was no incitement with the materials they had."

Rosenfeld said the booklets were confiscated in order to be "examined" but was unable to explain why the materials were not returned once it had been determined they were harmless. "That's something I have to look into," he said. When pressed for a response as to why the detainees were released without their literature, he reiterated the police were examining the materials at the time, adding, "It takes time to read through a 27-page booklet in English."

The real concern, said Dym, is the lack of information reaching public figures in American Jewish organizations about Fatah's continued involvement with terrorism against Israel.

"Our real hope is that public figures and organizations will take this very seriously," she said. "We pray we won't be abandoned by the American Jewish community on this issue."

Daube concludes his blog post about the arrest with his personal feelings:

"I am struck by the police's total arbitrary and capricious behavior in this incident. After having read and heard about these types of police actions, and now having experienced it first-hand, I can only say that I am saddened by the fact that the police force of the Jewish State employs tactics which are unethical in the extreme and still has the gall to call itself a democratic country where the rule of law prevails. Granted at 60 years old, the country may still be young, relatively speaking, but it still has a long way to go before it reaches minimum standards of respect for a citizen's civil rights -- even a brand new citizen."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Diplomats Give Low Marks To Secretary Rice

KAREN DEYOUNG - The Washington Post
January 9, 2008

WASHINGTON — Only 18% of the American Foreign Service thinks Secretary of State Rice is doing a good job protecting their profession, according to a recent survey conducted by the service's union. Forty-four percent rated her performance "poor" or "very poor," the same percentage who said that "developments of the last few years" had made it less likely they would complete their careers in the Foreign Service. Respondents to the American Foreign Service Association survey rated pay and other personnel issues as top concerns, closely followed by staffing and security problems at the American Embassy in Iraq. The union's president, John Naland, said the survey raised "serious questions about the long-term health" of the service and "the future viability of U.S. diplomatic engagement."

Ms. Rice's leadership has come under scrutiny in recent months as Congress has criticized the State Department about supervision of private security contractors in Iraq and the enormous size of embassies in Baghdad and other combat zones. A number of independent studies have raised alarms about the department's readiness to confront growing challenges abroad, and diplomats have grown increasingly outspoken in questioning Ms. Rice's management.

More than 4,300 Foreign Service members responded to the survey, which was sent electronically to all 11,500 members in late 2007. Seventy percent of respondents were posted overseas. A copy of the results, to be released today, was obtained by the Washington Post.

[Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that nearly half of American diplomats unwilling to volunteer to work in Iraq say one reason for their refusal is they don't agree with Bush administration's policies in the country, according to the American Foreign Service Association survey.

Security concerns and separation from family ranked as the top reasons for not wanting to serve in Iraq. But 48% cited "disagreement" with administration policy as a factor in their opposition.

In addition, nearly 70% of American diplomats who responded to the survey oppose forced assignments to Iraq, a prospect that sparked a storm of controversy last year when the State Department announced it might have to require such tours under penalty of dismissal in the largest diplomatic call-up to a war zone since Vietnam.

The results suggest the State Department may be facing a far more serious revolt over Iraq among its ranks than previously thought, and call into question its ability to fully staff diplomatic missions in Iraq, as well as those in Afghanistan and other dangerous posts deemed critical to the administration's foreign policy goals.

A State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, dismissed the findings, noting that the poll was "self-selective" and not necessarily reflective of the entire Foreign Service. He also defended Ms. Rice's record in fighting for diplomats and the department, which he said she had brought "back to the center of U.S. foreign policy formulation and execution."

Of the respondents, 68%, or 2,778, said they would either "oppose" or "strongly oppose" mandatory assignments to Iraq. Only 34% said they would "support" or "strongly support" such a move. The State Department last year began identifying candidates for so-called "directed assignments" to Iraq but shelved the plan after enough volunteers came forward to fill nearly 50 vacant posts. The move had triggered an outcry among diplomats, one of whom drew applause at a town hall meeting when he likened such tours to a "potential death sentence."

Of respondents who said they were unwilling to serve voluntarily in Iraq, separation from family was identified as a reason by 64%, security concerns by 61% and policy disagreement by 48%. The other main factor, difficulty in doing the job, was identified as a factor by 42%.

Mr. McCormack declined to comment on the implications of the percentage who said they had policy differences, but noted that "when we signed up for these jobs, we signed up to support the policies of the American government. If people have a problem with that, they know what they can do."

Under their contracts and oaths to uphold the Constitution, American diplomats can be required to serve anywhere in the world under penalty of dismissal with limited exceptions. The State Department had sought to play down the controversy, stressing that the diplomatic corps is patriotic and has always stepped up to challenges facing it.]

Timeline: A Series of Failed Peace Proposals

The Washington Post
January 9, 2008

After the unsuccessful Camp David summit held in July 2000, decades-old Palestinian Arab frustrations erupted in a second revolt against Israel. None of the subsequent peace initiatives has been successful, and President Bush is making a visit to the region seeking to give new momentum to the negotiation process during his last year in office.


Camp David: Several efforts to rescue the peace negotiations were launched. But talks at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in October brought no substantial progress. The outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in the fall made new efforts more urgent.


May: A committee headed by a former U.S. senator, George Mitchell, a Democrat of Maine, unveils its report, which urges a cease-fire, confidence-building measures, and eventual resumption of negotiations. It also recommends a freeze on Jewish settlements.

Result: Not implemented.

June: CIA Director George Tenet produces a list of recommendations to restart Israeli-Palestinian Arab cooperation on security.

Result: Not implemented.

July: The Bush administration briefly floats a plan to dispatch monitors to assess Israeli and Palestinian Arab efforts toward a cease-fire.

November: Secretary of State Powell, in a major speech, criticizes the Israeli occupation but also calls on Yasser Arafat to crack down on Palestinian Arab gunmen and suicide bombers.

December: Mr. Powell announces that a retired Marine general, Anthony Zinni, will serve as his senior Middle East adviser.


April: General Zinni travels to the region several times to broker a cease-fire. Result: No cease-fire goes into effect.


The road map: America and other international mediators present an initiative called the road map for peace. The long-delayed plan calls for the end of violence and establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2005.

Result: Despite American efforts to persuade Israeli and Palestinian Arab leaders to implement the road map, little progress is made. Israel begins building a 456-mile-long barrier near its boundary with the West Bank to separate Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. Suicide bombings diminish.


The Annapolis summit: In November, after several visits to the region by Secretary of State Rice, America brings together representatives from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and 50 other countries and institutions to launch a peace initiative in Annapolis, Md.

Result: Israelis and Palestinian Arabs pledge to begin negotiations based on the road map for a lasting agreement.


As Bush begins his last year in office, he travels to Israel to push his initiative to create a Palestinian state by the end of his term..

Why is he coming?

Yossi Alpher

Why is US President George W. Bush coming to Israel and Palestine this week? This visit, his first here as president, was tacked on to a wider sweep of the Gulf countries and seems to have been born almost as an afterthought following the Annapolis meeting of late November. Ostensibly, it is intended to give a push to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process announced at that meeting. That is certainly one way of seeing the visit. According to leaks to the Israeli press, Bush's visit will be exploited by Israeli PM Ehud Olmert to pursue negotiations aimed at providing American validation for Olmert's concept of the shape of a future Palestinian state: concessions to Israel's security concerns in the air and on the ground, including in the Jordan Valley and the settlement blocs. In other words Olmert, according to this take on Bush's visit, intends to recruit additional US support so as to strengthen his negotiating position vis-a-vis Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and, accordingly, enhance his image in the eyes of the Israeli public. Any connection between this direction of events and the actual success of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is coincidental: Olmert has to convince Abbas, not Bush.

Bush and Olmert will also certainly discuss the interface between the Israel-Arab peace process and the American-Arab-Israeli effort to block Iran's nuclear effort in the current post-National Intelligence Estimate phase. Bush intends to reassure Israel that the US understands its security concerns regarding Iran, even though his anti-Iran policy has been rendered toothless by the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. Hopefully, Israel and the US will also discuss Israel's legitimate security concerns for the inevitable moment when Washington gets down to serious negotiations with Tehran.

Then too, one purpose of Bush's visit is apparently to offer moral support and photo opportunities to his good friend PM Ehud Olmert, who will on January 30 confront a highly critical Winograd final report on his performance during the war in Lebanon a year and a half ago. Olmert is currently pulling out all the media stops and political maneuvers in an effort to maximize public sympathy in anticipation of the report.

There is one thing Bush is apparently not coming to do. He will not put heavy pressure on Olmert, publicly or in private, to start carrying out his roadmap phase I obligations and energetically remove outposts--he has already relegated the task of monitoring that effort to a committee. "I will talk about Israeli settlement expansion, about how that is... an impediment to success", Bush told one interviewer last week. That's about as heavy as the pressure will get. Olmert will survive it. Nor will Bush publicly tell the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership that unless and until they find a way to reform the Fateh party and restore their rule in the Gaza Strip their peace efforts cannot bear fruit.

In other words, Bush is not coming to make a serious effort to advance a substantive peace process. His visit, like the Annapolis conference that preceded it, does not represent a major turning point in his administration's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this regard, his latest attempt to frame the objective of his final year in office as "defining the outlines of a Palestinian state" is decidedly less ambitious than actually solving the conflict. Yet even this new and more modest goal won't be achieved if it depends on substantive American input. This visit, like Bush's Israeli-Palestinian peace process in general, looks to be all hype and superficiality . Yes, Bush is a "known quantity" (on whose watch, he argues, the parties should wish to make a peace deal)--but that's part of the problem.

Perhaps it's better that way. Since 9/11, most of what Bush has touched in the Middle East has gone sour. His democracy reform project enfranchised militant Islamists. His conquest of Iraq has destabilized that state and enhanced and empowered Iran's hegemonic drive there and in the Levant. The US occupation of Afghanistan is bogged down, and Bush is liable to be known as the president who "lost" Pakistan . His encouragement 18 months ago for Israel to deal a lethal blow to Hizballah in Lebanon (where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the "birth pangs of the new Middle East") pushed the Olmert government to multiply its mistakes there. His administration's initial effort to build up Palestinian security forces in the hope of undoing the damage of US-sponsored elections helped trigger Hamas' military takeover in Gaza half a year ago. Now his drive to denuclearize Iran has fizzled.

No matter. Both Olmert and Abbas are in any case too weak to sustain a successful peace process.

Reading and watching Bush's pre-visit interviews to the mainstream Israeli press is almost a surreal experience. His friendship with and admiration for Ehud Olmert override any inclination to see Israel's prime minister as the vast majority of Israelis see him . His insistence that "freedom", "liberty" and "democracy" will win out in the Middle East flies in the face of the disastrous course of events catalyzed by his administration's efforts in the region.

The upcoming Bush visit will be no less surreal.- Published 7/1/2008 ©

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former special adviser to PM Ehud Barak..

Obama and Israel

New York Republicans, according to an article in the New York Post yesterday, are preparing to attack Senator Obama for his supposed lack of support for Israel. "Obama's commitment to Israel is open to question, and that would help us with Jews," the Post quotes a "prominent New York Republican" as saying. We're no shills for Mr. Obama, but these Republicans haven't checked their facts.At least by our lights, Mr. Obama's commitment to Israel, as he has articulated it so far in his campaign, is quite moving and a tribute to the broad, bipartisan support that the Jewish state has in America.

In remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Chicago in March, Mr. Obama spoke about his first visit to Israel, in January 2006. "I flew on an IDF helicopter to the border zone. The helicopter took us over the most troubled and dangerous areas and that narrow strip between the West Bank and the Mediterranean Sea. At that height, I could see the hills and the terrain that generations have walked across. I could truly see how close everything is and why peace through security is the only way for Israel," Mr. Obama said, sounding like a certain governor of Texas recounting the helicopter tour he got as a presidential candidate from a future prime minister named Ariel Sharon.

Mr. Obama spoke of "a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel: our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy." Quoth he: "That will always be my starting point." Mr. Obama spoke of the threat of Iran. "President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust. He held a conference in his country, claiming it was a myth. But we know the Holocaust was as real as the 6 million who died in mass graves at Buchenwald, or the cattle cars to Dachau or whose ashes clouded the sky at Auschwitz. We have seen the pictures. We have walked the halls of the Holocaust museum in Washington and Yad Vashem. We have touched the tattoos on loved-ones arms. After 60 years, it is time to deny the deniers," he said.

Mr. Obama went further, stating: "In the 21st century, it is unacceptable that a member state of the United Nations would openly call for the elimination of another member state. But that is exactly what he has done. Neither Israel nor the United States has the luxury of dismissing these outrages as mere rhetoric." Mr. Obama added: "We must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs. This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza."

He took Israel's side against those who would fault it for its actions in Lebanon in the Summer of 2006. "When Israel is attacked, we must stand up for Israel's legitimate right to defend itself," Mr. Obama said. "Last summer, Hezbollah attacked Israel. By using Lebanon as an outpost for terrorism, and innocent people as shields, Hezbollah has also engulfed that entire nation in violence and conflict, and threatened the fledgling movement for democracy there."

And Mr. Obama rejected the idea, put forth by Israel's false friends, that America does Israel any favors by exerting pressure in the name of peace. "We should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli Prime Minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States," Mr. Obama said. "When I am president, the United States will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel," Mr. Obama told the National Jewish Democratic Council in February of 2007.

"Those who have worked with me in Chicago in the state Legislature and now in the United States Senate will testify that I have not just talked the talk, I have walked the walk when it comes to Israel's security. I think it is fundamental. I think it is something that is in the interests of the United States because of our special relationship, because Israel has not only established a democracy in the region but has been a stalwart ally of ours," Mr. Obama said to the NJDC. "The United States government and an Obama Presidency cannot ask Israel to take risks with respect to its security."

* * *

Now the editors of these columns, whatever our faults, weren't born yesterday. We can remember, say, all the vows that a young governor of Arkansas, William Clinton, made, right here in New York, about how he was going to stand with Israel when he became president. And we remember how the liberal — and often Jewish — groups active on the Middle East front, promptly began confecting arguments in respect of how America should pressure the government in Jerusalem to be more forthcoming in its negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs. But Republicans plotting to attack Mr. Obama on Israel need to be careful lest the idea of the perfect becomes enemy of the good.

Mr. Obama may not be the best candidate in the field in respect of Israel; he has some stiff competition in both parties. He has failed to press the issue of Jerusalem. The American retreat he supports in Iraq would make the Middle East a more dangerous place for both Israel and America, not to mention, say, the free Lebanese and the Copts in Egypt. If Mr. Obama disappointed Israel once elected, he wouldn't be the first president to do so. But as a candidate, he has chosen to put himself on the record in terms that Israel's friends in America, at least those not motivated by pure political partisanship, can warmly welcome.

U.S. Evangelical Leaders Reject Palestinian

Jerusalem – Proclaiming “an ineradicable bond between the geographical integrity of the land…and God’s promise of the land as “an everlasting possession” to the people of Israel, 26 American Evangelical pastors and lay leaders from 11 states and the District Colombia (plus a Canadian entry from British Columbia), affixed their signatures to a full-page Jerusalem Post ad flatly rejecting President Bush’s Annapolis-launched campaign to shoehorn a “Palestinian State” between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.Headlined “President Bush: There will be No Legacy” and timed for the President’s January 9-10th visit to Israel, the ad declares the creation of such an entity “detrimental to the stability or both Israel and Jordan, the peace of the Middle East and the security interests of the United States.

The signatories mirror a cross section of some of the most influential voices on the U,S.Evangelical and Pentacostal scene, including, inter alia, national media personality Dr. Michael Evans, chairman of Churches United With Israel in Mr. Bush’s home state of Texas; Tennessee Pastor Robert Upton, a major figure in the powerful Pentacostal Congress; Pastor Jim Vineyard, whose press and internet opposition to Israeli territorial concessions has attracted national attention, and White House backyard neighbors the Rev. James Hutchens of the Jerusalem Connection and Richard Hellman, head of Christians’Israel Public Action Campaign, Capitol Hill’s best known pro-Israel Christian advocacy group

Herbert Zweibon, chairman of New York-based Americans For A Safe Israel, sponsor of the ad, characterized it as a “reflection of the rising concern among Bible-oriented Christians at the negation of the Covenant, the marginalization of four millennia of Judeo-Christian civilization and the existential and geostrategic peril implicit in any decision to dismember Jerusalem and deliver Judea and Samaria into the hands of a radical Islamic nexus.”

Zweibon said he was awed by the moral courage exhibited by the signatories. “Taking issue with a president they admired and supported was no easy matter for these pastors and their congregants,” he noted, “but as Christians, addressing a professed born-again Christian, they felt obligated to tell the president that pressuring a weak and extremely unpopular Olmert government to place Israel in the direst jeopardy it has even known was morally, religiously and geopolitically indefensible. We all hope he gets the message.”

Bush's Betrayal

Jacob Laksin |

Saul Bellow once observed that a great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep. President Bush’s ill-advised trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank this week to promote a "two-state solution" would seem to underscore the wisdom of Bellow’s insight.

The presumed aim of Bush’s visit, the first of his presidency, is to revive the goals of November’s all-but-forgotten Annapolis summit. There the president imperiously decided that all that was needed for a final peace settlement to be reached between Israel and the Palestinians was for two leaders with no popular constituency on their respective sides to decide that it should be so. Bush duly met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and read from a statement in which the parties promised, not a little ambitiously, to resolve "all outstanding issues, including core issues, without exception" in 2008.

It all might have ended happily at that point, with both sides having savored their share of the international spotlight, were it not for Bush’s hopelessly naïve conviction that the grand promises of the summit had any foundation in reality.

That they do not is made tragically clear by the events of the past few weeks. In late December, two off-duty Israeli soldiers, Cpl. Ahikam Amihai and Sgt. David Rubin, were gunned down while hiking in the West Bank. At least of two of their murderers, Ali Hamid Dandanes and Amar Badad Khalim Taha, are Fatah operatives -- that is, employees of Abbas’ political organization. It is thus unsurprising that to avoid capture by Israeli security, both men turned themselves in to the PA’s intelligence service, where they received understanding treatment.

This is not news, exactly. The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, closely affiliated with Fatah, have continued to carry out terrorist attacks on Abbas’ "moderate" watch. But one is again left to wonder how the PA’s official tolerance for killers comports with President Bush’s professed view that Abbas "is a man devoted to peace" and that his faction is ready and willing to address Israeli security concerns.

For its part, the Bush administration has elected to look past the PA’s complicity in terrorism. Choosing hope over experience, the administration seems to have concluded that, for all their faults, Abbas and his organization are nonetheless the enemies of the Islamists in Hamas, and thus potential allies.

But this optimistic assessment is starkly at odds with Abbas’ pronouncement on January 1 that he is ready to "open a new page" by negotiating with the terrorists of Hamas. Showing an aptitude for the double talk in which his predecessor Yasir Arafat specialized, Abbas urged Hamas to accept the normalization of relations with Israel. At the same time, he called for a "partnership in the heart of the fatherland and around the struggle for its liberations," stressing that "no party should supplant another." Given that Hamas equates "liberation" with the annihilation of the Jewish state, Abbas’ appeal was more an inducement to terror than a condemnation of it.

No more propitious for the possibility of a final settlement is the history of the last sixty years. In that time, of course, the Palestinians, backed by their Arab patrons, repeatedly have rejected Israel’s right to exist, both as a geographic entity and as a majority-Jewish state.

Offered generous terms of settlement -- including Ehud Barak’s 2000 offer of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and 97 percent of the West Bank, as well as Palestinian control over East Jerusalem and $30 billion in compensation -- the Palestinians have, in Abba Eban’s famous phrase, never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Loathe to come to terms with the reality of an Israeli state, they have placed their faith in leaders who sought to accomplish with terrorism and duplicitous public relations what Arab armies had failed to do with Soviet-made artillery.

President Bush boldly recognized the fact when, in 2002, he called on Palestinians to elect "leaders not compromised by terror." The 2006 election of Hamas should have been sufficient proof that Palestinians were not equal to the task. But instead of confirming Bush in his sober realism, the violent aftermath seems to have encouraged the president in the dangerous illusion that peace is within reach.

Dangerous is the only appropriate word. Whatever the merits of the "two-state" solution in the long run, the fact remains that now is the worst possible time to put this vision into practice. Gaza, left to the untender mercies of Hamas, is today one of the most violent places in the Middle East. So intense has been the rocket barrage of Israeli cities from "Hamastan" that Israeli troops in recent days have been forced to intervene to stop the endless assault.

Against this chaotic backdrop, the administration’s insistence that Israel turn over full control of the West Bank to the Palestinian authorities looks like a prescription for disaster. It is something the president would do well to keep in mind as he tours the territory under the kind of impeccable security that Israeli citizens will not be afforded once the West Bank becomes Palestinian domain.

President Bush legitimately can claim to be the most pro-Israel president in history. It would be a shame if he now sacrificed that impressive legacy for the promise of an illusory peace.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Defending the West

Jamie Glazov

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Ibn Warraq, an independent researcher based at a humanist think tank in the USA. He is the author of Why I am Not a Muslim (1995), and editor of anthologies of Koranic criticism, The Origins of the Koran (1998), What the Koran Really Says (2002), and the forthcoming Which Koran? (2008) -- all Prometheus Books. He also edited an anthology of testimonies of ex-Muslims, Leaving Islam (2003). Warraq’s op-ed pieces have appeared in the Wall Street Journal in America and The Guardian in London, and he has addressed distinguished governing bodies round the world, including the United Nations in Geneva on the subject of apostasy. His latest book, entitled Defending the West is a critical study of the thought of Edward Said. FP: Ibn Warraq, welcome to Frontpage Interview. It is an honor and privilege to speak with you.

Warraq: Thank you for having me. It has been a long time since we last talked.

FP: What inspired you to write this book?

Warraq: My new book, Defending the West is an extension, and a logical consequence, of my earlier work and concerns. In my first book, Why I am Not a Muslim, (1995), I attempted to warn the West about the Rise of Militant Islam. I saw, and described the book, as "my war effort". It was a very ambitious book since I was striving to show the true totalitarian nature of Islam, to submit Islam to critical examination, and at the same time trying to bring out the strengths of Western civilization, and show why the West was truly preferable to the mind-numbing certainties of a religion that was the result of a mediaeval mindset.

What made both tasks - a critique of Islam and a Defence of the West- so much more difficult was the pernicious influence of Edward Said's Orientalism, and Culture and Imperialism. What made any criticism of Islam in particular and the non-Western world in general almost impossible was the fear among Western scholars of being called "orientalist", leading to self-censorship, and an exaggerated respect for the tender sensibilities of Muslims. In a similar manner, today, charges of "Islamophobia" are hurled at those who dare to criticize that most criticizable of all religions, in order to silence and rule out of court what are, in fact, perfectly legitimate concerns about security, and the negative influence of Islam on Western institutions. The result was my new book, Defending the West (2007), an attempt to tackle once again two related tasks - the Defence of the West and a critique of Edward Said's arguments that had successfully silenced critical thought and placed all Western intellectuals on the defensive.

FP: Tell us about Edward Said's influence in the humanities.

Warraq: Edward Said, who died in September 2003, was Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University , and the author of more than twenty books on cultural, literary, and political subjects, such as Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography, Covering Islam, Musical Elaborations, The World, the Text, and the Critic. Said also saw himself as a Palestinian, and defended the Palestinian cause with passion, and rage, writing influential books on the conflict such as The Question of Palestine, The Politics of Dispossession, and Peace and Its Discontents. Arguably his most influential-and in my view the most pernicious - work was Orientalism (1978), giving birth to entire new disciplines, such as Postcolonial Studies, and influencing several others such as Subaltern Studies. Universities round the world heaped honours on Said - he is said to have received at least seventeen honorary doctorates - and at the same time turned out hundreds of students whose doctoral theses were on or influenced by Orientalism. From the The Oxford Classical Dictionary to a book on Mozart's Operas, one can see Said's influence at work in all the humanities, almost negating centuries of Western scholarship of the highest order.

Take Classical Studies. The prestigious The Oxford Classical Dictionary [OCD] under the entry on the historian and mercenary leader Xenophon has a cross reference to an entry on "Orientalism", since he has left us an account of the life of the Persian Cyrus the Great. But the article in the OCD does not mention that Xenophon in fact came to feel at home with the Persians, and looked at non-Greeks in a discriminating but fair manner, distinguishing enlightened Persians from backward tribes. He never goes beyond justifiable rejection of what is uncultured. But for Said and his ilk any critical look at non-Europeans is considered "biased", "racist", and "Orientalist", making it impossible for responsible historians, sociologists and anthropologists to make cross-cultural assessments and judgements. The result is that we in the West now condone, and certainly do not condemn, barbaric behaviour committed by non-Europeans. Western feminists remain scandalously silent about the treatment of women in Islamic societies.

Said dismisses such classics of the Western canon as Aeschylus' The Persians as "orientalist" and the Western Classicists remain silent, and do not come to The Greek playwright's defence. Far from being "racist", Aeschylus' drama is a tragedy according full dignity and humanity to the Persians, praising their valour and ethics.

In English Literature departments, the classics from Jane Austen, Charles Dickens to Rudyard Kipling are dismissed as "imperialist" and "racist". Thus, despite evidence to the contrary, Said claims that Jane Austen condones slavery- I present the relevant, and, I think, the decisive evidence to the contrary in my book. But such is Said's influence that a recent B.B.C. Televison production of Austen's Mansfield Park has a scene set on a sugar plantation in the West Indies showing the conditions of slaves. Of course, no such scene exists in the original novel. There is only a passing reference to the slave trade, and it is clear from her all her other writings that Jane Austen was an abolitionist. Said similarly misreads Kipling's novel, Kim. But once again such is his influence that various editions of Kipling's novel published by Penguin books carry a preface from Said. I give numerous examples of Said's total incomprehension of Kim, and the novels of Austen.

A discussion of Mozart's operas, for example by Nicholas Till, Mozart and the Enlightenment, is similarly marred by the Orientalist thesis. Again I show Mozart's generous and positive attitude to the "other".

As for the visual arts, I shall begin with this example:

In the guest book at the Dahesh Museum on Madison Avenue, in Upper Manhattan, there is an entry by a tourist, possibly German, who enthuses about the Orientalist paintings in the collection, saying how much she admired and enjoyed them. Then, almost as an afterthought, as though she has only just remembered to put on her ideological spectacles, she adds words to the effect that, "of course, they were Orientalist works, hence imperialist and reprehensible." Apparently, she felt guilty for having enjoyed and appreciated Orientalist art. How many other ordinary lovers of paintings, sculpture, drawings, watercolors and engravings have had their natural inclination to enjoy works of Orientalist art damaged, or even destroyed by the influence of Edward Said and his followers? How many people have had their enjoyment of Jane Austen spoiled by Said's insidious claim that Austen was condoning slavery?

Much of Westerners' travel writings are dismissed as "orientalist". Where Said finds Kinglake's account of his travels in Islamic lands, Eothen, overrated, Jacques Barzun considers it a minor masterpiece.

Finally, in filed I have a special interest in: Islamic Studies.For a number of years now, Islamologists have been aware of the disastrous effect of Said’s Orientalism on their discipline. Professor Berg, of the University of N.Carolina, has complained that the latter’s influence has resulted in “a fear of asking and answering potentially embarrassing questions – ones which might upset Muslim sensibilities….”.

FP: Would it be fair to say that Said simply lied in much of his work?

Warraq: Yes, indeed. Said deliberately misrepresents the work of distinguished scholars such as Richard Southern and Raymond Schwab, making them sound as though they were endorsing Said's own views when in fact they were arguing the opposite. Though I do not venture into Said's writings on the Arab-Israeli dispute, scholars such as Justus Reid Weiner have shown how Said fabricated all sorts of autobiographical information.

Let us take his Palestinian stance. A man is indeed free, to a certain extent, to choose whatever identity he wishes, and who are we to quibble if Said defines himself as a Palestinian; and, perhaps, justice of the cause he wishes to defend is separate from the character of the man who wishes to defend it. But how can we characterize Said's willingness to accept fianancial compensation from the Israeli government for losses that he never, in fact, suffered, except as fraud? Another of Said's fabrications concerns his putative family home in Jerusalem . Justus Weiner describes the situation in great detail, I wish to single out just one aspect of the saga. Weiner writes:

"In 1992, Said wrote of having heard, years earlier, "that Martin Buber had lived in the house for a time after 1948" (emphasis added by Weiner). Last year, in a speech at Birzeit University on the West Bank, he amplified this thought with characteristic vehemence: 'The house from which my family departed in 1948-was displaced- was also the house in which the great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber lived for a while, and Buber of course was a great apostle of coexistence between Arabs and Jews, but he didn't mind living in an Arab house whose inhabitants had been displaced'. But the truth is the other way round: it was Said's aunt who evicted the Bubers, an event-surely a memorable one- that took place during the very period when Edward Said was allegedly growing up in the selfsame house, and long before Israel's war of independence in 1948. But there can be little wonder why neither that event, nor the presence in and subsequent removal from the building of Martin Buber's surely no less memorable library of some 15,000 books, has ever figured in his meticulous recollections of 'my beautiful old Al-Talbiyeh'. The Bubers and their library were there. Said was not." This is not the first time that Said has traduced a great scholar.

FP: The Left simply adored Said. He is like a God-figure to them. Tell us why.

Warraq: Edward Said's Orientalism gave those unable to think for themselves a formula.

His work had the attraction of an all-purpose tool which his acolytes, eager, intellectually unprepared, aesthetically unsophisticated, could apply to every cultural phenomenon without having to think critically or without having to conduct any real archival research requiring mastery of languages, or research in the field requiring the mastery of technique and a rigorous methodology. Said's Orientalism displays all the laziness and arrogance of the man of letters who does not have much time for empirical research or, above all, for making sense of its results. His method derives from the work of fashionable French intellectuals and theorists. Existentialists, structuralists, deconstructionists, post-modernists all postulate grandiose theories, but, unfortunately, these are based on flimsy historical or empirical foundations. Claude Lévi-Strauss, with just a few years of fieldwork in Brazil , constructed a grand theory about the structures of the human mind. This tradition was carried on by Michel Foucault, surely one of the great charlatans of modern times.

Said, influenced by Foucault, Marx and the French intellectual tradition, refuses to acknowledge evidence that does not fit into his already prepared Procrustean bed. Said in an ideologue who is immune to argument, he believes his ideas about man, history and society to be self-evident, and anyone opposing them is either stupid or malevolent.

But why was it so successful among Western intellectuals? Post- Second World War Western intellectuals, and leftists were consumed by guilt for the West's colonial past and continuing colonialist present, and wholeheartedly embraced any theory or ideology that voiced or at least seemed to voice the putatively thwarted aspirations of the peoples of the Third World . Orientalism came at the precise time when anti-Western rhetoric was at its most shrill, and was already being taught at western universities, and third-worldism was at its most popular. Jean-Paul Sartre[1] preached that all white men were complicit in the exploitation of the Third World , and that violence against westerners was a legitimate means for colonized men to re-acquire their manhood. Said went further: “It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric." [2] Not only, for Said, is every European a racist, but he must necessarily be so. As I have argued, Western Civilisation has been more willing to criticize itself than any other major culture.These self-administered admonishments are a far cry from Said's savage strictures, and yet they found a new generation ready to take them to heart. Berating and blaming the West, a fashionable game in the 1960s and 1970s which impressionable youth took seriously, had the results we now see when the same generation appears unwilling to defend the West against the greatest threat that it has faced since the Nazis.

When shown that Said is indeed a fraud, his friends and supporters in academia, side-step the criticisms and evidence, and pretend, as did several reviewers of Robert Irwin's book on Said, that Said may indeed have got the "footling details" wrong but he was, nonetheless, onto a higher truth. Said's influence, thus, was a result of a conjunction of several intellectual and political trends: post-French Algeria and post-Vietnam tiers mondisme [third-worldism], the politicization of increasingly post-modernist English departments which had argued away the very idea of truth, objective truth, and the influence of Michel Foucault. In effect Said played on each of these confidence tricks to create a master fraud which bound American academics and Middle East tyrants in unstated bonds of anti-American complicity. [3]

FP: What have been the reactions to your work so far? Any surprises?

So far there have been three very favourable reviews, one by Bruce Thornton in the City Journal, one by Michaell Weiss in the New York Sun, and one by Rebecca Bynum.

However, I am quite sure that the Liberal establishment who swallowed Said’s nonsense whole will not take it lying down, and I am expecting some violent attacks in the New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and in England, The London Review of Books, and the daily, The Guardian. Roger Scruton once said one should write to offend as many people as possible, and I suspect I have written just such a book. After all there would be no point in writing a book about a man who had absolutely no influence, and who was not considered important. Unfortunately, Said continues to poison young minds, and for that reason is worth criticizing in a strong but also in as scholarly a fashion as possible.

FP: What do you hope your work will help achieve?

Warraq: Let me answer that by an example. Even before my book was actually published there was a description of it and a photo of the cover on An art historian wrote to me that the description alone gave him confidence to defend certain works of 18th Century French paintings that had hitherto been dismissed as “orientalist” in Said’s pejorative sense. I hope curators in art museums will now dust off paintings left to moulder in damp basements because they had been dubbed “orientalist”.

I also hope that the humanities departments in Western universities will get back their confidence and teach the Western canon in an unabashed manner- from Herodotus and Aeschylus to George Eliot and Jane Austen. That the real Orientalists-such as Sir William Jones, Ignaz Goldziher, and many others I discuss in my book- will get their due recognition as great scholars who devoted their lives to recovering humankind’s manifold creations, to uncovering the history of our past. That the universities will go back to their traditional task of scholarship untainted by political correctness, to the never-ending labour of striving for the objective truth.

FP: I would like to turn to some personal aspects and also get your perspective on some recent developments, as well as on the conflict we face in general.

First, could you share some thoughts for us on your own spiritual and intellectual journey -- in terms of where you think you may stand at the moment? I mean this in the context of the long road you have traveled. And I also mean it in generally. Have you, for instance, changed at all over the years? Do you have an outlook on something that is perhaps different than how you saw it in the past? What is looming large on your consciousness these days? Where, for instance, do you think you stand politically? Would you, for example, consider yourself a Conservative, etc? And what would you say is the state of your faith? Do you see yourself today as an atheist, an agnostic, a believer, etc?

Warraq: Of course, I have changed over the years. As a great Irish comic, Spike Milligan, used to say, "I have changed my mind, socks, and underwear". I have changed my mind on economic and political issues, and I certainly no longer wear velvet trousers as I used to in the sixties.

I forget which 19th Century European politician said "if you are not a socialist when young you have no heart, but if you remain one when you get older you have no brains". I was never a joiner of parties, or attracted to ideologies, but when I did vote, both in France and Great Britain , I voted for Francois Mitterand, the Socialist, and James Callaghan, the leader of the Labour Party, respectively. But the transforming events of the last thirty years such as the collapse of Communism, and the success of the market-oriented countries in Asia means I am less attracted to government intervention, on the whole, in the economy. I am sceptical of grandiose schemes since they are all utopic. I remain a sceptic, and an empiricist. But can the market really solve all our problems? Surely some kind of intervention of the government might be deemed necessary to protect us from unbridled exploitation by ruthless entrepreneurs. And the market has an unfortunate influence on the quality of culture, it can lead to its dumbing down.

The other great transforming event of my life-time is, of course, the World Trade Center atrocities of 11 September, 2001 . The Left generally has been not only unable to comprehend what hit us on 9/11, it has also gone to the extent of apologizing, condoning and making alliances with the Islamists. It is a failure of the Liberal imagination since Liberals still do not understand what motivates the Islamists. Liberals, six years after the event, are still looking for the "root-cause" in poverty, American foreign policy, and the Israel-Arab conflict. I am not sure that the Conservatives in the USA understand the nature of the threat, either. They are reluctant to criticize religion in general, and are more worried by secular humanists than by the Islamo-fascists Since I am a secularist, and an agnostic, there are many Conservatives who fear me more than they fear Bin Laden.

FP: There are, of course, courageous anti-fascist Muslims like Thomas Haidon and Hasan Mahmud who wish to try to bring Islam into the modern and democratic world. As we know, they face a huge calling and large, perhaps insurmountable, obstacles. The effort to “reform” Islam is not, to say the least, going very well. Is there any hope in this area? What are your thoughts at the possibility of an Islamic Reformation and also of simply not giving up on supporting such an effort?

Warraq: I have no short answer to the question of a possibility of reform in Islam. Here is something I wrote earlier:

Since there is no Pope or even, in principle, an organized clergy in Islam how would we ever know if an Islamic Reformation had taken place? One person’s reformation will be another person’s decadence. My perspective will be from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which many Muslims still do not accept. I think those who do accept the latter declaration would agree that a de facto reformation had taken place in Islamic societies, as for example in Pakistan or Egypt, if we were to find that the following conditions now obtained in them:

1. The subordinate place of women has given way to full social and legal equality. Women have freedom of action, are able to travel alone, are permitted to uncover their faces, and are allowed the same property and inheritance rights as men, and their testimony in a court of law is equal to that of men .

2. No girl is forced into marriage, and no girl is permitted to marry until fully physically mature. Every woman is free to marry a man of her own choice without permission from a putative guardian or parents, or to remain single if that is her choice. Muslim women are free to marry non-Muslims. They are free to divorce and are entitled to maintenance in the case of divorce.

3. Women have equal access to secular education, equal opportunities for higher education, and are free to choose their subjects of study. They are free to choose their own work and are allowed to fully participate in public life-from politics and sports to the arts and sciences.

4. All citizens are equal in front of the law, irrespective of race, religion, creed, or sexual orientation. In other words, non-Muslims (Christians , Jews , Pagans , Zoroastrians , Hindus , Buddhists ,atheists ) and homosexuals enjoy the same human rights as Muslims.

5. Jihad in the military sense is rejected since it does not respect the rights of non-Muslims. Freedom of expression, freedom of thought and belief, freedom of intellectual and scientific inquiry, freedom of conscience and religion – including the freedom to change one’s religion or belief - and freedom from religion: the freedom not to believe in any deity are all protected , and where blasphemy is not a crime. These freedoms include the right to examine the historical foundations of Islam, and to explain the rise and fall of Islam by the normal mechanisms of human history, and the freedom to criticize Islam and the Koran.

6. No person is subjected to cruel punishments such as mutilation of limbs for theft, stoning to death for adultery. Copies of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am not a Muslim are freely available. Well, at least the latter rather than the former!

But how likely is such a reformation in today’s Islamic societies? Can Islam institute such reforms and stay Islam? There are some, I believe, misguided liberal Muslims who want to have their cake and eat it. These liberals often argue that the real Islam is compatible with Human Rights, that the real Islam is feminist, that the real Islam is egalitarian, that the real Islam tolerates other religions and beliefs, and so on. They then proceed to some truly creative re-interpretation of the embarrassing, intolerant, bellicose and misogynist verses of the Koran.

But intellectual honesty demands that we reject just such dishonest tinkering with the Holy Text, which, while it may be open to some re-interpretation is not infinitely elastic. As a tactic it will simply not work either, because to trade verses with fundamentalists is to do battle on the fanatics’ terms, on the fanatics’ ground. For every text that the liberal Muslims produce, the mullahs will adduce dozens of counter examples exegetically, philologically and historically far more legitimate.

Reform cannot be achieved on these terms – whatever mental gymnastics the liberal reformists perform they cannot escape the fact that Othodox Islam is incompatible with Human Rights. There are moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate. Islam itself is a fascist ideology. There is no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism, at most there is a difference of degree but not of kind. All the tenets of Islamic fundamentalism are derived from the Koran, the Sunna, the Hadith – Islamic fundamentalism is a totalitarian construct derived by Muslim jurists from the fundamental and defining texts of Islam.

The only solution is to bring the questions of human rights out of the religious sphere and into the sphere of the civil state, in other words to separate religion from the state, and to promote a secular state where Islam is relegated to the personal, and where it would continue to provide consolation, comfort, and meaning to millions of individuals. Are Islamic societies secularizable? Yes, there are my reasons for thinking so.

Since September 11, every journalist has been eager to point out that in Islam there is no separation between mosque and state. Indeed in Classical Arabic there are no pair of words corresponding to ‘lay’ and ‘ecclesiastical’, ‘spiritual’ and ‘temporal’, ‘ secular’ and ‘religious’. But what these same journalists fail to add is that the doctrinal lack of a separation of mosque and state did not mean that Islamic history was a chronicle of a series of relentless Muslim theocracies. On the contrary, as Carl Brown demonstrated recently, Muslim history has been marked by a de facto separation of state and religious community.

Many of the modern leaders of culturally Islamic countries were secular in their outlook and approach to the problems of modern industrializing societies; leaders such Muhmmad Ali Jinnah of Pakistan , Nasser of Egypt, Sukarno of Indonesia. Unfortunately, corruption, nepotism, incompetence, pandering to the mullas, the obscurantist religious scholars, and above all economic failure in Islamic countries led to the rising influence of the Islamic fundamentalists, who, sensing that their time had come, demanded ever more introduction of Islam in public life.

Other indications that Islamic societies are secularizable come from the Islamic Republic of Iran, of all places. Iran has adopted many institutions from the Western democracies, and which have nothing to do with Islam historically or doctrinally, institutions such as popular elections, a constituent assembly, a parliament, even a constitution inspired by the 1958 French Constitution.

The empirical evidence does not bear out conventional wisdom that Militant Islam is born out of economic despair. Nonetheless, Islamists are adept at exploiting the economic and political failures of almost all regimes in the Islamic world. Thus only an introduction of accountable, representative government that can improve the economic conditions of its people can take the wind out of the sails of the Islamists. Democracy will ensure that citizens will have legitimate outlets to express their grievances, with some hope of ameliorating their lives. With the partial exception of Turkey , there is not a single stable democracy in the Islamic world. It is not surprising that Muslims living under repressive regimes turn to Islamists for support, both moral and economic.

How did secularization take place in the Christian West? Some of the factors involved in the secularization of the West were: advances in knowledge in general and the sciences in particular meant that the criteria of rationality could be applied to religious dogma with devastating effect; Biblical Criticism which led to the abandonment of a literal reading of the Bible; religious tolerance and religious pluralism that eventually led to tolerance and pluralism tout court. As scholar Chadwick put it, “once concede equality to a distinctive group, you could not confine it to that group. You could not confine it to Protestants; nor, later, to Christians; nor, at last, to believers in God. A free market in some opinions became a free market in all opinions ... Christian conscience was the force which began to make Europe ‘secular’; that is, to allow many religions or no religion in a state, and repudiate any kind of pressure upon the man who rejected the accepted and inherited axioms of society ....My conscience is my own”.

What lessons can we learn from this process of secularization of the West? First, we who live in the free West and enjoy freedom of expression and scientific inquiry should encourage a rational look at Islam, should encourage Koranic criticism. Only Koranic criticism can help Muslims to look at their Holy Scripture in a more rational and objective way, and prevent young Muslims from being fanaticized by the Koran’s less tolerant verses. It does not make sense to lament the lack of a reformation in Islam, and at same time boycott books like “Why I am Not A Muslim”. Instead of which, political leaders, journalists and even scholars are bent on protecting the tender sensibilities of the Muslims. We are not doing Islam any favors by protecting it from enlightenment values.

Second, simply by protecting non-Muslims in Islamic societies we are encouraging religious pluralism, which in turn can lead to pluralism in general. By insisting on article 18 of the UDHR which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, ....”, we are loosening the grip of fanatics, we are encouraging in the words of Chadwick a free market in all opinions, in other words democracy.

We can encourage rationality by education, secular education. This will mean the closing of religious madrasas where young children from poor families learn only the Koran by heart, learn the doctrine of Jihad, learn, in short to be fanatics. The failure of the central government in Pakistan , for example, to provide free schools, and economic prosperity for all its citizens has led to the rise of madrasas where poor children are given some schooling and food that their poor parents cannot provide. In Pakistan , it is clear that many of these religious schools are funded by Saudi Arabia . The West must do its utmost to reduce the ideological and financial influence of the Saudis, and instead encourage Pakistan to provide free secular education for all children, boys and girls. The West can give aid with strings attached to this end.

What kind of education? One hopes that education will encourage critical thinking, and rationality. Again to encourage pluralism, I should like to see the glories of pre-Islamic history to be taught to all children. But education alone cannot solve the problems.

Several million young educated people enter the job market only to learn that their education has not opened the doors to economic prosperity they had dreamed of. Education without economic opportunities at the end leads to social frustrations which can only help the fundamentalists.

Islamic countries will never make any progress if they continue to blame all their ills on the West. Islamic countries need charismatic leaders capable of self-criticism who can say to their people that “the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings” , nor does the fault lie with some putative Imperialist –Zionist conspiracy; leaders who can lead their people to democracy, who can institute a civil state and a uniform code of civil laws separate from and independent of religious institutions, but allowing free choice of religious belief and practice who can pass legislation to enshrine the rights of all its citizens, men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the various UN Conventions, who institute free secular education for all. The West must review its continuing and unconditional support for Saudi Arabia which is responsible for the spread of radical Islam. Will the West encourage secularism in the Islamic world when two of its recent leaders, Tony Blair, and now, Gordon Brown, and Gearge W. Bush, have done more than any other leaders in the West since 1945 to introduce more and more religion into the public sphere? May I remind them of the words of James Madison, “There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation”.

FP: What are you short-term future plans? What project do you have in mind? What do you see as your next contribution to the battle? What, in the end, drives you and makes you tick? The battle can tire us and also often disillusion us. From where do you derive your energy and the inspiration, courage and passion to proceed?

Warraq: I should like to work on two projects. First, I should like to return to some kind of Koranic Criticism of the philological, historical kind. I am lucky to be involved with some German scholars who are breaking new ground in the field of the History of the Rise of Islam, and the Collection of the Koran, especially its relation to the Syriac linguistic background in the Near East .

I should also like to research further the neglected and positive aspects of Western civilization, to write on its uniqueness, and try to explain the reasons for its obvious success.

FP: Ibn Warraq, thank you for joining us. And thank you for your courageous and priceless contribution to the fight for historical truth and liberty -- and against historical amnesia and tyranny.

Warraq: Thank you so much for having me, and listening to me so patiently.

[1] Jean-Paul Sartre, Preface in Frantz Fanon.The Wretched of the Earth. New York : Grove Press Inc.1968 [Ist edn.1961].

[2] Orientalism , p.204

[3] I owe most of the observations in this paragraph to Fred Siegel, Professor of History, The Cooper Union for Science and Art in New York.