Friday, January 14, 2011

Mideast Threats that Can't be Ignored


by Jackson Diehl

Barack Obama has been fortunate in the Middle East so far. Yes, his attempt to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been a high-profile failure. But Israel, the Palestinians and the region as a whole have enjoyed a remarkable stretch of relative tranquility and stability during the past two years.

This week has brought signs that that luck may be about to change. If it does, it will not be because Israelis and Palestinians have not agreed on a two-state solution. Rather, it will be because the regional troubles that the Obama administration has ignored in its preocupation with the peace process can no longer be contained.

The most obvious symptom of that is in Lebanon, where the Hezbollah movement caused the collapse of the unwieldy "unity" government Wednesday even as its pro-Western prime minister, Saad Hariri, was meeting with Obama at the White House. Lebanon is a prime front in the regional cold war between Iran, Syria and their militarized proxies, including Hezbollah and Hamas, and the "moderate" and mostly Sunni U.S. allies.

An eruption of actual civil war in Lebanon does not seem to be imminent, in spite of the likelihood that an international tribunal will soon indict members of Hezbollah for the murder of Hariri's father. But what the militia's move vividly demonstrated is that the Iranian side retains the initiative. Because Hamas and Hezbollah are the two strongest military forces in the Levant other than Israel, they have the capacity to provoke, to disrupt and to start an armed conflict at any time of their - or Tehran's - choosing.

Obama's approach has been to mostly ignore that threat while focusing on peace diplomacy, in the hope that a breakthrough would undermine the political appeal of Hamas and Hezbollah. But now both Iranian allies are flexing their muscles. Since the beginning of January, according to Israeli officials, more than 20 rockets and mortars have been fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel, renewing the bombardment that led to Israel's 2008 invasion of the territory.

On Thursday, following a tough warning from Egypt that it was risking another war, Hamas deployed security forces to enforce a cease-fire. But Israeli accounts say Hamas and Hezbollah have spent the past several years stockpiling tens of thousands of missiles, including scores that could reach Tel Aviv; the chances that the region will survive another year without their use are looking slimmer.The most imminent threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East, however, is not war; it is revolution. Last month in the obscure Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid, a desperate man set himself on fire after police confiscated his unlicensed vegetable cart. This spark touched off what has now become a conflagration of daily protest demonstrations that threatens to consume the 29-year-old dictatorship of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali - and spread to the other rotting Arab autocracies that line the south shore of the Mediterranean.

The violence has already migrated to Algeria, and Arab media are full of speculation of where the "Tunisia scenario" will appear next: Egypt? Jordan? Libya? All those countries are threatened by rapidly rising global prices for food and fuel; the United Nations warned last week of a "food price shock." All have large numbers of restless, unemployed youth. And all are governed by repressive regimes that not only have refused to embrace political reforms in the past decade but have cracked down harder on domestic opponents since Obama took office. It's hard not to attribute that trend at least in part to the administration's relaxed attitude toward reform and its reluctance to defend human rights and democracy.

In that sense, the only good news this week has been the signs that the administration is finally changing course. In a tour of several Arab nations, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - who has been particularly conspicuous for her silence about the region's repression - has suddenly begun speaking up about the need for change.

In a speech Thursday at the Forum for the Future conference in Doha, Qatar, Clinton talked about the frustrations of the under-30 generation in finding work and bluntly added that "people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order." She then called for "political reforms that will create the space young people are demanding, to participate in public affairs and have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives."

It may be too late for the United States to head off a rolling social upheaval in the Middle East this year - or a war involving Hezbollah and Hamas. But if it follows up on what Clinton has been saying, it can at least place itself on the right side of those events.

Original URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/13/AR2011011304899.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Jackson Diehl

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

WaPo distorts history to libel Israel


by Leo Rennert

In reporting the collapse of the Lebanese government following resignations of Hezb'allah cabinet members, the Washington Post, in its Jan. 13 edition, recites a long history of such Lebanese crises ("Political Crisis Shakes Lebanon" front page, by Leila Fadel and Moe Ali Nayel).

To emphasize the gravity of the situation, the article reports that

"The situation could destabilize this key Middle Eastern nation and perhaps spill over into a regional sectarian conflict. In 2006, Israel waged a devastating war in Lebanon, leveling much of the southern part of the country and the southern suburbs of Beirut."

Why would Israel do this? There is no explanation whatever of what might have prompted Israel to deliver such a devastating blow. None whatsoever. According to the Post, Israel went ahead in 2006 and waged a devastating war in Lebanon. Period.

No mention that In the year preceding the start of the Second Lebanon War, Hezb'allah repeatedly engaged in cross-border attacks from Lebanon against southern Israel. Rockets repeatedly were fired by Hezb'allah against Israeli border towns. Then, on July 12, 2006, these attacks culminated in a Hezb'allah cross-border raid that killed three Israeli soldiers and resulted in the wounding and capture of two others.

Only then did Israel attack Hezb'allah positions in southern Lebanon and Hezb'allah's command-and-control centers in southern Beirut.

Yet, there isn't the slightest reference to this history in the Post's Jan. 13 assertion that Israel, for unstated reasons, decided to wage a devastating war in Lebanon . Hezb'allah is completely missing from the Post's grossly misleading report about Israel's war against Hezb'allah in 2006.

The Post's libel of Israel is as monstrous as if the paper reported that the United States, in the 1940s, waged a devastating war against Japan, without mentioning Pearl Harbor.

Original URL: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/01/wapo_distorts_history_to_libel.html

Leo Rennert

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

How Tehran/Damascus Terror Axis Targets Israel


by IPT News

Several new reports illustrate how Iran and Syria continue to aid terrorist groups that target Israeli civilians by providing weapons and terrorist training to jihadist organizations on Israel's borders.

In Gaza, Hamas and other terror groups have fired thousands of rockets and missiles into neighboring Israeli communities since Israel unilaterally withdrew in 2005. They continue to be re-supplied by Iran and Syria. In Lebanon, Hizballah has received massive supplies of weapons from Tehran and Damascus, including large quantities of missiles and rockets, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles and attack aircraft.

Both organizations are committed to Israel's destruction and have gone to war with Israel in recent years: Hamas in 2008/2009 and Hizballah in 2006. And with Iranian and Syrian help, both terror groups are making substantial improvements in their weaponry like this and this.

Hizballah toppled the Lebanese government Wednesday, as ministers associated with the group withdrew from the Cabinet to protest a United Nations tribunal's investigation of the 2005 slaying of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Hizballah is demanding that current Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the slain leader's son, disavow the tribunal, which is expected to accuse members of the Tehran-backed group of complicity in the assassination.

Analysts are unsure about whether the political crisis generates internal violence in which Hizballah has the upper hand or prompts a period of political stagnation.

Even before the Beirut government's collapse, it has been "an open secret that the Syrian-Lebanese border has been deliberately left wide open by Syria in order to guarantee the supply of war material to Hizbullah in Lebanon," Col. Jacques Neriah, formerly foreign policy advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, writes in a new report for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The Lebanese Army's ability to discharge its responsibilities is likely to be further undercut if there is a prolonged Lebanese political crisis during which the country is run by a caretaker government.

Israeli and Western intelligence services have long been aware of Tehran and Damascus' involvement in Hizballah's weapons buildup.

Damascus Airport "has been identified as the transit point for airlifts of Iranian arms that were subsequently transferred to Hizbullah via the open Syrian-Lebanese border, under the supervision of the Syrian security services," according to Neriah, who also served as deputy head for assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. "The Army is thinly deployed along the 359 km [approximately 225 miles] border with Syria and is unable to block the movements of Hizbullah fighters or Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Any thoughts of attempting to block the border must also take into account the presence of belligerent Palestinian units such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah Intifada that answer to Syria."

The Lebanese Army's ability to discharge its responsibilities is likely to be further undercut if there is a prolonged Lebanese political crisis during which the country is run by a caretaker government.

A $100 million military aid package for Lebanon was held up temporarily by two Democrats, Nita Lowey, N.Y., and Howard Berman, Cal., but they withdrew their opposition in November after the Obama administration assured them the aid would not end up going to Hizballah.

House Foreign Relations Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., indicated those assurances may not be enough. She questioned whether there has been any benefit from previous military aid to Lebanon.

"The Lebanese government and military are not addressing the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis's growing threat to Lebanon's sovereignty and security," Ros-Lehtinen said in August. "Instead, they have focused on what they call 'the enemy' – our democratic ally Israel – and now an Israeli soldier has been killed as a result."

Revolutionary Guard activities in Lebanon are overseen by Iranian Gen. Hassan Madavi, commander of the Guards' Lebanon Corps, who is based in Beirut along with other Iranian officers. Since the 2006 war in which Israel destroyed much of Hizballah's military infrastructure in Lebanon, the group has rebuilt and strengthened its missile forces targeting the Jewish State.

Before the war broke out on July 12, 2006, Hizballah had 15,000 missiles; the Israeli government recently estimated Hizballah has an arsenal of close to 60,000 missiles. Approximately 15,000 are on the Israel-Lebanon border, and some of them can reach Eilat on Israel's southern tip, according to Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.

In 2006, many of these missiles "were basically out in the open," enabling the Israel Air Force to neutralize them, Oren said. But since the Israel-Hizballah ceasefire took effect in August 2006, the terror group has moved its arsenal into densely populated civilian areas. He added that the new Hizballah arsenal is "far more accurate" with rockets capable of carrying much bigger payloads (and doing more damage) than the ones fired at Israel in the summer of 2006.

"Today, those same missiles have been place under hospitals, and homes and schools because Hizballah knows full well that if we try to defend ourselves against them, we will be branded once again as war criminals," Oren said in September. "We know Hizballah has in violation of U.N. resolutions once again penetrated southern Lebanon, transformed entire villages into armed camps and put in about 15,000 rockets along the Israeli border."

Last spring, Western intelligence services learned about a new logistics network built by Tehran and Damascus to transfer weapons from Iran to Hizballah forces in Lebanon. The network was built after the February 2008 assassination of Hizballah terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh.

In a news conference last April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Syrian and Iranian rocket and missile shipments have provided Hizballah with far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world. And this is obviously destabilizing for the whole region, and so we're watching it very carefully."

Hizballah says it has also obtained unmanned aerial vehicles and attack aircraft from Iran as well with the assistance of the Revolutionary Guards. Sources close to the group's leadership have cited these as examples of the "surprises" it is planning during any future war with Israel.

Meanwhile, on Israel's southern border, Iran and Syria are working to strengthen Hamas' military power. Israel's Shin Bet reported that during 2010, a considerable amount of weaponry "has been smuggled into the Gaza Strip," including hundreds of rockets, "about a thousand mortar shells, dozens of missiles, tons of standard explosives, and tons of raw material for explosives production.

"The smuggling route starting in Iran and passing through Sudan and the Sinai continues to be a key element for Palestinian terror organizations. Iran plays a key role in assisting the Palestinian terrorist organizations and Hizballah to strengthen their military capabilities – it provides high quality weaponry; it funds training for military activists, and it directs terror activity through various Arab countries, especially Syria and Lebanon."

Read more about Iran, Syria and their assistance to jihadists targeting Israel here and here.

Original URL:http://www.investigativeproject.org/2493/how-tehran-damascus-terror-axis-targets-israel

IPT News

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Punishing the Victims of Islamic Gender Apartheid?


by Phyllis Chesler

She is marked for certain death.

Her final hearing takes place on Friday, January 14, 2011. If American Immigration decides to deport her back to her Muslim family in Africa, she will, without doubt, first be genitally mutilated and then honor murdered for insisting on remaining a Christian, for having fled an arranged Muslim marriage—and for having secretly married a Christian man.

I doubt she will be able to take her case to the United Nations. After all, that august body has condemned free speech/truth speech as hate speech, especially where Islam is concerned. Incredibly, presumably “progressive” European countries have increasingly launched criminal investigations against their own politicians, human rights activists, academics for daring to tell the truth about Islamic gender apartheid if that truth shows Islam in a negative light.

On January 24, 2011, the distinguished Lars Hedegaard, the President of the Danish Free Press Society and the International Free Press Society, will stand trial for telling the truth about Islamic gender apartheid. According to Ahmed Mohamud, the Vice President of The Danish Free Press Society, and Katrine Winkel Holm, Chief Editor of Sappho, the Society’s magazine, both Lars Hedegaard and Jesper Langballe, a member of the Danish Parliament, are accused of committing “hate speech.” Langballe exposed honor killings among Muslims; on December 3, 2010, he was convicted for doing so. As I noted in my piece at NewsReal Blog, Lars Hedegaard dared to discuss the great number of family rapes in areas dominated by Muslim culture.

I have published two major academic studies about honor killings and have written many articles about individual cases. I have also been called upon to testify in court cases for potential Muslim honor killing victims who are seeking asylum in America. Will I, too, someday be tried as a “racist”? Will such asylum seekers themselves be one day tried as criminals for exposing the horrendous violence they have escaped in the hope that the West will be a sanctuary for them? What will happen to them and to their advocates if telling the truth about Islam becomes a punishable offense in America?

To date, the highest profile apostate and potential honor killing case concerns the very young Rifqa Bary. I was privileged to work with her lawyers in both Florida and Ohio and hope that my affidavit was helpful. Bary’s lawyers did manage to keep her out of her family’s clutches and won a “fast track” to a green card and to citizenship.

Within a fourteen month period, I was approached by three sets of lawyers and by one advocate.

I submitted an affidavit for a second asylum-seeker whose case may be unique. She has fled a Western European country because she fears that her father and other male relatives will murder her for having secretly converted from Islam to Christianity. I urged the judge in her case to understand that just because a woman has fled from a European democracy does not mean that she has necessarily fled from a Western environment. Her immigrant family inhabits a bubble in which wife-battering is routine, living on welfare is seen as more dignified than taking a menial job, and spying on one’s daughter to be sure that she never talks to men or has any non-Muslim girlfriends is not considered invasive but honorable.

This young woman told me that her father flew into instant rages over the smallest things; he once hit her mother when she brought him food not to his liking. He threw a table at his daughter because she was too quiet. He would then threaten her with a knife and say, “I’m not afraid of the police because I can kill myself too.” If mere silence could set off this level of violence, one can only imagine how he might respond if he discovered that she had converted to Christianity.

I also submitted an affidavit on behalf of a third woman who is desperately trying to stay in the United States. She cannot risk returning to her South Asian country. Her crime? She dared to marry a man whom she loved but who belonged to a different sect of Islam; she did so against her parents’ wishes. Her family is an elite and prominent family which would risk a loss of reputation if they did not punish a defiant daughter.

Last week, a Canadian advocate and a professor of anthropology contacted me on behalf of a fourth woman. She is a Christian who was born and raised in the killing fields of Congo. Her father worked hard to end the dictatorial Mobutu regime and was therefore murdered by Mobutu’s death squads. Her mother fled to a neighboring African country, where she married a Muslim man who insisted on marrying his new stepdaughter off to an elderly Muslim man; in turn, her chosen husband insisted that she be genitally mutilated. This woman had already learned about the horror of genital mutilation firsthand when a friend of hers died from an infection after the “procedure” was inflicted on her.

To understand what she is running away from, here is an account of one genital mutilation that recently took place in Cairo, Egypt:

“Our ears were assaulted by maniacal screams coming from one of the open shops that lined the alley…We looked in the direction from which came those screams to see a middle-aged woman seated in a barber chair, a child on her lap, and a man on his knees in front of the child. I assume the little girl was the daughter of the woman in the barber chair, who was restraining the girl and spreading the child’s legs open, while the man on his knees was the barber who owned that barber shop. He leaned forward, concentrating on the space between the girl’s legs, where he was working with a straight razor. The barber proceeded with businesslike indifference to the little girl’s shrieks, as did the people in the street, who went about as if carving off a clitoris were something they saw every day, and as if the horrendous suffering the child expressed so loudly were a normal refrain in the raucous symphony that is Cairo. I stood motionless, transfixed by the crime I was watching, cursing myself for not charging into that barbershop, grabbing the little girl, and running away as fast as I could. A few moments later, the barber tossed a small red mass of bloody flesh into the gutter, a human clitoris for chickens to eat…”

In flight from such barbarism, this poor soul fled Africa and arrived in the U.S. about six months ago with a falsified passport and a falsified visa which indicated that she was a single woman. According to her anthropologist-advocate, she had no choice—she could not tell anyone that she had secretly married another African Christian who now lived in Canada because she would not have been allowed to leave her African country as a married woman without permission from her Muslim father or husband. She could not risk asking her mother for such a letter; that would involve the mother in what would be seen as a conspiracy against her new Muslim family.

Thus, when she tried to cross the border into Canada, she and [sic] was closely questioned. However, she was both afraid to lie and afraid to tell the truth. Instead, she simply wept. Once the Canadian authorities understood that she had a husband in Canada and that her passport listed her as single, they turned her away. Ayaan Hirsi Ali herself chose to or was forced to lie to Dutch authorities when she first arrived there; despite her having risen to become a member of Parliament, this lie ultimately led to a serious attempt to deport her.

Back to our unnamed hero. Shortly after being barred from entering Canada, and for unknown reasons, American immigration authorities arrested her and have been keeping her in detention for the last month.

Her anthropologist-advocate attended her initial hearing and tried to visit her in detention. She told me: “The security was unbelievable, and all deadly serious. Even I was intimidated. I can only imagine how she, a tiny woman, must feel handcuffed for the duration. We could not even visit with her. Just a quick 60 seconds to hug her before the hearing, then about 30 seconds while waiting for the elevator before she was taken back to jail.”

If only the perpetrators of Islamic gender apartheid—and not their victims—faced this kind of treatment. But they do not.

She is now facing deportation. Her final hearing will take place this Friday. Her advocate, who is Canadian herself, believes that Canada would probably accept her but it will still take some time to convince the government to readmit her since she has already been turned back at the border. Her lawyer has advised her advocate, her husband, and his family not to show up for the final hearing—advice which troubles me because it is important for the judge to see that she has serious supporters who find her story credible and who are ready to take responsibility for her.

One must also ask: Should the West, including the United States and Canada be taking in so many persecuted victims from other countries? That’s certainly what America is about—but can we afford to subsidize this rescue work? Can we afford not to?

Original URL: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/01/13/punishing-the-victims-of-islamic-gender-apartheid/

Phyllis Chesler
I would like to acknowledge the help of my assistant Nathan Bloom.

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

High Noon in Lebanon


by Ryan Mauro

Nobody wanted it. Few expected it. Many are worried it will lead to armed confrontation in the streets of Beirut.

The fall of the government of Prime Minister Said Hariri marks a significant escalation by Hezbollah in their effort to take control of Lebanon; it also ratchets up tensions between Sunnis and Shias that could explode into violence if not checked.

Eleven opposition cabinet ministers resigned on Wednesday, constitutionally causing the government’s collapse. At issue: the Special Tribunal Lebanon’s (STL) imminent announcement of indictments in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. It is widely expected that high ranking members of Hezbollah will be among those named in the crime – a turn of events that obviously doesn’t sit well with the terrorist group/political party. Indictments would tarnish its image in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Arab world as an incorruptible bulwark and “resistance” force against Israel. More importantly, it would weaken its political position in Lebanon, delivering a body blow to the party’s efforts to achieve de facto control of the government.

Hezbollah is demanding that Prime Minister Hariri not only disassociate the government from the STL, but they also want him to issue a public statement declaring the Tribunal to be a Israeli-US controlled device to destroy Hezbollah. Hariri has firmly refused to do so, saying he would not sit in any room with a cabinet that even voted on such measure while Hezbollah has said they won’t sit in a room with a prime minister who refuses to hold such a vote. Therein lies the seeds of the crisis that came to fruition on Wednesday with the opposition ministers resigning.

What appeared to be the last straw was the failure of a joint Syria-Saudi Arabian initiative to broker a compromise between the two parties. Indeed, the issue is so intractable and the positions of the adversaries so set in stone, that a compromise always appeared to be out of reach. When this became obvious on Tuesday night, Hezbollah jacked up the pressure by demanding that the cabinet, which hadn’t met since December 15th of last year, meet to vote on the issue while threatening to walk if this demand was not swiftly met. The majority March 14th party refused to convene a cabinet meeting with a gun to its head, at which point it became just a matter of time before Hezbollah made good on its threat.

The opposition chose the present moment to make their move as Prime Minister Hariri was in Washington meeting with President Obama. The timing could not be coincidental as the opposition ministers announced their resignations at the same time that Hariri and Obama were holding talks. Mustapha Allouch, a senior member of Hariri’s Future Movement, told AFP that the opposition wanted “Hariri to enter the meeting with the US president as an ex-premier or as head of a caretaker government.”

Hariri cut short his visit to Washington and will return to Lebanon to consult with his coalition about what to do next, after stopping off in France for talks with French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

According to the Lebanese constitution, Parliament will now meet and decide on the next prime minister in consultation with the president. It could very well be Hariri, but the wrangling might open the door for another March 14th politician depending on how wedded the coalition is to the continuation of the Tribunal. It may also depend what happens on the streets of Lebanon’s cities.

Tensions have already been high and the collapse of the government may cause an outbreak of violence between Sunnis and Shias; the former see Hezbollah as overstepping its role as the opposition and national “resistance” to Israel, while the Shias see the Sunnis as trying to keep them down. During the last cabinet crisis in 2008, 81 people died in clashes between Sunnis and Shias, with Hezbollah eventually moving into Sunni neighborhoods in Beirut, an act that almost resulted in open civil war. The crisis led to meetings in Doha, Qatar and an agreement where Hezbollah achieved almost all of its goals.

Hariri, or whoever is the next March 14th prime minister, will be faced with the same knotty problem that led to the collapse of government; what to do about the STL. If the next government disavows the Tribunal, it is likely that Sunnis will become enraged at this betrayal, seeing the STL as they do as the only way to achieve justice for the murderers of their beloved Rafiq Hariri. But not disavowing the STL might lead to a coup by Hezbollah if they feel their existence is threatened by the indictments.

The last cabinet crisis saw the majority March 14th forces fold their tents in Doha and give Hezbollah the power of the veto over decisions made by that body. Since then, another parliamentary election was held where the March 14 coalition triumphed. But elections are slippery things in Lebanon, and despite winning a clear majority of seats, the price of stability was once again granting Hezbollah and their allies enough cabinet posts to cause trouble if they chose.

Hezbollah has now chosen, and that choice is a familiar form of brinksmanship where they threaten civil war if they don’t get their way. This is an extremely effective tactic because so many who are alive today in Lebanon remember full well the hell on earth their country endured during 15 years of bloody conflict. No responsible politician in the majority can countenance a return to those terrible days. Hence, despite firm denials to the contrary, it is very possible that Mr. Hariri, or whoever replaces him as prime minister in the new government, will bow to Hezbollah pressure and disavow the STL, humiliating himself again in order to maintain the peace.

And so Lebanon’s descent into the Iran-Syrian orbit continues unabated as Hezbollah’s grip on the throat of the tiny country gets stronger and Syria circles around the carcass like a jackal waiting to pounce once the prey stops struggling. It’s a far cry from the heady days of the “Beirut Spring” just 5 short years ago when such high hopes were ignited by massive protests that kicked the Syrian army out of Lebanon and elections brought independent-loving democrats to power.

Now, many of those politicians are either dead, or cowed by events. And the people of Lebanon are on edge today wondering how long – or if – the peace will last.

Original URL: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/01/13/high-noon-in-lebanon/

Ryan Mauro

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

Europe Goes Halal


by Soeren Kern

The European Union, bowing to pressure from Muslim lobby groups, has quietly abandoned a new measure that would have required halal [religiously approved for Muslims] meat products to carry a label alerting consumers that the animals were not stunned, and therefore conscious, just before slaughter. With the exponential growth of Europe's Muslim population in recent years, thousands of tons of religiously slaughtered halal meat is now entering the general food chain, where it is being unwittingly consumed by the non-Muslim population.

Muslims have the right to choose halal foods, but non-Muslims do not have the right to choose not to eat the ritually slaughtered meat.

Halal, which in Arabic means lawful or legal, is a term designating any object or action that is permissible according to Islamic Sharia Law. In the context of food, halal meat is derived from animals slaughtered by hand according to methods stipulated in Islamic religious texts. One such method, called dhabihah, consists of making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck that cuts the jugular vein, leaving the animal to bleed to death without stunning. Of vital importance, according to the Koran, is that the animal's blood flows from its body by "natural convulsion."

Many non-Muslim veterinary experts say the method is cruel and should be outlawed. In Britain, for example, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), an advisory body to the British Government, says in a report that cutting an animal's throat without stunning induces "significant pain and distress." The FAWC also says: "Slaughter without pre-stunning is unacceptable and the Government should repeal the current exemption."

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) says: "The BVA believes that all animals should be effectively stunned before slaughter to improve the welfare of these animals at slaughter. However, as long as slaughter without stunning is permitted, the BVA has argued for any meat from this source to be clearly labelled to enable all consumers to fully understand the choice they are making."

Animal-welfare legislation in Europe requires that abattoirs stun all animals prior to slaughter unless they are being ritually killed according to the practices of a non-Christian religion. But critics say the religious slaughter exemptions are being abused and millions of cows, goats, turkeys and chickens are being slaughtered according to halal standards and then sold to unwitting, non-Muslim customers, providing producers with a large and profitable market.

In Britain alone, it is estimated that more than 150 million halal animals are killed each year. Critics say this number is far more than is needed by the Muslim community, and that the growing success of halal products in Europe is being driven by the fact that the non-Muslim public is unaware of the halal origins of the meat. They say the ability to sell halal meat products by stealth has opened up vast new markets across Europe, which, by extension, is leading to a huge increase in the number of animals slaughtered using halal methods. The European halal food market is currently valued at €50 billion ($67 billion), and is expected to grow by at least 25% by 2020.

Critics of halal say that by dropping the halal labelling requirement, the EU effectively is institutionalizing a discriminatory two-tier approach to identifying the origins of meats. This controversy, as with so many others, highlights the growing assertiveness of Europe's Muslim community, and demonstrates once again how the rise of Islam is stealthily overwhelming the daily lives of hundreds of millions of non-Muslim Europeans.

Amendment 205 to the EU food information regulations, passed by members of the European Parliament in June 2010 by a vote of 559 to 54, would have required all meat or meat products from animals slaughtered without stunning to be labelled as follows: "Derived from animals that have not been stunned prior to slaughter." Although halal meat is well labelled in specialist butcher shops and food outlets, the EU regulation would have alerted non-Muslim consumers to supplies entering the mainstream food system.

Not surprisingly, the move to require halal meat producers to provide consumers with more information on the packaging of their products has enraged Muslims, who claim that the move has little to do with animal welfare, and reflects a bias against Islam. In any event, halal slaughter is permitted in all but four European countries (Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland) and halal-related controversies are becoming increasingly commonplace.

In Britain, for example, a London Daily Mail investigation has found that the country's major supermarket chains, fast-food restaurants, even some hospitals and schools are serving halal food without telling those who are eating it. Cheltenham College, which boasts of its strong Christian ethos, is one of several top British schools serving halal chicken to pupils without informing them. Even Britain's biggest hotel and restaurant group Whitbread, which owns the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre chains, admits that more than three-quarters of its poultry is halal.

In London, the Harrow Council has provoked a storm of protest after announcing plans to offer Islamic halal-only menus in the borough's 52 state primary schools. Parents are outraged that meat prepared according to Sharia law is being pushed on non-Muslim children. In Derby, the Dale Primary School has only halal meat on the school menu for certain days of the week to avoid cross contamination with non-halal meat. In Blackburn, the Daisyfield Primary School has become the first non-Muslim school to become certified by the Halal Monitoring Committee.

In Birmingham, the Domino's pizza chain has opened a halal-only outlet that does not offer its customers ham or bacon. Critics say the new policy discriminates against non-Muslims. Domino's says it has "thought long and hard" about not offering pork products at the store, which serves an area with a large Muslim population. The company says there are "alternatives, such as turkey ham." Meanwhile, most of the in-flight meals on British Airways could soon be halal.

Also in Britain, the 2nd World Halal Forum Europe 2010 recently was held in London. The theme of the World Halal Forum Europe was: "Halal Products & Services -- Going Mainstream."

In Spain, Muslims have rejected efforts by the Spanish rail company RENFE to offer halal menus on its high-speed trains. The Muslim Council of Spain says it is not enough for RENFE to simply remove alcohol and pork from its menu. The company must also take into consideration how the animals are slaughtered, what type of oil is used in cooking, as well as comply with a list of other demands.

In Spain as a whole, the Muslim population has undergone an almost twenty-fold increase in just two decades and the internal market for halal products is now estimated to exceed 2 million consumers, in addition to the estimated 7 million Muslims who pass through Spain each year as they cross the Strait of Gibraltar to and from North Africa.

In Belgium, the Justice Ministry recently launched a pilot project to train prison guards, as well as doctors and nurses, about practical problems related to halal. Muslim inmates in Belgian prisons often refuse medication because it contains animal fat, and Muslim patients in Belgian hospitals sometimes refuse medical care during Ramadan. As part of its halal training efforts, the Justice Ministry commissioned a practical guide titled "Comprendre le halal" (Understanding halal).

Also in Belgium, the parents of children attending the De Kleine Kunstenaar kindergarten in the town of Houthalen recently signed a petition objecting to their children being forced to eat halal meat on a school trip. "Due to their religious beliefs, Muslims can only consume halal meat, but that does not mean our children must eat it," the petition says. The parents are asking for an alternative burger for their children, but the school says that request is "practically impossible."

In Denmark, an investigation found that thousands of tons of beef in Danish supermarkets are halal slaughtered. In Finland, a separate investigation found that McDonald's secretly served its Finnish customers chicken meat that was slaughtered according to Sharia Law.

In France, the Franco-Belgian fast-food chain, Quick, has removed bacon burgers from its menu and replaced them with a version using halal beef and a slice of smoked turkey. René Vandierendonck, the socialist mayor of the northern French city of Roubaix, says the move amounts to discrimination against non-Muslim customers. He has filed charges with justice authorities against Quick for what he says is prejudicial religious catering. He has also lodged a complaint with France's main anti-discrimination authority on the matter. Marine Le Pen, vice president of the National Front Party, says Quick's halal option is "an Islamic tax" on diners. Xavier Bertrand, secretary general of the ruling conservative Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) says Quick's menu change is undermining France's secular, integrationist social model.

Elsewhere in France, where the halal food sector has doubled in five years and is now valued at €5.5 billion ($7 billion), animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot says that 80% of French slaughterhouses are now halal because the method is cheaper and faster, and thus more profitable.

In Italy, the government in July 2010 signed an agreement with the Italian Islamic Community to establish a halal certifying organization. The Halal Italia certification scheme will guarantee compliance with Islamic laws for Italian food products such as tortellini and lasagne. The Italian market for halal is valued at €5 billion ($6.5 billion). Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says the Islamically-correct "Made in Italy" certification is designed to facilitate "the progressive integration of Muslim communities resident in Italy into the social fabric."

In Sweden, which has banned the religious slaughtering of animals since 1937, the Muslim Association of Sweden (SMF) is demanding that halal slaughter practices be legalized. SMF chairperson Mahmoud Aldebe says the Swedish government should respect the democratic rights of Sweden's Muslims to exercise their "religious freedoms" and help find a way to permit the practice.

In Holland, an elementary Catholic school in Weert decided to serve only halal food for its Christmas meal. The school has about 400 students, only ten of whom are Muslim. Margo Janssen, the school principal, says that serving only halal food for Christmas is a Christian thing to do because it puts others -- Muslims -- first.

Also in Holland, several Dutch prisons are now serving only halal food. The Dutch Justice Department says it is too expensive to offer prisoners both halal and non-halal menus, so it has decided to offer only halal food. The prison in the Dutch town of Sittard is now being sued by a prisoner; he says that by being forced to eat halal food, he is receiving extra punishment.

Original URL: http://www.hudson-ny.org/1799/europe-goes-halal

Soeren Kern

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

CAIR Imagery Makes Obstructionist Goal Clear


by IPT News

Any question about the Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) attitude toward law enforcement in terrorism investigations has been put to rest by the group's San Francisco chapter.

"Build a Wall of Resistance," a poster announcing a Feb. 9 event published on the group's website says, "Don't Talk to the FBI."

A dark, sinister FBI agent is shown lurking in front of people's homes as doors slam shut.

It's in response to an FBI investigation in Minneapolis and Chicago involving possible support for two designated terrorist groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). A series of raids Sept. 24 targeted the homes of activists in both cities. They claim the investigation is an attempt by Eric Holder's Justice Department to silence anti-war dissent.

"This type of investigation is a tool to repress our movements for social justice and divide our communities," the announcement of the event said.

But that assessment is based solely on the word of those targeted. So far, no official information about the ongoing investigation or the probable cause that led a federal judge to authorize the searches has been released.

In response, however, supporters of those targeted have protested outside of courthouses and federal offices in several cities. The next one is scheduled for Jan. 25 in Chicago and elsewhere, corresponding to compelled grand jury appearances by several people. A website, stopfbi.net, posts articles and updates on the case.

CAIR's Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab called the investigation "a waste of taxpayer dollars." His chapter issued a statement denouncing the September raids. "The FBI has overstepped its bounds in targeting individuals based on their commitment to peacefully challenge US policies in Palestine and Columbia," it said. The Justice Department should call off the investigation and return what was taken in the searches.

Subsequently, Rehab's Michigan counterpart called the raids "a witch hunt to chill the 1st amendment rights of Americans." Dawud Walid later accused the FBI of having "recruited more so-called extremist Muslims than al-Qaida themselves" and likened the use of informants in terrorism-related investigations to the systematic discrimination inherent in Jim Crow laws, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Walid's rants follow his year-long campaign to find fault in FBI's shooting death of a Detroit imam in October 2009 after the imam opened fire first. That effort continued even after separate investigations by the state of Michigan and the Department of Justice found no wrongdoing.

CAIR's hostility toward law enforcement is long-standing, but the organization's rhetoric has increased since the FBI cut off formal communication with the group in 2008. That decision was based on exhibits admitted into evidence during a terror-financing trial in Dallas that showed CAIR founders were part of a Hamas-support network.

"[U]ntil we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and HAMAS, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner," an FBI official explained in a 2009 letter to U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

CAIR petitioned the Texas court to be removed from a list of unindicted co-conspirators in that case. But the district judge refused, ruling there is "ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR" and others "with Hamas."

It remains to be seen what, if anything, will result from the FBI investigation in Minneapolis and Chicago. CAIR, in one image, has spoken more than 1,000 words about its hostility toward law enforcement.

Original URL: http://www.investigativeproject.org/2492/cair-imagery-makes-obstructionist-goal-clear

IPT News


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If One Extremist Gunman Can Do So Much Damage in America, How About Ten Million Such People In The Middle East?


by Barry Rubin

When one crazed or ideologically obsessed gunman starts shooting in Arizona, people condemn him and start bemoaning their society. How about a place with ten million people like that who are treated as heroes?

America this week is awash in a huge and passionate debate over whether angry political disagreements and harsh criticisms of certain views or groups inspired the attack on an American congresswoman (Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, by the way). I'm not going to enter into that argument right now but I want to point out the Middle Eastern ramifications of what's going on here.

Every day for more than a half century, Arabs and Muslims have been inundated every day with hatred for Israel, America, the West, Jews, and often Christians. You can read transcripts of Syrian broadcasts or Palestinian speeches from 50 years ago that sound just like what was said in the same places yesterday by powerful and/or respectable figures and institutions.

Let's say that the proportion of lies, slanders, and incitement in the American discourse is one-tenth of one percent of all the words spoken on controversial issues. The equivalent figure for the Middle East is well over 95 percent.

In addition to that tone, there is also virtually not only a lack of balance but an absence of the other side altogether.

And in addition to those two points, the level of factual accuracy has a huge gap (though, admittedly, that gap has been narrowing in recent years as Western standards decline).

And in addition to those three points, where extremists tend to be marginal in the United States, they are in control--either politically or at least rhetorically--throughout most of the Arabic-speaking and Muslim-majority worlds.

Thus, the level of incitement, imbalance, lies, and the hegemony of hatred in that part of the world towers above that in the West like the World Trade Center towers over an anthill.

Oh, the World Trade Center doesn't exist any more. Well, that has something to do with this situation, too, doesn't it?

Or to put it another way, in the Middle East, the crackpot is more credible than the rational or factual.

I won't take your time with lots of examples but one might start with the widespread belief that the U.S. government or Israel carried out the September 11 attacks coupled with the belief-held often by the same people-that it was a great thing to do. Or all the ridiculous conspiracy theories about Israel, as in the cases mentioned here.

Here's one of many such items that come across my desk each day. Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official newspaper of the PA,

has articles, the most recent being December 31 and January 4, accusing Israel of planning to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque. In the newspaper's words, Israel's projects in Jerusalem "are part of [the efforts] causing the collapse of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in order to establish Solomon's Temple upon its ruins."

The al-Aqsa Institute for Religious Affairs, which the PA controls, accuses Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being behind this "Satanic plot."

Or, this one: All mothers undoubtedly love their children but only in Iran there's now a
special day when mothers take their babies to a ceremony where they vow to make them martyrs in Jihad. (Funny, contrary to what is taught in Western schools they don't define Jihad as inner spiritual striving.) And not many mothers in Western democratic states hold celebrations after their kids blow themselves up in an attempt to murder as many civilians as possible.

Now, let me ask some questions:

--If America is horrified in claiming that a tiny amount of mostly marginal extremism inspires one mad man to murder six people and try to kill a politician, how much violence can be traced to hundreds of thousands of mosques, media, teachers, and mainstream politicians daily preaching hatred literally millions of times a day?

--If the discourse throughout the Arabic-speaking world, Iran, increasingly in Turkey, and generally in Muslim-majority countries is almost 100 percent incitement, how can there be partners for peace or a hope of stability? What good do concessions do when the next day the culture of incitement and hatred goes on at full speed?

--If the degree of anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Jewish, and anti-Christian incitement is 100,000 times more intense and mainstream than any "Islamophobic" discourse in the West, while mitigating discourse-i.e., empathy, positive images, etc., toward "the other"-is one thousandth of a percent less, then which of these phenomenon is a greater threat and problem?

--And why should the overwhelming majority of Western schools, media, academics, officials, and so on pretend that the above facts don't exist?

Or let me put it more graphically: If a man goes out to shoot a politician whose policies he doesn't like then in America he is likely to be insane. If a man goes out to shoot members of an ethnic or other group he doesn't like, then in America (unless perhaps he's an Islamist terrorist), he is considered a terrorist or someone committing a hate crime.

But in the Middle East, people are almost considered insane if they do NOT do these things, or at least support others performing such deeds. And as public opinion polls demonstrate, those are not considered to be evil, marginal lunatics but heroes whose example should be followed.

Might this indicate that the proportion of self-flagellation over self-defense in the Western world is a tad too high?

Might this indicate in some way that there are certain differences in some other societies that make them think and act a bit different from Western democracies?


PS: The logical outcome of this is the Fort Hood massacre where the terrorist yelled "Allahu Akhbar!" as he shot down Americans, yet we were told to draw no conclusion from this or the mountain of evidence that he was a revolutionary Islamist.

I have not yet heard that the murderer in Tucson chanted, "Rush Limbaugh Akhbar!" even once
.

Original URL: http://www.gloria-center.org/gloria/2011/01/one-extremist-gunman-can-do-so-much-damage

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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Muslims and Truth


by Benny Morris

Coptic Pope Shenouda III called for "calm" in the wake of the New Year's Day bombing outside the church in Alexandria, in which twenty-three members of his flock were murdered and dozens were injured. And he explicitly avoided condemning the presumed perpetrators, Egyptian Muslims, his neighbors.

Technically, this makes sense. The investigators have not yet arrested, let alone charged, anyone—and quite possibly never will.

But, of course, a deeper logic was at work. The Coptic leader does not want to rile, and aggravate tensions with, the surrounding dominant sea of Egyptian Muslims (though, more bravely, some of his flock took to the streets of Cairo and Alexandria and clashed with the police who, they charged, had done and were doing too little to protect them).

I can also understand Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who, in a knee-jerk reaction, attributed the attack to unnamed "foreign" elements. He too prefers not to point at extremist Egyptian Muslims as the responsible party; he too worries about riling the Islamists.

Somewhat more surprising is Pope Benedict XVI, who sees all the world's Christians, including the Middle East's, as his wards. Of course, he condemned the attack, as well as the series of murderous attacks which immediately preceded it against Christians in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. But he too avoided explicitly condemning "Muslims" as the guilty party (much as Western leaders regularly vaguely speak of "international terrorism" without mentioning "Islam" or "Islamists" in this connection, as if other religious groups, say Buddhists or Hindus or animists, are also commonly engaged in this unleasant pursuit.)

So the forthrightness and explicitness of these very same Muslims, when attributing blame, is truly noteworthy. No mealy-mouthed spokesmen here.

Take Sheikh Muhammad Rashid Qabbani, Lebanon's Grand Mufti. He immediately announced: "This assault [on the Copts in Alexandria] . . . is not an individual internal Egyptian act, but a criminal act with Zionist . . . fingerprints. [They] want to sow hatred among Muslims and Coptic Christians."

Or take the spokesman of the Egyptian Bar Association: "The Mossad carried out the operation in a natural reaction to the latest uncovering of an Israeli espionage network."

Or a spokesman for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Munim Abu al Fattouh Abdel: It could not have been Egyptians. Perhaps it was the Mossad or someone else interested in sabotaging Egypt.

Iranian TV put it more definitively: the Mossad. "It goes without saying that no Muslim . . . will ever commit such an inhuman act." (Surely, this one must have been said tongue in cheek?)

These accusations are, of course, risible. But they raise a serious question. What are the bounds of credulity in the mendacity-ridden Muslim societies of the Middle East? Can preachers and spokesmen say anything, however outlandish, and expect the masses to eat it up? Is there no limit to what the infidel can be accused of—and to the expectation that the charge will stick?

Which raises the still more profound question: What are the long-term prospects for peaceful cohabitation on planet Earth between us in the West and these Muslim societies in which truth has absolutely no traction or importance, where the masses will believe—ask any pollster—that the CIA or the Mossad knocked down the Twin Towers on 9\11?

Original URL: http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/muslims-truth-4685

Benny Morris

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

Europe Needs a Parliamentary Inquiry on NGO Funding


by Gerald Steinberg

The EU, which preaches democracy and good government to others, blatantly violates the basic rules of funding transparency and open debate.

For more than nine years – since the notorious NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference – I have been researching the biases, political campaigns and funding of groups that claim to promote human rights. Before NGO Monitor was founded, no one was examining these important centers of political influence, questioning their claims and agendas or revealing their donors. And while others have joined the debate, we are still the only research framework focusing on the credibility, biases and funding of political NGOs.

Based on this experience, I question whether the establishment of an inquiry by the Knesset into the funding of the most virulent political NGOs involved in delegitimization will help shed light or encourage informed criticism in this area.

The brief and stormy discussion in the Knesset last week demonstrated the intense political nature of this initiative, and the ease with which substantive research is pushed aside by simplistic slogans, from both ends of the ideological spectrum. For the Right, NGOs that use the language of human rights are all portrayed as enemies of Israel, without distinction, while the Left (including NGO officials) seeks to prevent all criticism and debate as “anti-democratic.”

When MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu) introduced the motion to establish the parliamentary inquiry, she claimed that Arab governments and terror groups are among the major funders of the NGOs responsible for “lawfare” campaigns that seek to label Israelis as “war criminals.”

NGO Monitor has not found documented evidence for either claim, although it is possible that such secret funding exists.

IN CONTRAST, we have shown the massive and often secret funding for highly political NGOs from European governments, and the European Union in particular. Europe, which preaches democracy and good government to others, blatantly violates the basic rules of funding transparency and open debate. An impenetrable shroud of secrecy hides all aspects of the processes by which the EU funds groups such as Yesh Din, Adalah, PCATI and many Palestinian groups.

And much of this European money is used to promote lawfare, as well as boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) – the two primary expressions of the NGO Durban strategy of “complete international isolation of Israel.”

The cost of European secrecy in funding for political NGOs was recently revealed by NGO Monitor and The Jerusalem Post, when the Dutch government was found to be supporting the intensely anti-Israel (and often anti-Semitic) actions of Electronic Intifada via a church-based humanitarian framework (ICCO). The Dutch foreign minister was surprised by the revelation that his own government was fuelling the Arab-Israel conflict, and there are many more such examples in Holland and throughout Europe.

As a result, the European-funded, NGO-led assault on the legitimacy of Israel, as well as the double standards and false allegations of “war crimes,” is continuing. In addition, these actions undermine the universality of human rights norms and convert these moral principles into convenient political weapons. Universal jurisdiction statutes in Europe, and mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court, which were designed to bring genocidal dictators to justice, have been stripped of any significance through the cynical attempts to label Israeli leaders as “war criminals.”

A parliamentary inquiry into abuses of NGO funding would be most useful in the European context, since this is the source of the money provided for lawfare, BDS and other forms of anti- Israel incitement. Unfortunately, the European officials responsible for these practices have clung to the secrecy, and refuse to allow critical analyses of their NGO funding policies.

Original URL: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=202868

Gerald Steinberg is president of NGO Monitor, a research institution that tracks NGOs.

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PM Disagrees With Claim Iran Won't Get Bomb Until 2015


by Herb Keinon

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stepped back on Tuesday from former Mossad head Meir Dagan’s appraisal that Iran will not get nuclear weapons until the middle of the decade.

These were “only” intelligence assessments and should be seen as such, he said.

“I think that intelligence estimates are exactly that, estimates,” Netanyahu said. “They range from best case to worst case possibilities, and there is a range there, there is room for differing assessments.”

Speaking at the prime minister’s annual press conference with the foreign press, Netanyahu made clear that he believed the Iranian threat had not in any way become less acute, and reiterated what he said two months ago in New Orleans – and for which he was chastised publicly by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates – that sanctions needed to be backed up by a viable and serious military option.

Since the US-led sanctions against Iran were aimed at changing the Iranian government’s determination to obtain nuclear arms, “those sanctions have not yet achieved their objective,” the prime minister said. “I think they [the sanctions] should be strictly enforced and materially strengthened.”

Netanyahu said “the only chance these sanctions will achieve their objectives would be to couple them with an understanding from Iran that if they [the sanctions] don’t achieve their goal, they would be followed by a credible military option.”

Netanyahu, clearly unhappy with the idea that the world has somehow gained a great deal more time to deal with Teheran, said that the only time the Iranians halted their nuclear program over the last 15 years was in 2003, after the US invasion of Iraq, when they feared American military action. The diplomatic process with the Palestinians would be halted, and the vital interests of almost every Arab government in the region would be threatened, were the Iranian nuclear program not stopped, he said.

Regarding the recent escalation in Gaza, Netanyahu said that Hamas and the other organizations there “shelling and rocketing Israel” will “make a terrible mistake to test our will to defend our people; I think they will make a terrible, terrible mistake.”

Turning to the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, he said that 2011 would reveal “who is seriously interested in peace in the region.”

The prime minister spoke against what he said was the conventional wisdom – that the Palestinian Authority wanted peace, while he and his government were not interested – saying that while Israel had taken a number of steps to further the process along, the Palestinians had done nothing.

Netanyahu enumerated the steps he has taken: calling for direct negotiations; removing hundreds of West Bank roadblocks to allow the economy there to flourish; accepting the two-state vision in his speech at Bar-Ilan University; agreeing to a 10-month settlement freeze; and then agreeing to another three-month freeze after negotiating the conditions with the Americans.

The reason this additional freeze did not go into effect, he said, was not because there was no agreement with the US, but because the US decided that the additional freeze would do nothing to move the process forward.

“What is preventing the advent of peace negotiations is that the Palestinians are doing everything in their power to avoid them,” he said. “This is the simple truth.”

Only his government would “be trusted by the public” to deliver a peace agreement that would ensure security and Palestinian recognition of Israel, and the Palestinians were making a mistake walking away from talks with him, he said.

As far as the Syrian track was concerned, Netanyahu said that the peace agreement with Egypt was reached only after Anwar Sadat took Egypt out of the Soviet camp. A similar break from Iran would be necessary for Syrian President Bashar Assad to make peace with Israel, Netanyahu said, adding that he did not see “any clear willingness” on the part of Damascus to change its relationship with Teheran.

Netanyahu deflected charges that a bad, undemocratic wind was blowing through the country, noting that he had immediately condemned a call last month by rabbis not to sell or rent apartments to Arabs.

“I am committed to Israel as a Jewish, democratic state, with democratic values,” he said, adding that his swift condemnation of the rabbis’ call demonstrated the country’s values.

By contrast, he said, 10 minutes away in Ramallah there is a law on the PA books calling for the death penalty to anyone who sells property to Jews.

“Isn’t that worth reporting?” he asked.



Original URL: http://www.jpost.com/VideoArticles/Article.aspx?id=203161

Herb Keinon

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Why Palestinians Want to be Israeli Citizens


by Jackson Diehl

One of the givens of the Middle East peace process is that Palestinians are eager to be free of rule by Israel and to live in a state of their own. That's why a new poll of the Arabs of East Jerusalem is striking: It shows that more of those people actually would prefer to be citizens of Israel than of a Palestinian state.

The poll, conducted in November, may be something of an embarrassment to Palestinian political leaders, who lately have been insisting that Israel should stop expanding settlements in the eastern half of Jerusalem -- in effect giving up any claim to it -- as a precondition for the resumption of peace negotiations. This week the demolition of a hotel in an Arab neighborhood in preparation for the construction of Jewish housing prompted fresh criticism of Israel from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, while a leaked memo from European Union diplomats stationed in the city proposed that EU governments recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.

The awkward fact is that the 270,000 Arabs who live in East Jerusalem may not be very enthusiastic about joining Palestine. The survey, which was designed and supervised by former State Department Middle East researcher David Pollock, found that only 30 percent said they would prefer to be citizens of Palestine in a two-state solution, while 35 percent said they would choose Israeli citizenship. (The rest said they didn't know or refused to answer.) Forty percent said they would consider moving to another neighborhood in order to become a citizen of Israel rather than Palestine, and 54 percent said that if their neighborhood were assigned to Israel, they would not move to Palestine.

The reasons for these attitudes are pretty understandable, even healthy. Arabs say they prefer Israel's jobs, schools, health care and welfare benefits to those of a Palestinian state -- and their nationalism is not strong enough for them to set aside these advantages in order to live in an Arab country. The East Jerusalemites don't much love Israel -- they say they suffer from discrimination. But they seem to like what it has to offer. Remarkably, 56 percent said they traveled inside Israel at least once a week; 60 percent said access to its Mediterranean beaches was "very important" or "moderately important" to them.

"Quite clearly there is a discrepancy between people's attitudes and the assumption that Palestinian neighborhoods should be part of Palestine," said Pollock, whose work was sponsored by Pechter Middle East polls and the Council on Foreign Relations. "That's not actually what the people want."

It's important to note that East Jerusalem Palestinians are different from West Bank or Gaza Palestinians -- they live on Israel's side of its West Bank barrier and hold "blue cards" that allow them access to Israeli jobs, health care, and welfare payments. Many are middle class by Middle Eastern standards -- 44 percent of those surveyed had household incomes of more than $1,300 per month. Broadly, they resemble Israel's Arab citizens, who have also been shown in polls to prefer remaining in Israel to joining a Palestinian state.

The East Jerusalemites do have one thing in common with other Palestinians, as well as Israelis: They are pessimistic about the current peace process. More than 40 percent said that even if Israelis and Palestinians signed a peace deal and East Jerusalem became the capital of a new state, some Palestinian militants would certainly or probably continue an armed struggle against Israel. And fully 64 percent said it was very likely or somewhat likely that if the current negotiations collapse, there will be a new intifada, or uprising by Palestinians, including those in Jerusalem.

The bottom line messages seem to be that peace talks are essential to prevent violence, but that even success won't lead to total peace; and that a lot of Palestinians would prefer to live near, but not in, a Palestinian state. [Ed: We disagree with this point. Saying that there will be violence if the peace talks fail does not automatically indicate that there must be peace talks. It may mean that it is best not to begin peace talks if they are likely to fail.]

Original URL:http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2011/01/_one_of_the_givens.html

Jackson Diehl

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

Classroom Jihad


by Ryan Mauro

Controversy has erupted at California’s Claremont McKenna College after a student journalist exposed how the head of the Middle East Studies Department, Dr. Bassam Frangieh, is an open supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah. The college has responded by pretending his record of praising the terrorist groups doesn’t exist and editing Frangieh’s Wikipedia entry.

Charles C. Johnson of The Claremont Independent has done extensive research on Frangieh, including having his Arabic works translated. Johnson tells FrontPage that more incriminating material is on the way, but what has already been discovered is nothing less than shocking.

In May of 2006, Frangieh congratulated Hamas on winning the Palestinian elections, saying, “I wonder what else would the Arabs have without Hamas and Hezbollah? Nothing. Except humiliation.” He said that he “view[s] Hamas with great pleasure” and even went so far as to say, “Hamas might be able to produce the beginning of salvation.” This lavish praise cannot be denied, clarified or downplayed. It is clear that Frangieh is an unabashed supporter of the terrorist group.

He also supports specific acts of terrorism. He signed a petition in 2006 describing Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel, which included the firing of rockets on civilians and the kidnapping of soldiers, as a “heroic operation.” The document referred to Israel as a “Zionist killing machine” that is “motivated by historical ambitions…[and] a racist supremacist ideology that denigrates the indigenous population, their culture, and their very existence.”

It describes Hezbollah as the “Lebanese Resistance” and asks the Lebanese government to enlist it as its army. The petition also demands that the international community boycott Israeli products, cut off diplomatic ties and even boycott Israeli academic and scientific institutions that do not condemn the invasion of Lebanon.

Frangieh also wrote an essay in 2000 titled, “Modern Arabic Poetry: Vision and Reality” that praises an extremist poet named Abd al-Rahim Mahmud, whose poetry has made its way into Palestinian and Saudi textbooks designed to indoctrinate the youth into supporting terrorism and hatred. Two of his most popular poems, “The Martyr” and “A Call to Jihad,” are particularly admired by terrorists.

In his essay, he said that even if Arab poets blew themselves up, it would not force the change he feels is necessary in the region. “For real change to come about, thousands of people will have to die; thousands must martyr themselves. It appears that only massive revolution will succeed in overturning the corrupt regimes of the Arab world,” he writes.

Though Frangieh views all the Arab regimes as corrupt, one stands out among him as the best: Saddam Hussein. He says the dictator “really did something for his country” and “wasn’t a thief,” though he is quick to add that this doesn’t mean he is defending Hussein’s brutality.

Frangieh also espouses wild conspiracy theories. In 2007, he signed a petition condemning a resolution that would divide Iraq into three sectarian-based autonomous regions as a “Zionist plot.” It described the war in Iraq as “barbaric” and hatched by “cowboys” seeking the country’s wealth. Like other anti-American conspiracy theorists and Islamic extremists, he sees U.S. foreign policy as secretly orchestrated by Zionist imperialists with evil motives.

He has also been active in trying to book speakers that share his views, such as Syria’s ambassador. He also worked with the Muslim Students Association to have Zaid Shakir speak, who the New York Times reported in 2006 “said he hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law.” He also espouses 9/11 conspiracy theories and condemns America’s “demonization” of Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, Hugo Chavez, Saddam Hussein and others. Shakir even said that he opposes the hijacking of civilian airliners, but “if you hijack an airplane filled with the 82nd Airborne, that’s something else.”

Charles Johnson told FrontPage that he will soon release additional material related to Frangieh and that he is working to get statements from experts on anti-Semitism to join his cause. “I want the school to say if they will defend the academic freedom of someone who supports anti-Semitic terrorist organizations,” he said. Johnson also says that questions are going to be raised about Frangieh’s academic integrity.

Frangieh’s wife, Aleta Wenger, also works at the college as its “executive director for international programs” and other positions that give her influence over the awarding of scholarships and fellowships, including the Fulbright Award. She supported the activists trying to break the Israeli blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and sees Israel as so wicked that it might bomb the American University of Beirut.

Johnson said that he is encouraged thus far by the reaction on campus to his work. “Numerous faculty members in numerous departments are supportive,” he said.

FrontPage was told by Claremont McKenna College that Professor Frangieh was unavailable for an interview because he had to meet a deadline for an article. The college has put out a statement on the matter that says, “the College does not agree with the student’s opinion that Professor Frangieh supports terrorism. In addition, Professor Frangieh has specifically and emphatically denied that he supports terrorism, or any acts of terrorism by any organization.” The college’s vice president of public affairs and communication reacted by deleting information about Frangieh’s support for terrorism from his Wikipedia page.

Claremont McKenna is wrong to assume that a condemnation of the vague term of “terrorism” means he is not an extremist. Frangieh obviously would not include Hamas and Hezbollah under the definition of “terrorist organizations” if he supports them. His denial is unconvincing and meaningless given his record.

Students at Claremont McKenna and their families should be outraged that their tuition is going to fund a Middle East Studies Department led by a supporter of terrorism. It is time for the community to demand that the college explain why it still employs Professor Frangieh even after having Charles C. Johnson do the research it should have done long ago.

Original URL: http://frontpagemag.com/2011/01/12/classroom-jihad/

Ryan Mauro

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

Syria’s War on the Kurds


by Eric Bruneau

Tensions are increasing in Syria. Despite the efficiency of its internal security services, President al-Assad’s Ba’ath regime faces growing dissent from the Kurds. Although they have been successfully silenced during decades, a series of events recently attracted the attention of the outside world to their fate.

There was the case of the thirty-three Kurdish demonstrators who occupied the Syrian embassy in Brussels in 2005; then there was the spectacular odyssey of the one hundred and twenty-three Syrian Kurds who landed in Corsica on November 22, 2010, and the controversy following their handling by the French Government. There has also been the month-long protest held in front of Cyprus’ interior ministry by one hundred and fifty or so refugees to obtain status, and a hunger strike in front of the Danish Parliament in October by Kurds fearing deportation. Their different experiences – from court hearings to trials, from detention centres to shelters, the botched legal actions from authorities or the evacuations by anti-riot police – come as profound reflections of the repression they endure in their own country.

During the last five years or so, the increasing marginalization of Kurds seems to have become a matter of national security in the eyes of the Syrian regime. The emergence of an autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq is seen with anxiety by the neighbouring countries, themselves entangled in conflicts with their own Kurdish populations, and Syria feels threatened by a risk of contagion.

“Things definitely worsened after 2003,” confirms M. al-Youssef, an exiled member of the Syrian Kurd Unity Party (PYKS). “The Kurds and their political parties are now accused of being separatists, and so this makes them the prime target of the Arab nationalim at the core of Ba’ath ideology.” The Qamishli massacre in 2004, the countless reports of arbitrary arrests and brutalities perpetrated by the internal security patrols in the Kurdish provinces, are many examples of an increased repression.

Are we witnessing a new repressive campaign aimed at the Kurds, along the lines of the 1962 “special census,” or the building of the “Arab belt” along the Turkish border? Some new dispositions have been adopted recently. The Presidential Decree no.49, passed on the November 10, 2008, places the al-Hasakah province, where most of the Kurds are living, under military rule. To buy or sell a property, a license must now be obtained from the military security directorate and the political activities department.

According to Kurd opposition representatives and human rights activists, the procedure is not applied in the Arab provinces, and has been designed exclusively for the Kurdish areas. It not only prevents Kurds from establishing themselves in their native province, but also prevents any kind of investment and development. The economic breakdown so engineered pushes Kurds to leave the province, were they are replaced by Arab colonialists. They will find themselves isolated in Arab-populated parts of Syria, where their identity will be progressively dissolved.

But why is there a new phase in repression, especially now? It looks as though the Ba’ath regime is now facing a new generation of militants, more radical and more militant than their predecessors. Some of the Syrian Kurdish political groups are not asking merely for the Kurds to be granted full citizenship who were ostracized by the 1962 “special census.” They are demanding more. At the time M. al-Youssef was giving the interview, in the last days of December 2009, three members of the PYKS executive committee were arrested alongside a prominent activist. They were arrested after a Party conference during which they called for autonomy. The Democratic Union Party – PYD recent Congress in October, was held under the theme “Forward with Autonomy.” Messages were passed to jailed PYD members, with promises that Party members would not be arrested if the Party lowered its demands, and the arrest of Central Committee member Issa Ibrahim Hesso just after the October congress, demonstrates the regime’s concerns with the re-vindication of “autonomy.”

In this context, the new developments in Turkey, with the prolongation of the ceasefire and the rumors about opening of negotiations, are not good news for the Syrian government. As long as the war lasts, Syria remains a useful ally for the Turks. Their strategy of encirclement, aiming at isolating the PKK rebels in their mountains, requires Syrian co-operation. A press release from an Anatolian news agency (mentioned in Today’s Zaman online edition from the 17/06/2010), talking about military operations by the Syrian army in the Kurdish provinces and resulting in the death of 11 PKK fighters, has been dismissed as a manipulation. The journalist Newaf Khalil, who spoke to the BBC the July 1, 2010, said that the idea was to entice Syria to join the ongoing offensive against the PKK and PJAK, and to assimilate the Syrian Kurdish political activists into the insurgents, so making them legitimate military targets. The promises of amnesties and regularization of status that have been made at several opportunities by President al-Assad, appear as attempts to encourage the one thousand six hundred Syrian Kurds fighting in the PKK’s army to desert ranks and so break the organization’s military force.

Worryingly for Damascus, numerous Syrian Kurds have previously joined the PKK (Fehman Huseyin, commander of the PKK army, is a Syrian). Would those well-trained men and women be tempted to take back the weapons they laid down and resume the fight in Syria rather than in south-eastern Turkey? Nothing indicated anything like this, and representatives from the PYD, who share with the PKK a common ideology and similar goals, insist on their determination to achieve their objectives by peaceful means. Nonetheless, this supposed “threat” can be used as a pretext for a new step in repression.

Original URL:http://frontpagemag.com/2011/01/12/syrias-war-on-the-kurds/

Eric Bruneau

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

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