Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Clock Ticking

Paula R. Stern

Elie is getting a passport to go to the States to visit Lauren's family has gotten me thinking. Years and years ago, we were in the north. I think I've written about it before. The story is simple. Wonderful vacation with the kids. I think we had four at the time. Leisurely days in the north. We rented an apartment very close to the Lebanese border and did day trips all around.

On our way back one evening, we stopped in the northern city of Kiryat Shemona and purchased food for dinner. We drove back to the apartment - I think I remember it being no more than a ten minute drive. We unloaded and the kids went to watch TV while we quickly started the barbecue. My husband was outside...I was inside when I heard two loud booms - seconds apart. n the clarity of that moment, I knew katyusha rockets had been fired at Israel and had landed nearby. I had never heard a rocket - but I knew. I ran outside and made my husband come into the apartment. We didn't know where the bomb shelter was; we didn't know where to go. The apartment owner came to us right away and we asked what to do. He took us deeper into his house and told us to stay in the stairwell - it was the most protected area of the house, he said, while he went to check what was happening. We heard the army order people into bomb shelters and here we were in the house.

The owner explained that the bomb shelters weren't cleaned out and the best place was where we were. We tried to believe he was right, that we were being responsible. Within 30 minutes, the army gave the all clear to let people resume what they were doing. The vast majority of the tourists (Israelis visiting from central and southern Israel who regularly fill Israel's northern areas in the heat of the summer - like us), went scrambling home as fast as they could. The north was virtually evacuated of visitors; the residents remained. You could almost see them shaking their heads in wonder as to why people had left.

We decided to spend the night - but compromised by pulling mattresses into the stairwell. All camped out, trying to make it fun; Elie began telling us he wanted to go home.

There are moments in your life you remember. Crystal clear. You know this is a turning moment - I hope for Elie, certainly for me. No, we told him. No, we won't run. The army says it is safe; the people who live here all the time say it is safe. We aren't running. Would you run if it was your home? Why is this less your home than where we live. No.

What we did - without telling the children - was switch our plans. The next day, rather than stay in the Galilee area, we drove north and east into the Golan Heights, hoping that if more rockets fell, they wouldn't be able to target the Golan, which lay so much higher than the Galilee fields and hills. When we returned home later that week no further rockets had been fired other than the, it wasn't two. What I took for two was the sound of it being fired - outgoing from Lebanon, and the sound of it landing - incoming to one of Israel's cities where damage was caused...close to where we'd made our purchases just 15 or so minutes before.

We also came back to some very unhappy relatives who felt we should have left after the rocket attack. They'd heard about it - even in the States, and felt we were irresponsible parents. Why this whole story?

Because I feel a clock is ticking with Iran and I don't have passports for my children...and I don't want to get them. I don't want my children leaving Israel. I can close my eyes and see horrible war scenes, smoke in the streets. Would this be the Jewish people's last stand? Where else should it be but Israel? No, I do not believe it will happen - it comes back to my overly active imagination. I can see things, smell them, feel them - if my brain only thinks it.

Another quick story - when my oldest daughter completed the advanced ambulance training program for handling multiple casualty incidents, they invited the parents to a demonstration. At the time, buses were exploding regularly and so the simulation was a terrorist attack. The kids - all around 16 years old, simulated setting up a triage area, bringing in the wounded (more kids carried on stretchers by other kids). The day was clear and bright; the kids were laughing because some "patients" fell off the stretchers while over-acting. Parents were smiling, and I was standing there crying. I was so embarrassed. I was yelling silently to my brain - stop, stop thinking this is real. There's no black smoke. The sirens are just part of it. Stop.

So at times, I do this with Iran - what would happen if Iran really did fire a nuclear weapon at Israel? I don't really have much faith in most of the world. The French will moan; even the Germans and the English will do little. The Swedes and Norwegians might actually cheer. The Americans might come...but it would be too late, wouldn't it? And if there were some war scene with hundreds of Americans trying to get out - trying to approach the American I've seen in some foreign countries...I have no passport to prove who we are...and even if I did...would I want to.

I have no other land, no other place but here. I don't want to leave...this is where, hopefully way way in the future, I want to die and be buried. Am I being an irresponsible parent?

And this brings me to something Elie said recently. Israel is, as far as I know, the only place in the world that during a war, there are more people flying into the war zone than out of it. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands of Israelis all over the world will come home as fast as the planes can bring them. Even those who live abroad, fly home to fight. I wonder if they feel the clock ticking?

Into the Fray: Dismantling democracy


The underpinnings of Israeli democracy are being imperiled by those purporting to be its staunchest defenders.

Religion, nationalism and a people’s complex of ethical habits and customs have traditionally been interpreted as obstacles to the establishment of successful democratic political institutions. But the truth is considerably more complicated, for the success of liberal politics frequently rests on irrational forms of recognition that liberalism was supposed to overcome.

For democracy to work, citizens need to develop an irrational pride in their own democratic institutions frequently based on religion, ethnicity or other forms of recognition that fall short of the universal recognition on which the liberal state is based.

– Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, 1992 This citation, from one of the staunchest champions of liberal democracy in recent times, highlights the grave misunderstanding – or perhaps purposeful misrepresentation – of the concept and its constitutive nature that surfaced during the brouhaha following recent legislative initiatives in the Knesset.

Status quo unsustainable

These initiatives, focused on changing the mechanisms determining the composition of the Israeli judiciary and the funding that (ostensibly) Israeli NGOs can receive from foreign governments.

Opponents of the proposed changes protested vociferously against them, warning darkly that they herald the end of democratic liberties in the land. The bitter irony is that it is precisely those who advocate preserving the status quo that are imperiling the future of Israeli democracy.

Now it is quite possible that the proposals put forward could have been enhanced, refined and polished. They perhaps can be criticized for being ham-fisted and heavyhanded, badly drafted and poorly thought through. But what cannot be denied is that they address two intolerable features that are gnawing away at the democratic underpinnings of Israeli society.

These must be addressed, resolutely and rapidly.

Severing the demos from the kratos

The configuration and conduct of the judiciary, and the operation of NGOs funded by foreign sovereign sources, comprise the two blades of a “scissors” that are threatening to sever the bond between the most elemental constituents of democratic governance – between the demos and the kratos (between the people and the power).

The symbiotic interaction between an indisputably politically biased judiciary and organizations funded largely by governments with interests divergent – frequently radically so – from those of Israel, bestow inordinately disproportionate influence on an electorally insignificant minority.

As such, these activities comprise a severe perversion of the democratic process – quite the reverse of the noble endeavor to protect it that their vocal advocates attempt to promote.

While scholars may disagree as to the exact definition of “liberal democracy,” and while most would agree that it should not entail the unrestrained tyranny of the majority, it is doubtful whether any would suggest that it comprises the notion of the rule of the minority.

So while protection of minority rights – an important element of liberal democracy – is one thing, the right to subvert – indeed supersede – the will of the majority is quite another.

Bypassing the will of the people

The ample financial resources of these political NGOs, with agendas often inimical to the vision of preserving Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, allow them to lodge frequent petitions with a like-minded High Court of Justice.

This has impeded, undermined and delayed policy decisions of the elected government.

The efficacy of these foreign-funded forays is not necessarily dependent solely on the decisions handed-down by the courts. Sometimes significant practical impact on government policy can be achieved by interim injunctions, the publicity (usually negative for Israel) generated by the lodging of the petition itself, out-of-court settlements reached to avoid drawn-out legal proceedings, irrespective of the substantive merits of the petitions, and so on.

Moreover, this symbiosis between a politically partisan judiciary and externally financed NGOs has had several disturbing effects which are not often clearly articulated and hence not clearly understood.

First, it allows foreign governments to affect Israel’s policies by circumventing accepted diplomatic practices in manners which are far from transparent – either to their own domestic publics or to the Israeli electorate.

Second, it permits electorally inconsequential segments of the population to short-circuit public debate and to influence events far beyond their domestic weight, using the resources of official alien sovereignties whose interests are very different – indeed often diametrically opposed – to those of Israel.

All of these restrict the policies of Israeli authorities on a wide range of issues on the national agenda, including vital matters of security and defense. The result is an ongoing erosion of the public perception of the stature of elected executive and legislative branches of government and a commensurate enhancement of that of the unelected, elitist judiciary.

Why anyone would consider that preserving such a perverse state of affairs furthers the cause of liberal democracy beggars the imagination.

Is legality losing legitimacy?

But there is an even more pernicious situation developing, fueled by a growing perception of the blatant disconnect between the value-system reflected in the judicial rulings and that of the general public. It is indisputable – and generally undisputed – that a strong, independent judiciary is indispensable for the effective functioning of a liberal democracy.

However, such independence would be of little value or durability without public faith in the judicial system.

For those genuinely concerned with the fate of the rule of law, the plummeting confidence Israelis have in the courts must be of utmost concern – far more than any defects, real or imagined, in proposed changes to the process of selecting judges.

As I have mentioned in recent columns, documented research clearly demonstrates that increasing segments of society are expressing an increasing lack of faith in the courts. This includes the Supreme Court, whose justices, in the words of one study published by Harvard University Press, “are increasingly viewed by a considerable portion of the Israeli public as pushing forward their own political agenda.”

Another study, by the University of Haifa, found that barely a third of the public has faith in the overall court system – down by over 40 percentage points over the past decade.

Just over half of the public has faith in the Supreme Court – which means almost one half don’t.

This reflects a disturbingly sharp decline from the 80-percent level of faith in 2000. A major factor contributing to the decline was, according to the study’s author, the Supreme Court’s “excessive involvement” in controversial religious, social and defense issues.

Another study conducted by researchers from Ben-Gurion and Haifa universities reveals similar steep and sustained drops over the preceding decade in Israelis’ confidence in the courts.

All of this makes the assessment by Prof. Ran Hirschl, in his book Towards Juristocracy, particularly pertinent. He warns: “The delegation [some might say usurpation] of power to courts may therefore pose a long-term threat to the legitimacy, impartiality and independence of the judiciary.”

Counter-productive and self-defeating

For anyone who is truly committed to a strong independent judiciary, the current situation is one that cannot be allowed to persist. After all, there is nothing that endangers its standing more than the loss of public confidence in its ability to dispense justice. If this is lost, nothing will prevent aggrieved citizens from turning to “alternative” systems to find the justice they seek – and the rule of law will be irretrievably lost.

It is thus truly troubling that those who profess to hold the values of liberal democracy and the rule of law dear – particularly the members of the current coalition – did not invest efforts in trying to improve the legislative proposals of their parliamentary colleagues for changing the unsustainable status quo. This would have been a far more constructive course than caustically denigrating their initiatives and vehemently berating their motivations.

Rather than surrender to the illogical, counter-productive and self-defeating dictates of political-correctness, rather than join the misguided bon-ton chorus vainly trying to justify the unjustifiable and preserve the unpreservable, figures such as Bennie Begin and Dan Meridor might have harnessed their energies and prestige to promote endeavors to ensure the future of the legal system and to save the judiciary from itself.

Moral values, not legal edicts

The current, deteriorating situation is a result of what appears to be a grave misunderstanding – or deliberate misrepresentation – on the part of the country’s left-leaning liberal-secular elites of what liberal democracy is. They seem unable to grasp, or unwilling to accept, the simple but profound insights conveyed by Fukuyama in the introductory citations.

This calls for the realization that liberal democracy is first and foremost a political – not a legal – construct. It cannot be created or sustained by legal edicts alone.

That requires the internalization of moral values which can then be codified into a system of rules for the administration of daily life in accordance with those values.

But when the law does not reflect the prevailing values, the legal system loses its legitimacy. Laws then become unenforceable – unless by undemocratic coercion, which as recent history shows, seldom lasts for long.

Liberal democracy cannot be ordained in a political vacuum. It can only be implemented within a political framework – a state. Sustainable states can only coalesce around only a viable principle of association.

This is especially true for democracies.

For if there is pervasive disagreement as to the validity of the principle of association, governance will be possible only by coercive tyranny. This has long been recognized by liberal philosophers. Thus for example John Stuart Mill, one of the giants of liberal theory, warned that excessive heterogeneity would make representative government untenable. In his classic work Representative Government, he cautions: “Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of... a people without fellow- feeling... [where] the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist.”

Mill also stipulated what might constitute such a principle of association or “fellow- feeling.” While he acknowledges that “the effect of race and descent... [c]ommunity of language, and religion [may] greatly contribute to it,” they are not the most important parameter.

For Mill, “the strongest [element] of all is identity of political antecedents; the possession of a national history, and consequent community of recollections; collective pride and humiliation, pleasure and regret, connected with the same incidents in the past.”

The real ideological divide

This, then, is the crux of the matter. This is the essence underlying the ideological divide that emerged in the wake of the recent legislative initiatives.

• It is a divide between those who believe, and those who don't, that stable democracy can comprise a random amalgam of individuals bound by nothing more than their equality before the law, and those who know (or sense) that this is not so.

• It is a divide between those who believe the fundamental differences of identity and allegiance that exist between “Us” and the “Other” can be papered over by laws, and those who know (or sense) that this is not so.

• It is a divide between those who believe, and those who don't, that a unifying ethos (“a fellow-feeling”) can be forged between two peoples, the one (the Jews) that sees a given “incident” (Israel’s Day of Independence) as a source of “pride and pleasure,” and the other (the Arabs) that sees it as a source of “regret and humiliation” (Nakba).

• It is a divide between the majority of Israelis who see their country as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and Israelis such as former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, who in 2009 declared at a New Israel Fund event (where else?) that he was “a big believer in a state of all its citizens.”

The only question now is: On which side of the divide are Bennie Begin, Dan Meridor and Reuven Rivlin?

Friday, November 25, 2011

What Do Totalitarians Do When They Gain Power Democratically?

Barry Rubin

In the last scene of the film “The Candidate,” about a U.S. Senate election, the victorious candidate expresses American cynicism about politics by asking, “What do we do now?” The idea is that politicians just want to get into power but have no idea of how to deal with problems or even a coherent worldview. Soon deadlock will set in and nothing is really going to change. It is the sarcasm fit for an open, non-ideological system where individual ambition prevails. But as long as there’s always another election, we know that things will be all right and life will be tolerable. Not so in the Arabic-speaking Middle East. These politicians know precisely what they want to do: seize state power (albeit by peaceful means, if possible), fundamentally transform their societies, and hold onto state power forever. And they are capable of changing things a lot.

Naïve Western officials, journalists, and “experts” think that an electoral victory for the Islamists is just fine and dandy. They will obey the rules; be worn down by the necessary compromises of democratic politics; have to focus their effortson collecting garbage, running schools, and fixing roads; and then another election will come along and things will always be all right.

They come close to saying: Ha, ha, ha! They’re in power? So what can they possibly do with control over the state and all of its resources to change anything significantly? There are democratic rules after all!

That’s not how it works.

Is this anything new? Consider these quotations from a Middle East leader:

Before taking power: “The foundation of our Islamic government is based on freedom of dialogue and we will fight against any kind of censorship.”

Before taking power: “Personal desire, age and my health do not allow me to personally have a role in running the country after the fall of the current system.”

After taking power: “Those who are trying to bring corruption and destruction to our country in the name of democracy will be oppressed. They are worse than Jews, and they must be hanged.”

Who said these things? Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Back to 2011. The media-expert-journalist complex has messed every element of this year’s big Middle East story until it was painfully obvious and too late to do anything about it:

--Islamists are strong not weak.

--Moderate “Facebook kid” democrats can’t compete with them.

---Islamists are radical not moderate

Now we are on to the fourth point. When totalitarians take power, by election or other means, they proceed to consolidate power. There are ways to do this other than lining up all of your opponents and shooting them or chopping off their heads. The strategy is to take control of national institutions, transform the national debate, use the amount of repression that’s necessary, and pursue populist policies (both economic and demagogic) to win mass support.

This is what the Turkish model is all about. After several years you get reelected; or, in Iran’s case, steal the election; or, in the Palestinian Authority’s and Hamas’s case, stop holding elections altogether.

Let’s look at some of the details. For two centuries we’ve seen how non-democratic revolutions work. At the moment when the old regime is overthrown, one hundred flowers bloom and one hundred schools of thought contend. It is a moment of euphoria when anything seems possible. Nobody could possibly believe that a repressive society could possibly return. In the words of Wordsworth on the French Revolution,

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/
But to be young was very heaven!”

Nature, however, (that's human nature) abhors a political vacuum. This outburst of freedom is due to the fact that there is no government, no political system, and that whatever authorities exist are letting people blow off steam.

Then comes the new regime. In this case it is a regime led by people who believe to the depths of their being that the master of the universe has ordained precisely what the laws of the land should be, how society is conducted, and that no human mind can formulate proper legislation to the contrary. Of course, they are interpreting the will of the divine being to their own specifications but they don’t know that and won’t believe you if you tell them that.

The question is not what is to be done but how much they can get away with doing at any given moment. Such is “moderate Islamism.”

And hence they begin the short march through the institutions:

--Education. Textbooks to be rewritten; the principle that Islam is the only proper religion to be made as central as possible; all teaching of Islam according to their interpretation. Christians and Jews are evil; non-Muslims are enemies; Israel is demonic and must be destroyed. Teachers and administrators who reject their program of indoctrination to be fired; opportunists and careerists will go along.

--Government bureaucracies. The hiring of as many ideological supporters as possible; those who go along will be promoted; those who don’t will be fired or pushed aside. Requirements to be altered so that religious educational certificates will be made equal to academic education degrees in qualifying for high posts. If your wife doesn't wear a hijab forget about being promoted.

--Media. Government control over state-run media will be renewed and strengthened. Licenses, censorship, subsidies, the whole panoply of government powers will be applied to reward flatterers and punish critics. If necessary, riots will be organized, threats made, fines imposed on those who don’t toe the line, though some margin of freedom will be permitted as long as it threatens nothing.

--Constitution. A new constitution will be written by a commission dominated by Islamists. In some cases they will do what they want—Sharia as the “main source” or “the source” of law—while in others they will hold back and be patient—promises that everyone will have equal rights. The new constitution, however, will provide the basis for Islamizing Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, etc.

--Religion. The ministry of religion will be under Brotherhood control. That means it can decide which mosques can be built or not built; who gets hired as imam in each mosque; what the sermons say; which preachers get on state television and radio, etc. Normative Islam will be Muslim Brotherhood Islam. The existing gap may not be wide but it is significant nonetheless. Eventually, the Brotherhood will get in control of naming the mufti of Egypt and the head of al-Azhar University. There will be only one interpretation of Islam and it will prevail through the country and shape the minds and behavior of Egyptians.

--Courts. There are some courageous judges but the Brotherhood will tame the courts by the power to control who becomes a judge, shaping the law, intimidation, and just not enforcing any decision they don't like.

--Army. The Brotherhood will be patient. The deal just struck between the Brothers and the soldiers might be the precedent for arrangements under the new regime. The Islamists leave the army alone to control its budget and run its business enterprises; the army does not interfere with the Brotherhood’s governing of the country. Remember that while the now-broken Turkish army consciously saw itself as secularist, the Egyptian army holds no such doctrine. Many of the officers are quite pious.

The issue here, then, is not one of doctrine or of power—the army does not want political power—but related to the officers’ economic self-interest. Consequently, the Egyptian army can accept an Islamist regime far easier than observers think.

The other potential point of collision is if the regime wants to do something that the army deems to be creating a mess in which it would suffer. That would include a war with Israel that the army would have to fight (and lose) or actions that would alienate the United States to the point that it cut off aid.

I’m not joking when I say that literally nothing the Egyptian regime would do short of a shooting war with Israel would persuade the Obama Administration to cut off aid. There are a number of ways the regime could find to avoid pushing the army to the point of rebellion. And of course the Islamists would be working steadily to infiltrate the army, propagandize the soldiers, and work with opportunist officers who want to promote their career.

--The Presidency: This is the other remaining potential roadblock to an Islamist Egypt. If presidential elections are held, as now currently scheduled, in June 2012 who will win? The only person who I can conceive on beating the Islamist candidate is the 75-year-old Amr Musa.

A demagogic radical nationalist, Musa is also somewhat tempered by his diplomatic experience and some pragmatic impulses. Yet the liberal reformers won’t support him and will divide the vote to the point where the Brotherhood candidate will probably win.

Folks, it doesn’t look good for Egypt. So when you read articles minimizing the threat if the “moderate Islamist” Muslim Brotherhood takes over, ask them if they can refute the above article. Note, too,that the kind of slow, behind-the-scenes takeover and transformation I discuss above is not the stuff of dramatic headlines. This trend can and will be ignored and denied.The mass media haven't even gotten around to reporting and the Western leaders and "experts" haven't properly analyzed these things in Turkey. Only when the process is far advanced are they likely to notice.

Professor Barry Rubin, Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
The Rubin Report blog
He is a featured columnist at PJM
Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal
Editor Turkish Studies,

"He's Not Buying It"

Arlene Kushner

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not remotely convinced, nor should he be:

In certain quarters of the international community the idea is being promoted that a peace treaty hastily negotiated between Israel and the PA would have a mollifying effect on the unrest in the Arab world. EU Ambassador to Israel Andrew Standley, for example, said at a Jerusalem press conference yesterday that Israel should move quickly to settle with the Palestinians to remove this conflict as an issue on the Egyptian street.

Failure to move ahead on negotiations, he declared, should not be allowed to become an additional "disturbing factor" in the Arab world. Now, really. This is a spin off of the arguments the Obama administration was making some while ago. The notion that a peace treaty between Israel and the PA, or lack thereof, is an issue of major importance within the Arab world is a myth that has no legs to stand on.

While I would never go as far as to state unequivocally that this issue is never mentioned on the Egyptian street -- although when it is, it is more as a function of anti-Israel sentiment than because of genuine concern for the Palestinian Arabs -- it clearly is not center stage. The Egyptians are engaged in conflict about the future of their own nation.

As Boaz Bismuth, reporting for Israel Hayom writes, while there had been a sense of enthusiasm and unity expressed by the mobs in Tahrir Square when Mubarak was overthrown, "This time around, Egypt is divided, disappointed, not expecting anything, scared, violent, opportunistic and in terrible pain." It's the military regime against the street, which has not been satisfied with promises of elections and reforms. The Muslim Brotherhood is joining forces with Salafists, says Bismuth, to gain control.

In the course of this struggle, Israel is occasionally being vilified on the street because we are perceived as being allied with the military regime: "Israel is no friend of the Egyptian people. They support the army that is shooting at us."

Well, it's true. The military regime has maintained the peace treaty -- something the Muslim Brotherhood might well not do -- and has sustained a relationship with Israel in spite of rocky moments. That radical jihadists should replace the regime that is currently welcoming back our ambassador is our worst nightmare with regard to Egypt.

Were Netanyahu to sit down at a table across from Abbas, it would change none of this. It's the old story of the onus being placed unreasonably on Israel.


Not only does Netanyahu understand this, he grasps the fact that our rushing to negotiations with the PA at this juncture (which at a minimum would mean stopping all construction outside the Green Line and agreeing to that line as the basis for negotiations) would play against Israel's best interests.

Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO
GPO:Ben Gershom

In two statements within the last couple of days, he made it clear that making concessions at a time of uncertainty would not be a wise move.

"Last February I stood on this stage," he told the Knesset, "as millions of Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo, and my friends in the opposition explained that this is a new time of liberalism and modernity. When I said that, despite our hopes, it's more likely that an Islamist, anti-America, anti-Israel wave will come, I was told that I'm trying to scare people and that I don't understand where things are going.

"Well, things are going somewhere. They're going backwards, not forwards. I'm looking at reality, not hopes and wishes."

Netanyahu warned that, "We can't know who will end up with any piece of territory we give up. Reality is changing all the time, and if you don't see it, your head is buried in the sand." It was clear, he said, that his "careful attitude was correct, smart and responsible." Israel is facing regional instability.


Before turning to other, albeit related, issues, I want to make one other point with regard to Egypt. This is from Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council.

Egypt's economy, he warns, is in dire shape: "Since this spring, in a development largely unnoticed by the outside world, the Egyptian economy has virtually imploded...

"Just how bad is the situation? A telling assessment was recently provided by Ahmed al-Borai, Minister of Manpower and Immigration in the country's transitional government. 'Egypt is currently passing through a critical period and on the brink of bankruptcy,' the Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm reports al-Borai telling an investment conference in Alexandria in early October. '[Egypt's] losses are growing day by day.' The forecast, according to al-Borai, is dire. 'Either we band together and change the current situation, or let Egypt be destroyed.'

" least in the case of Egypt, the 'Arab Spring' hasn't netted prosperity at all. Rather, it has produced the kind of economic malaise that predisposes societies to seek relief by embracing authoritarian central control. That, in turn, could be a boon to illiberal elements - including the country's main Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now organizing to dominate upcoming parliamentary polls to the detriment of its secular rivals."

One is hard put to understand why this has been largely ignored by a host of media analysts, especially as this unquestionably has to be a source of the unrest on the street.

Berman does not see the situation as hopeless: "New infusions of foreign capital from Western stakeholders, if judiciously disbursed and pegged to real economic and political reforms, could begin to reverse the country's current, ruinous course - or, at least, provide Egypt's government with much-needed breathing room to begin putting its economic house in order."


And yet one other thought occurs to me. A nation that close to bankruptcy literally cannot afford to wage war.


After two hours of talks in Cairo today, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and head of the Hamas politburo Khaled Mashaal emerged with glowing statements regarding a new partnership.

Enthused Mashaal:

"We want to assure our people and the Arab and Islamic world that we have turned a major new and real page in partnership on everything do to with the Palestinian nation."

While Abbas declared:

"There are no more differences between us now. We have agreed to work as partners with joint responsibility."

No more differences indeed. That's pure PR hype. What matters now is not these glib words, but what follows in terms of true understandings. There is no announcement at this point regarding composition of the joint government, or -- most critically -- of the identity of the projected new prime minister.

Seems that individual has not yet been selected -- his identity will be determined in meetings in December. Also still to be discussed are the restructuring of the security forces of each group, and changes to the PLO -- to which Hamas does not now belong but which it seeks in time to control.

What this means, then, is that the "new partnership" could yet founder as the hard issues are confronted. But if this cooperation does proceed, there will a considerable shift in what has been the situation to date.


A key issue will be that of funding for this new Palestinian Arab entity-in-the-making.

Abbas, with his UN/UNESCO gambits of the last few months, had already generated a reluctance to provide the PA with funds. Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) -- enormously irked by his counterproductive actions -- had put a hold on US funds to the PA. Under truly incredible pressure, she removed the hold. However, it is impossible for me to conceive of a situation in which the PA-Hamas jointly would receive US funding; what is more, EU funding would likely be cut as well.


With regard to US funding of the PA, I draw particular attention to the on-going funding and training of the so-called PA security forces. When moves have been made to stop funding to the PA, the protest was often heard that the one program that should not be cut was the training of the forces.

But this has been an error of colossal proportions. Two years ago I wrote a major report analyzing the dangers of this program. The forces were being trained to take on terrorists -- notably Hamas. But, I asked in 2009, how could this training be done when its US sponsors could not be sure at the end of the day who would control these forces. And now we have a situation in which there may be a "restructuring" of PA-Hamas forces, such that Hamas may end up commanding the very forces that were supposed to act against it.

Abbas has said he would join Hamas in a "resistance" government; Hamas has said there would be no recognition of Israel or agreements with Israel. If a joint PA-Hamas security force should be formed and decide to take on Israel, it will be better trained and better equipped than it otherwise would have been thanks to the stupidity of the Americans promoting this program.

If I could see this possibility coming, why could they not? Because they were invested in the program, and were wearing blinders -- the blinders many don when dealing with the Palestinian Arabs.


Israel, for her part, decided to withhold tax revenues collected for the PA, in response to the recent UNESCO acceptance of "Palestine," which had been requested by Abbas. Pressure within the international community was then promoted by Abbas to get Israel to release the funds -- most notably a demand in this regard from UN Secretary-General Ban. This past Sunday, the Cabinet voted not to release the funds pending the outcome of today's meeting between Abbas and Mashaal. I do not believe that money will be seen by the PA any time soon.


Another change we would witness would be -- I must assume -- a cessation of demands that Israel rush to the negotiating table with the Palestinian Arabs. Israel, for her part, has made it very clear that this possibility should not even be entertained if there is a unity government.

The recent demands by persons such as the EU's Standley that we rush to the negotiating table were made before today's meeting in Cairo. But it was known that the meeting was pending. Makes the demands on Israel rather incredible. Unless there was some unspoken hope that by making requisite concessions with all possible speed we might lure Abbas from meeting with Mashaal. Sorry guys.


The last change I would fervently hope to see would be definitive action on the part of Israel with regard to finally recognizing that Oslo is truly, truly dead. Maybe application of civil law to all communities in Judea and Samaria, for starters.


With regard to the application of Israeli civil law in Judea and Samaria:

The Canadians for Israel's Legal Rights has just announced that "The Jewish People's Rights to the Land of Israel" by Salomon Benzimra has been published in Kindle format via Amazon. Please see their website for full information on how to access this material, which "is the result of extensive research on the historical events and legal documents that enshrined Israel's Legal Rights in international law."


Former head of the Mossad, Danny Yatom, speaking yesterday at a security conference at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies came out firmly in favor of Israel hitting Iran:

"As difficult a price it may be [if Iran is hit], and even if those predicting apocalyptic results are correct – and I don’t think they are – this is still not as bad as the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb."

Israel can’t allow herself to be put in the position of having "to wake up every morning and ask, 'Will they go crazy and throw a bomb on us or not?'...the damage that an Iranian nuclear bomb can cause is so great."

As to the rocket response from Hamas and Hezbollah, he predicted that Israel’s response would be 'so painful and crushing that rockets will come to an end.

“Civilian facilities and infrastructures in Lebanon and Gaza will be hit...But the barrage of rockets will no longer be falling over our heads."


See this article about attempts by the PA -- acting as a full member of UNESCO -- to get this UN agency to declare the Cave of the Patriarchs (the Machpelah), Judaism's most ancient site, to be a World Heritage site belonging only to the Palestinians.

While it's business as usual for me here today, I do recognize that in the US it is Thanksgiving. And so I wish a happy holiday to all. Enjoy your turkey, and your sweet potatoes, and your pumpkin pie. Enjoy each other, as you gather around the table.

This American holiday, in particular, has always seemed to me quintessentially Jewish in its practice and sensibility: Both because of the need to express gratitude for blessings, and because of the model of the harvest festival of Sukkot. Actually, I believe that the Pilgrims, who were immersed in their Old Testament, were mindful of Sukkot.


© 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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Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Future of Egypt

Sultan Knish

In the wake of the latest instability everyone has an opinion on the future of Egypt. But the future of Egypt is the past, not the distant past of its pre-Arab culture, but a repetition of the last century. In a region that has never escaped from the past, history is not a road, it is a circle. Travel far enough along it and you come back to where you were.

There was once a time when the UK thought that Egypt and Jordan were the best regional prospects, but instead of becoming Arabic accented versions of Albion, today it is London that has taken on the accent and the Hijab. Cairo has been shedding its colonial cosmopolitanism for half a century. The Muslim Brotherhood arsons sped up the process, and the Islamization of Egypt has been gaining ground for some time, but the cause and effect is a little more complicated than that.

Egypt wasn't really cosmopolitan, it was ruled by a Western power that was and the country's upper class mirrored their foreign rulers. That upper class still exists, the Tahrir Square protest organizers drew heavily on the country's own top 1 percent (not counting the Brotherhood) and the sons and daughters of the extremely well off, who tour Europe and America, and speak English well, make up a large percent of the activists, the bloggers and twitter users. And they're also irrelevant to the country as a whole.

As Egypt has drifted from the UK's orbit to the USSR and the US, fragments of the culture and politics have lodged, but have never gone very deep. The Brotherhood may have borrowed its organization from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and the Egyptian left may be drawing heavily on Europe for its inspiration, but these are means to an end, they are not what the conflict is actually about.

Conflicts over power are about power, the nature of power and who wields it. Will it be the oligarchic capitalists, their activist kids, the military or the Imams of Al-Azhar University? The answer is probably all of the above.

The military and the Brotherhood are part of the oligarchy and so is much of the left. The economic root of the protests were about money, or the price of goods in an economy controlled from the top down. And everyone is offering their own subsidized goods programs.

The election will come down to economic issues, rather than Sharia or the nature of the government, and the Islamic parties have done an excellent job of positioning themselves as less corrupt and more trustworthy. In Turkey, the AKP took the country deep into debt in order to finance an economic boom that gave them enough popularity to permanently crush military rule. If the Brotherhood takes power in Egypt then you can expect them to do the same thing.

American and European pressure to install El-Baradei in place of Mubarak means that the military is bound to feel closer to the Brotherhood than to the Egyptian left, which ended up looking like an American puppet. And the Islamists are always a convenient excuse for the dictators looking to crush the opposition with American support. Which also means that the military must keep the Islamists around.

The tyrants kept the Islamists around in order to maintain international support, only for the latter to rise up and overthrow them when the West suddenly turned around and backed the Islamists confusing everyone. But tyranny in the region is a military resource. Any good military has enough officers who will become dictators if given the chance. It's why the Gulf tribals have incompetent armies and rely on the US marines to keep them safe from ex-military dictators and socialist tyrants.

While the West backs the liberal "reformers", the Brotherhood and the military enter into a tense and uncomfortable relationship. If the Brotherhood achieves its aims, then the military will be taken apart and replaced by an Iranian style Revolutionary Guard. That process is already underway in Turkey where there are more generals in prison than on the front lines. But if the military waits out all its rivals and then picks up Western support for stabilizing Egypt, then a new Mubarak will be in power.

None of this will lead to a better Egypt. The military and the left consist of the same people and their children who have been running the country into the ground for over half a century. If the average Egyptian isn't too enthusiastic about them, he can hardly be blamed for it. He may not agree with the Brotherhood's entire program, but some aspects of it appeal to him. The moral parts of it seem like common sense.

Western culture exports the products of freedom, without the process of freedom. The Muslim world receives Madonna music videos, rather than the Constitution that makes possible. It receives gadgets rather than the innovation behind them. From that perspective, all he sees that the average Egyptian sees is license and materialism. And it's tempting to dismiss the West and embrace the Brotherhood, even if the actual source of that license and materialism is right here at home.

Democracy is no solution to a country where tolerance doesn't exist and there is no way to mediate conflicts between different groups. Women have no place in the new Egypt, because they're not men. Christians have no place because they're not Muslims. Or rather their place is at the feet of Muslims. This is the way it has always been and democracy doesn't change that, it only shines a light on the fact that this is the will of the people, not some aberrant impulse.

The Western approach to Egypt has always been unserious, bad history combining with spectacle, the romance of orientalism followed by the romance of protest. The coverage of the Egyptian protests focused more on striking photos of shouting men and women with flames in the background, than on who they were or what they wanted. Similarly the top story now is an Egyptian female blogger who posed naked to protest against Islamist domination of culture and the country's treatment of women. But it's the first half of that sentence which interests the media, not the second half. Just as it was the violence of the protests, not the identity or the protesters or their demands that interested the media. The common denominator is the search for spectacle over depth.

Protest tourism is very much a reality and the biggest offenders read Edward Said and talk about "Otherising" even as they keep treating other nations and cultures as political spectator sports. And when they sympathize enough with one team, then they try to help it win, without actually knowing who the teams are or what they are fighting about. This is how a generation of university students wound up wearing Keffiyahs, denouncing "Israeli occupation" and promoting a grass roots version of the Arab League boycott.

But there is nothing to hope for here and no teams to cheer for. Just bankrupt ideologies rooted in the past while using the technologies and terminology of the present fighting over the spoils of a dysfunctional post-colonial state that has never had a stable government that wasn't backed by force.

Whoever takes power and in whatever combination of shifting alliances, most of the country will still be poor and illiterate. Sexual harassment will still be commonplace and the presence of women in the public sphere will continue to diminish. Christians will continue being shoved aside and the West will be blamed for everything. There will be more men with beards and women with veils and few people will have rights and most things will run on connections.

Some on the left dream of the Egypt that might have been if Israel had never existed and there had been nothing to get in the way of Nasser's Arab Socialist program. But Nasser was not some great leader who was sidetracked by that pesky Jewish state sitting in the middle of his Arabist empire, he was a buffoon who needed an external enemy because he lacked any real ability to move his country forward. That made him no different from Saddam, Assad, Khaddafi and every tinpot dictator cluttering up the region.

Now the Arab left is through, has been through for a long time. Even the dictators never had much use for it, not even when they were promoting Arab Socialism and fattening themselves on Soviet aid. The only people interested in the Arab intellectual are Western academics and diplomats who haven't learned that the majority of the breed are either idle theorists or toadies for those in power.

The military is rotten, a relic of British colonialism kept in place by the need to fight the ethnic and religious minority across the border, and turned into a ruling class with tentacles in the country's economy. Hated by the pre-military elite families, many of whose children and grandchildren played a major role in Tahrir Square, it has no justification for ruling the country except the instability. Without the ideology of a Pan-Arabist power or anything besides its past record of fighting Israel, its only basis for rule is wholly serving.

That only leaves the Brotherhood, which has been working toward this for a long time, purging the country of its outside influences and crawling to the top. Now the political path has opened up, but elections means very little. In Egypt they mainly mean a chance to fail. But running Egypt has very little resemblance to anything that looks like functioning government. After all the shouting and arguments, the winner will be the one with the biggest mobs and the most bread and circuses.

That is the real future of Egypt.

Palestinian Refugees vs. the Arabs

David Meir-Levi
Nov 24th, 2011

In 2008, during a presentation at a panel discussion on the Middle East conflict at Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA), a young Arab-American lady claiming to be a “Palestinian refugee” posed to the present writer the following question:

“Why can any ‘Moishe Pipik’ from Brooklyn go to live in Israel, but I, a child of Palestinian parents living in the USA, cannot go back to my ancestral homeland, Palestine, where our families lived since time immemorial?”

The response to that question may be useful to readers who find themselves confronted with similar questions by friends, relatives, colleagues, or others. The first thing to note is that “Palestinians” have not been living in Palestine (now Israel) from time immemorial. Turkish and British records are clear that Palestine was flooded with Arab immigrants from the late 1850’s onward due to the salutary effects of British colonial and Zionist developments from the mid-19th century onward. Groundbreaking work on the Arab historical demography of Palestine during the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries has been done by Professor Justin McCarthy in his book The Population of Palestine: Population History and Statistics of the Late Ottoman Period and the Mandate (Institute for Palestine Studies Series), summarized here. McCarthy, not a Jew nor an Israeli nor a Zionist, writing for a Palestinian institute, demonstrates that the Arab population of Palestine almost quadrupled from c. 1855 to 1947. Only a tiny minority of Arabs can claim ancestral attachment to this territory, and even those claims are based solely on anecdotal accounts for which there is no empirical evidence.

Then one must recall that the Arab side started the war, and lost the war. Israel accepted the UN partition plan in 1947. The Arab states launched a war. When an aggressor loses a war because the victim country successfully repulses the aggression, and in doing so captures some of the aggressor’s land, the disposition of that captured territory, and its inhabitants, must await a peace treaty between the belligerents. Refugees from the aggressor country have recourse to repatriation only in the context of a peace treaty. Most Arab countries have refused to make peace. It was Arab aggression that started the war. Had there been no war there would have been no refugees, and there would have been a state for the Palestinians since 1947.

Moreover, a careful analysis of the evidence from Arab sources indicates that the Arab side encouraged, and in some cases even forced c. 90% of the refugees to flee. Therefore the Arab leadership bears the onus of culpability for creating the problem, and thus the Arab side, and not Israel, bears responsibility for solving the problem. Because Israel was not threatening that 90% who fled, there is no legal claim for refugee status. Refugee status accrues to those who flee due to persecution or danger. Just as that 170,000 stayed and encountered no danger, so too could many hundreds of thousands more have stayed.

It was not Israel, but Arab countries’ refusal to respond to Israel’s call for peaceful negotiations that made it impossible for refugees to be repatriated. At the Rhodes Armistice talks in 1949, Israel offered reparations, resettlement assistance, and repatriation, but only in the context of peace treaties. The Arab leaders refused all talk of peace. Had there been peace, there could have been repatriation, and perhaps even the creation of a Palestinian state after the war. It was the Arab side that slammed the door on that option.

To the onus of culpability for creating and maintaining the refugee problem at the onset one must add the calumny of Arab states’ exacerbating it for decades thereafter. Except for Jordan, Arab host countries denied citizenship to the refugees, locked them in barbed-wire camps, kept armed guards to prevent their leaving, and legislated laws against integration of refugees in to their host country. Lebanese law, for example, lists more than 70 professions in which the Arab refugees were prohibited from engaging. It is illegal for a Palestinian refugee to buy land in Lebanon. There is ample evidence from Arab sources that the Syrian government transported fleeing refugees, at gunpoint, in cattle cars to far-flung borders in 1949, in order to keep them away from Palestine, to thus prevent their repatriation, and to eternalize the “refugee problem.”

But Arab guilt in stymieing any solution does not stop there. At the Lausanne conference of 1949, Israel offered unconditionally and unilaterally to repatriate 100,000 Arab refugees even without any peace accords. The Arab leaders refused.

Israeli offers of repatriation and reparation continued until June, 1967. The Arab side refused all offers. Not Israel, but the Arab refusal to countenance any possibility of peace treaties offered by Israel condemned the refugees to penury and homelessness.
Despite this criminal treatment of their brethren by Arab states, Israel succeeded in repatriating many. Between 1949 and June, 2005, Israel repatriated more than 127,000 Arabs who claimed refugee status, in the context of programs for family re-unification and spousal accommodation, or in programs where refugees sought asylum in Israel due to persecution in their host countries (usually Christian Arabs or homosexuals). Israel ended this policy in 2005 when it was discovered that Palestinian terrorists were using this policy to enter the country and gain Israeli citizenship, and with that the ID cards and automobile license plates which allowed them to travel freely around the country and perpetrate acts of terror.

While Israel was seeking resolution to the problem, Arab host countries exploited their refugees, keeping them as prisoners in refugee camps. Yasir Arafat describes, in his authorized biography, the brutal treatment of refugees in the Gaza Strip by the Egyptians. The Arab host countries did this in order to perpetuate the problem and use it as a moral bludgeon against Israel and Europe and the USA. Were it not for this unconscionable Machiavellian use of their own people’s suffering for political gain, there might have been resolution to the problem decades ago.

International law weighs in on Israel’s behalf. There is no refugee status for the second and following generations. There is no international law which accommodates demands of second or third generation children born of refugees who have relocated and resettled. Per international law, the status of refugee does not extend to the children and later generations of refugees once they are resettled elsewhere. Children and grandchildren of refugees have no legal or moral claims to property which they may claim to be ancestral. A relocated and resettled family is no longer a refugee family, and that family’s children are not refugees. See “Right of Return of Palestinian Refugees,” for a detailed discussion of this issue, with citations to international conventions and legal sources relating to refugees.

A further complexity is that the war has not ended! There is no sovereign nation in the world, and across all of world history, which could ever be expected to accommodate the influx of civilians from the population of a belligerent and hostile enemy WHILE THAT ENEMY IS STILL, DE IURE AND DE FACTO, AT WAR with that nation.

So Israel, as all sovereign states, accrues to itself the right to make whatever immigration laws it feels will most benefit the state and its citizens. It decided to decree a “right of return” to all Jews world-wide. Those laws offer special privileges for Jews. That is bias, indeed. But it is the same kind of bias that American minorities have enjoyed thanks to an accommodating, forward-looking and sensitive American society and government which declared that Affirmative Action was a moral enterprise worth pursuing to assist in righting the wrongs of slavery and Jim Crow and anti-Asian sentiments and misogyny.

Israel offers the same immigration options to non-Jews that Denmark offers to non-Danes; and it offers more generous and accommodating immigration options to Jews who wish to live there in order to right the wrongs of European and Islamic societies’ millennia of oppression and repression and mass murder and pogroms and exiles and genocide of Jews. These laws inconvenience native-born Israelis of all religions – and that is unfortunate; but it is the price that they have agreed to pay in order to help the oppressed and disadvantaged and threatened Jews world-wide.

The Israeli “right of return” does indeed allow any “Moishe Pipik” from Brooklyn to enjoy the benefits that these laws offer to Jews even though this Moishe Pipik and most of his friends and family are not oppressed. The reason for this is because Israel has decided, for good reason, that in order for Israel to continue to exist and to serve as the Affirmative Action state for all Jews everywhere and anywhere any time and forever, it needs all the help it can get from Jews everywhere. So not-oppressed Jews are encouraged to come and live in Israel so that they can strengthen the state and contribute to its society, so that that state and society are there to help other Jews….for as long as Jews are oppressed elsewhere.

And for those who chaff at the idea of a “Jewish” state, it seems appropriate to ask: do you have the same problem with a Christian state such as Ireland, or an Islamic state such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Muslim states of Pakistan and Afghanistan and Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, not to mention the most Muslim of all: Saudi Arabia.

Since there is no problem with states self-defining as Islamic, why is there a problem with a state which self-defines as Jewish?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The EU’s Fragmented Iran Policy



The European Union is stumbling through a new Iran sanctions discussion, as member states wrestle with conflicting policies to thwart Iran's quest to obtain nuclear weapons.

France, the United Kingdom, and Netherlands favor the toughest sanctions; Germany, Austria, Sweden, Italy, and Finland, to name just a few, lag behind. Indeed, Berlin is now one of the main European obstacles to crippling Iranian sanctions, largely because of its massive bilateral trade volume with Tehran. Despite public opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, Germany continues to deliver valuable technologies and products to the Islamic Republic. The most recent example, revealed this week, was the sale of Chancellor Angela Merkel's luxury jet to Mahan, a sanctioned Iranian airline. The absurd spectacle of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad touring the world in Chancellor Merkel's old jet speaks volumes about Germany's meek posture toward the Islamic Republic.

The stakes, however, have changed. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency reported earlier this month that Iran had “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.” This has prompted the EU to act; it will decide on December 1 whether to ratchet up economic pressure on the regime in Tehran.
France has put forth a far-reaching proposal to starve the Islamic Republic's energy and financial sector. It falls just short of a total embargo of the country's economy and ports. To this end, French president Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement on Monday, proposing “the European Union and its member states, the United States, Japan and Canada and other willing countries to take the decision to immediately freeze the assets of the Iranian central bank [and] stop purchases of Iranian oil.”

Some countries are not waiting until December 1 to take action. For example, the UK ceased all financial transactions with Iran’s banks on Monday, including the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). As British chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne said: “We're doing this to improve the security not just of the whole world, but the national security of the United Kingdom.”

The UK could go further still and designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), an elite military unit that simultaneously safeguards the regime against domestic threats, exports terrorism around the world, and procures technology for Iran’s nuclear program, a terror entity. The U.S. already sanctioned the IRGC in 2007, but Europe—with its more than €25 billion Iranian trade volume in 2010—is filled with anxiety about jeopardizing business. The IRGC has its tentacles in as much as 75 percent of Iran's economy.

While the British government has taken bold steps, other European states are still skittish about increasing the pressure on Iran.

Italy's foreign ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, saying that it “supports with full conviction the plan for economic sanctions announced by the US administration.” Conspicuously absent from Italy's remarks, however, was a statement about reducing its Iranian crude oil imports or cutting its diplomatic ties with Iran.

Austria, for its part, remains on the sidelines. Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger has stayed mum on new sanctions. This only serves to weaken the European position, and raises doubts about the kind of impact the EU can have after December 1. Indeed, the lack of a coherent EU policy will only buy Iran more time—and time is now what stands between the Iranians and nuclear weapons at this moment.

Ultimately, the EU posture toward Iran will be determined by Berlin. For those seeking to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the hope is that Germany will lead the way to pass a resolution that simultaneously punishes Iran's regime and buttresses the struggling pro-democracy movement. A crackdown on the Central Bank of Iran and the IRGC, coupled with a policy that places a hold on EU imports of Iranian crude oil, can still impact Iran's political system and, with a bit of luck, deter its nuclear weapons program.

Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The Decline of Nations

Sultan Knish

No country falls but from within. Given a sufficient population and resources to hold off its enemies, the only sufficient explanation for its fall is internal.

Take the decline of the West, which is often talked about and attributed to leftist conspiracies and Islamic colonialism. But why is Japan, a First World nation whose culture and geography differs dramatically from America and Europe also in a state of economic, political and cultural decline? Not to mention demographic decline. The Japanese left is certainly active, but blaming it for the country's decline is a more difficult proposition. Japan has a long history of Islamic outreach, but it isn't about to be Islamized and immigration is not a factor. Nor did Japan have a religious heritage that was lost to secularism. Nevertheless with its dwindling population, escapist culture, dysfunctional politics and tremulous foreign policy-- Japan's follies seem to resemble those of the West. The origins of its problems may be different, but the outcome is the same.

Taking a broader view, it almost seems as if joining the club of First World nations is a national death sentence. Sure the technology and the social benefits are nice, but they're not much good without a future.

The future is an important part of the equation, not the actual future to come, but how people see the future. Progress split the world into two kinds of societies, those that could envision a future different from the past-- and those that could only imagine the past endlessly repeating itself.

To change, you must first know that change is possible. Only then is it possible to break free of the wheel of time and rise like an arrow into the unknown reaches of the future. A hundred years ago, the world was dominated by nations that were fascinated by change and futurism. 1900 was attended by wild predictions about what life in the year 2000 might be like. That century also brought the explosion of Science Fiction, a primarily American literary genre that envisioned technology reshaping mankind.

60 years ago those elements still remained in place, but progressivism had become Dionysian, irrational pleasure seeking and substance abusing, its reformism limited to social reforms. Big government was swiftly becoming the only element of the old progressivism that still remained intact, but even that was a shell of the scientific government it was meant to be.

Pessimism has replaced optimism. Mankind is in a state of eternal war against its own social problems, class war, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on carbon and the war on terror with no solutions in sight. The Dionysian intoxication drifted between naive optimism and pessimistic melancholia aided by large doses of self-medication with drugs, prescription and illegal, to aid in their doomed search for happiness and fulfillment.

The enemies of the West had never embraced progress. The Soviet experiment was derived from a Western European model and quickly reverted to Czarist feudalism under a new name. And Islam, which had never accepted any other future than the past, was determined to tear away modernity and replace it with the past.

The Clash of Civilizations is a clash between a First World that no longer believes in its own future and an Islamic world that is determined to undo the future and bring back the past.

It is always difficult to envision the future, but the First World's visions of the future have gone from the optimistic to the pessimistic to the entirely blank. The progressives see the future as a long chain of government offices, the expansion of authority from the local to the national to the global. But there's no romance in global government as even the EU's biggest enthusiasts have trouble depicting it as anything more than some tottering gargantuan nightmare.

Take Europa riding the bull, a common piece of EU art, the outward symbolism is of the gentler side of humanity fighting to rein in the beast of nationalism, but the actual tale is of a god in the form of the beast abducting Europa. The Eurocrats might like to pretend that the woman represents the EU, but actually they see themselves as the beast-god, ideals posing as brute force, to kidnap and ravish the nations of Europe for their own good/

The EU's motto "In Variate Concordia" or "United in Diversity" means something very different from the similar sounding, "E Pluribus Unum" or "Out of Many, One", the original motto of the US and even more different than the official motto, "In God We Trust". In Variate Concordia is contradictory, expressing the limits of the progressive vision without even knowing it is doing so.

Bigger and bigger government is not inspirational to anyone who doesn't foresee a future working for it. Nor is a national identity built out of regional and global diversity at all meaningful. A future of multicultural bureaucracy isn't visionary, it's crisis management for societies that use cheap slogans to pave over real problems.

That European vision defines the First World, but it is a vision in decline and the decline of national vision is also the decline of nations. Latecomers to the club, including America, Japan and Israel have tried to adopt the European vision with disastrous results and formerly optimistic countries now suffer from national malaise.

50 years ago, America, Japan and Israel represented the "can do" spirit. Today they're as hapless and dysfunctional as Europe and unable to imagine a future that doesn't hinge on some kind of global togetherness as expressed in UN literature and Benetton ads. The European vision has gifted every country that adopted it with oversized and unwieldy governments, unstable economies and no future.

The Islamists and Communists who gathered to feast on the corpse of Europe were a symptom of the problem-- and the problem was a failure of vision. And a failure of vision originates in a loss of identity.

To know what you want from the future, you must first know who you are. The High School student who has yet to develop an idea of the kind of life he would like to lead and the things he would like to accomplish is going to have trouble picking a profession. Are you a strong person? A contemplative one? Do you enjoy the company of people, are you interested in what makes things work? Or are you "United in Diversity" and have no idea who you are?

The American future was defined by an American identity. When the American identity switched to "United in Diversity" and the national goal became to heal the eternal wounds of classism and racism and address all the social problems, then there was literally no future left. If you define the future negatively, in terms of remedying ills, rather than positively in settling an entire continent, then the future can never arrive. And even if it did, you wouldn't want it to, because those ills, racism, sexism, poverty and pollution are the closest thing you have to an identity.

A nation does not have to be multicultural to suffer an identity crisis, not when it's piggybacking on someone else's identity crisis. Japan tried very hard to catch up to Western modernism, now it's racing Europe into economic and demographic decline, without ever opening up its borders or indulging in much political correctness, besides the ritual apologies to the Ainu. Israel is still on the rise economically and demographically, but culturally it has drunk deep of the poisoned wells of European academia.

America, Australia, Canada and the rest of them are busy with their own apologies to the indigenous peoples and the foreign peoples who were offended by something or by anything. Which amounts to apologizing for their existence. And nations that apologize for their own existence have lost their identity and their future.

The "United in Diversity" model is broken, globally and locally, and that model is used to sustain the national, regional and global federalization of government into one long iron chain of authority. Without that model, the illusion of functionality would begin breaking down, forcing a redistribution of power back to local authorities.

A more honest name for the First World model would be "Progress Through Central Authority", a distillation of everything that has gone wrong, consuming the energy and vitality of great nations. In the absence of a directional vision, the First World has become easy prey for reactionary utopians with their own perfect societies.

Islam has the demographics to conquer the West and a vision of a future that is the past, building on the progress of the cultures it conquers while crushing the spirit of inquiry that made that progress possible. Having subjugated Athens, Delhi, Constantinople and Jerusalem in the past, it has its eye on London, Paris and New York today. It knows to sweep in when the innovators falter, their cultures decay and become static, and then claim its prize.

Islam has lost Jerusalem, Athens and Delhi, but it is confident of being able to reclaim them, and Athens, despite the loss of Constantinople, is urging the downfall of Jerusalem. But to those who subscribe to the "United in Diversity" vision, what difference does it make who populates a city. All people are alike in that they are to be ruled by the same global authorities. What matters is the rule of law embodied in global government... not the beliefs and identities of individual peoples, except as cultural heritage fairs.

If the First World nations don't reclaim national visions of the future that are deeper than that, then they will fall into the hands of those whose vision isn't "United in Diversity", but "United in Submission" and "Enslaved Through Force".

Creative societies innovate, decaying societies quarrel over the scraps and invite in their own enemies to rule over them. It has happened before and it is happening again before our eyes. Our capacity to resist that decay emerges from our culture and its vision of the future. Only when we see the future as an adventure, rather than a progressive decline, will we be able to win that future for ourselves and our grandchildren.

The Presence of Jews in Europe Will End

Interview Series: Leon de Winter, one of the best-known Dutch writers, says,“What is happening in the Netherlands and Europe is a prelude of terrible things to come. The presence of Jews in Europe will end."

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld (The writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the Boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.)

“The Netherlands is to a certain extent a decadent country, in particular if one observes Dutch society. In the 1960’s, a process started in which all forms of deviant behavior that one could imagine were openly tolerated. Normative behavior – civil decency – has been lost.” Leon de Winter was born in 1954. He is one of the Netherlands’ best known writers. For several years he was associated with the Hudson Institute think tank. In 2006, he was awarded the Buber-Rosenzweig medal in Germany for his battle against anti-Semitic and racist attitudes in society.

De Winter remarks: “I am a Dutchman and I very much like the Netherlands, its craziness, its contradictions and the schizophrenia. On the one hand, it has a strong Calvinist slant in combination with an almost anarchistic tolerance. Dutch Society continuously seeks equilibrium and has many faces, which makes it very interesting.

“Identifying with Israel makes me Jewish. I am not religious, but I clearly show where my sympathies lie in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I think that many people take that as a sign of my Jewishness.”

De Winter claims that he doesn’t care about “extreme reactions” to what he says. “When I have participated in a debate about Israel on TV, I do not want to know about the emails the station receives in response. I know that there are many negative remarks about me on Moroccan, Muslim and Neo-Nazi websites, but I’m not going to search for them.

“I also do not frequent places where a confrontation could take place.

On the trains, I am sometimes cursed at by Moroccan youngsters who want to provoke a Dutch passenger if they see that he or she doesn’t like their noise-making, for instance.”

About Israel, De Winter says: “A number of Dutchmen who are part of the political establishment express sentiments which they call anti-Zionist, while at the same time they will claim, ‘But I am not an anti-Semite.’ Whoever is obsessed with the fate of the Palestinians, which is relatively light compared to that of many others, also suffers from an excessive interest in Jews. For anti-Semites, “Zionism” becomes a cover to express themselves negatively about Jews.

“It is intriguing how these problems have become an obsession for some people. The non-Jewish Dutchman can choose to focus on many different sufferings in the world. It could very well be that people know that this particular conflict will always draw attention.

“In the Netherlands there is a small anti-Israeli Jewish organization called ‘Another Jewish Voice.’ They continuously claim, ‘We Jews have lived through the Shoah and have an obligation to exhibit the highest morals.’ They present the Shoah as an educational institute for Jews to teach Jewish morals. In other words, the Nazis held courses in the concentration camps in order to imbue Jews with humanity. These are Jews who pervert the memory of the Shoah. It is a noisy group which attracts much media attention because its conveys a message which many non-Jews like to hear.

“The Dutch newspapers put Israel on the front page all the time - as if what happens there is the most important thing in the world. The mass murders in Darfur and Congo with their huge death counts in recent years are apparently irrelevant because the newspapers write very little about them.

“The radio and TV have created intense images. One sees in the Netherlands an enormous change in the depiction of Israel in the past 25 years. The media has been influenced by news sent back home by Dutch correspondents in the Middle East and the filtered information. It is also related to changes in democratic attitudes and the immigration of North African and Turkish Muslims to the Netherlands and Europe.

“The classic hard core anti-Semitism among North Africans in the Netherlands is very worrying. It is related to the identification of Moroccan youngsters with Palestinians and with viewpoints that are part of traditional Islam. Yet in the Dutch community, there also remain stereotypes about Jews.”

De Winter concludes: “What is happening in the Netherlands and Europe is a prelude of terrible things to come. The great story of the love Jews have for Europe has come to an end. In this sense, the Nazis have been successful. The presence of Jews in Europe will end.

“Instead of restless, difficult, creative, funny and smart Jews, Europe has imported Muslims who are generally poorly educated and frequently frustrated, aggressive and destructive. I have written about these issues for years already. But people only start to understand it a little bit when something dramatic happens such as the murder of the Dutch media maker Theo van Gogh, or the suicide attacks in London.”

This is a shortened version of an interview which appeared in Dutch in Manfred Gerstenfeld’s bestselling book “The Decay: Jews in a Rudderless Netherlands.”(2010)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

European Union Increases Funding for Undemocratic Palestinian Authority. Again.

Commentary Mag

Last month the European Union (EU), gesturing toward lessons learned from the Arab Spring, reconfigured their aid criteria. Instead of just pouring money into underdeveloped countries, said EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, EU aid would now be directed toward “the least developed nations” and would be tied to good governance contracts regulating human rights, democracy and rule of law.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not, by any reasonable measure, among the world’s least developed areas. Since 1967, life expectancy has risen from the mid-50s to the mid-70s, and no less an expert than Palestinian President Abbas described the West Bank as “a good reality… a good life.” On the other side of the ledger, the Palestinian Authority under Fatah is by definition anti-democratic – presidential elections are now three years overdue – and that’s before Fatah strikes a unity deal with Iran’s Islamist Hamas proxies in Gaza. The Palestinians meet none of the EU’s touchstones for assistance. So naturally, the EU is giving them another 100 million euros, on top of the EU’s existing aid commitments:

The European Parliament has agreed to increase aid to the occupied Palestinian territories in 2012, reports on the annual EU budget negotiations in Geneva said Saturday. The bloc’s budget for next year will increase by 129 billion euros, following more than 15 hours of talks, Reuters reported. The increase includes an extra 100 million euros for the Palestinian territories. As the largest single donor to the Palestinians, the European bloc of nations contributes some 500 million euros each year for Palestinian Authority salaries and to support future state institutions.

That doesn’t count the money the Europeans are already injecting into the Israeli-Arab conflict, in the form of massive subsidies to anti-Israel NGOs and leftwing political organizations. They’ve become quite creative in finding ways to fund anti-Israel groups, something that would be a straightforward conflict of interest — the EU is after all a Quartet member — were Middle East diplomacy not totally surreal. The EU collectively, and EU countries individually, even fund NGOs that seek to suffocate Israel out of existence via boycotts, divestment, and sanctions.

Some Israeli leaders are making efforts to break the relationship between EU money and anti-Israel incitement. The Europeans have reacted to those efforts by threatening to degrade European-Israeli ties, unblinkingly making relations with an existing nation-state contingent on the willingness of that nation-state to allow outside interference in its internal affairs. That’s how much they like funding anti-Israel groups.

In fairness to the Europeans though, they’ve got plenty of money to throw around.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stop Treating Iranian Opposition Groups as Enemies

Ryan Mauro
November 21, 2011

For far too long, the West has ignored and even blacklisted Iranian opposition groups fighting the regime as terrorists. These groups are the regime’s biggest fear but they have yet to see the West standing by their side. The IAEA report disclosing Iran’s work on a nuclear missile shows time is running low, and Russia opposes further sanctions. The U.S. must do something now and delisting three groups from the terrorist lists of the State and Treasury Departments is a fitting measure.

The Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), a mostly Shiite group that has been non-violent since 2001, has been listed as a terrorist group since the list’s creation in 1997. The Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK), a Kurdish militant group, was added in the second month of the Obama Administration. Jundullah, a Baluchi militant group, was added on November 3, 2010. The MEK is arguably the most controversial of the three. Some proponents of regime change in Iran, like Ken Timmerman, Michael Rubin and Michael Ledeen, oppose the group. Some prominent Iranian activists say it has no support within Iran. Other respected experts and Iranians argue that the group is a democratic entity with significant support. The arguments and facts of the case are complex and it is hard to discern the truth (you can read about both sides’ stances here). However, MEK has scored multiple court victories in recent years.

On June 24, 2009, the British government delisted MEK on court order. In October 2008, the European Union Court of First Instance ruled that the evidence justifying the label was “manifestly insufficient.” After a lengthy legal battle, the European Union was forced to delist the MEK in 2009. The EU parliament has since passed a resolution calling on the U.S. to do the same.

On July 16, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. sided with the MEK over the State Department, ruling that the MEK was having its rights violated by not having access to unclassified evidence against it and the opportunity to respond. The State Department was ordered to review the designation. The court has about the classified reports that the Department introduced as evidence, noting that some of the reports “on their face express reservations about the accuracy of the information contained therein.”

A huge list of bi-partisan officials now supporting delisting MEK—from Democrats like Howard Dean, Bill Richardson, General Wesley Clark and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to Republicans like Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, Michele Bachmann and Tom Ridge. Former CIA directors Michael Hayden and James Woolsey, former FBI director Louis Freeh, former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Generals Peter Pace and Hugh Shelton and President Obama’s former National Security Advisor, General James Jones, all agree.

PJAK is accused of being essentially the same group as the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist group. It is true that PJAK was founded by members of the PKK after its military branch was dissolved in 2000, but it is still a new group. Iran expert Ken Timmerman spent extensive time with the group in Iraq. The PJAK camps are in an entirely different location than PKK and he found no evidence that the two are linked.

PJAK’s acts of violence are always targeted at the Iranian regime’s security forces that oppress and brutalize the Kurdish minority. Interestingly, about 40 percent of the group is female. The group is fighting for a democratic Iran, not the dissolution of the country. It has carried out countless successful attacks. The Iranian military launched an offensive against it on July 16. Two weeks later, the PJAK claimed to have killed about 300 Revolutionary Guards, including three generals. On September 4, it announced a ceasefire and Iran responded with large-scale attacks that killed PJAK’s deputy commander. These numbers cannot be verified and may be exaggerated.

Jundullah is a similarly effective militant group. There are two groups with the same name, one in Iran and one in Pakistan. The one in Pakistan is tied to Al-Qaeda. The Iranian regime tries to make it sound like the two are the same. The group does carry out suicide bombings, but they are reflexively called terrorist attacks by the media and condemned by the U.S. The State Department justified its move by mentioning its use of “terrorist tactics” and listing several attacks, without mentioning the rationale for them.

For example, on December 15, 2010, Jundullah carried out a huge bombing of a Shiite mosque in Iran, killing at least 41 people. The U.S. condemned it and the media described it as a terrorist attack. It was not mentioned that Jundullah believed there was a high-level Revolutionary Guards meeting at the mosque. Reports out of Iran indicated they were right and that the IRGC suffered heavy casualties.

Delisting these groups would allow the U.S. to maintain contact with them and influence them to address any concerns we may have. They would be allowed to organize and fundraise in America. MEK has obtained important intelligence, including the discovery of secret nuclear sites. Jundullah kidnapped an alleged Iranian nuclear scientist last year and he disclosed the supposed location of a secret enrichment site. If these groups can obtain more support, they will be able to get more intelligence that can be used to derail Iranian-sponsored terror plots and nuclear activities.

If there is some incriminating evidence that justifies these groups’ placement on the terrorist lists, then the government is obliged to make that case. If the government cannot prove that these groups qualify as terrorists, then they should be exonerated and free to fight the Iranian regime that we commonly fear.

Ryan Mauro is the National Security Analyst for Family Security Matters. He is the Founder of, a national security analyst at Christian Action Network, a Strategic Analyst for Wikistrat and a national security commentator for FOX News.

"Death for the sake of Palestine is good... We have not abandoned your weapon"

PA TV music video commemorates Arafat:
"Death for the sake of Palestine is good...
We have not abandoned your weapon"

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

On the recent anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death, official Palestinian Authority TV produced and broadcast a music video praising Arafat.

The lyrics of the song glorify death, describing how "death for the sake of Palestine is good," and how "I have poured the blood of self-sacrifice on your path."

The song honors Arafat as someone who was "friends with the rifle," who "declared the revolution and continued to fight," "did not tire," and "did not give up on the principles." The lyrics end with a promise to Arafat to continue his militant path:
"We swear at your grave, by Allah, not to forget your name and your oath.
We have not abandoned your weapon."

The visual side of the music video portrays Arafat as the military man he was most of his life, and neglects to include anything showing Arafat as a peace negotiator and Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Click to view

The music video commemorating Arafat was broadcast daily for a week on PA TV, which is directly under the control of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' office.

The following is the transcript of the song PA TV produced to honor Arafat:
"Yasser Arafat - I have written your name in my heart,
I have poured the blood of self-sacrifice on your path.
How can I forget my nation's catastrophe (i.e., establishment of Israel) as I say: Death for the sake of Palestine is good.

All the soldiers stood at attention.
They stood at your grave, saluting you
with the weapon of rebellion loaded,
with bullets which flew and greeted you.

Yasser and the rifle were friends as testified by [fights in] the trenches and alleys.
The homeland cries out "I'm missing [you]" and the nation speaks and eulogizes you, Yasser. All the soldiers stood at attention.

You declared the revolution and continued to fight. No, you did not tire.
You did not give up on the principles. The heavier your burden, the more it strengthened you, Yasser. All the soldiers stood at attention.

We swear at your grave, by Allah, not to forget your name and your oath.
We have not abandoned your weapon. Your oath is an obligation which we will carry out, Yasser. All the soldiers stood at attention."

"Produced by PA TV Palestine"
[PA TV (Fatah), Nov. 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 2011]