Thursday, July 31, 2008

This 'Letter of Apology' was written by Lieutenant General Chuck Pitman, US Marine Corps, Retired:


For good and ill, the Iraqi prisoner abuse mess will remain an issue. On the one hand, right thinking Americans will abhor the stupidity of the actions while on the other hand, political glee will take control and fashion this minor event into some modern day massacre.

 I humbly offer my opinion here:

 I am sorry that the last seven times we Americans took up arms and sacrificed the blood of our youth; it was in the defense of Muslims ( Bosnia , Kosovo, Gulf War 1, Kuwait , etc.)

 I am sorry that no such call for an apology upon the extremists came after 9/11.

 I am sorry that all of the murderers on 9/11 were Islamic Arabs.

 I am sorry that most Arabs and Muslims have to live in squalor under savage dictatorships.

 I am sorry that their leaders squander their wealth.

 I am sorry that their governments breed hate for the US in their religious schools, mosques, and government-controlled media.

 I am sorry that Yasser Arafat was kicked out of every Arab country and high-jacked the Palestinian 'cause.'

 I am sorry that no other Arab country will take in or offer more than a token amount of financial help to those same Palestinians.

 I am sorry that the U. S. A. has to step in and be the biggest financial supporter of poverty stricken Arabs while the insanely wealthy Arabs blame the USA for all their problems.

 I am sorry that our own left wing, our media, and our own brainwashed liberal masses do not understand any of this (from the misleading vocal elements of our society like radical liberal professors, CNN and the NY TIMES).

I am sorry the United Nations scammed the poor people of Iraq out of the 'food for oil' money so they could get rich while the common folk suffered.

 I am sorry that some Arab governments pay the families of homicide bombers upon their death.

I am sorry that those same bombers are brainwashed thinking they will receive 72 virgins in 'paradise.'

 I am sorry that the homicide bombers think pregnant women, babies, children, the elderly and other noncombatant civilians are legitimate targets.

I am sorry that our troops die to free more Arabs from the gang rape rooms and the filling of mass graves of dissidents of their own making.

 I am sorry that Muslim extremists have killed more Arabs than any other group.

 I am sorry that foreign trained terrorists are trying to seize control of Iraq and return it to a terrorist state.

 I am sorry we don't drop a few dozen Daisy cutters on Fallujah.

 I am sorry every time terrorists hide they find a convenient 'Holy Site.'

 I am sorry they didn't apologize for driving a jet into the World Trade Center that collapsed and severely damaged Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church - one of our Holy Sites.

 I am sorry they didn't apologize for flight 93 and 175, the USS Cole, the embassy bombings, the murders and beheadings of Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl, etc....etc!

 I am sorry Michael Moore is American; he could feed a medium sized village in Africa

 America will get past this latest absurdity! We will punish those responsible because that is what we do.

 I am sorry that Barack Hussein Obama may be elected president of the United States when he doesn't have a clue on how to be a strong Commander-in-chief in a world filled with Muslim extremists who will do whatever it needs to do to destroy the lives of civilized people while killing innocent men, women and children in order to bring a change that is beneficial to all Islamic terrorists worldwide.  

 I am sorry that voters on the liberal left don't understand the frightening changes that are taking place in the Muslim world and what these changes will do to this world in which we live.

 I am sorry that the Democratic Party has been highjacked by Socialists and Communists right under the very noses of those who take pride in calling themselves democrats.

We hang out our dirty laundry for the entire world to see. We move on. That's one of the reasons we are hated so much. We don't hide this stuff like all those Arab countries that are now demanding an apology.

Deep down inside, when most Americans saw this reported in the news, we were like - so what? We lost hundreds and made fun of a few prisoners. Sure, it was wrong, sure, it dramatically hurts our cause, but until captured we were trying to kill these same prisoners. Now we're supposed to wring our hands because a few were humiliated?

Our compassion is tempered with the vivid memories of our own people killed, mutilated and burnt amongst a joyous crowd of celebrating Fallujahans.

I am sorry if you want an apology from this American, you're going to have a long wait! You have a better chance of finding those seventy-two virgins.

 Chuck Pitman

Lieutenant General, USMC

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When a mean murderer is celebrated as a national hero.


A decent country would be under no moral or political obligation to celebrate a murderer as a heroic son returning from a long captivity.


Please open :

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Challenge of Islam Part I

By Mordechai Nisan

1st part of 2

Islam, as a later and last monotheistic faith appearing in Arabia in the seventh-century, never considered itself just another religion, but the last and final religion totally complete in doctrine and superior in rule.1 The Muslim believers sought power for Islam as the supra-successor faith to Judaism and Christianity, and the ultimately universal faith for all of mankind. The frenzy of religious struggles in history would, from that moment on, set Islam on an ineluctable course to conquer the world. The Qur`an elucidated the religion’s warring spirit by praising those Muslims “who fight for the cause of Allah” (4:95-96) rather than those who avoid the battle and prefer to stay at home. In distinction from Judaism and Christianity, the Muslim community considers that “the holy war is a religious duty because of the universalism of the mission and the  obligation to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force”; and this, added the classical 14th century historian Ibn Khaldun, is because “Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.”2

Islam cannot be compared with any other religion or understood by analogy. It bears a unique militant ethic from its origins. This cannot be said of ascetic Buddhism or otherworldly Hinduism. Judaism, though equipped with “commandments for war”, did not promote conquest or experience power in any exceptional way. Christianity was born beset with sin, preaching poverty and practicing withdrawalism by fasting and virginity, pining for martyrdom through persecution.3

Islam evoked a far different collective sensibility. It brandished the sword, yelled Allah Akbar (God is Great) – as at Qadisiyya in southern Mesopotamia/Iraq in 637 – charged into battle, and plundering its spoils with delight.

We live at the beginning of the 21st century when the “return of Islam” has raised the challenge against the Jewish state of Israel, Christianity world-wide, Buddhism, and virtually all and any other belief systems and faith communities. Islam, far more than just a traditional faith, has resurfaced in Muslim and some non-Muslim lands as social energizer, political protest, and military catalyst.  Muslim bellicosity against Christians has been evident in Nigeria and Sudan in Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines in the Far East, Chechnya and Azerbaijan in the former Soviet Union, Pakistan in the Indian subcontinent, Lebanon  and Egypt in the Middle East, and Kosovo and Macedonia in the Balkans. In Afghanistan, the Taliban movement destroyed Buddhas.  In India, Muslims fight for Muslim rule in Kashmir. The tried and tested methods of Islamic struggle and victory from the past are evoked today: conquest, colonization, and conversion.

The legendary abuse of Jews in Muslim history was illustrative of the inferiority of dhimmis who were by law, however, to enjoy protection under Islamic domination. There were some bright moments in the Muslim Orient, two examples being: the role of a Jewish mercantile class in Abbasid times centered in Iraq beginning in the eighth-century,4 and the Ottoman Turk “open door” policy welcoming Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492. But the evidence of co-existence is mixed and the daily toll of humiliation should not be overlooked. Muslim soldiers housed their horses and donkeys in a Tiberias synagogue in 1852 and the enlargement of a synagogue in Jerusalem in 1855 was forbidden. When a Jew merely passed in front of the Great Zaytuna Mosque in Tunis in 1869, he was killed on false charges that he intended to enter it: a would-be “crime against Islam” [sic.] was preempted by an act of cold-blooded murder.5

The Strategy of  Muslim Victory

In its early emerging period for the first hundred years after the death of Muhammad in 632, Islam conquered the lands of the Middle East, like Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, while penetrating into Europe and Central Asia.6 The Arabs of Arabia, who founded the faith and initially manned the armies of Islam, then settled en masse in their conquered lands: mosques hovered high above older churches, Arabic replaced native languages, and Muslim states arose as representative of a new brand of religious imperialism in history. The local Berber peoples of North Africa and the Persians of Iran, among others, adopted Islam as their religion and thereby joined their masters.

For Jews and Christians, and especially for the premier monotheists stubbornly rejecting Muhammad’s prophetic claim and Qur`anic revelation, life was precarious and humiliating. A powerful Jew like Samuel the Nagid, secretary and counselor to the Muslim Sultan in Spain in the mid 11th century, was suddenly murdered in Granada in 1066.

Another Jew, Saad Al-Dawla, who headed the administrative bureaucracy in a late 13th-century Muslim regime stretching across Iran and Iraq, was also suddenly killed. These individual cases suggest that personal advance unleashed the wrath of the Muslim populace. In the 20th century, pogroms burst upon the Jews of Baghdad in 1941, and in Libya and Aden before the decade ended.

Paying the jizya poll-tax, as prescribed in the Qur`an (9:29), demonstrated that the hierarchy of power and social status depoliticized and impoverished the dhimmis. Undeterred and unintimidated, Maimonides nonetheless definitively rejected Muhammad in his Epistle to the Yemenite Jews, as did European Christian authors who considered him an imposter.

This did not, however, dissuade Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed from respectfully pondering Muslim philosophical and theological works that dominated the intellectual climate of the era.

The methods of conquest, colonization, and conversion are today the very same methods of Muslim struggle and victory in the world. In the earlier Islamic centuries, conversion struck down subjects shamed by the poll-tax, tempted by public opportunities, and attracted by the simplicity of the conversion process.7 In our days, conversion is influenced by the modern Western spiritual plight that has convinced many to find  meaning in an Islam radiating tranquility and unity, communal vitality and self-assertive power. In America, Black conversion to Islam is bound up with the identity of White Americans with Christianity: choosing Islam is a way to avenge the history of Negro slavery in the United States.

It was reported that the startling impact of September 11 attracted new Muslim converts in Europe. The sweep of Muslim power on the continent includes the independent Muslim state of Bosnia in Europe following the dissolution of Serbia-dominated Yugoslavia; Kosovo, NATO-protected, may follow suit as the next Muslim state in the Balkans.

Chechnya is fighting for its Muslim independence from Russia. Europe is home to over 15 million Muslims, of which at least six million reside in France. While initially seeking migrant job opportunities, the Muslim influx has acquired a broader significance as the vanguard of mass Muslim colonization in Europe. Low birth rates and a loss of integral Christian faith ill prepare the Europeans to withstand the long-term impact of a strident and enveloping Muslim presence across the continent. Yet, anti-immigrant sentiments are growing in Europe, as we witness the forces of reaction resonating in France, Denmark, Holland, Britain, and elsewhere. 

Unlike other minority immigrant communities that have made their way to America, the Muslims do not want to integrate and adopt America as their home in an emotional and political fashion. Basically, the Muslims want to reshape America in their image rather than themselves be shaped by the reality of America. Of growing importance is the institutionalization of Muslim influence in American public affairs, and this will become an increasing electoral factor in local and national politics. The so-called “Jewish vote” will be overtaken by the role of Muslim voters in Michigan, California, and other states.

The Muslim jihad in all its aspects is now mobilized to redress Islamic losses suffered at the hands of the West centuries ago. The Muslims had earlier impotently witnessed Europe’s arrogant entry into the lands of Islam. By the 19th century, France controlled North Africa while Britain conquered the Nile Valley countries and the Persian Gulf emirates. In the period of World War I and its aftermath, France expanded its Middle Eastern possessions into the Levant, Syria and Lebanon, and Britain captured Iraq and Palestine.

But perhaps the central lesson of Islamic history is that even when the Muslims lose, they are really not defeated. The Crusader interlude in the Holy Land, that began in 1099 and finally ended in 1291, left no impression on Muslim social, political, let alone religious or  cultural life. In the modern period, following the termination of European imperialism and colonialism in the Muslim Arab lands of the region, one could not identify any major foreign Western impact on the deeper recesses of Muslim thought and belief, or in the arenas of politics and ideology.  Turkey is a special exception whereby secularism is the bedrock constitutional principle since the Republic’s modern founding in 1923. Christianity made hardly a mental dent at all, and secularism was rebuffed by the spiritual sturdiness of Islam.

Virulent anti-Western Arab nationalism as a native ideological sentiment erupted on to the political stage. Under the charismatic leadership of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser (1953-70), Pan-Arab politics converged comfortably with socialist economies, political dictatorships, and pro-Soviet alliances as their national panoply. Islamic fundamentalism, as another nativist belief-system, proposed a radical program for a comprehensive and integral religious way of life. Iran’s revolution in 1979 illustrated that choosing Islam provided the symbol for opposing the United States. We recall the torturous tale of 50 US hostages held for 444 days in Tehran by revolutionary youth. Donning old “cultural costumes” constituted a way to counter the alien culture of Western civilization. 

Fundamentalism was, therefore, not just a return to God but a cultural statement        against the godless West.


Mordechai Nisan

 Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


The Challenge of Islam Part II

By Mordechai Nisan

2nd part of 2

          The Mystery of the Muslim Culture Code

The hard fiber of Islamic faith and proud Muslim identity has defied any disruption or erosion when in contact with other peoples or religions. And it is this formidable fact that will always be the springboard for challenging and threatening the Western world, and Israel. Forums in search of Arab/non-Arab cultural coexistence and Islamic/Christian/Jewish ecumenical religious dialogue confront the obdurate Muslims, proud and impenetrable. All cultures, but Islam emphatically, are incommunicable to the outsider. There is a certain concealed Muslim/Arab mental domain (batiniyya) that a stranger cannot enter. It is closed cultural territory, while housing a defiant and mendacious well of subtle seduction and deception. Carleton S. Coon, noteworthy anthropologist of the Middle East, had once remarked that among the Arabs “two kinds of personality are at play: that which your man presents to the outside world and that which is known to his kin.”8

A few examples can illustrate the dexterous political practice of Muslim stratagems.

Muhammad, the prophet of Islam himself, carried out a paradigmatic ruse by numbing his Quraysh opponents when agreeing to the Hudaybiyya Agreement in 628, only to nullify it when he felt powerful enough less than two years later and overwhelmed his adversaries.

The story is told of the Muslim Umayyad Caliph Mu’awiya in the latter part of the seventh-century who, with great patience and dexterity, trapped a Byzantine Christian and took revenge for an insult he had much earlier administered to a Muslim.9 Richard Burton, that insightful British traveler to the Muslim Orient in the mid-19th century, hid his travel itinerary from his friends, recalling the advice of an Arab proverb: “Conceal Thy Tenets, Thy Treasure, and thy Traveling.”10

In the contemporary political arena, the culture-code is no less relevantly subtle and effective. In 1990, Saddam Hussein told Husni Mubarak that Iraq’s contentions and claims against Kuwait would be resolved without resort to force. A few days after the conversation, Kuwait was conquered and occupied by Saddam’s army. In 1993, Yasser Arafat promised Yitzhak Rabin to amend the PLO covenant so that it would not contradict the peace process codified with the signing of the Oslo Accords. Despite Arafat’s political theatrics performed in front of President Clinton in Gaza in 1998, the covenant was never nullified as the Palestinians acquired territories and weaponry to enable them to engage in incessant terrorism against Israel. Approximately 850 Israelis had been murdered by Palestinian terrorism from the beginning of Intifada al-Aqsa in October 2000 and until three years later, by late September 2003.

The Arab/Muslim art of rhetorical deceit remains incomprehensible to most Americans,  even Israelis, and certainly collaborative Europeans. When Muslims offer peace to an adversary, explained Majid Khadduri, this is typically “a device to achieve certain objectives, since the state of permanent war was the normal relationship between Islam and other nations”.11 Indeed, when President Anwar Sadat of Egypt signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, the Al-Azhar Islamic University of Cairo penned - undoubtedly with Sadat’s approval if not command – a traditional religious judgment (fatwa) to justify this otherwise politically unthinkable act. The Islamic scholars merely listed the concrete benefits accruing to the Muslim and Arab peoples from this agreement, with no reference to the ideal of peace. No less a sophisticated ruse was the argument proposed by Egyptian thinker Muhammad Sid Ahmed who, in his book, When the Guns Fall Silent, in 1974, explained that peace with Israel is acceptable because in the process, Zionism will dissolve.  

Saudi Arabian kings and princes have cultivated Washington political elites and administrations while pursuing their Wahhabi Islamic version of religious-cum-terrorist campaign in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Wahhabism, an 18th century doctrinaire and violent Arabian movement, provides the contemporary religious leitmotif for the Saudi regime and its global Islamic outreach. This includes extensive mosque construction and university endowment chairs in Islamic Studies in many Western countries. 

This religious expansionism constitutes in itself a certain defiance of the values and universality of Western civilization. But more “Wahhabist” yet is Saudi funding of Palestinian terrorism and Syrian arms purchases, though the oil-rich desert kingdom continues to feign friendship for the United States.  

September 11, moreover, was very much a Saudi production. Fifteen of the 19 active terrorist attackers were Saudi nationals while Al-Qa’ida, headed by Osama bin Laden, himself a Saudi citizen, was financed by the Saudis over many years. This is true also for the Afghani Taliban regime which provided sanctuary to bin Laden and his murderers.

Yet Washington, naively or otherwise, historically accommodated Riyadh’s central role in the global spread of militant Islam.

A remarkable sense of superiority is at the root of Muslim self-confidence and mastery boldly displayed over history. The fantastic story of Wilfrid Thesiger, a mythic European who discovered Arabia with his Bedouin companions in the mid-20th century, offers a personal narrative to express the point. His Bedouin friends recognized that Thesiger, among his other positive qualities, was able to tirelessly withstand the desert challenge. But, in the end, they considered themselves better than him in just one way, saying: “in that we were Muslims”.12

That is the religious heart of the entire matter.

 War is War, and Peace Too

We now draw the logical conclusion that it is futile and demeaning to engage in any political dialogue or discussion, negotiations or agreements of any kind with the Arabs. It confuses, drains human energy, and is highly dishonorable. To take seriously Arab peace offers, when they are nothing but wile in action, is a self-inflicted humiliation. 

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah floated his “peace initiative” in March 2002 as a call for normalization with Israel. But before the ink was dry on the paper, the word “normalization” was removed, and the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return” was validated by explicit reference to United Nations Resolution 194 from December 11, 1948. Thus, coopting international legitimacy and combining it with the rhetoric of peace-making becomes a lethal concoction in the armory of Arab diplomacy. To flood Israel with hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees is the Arab formula for peace with Israel. This is of course a peace without Israel. For others to politically shun the Arabs will convey that their masquerade of manipulation is exposed and finished.

The Muslims’ assault world-wide cannot be expected to die a natural death. Believing their religion to be dictated from Allah on high is not as innocuous as it may sound to other monotheists and believers in revelation.  For the Muslims, we are learning, really take their religion seriously. They cull their determination and fire from a source that is exempt from outside influence or interference. At home, in Arab countries, the Muslim fanatics confront repressive state regimes which block their advance to power. This is the case in Egypt, Algeria, and Syria. Foiled and frustrated from grabbing power in the Middle East, as scholar and commentator Fouad Ajami explained, the Muslim terrorists seek with evermore venom to vent their hated for the West on the turf of infidel Christianity itself.

The vocabulary of our era resonates with Islam and its references. We speak of Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad; Israel contends with the Intifada whose shahid martyrs glorify the Palestinian struggle; Ayatollah Khoumeini and Sheikh Nasrallah are on our lips; and even nominal terms like a fatwa (legal decision) and hijab (woman’s veil) fill the public atmosphere. Arafat’s Muqat’aa Ramallah headquarters assumed the glory of a Palestinian stalingrad in the face of Israel’s siege. The Islamic century has made non-Muslims anxious for the future.

Yet remember, that when confronted by a resolute foe, Muslims often withdraw and founder in fear. Their Bedouin heritage has trained them to exploit weakness, but to pull back from confrontation or any real trial of strength. A “hit-and-run” strategy is the perfect Bedouin mode of action; it is also at the core of Palestinian terrorism the last 50 years.

The daring Swiss explorer of Arabia, John Burckhardt, wrote in 1831 that Bedouin stealth is as real as is Bedouin hospitality: there is no contradiction in these traditional desert qualities.13 Much of Muslim-Arab success in the early history of Islam was facilitated  by the enemy surrendering rather than facing the Muslims in battle. The city of Mecca  succumbed to Muhammad in 630, Iran collapsed in the face of Arab armies in the early 640s, Spain was penetrated with ease in 711. Damascus, a Byzantine city, was an exception and resisted the Muslim assaults in 636-37 only to open its gates in the end. Much of Europe today has capitulated, while posing as the repository of democracy, tolerance, and human rights.

The Muslims are masters of bluff and bullying, no less of blackmail and threat, in overwhelming a bamboozled adversary. But when faced in battle, as we saw in Iraq in 1991 and in some Palestinian towns in 2002, the Muslims virtually capitulate.  In the spring of 2003, US forces overran much of Iraq with relative military ease; but the typical culture-bound Arab response of terrorism was not long in coming.

Classical, legal, and imperial Islam divides the world by a religious conception: between the Domain of Islam (Dar al-Islam), where the Muslims rule and Islam officiates, and the Domain of War (Dar al-Harb), where the Muslims are subject to foreign rule until effectively expediting the ultimate triumph of Islam. This mental construct is embedded in the minds of Muslims who pray in mosques in Jersey City and Los Angeles, Jerusalem and Beirut,  London and Marseilles. Where Muslims reside, they must rule. If Islam will dominate the land of Israel and the lands of Christendom, then the world will more and more become Dar al-Islam. Peace will then be the result of conquest.

It was King David who insightfully implied in Psalm 120 that when the Jews speak of peace with the Ishmaelites, the latter’s Arab/Muslim descendants will respond with a call for war. This realization can be a cause for despondency and trepidation. But that same Ishmael, born of Hagar, Abraham’s maid servant, while defined as a “wild man”, must be confronted by all his protagonists (yado bakol ve-yad kol bo, Genesis 16:12). Is not the Biblical narrative a real-life description of the civilizational clash and challenge in our times?

Mordechai Nisan

 Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.




1. M.M. Qureshi, Landmarks of Jihad, Lahore: Kasmiri Bazar, 1971, points out in the Introduction that the goal of jihad is to break the enemy’s will and to get him to accept Muslim supremacy.


2. Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, Vol. I, Ch. III, Section, 31,  Princeton University Press, 1967, p. 473.


3. See Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, London: Penguin, 1988.


4. Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979, pp. 33-37.


5. Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam, London: Associated University Presses, 1985, p. 58.


6. See Hugh Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of The Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century, London: Longman, 1996.


7. Richard W. Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period, Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1979.


8. In Raphael Patai, The Arab Mind, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976, p. 105.


9. Mas’udi, The Meadows of Gold: The Abbasids, London and NY: Kegan Paul, pp. 320-324.


10. Sir Richard F. Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, Volume One, New York: Dover, 1964 (orig. 1855), p. 140.


11. Majid Khadduri, The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani’s Siyar, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1966, pp. 53-54.


12. Michael Asher, Thesiger: A Biography, London: Penguin, 1995, p. 261.


13. John Lewis Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabys, vol. 1, London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1967, p. 157.


Lebanon's 'Soldiers of Virtue'.


There have been a dozen prisoner exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel since the early 1990s, but Samir Kuntar was always a case apart. In 1979 Kuntar and his companions killed a policeman, kidnapped a young father, Danny Haran, and killed him in front of his 4-year-old daughter. Then Kuntar turned to the child and crushed her skull against a rock with the butt of his rifle. In the mayhem, Danny Haran's wife, Smadar, hiding in her home, accidentally smothered to death the couple's 2-year-old daughter.

Now Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has finally got his way. Last week, Israel handed over Kuntar in return for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, captured by Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. They returned to Israel in black coffins.

This prisoner swap will serve Hezbollah's purposes in the interminable struggles within Lebanon. Trumpets and drums greeted Kuntar's release. Breathless pollsters now tell us that Nasrallah, a turbaned Shiite and a child of poverty, is the most admired hero of the "Arab street." This is so, we are told, even in Sunni Arab lands otherwise given to animus toward Shiites.

But Nasrallah had been here before. Two summers ago, he triggered a terrible war across the Lebanon-Israel frontier, with a toll of 1,200 Lebanese deaths (160 Israelis also perished in that senseless summer) and no less than $5 billion in damages to Lebanon's economy. That war was sold to the gullible as a "divine victory" -- the first Arab victory against Israel's might.

Some expected that Hezbollah would lay down its arms and that the Lebanese, free of Syrian captivity, would return their country to a modicum of order and normalcy. Those hopes were in vain. In the last two years, Hezbollah brought the political life of Lebanon to a standstill. Its formidable militia made a mockery of the incumbent government. Nasrallah sent his followers into Beirut's commercial center, and for seven long months he thwarted the attempts to elect a new president.

The "Cedar Revolution" of 2005, so full of promise, was no match for Nasrallah's "soldiers of virtue." A proxy struggle played out in Lebanon, with the United States, France and Saudi Arabia on the side of the incumbent government, and Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, on the other. There was no escaping the sectarianism: A determined Sunni-Shiite struggle had come to Lebanon.

In its heady days, the Cedar Revolution movement was "hip" and seemed like a fight between the "beautiful people" and the Shiite hicks. The Shiites had a cruel, rural past and they still had self-doubt -- believing that the Sunni merchant classes of West Beirut continued to see them as squatters in the city. The clerics and laymen who dominate Hezbollah were quite skilled at exploiting this Shiite sense of unease.

There was a built-in flaw in the Cedar Revolution that Hezbollah preyed upon. Intended or not, that broad, spontaneous eruption following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri had come to rest on an alliance of the Druse, the Sunni Muslims and the bulk of the country's Christian population. The vast Shiite community, the country's largest, had stood uncertain amid the tumult that followed Syria's withdrawal. The Shiites had an uneasy alliance with the Syrian occupiers, and the Shiite mainstream was enthusiastic about Lebanese liberty. Hezbollah had the guns and the money. It had as well the status of a "liberation movement," and few in Lebanon dared question this claim.

The impasse between a sovereign Beirut government and an armed militia doing the bidding of the Iranian theocrats could not last. A small war broke out last May when the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora wanted to dismantle an illegal fiber-optic network that Hezbollah had installed, a vast communication system that stretched for more than 200 miles and reached to the Syrian border. In retaliation, Hezbollah struck into the Sunni neighborhoods of West Beirut and the Druse stronghold in the Shouf Mountains.

The Sunnis were easily overwhelmed. The Druse had put up a measure of resistance, but they, too, could not stand up to Hezbollah. It's no small irony that Kuntar, a man of the Druse Mountains, is now returned home courtesy of Hezbollah. But the deep antagonism between the Druse and Hezbollah can't be wished away by Kuntar's release.

More than ever, Hezbollah is a Shiite party, shorn of its exalted status as a national resistance movement. Behind Hezbollah's deeds is the fine hand of Iran. Nasrallah had tried to obscure the difference between Lebanon's needs and those of his paymasters in Iran. In a widely scrutinized speech the cleric gave in late May, on the eighth anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Nasrallah claimed that he was at once a devoted believer in Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution and a son of Lebanon who believed in its "specificity" and pluralism.

There would be distinct roles for the Lebanese state and for his "resistance movement." The first would assume the burden of order and governing, while his movement would carry the banner of the armed struggle against Israel. This kind of contradiction can't be papered over. Nasrallah and his lieutenants must fully grasp their precarious position: They feed off mayhem and strife, while the country yearns for a break from its feuds.

It is doubtful that the Shiites will always follow Nasrallah to the barricades, and those who do so will expect material sustenance from Hezbollah. There are estimates that Hezbollah provides employment for 40,000 of its wards and schooling for 100,000 children. This is no small burden, even for a movement sustained by Iranian subsidies. Nor is it the case that the majority of the Shiites want the strictures and the rigor of Qom and Tehran dominating their world. True, the underclass and the newly urbanized in the Shiite suburbs may have taken to the dress codes and style and religious ritual of the Iranian theocracy. But the majority must wish a break from all that.

Hezbollah will not be able to run away with Lebanon. Already the Sunnis have been stirred up by Hezbollah's power. Sunni jihadists have made their presence felt in the northern town of Tripoli, and in the dozen or so Palestinian refugee camps on the outskirts of the principal cities.

It would be reasonable to assume that the weight of Sunni sentiment would shift toward the jihadists, were they to conclude that the mild-mannered Sunni politicians can't win a test of wills, and arms, against Hezbollah. Nor do the Christians want Hezbollah's utopia. The Christians have been weakened by emigration, but they, too, will fight for their place in the country if forced to do so. Furthermore, should there be any accommodation between America and Iran, the Persian power is sure to cast Hezbollah adrift.

"We lived in a world where we believed that our enemy was exactly like us," Ofer Regev said in a eulogy for his fallen brother. "We thought we could speak to people who also wanted to raise a child, grow a flower, love a girl, exactly like us. But the enemy proved that it is not exactly like us. And still, we will not stop trying."

Across the Lebanon border, Israelis may have once found a culture not so distant from their own, with mercy, decorum and "rules of engagement" even in times of conflict. The Lebanese will have to retrieve that older world if they are to find their way out of the grip of bigotry and terror. A decent country would be under no moral or political obligation to celebrate a murderer as a heroic son returning from a long captivity.

Mr. Ajami, a Bradley Prize recipient, teaches at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of "The Foreigner's Gift" (Free Press, 2006).

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Drowning in Riches.


YOU might think that $140 per barrel oil would be good for at least one part of the world, the Middle East. It’s too soon to tell for certain, but the region may well turn out to be the part of the world that suffers the most.

As painful as the current (or coming) oil-driven recession will be for Americans, it does seem to be convincing us to make the sacrifices necessary to diminish our reliance on oil. Over the long term, that could prove a huge boon for our economy, our environment and our national security.

In the Middle East, the situation may be reversed. Right now, the region is experiencing an economic boom, creating the opportunity to address the deep-seated political, economic and social problems that have spawned terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.
That’s certainly what the people of the region hope.

The danger is that the way that the rising revenues are being spent will more likely worsen the region’s instability over time.

And that’s a problem, because problems in the Middle East have a bad habit of becoming big problems for the rest of the world. The Middle East isn’t Las Vegas: what happens there doesn’t stay there.

In the 1970s and ’80s, during the first great oil boom, the Middle Eastern producers largely squandered their wealth. Some did set up vast social-welfare networks that improved health care (an important reason for the explosive population growth of the past 30 years). But by and large they sent the money overseas, putting it in foreign real estate and Swiss bank accounts. This did nothing to develop (let alone diversify) their economies, and so when the boom turned to bust in the 1990s, economic problems mushroomed. With them came political discontent, terrorism and rebellion.

This time around, some Middle Eastern oil producers are trying to be smarter. They are investing billions of dollars at home, building industries, repairing roads and factories, and expanding social services. This has led regional elites and many in the international financial community to proclaim a new era in the Middle East — one in which the new oil revenues will diversify the region’s economies, create jobs for everyone, and make the Arab states the world’s economic superpower.

If this sounds unlikely, it’s because it almost certainly is. More oil money is being re-invested in the region, but it is not being spent where it is most needed. As a result, it is having little impact on what really matters, and is even creating problems.

The macroeconomics often do look great: gross domestic product, trade and foreign direct investment are all rising substantially. But unemployment and underemployment have declined very little and inflation is rising quickly. At a microeconomic level, critical problems belie the rosy picture painted by the superficial macro indicators.

In addition, much of the money is being re-invested in projects intended to produce quick profits for investors rather than long-term political and economic gains. A great deal of it is going into non-productive sectors like real estate and oil refining. Many of the factories being built with the new oil revenues will be heavily automated plants that will employ few people.

The industries that create lots of new jobs, like tourism, agriculture and construction, import workers from southern and southeastern Asia rather than hire locals. Similarly, the oil revenues are being used to expand educational systems but, with a few exceptions, not to reform them. Consequently, more students are being educated — and their expectations of a better life whetted — only to find out that they lack the skills to get the jobs they believe their schooling entitles them to. Across the region, youth unemployment averages at least 25 percent, close to double the global average.

Both the rise in energy prices and the flood of oil revenues have stoked inflation. Qatar’s current rate is 14 percent, up from 2.6 percent in the 2002-2004 period. As always, inflation hits the middle and lower classes hardest, and in many Arab states it is destroying the middle class, driving its members to the levels of the poor. That is pushing many into the arms of Islamist extremists seeking to overthrow the regimes.

The rise in global food prices has also hit the Middle East hard. Bread riots have convulsed Egypt and Yemen (not major oil producers, but two of the Arab world’s most populous states and cogs in the regional economy). In Saudi Arabia, fear of riots led the government to threaten to detain or confiscate the businesses of bakers and store owners who sell flour above the government-set subsidized price.

To combat the effects of inflation, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have raised government salaries by 15 percent to 70 percent. In the short run this could help civil servants, but it also further increases inflation and does nothing to deal with the structural economic problems.

The foreign workers whom Arab states increasingly rely on because they tend to be cheaper and more productive than their own citizens are also beginning to show signs of unhappiness with their shoddy treatment. Foreign workers, who make up 80 percent to 95 percent of the private sector work forces in the small Persian Gulf states, have gone on strike in recent months in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to protest inflation, which is eroding their earnings. With foreigners making up roughly 40 percent of the population of the Arabian Peninsula, such labor unrest is ominous.

Meanwhile, the region’s rich have grown obscenely more wealthy through their ability to tap into the windfall oil profits, both legally and illegally. The wealthiest measure their wealth in the billions, while the poorest are so poor that growing numbers cannot even afford to marry.

Money pouring in but not trickling down tends to create a dangerous social imbalance. People hope their country’s oil windfall will alleviate their own economic problems only to find that vast sums are being siphoned off into graft; redirected out of the country to private accounts; spent on luxury items, military hardware or “white elephant” projects; or simply wasted.

It is worth keeping in mind the worst case from the history of the first Middle Eastern oil boom. Under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Iran tried to use the influx of oil revenues after the 1973 oil-price increases to build new industries, eradicate unemployment, transform the economy and modernize society.

On paper, the shah’s efforts seemed superbly enlightened. As in the Arab states today, the macro indicators of Iranian progress — per capita gross domestic product, education expansion, foreign investment — seemed phenomenal. But the projects were mismanaged and riddled with graft. The royal cronies became fabulously wealthy while the plight of the average Iranian worsened because of protracted unemployment coupled with soaring inflation. Rather than solving Iran’s problems, the oil boom sparked the Iranian revolution.

A few in the region seem to be heeding that lesson. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia continues to demonstrate a keen grasp of what is in his country’s best long-term interests. He has poured money into economic cities that serve as “centers of excellence” to attract the kind of meaningful investment that, over time, could lift the Saudi labor force out of its dangerous doldrums. He is establishing the King Abdullah University, bringing in professors from all over the world to develop a curriculum emphasizing science, technology and innovation. But even here there is a dark lining: Abdullah is 83, and it is doubtful that his successors would continue such projects with the same progressive determination.

How can the region turn things around? For starters, those charged with managing its sovereign wealth funds and private investments need to shift from bankrolling capital-intensive industries that guarantee a high return for the investor to financing labor-intensive industries that could increase employment and develop a more capable work force.

At some level, this means thinking of regional investment as a form of deliberate wealth redistribution, social engineering and charity. It will certainly cut into the bottom lines during the short term, but if those who hold the purse strings are wise enough to do it, it should yield priceless political rewards in the years ahead — political rewards that are probably going to be necessary if they are to avoid being swept out of power by angry mobs.

Avoiding those kind of internal upheavals and eliminating much of the anger and despair upon which the terrorists and extremists prey would be a major boon to a world that is likely to remain addicted to Middle Eastern oil, and therefore vulnerable to its vicissitudes, for decades to come.

Kenneth M. Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, is the author of the forthcoming book “A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East.”

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Friday, July 25, 2008

The 86th Anniversary of the "Mandate for Palestine"

By Eli E. Hertz

86 years ago - on July 24, 1922, the League of Nations (equivalent to today's UN) published the historical document "Mandate for Palestine" that laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine - the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law.

The "Mandate for Palestine" was not a naive vision briefly embraced by the international community. Fifty-one member countries - the entire League of Nations - unanimously declared on July 24, 1922:

"Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country."

It is important to note that political rights to self-determination as a polity for Arabs were guaranteed by the same League of Nations in four other mandates - in Lebanon and Syria [The French Mandate], Iraq, and later Trans-Jordan [The British Mandate].

Any attempt to negate the Jewish people's right to Palestine - Eretz-Israel, and to deny them access and control in the area designated as the Jewish National Home by the League of Nations is a serious infringement of international law.

Those claiming that Jewish settlements in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are illegally occupied, should answer just one simple question: In 1922 Jewish settlements were perfectly legal - What has changed?

Eli E. Hertz

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.



Do Palestinians Deserve Statehood? Part I


By  Eli E. Hertz

1st part of 4

Links and footnotes in part 4


 A case in point - In the eyes of the European Union, the quality of life of its citizens is much more sacred than the security and well being of Israelis.

European yardsticks for Turkey, a peaceful country, joining the EU – demand [of Turkey] far-reaching political and social reform “on the ground”, and 10 to 15 years of negotiations while Turks prove democratic change is “irreversible.”

European yardsticks for Palestinians, a hostile society, joining the Family of Nations - amounts to praise for fabricated non-existent reforms and calls to drop the required incremental progress from the Road Map. End to violence and democratic reform, that Palestinians haven’t even begun is tolerable – all in order to forge the way for immediate establishment of a Palestinian state, one which will endanger the very survival of a free and democratic Israel.

The historic decision of the European Commission in mid-December 2004 that Turkey is now ready to begin full negotiations on joining the European Union is an excellent opportunity to benchmark the way Europeans judge Turks, and how they judge Palestinians.

Keep in mind the goals and the ramifications of each: The Turks’ goal is membership in the European Union – a political union that the Europeans already say will have an iron-clad reversibility clause for Turkey if it fails to live up to its promises. The Palestinians’ goal[1][1] is sovereignty as a State – status for which there is no reversibility mechanism if Palestine turns into a rogue state. Logically, the yardsticks of judging readiness should be at least equal, if not more stringent for Palestinians, a society that consciously and purposely sacrifices its own youth for political gain and tactical advantage, with a leadership that champions suicide bombers. 

Alas, nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Ultimatum to Turkey: Become European in word and deed

For 40 years – since 1963, Turkey has knocked at Europe’s door requesting membership in the EU. The Europeans, however, have been in no rush to invite a Muslim country into their midst, even if it is the most westernized and most democratic Muslim country in the Middle East. Although Turkey is already a strategic partner in NATO and some 2.5 million of its citizens are peaceful and productive immigrants/guest workers in Europe, these facts seem not to persuade the European. Only in 1999, 36 years later, was Turkey accepted as a candidate, with no timeframe for actual negotiations. At the close of 2004,  after five years of far-reaching Turkish constitutional and legal reform, the EU concluded that Turkey had reached a point where negotiations could even commence “under certain conditions.”[1][2] But it is far too premature to break out the Champagne.

Negotiations are expected to take ten to fifteen years, and even then “the outcome is not a foregone conclusion,”[1][3] declared Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

Turkey must ‘walk the walk.’ To be more precise, it must meet the EU challenge over which there is no negotiation: ‘Become European’ in thought and deed. The Recommendation states that membership negotiations are conditional to fundamental reform not only on the declarative-structural level, but also regarding realities “on the ground.” Implementation must be “sustainable” and “irreversibility” and reforms must be “confirmed over a longer period of time.” Europeans intends to “continue to monitor” the process and examine it under a microscope every inch of the way.[1][4]

The first yardstick for progress is to meet the Copenhagen Political Criteria adopted in June 1993 by the EU, which states:[1][5]

Membership criteria require that the candidate country must have achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities.” 

Olli Rehn, the member of the European Commission responsible for EU Enlargement, made it clear in an address to the European Parliament that there are no ‘discounts’ for Turkey.  

“… These criteria, the fundamental values on which the European Union is based, are not subject to negotiation” and [there will be] “a suspension mechanism in case of serious and persistent breach of democratic principles.”[1][6]

The fundamental freedoms Rehn cites include “women’s rights trade union rights, minority rights and problems faced by non-Muslim religious communities” and “consolidation and broadening” of legal reforms including “alignment of law enforcement and judicial practice with the spirit of the reforms” and a host of other demands. In fact, Europe demands a complete ‘makeover,’ from women’s rights to recycling of trash.[1][7]

If this wasn’t clear enough, President Prodi told the European Parliament the breadth and the tempo negotiations should take:

“We must take the time needed to make sure that all the important reforms adopted become day-to-day reality for Turkish citizens, both men and women.  And we must also tell our Turkish partners clearly and calming that any breakdown in this program towards democracy, human rights, fundamental rights and the rule of law as practiced in the European Union will automatically bring negotiations to a halt.”[1][8] [emphasis, the author’s]

To what degree Turkey has complied or not complied is presented in the minutely-detailed 187-page 2004 Regular Report on Turkey’s progress towards accession,[1][9] released in Brussels in October 2004 in preparation for the vote. “Nothing has been concealed, covered up or distorted, neither the positive nor the negative aspects,” stressed Prodi in his presentation.[1][10] The report seems to be both studious and frank. The judicial system quite naturally, was scrutinized in detail. 

Compliance included making the domestic legal system subservient to a series of overarching EU conventions and courts; rewriting the entire Penal Code. Adopting 261 new laws between October 2003 and July 2004 alone, including abolishing capital punishment; and totally revamping the structure of the courts from abolishment of security courts down to reducing case loads in lower courts, setting new criteria for judgeships and even mandating salary scales of junior magistrates, and providing legal aid.

All this said and done, Enlargement chief Rehn nevertheless underscored:

“These laws cannot yet be considered a reality on the ground; we will need to see how they are implemented.”[1][11] [emphasis in the original]

In contrast with all the other candidate nations – all of them 'European-Christian' countries - Turkey is the only nation whose timeframe for ascendancy is extended and open-ended, with no assurance of acceptance even if it meets every EU dictate. Furthermore, demands have been voiced that any future vote on Turkey’s membership be preceded by referenda in individual countries,[1][12] another unprecedented hurdle. Some parties have already backtracked, such as the Christian Democrat Party in Germany, which suggested blocking full access with a special category of “privileged partnership” for Turkey.[1][13]

This paper benchmarks EU demands of both Turks and Palestinians on a number of key issues. 

Benchmarking strides towards European-style civic society: Turkish society vs. Palestinian society

During four of the five years that Turkey’s very eligibility to sit at the negotiating table with Europeans was being weighed on the basis of whether Turkey met demands for sweeping reforms of its political and legal structure, coupled with European demands that all Turks acculturate themselves to European standards and values – in word and deed.

Palestinian leadership walked away from Final Status talks at Camp David (July 2000) and launched a systematic onslaught of suicide bombers and other terrorist attacks against their negotiating partner which continues – albeit with less success – to this very day. Suicide bombings are a ‘a highly communitarian enterprise’ because they depend on a strong institutional dimension, that are initiated by tightly run organizations that recruit, indoctrinate, train and promise to reward perpetrators and their families – in terms of material gains and enhanced social status in the community-at-large.[1][14] Perpetrators come from all levels of society, and support among rank-and-file Palestinians for such crimes against civilians – equal per capita to fourteen 9/11s – peaked in December 2001 at 86%. Such acts continue to enjoy the support of a solid majority of Palestinians in all walks of life, with 77% supporting a double bus bombing in Beersheva in September 2004.[1][15] 

Palestinian society itself lacks any semblance of internal ‘rule of law’ or civic society.  Palestinian human rights organizations report domestic violence and clan vendettas have intensified, and extortion, gang rule and general misuse of power at all levels have become an enduring feature of Palestinian society since self-rule was established a decade ago. The chief human rights group within the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), labeled this phenomenon “an Intra’fada.”[1][16]

These ‘realities on the ground’ – hardly consonant with European standards demanded of Turkey -- are totally ignored by the EU in their effort to advance immediate Palestinian statehood, come hell or high water.  A concrete example is enlightening.


 Eli E. Hertz

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.