Friday, February 27, 2009

Dubai's Dramatic Drop

 

by Daniel Pipes

As the Muslim world settled into ever-deeper decline over the past decade, mired in political extremism, religious sickness, economic irrelevance, WMD, anarchy, dictatorship, and civil wars, Dubai stood out as a happy anomaly.

Under the leadership of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai (one of seven polities within the United Arab Emirates) invited peoples from around the world to come make money and they did; about 83 percent of its population of 1.4 million is foreign. The emirate intelligently exploited the energy boom surrounding it and had the ambition not just to globalize but to become a leader at globalization. Dubai became renowned for the world's only tropical desert ski slope, the world's only 7-star hotel, and the world's very highest building, all done with a new-agey twist. (Publicity for the skyscraper, for example, presents it as "an unprecedented example of international cooperation" and "a beacon of progress for the entire world.")

But if Dubai seemed to be an exception to the general Muslim trajectory, it was only temporary.

In three distinct arenas – economics, culture, and sports – very recent developments show how much the statelet has in common with the impoverishing and separating Muslim world.

Economics

Dubai was the froth of the early 2000s, the purest example of a bubble economy based on rising prices and boosterism, a Ponzi scheme among the nations. Already in 2006, financial writer Youssef Ibrahim dissected its trompe d'oeil economy:

The huge oil revenues that have been pouring in for two years have nowhere else to go but into more and more real estate speculation. It makes for great business for the developers and their Western and Asian contractors, as well as for the owners - the sheiks, kings, emirs, and their big businessmen friends who own the deserts on which these mirage-like projects are being erected.

The formula from their perspective is straightforward: Sell desert land to investors at a premium. Then double the profits by financing the construction of artificial islands, lakes, and massive air-conditioned shopping malls, alongside pie-in-the-sky projects like the largest ski slope in the desert, a Jurassic Park complete with mechanical dinosaurs right out of the movie, and millions of housing units. Then get the hell out and let them eat cake.

Dubai's leadership, Ibrahim notes, invested its profits "from selling Disneyland desert fantasies in enduring assets outside the Gulf," such as port facilities and hotel properties.

When the music stopped last fall, with a world-wide recession and the price of oil tumbling over two-thirds, no one got harder hit than the Dubai dream machine. Just as it ascended with panache, so it now sinks con brio. One example, as reported by Robert F. Worth in the New York Times:

With Dubai's economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.

This unique abandoned-car syndrome results in part from the emirate's stringent work rules. As Worth explains, "jobless people here lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices, in a downward spiral that has left parts of Dubai — once hailed as the economic superpower of the Middle East — looking like a ghost town."

Signs of the new penury abound:

real estate prices, which rose dramatically during Dubai's six-year boom, have dropped 30 percent or more over the past two or three months in some parts of the city. … So many used luxury cars are for sale, they are sometimes sold for 40 percent less than the asking price two months ago, car dealers say. Dubai's roads, usually thick with traffic at this time of year, are now mostly clear.

Expatriates in Dubai are now so down on the country, Worth explains, some see it "as though it were a con game all along."

There is every reason to think that the economic descent has just begun and has a long way to go. As this happens, foreigners are fleeing. Christopher Davidson, a specialist on the UAE at Durham University, notes that "When Dubai was rich and successful, everyone wanted to be its friend. Now that it has no money in the pocket, nobody wants to be pals anymore."

Culture

When it comes to cultural extravagance, Dubai cedes first place to its neighbor, Abu Dhabi, which in early 2007, announced the "Cultural District of Saadiyat Island" to include satellites of the Guggenheim (costing US$400 million) and Louvre ($1.3 billion) museums, plus about two dozen other museums, performing arts centers, and pavilions.

Still, Dubai has ambitions, if more modest ones and the first Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature, opening on Feb. 26, is to serve as its literary coming-out party. A welcoming message from the director of the festival, Isobel Abulhoul, explains:

EAIFL is the first true literary Festival in the Middle East celebrating the world of books in all its infinite variety, with over 50 events featuring authors whose books range from some of the finest contemporary literary fiction to inspirational lifestyle titles, via the magical worlds of children's, fantasy and science fiction writing. We invite you to share and enjoy their company in a relaxed Festival atmosphere, made even richer by our vibrant fringe which showcases the wonderful and diverse talents from our very special city, Dubai.

The festival boasts authors from twenty countries, including such big names as Frank McCourt and Louis de Bernières.

All good, but the EAIFL hit a bump before it even opened, one that threatens to overshadow the event itself. Never mind "the world of books in all its infinite variety"; the festival banned British author Geraldine Bedell because Sheik Rashid, one of the minor characters in her novel The Gulf Between Us (Penguin), is a homosexual Arab with an English boyfriend; to make matters worse, the plot is set against the background of the Kuwait War.

As Abulhoul wrote to Bedell, disinviting her. "I do not want our festival remembered for the launch of a controversial book. If we launched the book and a journalist happened to read it, then you could imagine the political fallout that would follow." As for the Kuwait War, that "could be a minefield for us."

Bedell responded that her novel "is incredibly affectionate towards the Gulf. I feel very warmly towards it, except when things like this happen. It calls into question the whole notion of whether the Emirates and other Gulf states really want to be part of the contemporary cultural world ... You can't ban books and expect your literary festival to be taken seriously."

Indeed, the biggest name of the Dubai event, Canadian author Margaret Atwood, stayed away in protest at Bedell's exclusion ("I cannot be part of the festival this year."), eventually agreeing to appear via video link-up in a debate on censorship to be staged by International PEN at the festival.

Sports

Nor can you ban one of the game's finest players and expect your tennis tournament to be taken seriously. But Dubai did that earlier this month when it banned Shahar Peer, 21, ranked 45th among female players globally, from its $2 million women's Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships.

Why? Well, she is Israeli. Organizers of the event cited security fears as their reason to bar Peer.

In consultation with Peer, the Women's Tennis Association decided to continue with the Dubai tournament. "She didn't want to see her fellow players harmed the same way she was being harmed," said Larry Scott, CEO of the WTA.

Still, Peer's exclusion had immediate repercussions for Dubai. The Tennis Channel canceled coverage of the event; The Wall Street Journal Europe revoked its sponsorship; event organizers were fined US$300,000 ($44,250 of which will go to Peer); and American star Andy Roddick said he would boycott the male championship in Dubai. During the trophy ceremony, tournament winner Venus Williams discomfited the hosts by mentioning Peer's exclusion.

Not only was Scott was bombarded with messages from upset fans ("It's an issue that obviously touches a nerve") but he reported "a real snowballing effect": "I've been contacted by representatives of other businesses, academic institutions, cultural institutions that equally would only have invested in being in the UAE if they had the same assurances we had that Israelis could participate in the activities."

As a result of the Peer fiasco, Andy Ram, an Israeli ranked 11th among male tennis players was granted a "special permit" to enter Dubai and will play this week in the male Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. To stay on the tour schedule in 2010, the Dubai organizers must guarantee Peer a wild-card entry, so she gets to play there even if she fails to qualify, and must grant qualifying Israeli players visas eight weeks in advance.

In other words, Dubai must accept international rules or it excludes itself from championship play. That is no small matter in a statelet that has gone into top-tier sports in a big way as a way to attract tourism; the Associated Press notes that it "hosts the world's richest golf tournament and horse race, is home to the world governing body for cricket and is building a $4 billion Dubai Sports City to house stadiums, sports academies and one of several lush golf courses."

Conclusion

Through a heady mix of speed and affluence, Dubai tried to vault over tough economic, religious, and political decisions. The establishment hoped that building big would substitute for a sound base. It hoped to finesse troublesome issues, that glitz would overwhelm substance. For example, it expected that patronizing prestigious events would permit it to change the rules; Dubai says no minor homosexual literary characters or no Israeli tennis players? So be it! Dubai rules, the globe follows.

But that will not happen. The sharp drop in oil prices exposed the country's inescapable weakness, while Dubai's literary and tennis debacles confirmed the point. Instead, an entirely different model now tempts it – what I call the separation of civilizations. Unable to impose their way, Persian Gulf Arabs are retreating into a Muslim ghetto with its own economics (including Shar'i compliant tools), consumer goods, media, transportation, fast foods, sports competitions, search engines, and even systems of keeping time.

This course is doomed to failure. At a certain point, the issues at the center of Muslim life for the past two centuries – the tension between tradition and modernity, the opposition of Muslim identity to universal values, the strains of economic development – will have to be faced. Hucksterism and fast talk will not solve these problems. As Dubai's vacation from history abruptly ends, its hard work begins.

 

 

Daniel Pipes

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



Hamas Takes Advantage of U.S. Diplomacy.

 

by Steven Emerson

John Kerry's trip to Gaza last week was intended to give him a close-up look at life in the Hamas-run territory after Israel's three-week incursion in response to incessant Hamas rocket fire. And it was intended to show that American foreign policy has taken a new direction. Kerry (D-MA) is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His visit was the first by an American government official since Hamas seized power in 2007 and he became the first U.S. Senator to visit Gaza in at least eight years.

Kerry met with local Palestinian business leaders, telling one that Hamas bears the blame for Israel's military incursion into Gaza: "Your political leadership needs to understand that any nation that has rockets hitting it for many years threatening its residents is going to respond."

The trip included no contact with Hamas officials since Hamas is a terrorist group. However, it appears Hamas officials took advantage of the visit to create a faux goodwill gesture for global consumption.

Details about the gesture, in the form of a letter to President Obama, remain unclear days later. What is clear is that the letter was conveyed to Kerry by United Nations workers and that, somehow, Hamas was able to learn of Kerry's visit in advance despite the fact it was not a part of the itinerary.

The affair remains difficult to assess, especially since the story about the letter seemed to change on all sides throughout the weekend.

According to a UPI report last Thursday afternoon, Karen Abu Zayd, who runs the Gaza office of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), told the BBC she relayed the letter to Kerry and that it came from Hamas. Kerry claims he didn't know the Hamas letter was among the materials he was given until hearing about it later in media reports.

Kerry left the letter with the consul general's office in Jerusalem "to handle through appropriate channels," said Frederick Jones, spokesman for the Foreign Relations Committee.

But during the Friday morning State Department briefing, spokesman Gordon Duguid said he didn't know details about the letter. He said he could not even confirm there was one and referred questions to Sen. Kerry's office. Duguid did make a clear statement that the visit of Kerry and other members of Congress to Gaza should not be seen as a potential shift in U.S. policy:

"The position on Hamas for the State Department, for the United States, is very clear. Should they accept the existence of the state of Israel, should they stop trying to violently overthrow the state of Israel, should they wish to reengage in the peace process and stop trying to rearm by smuggling rockets and other arms into Gaza, then there could be a place for them in future discussions. But until that happens, I don't see our position changing."

At about the same time, Hamas distanced itself from the letter, denying it was sent on its behalf. "Hamas denies any such thing had happened. No letter was given to John Kerry," spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, then said the letter was a personal one from him to the President, advising him that "There can be no peace without Hamas."

He also urged Obama to "be open with Hamas."

A message left at the UNRWA office in New York Monday was not returned. Andrew Whitley, director of the UNRWA office in New York, told the Washington Times the letter's contents and origins were a mystery to them. Someone left it with a security guard, he said. "It wasn't treated as a serious issue."

But according to U.S. officials, it was Abu Zayd who told the BBC that she forwarded the Hamas letter to Kerry. In a recorded BBC interview last week, Abu Zayd acknowledged Hamas was the source: "They did manage to send a letter over that they were asking the Senator to deliver to the President."

And Saturday, FOX News reported:

"U.S. officials in Jerusalem are outraged at the United Nations Relief and Works agency for apparently handing the letter off to Kerry.

The official source who spoke to FOX News argued that if the U.N. had a letter from Hamas, it should have given U.S. officials a heads-up before the news was leaked to media organizations."

Jones declined to describe Kerry's reaction to the ploy or how future visits might be affected. The issue was not discussed during Monday's State Department press briefing.

Hamas gained international attention through a letter presenting itself as open to peace and dialogue without moving any closer to renouncing terror or recognizing Israel's right to exist. U.S. officials need to figure out what happened before pursuing future visits to Gaza. Can they trust UN officials who serve as Hamas conduits and then announce their actions to the media? Somehow, Hamas was able to learn about Sen. Kerry's visit in advance, despite his refusal to meet with their representatives. What security risks did this create for the U.S. delegation?

Now comes word that the U.S. intends to donate up to $900 million in aid to help rebuild Gaza. None of it will go to Hamas, an administration official told the New York Times. Instead, "it will be funneled through NGOs and U.N. groups."

There's a history of Hamas supporters taking advantage of American good intentions to provide back-door support to Hamas. The administration needs to be sure those organizations, like UNRWA, can be trusted with American millions before a dime is disbursed.

Steven Emerson

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

 

Poll: PA Leads in Hate for USA.

 

by Maayana Miskin

A poll released this week by the World Public Opinion polling group showed the Palestinian Authority leading several other Arab and Muslim countries in hatred for the United States, belief that the United States is battling Islam and support for attacks on American civilians.

The poll was conducted in 2007 and 2008 among residents of Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco and Pakistan, and in 2008 among residents of Azerbaijan, Iran, Jordan, Turkey and Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Nigerian Muslims were polled as well.

The survey also showed a slight increase in support for terrorism and attacks on US civilians in countries where the poll was conducted in both 2007 and 2008.A total of 638 PA Arabs were questioned for the poll, and the margin of error regarding their responses was four percent.

Among the findings:

A full 88 percent of PA Arabs said spreading Christianity in the Middle East was “definitely” or “probably” one of the United States' foreign policy goals, with PA residents the most likely to support this claim. Muslims in Turkey, Jordan and Pakistan were also likely to hold this belief, with between 70-80 percent of respondents in those countries answering that the spread of Christianity was “definitely” or “probably” a US goal.

Eighty-nine percent of PA respondents said the US was “definitely” or “probably” trying to control Middle East oil resources, a percent similar to that in other Muslim countries. Seventy percent said the US was “definitely” hoping to divide and weaken the Muslim world.

Over 50 percent said the US was “definitely” or “probably” interested in creating “an independent and economically viable” PA state. However, 90 percent said the US was also planning to expand Israel's borders.

Forty-nine percent said the US “purposely tries to humiliate the Islamic world.”

When asked about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, 42 percent of PA respondents said they believed Al Qaeda or another Muslim terrorist group was behind the attacks, while 27 percent blamed the American government.

PA Arabs were the least likely to say they disapproved of all terrorist groups that attack Americans and were the most likely to express full or mixed approval for such groups. Fourteen percent of those PA Arabs surveyed fell into the former category, while 53 percent said they supported some terrorist groups that attack US citizens and 30 percent said they approve of “most or all” such groups.

Jordan was in second place in support of anti-US terror, with 20 percent of respondents saying they approve “most or all” groups that attack the US and 42 percent saying they approve of some such groups.



Sixty-seven percent of PA Arabs said they strongly approve of attacks on US troops in Iraq, and 23 percent said they somewhat approve. Only five percent reported that they “somewhat” or “strongly” disapprove. Sixty-one percent expressed strong support for attacks on US troops in the Persian Gulf; six percent disapproved.

While a much lower percentage expressed support for attacks on US civilians inside the United States, PA Muslims still led other respondents by a wide margin, with 10 percent expressing “strong approval” of such attacks, 14 percent “somewhat” approving, and 15 percent with mixed feelings.

 

 

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

 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What happened in Italy last night (on 11th February)

 

by Fiamma Nirenstein

We didn’t expect what you see in this picture. This is the square of the Italian Parliament in Rome, Piazza Montecitorio: You can see the Palace on top of the square, and in front a lot of Israeli flags. That was last night from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. What you cannot see here, is the extraordinary number of members of Parliament, about 100 from all political sides, that took the stage during this time: for about three hours we were speaking about the role of Israel, its right to self defense, its moral height, its fight on behalf of us all, of our civilization and values, against the wild hate of the Islamic jihad represented by Hamas.

It seems to me that for the first time in the too long history of the Arab/Israeli conflict, apart from a minority of crazy leftists and fascists that took the street with anti-Semitic slogans, we have achieved a huge consensus on one critical point: this is not a local conflict, there is nothing in it that reminds us of a peace theme that has characterized the Palestinian issue. This is an attack against the western world, and Iran is behind it.

The change of attitude is great: the terrorist and religious nature of Hamas and the democratic, civilized nature of Israel are seen face to face for what they really are at least by the European elite at large, dead and wounded notwithstanding, and there rises an identification with Israel against a regime that uses human shields and promises slaughter of Jews in its charter.

What happens today, at least in Italy, is the defeat and fall of the leftist ideologies: ideology that has allowed justification of all the most violent crimes and most disgusting verbal attacks. If Arafat launched the terrorist Intifada, if he promoted the martyrdom of children in public speeches, the ideologists were ready to justify him with the issues of occupation, the Palestinian misery and loss of any hope. Not so with Hamas.

History, in Italy, has brought to a profound crisis the ideology of revolution and the justification of any cruel attack against a so-called unjust imperialist order. That time is over, nobody will see Hamas as the resolution of the problem and not even as the problem itself. I think that the word “peace” has lost that healing meaning that it once had. The new non-ideological point of view sees that there is no peace when one of the contenders doesn’t want it, and that even if the world in the short run asks for a truce, in the long run it hopes for the defeat of Hamas.

Last night, many people, Ministers and Members of Parliament, composed a very new, interesting mix of opinions. I think that when you are not overwhelmed by exotic thirdworldism, the images of children educated as hate machines, the speeches of jihad leaders, from Ahmadinejad to Nasrallah, to Haniyeh, that deny the holocaust and promise death to Jewish and Christians alike, you are left only with disgust. Westerners, thank God, can still be disgusted by uncivilized levels of political speech.

But most of all, in the Parliament square, many of the Parliament Members said: “I love Israel”.

You can’t imagine how many.

Fiamma Nirenstein, a journalist and some-time resident of Jerusalem, is a new Member of the Italian Parliament who is outspoken on Israel’s behalf. She writes below that there is increasing understanding of what Israel is facing in its current war against Hamas.

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

 

How did this come to pass?

 

by Ruth King     

 

"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague." (Marcus Tullius Cicero, in a speech to the Roman Senate, 42 BC)

 

In 1929 Zeev Jabotinsky warned the Jews of Europe to get out in face of a coming cataclysm. Absorbed in their daily lives, most Jews ignored the escalating anti-Jewish rhetoric in the newspapers and the academies; the boycotts of Jews among Polish factory workers and trade groups; the ritual murder libels in Lublin and Vilna; the mounting attacks and beatings; the riots and desecrations of synagogues; the discriminatory laws and taxations; and the staggering failure by host nations to protect their Jewish populations.

 

Yes, the tragic Jews of Europe just tried to get on with their lives. Who could fault them? Who could have foreseen Auschwitz?

 

But what about today? After many decades of Jewish renewal and enhanced prestige brought about by the advent of Israel, Jews are threatened by the recrudescence of world-wide vicious anti-Semitism, all couched as "anti-Israel not anti-Semitic."

 

Even here in the United States trade and religious and academic institutions boycott and "disengage" from Israel, synagogues are vandalized and the mainstream media, at fever pitch to condemn Israel, gives scant attention to the threat against Jews.

 

Why has the American public lost sight of the fact that Jihad threatens the entire Western world and not Israel alone? Why did conservative Jews, even those who stood firm against Oslo become so besotted with President Bush that they swallowed whole the "road map" and the ensuing departure from Gaza without understanding or pressing the fact that Israel is in the front line of the war against Islamic terror?

 

The sad fact is that Jews themselves have contributed to the morass in which we find ourselves. First, let's examine those whom Cicero calls the fools and the ambitious.

 

Women of Hadassah: Your work in the ingathering when you provided rescue to millions of wretched survivors of the Nazis and those expelled from Arab states is the stuff of legend. When did abortion rights, gay rights and assorted trendy environmental crusades become more important than Jewish survival and Israel?

 

Listen up, ADL: You had a distinguished history in defending Jews against defamation. How did you get into the business of defaming our Christian evangelical supporters? Do you really think that Mel Gibson and a crackpot Catholic Bishop threaten Jews more than Arabs and Jihad? And, speaking of Holocaust deniers what say you about Abbas, whose doctoral thesis was devoted to that topic?

 

Esteemed grandees of the Conference of Presidents: There was a time that you were an instant deployment group, your clout felt in the corridors of American power when there was serious offense to Israel and Jews. What have you accomplished in the past ten years? Your major "achievements" were to insult Sarah Palin and elevate Mahmoud Abbas to the role of "peace partner." Even now, faced with the disastrous results of leaving Gaza-from which you egged Israel on to withdraw-you prod Israel to accept its dissolution with the "two state plan."

 

Can you not see that your servility contributes to the climate of blaming Israel?

 

Now let's discuss The Filth Column...the traitors within.

 

Jews who defame Israel are the most pernicious tools in the war against Israel and Jewry, those who, to paraphrase Cicero, move among us freely, teaching our young, their sly moral equivalence, which equates Israel with its tormentors, heard in the halls of government itself. They preen and strut as supposed devotees of "peace" and "justice." They besmirch Israel with vile comparisons to the Nazis. They pepper their talk with Yiddish, indulge in Holocaust metaphor and willfully and maliciously provide fodder for the cannons of those who would extinguish us. They are in a league of their own.

 

Here is a baker's dozen list of The Filth Column: Not in Our Name Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Against the Occupation, Jewish Peace Fellowship, Gush Shalom, Jews Not Zionists, Truth Justice and Human Rights in the Middle East, Rabbis for Human Rights, Visions for Peace with Justice in Israel/Palestine, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jews Against the Occupation, Jewish Women for Peace and Justice in Israel/Palestine, Jewish Social Justice Network.

 

JATO (Jews against the Occupation) recently hung banners calling for "Free Palestine" from bridges and highways. Its spokesman Ethan Heitner states: "Even if foreclosures and unemployment weren't decimating our neighborhoods, surely there are better uses for $3 billion a year than helping the Israeli government commit war crimes." Students for Justice in Palestine has groups on many campuses. Matan Cohen of Hampshire College in Massachusetts works among them to get "total international disinvestment from Israel."

 

Then there are the "independents" such as Norton Mezvinsky, who runs the Middle Eastern Studies Program at Central Connecticut State University who recently invited Norman Finkelstein, another pillar of the Jewish Filth Column, to bash Israel.

 

They have rotted the soul of the Jewish nation and undermined the pillars of Israel. Yet they proliferate in the media, the academies and the arts. They deserve the obloquy of all self respecting Jews and a corner in hell.

 

It is 1928 again, but unlike the unsuspecting and tragic Jews of Europe we cannot remain in denial. A strong Israel is our only guarantor of survival. In spite of those who have unwittingly contributed to the present climate and those who are active accomplices of our enemies, we cannot give up or fail. To do so will mean the end of the Jewish people.

 

 

Ruth King

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

 

Israel is losing the battle for hearts and minds.

 

by Ami Isseroff

 

Though it is painful to admit it, it should beobvious to all by now that Israel is losing the battle for hearts and minds of international public opinion, not just in Europe, Asia and Africa, but in the United States as well. This is evident both in the recent reaction to Operation Cast Lead and in long term trends. This loss is not like losing a Eurovision song contest or not getting the Oscar for Waltz with Bashir. It has, and will have, grave strategic consequences for Israel's well being, international posture and security.

The odious effluvium of the recent unjust human rights campaign against Israel following the Gaza operation  is added to the already broad stream of "anti-Israel" criticism. That will almost inevitably be joined by the stinking effluent of the upcoming Durban II Conference on Racism.

It is besides the point, inaccurate and ineffective to protest that this campaign is the result of "anti-Semitism." Surely, the campaign against Israel feeds on anti-Semitism and is fed by it. The deranged insistence that Israel must pay for the blood of Christ, the demented discourse about the supposed role of the Mossad in 9-11 and in the Mumbai massacre, and the mounting torrent of drivel painting the Federal Reserve System as a plot by International Jew Bankers are not "legitimate criticisms of Israel" and must in themselves be exposed as vicious racism. But they are not the main issue or the main danger, but only a side show.

The fact is that Israel has allowed its enemies to seize the initiative and dictate the agenda, to move the debate from central issues to diversions and irrelevancies, to establish fiction as fact, and to make the general public forget what is really at stake. Benjamin Netanyahu, a democratically elected politician, is painted as an ogre equivalent to Adolf Hitler, who must be boycotted. Conversely, Khaled Meshaal, a terrorist gangster and head of the genocidal Hamas, is painted as a fighter for freedom against oppression whose legitimate struggle should be recognized and whose organization must be considered a "partner for peace."

The horror of the Mumbai terror attacks should have been exploited to the full to explain to the world the undying enmity of Islamist radicalism for Judaism as a symbol of Western democratic values. Instead, most of the commentary asked "Why the Jews?" out of ignorance of the program and ideology of al-Qaeda and radical Islamism (aka "Jihadism"); Jewish groups focused on trying to get human sympathy for the martyred rabbi and his family and for the Chabad group. Islamist groupies were allowed to generate bogus hysteria that the Zionist conspiracy was trying to foment a war between India and Pakistan. In reality, al-Qaeda is at war with the Pakistani government and the rest of the world.

Israel is losing the support of the world over the Iranian issue. Iran's quest to kick the United States out of the Middle East has been skilfully made into a problem of Israel, Israeli nuclear weapons and Israeli interference with Palestinian "rights." Nobody hears the crowds screaming "Death to America" and the thugs burning the pictures of President Barack Obama (that's right, Obama, not Bush). U.S. policy can now be held hostage to the plots of these demented hoodlums, and officials will presumably move to appease them. Iran succeeded in portraying itself as the hapless victim of an arbitrary boycott campaign by evil Zionist neocons. It is forgotten completely that the clandestine Iranian nuclear weapons program was in place before the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is fatuously supposed that the election of Khatami or a different reformist figurehead to the Presidency of Iran will solve all the problems and eliminate the threat posed by Iran.

Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the sacrifice of disengagement is largely forgotten by the world. The central issue, that Hamas is a genocidal organization that repeatedly and openly declares its intention to destroy Israel is ignored. Instead, the entire debate has been moved to the bogus issues of "proportionality," Israeli "war crimes" and "human rights." We allowed the enemy to choose the battlegrounds and the weapons. We should not be surprised therefore, when they gain victory after victory. Not even Herr Joseph Goebbels would have been able to divert the entire public debate in Europe about Nazism to the question of whether allied reprisals for V II raids were "disproportionate" or the fact that the Germans suffered more casualties than the British, or to get Americans to boycott Britain because of the war crime committed in the firebombing of Dresden. But that is precisely what has happened in the Israel versus Hamas propaganda war.

Owing to an insistent campaign that has not been answered by any government or other advocacy, it is now falsely established in the public mind that the Annapolis talks failed because of Israeli "inflexibility" about Jerusalem. The truth is the opposite. Mahmoud Abbas announced and admitted on November 11 2008, that Israel had offered a compromise on Jerusalem but the Palestinian Authority rejected it, because the Palestinians insist on obliterating Israeli rights in East Jerusalem. It is not compromise that the Palestinian Authority demands from Israel, but rather unconditional surrender. The facts are not aired by the Israeli government because of internal political problems. It would have been politically disastrous to admit that Israel offered a compromise on East Jerusalem as that would raise a clamor on the Israeli right. It would have been equally disastrous to admit that the Palestinian Authority has been totally intransigent in current negotiations, because that would rob the Kadima party of the centerpiece of its political platform - peace with the Palestinians. Evidently, the powers that be estimated that the Israeli people are too stupid to understand that Israel must always strive for peace both in fact and appearance, no matter how hopeless the cause may seem. That policy has been a foundation stone of Israeli diplomacy since 1948 and is integral to mainstream Zionist ideology.

There are many other examples that bring home the fact that Israeli and Zionist legitimacy are suffering a continuing debacle. It is pointless to deny it and maladaptive to helplessly bemoan it as "anti-Semitism" or as "unfair" tactics of the other side. All is fair in love and war. Nobody should expect genocidal terrorists and racists and their advocates and running dogs to act fairly. We are not children. The Israeli government foreign ministry has failed. The Zionist and Jewish NGOs have failed. The pro-Israel volunteer advocacy network has failed. We are not doing our job effectively. We are reaching the wrong people with the wrong message or not getting the message out at all. Many of us don't seem to know what the message ought to be.

The situation is not beyond hope, but we will never even begin to solve the problem if we do not recognize that it exists and that it is quite urgent. It is far more important than petty internecine rivalry which absorbs the energy of Israel advocates. It will not be solved by appealing to the anti-Semitism issue. The anti-Semites already know they are anti-Semites and are quite proud of it. The others truly are horrified by the accusation and really do not understand why saying that "Zionists control the world" is anti-Semitic. It will not be solved by appeals to Jewish opinion. The enemy is not other Jews. The rising tide of opinion against Israel is not, in the main, related to anything that Israel did or did not do, since the aim of the campaign is to destroy Israel. The "critics" will criticize Israel no matter what Israel does. Every action, whether it is disengagement, or peace offers, attacks on terrorists or building of settlements, whether is totally right or totally wrong, will be turned into grist for the propaganda mill of enemies, if we let them do it.

The nature of urgent corrective measures that should be taken will be the subject of future articles here. The problem should also be subject to detailed public scrutiny and debate. It is not a minor problem, but rather a central strategic issue for Israel, a threat can only be countered by a massive effort of attention, ingenuity and resources.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2009.

 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Right to Criticize Islam

 

by Pilar Rahola

 

We women who defend liberty are not Islam's enemy. The enemy is in your house; it takes the name of God in vain and perverts it to serve a wicked ideology. One final request. Think twice before pointing your finger at us and accusing us of insulting Islam. For I wish to remind you that some of those about you might consider such an accusation [as indicating] a target.

 

The first quote: "Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali born Dutch parliamentarian who was issued a death sentence for fighting against the oppression of women in Islam, in her book J'accuse :"Two out of three wars in the world are fought in the name of Islam. The notion that Islam is a religion of peace is without basis in fact." Second quote: Wafa Sultan, Syrian psychologist, in an interview on Al Jazeera: "Only Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, murdering people and destroying embassies. This path will give no result. Muslims should ask themselves what they can do for Humanity, before asking Humanity to respect them." She lives under a death threat. Third quote: Fadela Amara, Muslim of Algerian origin and president of the French movement "Neither Whores nor Submissive": I am a believing Muslim and I consider the veil an instrument of oppression against women."

 

I could add to the names of these women many others whose struggle for freedom in the heart of Islam has forced them to live under threat. None of them insulted that religion, but all were accused of insulting it. The first and worst thing that we find when we try to hold a calm debate about Islam is the demonization of critical thought, and always in the mouths of those who arrogate unto themselves the role of universal spokespersons and who present Islam as an anti dialectic and ahistorical dogma.

 

Years ago I wrote that Islam needs to have a Voltaire. Seeing the response that Ms. Ndeye Andújar dedicates to me, an ad hominem attack (she kills the messenger twisting me into an entity filled with prejudices), and how she turns my critical arguments into insults of Islam, I consider it all the more urgent to appeal to the Enlightenment. I rebel against that sickness of thought that bases the truth of its arguments on the negation of any debate. I rebel because it is a manichaean and antidemocratic posture. Maybe Andujar is afraid of free thought (it's good to read Fromm), but she will not be able to keep, in spite of her demonization, some of us from being seriously critical with modern day Islam.

 

A fundamental note. No matter how much she tries, she will not find a single insult of Islam in any text of mine. I profoundly respect the beliefs of each person and, although I am cut from rationalist cloth, I don't believe faith to be the source of the problem. But she will indeed find many worried reflections on the perverted use of religion to advance a totalitarian ideology that today, in the name of Islam, educates people in fanaticism, suicidal nihilism and scorn for women. If Ms. Ndeye Andujar wants to find and call attention to those who insult Islam, I advise her to look at home. I'll give her a few ideas. Those who teach their children to be suicide bombers severely insult Islam. Those who establish laws that enslave woman insult Islam. Those who teach anti-Semitism, anti-Westernism and scorn for liberty, all insult Islam. Those who use 21st century technology to connect to the Middle Ages insult Islam. Those who encourage children to flagellate themselves to the point of delirium to commemorate someone who disappeared centuries ago insult Islam. And yes, they too insult Islam who from Western mosques encourage the covering of their women, the sending of young men to Iraq or consider democracy an evil of the infidel.

 

Didn't she know that this takes place in French and Spanish mosques? I invite her to read some reports, or even to learn the reasons for the expulsion of certain imams from France. All the mosques? Of course not. To be sure, there exists a progressive and democratic view of Islam. But along side it and flourishing, there lives a regressive, fanatical and anti-modern view. This view, to the misfortune of all of us, has a lot of power and receives a lot of money. And this view, by the way, has a particular obsession with imposing the veil, an unmistakable metaphor for the denial of a woman's freedom.

 

We could discuss other issues. For example,

 

Ndeye Andujar claims that the Islamic University of Al-Azhar denies the Koranic validity of female circumcision. But she chooses to forget that

there are scholars in the same university who support it. And she also forgets that in Al-Azhar are nourished certain fundamentalist Koranic readings that have done the most ideological harm. Founders of the Egyptian Brotherhood, from Hassan al-Banna to Sayid Qutb or Yussef al-Qardawi, have drunk from its springs. And its textbooks, a model of the most totalitarian fundamentalist currents, make up the readings for the majority of Islamic centers in Europe. So, the topic isn't so neat and pretty after all.

 

Instead of trying to demonize those of us who take pen in hand to denounce abuses made in the name of Islam, the Ndeyes of the world hereabouts would do well to apply their own energies to combatting them.

 

We women who defend liberty are not Islam's enemy. The enemy is in your house; it takes the name of God in vain and perverts it to serve a wicked ideology. One final request. Think twice before pointing your finger at us and accusing us of insulting Islam. For I wish to remind you that some of those about you might consider such an accusation[as indicating] a target.

 

Pilar Rahola is a Spanish-Catalan journalist, and a philo-Semite. She writes a regular column for the Barcelona paper La Vanguardia and in monthly El Periodico

 

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

 

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