Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt: The Military Announces Policy, Economic Factors Emerge

Barry Rubin

The Egyptian military’s Armed Forces Supreme Council has released its second communiqué. The group includes the heads of the army, navy, and air force; Umar Suleiman from intelligence; and a few top generals. Note by the way that Suleiman's continued presence shows that only one person has left power: Mubarak.

Let’s analyze it.

First, the current government and all provincial governors will remain in power until a new one is formed. Who will choose this cabinet is not clear. No timetables have been put forward.

Second, the statement continued that the military is "looking forward to a peaceful transition, for a free democratic system, to permit an elected civil authority to be in charge of the country, to build a democratic free nation."

It emphasized Egypt's "commitment to all its international treaties." But note that this only applies to the interim period until there is an elected government, which can then set its own policy. Aside from any strategic considerations, the treaty is also key to the military’s receipt of $1.3 billion annually in U.S. aid. The main danger in future will not be a formal renunciation of the treaty but merely ignoring its provisions. Still, the Egyptian military would probably stick to agreements limiting the number of forces in different areas of the Sinai peninsula. It is the economic and civilian aspects that will probably disappear.

A major goal is to get things back to normal to reverse the tremendous economic damage done to the country by the revolutionary period.

The economic aspect deserves special attention. A post-revolutionary civilian government is likely to follow policies that will subvert economic development. To keep the people happy, subsidies for vital goods (especially food) will be raised; to ensure that young people don’t cause trouble, the government will continue to provide useless jobs that are basically subsidies to those who otherwise would be unemployed.

In other words, while the country most needs the development of low-paid, low-skilled but highly productive jobs for the urban poor, it will probably focus on keeping the urban middle class happy.

The likely model for Egypt, then, will be not China but Greece.

Generally, a return to the statist economy of earlier years seems likely, which would probably end Egypt’s economic growth. With no source for major foreign aid available, the country is likely to be in serious trouble.

As the Wall Street Journal puts it:

“Economists say the region's regimes are fixated on survival and trying to spend their way out of trouble, but that could perpetuate the economic imbalances that helped fire protesters' disaffection….`For sure, an overreliance on subsidies or transfers of wealth to placate the population is a short-term fix that raises serious longer-term vulnerability—but for many countries it's about survival now,’ said Benoit Anne, head of emerging market strategy at Société Générale.”

Fatah: We need strong Egypt

Meanwhile Palestinians say elections to be held by Sept. in apparent reaction to Egypt protests

Elior Levy
02.12.11 Israel News

Nabil Shaath, a member of Fatah's Central Committee, congratulated the Egyptian people and said that a younger, democratic Egypt would offer more support for the Palestinians.

Meanwhile a top aide to President Mahmoud Abbas says the Palestinians will hold presidential and legislative elections by September, an apparent response to the popular protests that drove Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down late Friday. "A strong Egypt would have a greater capability to support us now and in the future," the senior Palestinian official said Saturday.

"We respect the Egyptian nation's desire for democracy, freedom and unity. We are proud of our Egyptian brothers for not resorting to violence and achieving their goals with an intifada of peace," he said.

Shaath expressed hope that Egypt would continue to be a leader in the Arab world following Mubarak's resignation.

"At this stage, when the Palestinians are in the midst of a struggle for their independence and freedom – in the face of Israeli obstinacy – they need Egypt to stand by them and support them," he said.

The Hamas government in Gaza called for whichever government is established in Cairo to lift the siege on the Strip and open the Rafah crossing to Palestinian traffic.

It also rejected the announcement of the upcoming Palestinian elections. "Hamas will not take part in this election. We will not give it legitimacy. And we will not recognize the results," said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

Erekat resigns over leaks

Also Saturday, Abbas' chief peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, announced his resignation. The move came in response to damaging leaks by pan-Arab satellite television station al-Jazeera that detailed some of the inner workings of previous peace negotiations.

Erekat told The Associated Press that an investigation determined that internal documents obtained by Al-Jazeera were leaked by someone from his office. "If there was any security failure in my office, then I am responsible. For that, I have resigned," he said.

The documents showed that during peace negotiations with Israel in 2008, the Palestinians were prepared to make significant concessions on final borders with Israel and on the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees with claims to lost properties in what is now Israel.

AP contributed to this report

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Brief Thoughts on Egypt"

Arlene Kushner

The situation is very much in flux as I write, and preparations for Shabbat prevent me from doing more than make these brief, but not unimportant, comments now. There will be no further posting until after Shabbat, and who knows what the situation will be by the time people in N. America and elsewhere read this. However...

I wish to emphasize something I've certainly written about before but which merits repeating, and repeating:

There is no such thing as instant democracy. Democracy requires preparation of a populace and institution of values that will support it -- freedom of speech, respect for the individual and for minorities, etc. etc. There is no tradition of these things in Egypt. There is also no such thing as democracy by mob. There is a vision of this mob in the Cairo square representing "the people" such that their gaining control of the situation would lead to a popular democratic government. Utter and dangerous nonsense.

If this mob was (in the main) of one mind and one moderate ideology, headed by a charismatic leader, having consolidated and planned over a period of time, and in possession of funding, and a solid platform and specific democratic principles they would want to institute if governing, then maybe. Just maybe.

But the reality is that disparate groups are within the mob. They are represented by no strong leader. They have no one set of guiding principles and seem in the main just set on seeing Mubarak go (and, if he went, I suspect Suleiman and everyone else tainted by the old regime).

But following this would be chaos. (And I'll come back to this.)


I emphasize this because Obama yesterday made a statement about a speedy transition in Egypt to a genuine democracy.

My friends, these are buzz words that reflect either a serious misunderstanding of the situation or an attempt to represent a certain stance for political purposes -- or a little of each.


Back to the issue of chaos. Within that mob there is the Muslim Brotherhood.

In testimony yesterday to a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, referred to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as "largely secular." Don't know how many of you will have heard about this.

I saw a video of this testimony on Fox news, and when Clapper made his statement, I was sure I had heard wrong. In fact, I called a friend who I knew was also following events on TV and asked her, and she said, yes, he said it. Later I saw it in print.

That is beyond stupid.

I have a granddaughter who says, about something very special, "it's awesome-er than awesome." Well. Clapper's statement is stupider than stupid.

Either that, or he's serving as a shill for an administration that prefers to have the Brotherhood seen as harmless.


Whatever the case, I am urging you not to be influenced by this dangerous line of thinking. I don't know everything. But here I am absolutely on solid ground.

I've presented to you over the past few days a large amount of material regarding the true intentions of the Brotherhood -- from intelligence people and analysts here in Israel. I believe here we, who are closer to the situation, understand better.

The Brotherhood guys are not dummies. They are laying low for now, and they are presenting a face of relative moderation and peacefulness, so as not to alarm. It's just a matter of time. And chaos or a "speedy transition" would serve their purposes well.

It's the students in the mob, who have written the e-mails some of you have seen about freedom and democracy, who are least organized, least prepared in terms of the many criteria for solid transition I wrote about above. The Brotherhood, on the other hand, has money, a guiding ideology, and leadership and a written charter of their purposes. They hate Israel and the US, they are for sharia, which is draconian law and permits no tolerance of "infidels" (putting Coptic Christians at great risk), and they are for the creation of a caliphate.

The Egyptian Brotherhood, I remind you, spawned both Hamas and al-Qaeda.

They are the ones who would come to the fore in a situation of chaos. They would do it slowly, so as not to alarm, but they would do it. In case after case in this part of the world "popular revolution" has led to take over by the radicals.


It seems exceedingly likely at this point that the army will be in control, and possibly institute military rule, but my crystal ball is broken at the moment, so I cannot be sure. There is no tradition in Egypt for democracy, but there is a strong military tradition: both Mubarak and Suleiman are military men.

In my opinion, this is the best of several bad alternatives for Egypt right now, for chaos may be avoided (although I suspect bloodshed will not be).

I think that what has been offered by Mubarak and Suleiman, in terms of dialogue with different groups, changes in the constitution, an open election in September, etc. offers the best (if meager) hope for something resembling democratic process in Egypt. A transition, if it is be meaningful, must be done slowly because so much preparation is required. From now until September is actually a very small amount of time. The mob that seeks instant turnover has, of course, no interest in due process or preparation.

But even in September, if there are open elections, and the Brotherhood -- which is technically outlawed in Egypt -- is permitted to take part, things are likely to go badly after a period of time.

Remember please what happened when former-president Bush pushed for " -- look at Gaza today.

Here in Israel, we are rooting for Suleiman.

Shabbat Shalom.


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

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Egypt: Military Shifts Posture Closer to Mubarak?


Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces issued its second communique Feb. 11, stating that the military supports the transfer of powers from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Vice President Omar Suleiman. The statement also said the military will end the state of emergency when the current situation stabilizes and will help ensure the legitimate demands of the people are met through free and fair elections. The message mirrored pledges made by Mubarak in his Feb. 10 speech, in which he surprised nearly everyone by refusing to step down. Essentially, the military is demonstrating its support of the embattled president, Mubarak, and the decisions he announced in a speech Feb. 10 that enraged the Egyptian opposition. Notably, this second military communique was delivered more than 11 hours behind schedule. The first communique delivered Feb. 10 came amid a flurry of statements claiming Mubarak’s resignation was imminent. In that earlier communique, the military expressed its commitment to the Egyptian people and said it was holding discussions to determine what measures would need to be taken to safeguard the homeland.

Clearly, there has been a shift in the military’s posture between the delivery of the first and second communiques. Whereas the first indicated the military was preparing for a direct intervention to remove the president, the second shows that (for now) the military is standing down. A number of factors are being examined in current negotiations between Egypt’s civilian and military elite concerning everything from financial assets to the risks of steering outside the constitutional bounds, to the need to maintain a civilian political vehicle to counter opposition forces like the Muslim Brotherhood. As these negotiations play out, the military appears to have decided to handle this political transition in incremental steps.

However, Mubarak remaining as president is a growing liability for the military, which has thus far maintained a positive relationship with Egyptian demonstrators. That relationship now runs the risk of breaking down, especially as tensions are running high following Mubarak’s Feb. 10 speech, which has Egypt likely on the verge of plunging into mass demonstrations following Friday prayers. If the military chooses to confront enraged demonstrators who are intensifying their calls for the army to take action on the side of the people and drop Mubarak, the situation on the streets could spiral out of control and hasten an army intervention. The question then will be if such an intervention will have come too late.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Muslim Brotherhood on BBC’s HARDtalk


Former spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood interviewed on the BBC, advocates strict Sharia law for Muslims, rejects description of Hamas as ‘terrorists’, and expresses support for anti-Zionist Jewish sect.

On Sunday Kamal el-Helbawy was interviewed on the BBC’s HARDtalk programme about the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in any post-Mubarak government. El-Helbawy, who served as the spokesman of ‘the Muslim Brotherhood in the West’ from 1995-1997’, was previously the subject of controversy following an appearance on the BBC in 2009, which led to accusations that he advocated the killing of Israeli children as they were all ‘future soldiers’. During the interview, the BBC’s Zeinab Badawi presses el-Helbawy on a number of issues, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s attitude towards democracy, Sharia law and Israel.

While el-Helbawy assures Badawi that the organisation is committed to democracy and freedom of religion, and would only implement an Islamic state if supported by the electorate, he does acknowledge that the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to govern by Sharia law.

El-Helbawy implies that this would include the restriction of alcohol consumption and production to non-Muslims. While he states that he is happy for non-Muslims to drink and make alcohol, he twice refuses to answer whether Muslims would be allowed this freedom, stating instead that they should ‘practise Islam’. He also argues that ‘alcohol should not be a source of income for Islam’, irrespective of the damage prohibition might do to Egypt’s tourism industry.

Following a discussion about Western fears about the Muslim Brotherhood, Badawi asks el-Helbawy whether the Israel-Egypt peace-treaty would survive the group coming to power. While el-Helbawy claims that commentators who say the group would tear up the treaty were ‘completely wrong’, he refuses to state that the Muslim Brotherhood would definitely keep it:

‘This is not the time to discuss such a matter, but I would like to confirm to you, and to the West in general that, if any peace process [is] built on justice, the Muslim Brotherhood will support it 100%, but if there is any peace process built on injustice, then we have to bring justice before the peace process.’

The reticence to discuss the issue, or to make a definite statement on the matter, reflects a similar interview on CNN last week, in which Muhammad Mursi argued that it was ‘ridiculous to ask about the future’, and repeatedly refused to answer the question.Moreover, el-Helbawy’s next answer gives an indication of what he believes constitutes justice in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

BBC: You reassure Netanyahu that you would not tear up the peace treaty?

El-Helbawy: No, we will not tear it – but we will discuss, as I said, we need justice and the freedom, not only for us, but for everyone. There are many Jews – Naturei Karta [sic], and I have very very high relationship profile [sic] with Dovid Weiss – he’s a Jew, a rabbi, but he’s anti-Israeli atrocities and aggression.

El-Helbawy’s citation of Neturei Karta is telling, since the fringe group was formed specifically in opposition to the creation of Israel and continues to oppose Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land,

Dovid Weiss in particular is highly controversial, due to his public endorsement of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Similarly, he recently met with Muslim scholar Yousef Al-Qaradawi, and ‘express[ed] what a great privilege and honour’ it was to do so. Al-Qaradawi is notorious for stating that the Holocaust was ‘divine punishment’ by Allah for Jewish corruption, and for stating his hope that ‘the next time will be at the hand of believers’.

Badawi then raises the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. When the BBC presenter states that the organisation is viewed by many as a ‘terrorist’ group, el-Helbawy immediately interjects:

‘No it is not terrorist – it is resistance.’

Again, this statement reflects the CNN interview with Mursi, where he argued that:

‘What’s going on on the Palestinian land is resistance; the resistance is acceptable by all mankind’.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Here We Go Again: Now Fears Over Egyptian WMD

Jim Meyers

With Egypt in turmoil and the Hosni Mubarak regime imperiled, concerns are rising over the Arab world’s most militarily advanced nation’s weapons of mass destruction programs, said to include work with nuclear, chemical and biological technologies.

egypt,nuclear,weapons,wmd,israel,islamists,Documents obtained by NBC News from the United States, Russia and Israel reportedly disclose that Egypt has conducted research on uranium and plutonium processing, helped Saddam Hussein’s Iraq develop its deadly chemical weapons arsenal, and aided North Korea’s missile programs. The research and development has been ongoing for more than three decades, according to the documents and interviews with American officials.

The United States has not taken action to discourage the work due to America’s close relationship with the Egyptian military. But all that could change if Mubarak is ousted and that relationship deteriorates.

If an Islamist regime replaces the Mubarak government, “then all bets are off” as far as Egypt’s pursuit of WMDs, according to James Russell, a former Pentagon official now with the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, Calif.

Egypt has already hinted that it could withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if nothing is done about Israel and Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, according to NBC News. In that case, Egypt would be under no restraints in developing nuclear technology for weapons.

Egypt’s plutonium research appears to have taken place at least 20 years ago. But its uranium experiments conducted at it two research reactors in the Nile Delta are more recent, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency report.

One fear is that if a new Egyptian regime lost part or all of its American military aid, it could seek to make up for the loss by exporting weapons technology.

According to a 2005 CIA report cited by NBC, after the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in 1981, Iraq paid Egypt for assistance in producing sarin munitions. The nerve gas was used to deadly affect by the Iraqis against Kurdish dissidents and Iranian troops.

In the mid-1980s, Egypt secretly aided North Korea’s missile program by shipping at least two of its Soviet-supplied Scud missiles to North Korea for reverse engineering.

“It is this backdrop, and the fact that Egypt still has considerable expertise in missiles and chemical weapons,” NBC concludes, “that has some analysts concerned about the path that a new Egyptian government might take.”

Hamas: We Won't Hold PA Municipal Elections in Gaza

AP and JPost Staff - The Jerusalem Post

After Fayyad declares elections in Gaza and W. Bank will be held, Islamist group says elections have no value because PA has no legitimacy.

Palestinian Authority municipal elections scheduled for July 9, 2011, will not be held in Gaza until rival Palestinian factions reach a reconciliation agreement, Israel Radio quoted Hamas as saying Tuesday.

Hamas spokesman Fawazi Barhoum said that the elections, announced by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad earlier in the day, have no real value because they were declared by a government that has lost its legitimacy. According to the report, Barhoum also said that the elections were meant to cover up the WikiLeaks scandals and the “Palestine Papers,” released by Al Jazeera that exposed the concessions PA President Mahmoud Abbas was willing to make in peace negotitations with Israel.

Earlier Tuesday, Palestinian Authority Spokesman Ghassan Khatib had said that even if Hamas blocks elections in Gaza, they will still be held only in the West Bank.

Abbas canceled local elections scheduled for July of last year, fearing losses by his ruling Fatah party.

The PA last held local elections in 2005.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Mideast Turmoil and Israel's Security Requirements

Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought: US-Israel Initiative"
Straight from the Jerusalem Cloakroom #240
February 8, 2011

1. The dramatic developments in Tunisia and Egypt – and the potential regional destabilizing ripple effects which could dwarf the Egyptian upheaval – have a dramatic impact on the state of national and regional security, and therefore have dramatic consequences upon national and regional security requirements.

2. The lower the stability and life-expectancy of Middle East regimes, the shiftier their ideology, policy and commitments, the higher the volatility of domestic and regional affairs, the higher the security threshold and requirements. 3. President Obama's policy of engagement, the announced evacuation of Iraq and Afghanistan are perceived by Arab/Muslim regimes as a policy of retreat, undermining the US posture of deterrence. In 2002/2003 the White House projected an assertive posture in the Middle East, in the battle against terrorism and in global affairs at-large. In 2011, the White House projects a relatively timid posture. The more uncertain the US global posture, the more eroded the US posture of deterrence, the more adrenalized are rogue regimes, the more acute is the threat of war and terrorism and the higher the security requirements.

4. Security requirements are peaking as a result of the long-term (and possibly immediate-term) potential of the Egyptian turmoil. It could traumatize northern Africa, the Horn of Africa, the eastern flank of the Mediterranean, the Middle East in general and pro-US Arab regimes (e.g. Jordan) in particular, threatening vital US interests, undermining Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and emboldening enemies of the Big and the Small "Satan," the USA and the Jewish State.

5. Lt. General (ret.) Tom Kelly, Chief of Operations in the 1991 Gulf War: "I cannot defend this land (Israel) without that terrain (West Bank)...The West Bank mountains and especially their 5 approaches, are the critical terrain. If an enemy secures those passes, Jerusalem and Israel become uncovered. Without the West Bank, Israel is only 8 miles wide at its narrowest point. That makes it indefensible."

6. The late Admiral Bud Nance: “I believe if Israel were to move out of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, it would increase instability and the possibility of war, increase the necessity to preempt in war, and the possibility that nuclear weapons would be used to prevent an Israeli loss, and increase the possibility that the US would have to become involved in a war."

7.General (ret.) Al Gray, former Commandant, US Marine Corps: “Missiles fly over any terrain feature, but they don't negate the strategic significance of territorial depth. The key threat to Israel will remain the invasion and occupation by armored forces. Military success requires more than a few hundred missiles. To defeat Israel would require the Arabs to deploy armor, infantry and artillery into Israel and destroy the IDF on the ground. That was true in 1948, 1967 and 1973, and it remains true in the era of modern missiles.”

8. The Judea & Samaria mountain ridges constitute the most effective tank obstacle (a 3,000ft steep slope over-towering the Jordan Valley, 40 miles away from Tel Aviv and pre-1967 Israel) and a dream platform of invasion to 9-15 miles wide pre-1967 Israel (a 2,000ft moderate slope) in the most conflict-ridden, unpredictable and treacherous neighborhood in the world. Israel's control of the Judea & Samaria mountain ridges provides Israel with the time, which is required to mobilize its active reservists (75% of the military force!) in face of a surprise offensive mounted by a few Arab countries.

9. The pre-1967 width of the Jewish State is equal to the distance between JFK and La Guardia airports, to distance between RFK Stadium and the Kennedy Center, the length of Dallas-Fort Worth airport, to the width of Washington, DC, San Francisco and Miami and to the distance between Wall Street and Columbia University. The pre-1967 sliver along the Mediterranean is less than the distance between downtown London and Heathrow Airport, equal to a roundtrip distance between Albert hall and the Tower of London and to the distance between Bois du Boulogne and La Place de la Bastille.

10. The Judea & Samaria mountain ridges constitute the "Golan Heights" of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and the entire pre-1967 coastal plain of the Jewish State, the core of its population and infrastructures.

An unforgivable sacrilege

David Wilder
February 07, 2011

Several days ago Hebron's police chief showed up at the home of Rabbi Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba. The officer informed Rabbi Lior that an arrest warrant had been issued, ordering his arrest. Should the Rabbi agree to be interrogated, the warrant would be cancelled. On the spot Rabbi Lior answered, telling him that such questioning represented a 'disgrace to the honor of the Torah,' and that he would not cooperate with such humiliation. Why are the police and prosecutor's office chasing this seventy-seven year old righteous man? Born in Galatia in Poland, Rabbi Lior arrived in Israel in 1948, shortly before declaration of the State of Israel. He studied under Rabbi Abaham Kook's student, Rabbi Moshe Tziv Neria at Kfar HaRoe and later at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem under Rabbi Kook's son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. He was considered to be one of the Yeshiva's most important students, learning for hours at a time without moving. During festive dancing on the Simchat Torah holiday, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda changed the words of a popular song. Instead of Tov li, tov li, Toratecha (Your Torah is good for me), he recited 'Dov li, Dov li Toratecha,' paying his young student a great compliment.
In 1976 Rabbi Lior moved to the newly founded community Kiryat Arba, where he was appointed Rosh HaYeshiva – the Dean of the Kiryat Arba-Nir Yeshiva, working side by side with Rabbi Eliezer Waldman. Over the years the Rabbi became known as a prominent Torah scholar. However Rabbi Lior's teaching involved more than dry Rabbinic rulings. He became an active leader within the movement to repopulate Judea, Samaria and Gaza. He spent many summer vacations in Gush Katif. With the rise of the left and the advent of Oslo and the following Hebron Accords, he became an outspoken leader, blasting attempts to delegitimize the Israeli right. He worked tirelessly against the Gush Katif expulsion, making frequent trips to that beleaguered area, giving hope and strength to the local population, fighting for its collective life. He participated in prayer rallies and protests while providing Torah support via various Rabbinic rulings needed during those struggles.
Some twenty-five years ago he was elected Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba. Some years ago Rabbi Lior formed the Rabbinic Council for Judea and Samaria and was appointed its leader. Presently he is considered to be the important Rabbi of the Nationalist-Zionist movement and one of the most significant, scholarly rabbinical figures in Israel.
Frequently Rabbis are requested to write a 'hascama,' an approbation of a newly-authored Torah book by a younger Rabbi. Rabbi Lior, himself the author of thousands of Torah responsa as well as his own books dealing with Torah law, is also approached to write a short introduction to Torah books.
So it was that a couple of years ago the Rabbi agreed to write an approbation for a book titled "Torat HaMelech," meaning 'the King's Torah.' This scholarly work, written by two young Rabbis, deals with relationships between Jews and non-Jews, particularly during situations dealing with life and death during war and other conflict. Specifically it details rulings by many Torah giants, beginning with the Talmud, two thousand years ago, through the present.
Rabbi Lior was not the only Torah scholar asked to written such a approbation for this book. Others include Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, also considered to be an authentic Torah giant, one of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's son, Rabbi Ya'akov Yosef, a leading Sefardic Torah expert, and well-known Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg.
Amongst other comments, Rabbi Lior praises the authors for writing such a comprehensive book, including the opinions of so many Torah commentators. He clarifies the significance of understanding Jewish law to its fullest, even when dealing with most sensitive topics such as life and death.
As a result of his approbation, Rabbi Lior has been accused of incitement, and has been ordered to appear for police interrogation. In a short filmed class to yeshiva students, Rabbi Lior explained that a Rabbi must be able to freely express 'Da'at Torah,' that is the Torah ruling on any given subject, even if that expression is not popular with others. He stressed that a Rabbi must never fear to express the truth, as it appears in Torah, even if such a ruling could cause him damage. "Limiting what a Rabbi may say is comparable to Bolshevik regimes of Soviet Russia which would decide what people could think and what they could say…There are certain elements in society who, lately want to oppress Rabbis, ordering investigations and interrogations, in order to silence them from expressing Torah opinion… and this directly contradicts what is known as democracy and freedom of expression. If there is freedom of expression, it must be for everyone. We haven't heard of those preaching from mosques, inciting against the state of Israel, being arrested and interrogated…"
Rabbi Dov Lior is not only a Torah giant. He is an genuine hero, standing up for the rights of the Jewish people in their land, being able to live according to Torat Yisrael. Since his arrival in Israel over sixty years ago, he has dedicated his life to Torah, to his People and to his Land. The current attempt to disgrace him via accusations of incitement, while trying to silence him and interrogate him as a common criminal can only be described as an unforgiveable sacrilege.

Monday, February 07, 2011

PA ‘Rejectionism’ May Boomerang

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News

The Palestinian Authority has rejected an Israeli economic package as well as the Quartet’s attempt to revive talks, and has attacked Al Jazeera, but its rejectionism may be losing popular support as the Muslim street protest movement continues.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas threw a one-two punch at Western and Israeli approaches over the past three days. Senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new economic co-operation package “totally unacceptable.”

The plan included a proposal for developing off-shore natural gas fields. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that his package would help make Hamas-run Gaza "independent of Israeli infrastructure by helping to develop their electricity plants, water and sewerage treatment.” The plan included a proposal for developing off-shore natural gas fields. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that his package would help make Hamas-run Gaza "independent of Israeli infrastructure by helping to develop their electricity plants, water and sewerage treatment.”

Erekat responded, “If Netanyahu wants to establish mutual trust and peace, he must stop settlement-building [and] …recognize the 'terms of reference' of the peace process, starting with the recognition of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.”

Meanwhile, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas rebuffed an effort by the Quartet Middle East envoy to revive direct talks with Israel for establishing the Palestinian Authority as an independent country,

He also took on the popular pan-Arab Al Jazeera network, charging that it has launched a “violent campaign” against the Egyptian government of President Hosni Mubarak. The PA has used its American-trained armed forces to repress rallies expressing solidarity with protesters in Egypt.

Although few analysts foresee a revolution in the Arab-run areas of Judea and Samaria, the PA’s rejectionism is making it appear less credible to local Arabs, an image that may be seen in the near future by the international community.

"The Palestinian leadership is very nervous and is worried about what will happen to them if the Palestinian people decide they are sick and tired of the situation," 28-year-old “Rana” of Ramallah told TIME magazine’s Karl Vick.

“Najwa” of nearby Birzeit told the magazine, "When the Palestinian National Authority was established we thought that it would be different from the Arab states which are ruled by dictators. The PNA is no different, and I hope things will change here like in Tunisia, hopefully Egypt, Yemen and Jordan."

Fate of Copts ignored by the secular West

Angela Shanahan

Egypt's long-suffering Coptic Christians are justified in their fear of an Islamic revolution

A DISTURBING feature of the crisis in Egypt this week has been the paucity of any discussion of the implications of the decline of the Mubarak regime and the possible rise of fanatical Islamists for the Christians of Egypt.

This applies particularly to the sizeable Coptic Christian population, estimated at 10 to 15 per cent of the Egyptian population.The few vague references to the fate of the Christians were generally expressed, almost as an afterthought, regarding the repression of women.

This puzzling gap is indicative of the thought processes of many Western analysts geared to political explanations and impressions that have little to do with the deeper social and historical complexities of the Middle East, which in turn have everything to do with religion and the culture.

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Related Coverage

* Rise of the brothers a worry for the West The Australian, 7 days ago
* Egypt blames Gaza group for church blast The Australian, 24 Jan 2011
* Copts' plea for end to violence The Australian, 19 Jan 2011
* Egyptian cop shoots Christian man dead The Australian, 12 Jan 2011
* Christian shot dead in train attack Herald Sun, 11 Jan 2011

End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.

They really don't understand the importance of religion. Unless religion has an overt political face it is usually a mystery to most secular Western journalists.

Yet Christians have been out on the street with their fellow Egyptians this week, desperate that an Islamic outcome should be avoided.

Ignoring the fate of Coptic Christians is not new, and their persecution has intensified over the past 20 years. It is also a product of a general ignorance in the West about the broader history of the Middle East, where there have been Christians for 2000 years.

The Copts are regarded as the descendants of the Pharaonic Egyptians and their liturgical language is the closest thing we have to their original language. Egypt was a template for Christianity.

Its origins there are apostolic. It was introduced by the evangelist Mark as early as the year 42. Monasticism was founded in Egypt and one can't help being overwhelmed by the antiquity of the country's monasteries and many of the churches. In fact Islam did not begin to dominate Egypt until the end of the 12th century.

The Copts are integrated into virtually every strata of life in Egypt, from the lowest, such as the famous rag pickers of Cairo, to the highest, including the multi-billionaire telco tycoon Naguib Sawiris and former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

But all this is lost on your average Westerner who equates the rise of Islam with women having to get out of their mini-skirts and under the veil. If only that was the main problem the Copts will face in the event of an Islamic revolution in Egypt.

The general lack of interest in the fate of the Copts is doubly curious because a terrible massacre in Alexandria on New Year's Day, the Coptic Christmas, seems to have heralded the beginning of the present upheavals.

But judging by some media reports one would think it was sudden and unexpected. Not according to the Coptic Bishop Anba Suriel of Melbourne, who told me he believes the nascent revolution began with the New Year massacre of 23 Copts. It is easier to attack a church than a police station.

The Copts are used to these atrocities being perpetrated on their people. This was the culmination of a series of similar modern atrocities against the Christians by fanatical Muslims that go back to former president Anwar Sadat and which have not improved under Mubarak's regime.

The number of massacres has been shocking; there were at least 40 incidents in the 10 years before the Alexandria bombing. There are also numerous reports of daily discrimination in jobs and education, property ownership and most particularly in freedom of belief and worship.

New churches are routinely destroyed or desecrated and it is made difficult for an Egyptian Muslim to convert to Christianity. The government will not recognise the change of religion on their ID cards and makes it hard for such people to leave the country. There are stories of spouses who have converted being persecuted, and even kidnapped.

As Australian journalist Peter Day, who has travelled extensively in Egypt and is familiar with the Coptic culture and situation, puts it, the tactics of the regime in relation to the fundamentalists is merely to "outflank the [opposition] Muslim Brotherhood by indulging the anti-Christian bigotry of the Muslim masses", in fact complying with Muslim demands to stifle Christianity in Egypt. Yet so feared is the prospect of an Islamic regime that the Copts are supporting President Hosni Mubarak.

As for the international reaction to the New Year's massacre, it was condemned by many heads of state and foreign ministers, although in the past few have bothered with the fate of the Copts, including our own Kevin Rudd, who was singled out by the Australian Coptic movement representing our own 80,000 Australian Coptic Christians of Egyptian origin.

Referring to Rudd's December visit to Cairo, the movement observed that although he was in Egypt for three days, and met Mubarak, "he failed to convey . . . concern over the ongoing persecution of Egypt's indigenous population".

According to Day, ignoring the Copts on this occasion was partly driven by timorousness from Rudd in the face of Australia's own large and possibly strategically significant Muslim population. In an interview with the Cairo daily Al-Ahram he estimated that population at "a million", about 4.4 per cent of the population -- a startling figure compared with the 2006 census figure of about 340,000 or 1.7 per cent.

However, the Islamisation in many urban areas of Australia, such as Sydney's southwest, is slowly proceeding.

Lebanese Muslims in particular have a fertility rate four times the average.

The refugee status of Coptics and many other Middle Eastern Christians ranks low. (It is an irony that, since the demise of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, probably the only country that assures the safety and rights of its Christians is Syria, another dictatorship.)

Under those circumstances, perhaps we Australians should redress the imbalance of the immigration and refugee intake, which in the near future should be in favour of Coptics and other Christians of Middle Eastern origin .

In the West we have to take our blinkers off. Hani Shukrallah, the editor of Al-Ahram, who is a Copt by family origin, said in a recent English-language editorial headed "J'Accuse!" (taking the title of Emile Zola's powerful 1898 open letter to the then French president): " I accuse the liberal intellectuals, both Muslim and Christian who, whether complicit, afraid, or simply unwilling to do or say anything that may displease 'the masses', have stood aside, finding it sufficient to join in one futile chorus of denunciation even as the massacres spread wider, and grow more horrifying."

As the Coptic Pope Shenouda III remarked of the Islamic fundamentalists to the secular Egyptian press: "Be careful. They will have us for lunch and you for dinner."

Thanks Ronit Fraid

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Palestine Papers: PA says "refugees" must be resettled in Arab states

Elder of Ziyon

I found where Al Jazeera put all of the "Palestine Papers" and, in response to the Guardian's absurd assertion that they have already published everything that is newsworthy, here is exhibit A showing otherwise:

On July 2, 2008, the PA produced a "talking points" memo about how the so-called "refugee" problem would ultimately be solved. Presumably this was meant to be used in negotiations with the US and Israel. But by its nature, it is not an off-the-cuff comment of negotiators floating trial balloons to the other side, but an official (if unpublished) position of the PA.

First of all, the PA makes it very clear that they do not want to be the place that some 7 million "refugees" will move to live: The viability of the future Palestinian State is closely linked to the evolution of the Palestinian population that will live within the future State’s borders. In this regard, the terms of a settlement of the Palestinian refugee issue and the number of Palestinian refugees who will be offered to resettle or return to the future State of Palestine is a core parameter required to assess the viability of that State.

The resettlement/return of refugee communities touches numerous issues such as housing availabilities, access to water, education and social services, employment opportunities, infrastructure, environment etc. The ability of the Palestinian State to meet refugee needs and ensure an efficient functioning of these services will ultimately determine its viability.

Unlike Israel in 1948, which opened its doors to Jews all over the world even though it was severely restricted in resources and cash, the PA is not going to start an open-door policy. In other words, they don't seem to care nearly as much about their fellow "Palestinians" living in stateless misery as Israel does about Jews.

While the PA will still insist on the theoretical "right to return," it recognizes realistically that other Arab states are going to have to offer citizenship:

The Palestinian/Arab peace proposal regarding Palestinian refugees is to find a “just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UNGA resolution 194”. The goal is to reach a multilateral solution that will be accepted by all parties. For the resolution to be a success, Israel, host States (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon) and third countries will have to offer attractive options to refugees. Therefore, the viability of the Palestinian State also greatly relies on the ability of these stakeholders and the international community to provide with concrete relocation options to Palestinian refugees.

All of this is obvious, but the PA is publicly silent on the issue. Instead of laying the framework to get these Arab countries to gear up for their ultimate naturalization of their Palestinian Arab population, the PA's public position has been the opposite of what this paper states.

In fact, only a few months earlier, Mahmoud Abbas told The Daily Star of Lebanon:

"We would not accept any settlements that would lead to a demographic change in Lebanon. This is totally unacceptable ... We won't accept a settlement that obliges Lebanon to naturalize even one Palestinian."

It is impossible to believe that Mahmoud Abbas was not aware of the contents of this talking points memo. Which means that either he was lying to the Lebanese, or he was lying to the Americans.

Either way, it shows that he is a liar.

Obama Egypt Plan Includes Role for Muslim Brotherhood


The Obama administration is secretly crafting a plan for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave office immediately – a plan that includes a place for the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood to be in an interim government, The New York Times reported Thursday night.

mubarak,exit,times,brotherhood,egyptThe paper detailed a process in which administration officials are discussing with Egyptian officials the exit strategy. A transitional government would be headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats told the Times Thursday. But so far Mubarak has balked. Still, officials are pushing the plan in discussions with Suleiman, backed by Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the Defense Minister.

More importantly, though, the proposal calls for the transitional government to invite members from the banned Muslim Brotherhood to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials told the Times.

That plan apparently is one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mubarak, though not him directly, in an effort to convince him to step down now.

Administration officials cautioned that the outcome depended on “several factors, not least of all the mood of the protesters on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and the dynamics within the Egyptian government,” the Times story said.

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