Friday, February 24, 2012

The Top 5 Fatal Flaws of the Israel Apartheid Analogy

by Shelley Neese

It's that time again, Israel Apartheid Week starts next week. There is one obvious problem, however. Israel is not an apartheid state.

On the 26th of February, campuses across America will begin their eighth annual Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). As the name suggest, the protest organizers aim to equate the government of Israel with South Africa’s apartheid regime. The protestors want to paint Israel as a racist, bigoted country that deserves international condemnation.

If they succeed in creating a link between the South African system of apartheid and Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens, they hope for Israel to lose all legitimacy in the eyes of the world.

Just like the anti-apartheid movements in the seventies and eighties helped bring down the forced system of racial domination in South Africa, the organizers of IAW hope their movement can bring down the nation of Israel.

Modeling the former anti-apartheid strategies, the IAW groups are using boycotts, divestment, sanctions, and synchronized protests to isolate the Jewish state on all fronts.

The Israel apartheid analogy has now gone mainstream—gaining especially wide acceptance in the academic community. In 2006, former President Jimmy Carter aptly titled his best-selling book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. Anti-Israel signs, apparel, literature, and documentaries run with the semantics of the apartheid comparison: “Zionism is racism,” “Tear down the wall,” and “Wrong for South Africans, wrong for Palestinians.”

There is one obvious problem, however. Israel is not an apartheid state. To accuse it of such requires a real imaginative stretch. Presented here are the top five reasons that the apartheid analogy is fatally flawed.

1. Equality. During South Africa’s apartheid system, the majority black population was oppressed and persecuted by the minority whites. In Israel, all citizens—including Arab citizens—are equal before the law, regardless of their race, religion, or minority status. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Israel is the only true democracy with full freedom for its citizens.

2. Citizenship. In 1970s South Africa all non-whites were stripped of their South African citizenship. In 1948, Israel did the opposite. When the dust settled from Israel’s war of independence, Israel gave full citizenship to the Arabs who remained in Israel and did not flee. They did this even though it was a defensive war. Today 20% of the Israeli citizenry's population is Arab. That’s a million and a half Arab citizens living in Israel and enjoying all the same rights as Israeli Jews. In addition, only 4% of the Palestinian Arabs in the "West Bank" (Judea and Samaria) are under Israeli rule, the rest are under Palestinian Authority rule.

3. Democracy. In South Africa, non-whites were not allowed to be in government or even vote. In Israel, Arabs have been represented since the very first Knesset. Israeli Arabs vote and have been elected to every level of local and national office, including appointments to the Israeli Supreme Court and government minister positions.

4. Freedom. The South African apartheid regime strictly regulated the lives of non-whites with a host of separation laws. Black South Africans were confined to Bantustans, defined labor areas that they were not permitted to leave. Israel, in contrast, has extensive anti-discrimination laws. Israeli Arabs work in all sectors, attend universities, and open businesses. While much of the Arab population lives in concentrated Arab municipalities in Israel, this is an informal segregation as a matter of choice. For South African blacks, segregation was a matter of force.

5. Security. The security fence separating Israel from the 'West Bank' is often denigrated as the “apartheid wall.” During Israel Apartheid Week, a common tactic on campuses is to build mock “apartheid walls” at protest sites. Admittedly, Israel must strictly enforce border control at entrance points from the Palestinian Authority and hostile Palestinian Arab communities to its jurisdiction. However, this restriction is due to their legitimate security concerns and not racism. The fence is credited for a drastic reduction in the number of mass-murder attacks carried out in Israel after reaching a peak in the second intifada. In South Africa, racism formed the base of segregation, not terrorism. Blacks living under South African apartheid did not seek the destruction of South Africa, only the regime of apartheid.

Perhaps the best proof that Israel is not an apartheid regime is the fact that the vast majority of Israeli Arabs want to retain their Israeli citizenship. Israeli Arabs both privately and publicly say they would not want to leave Israel and move to a Palestinian state should one be created. When former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suggested in 2007 that he would hand over Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, the Arabs in Jerusalem rose up in protest. Nabil Gheit, an Arab mayor of one of these neighborhoods, said “If there was a referendum here, no one would vote to join the Palestinian Authority. We will not accept it. There would be another intifada [uprising] to defend ourselves from the PA.”

Those who are demanding to “Stop Israeli Apartheid” from the comfort of their campus parade grounds, should first stop and ask the Arab citizens and alleged victims in Israel one question: Where in the Middle East would you have it better?

Shelley Neese is Vice President of the DC-based pro-Israel Christian publication called The Jerusalem Connection. (


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The US and Terrorism: Use Your Head, America!

by Fred Skolnik

Out of 35,000 State Department employees, fewer than ten are fluent in Arabic. This is simply incredible. And that is not the only impediment preventing the US from fighting terror successfully.

The debate about how the United States should combat global terrorism and insurgency is in effect a debate about how the United States should act in a world it does not understand. When such a debate is conducted at the level of the media, it is pointless. When such a debate is conducted at the level of government, it is dangerous. The results, for the United States, have thus far been Iraq and, before that, Vietnam.

America's stumbling block since World War II has been irregular warfare. To defeat Germany and Japan it was enough to understand the art of war. To defeat terrorists and insurgents you have to understand entire cultures. This the United States has never been able to do, and certainly not the language, religion, politics and history of the Muslim East.

Though the United States has had at least 20 years to understand that the next world threat, replacing the Soviet Union, I suppose, was going to be Muslim fanaticism, it has done nothing to prepare for it. I mean to say that the United States has done nothing to develop a military and political doctrine suitable for fighting terrorism and insurgency, or developed a cadre of Arabic speakers who understand the Muslim world, which is the basis for developing such a doctrine.

It is by now a notorious fact that out of 35,000 State Department employees, fewer than ten are fluent in Arabic. This is simply incredible, for just as the American news organizations find it perfectly acceptable to have correspondents who do not speak Arabic "reporting" from the Middle East, and analysts and even "experts" who do not speak Arabic "analyzing" these reports, such being the standards by which their journalists operate, so too the American intelligence community gathers its information with the aid of "interpreters" who as often as not speak pidgin English and then has this information worked up into intelligence reports by officials who also do not understand Arabic, not to mention Hebrew, and finally passes these reports on to the American president and the officials who surround him, who are as capable of understanding the culture of the Middle East as grade school children.

The ignorance of American officials is reflected in such guileless statements as Obama's confession that he had "underrated" the difficulty of reviving negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which creates the illusion that some understandable misreading of the situation had led to a raising of expectations, whereas in actual fact the American reading of the Middle East transpires in total darkness (as is the case with its reading of events in Libya and Egypt, where the only real alternatives to the old tyranny are chaos or tyranny of a different kind).

Ignorance, it must be said, is just one of the impediments to fighting terrorism and insurgency. Another is the perpetuation of the myth that the American fighting man is the best in the world. The truth is that Muslim insurgents, in training, motivation, discipline and fighting ability, are the equals of the American soldier, and when fighting is on their terms and on their ground, the advantage is always theirs, no matter how many bombs are dropped on their heads. Israeli officers have actually rated Hizbollah fighters higher than Israeli soldiers in just these qualities. When American thinking is conditioned by Hollywood films and gung-ho journalism, and it most certainly is in that these have created the frame of mind in which Americans see the world, then the results are bound to be disastrous, just as they were in Iraq and Vietnam.

The question of doctrine, however, is also problematic in itself. In conventional warfare, military thinking can lag behind technological innovation by a full generation. Though the rifled musket was in overwhelming use by the middle of the American Civil War, increasing the effective range of small arms fire from 100 to 300-500 yards, generals continued to order Napoleonic infantry charges not only to the very end of the Civil War but throughout World War I as well (and hence 60,000 British casualties on the first day of their offensive on the Somme and a million casualties on both sides in the space of four and a half months). Irregular warfare is just this kind of innovation.

The depth of the problem is best exemplified by the case of Israel, which has made little headway against Hizbullah and Hamas though its experience, knowledge and capabilities in this kind of conflict exceed those of the United States by many fold.

It is therefore time to look the problem squarely in the face and prepare for a future whose horrors cannot even be imagined. The world certainly needs a policeman. The natural candidate would be the United Nations, but unfortunately all too many of its members are criminals themselves. This leaves the United States, by default, but to be a policeman it will have to learn how to use the tools of the trade.

This it has not even begun to do. Use your head, America!

Fred Skolnik moved to Israel from NYC in 1963 and was editor in chief of the 22-volume second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, winner of the 2007 Dartmouth Medal.


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Ron Paul: No Need to Attack Iran

by Rachel Hirshfeld

During Wednesday night’s Arizona Republican presidential debate, Ron Paul, once again, professed his conviction that there is no need to attack Iran.

“We don’t know that they have a weapon. In fact, there is no evidence they have it... I don’t want them to get a weapon, but I think we are encouraging them to have a weapon because they feel threatened,” he said.

“If you look at a map of Iran, we have 45 bases around their country, plus our submarines. The Iranians can’t possibly attack anybody and we are worrying about the possibility of one nuclear weapon.”

“Just think about the Cold War. The Soviets had 30,000 of them, and we talked to them. The Soviets killed 100,000,000 people…”

He said that going to war “rapidly like this” would be “risky and reckless,” but, addressing his fellow Republican nominees said, “If you are so determined to go to war, the only thing I plead with you for is to do it properly- ask the people and ask the congress for a declaration of war”

“This is war, people. People are going to die. You need to get a declaration of war.”

He said the sanctions against Iran, to date, have only served to “enhance their power.”

He said if American could talk to the Soviets, “we can, at least, can talk to someone who we don’t have proof has nuclear weapons.”

However, as Gary Bauer, Reagan Republican who briefly ran for president in 1999 and 2000 stated, “Ron Paul’s conservatism is isolationist and conspiratorial. He’s hostile to our military, hostile to our allies like Israel, and was hostile to great conservatives like Ronald Reagan. He denies that Iran is building nuclear weapons. He says that it was a crime to kill Osama bin Laden. He blames America for creating terrorism. He says that we don’t know the truth of the 9/11 attacks because of a government cover-up. He condemns our ally Israel for defending herself. Ron Paul is not a Reagan Republican. We can do better.”

Rachel Hirshfeld


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First Iran and Now Syria. Why Does Obama Protect Violent anti-Israel Regimes?

by Farid Ghadry

I just wrote an email to a friend in which I stated:

“For the first-generation American that I am, It’s very hard to watch my people die like flies and the world just keep paying us lip service. It’s Obama, the Arab League, Erdogan, the Russians, the Mullahs, and the Chinese. It seems innocent Syrians had more invisible enemies before even firing one bullet in self-defense.”

But of all the above named, with the exception of the barbaric Assad, President Obama is the only one with no excuses unless one observes a pattern forming.

The Russians are protecting their 50-year investment in the Assads, the Chinese are playing international politics and creating another Darfur seems less important than their factories churning exportable products, the Mullahs are Assad’s Siamese twins, the Arab League is in business to protect the ruling families at the expense of who else but the Arab flocks, and Erdogan is content to sell Syria in return for the Islamists in Egypt and Libya.

But why is President Obama so adamant about not helping the Iranian and the Syrian revolutions when he helped the Tunisians, the Egyptians, and the Libyans? Is it because new governments in Syria and Iran will not create more problems for Israel than the existing ones? Even those he helped with their freedom, two of the three have become staunch enemies to Israel. When a pattern forms, one must ask the tough questions.

Why do the Syrian people have to pay such a high price for the President’s steady hand of attempting to harm the interests of one country at the expense of theirs and four more? What do Syrians have to do with Israel or his own personal journey?

Every month or so, Reuters or AP publish a story about the White House finally deciding to arm the rebels. Needless to say, they are getting blank leaks. Have no illusions, Washington is in Defcon 1 when it comes to spin on Syria.

Speaking of spin, the US State Department, the main opposition to the Syrian opposition and to helping Syrians defend themselves, established “Friends of Syria”, which is another grand meeting with grand entrances and grand speeches but no action. Not even a humanitarian action. Generally speaking, when it comes to heavy PR by the US government, exchange big words with their antonyms when you fail to understand the logic of an action or its purpose.

The killings in Syria won’t go away and it seems President Obama will not be distracted from his singular obsession with Israel. If our President is willing to establish Islamist governments in the Middle East or shore-up stealthily Israel’s enemies at the expense of the Syrian and the Iranian peoples, then I cannot fathom what he will do if he gets elected another four years with nothing to lose.

“And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed. For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their own pride?” – Gibran Khalil Gibran, passage from The Prophet.

Farid Ghadry


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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Homs Bloodbath continues as UN Accuses Assad of 'Crimes Against Humanity'

by Rick Moran

The carnage continues in Homs where the Syrian military continues to use tanks, mortars and artillery to shell a couple of Sunni neighborhoods where a few Free Syrian Army troops are holed up.

Meanwhille, another UN report has been released detailing the bloody crackdown by Assad and accusing him of "Crimes against Humanity."


World outrage has swelled over the carnage in Syria, where thousands have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising flared in March, inspired by revolts against Arab autocrats elsewhere.

U.N. investigators said Syrian forces had shot dead unarmed women and children, shelled residential areas and tortured wounded protesters in hospital under orders issued at the "highest levels" of the army and government.

In their report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, they called for perpetrators of such crimes against humanity to face prosecution and said they had drawn up a confidential list of names of commanders and officials alleged to be responsible.

The commission, led by Brazilian Paulo Pinheiro, found that Free Syrian Army rebels had also committed abuses including killings and abductions, "although not comparable in scale."

Syrian authorities could not be immediately reached for comment on the commission's latest findings, but they rejected its previous report in November as "totally false."

Eighty people died in Syria yesterday alone. And in Tunis, a "Friends of Syria" meeting with 80 countries being represented will discuss ways to get humanitarian assistance to people in Homs and other flashpoints where medical supplies and food are almost non-existent.

Their efforts will come to naught. There is no way in except with an army willing to fight Assad's forces. And that isn't going to happen.

Rick Moran


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The Iranian Plan to Annihilate the Jews

by Reza Kahlili

(See also in AT today: Reza Kahlili and the Truth About Iran)

For many years, I have tried to raise awareness not only of the threat posed by the fanatics ruling Iran, but also of the injustices done to the Iranian people. This has drawn the ire of the mullah-appeasers and those in alliance with the criminal Islamic regime in Iran.

Recently, I revealed a shocking piece, "Ayatollah: Kill All Jews, Annihilate Israel," in which a well-known strategist within the Iranian government introduced a new doctrine not only to destroy Israel in a preemptive attack, but also to commit to genocide and kill the Jewish people. The piece got international attention and made headlines across the world.

The facts in my piece were an exact copy of the original piece, which was published in Iran. I even left a link to the Iranian piece that interestingly was not only written in Farsi, but also translated into English. I wanted to make sure that the world could see that my piece was a true and accurate reflection of what was said in Iran.

I wanted the world to see that the jihadists in Tehran had no shame in openly calling for the mass murder of the people of another nation. I wanted the world to realize that we were once again dealing with madmen who had no interest in humanity, love, or peace, and that they were determined to commit a grave crime, based on their belief in glorifying Allah.

Even though I did my best to make it easy to verify the facts, many Islamists, and those supporting negotiations with the regime in Iran, launched an attack against me and my article and did not hide their hatred for Israel and the Jewish people.

In their attacks, they not only tried to assassinate my character, but also tried to deceive the readers, claiming that my piece was a lie and that no one in Iran was calling for the killing of the Jewish people.

These people failed to mention that just recently, the Iranian supreme leader once again called Israel "a cancerous tumor that should and will be cut" during his recent Friday prayer sermon. One must be living in a cave not to have heard Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and other officials of the Islamic regime call for the destruction of Israel and how this "cancerous cell" needs to be wiped off the face of the earth.

But the clarity is in the piece that was published in Iran, which has a full paragraph with the title "Israeli People Must be Annihilated." All Iranian state media are strictly pro-government and highly sensitive to any statement that might cause the regime problems. The original piece was published in over 28 major official media sites of the Islamic regime, including the Revolutionary Guards' Fars News Agency and Mashregh News. It does represent the official view of the Islamic regime.

The site, Alef, which ran the piece, belongs to Ahmad Tavakoli, a hard-line parliamentarian and a close ally of Khamenei. The author, Alireza Forghani (who recently resigned his post as governor of southern Iran's Kish Province over tensions with pro-Ahmadinejad circles), entered the Basij forces when he was 14 and served one of the most fanatical elements of the regime, the Ansare Hezb'allah in the city of Mashhad, from age 17 to 21. He continued his education in the field of analytical strategy. He was one of the first within the Iranian government to call Khamenei an imam, and is an analyst and a strategy specialist in Khamenei's camp. He has the following in his bio on his blog:

Favorite book: The Absolute Rule of the Jurisprudent

Favorite sport: Jihad in fierce war

But let's take direct quotes from the original piece, which was published in English:

In the name of Allah
Iran must attack Israel...

The necessity of Israel annihilation ... :

Today, the first Qibla of the Muslims has been occupied by Israel, a cancerous tumor for the Middle East. Today, Israel is causing division using all evil means. Every Muslim is obliged to equip themselves against Israel. ... and since the potential danger is facing the foundations of Islam, it is necessary for the Islamic governments in particular and other Muslims in general to remove this corrupting material by any means. All our troubles are due to Israel! And Israel results from America too.

Military Aspects of Iranian Attack on Israel

In order to attack Iran, Israel needs western and U.S. assistance, permission and coordination. In the current situation and passiveness of U.S. and the West, Iran should wipe out Israel.

... Based on preemptive defense doctrine, Israel should get under heavy military strikes through first and final strikes. In the primary step of first scene, ground zero points of Israel should be annihilated by Iranian military attacks. To get this end, Iran can use long-range missiles. The distance from Iranian easternmost point to westernmost point of Israel is about ۲۶۰۰ km (2,600km). Strategic targets deep inside Israeli soil are in the range of Iranian conventional missiles.

Israeli People Must Be Annihilated

Israel is the only country in the world with a Jewish majority. According to the last census of Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, this country has a population of ۷.۵ (7.5) million including ۵.۷ (5.7) million Jews ...

Residents of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa can be targeted even by Shahb ۳ (3). Population density in these three adjacent areas composes about ۶۰ % (60%) of Israeli population. Sejjil missiles can target power plants, sewage treatment facilities, energy resources, transportation and communication infrastructures; and in the second stage Shahab ۳ and Ghadr missiles can target urban settlements until final annihilation of Israel people.

There is no need to post the whole piece, as the link here is available for all to see.

The point is that my piece was a true reflection of this new doctrine and shocking ideology of genocide of the Jewish people.

However, in order to see the truth, one must be faithful to one's spirit. In Iran, Basiji bullies, Revolutionary Guards armed to the teeth, and Ansare Hezb'allah thugs with chains and knives attack those bold enough to reveal the truth. In America, the mullah-appeasers attack and character-assassinate those who reveal the truth about this criminal regime. There's no difference between the two.

I do not take these attacks on me to heart, as I choose truth over lies, love over hate, justice over injustice, and light over darkness. I choose to be the voice of the voiceless. Although it is a constant battle on many fronts, I know that in my heart that I walk the path of My Lord.

I do not expect those who have chosen evil to understand, but again, if they had any dignity, if they had respect for humanity, then they would not support a regime that stones women to death, a regime that rapes and tortures Iranian boys and girls to suppress their desire for freedom, a regime that chops off hands and feet in punishment for stealing, a regime that lashes Iranians as punishment for not adhering to Islamic rules and savagely attacks anyone opposing it. This is a regime that is at the helm of worldwide terrorism in which many of its officials are wanted either by Interpol or courts around the world for terrorist acts and assassinations.

Though it saddens me to know there are such individuals among us -- individuals who profess loyalty to a barbaric regime -- I am happy to report that even they will not be able save the criminals ruling Iran. Their final outcome is in the hands of God.

Long Live the Iranian People.

God Bless America.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran's Revolutionary Guards and the author of the award-winning book A Time to Betray. He is a senior fellow with EMPact America and teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense's Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy (JCITA).


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McCain, Graham Praise Muslim Brotherhood While in Egypt

by Rick Moran

I have no idea if they were simply being nice to their hosts in a diplomatic sort of way, or if they really believe this guff about the Brotherhood.

Wall Street Journal:

Mr. McCain (R., Ariz.) and his delegation of four other senators, three of them Republicans, also hinted at warming relations between conservative American lawmakers and the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group whose triumphant performance in parliamentary elections rattled U.S. nerves among U.S. policy makers.

The warm comments mark a climbdown from previous threats by congressmen from both parties that the prosecution of American NGO staff will endanger the $1.3 billion in aid that Washington has given Egypt's military each year since 1987.

Despite months of warnings of a potential aid cut, the visiting senators projected a dramatically different posture toward Egypt's government on Monday, portraying the dispute as little more than an inevitable collision between a new generation of Egyptian reformers and the repressive legal system they inherited.

Mr. McCain, who is chairman of the board of the International Republican Institute, one of the accused American NGOs, told reporters in Egypt's capital that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt's de facto president, assured the senators that the leading council of generals is "working very diligently" to "resolve" the NGO issue.

Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt's newly elected Parliament also told the lawmakers that they would redraft a restrictive NGO law that the deposed regime of President Hosni Mubarak used to repress civil-society organizations.

"After talking with the Muslim Brotherhood, I was struck with their commitment to change the law because they believe it's unfair," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who was traveling with Mr. McCain. Mr. Graham and other lawmakers praised the Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party won a plurality of nearly 50% of the seats in Parliament, as a strong potential partner for the future of U.S. relations with Egypt.

Graham added:

"I was very apprehensive when I heard the election results," Mr. Graham said on Monday. "But after visiting and talking with the Muslim Brotherhood I am hopeful that...we can have a relationship with Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood is a strong political voice."

No doubt they're dancing a jig at MB headquarters. Are McCain and Graham actually being snowed by the Brotherhood, or are they just making nice so that the 19 Americans set to be tried in a kangaroo court next week are released without having to go to jail?

I hope it's the latter. To believe that the MB has changed their spots is to believe in fairy tales. This is true especially since they have not backed down one iota from their goal of destroying Israel.

The Muslim Brotherhood may be talking in soothing tones today about not altering Egyptian society immediately. But let's revisit this question in 2 or three years and see where Egypt is. It is likely that Graham and McCain will look even more idiotic than they appear now.

Rick Moran


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Is Sharia Law Compatible with Democracy?

by Michael Curtis

The judge held that according to the Islamic religion, the woman should submit completely to her husband's will, thus effectively accepting rape.

In European and American communities the principle of a secular law equally applied to everyone is today being challenged, if not yet under assault, by Muslim communities wanting to insert decisions made in Islamic sharia ["the path"] courts and tribunals into the normal , common-law, legal system.

The question has arisen of whether legal decisions based on cultural values at odds with democratic principles be accepted and incorporated into laws of democratic countries in the name of religious freedom.

A proposed amendment to the Constitution of Oklahoma, State Question 755, stating that, "The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or sharia law," was blocked by an order of U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange. Her decision was upheld by the Federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on January 10, 2012.

Proponents of the amendment argue that only the federal and state laws of the U.S. should apply before the courts. Judge Miles-LaGrange, however, in issuing a preliminary injunction preventing implementation of the amendment, said that the amendment conveyed a message that the state favored one religion or belief over others. She argued it singled out sharia law,conveying a message of disapproval of the Muslim faith, and had the effect of inhibiting the Muslim religion. The Federal Court similarly held that the proposed amendment was discriminatory because it twice specifically mentioned sharia law.

A cardinal principle in democratic systems is that the same law applies to everyone in the society -- and that this law is secular. In European countries and in the United States, concepts of multiculturalism and cultural relativism have led many groups in the social fabric to assert their cultural heritage. In some cases, as in the arts and literature, the result has been an eloquent profusion of different heritages. In the political arena, however, the result has been more problematic, sometimes threatening the rights of freedom of expression and behavior as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Bill of Rights, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free expression thereof…."

Within the United States voluntary systems of rabbinical courts and American Indian tribal courts have existed for some time, but they have not intruded into the general legal system. The problem remains, however, as stated in 2008 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, to "what degree of accommodation the laws of the land can and will give to minority communities within their strongly entrenched legal and moral codes." The American philosopher John Rawls proposed a "comprehensive doctrine" by which reasonable people accept the existence of different beliefs about life and law, and do not impose their own doctrine on others who are equally willing to abide by this principle.

The answer given by the Oklahoma electorate, in trying to prevent the introduction of other systems of law, is that the secular state must have a monopoly of legal authority. Because the proposed amendment refers specifically to sharia law, it implies that Islamic values and law might be harmful to individual rights and the rule of law.

Ironically, if the proposed amendment had not twice mentioned sharia law, it might have been passed without effort.

The Supreme Court will have to face the constitutional question of whether the judicial branch of government can block or veto a decision of the people made in proper legal fashion -- the amendment of the Oklahoma Constitution was approved by 70 percent of the electorate in November 2010. But that question should not override the issue, already a significant one in European countries, especially in Britain, of whether Islamic sharia law is compatible with a democratic legal system, or can be integrated into it. Can the Islamic law applying to Muslims on issues of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and custody of children be accepted as part of the regular civil code?

This problem had already arisen in New Jersey. In August 2010, Judge Joseph Charles, a family court judge, refused to grant a restraining order to a woman who had been sexually abused by her Moroccan husband. The judge held that the man thought he had behaved according to his Muslim beliefs. His argument was that according to the Islamic religion the woman should submit completely to her husband's will, a submission which in this instance meant having sex whenever he desired, thus effectively accepting rape. The judge's decision was overruled by the Appellate Court of New Jersey, which held that the religious beliefs of the husband were irrelevant to the case and that assault was illegal. This ruling follows the well -known decision of the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. United States, 1878, that the claimed religious duty of a Mormon to engage in bigamy was not a defense against criminal indictment.

No doubt there are some myths and social stereotypes that have been articulated in the West, and may not be accurate representations about behavior and relationships in the Islamic world. Nevertheless, the starting point of objective analysis is that sharia law is not compatible with democratic law.

Sharia law, which regulates all aspects of Muslim communal and private life, is discriminatory against women and children, denying them rights that have been won over the last two centuries in democratic countries. Muslim women, treated as inferiors, are often not allowed to take advantage of the protection from discrimination or abuse provided by the secular courts. They are often pressured by their families to go to tribunals where the principles of Sharia law are applied. That law is implemented by councils, or arbitration tribunals, that operate on religious principles, derived from a number of sources: the Koran, the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad, Islamic jurisprudence, and rulings or fatwas issued by scholars. Can this law be compatible with that of law in states not constructed on a religious basis? Can decisions from those courts be considered part of the ordinary legal system?

It is difficult to envisage the compatibility of alternative legal systems with the law in democratic societies, particularly with an Islamic legal system that calls for the death penalty for apostasy, sexual "crimes" of women including adultery, and homosexuality. Women are handicapped on issues of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody. A Muslim man is permitted to have four wives and can divorce one of them with ease, but women must follow a difficult path to obtain a divorce. At the worst,women can be stoned to death for sex outside marriage. Judgment in criminal cases can be harsh; thieves may be punished by amputation.

The cases in Oklahoma and New Jersey have paved the way for an important decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future. Will it allow Muslim law to be used in civil cases relating to the Muslim community? Will the decisions of Sharia tribunals become legally binding? Or will the Supreme Court decide, as did the highest court in Britain, the Law Lords, when it ruled in a case involving a woman and custody of her child in 2008, that the Sharia law applied in that particular case was discriminatory and a violation of human rights?

It is not a manifestation of xenophobia or prejudice that the voters in Oklahoma acted on the belief that Muslim Sharia law is antithetical to democratic values. The courts and legislators in the United States must be conscious of a real and growing difficulty in our society.

Michael Curtis is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rutgers University, and author of Should Israel Exist? A Sovereign Nation under attack by the International Community.


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Is Jordan Speeding Toward Anarchy?

by Abdel Jabbar Rawashdeh

A growing number of Jordanians believe king's measures are "cosmetic" steps designed to contain public outrage and discontent.

The enemies of reform and transparency in the King Abdullah's Hashemite Kingdom have begun targeting women who dare to speak out against dictatorship and corruption.

Some Jordanians claim that the enemies belong to the the notorious and much-feared General Intelligence Department. They note that in several cases over the past few months, security agents posing as street thugs have attacked pro-democracy activists in various parts of the kingdom.

Other Jordanians have expressed fear that their country could be descending toward anarchy and lawlessness as a result of growing street protests and violence. "The Arab Spring seems to [be] knocking on Jordan's doors," remarked a Jordanian newspaper editor. "Unfortunately, the king and the government are continuing to bury their heads in the sand."

Earlier this week, a masked man stabbed and moderately wounded Inas Msallam, a Jordanian university stunted [student?] and blogger who had played a vital role in anti-government protests in the kingdom over the past few months.

Msallam, a fourth-year student at Jordan University, was attacked shortly after she criticized the monarch's uncle, Prince Hassan bin Talal.

The prince enraged many Jordanians after he had raised doubts as to whether those who are demanding reforms and democracy really represent a majority of Jordanians.

Msallam wrote on her blog: "All those who watched the interview with Prince Hassan have condemned his statements. Those who once thought that he was the right man in the right place have now reconsidered their stance."

The victim's mother, Noor Turkumani, said her daughter was targeted by "terrorists" and "thugs."

The mother added that her daughter had received death threats by phone because of her involvement in anti-government demonstrations and defense of student's rights on campus.

Although Jordanian security forces and government officials have strongly denounced the stabbing of the young woman, some Jordanians hold the authorities responsible.

These Jordanians point out this was not the first attack on its kind against anti-government protesters.

Earlier this month, another prominent Jordanian woman, Toujan Faisal, received death threats after she called for reforms and an end to corruption in the kingdom. When she was invited to speak at a seminar on reforms a few weeks ago, Faisal was assigned several bodyguards from Jordan's General Intelligence Department, which also provided her with a police vehicle to ensure her safety.

Faisal, who was the first female member of the Jordanian parliament, was held in custody for 15 days in 2002 after she sent a letter to the late King Hussein demanding reforms and transparency.

Although King Abdullah has taken a number of measures to fight corruption, many Jordanians feel that the kingdom still has a long way to go before it implements real reforms and democracy. Even worse, there is a growing number of Jordanians who believe that the king's measures are "cosmetic" steps that are designed to contain public outrage and discontent.

Abdel Jabbar Rawashdeh


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Salafists in Tunisia

by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

"They are at the antipodes of human rights... [and] have an open road in front of them."

The French-based North African media outlet, Le Courrier de l'Atlas, recently published an article on Salafists in Tunisia, describing who is who in the jihadist Tunisian scene.

Although the Salafists are a small minority group there, they are extremely active and threatening the country's individual freedoms. In a clash between Tunisian security forces and armed jihadists in early February, several officers were injured and two of the attackers were killed; a third was captured and many arrests have followed.

Salafism is now a new political subject in the Tunisian scene and is competing for power with Muslim Brotherhood-oriented parties, such as the Tunisian ruling party Ennahda. Salafists consider Ennahda, which won the elections last October, a movement that is too moderate; they would like to enforce throughout the country their vision of Islam, which is more extremist than the Muslim Brotherhood's vision.

Following are excerpts from the article published by le Courrier de l'Atlas.

What is Salafism?

[…] Salafists quote a hadith [acts and sayings attributed to the Prophet Mohammed] that reads, "the best among you are those of my century and, after them, those who will follow them and then those who will follow the latter ones." In other words, the first three centuries of Islam have produced the best possible men.

[…] Present day Salafist leaders, in all their writings and sermons, quote the Quran, the hadiths and the theologians of the first three centuries. For them, these are the only admissible sources. Contemporary theologians are taken into consideration only if they quote these three sources as their sole point of reference.

[…] In general terms, Salafists deem that the norms decreed between twelve and fifteen centuries ago, in particular circumstances and in a particular place, are valid for all times and for all places and that they should be enforced. This is what they call Shariah ["The Path;" official Islamic law], which, according to them, includes corporal punishments, polygamy, inequality between men and women… and that recognizes only one type of human kind: the true Muslim.

One of their worst enemies is innovation. They consider as innovation […] even democracy. Music (with the exception of religious chants), cinema, dance, plastic arts, sculpture are equally considered illegal. […] They wear an Afghan kameez (convinced that the Prophet used to dress that way), don an unkempt beard, that they never shave, and trim their moustaches.

[…] Their convictions place them at the antipodes of human rights as we understand them today and, in fact, they totally reject this concept. Their community is characterized by the strict reclusion of women (who can go out only wearing a niqab [total headcovering]), and their way of life is very rigorous and at the same very generous and altruistic towards "true" Muslims. They help each other at any moment [of their lives]. It is therefore a very united and supportive community.

Who are they and how many are they in Tunisia?

There are no recent studies on this subject. Some years ago, it was estimated that they were a few hundred, 1,200 as a maximum, according to researchers.

Today, it is difficult to make an evaluation [about their number], but they have become numerous and visible. They have many pages in Facebook; this allows a rough estimation of their troops.

For instance, Bechir Ben Hassan, one of the most important Tunisian Salafist leaders, hosts almost 60,000 fans on his page. The page of Khatib Idrissi [another known Tunisian Salafist] hosts 13,000 fans, whereas [other Salafists' pages] host more than 5,000 fans. There are many, several dozen, of such pages.

On this basis, we can estimate that the number of activists and sympathizers put together is over 100.000 individuals, as it is logical to assume that many among them do not frequent the Internet.

Salafists have two strongholds: mosques that are under their control and Quranic schools.

Most of Tunisian Salafists are dedicated to preaching in the mosques; officially they are against violence and want to re-Islamize society, starting from the re-Islamization of individuals. Those who officially praise violence and take part in jihadist movements are not very numerous, but are, however, very active. […]. Some of the Tunisian Salafist leaders, in the past, have been sentenced to prison for violating anti-terrorism laws. They do not hesitate to praise violence on their Facebook pages and to spread hatred.

What are their plans for the future?

They have an open road in front of them: the regional and international context is in their favor, and many Salafist satellite TV stations are preparing the ground for them:

  • They are going to continue to accuse [the ruling Islamist party] Ennahda of compromising, in other terms of apostasy, in order to attract the most [extremist] factions among those who militate in this party. [Salafist groups accuse Ennahda of not being a "real" Islamist party, as they consider Ennahda to hold only moderate Islamic views]
  • They are going to continue the offensive towards mosques which, consequently, will become more and more under their Salafist control.
  • They will launch several TV stations dedicated to preaching Tunisian Salafism, thus out-powering completely Ennahda on the religious flank.
  • Some of them will be tempted to create a political party as did the [Salafist] group in Alexandria, Egypt, which created the Nour ["Light"] party, thereby obtaining a quarter of the seats in the Egyptian Assembly.

In the end, Salafism represents a new [political] subject, unexpected and which will remain a long time in the Tunisian landscape. Its objective is not to set up a democratic model and a modern state, but [to impose] social norms which are from twelve to fifteen centuries old.

Ennahda has little room for maneuver [to counter the Salafists]; this explains its great prudence in dealing with Salafists, and the preference for dialogue […].The new Tunisian minister of religious affairs will have a hard time trying to restructure the religious apparatus.

Anna Mahjar-Barducci


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Iran Knows More About Syria Than Obama

by Jonathan S. Tobin

The imminent demise of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria has become such an article of faith among many American pundits that most have come to discuss the subject as no longer a matter of if, but merely when, his fall will occur. Unfortunately, for Western talking heads as well as President Obama, who has also predicted imminent regime change in Damascus, Assad has preferred to ignore their advice and instead stick to what his family has always done best: slaughter any and all domestic foes. After watching the fall of dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the assumption was the logic of the Arab Spring would inevitably force out the Syrian member of a rapidly diminishing club of Arab autocrats. Few in the West believed Assad could survive. But it appears there was at least one group of observers who may have pegged the Syrian as a keeper: his Iranian allies.

The news that a pair of Iranian naval vessels just left a Syrian port and are now heading home through the Suez Canal ought to have brought home the fact that the Iranian ayatollahs may understand their client better than Western editorial writers. Combined with the decision of Russia to boycott a diplomatic effort aimed at bolstering Assad’s domestic foes, it is now clear that Syria’s two major foreign sponsors have not given up on the regime. Unlike Westerners who simply took it for granted that Assad must go, Ayatollah Khamenei and Vladimir Putin have remembered an ironclad rule of history: tyrants fall when they lose their taste for spilling their people’s blood, not when they loosen the reins.

While the Pentagon was saying it had no knowledge of the Iranian ships ever docking in Syria, the brazen dash through the Mediterranean by Tehran’s mariners may have been more than just a morale boost for Assad. The ships, which reportedly consisted of a supply ship and an accompanying destroyer, may have delivered vital munitions to the Syrian security forces just as they were in the process of leveling the opposition stronghold of Homs.

Though defections from his army are a lethal threat to Assad, so long as he retains the loyalty of most of his regime’s security forces, the belief that his fall is inevitable is more a matter of wishful thinking than hardheaded analysis. Assad understands the stakes in the fighting in the streets of Homs and other cities where dissent has flourished is a life and death matter for him and his family. Moreover, it is often forgotten that unlike other dictatorial regimes where military elites can easily switch sides, many, if not most, of Assad’s praetorian guards don’t have that option. Since Bashar’s father first seized power in 1970, the government there has always been as much a sinecure for the Alawite minority to which his clan belonged as it was for the Assad family. The fate of the Alawites in a post-Assad Syria will be difficult, and that gives the many members of this group in positions of power within the army and security forces the same motive for hanging on no matter what the cost.

Iran also has much to lose if their Syrian ally falls, so it is to be expected it will do all in its power to help him prevail. With Russia and China prepared to prevent the United Nations from even condemning Assad, let alone sanctioning support for the opposition, that leaves the opposition looking to Europe and the United States for help. Even though Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham voiced their support for arming the Syrian rebels over the weekend, it isn’t likely that President Obama or the European Union will follow the same pattern that led to intervention in Libya last year as Qaddafi tottered, despite the fact that the situation was far less desperate than the human catastrophe unfolding in Homs.

The Arab Spring led many Westerners to believe that a paradigm shift in which murderous regimes could no longer get away with atrocities had rendered men like Assad obsolete. But Iran may have figured out that as long as Assad is willing to go on killing his countrymen, there is no reason to assume he can’t hold onto power. That’s an important lesson Western diplomats and leaders like President Obama–who have also underestimated Iran’s own willingness to abandon its nuclear ambitions–should learn.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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For Middle East Peace, Postpone the Peace Talks -- at Least for Now

by Khaled Abu Toameh

The first thing Hamas would do after winning the election is cancel all the "treacherous" agreements that were signed by Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO.

There are several reasons why the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks need to be postponed until further notice.

The first reason is the plan to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories sometime in the near future.

What would happen if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a peace treaty with Israel today and, a few months from now, Hamas is elected to lead the Palestinians?

The first thing that a new Hamas government or parliament would do is cancel all the "treacherous" agreements that were signed by Abbas and the PLO.

Hamas's chances of scoring another electoral victory have increased significantly thanks to the "Arab Spring" that has seen the rise of Islamists to power in a number of Arab countries.

Then it would be too late to prevent Hamas from extending its control to large parts of the West Bank and possibly certain areas in Jerusalem that are handed over to the Palestinian Authority.

Hence any peace agreement that is signed today between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will become meaningless once Hamas takes control after the planned elections.

Hamas leaders have in recent days reiterated their fierce opposition to any peace deal with Israel, saying they will never recognize Israel's right to exist except as another Arab and Muslim state.

They have also made it clear that the proposed unity government would not honor previous agreements signed between Israel and the PLO, above all the Oslo Accords.

When and if such elections take place, there is no guarantee that Hamas would not again win the support of a majority of Palestinians.

Abbas, for his part, has been trying to reassure world leaders that a unity government headed by him would abide by all the agreements with Israel and would recognize its right to exist -- but not as a Jewish state.

Another reason it would be advisable to put the peace talks on hold for now centers around the question of whether Abbas really has a mandate from his people to strike a deal with Israel, particularly one that includes territorial concessions.

Abbas's term in office expired in January 2009: many Palestinians therefore believe he does not have a mandate to pursue his political platform.

The feeling among many Palestinians is that Abbas and a small number of his aides in the West Bank are convinced that they have a monopoly over the decision-making process in the Palestinian arena.

For the past few years, they had been negotiating with Israel about lands, Jerusalem, settlements, security and refugees -- without consulting other Palestinians.

The Palestinian parliament has been paralyzed since 2007 due to the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas; there has therefore been no open debate about the future of the peace process with Israel. The only people with whom Abbas and his aides consult are their loyalists in Fatah and the PLO.

Abbas went all the way to New York last September to ask for a Palestinian state at a time when he cannot even visit his private house in the Gaza Strip. He asked the UN for a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem -- ignoring the fact that millions of Palestinian refugees are demanding to return to their original villages inside Israel.

Many Palestinian are opposed to Abbas's statehood bid at the UN because they do not want a state only in the territories that were captured by Israel in 1967. They want all of Palestine -- from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea; in other words, no less than 100% of the land on which Israel now sits, or they will regard themselves as traitors and collaborators.

Only new elections or a referendum will tell whether a majority of Palestinians support Abbas's willingness either to make concessions to Israel or to back Hamas's efforts to replace Israel with an Iranian-backed Islamic Emirate. That is why there is no for point in anyone to pursue peace talks with the Palestinian Authority at this stage.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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Muslims Plan "Parallel Parliament" In Switzerland

by Soeren Kern

A growing immigrant population determined to avoid assimilation.

Leading Islamic groups in Switzerland are seeking to establish a single national representative body that will enable all of the country's Muslims to "speak with one voice."

The organizers say their new "parliament" will be called "Umma Schweiz" and be based on the principles of Islamic Sharia law. The headquarters of the organization will be located in Basel with "representatives" in all 26 cantons (or "states") of Switzerland. The first "test vote" of Umma Schweiz will be held in the fall of 2012; the group will be fully functional in 2013.

Ummah, an Arabic word that means "nation," refers to the entire Muslim community throughout the world. In recent years, Muslims have stepped up efforts to unify the globally fragmented ummah in an effort to revive an Islamic Caliphate or empire. Many Muslim scholars view the political unification of the ummah as a prerequisite to the consolidation of global Muslim power and the subsequent establishment of an Islamic world order.

Swiss analysts say the initiative is an effort to establish a "parallel" legislative body in Switzerland that will be a mouthpiece for Islamic fundamentalists who are seeking to impose Sharia law on the country, according to an exposé published by the newspaper Basler Zeitung.

Umma Schweiz is being spearheaded by two of the leading Muslim groups in Switzerland: the Coordination of Islamic Organizations of Switzerland (KIOS), led by an Iranian; and the Federation of Islamic Umbrella Organizations in Switzerland (FIDS), led by a Palestinian.

The effort to unify Muslims in Switzerland comes amid calls by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to establish an umbrella organization for all Swiss Muslims to counter discrimination.

The OSCE, which sent three observers to Switzerland in November 2011, warned that Muslims in the country are being exploited by "the extreme right and populist parties." The OSCE also noted that Muslims in Switzerland are increasingly unifying around their religious identity, according to an advance copy of the OSCE trip report, which has been seen by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. "Groups like Bosnians and Albanians, who were previously defined by their ethnicity, are now identified by their religion," the OSCE report says.

Currently, there are more than 300 Muslim associations in Switzerland, and several umbrella organizations, but none is regarded as representative of Muslims as a whole.

The Muslim population in Switzerland has more than quintupled since 1980; it now numbers about 400,000, or roughly 5% of the population. Most Muslims living in Switzerland are of Turkish or Balkan origin, with a smaller minority from the Arab world. Many of them are second- and third-generation immigrants firmly establishing themselves in Switzerland.

The new Muslim demographic reality is raising tensions across large parts of Swiss society, especially as Muslims become more assertive in their demands for greater recognition of their Islamic faith.

In September 2011, for instance, an immigrant group based in Bern called for the emblematic white cross to be removed from the Swiss national flag because as a Christian symbol it "no longer corresponds to today's multicultural Switzerland."

The ensuing controversies are fueling a debate over the role of Islam in Swiss society and how to reconcile Western values with a growing immigrant population determined to avoid assimilation.

Many of the disputes are ending up in Swiss courts, which have been packed with Islam-related cases in recent years. In one proceeding, for example, Muslim parents won a lawsuit demanding that they be allowed to dress their children in full-body bathing suits (aka "burkinis") during co-ed swimming lessons. In another, a group of Swiss supermarkets created a stir by banning Muslim employees from wearing headscarves.

In September 2010, the secretary of the Muslim Community of Basel was acquitted of publicly inciting crime and violence. The charges were pressed after the 33-year-old made comments in a Swiss television documentary saying that Islamic Sharia law should be introduced in Switzerland and that unruly wives should be beaten. The judge said the defendant was protected by freedom of expression.

In January 2011, a 66-year-old Turkish woman living in Bern was sentenced to three years and six months in prison for encouraging the father and brothers of her daughter-in-law to carry out an "honor crime" against her for her "risqué lifestyle."

In August 2010, five Muslim families in Basel were fined 350 Swiss Francs ($420) each for refusing to send their daughters to mixed-sex swimming lessons. In August 2009, the Swiss basketball association told a Muslim player she could not wear a headscarf during league games.

Swiss voters have also been fighting back against the Islamization of their country by means of the ballot box.

In November 2009, Switzerland held a referendum in which citizens approved an initiative to ban the construction of minarets. The initiative was approved 57.5% to 42.5% by some 2.67 million voters. Only four cantons or states opposed the initiative, thereby granting the double approval that now makes the minaret ban part of the Swiss constitution.

In November 2010, Swiss voters approved tough new regulations on the deportation of non-Swiss immigrants convicted of serious crimes. The measure calls for the automatic expulsion of non-Swiss offenders convicted of crimes ranging from murder to breaking and entry and social security fraud.

Also in November, Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said the approval or extension of residency permits should be closely linked to the efforts immigrants make to integrate themselves. "Compulsory schooling must be respected. Children should attend all courses and exceptions made on religious or other grounds, for example in swimming classes, should no longer be possible," Sommaruga said.

In December 2010, the Federal Commission on Women's Issues called for Islamic burqas and niqabs to be banned in government offices and in public schools. The government-appointed committee said the move would prevent gender discrimination.

In May 2011, voters in canton Ticino, in Switzerland's Italian-speaking region, collected enough signatures to be able to launch a referendum that would ban burqas, niqabs and other Islamic head dresses. If the referendum goes ahead, it will be the first time in Switzerland that citizens have been asked to express an opinion on burqas.

On February 14, 2012, the far-right Swiss People's Party, the country's largest, filed a petition supporting a cap on immigration to Switzerland. The petition, which is the result of a months-long campaign to gather the required 100,000 signatures, is now being reviewed by Swiss authorities. If the proposals in the petition are deemed acceptable, it will then go to a popular referendum, in accordance with Switzerland's unique system of direct democracy.

On February 27, the Swiss Parliament is scheduled to debate a series of proposals to crack down on Muslim forced marriages in Switzerland. There are an estimated 17,000 forced marriages in Switzerland; one-third of the victims are between the ages of 13 and 18, according to a ground-breaking study of the problem conducted in 2006.

The proposals being considered include: amending the Swiss Penal Code to make forced marriage a criminal offense; outlawing the marriages of minors; reviewing all future requests for marriage to ensure that no one is being married against her will; and mandating the deportation of any immigrants found to guilty of forcing someone to marry against her will.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.


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Iranian Threat Heats Up

by Bruce Thornton

Iran announced Sunday that it was cutting off crude oil sales to France and England, a mostly symbolic act given that Iran provides England less than 1% of its crude, and France claims that it “practically stopped importing Iranian oil,” according to the head of the Union of Petroleum Industries. A few days later, the head of Iran’s armed forces threatened to attack Israel preemptively through its terrorist proxies in Lebanon and Gaza. The Iranians are once again using bluster to counter the E.U. ban on Iranian oil slated to begin on July 1, and the threat of Belgium-based SWIFT to ban Iran from its system for facilitating transfers of payments among nations through its international network of banks. As a further provocation, the Iranians sent two warships through the Suez Canal in a show of support for global pariah Syria. This follows the Iranian-engineered terrorist attacks on Israeli targets in India, Georgia, and Thailand.

At the same time they threaten and foment terrorist attacks, the Iranians have told the “P5+1” nations (Permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany) of its “readiness for dialogue” and its “new initiatives” concerning its nuclear program, and has allowed U.N. inspectors back in the country, even though President Ahmadinejad said last week that “Our nuclear program is not a subject for negotiations.” Consistent with this position, inspectors were denied access to military installations believed to house nuclear testing equipment. Validating Iran’s lie that its nuclear program is for domestic energy, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that “we believe we know that the Iranian regime has not decided” to make a nuclear weapon, and that “it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option is upon us.” The ominous background to all this diplomatic chatter is the continuing speculation about when or if Israel will take military action, or whether Israel has the capacity to degrade Iran’s nuclear facilities enough to make an attack worth the risk and blowback.

It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on in this diplomatic two-step we’ve been dancing with Iran for years. We know that Iran is dead set on acquiring nuclear weapons, or at least “nuclear latency,” the ability quickly to create a weapon. Since its creation in 1979, the Iranian regime has been about more than Iran. As one ayatollah said at the time, the revolution was just “the start of the story. An Islamic and divine government, much like Iran and better, will be created” in other Muslim nations. And more recently, an editorial in the newspaper Kayhan, published by “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, proclaimed Iran’s “fixed strategic goal”: “Our late Imam [Khomeini] openly spoke of raising the flag of Islam on top of the palaces of arrogant power, notably the White House . . . as the goal and purpose of the Islamic Revolution.” Seeing itself as a world-transformative power, Iran has been the foremost inspiration and supporter of jihadist violence, its prestige enhanced by its serial humiliations of the U.S., and by its genocidal aggression against Israel, the “little Satan” to America’s “great Satan.” Given its massive oil reserves, which mean it will always have a source of revenue, an Iran with nuclear arms will be virtually untouchable, and thus able to dominate the Middle East and damage our interests, whether by holding oil exports hostage, sparking a larger arms race in the region, attacking our ally Israel, or handing off nukes to one of its numerous terrorist proxies.

Equally obvious is the feckless response of the West to this threat, which seems to have followed a Micawberesque policy of hoping “something will turn up.” Unwilling to act, for years now we have substituted inspections, “talks,” and sanctions as toothless substitutes for action. At least we are consistent, for this is precisely how the West handled the embassy hostage crisis in 1979. Then too we tried sanctions, secret offers to negotiate, and trade embargoes in order to change Iranian behavior. But political, national, and economic self-interest rendered them all ineffectual. For example, the NATO countries were begged to impose a trade embargo, but threats by President Bani-Sadr to cut off oil to Europe––sound familiar?–– led to a weakened and hence ineffectual policy. As the Economist pointed out at the time, “The denial of material things is unlikely to have much effect on minds suffused with immaterial things.” The Iranians never have acted by the materialist calculus we have used in our dealings with them.

Moreover, today’s Iran has North Korea as the model for dealing with the West by using diplomatic and inspections processes to create time for achieving nuclear capability. And North Korea is an economic basket case that can’t even feed its own people, unlike Iran, whose oil somebody will figure out a way to buy no matter how many allegedly “crippling” sanctions the West imposes. Yet despite this history, Western leaders continue to assert that “sanctions are working” and that a bit more time will bring Iran to its knees, as Dennis Ross, who was Obama’s Middle East advisor, recently asserted. Meanwhile, Iran’s thousands of recently announced new-generation centrifuges will soon start spinning out even more enriched fuel necessary for weapons.

We all know that military action is the only way to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of a state led by religious fanatics with a world-historical mission to wave the banner of Islam over the whole world. Yet the only credible threat of force resides with Israel, and we have been doing everything we can to undercut our ally, for whom a nuclear Iran represents an existential threat. In various ways, the administration has put pressure on Israel not to attack but rather to endorse the magical thinking that Iran will suddenly change its decades-long pursuit of nuclear weapons because of economic pressure. Thus General Dempsey, at the same time he stated Iran was not pursuing such a weapon, also said of the Israelis, “A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives. I wouldn’t suggest, sitting here today, that we’ve persuaded them that our view is the correct view and that they are acting in an ill-advised fashion.” Of course, however “destabilizing” such an attack might be, it wouldn’t be as much so as a nuclear-armed Iran. And Israel’s first priority is not the price of oil, or the political comfort of other nations, but the continued existence of her own people.

The other tack is to highlight the prohibitive difficulty of such an attack, as the New York Times did Monday in a cover story headlined, “Iran Raid Seen As a Huge Task For Israeli Jets.” Yet as David Goldman reports, an analysis by Hans Rühl in Die Welt “is highly confident that Israel could knock out Iran’s nuclear program for a decade or more with about 25 of its 87 F-15 fighter-bombers and a smaller number of its F-16s.” Over at the Wall Street Journal, Edward Luttwak argues that the difficulty of a U.S. attack on Iran results from exaggerated estimates of target numbers made by the Pentagon during the Bush administration: “The overall bill for this assault was thus hugely inflated into a veritable air armada that would last weeks rather than hours, require more than 20,000 sorties, and inevitably kill thousands of civilians on the ground.” Ruled out by such inflation was “the option of interrupting Iran’s nuclear efforts by a stealthy overnight attack against the handful of buildings that contain the least replaceable components of Iran’s uranium hexafluoride and centrifuge enrichment cycle—and which would rely on electronic countermeasures to protect aircraft instead of the massive bombardment of Iran’s air defenses.” In other words, a decision not to act resulting from political self-interest and a geopolitical failure of nerve is rationalized as based on military concerns.

The Obama administration’s pressure on Israel is baffling. It must know that no matter what, Iran will not give up its facilities or conveniently forget the expertise they have acquired over the last few decades. This means that any solution––cooperating with U.N. inspectors, for example, or agreeing to a “freeze” on enrichment––that leaves this equipment and knowledge in the hands of the current Iranian regime will not prevent the mullahs from eventually acquiring the bomb. Like North Korea, Iran will cheat, lie, delay, and otherwise game the process to buy time to complete developing the weapons. Thus for Obama to browbeat Israel as he has been doing is inexplicable. As Mario Loyola writes at NRO:

“The U.S. should be helping the Israelis deter Iran’s further nuclear advance by helping them to scare the Iranians into thinking that an attack is coming. Instead, the Obama administration is doing everything possible to telegraph to Iran that we’re terrified of a conflict and are doing everything to prevent it. That’s exactly the same as inviting the Iranians to continue their pursuit of nuclear weapons. If there is an explanation for this, other than incompetence, I would love to know it.”

One should never rule out incompetence when explaining anything the Obama administration does. But history shows that people are usually more influenced by the unforeseen consequences and risks of action than they are by the consequences and risks of inaction. That’s where leadership comes in: good leaders show their people that the dangers of not acting are usually greater than those of acting, that there are always risks and costs to defending a nation’s interests and security, and that there is no cost-free, risk-free way to stop a determined fanatical aggressor. That’s what Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan did in their times. And that’s what Barack Obama has proven he is incapable of doing in ours.

Bruce Thornton


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Obama’s Anti-Semitic Anchors

by Daniel Greenfield

Jews occupy a peculiar position in the Democratic Party: The Jewish vote is part of the Democratic base, but at the same time the party does not represent Jewish interests, either at home or abroad, and of the last three Democratic presidents, two were nakedly hostile to the Jewish state. Now the second of them is running for reelection and is counting on the Jewish vote.

After November 6th, 2012, Barack Obama will either be a leader with absolute control over foreign policy and nothing to lose or the first Democratic incumbent since Carter to lose the White House. For Obama everything hinges on securing the next four years and that requires him to play up his pro-Israel credentials while trying to convince Jewish voters that the animosity and ugliness of his present term never happened.

But there are two things dragging him down: The Center for American Progress and Media Matters.

Jewish discomfort with the administration has been growing for some time now. While Obama’s growing loss of Jewish support cannot only be put down to Israel, the Jewish state has become shorthand for the administration’s attitude toward the Jewish community. Vocal condemnations by former New York mayor Ed Koch and now by prominent civil rights attorney Alan Dershowitz make it clear that even mainstream Democrats are aware of the problem and that it is not going away.

While Koch’s remarks have been fairly vague, Dershowitz has been much more direct about identifying and attacking the root of the problem. “Media Matters and Center for American Progress are two extremely left-bigoted groups that are so virulently anti-Israel and anti-supporters of Israel that they’ve gone over the line from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism,” Dershowitz recently affirmed.

“These two organizations have been found to be anti-Semitic by many of the objective monitoring groups. And now they are closely associated with the Democratic Party and I have said very clearly there is no room in this tent for me on the one hand, and for Media Matters and for this other group on the other hand. We can’t be in the same tent. I will not be in a tent with fascists, with supporters of Ahmadinejad, with supporters of Hamas, with supporters of Hezbollah, with anti-Semitic bigots, whether they’re Jewish or not.”

Unlike Koch who did not set up a specific test that Obama needed to pass, Dershowitz has issued a clear call for accountability, and that creates a specific metric that cannot be avoided with vague promises and assurances. It offers Obama a choice between the radical left and the Jewish community. But the radical left is no longer radical; it has become the establishment.

The Center for American Progress is not just another think tank; it is the brain, heart and soul of the administration. It is the interface between the proposals of the left and the policies coming out of Washington D.C. and it is also the interface between the policies of the White House and the media coverage of those policies and the opposition to them.

The Center represents the power of the left over the message, shaping the ideas that reach the White House and then shaping the ideas that leave the White House, blending the power of policymaking with the power of spin to form one of the most powerful arms of the shadow government set up by billionaire criminals like George Soros to control the American political process. But the power and radicalism of the Center is also becoming a liability.

The Center for American Progress and Media Matters are not just radical by American standards; they are extreme even by the standards of the Democratic Party. They are radical even by the standards of those who consider themselves liberal. They are the 1 percent of the party, funded by the actual 1 percent, and in control of the 99 percent. And it is specifically their extremism when it comes to Israel and the Jewish people that have touched off a growing rebellion among Jewish Democrats.

Obama has faked right on Israel in time for the election, but the radicalism of the Center for American Progress and Media Matters exposes the fakery for what it is. Whatever words may scroll over Obama’s teleprompter, the brain trust at the Center for American Progress, whose policies have dominated his administration, shows what the next four years will truly mean for Israel.

The animosity of the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for Israel is completely unsubtle. It can be seen at a glance on their websites. It can be seen on the Twitter accounts of their fellows where anyone opposed to the destruction of the Jewish state is branded an “Israel Firster”. It can be seen in reports which blame American attitudes towards Islam on a Jewish conspiracy. It can be seen in their obsessive campaign to deny Iran’s genocidal nuclear plot to carry out a second holocaust.

There has always been a schizophrenic split between Obama’s moderate image and his radical reality. That split came to the fore with the revelation of racist rants by his mentor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, but while Obama eventually set aside Wright when it was clear that he had become a liability and was unwilling to moderate his tone for the sake of the election, he has an entire gang of Jeremiah Wrights writing up his talking points, massaging his policies and setting the tone for his administration. A gang which operates out of the Center for American Progress.

The Obama Administration has tried to have it both ways, coating a radical interior with a moderate whitewash. Calling for a break with an organization that Time Magazine described as “Obama’s Idea Factory” is a courageous and important step. And it is not a step that Obama is likely to take.

Obama refused to break with Jeremiah Wright, until the latter left him no choice. He will certainly not break with two entire organizations of Jeremiah Wrights funded by a man who makes Wright seem like a saint and a model of tolerance and philosemitism by comparison. And that refusal exposes the lie of moderation, it is a refusal that cannot be disguised or dressed up.

Following an Uncle Howard policy, Obama tried to elevate Soros’ J Street anti-Israel lobby to the status of a major Jewish organization. A status that was completely undeserved and baseless. J Street has failed in its mission and that leaves major Soros funded groups like the Center for American Progress and Media Matters naked in their bigotry.

By demanding accountability, Dershowitz has transformed the Center for American Progress and Media Matters from assets to anchors around the neck of the 2012 Obama campaign.

Daniel Greenfield


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IAEA Reports Failure During Latest Iran Visit

by Elad Benari

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has admitted that “intensive efforts” by its team that visited Iran have failed.

According to a report on AFP, the IAEA team members were denied access to a key military site during their visit to Tehran.

“Intensive efforts were made to reach an agreement on a document facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran’s nuclear program,” the news agency quoted the IAEA as having said in a statement. “Unfortunately, agreement was not reached on this document.”

The report said that the team requested access both during this visit and during a first trip in late January to the Parchin military site, where it suspects suspicious nuclear activities are carried out. However, the IAEA statement said, Iran “did not grant permission” to visit the site.

“It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin during the first or second meetings,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in the statement. “We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached.”

The high-ranking IAEA team was led by Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA’s chief inspector. The team’s visit, the visit second by an IAEA team in less than a month, was aimed at clarifying all “outstanding substantive issues” surrounding Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was quoted by the Iranian news agency ISNA as saying the talks had been intensive and covered “cooperation and mutual understanding between Iran and the IAEA.” He added that the “negotiations will continue in the future.”

In November, the IAEA released a report which warned of evidence that Iran is intent on developing a nuclear weapon of mass destruction.

Iran has insisted that its nuclear development activities are aimed at peaceful domestic purposes only -- but it has refused to modify or stop them, and has maintained secrecy about its programs at the highest levels.

Iran announced last week that it activated a new generation of centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear site in order to accelerate its uranium enrichment activities. The announcement came several days after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised that Tehran would unveil “big new” nuclear achievements.

The United States, however, downplayed Iran's announcement and said it was “not terribly new and not terribly impressive.”

Elad Benari


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Blind Ideology

by Frank Gaffney, Jr.

Last week, President Obama feted Communist China’s Xi Jinping, the man who hopes to lead his country as it emerges as the world’s next superpower. Mr. Xi must have been delighted to see press reports that his host is poised to end America’s claim to such status – at least with respect to the traditional means of measuring it: nuclear weaponry.

According to a story first reported by the Associated Press, Mr. Obama has directed the Defense Department to come up with plans for reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal by as much as eighty percent. Evidently, he is prepared to take such a step unilaterally in order to encourage by our example other nations to join in his longstanding ambition to “rid the world of nuclear weapons.”

It is unclear whether the topic came up during the various meetings the PRC’s vice president had with his White House and other interlocutors. Even if it did, Xi presumably would not have disclosed a closely held Chinese secret: How many missiles and warheads have been squirreled away in 3,000 miles of hardened tunnels that make up what has been called the “Underground Great Wall of China.”

The Obama administration continues to assume that the People’s Liberation Army has only a few hundred nuclear weapons – approximately the level to which our Commander-in-Chief would like to reduce the American arsenal. A radically different estimate was recently provided, however, in a Georgetown University study led by former Pentagon strategic forces expert, Prof. Phillip Karber. To the fury of arms controllers in and out of the U.S. government, Dr. Karber’s team concluded that, based on the vast infrastructure China has created to conceal its missiles, it may have as many as 3,000 nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, China is not the only nuclear state or wannabe that is engaged in a feverish build up. Last week, Russia’s autocratic Vladimir Putin unveiled a $770 billion military modernization plan that he says would introduce 400 new intercontinental ballistic missiles presumably equipped with state-of-the art nuclear warheads.

Pakistan, North Korea and Iran are also among those who may wish us ill and are spurning President Obama’s exemplary, unilateral efforts at nuclear disarmament. With the help of such regimes or in response to their threats, others in the Far and Middle East are likely to see the need for their own deterrents. That is especially true as confidence in the reliability of America’s security guarantees collapses along with its once-mighty “nuclear umbrella.”

So outlandish, so reckless is President Obama’s ambition to disarm the United States that thirty-four members of the House of Representatives last week forcefully urged him to reverse course. In a letter dated February 17 and headlined by the chairmen of the House Armed Services Committee and its Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Reps. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-California) and Michael Turner (R-Ohio), respectively, these legislators described it as motivated by nothing less than “blind ideology.” They insisted that such blindness not be allowed to “drive a matter as important as U.S. nuclear forces over reality.”

What is particularly vexing to these legislators is that this marks the first time “a President has directed specific force levels as part of a review of the Nation’s nuclear employment strategy.” They observed that, instead, “…Such a review should begin and end with one question: What levels of U.S. nuclear forces are necessary to convince our enemies and adversaries that they cannot succeed in an attack on this country or its allies?”

It is not just that President Obama is blindly driving for ideological reasons the numerical evisceration of U.S. nuclear forces. As Congressman Turner pointed out earlier this month in introducing legislation aimed at holding the administration to commitments made during the consideration of the New START Treaty in 2010, the administration is also walking away from its promises to modernize what remains of our deterrent. Over time, the practical effect of combining the draconian nuclear cuts Mr. Obama seeks and his failure to arrest and reverse the atrophying of the obsolescing arsenal will leave us functionally disarmed.

Barack Obama’s true colors are showing. His blind ideology is not only at work in gutting America’s deterrent. That impulse, not new-found budget discipline, is the driving force behind his hollowing out of the rest of the U.S. military, too.

These data points vividly underscore, even as they advance, the true Obama Doctrine: “Embolden our enemies. Undermine our allies. Diminish our country.” Unless reversed, the world will be an infinitely more dangerous place for this nation and other friends of freedom.

It is an astonishing insight into the President’s commitment to “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” – in the worse sense of the phrase – that he is willing to take such steps in the midst of his reelection campaign. Imagine what he would do if the last vestiges of restraining accountability are removed in a second term.

Frank Gaffney, Jr. is President of the Center for Security Policy (, a columnist for the Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program, Secure Freedom Radio, heard in Washington weeknights at 9:00 p.m. on WRC 1260 AM.


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