Friday, June 15, 2012

BREAKING: Court Dissolves Egyptian Parliament; Army Takes Over; Civil War?

by Barry Rubin

The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court has just invalidated the parliamentary election there. The parliament, 75 percent of whose members were Islamists, is being dissolved. The military junta has taken over total authority. The presidential election is still scheduled for a few dozen hours from now.

In short, everything is confused and everything is a mess. All calculations are thrown to the wind. What this appears to be is a new military coup.

Yes, it is under legal cover, but nobody is going to see it as a group of judges — appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak, remember — looking deep into the law books and coming up with a carefully reasoned decision based on precedent. This will be seen by every Islamist — whether Salafi or Muslim Brotherhood — and by most of the liberals — who feel closer to the Islamists than to the government — as if the 2011 revolution has just been reversed.

Prediction: massive violence.

With typical journalistic “neutrality,” CNN’s Ben Wedeman reported from Cairo: “Those who don’t want to see a return to the oppression of the past … are very unhappy with this ruling.” What about the people who don’t want a radical Islamist regime and a Sharia state to become the oppression of the future?

Still, the fact that the court ruled that “establishment” candidate Ahmad Shafiq can run for president will further a perception that this is a conspiracy to return to the pre-revolutionary situation.

I’m not saying that the armed forces told the justices to make such a ruling. But clearly by backing it up the generals are declaring their willingness to confront the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists rather than let them take power. Is there a precedent for this? You bet there is:


In 1991 the Islamic Salvation Front was on the verge of gaining victory. Before the second round of voting could be held, the army staged a coup to stop the election. The resulting war lasted more than a decade — in some respects, it’s still continuing today. Cost in lives? About 150,000 — 200,000 in a country whose population was about one-third that of contemporary Egypt. You do the math.

That doesn’t mean Egypt will be the same, but this is something to be taken seriously. Consider:

– The decision virtually wipes out the much-vaunted “Arab Spring” and all the claims that a basic transition was being made in Arab societies. On al-Jazira, for example, the reporters were visibly in a state of shock.

– This event poses a huge problem for the Obama administration — and I’ll bet it caught them by surprise. Does the U.S. government condemn the military and put sanctions on it, demanding that the Muslim Brotherhood be put into power? There is no easy solution. But we are likely to have the strange situation of an American president fighting to put into power an anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic political force that is opposed to all U.S. interests, because — after all — they did win the election. Once again, Arab leaders have rebelled against Obama’s–and I don’t say this lightly–pro-Islamist policy.

In a first reaction a State Department spokesperson said:

“We want to see the Egyptian people have what they fought for, which is a free, fair, democratic, transparent system of government – governance that represents the will of the people, a parliament so elected, a president so elected.”

That’s predictable and “nice” but it isn’t a policy, much less a strategy, and avoids all of the real issues involved. For example, is the administration going to rush aid to an Egyptian military junta now?

– What if Shafiq wins the presidency? Will the armed forces line up behind him, and put us back in 1952 when the military created a dictatorship and suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood? In other words, the entire “Arab Spring” would have been a temporary detour, and things will return to the path they would have taken if there had been no revolution and an ailing Mubarak was simply replaced in 2011 by the establishment’s choice for president.

– And what if the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate wins the presidency? Is the military really going to let him rule in any meaningful sense? No.

[Pure speculation here but I wonder if the military's actions were influenced by secret estimates that a Brotherhood president was about to be elected, too. And how will this event affect a presidential election? On one hand, there might be a reaction against the army leading to a victory for the Brotherhood. On the other hand, though, people might want to be on the winning side and put restored order over the promise of more freedom (albeit, "freedom" within an Islamist regime, which might not look so ideal to a good proportion of Egyptians).]

–If there’s no parliament then there’s nobody to write a Constitution. So parliamentary elections and the writing of a new Constitution are put off by–at the barest minimum–six months and probably for much longer.

Barry Rubin


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

The Euro's Collapse Is Not Just About the Euro

by Gene Schwimmer

How do you say Schadenfreude in French? Or Spanish? Or Greek? Because, three years into the failed economic policies of a failed president, Schadenfreude -- knowing that, however bad our situation may be, the state of affairs in the Eurozone is much worse -- is all that is left to us.

And it is worse, make no mistake about that. And, it increasingly appears, irreversible. Which is why those of us who saw this day coming must resist the urge to gloat now that the poulets européens have come home to roost. Let us instead, let out a sigh of relief as we observe the Euro-debacle from a safe distance and draw what lessons we can, lest their fate become ours. For the euro's increasingly probable collapse is about more, much more, than the euro.

George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen almost gets it when he writes, in the May 26 New York Times:

We thus face the danger that the euro, the world's No. 2 reserve currency, could implode. Such an event wouldn't be just another depreciation or collapse of a currency peg; instead, it would mean that one of the world's major economic units doesn't work as currently constituted.

Note the qualifiers, "could," and "would." In fact, the euro is imploding and said implosion does mean that "one of the world's major economic units doesn't work as currently constituted." And it's a pretty sure bet that whatever new constitution the Euro-elites conjure up for their "newly constituted unit" won't work, either -- certainly not if it's "newly constituted" by the same people who constituted the current one.

The good professor writes: "The final lesson of this debacle is that smart nations with noble motives can make very big mistakes." But at the same time Cowen states the obvious, he also misses the obvious by failing to name the Euro-debacle's true culprits. For regardless of what "smart nations with noble motives" may or may not do, the guilty parties here are not "smart nations," but arrogant, soi disant "experts," who consider themselves accountable to no one due to their self-perceived brilliance, but who in fact are not nearly as smart as they think (and would like us to think) they are. Conversely, had, say, "the first 2,000 names in the Berlin telephone directory," been allowed to vote on whether they wanted to surrender their national currencies, and the control thereof, into euros that would be out of their control, a large majority of them almost certainly would have voted no and the whole Euro-mess that was shoved down their throats and must now be vomited up, could have been avoided.

Cowen continually dances around issue, coming close, but never making the real point and I suspect that the reason for the fancy footwork is because Cowen is a liberal, or at least one who is rooting for the euro to succeed. So allow me to state clearly what Cowen would not.

The plain and simple fact is that the euro's failure is about more, much more, than the euro. For it is not just the euro that is failing, but the entire liberal, elitist worldview that underlies it. That worldview, in a nutshell, is the notion that human nature is as malleable as a lump of clay and that any utopian society one can imagine can be created in the real world simply by writing it down on a piece of paper and voting for it.

And so here we are, leaving the world, including we Americans, divided, essentially, into two groups: those who understand that liberalism's day of reckoning has come, that the debate is over, that collapse is inevitable and that the only course now is to manage, as best we can, the process of changing direction; and those who do not.

Abandoning a currency, as we are learning, is no easy task. But it's a far easier task than abandoning a worldview upon which literally millions if not hundreds of millions of people have built and lived their lives, and which has held a considerable hold on political thinking -- and governance -- for almost a century.

Europe may or may not succeed in arresting its decline. But we Americans, paradoxically, are made of both sterner and more flexible stuff and so one can confidently predict that it is only a matter of time before the old guard is cast out, to be replaced by a new generation of leaders with a vision that looks forward, not back.

One senses that that day is not far off. In the meantime, protect your assets, do what you can to avoid the falling debris as the old order collapses, and prepare for a hard fight in the years ahead.

Gene Schwimmer is the pundit-proprietor of Schwimmerblog and the author of The Christian State.


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

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Rhetoric of Nonsense

by Alexander H. Joffe

Fabricating Palestinian History

For nearly two decades the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been denying Israel's right to exist, and a recent "Nakba Day" was no exception. In a Gaza speech on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, his personal representative made the following statement:

National reconciliation [between Hamas and Fatah] is required in order to face Israel and Netanyahu. We say to him [Netanyahu], when he claims that they [Jews] have a historical right dating back to 3000 years B.C.E.—we say that the nation of Palestine upon the land of Canaan had a 7,000-year history B.C.E. This is the truth, which must be understood, and we have to note it, in order to say: "Netanyahu, you are incidental in history. We are the people of history. We are the owners of history."[1]

This remarkable assertion has been almost completely ignored by the Western media. Yet it bears a thorough examination: not only as an indication of unwavering Palestinian rejection of Israel's right to exist but as an insightful glimpse into the psyche of their willfully duped Western champions.

Unpacking Abbas's Speech

Archaeologists have only the dimmest notion of prevailing ethnic concepts in 7000 B.C.E. There may have been tribes and clans of some sort, and villages may have had names and a sense of collective or local identity, but their nature is completely unknown. Even with the elaborate symbolism of the period, as seen in figurines, and other data such as the styles of stone tools and house plans, nothing whatsoever is known regarding the content of the makers' identities. Writing would not be invented for almost another 4,000 years and would only reach the Levant a thousand years after that, bringing with it the ability to record a society's own identity concepts.

There were no Jews or Arabs, Canaanites, Israelites, or Egyptians. There were only Neolithic farmers and herders. In fact, none of the concepts that Abbas used developed until vastly later. The Plst—a Mediterranean group known to the Egyptians as one of the "Sea Peoples" and who gave their name to the biblical Philistines—arrived around 1200 B.C.E. Arabs are known in Mesopotamian texts as residents of the Arabian Peninsula from around 900 B.C.E. The concept of a "nation" emerged with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and their neighbors sometime after 900 B.C.E. The Romans renamed the Kingdom of Judea "Palestina" after the biblically attested Philistines, the hated enemy of the Israelites, following the defeat of the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 C.E. The ethnic identity called "Palestinian," denoting the local Muslim and Christian inhabitants of the region south of Lebanon and West of the Jordan River, tenuously developed as an elite concept at the end of the Ottoman era and did not propagate to the grassroots until the 1920s and 1930s.[2]

Is there perhaps genetic continuity between modern Palestinians and Neolithic farmers and herders? Perhaps, but that is not what Abbas claimed. Is there cultural continuity, a nation with a name? Hardly.

Types of Palestinian Rhetoric

Why then should Abbas make such an incredible fabrication? And why lie in such a ludicrous and extravagant fashion? Part of the answer is that for Abbas, as it was for PLO leader Yasser Arafat before him, there is a reflex that simply and absolutely cannot accept the antiquity of Jews. Arafat famously told then-U.S. president Bill Clinton that there was no Jewish temple in Jerusalem, causing the usually unflappable Clinton to nearly explode.[3] Denials regarding the Jewish historical connection to the Land of Israel generally and categorical denials that Jews constitute a nation are all frequently heard from Palestinian leaders, intellectuals, and others.

A useful avenue of investigation is to consider Abbas's words as a type of rhetoric with a form and underlying philosophy. When viewed in this way, Abbas's spokesman was not lying as such but doing something else.

As philosopher Harry Frankfurt put it

The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides … is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it … A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it … For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: He is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.[4]

As Frankfurt describes it, such nonsensical rhetoric is constructed impulsively and without thought—entirely out of whole cloth. It is unconcerned with truth and so, unlike a lie, has license to be panoramic, unconcerned with context. The user is endeavoring to bluff, and the desire for effect is paramount. Whereas lying is austere and rigorous because it must triangulate against truth, nonsense loses, and loosens, the grasp on reality. In that sense, its effect is corrosive, a matter not discussed by Frankfurt.

Stating nonsense to suit one's purpose is only one of three obvious Palestinian rhetorical strategies. Lying, knowingly distorting the truth, is another. A paradigmatic example of this is "Pallywood," the staging of scenes for news cameras. These have ranged from orchestrated street scenes and rioting, which sometimes include fake casualties who leap off of stretchers when out of sight, to destroyed structures and grieving families, to manipulated photographs. Above all there was the so-called Jenin massacre of 2002 and the Muhammad al-Dura case in 2000. In the former, Palestinians accused Israelis of having killed hundreds or thousands of civilians and bulldozing their bodies into mass graves, deliberate lies that were then repeated by human rights organizations. In fact, some fifty-two Palestinian gunmen and twenty-three Israeli soldiers were killed in brutal house to house fighting.[5]

Stating nonsense to suit one's purpose is only one Palestinian rhetorical strategy. Knowingly distorting the truth is another. An example of this is "Pallywood," the staging of scenes for news cameras. This photograph was widely distributed with the observers cropped out and promoted as a picture of an Israel Defense Forces soldier stomping on a Palestinian child. The uniform is not an IDF uniform; the boots are not IDF boots, and the weapon is not one used by the IDF.

In the Dura case, a Palestinian stringer for French television purported to have observed a Palestinian father and son caught in a firefight in Gaza, during the course of which the boy appeared to have been killed. The iconic martyrdom and funeral of the boy became an international symbol of Israeli brutality. But examination of withheld footage showed other Palestinian "wounded" getting up and walking around and contained no death throes of the Dura boy. In fact, grave doubts exist whether a boy died at all in the exchange and whether his father was injured. A series of lawsuits have not resolved the situation, but the impact of what is at least in large part a fabrication is clear.[6] As French journalist Catherine Nay wrote with satisfaction, Dura's supposed death "cancels, erases that of the Jewish child, his hands in the air before the SS in the Warsaw Ghetto."[7] This statement holds the key to understanding the reception of Palestinian rhetoric in Europe. It is a means to erode historical and moral realities regarding the European treatment of the Jews, and it is eagerly embraced in some quarters.

The third Palestinian approach is to propagandize through the lens of pure ideology, specifically Islam. Thus, for example, the former Jerusalem mufti and chairman of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem, Ekrima Sabri, was recently quoted as saying "after twenty-five years of digging, archaeologists are unanimous that not a single stone has been found related to Jerusalem's alleged Jewish history." This statement is patently false, but the orientation of the religious lens is obvious, indeed, he goes on to state clearly: "We do not recognize any change to the status of Jerusalem, and we reserve our religious, historic, geographic, and cultural heritage in the city, no matter how long or how many generations succeed."[8] Islamic doctrine as it has evolved today simply cannot accept the reality of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem precisely on religious grounds. Sabri is, therefore, neither lying nor fabricating reality to suit his purposes but rather expressing what he regards as a true religious belief. This works in concert with lies and nonsense.

Swallowing Palestinian Rhetoric

Palestinian efforts to minimize or expunge Jews from history go back several decades but have intensified in recent years. Palestinian intellectuals make their own important contributions: Hayel Sanduqa recently claimed that the expression in Psalm 137:5, "If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill" was authored by a Crusader king and stolen by "Zionists."[9]

Palestinian denial of any Jewish connections to Israel and allegations that Israel is "Judaizing" Jerusalem are so routine as to be unheard by Israelis, accustomed as they are to Palestinian leaders blustering, lying, and simply making things up, from trivial allegations regarding Israeli "libido-increasing chewing gum" distributed in Gaza[10] to heinous allegations of all manner of war crimes. This is unfortunate since such claims of "Judaization," largely by means of archaeological excavations and infrastructure modernization, featured for decades in international forums such as UNESCO,[11] are central to the global efforts to delegitimize Israel by elevating the Islamic status of Jerusalem.[12]

By and large, the lack of Arab media attention suggests that they also take Palestinian claims with a heaping teaspoon of salt. In the absence of open warfare between Israel and the Palestinians, Arab media today appear preoccupied with more important events in Syria, Egypt, Iran, and elsewhere. Even so, why has there been so little attention to Abbas's statement?

The Palestinian reception of rhetoric such as Abbas's is a critical question. Palestinian nationalist rhetoric since the early 1920s was characterized by what even Palestinian-American historian Rashid Khalidi has called "overheated prose."[13] From the beginning, it was also suffused with local, pan-Arab and Islamic themes that were sometimes complementary but often in tension with one another. In general, Palestinian rhetoric today takes place in an environment that has been progressively Islamized over the past two decades by Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in part through competition with Hamas and other Islamist and jihadist movements.[14] Islamic themes and imagery have helped frame and elaborate political discourse and in turn have intensified the Islamic dimension of Palestinian collective identity.[15]

While a full study of language and cognition in Palestinian culture is beyond the scope of this article, it is useful to bear in mind the analysis of Arab societies as "high context" cultures. In such cultures, the domination of in-groups with similar experiences and expectations requires fewer but more carefully selected words that convey complex messages using inferences supplied by the listener. By contrast, communications in "low context" cultures are not aimed at in-groups and, therefore, tend to be more explicit.[16]

Seen in this light, Palestinian political statements regarding their Neolithic origins and continuity, which can be regarded in historical, rhetorical, and philosophical terms as completely fictional, might be understood as simply innovative shorthand communications to an in-group. On the one hand, it nominally cites Western scientific frameworks, which demonstrates a sort of modernist orientation. But on the other, the emotive power and real intention is largely supplied by the listener, who hears in effect that Palestinians have existed forever, along with the implication that this fact is supported by history or even science.

Together with lies and ideological speech, fictional nonsense helps shape Palestinian culture, beliefs, and political behavior. To say that this is at odds with objective reality as recovered by science is to miss the point. To some unknowable but large degree, this is Palestinian reality. What from the outside appears to be disjointed and nonsensical bits in reality are seamless parts of a larger Palestinian whole, beliefs about the history, the world, culture, and the self. The question then becomes the relationship of that reality to others. And here the matter of media as a conduit and interpreter becomes paramount.

The problem is that in-group statements and the reality they create are never restricted to the in-group. Western reception of rhetorical nonsense varies widely. Western media have been silent about the Neolithic Palestinian nation, and this is most instructive. The simplest explanation why Abbas's comments were not mentioned in Western press accounts is that literal nonsense from Palestinians simply does not register. Although it is not acknowledged, to some extent Palestinian nonsense is likely recognized as such by Western media and filtered out, at least semiconsciously, as "overheated prose." Ironically, of course, objections to such cultural stereotyping are characteristic of the Orientalist critique although they are rarely made when such analyses come from Arab sources.

Willing Infidels

What Israelis regard as incitement—rhetoric designed to inflame populations and move them to hatred and violence—thus seems to register as mere epiphenomena to other Western audiences, who appear to seek a simple, moralistic tale with materialist underpinnings. By and large, Western media in particular, abetted by intellectuals, have created a singular distortion zone around "Israel/Palestine"—turning it into a clear-cut morality tale of colonial white people with F-16s oppressing indigenous brown people with stones and the odd suicide bomber.

A recent study of how the Arab-Israeli conflict is treated by the Reuters news agency noted the pervasive use of appeals to pity and to poverty, innuendo, euphemisms and loaded words, multiple standards and asymmetrical definitions, card-stacking, symbolic fictions, and atrocity propaganda, along with non-sequiturs and red herrings. The study concludes that "Reuters engages in systematically biased storytelling in favor of the Arabs/Palestinians and is able to influence audience affective behavior and motivate direct action along the same trajectory."[17]

For most journalists engaged with the moralistic narrative, fantastic stories about Palestinians having existed 9,000 years ago do not even rise to the level of cognitive dissonance; it is, for now, nonsense discourse and anti-realism. But another factor for the lack of Western attention to such statements is found in Frankfurt's discourse on nonsensical rhetoric; the sincerity of the user cannot be challenged since to do so would require making fundamental judgments. To preserve the fiction of rational interlocutors, sincerity must be accepted as a token of trustworthiness even as the simple words of the statement contradict such claims.

Three other factors also play a role: the postmodern downgrading of objectivity and the idea of a single shared reality; the elevation of multiple narratives as being equally valid, and the valuation of feelings over facts. Challenging rhetorical nonsense, in addition to potentially compromising journalistic access, could hurt interlocutors' feelings.

There is more than a little condescension at work in the Western reception of these strategies if not actual contempt. For one thing, Palestinians lies and nonsense are rarely challenged by the media or other interpreters besides those termed Israel advocates, something that has itself been transformed into a negative semantic and social category. It is almost as if Palestinians are expected simply to make things up as they go along, which then may or may not be accepted by the West according to how well they fit the Palestinian narrative.

Ideological religious statements are similarly ignored but in all likelihood for different reasons. Non-religious Western observers simply have no intellectual framework to interpret such strong statements outside materialist constructs that regard religion generally as epiphenomenal or false consciousness. For these reasons, the Islamic rather than nationalistic basis for the Arab-Israeli conflict has been systematically downplayed from the 1930s. Even the Hamas charter—which is nothing but forthright regarding its religious basis, theological anti-Semitism, and calls for genocide—is largely excluded from journalistic and even academic analyses because it makes no sense within the context of frameworks that are exclusively nationalistic and materialist in nature.

But the eagerness with which certain lies are accepted, such as talk of Israeli war crimes, and the flimsy nature of Western journalistic investigations strongly shows that at least two additional levels of bias are at work. At one level, the narrative of the oppressed underdog is so strong that there is little inclination to press for truths that would undermine that narrative, embarrass the Palestinians, and in doing so, incur their wrath and limit the media access they give to their territories, sources, and stories. At the deeper level, as perfectly illustrated by the quote from Catherine Nay above, there is a deep need to find Israelis guilty in order to relieve Holocaust guilt (and, one might argue cynically, to get back to old-fashioned anti-Semitism) particularly among European descendents of its perpetrators. The satisfaction of making this so is palpable.

These factors also illustrate how the Palestinian narrative, even with ludicrous bits thrown in and others excluded, is arguably not by or even about the Palestinians. It is propelled largely by Western needs to see the world through the post-colonial lens of noble indigenes and evil Western colonists. The Palestinians may in fact have lost exclusive control of the narrative decades ago, perhaps as far back as the 1920s or 1930s, when their cause was taken over by the Arab states and the Muslim world. A more comprehensive view of the Palestinian narrative would see them as secondary contributors to a process propelled by Arab and Muslim states and refracted through Western media and universities, ultimately minor subjects in a far larger discussion between Islam and the West.

The problem is that, thanks to mindless parroting by journalists and human rights organizations of Palestinian lies and nonsense, hatred, anti-Semitism, and ceaseless incitement are gradually overwhelming the filters against anti-realism, particularly in Europe where there are powerful cultural incentives to think ill of Jews and wish ill for Israelis. The effects of this process are seen even more clearly throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds where, though free of Jews, anti-Semitism is all-pervasive.


An example of the erosion of Western critical filters was the unchallenged appearance of an opinion piece in The Washington Post in December 2011 that effectively repeated some of Abbas's absurd statements regarding the antiquity of the Palestinians. Maen Rashid Areikat, the PLO representative to the United Nations, stated that Palestinians had "lived under the rule of a plethora of empires: the Canaanites, Egyptians, Philistines, Israelites, Persians, Greeks, Crusaders, Mongols, Ottomans, and finally, the British." Throwing history out the window, he added

we are Arabs with black, brown, and white skin, dark- and light-colored eyes, and the whole gamut of hair types. Like Americans, we are a hybrid of peoples defined by one overarching identity. Many in the United States forget that Palestinians are Muslims and Christians. They ignore the fact that Palestinian Christians are the descendants of Jesus and guardians of the cradle of Christianity.[18]

Palestinians can simultaneously be Arabs, who arrived in the Levant in the seventh century C.E., and be more ancient than the Canaanites. At the same time, the empires they endured and that infused them include everyone except Arab ones, notably the Umayyad and Abbasid, which brought Arabs and Islam to the region in the first place. The fact-checkers of The Washington Post editorial page fall mute and shared reality is eroded further. Unfortunately this sort of rhetorical nonsense resonates deeply, especially with some Christian supersessionists committed to anti-Zionism.[19] History no longer matters.

It is often stated that peace can only come when Israelis and Palestinians recognize one another's narratives. Claims regarding the Neolithic Palestinian nation indicate this unlikely to occur either in the future or in the past. In the meantime, anti-reality continues to spread.

Alex Joffe is a New York-based writer on history and international affairs. His web site is

[1] Palestinian TV (Fatah), May 14, 2011.
[2] Louis H. Feldman, "Some Observations on the Name of Palestine," Hebrew Union College Annual, 61 (1990): 1-23.
[3] "Camp David and After: An Exchange, An Interview with Ehud Barak," The New York Review of Books, June 13, 2001.
[4] Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 56.
[5] See the essays in Hersh Goodman and Jonathan Cummings, eds., The Battle of Jenin: A Case Study in Israel's Communications Strategy (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, 2003).
[6] Philippe Karsenty, "We Need to Expose the Muhammad al-Dura Hoax," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2008, pp. 57-65; Nidra Poller, "The Muhammad al-Dura Hoax and Other Myths Revived," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2011, pp. 71-8.
[7] Ivan Rioufol, "Les médias, pouvoir intouchable?" Le Figaro (Paris), June 13, 2008.
[8] Ahlul Bayt News Agency (Qom, Iran), June 23, 2011.
[9] Palestinian TV (Fatah), June 2, 2011, at Palestinian Media Watch, accessed Mar. 1, 2012.
[10] YNet News (Tel Aviv), July 13, 2009.
[11] See, for example, the summary in Craig Larkin and Michael Dumper, "UNESCO and Jerusalem: Constraints, Challenges and Opportunities," Jerusalem Quarterly, Autumn 2009, pp. 16-28.
[12] Yitzhak Reiter, Jerusalem and Its Role in Islamic Solidarity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 70-149.
[13] Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 258, n. 76.
[14] Hillel Frisch, "Nationalizing a Universal Text: The Quran in Arafat's Rhetoric," Middle Eastern Studies, May 2005, pp. 321-36.
[15] Mahmoud Mi'ari, "Transformation of Collective Identity in Palestine," Journal of Asian and African Studies, Dec. 2009, pp. 579-98.
[16] Rhonda S. Zaharna, "Understanding Cultural Preferences of Arab Communications Patterns," Public Relations Review, 21 (1995): 241-55.
[17] Henry I. Silverman, "Reuters: Principles of Trust or Propaganda?" Journal of Applied Business Research, Nov./Dec. 2011, pp. 93-116.
[18] Maen Rashid Areikat, "Palestine, a history rich and deep," The Washington Post, Dec. 27, 2011.
[19] David Wenkel, "Palestinians, Jebusites, and Evangelicals," Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2007, pp. 49-56.

Alexander H. Joffe


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

UK: Radical Megamosque Opposed by Muslims

by Irfan Al-Alawi

Craig's views are hardly anti-Muslim. Rather, he has questioned the character and intentions of Tabligh i Jamaat in terms shared by the overwhelming number of Muslims who know all too well the reality of Deobandi Islam in South Asia. Craig should be supported by Muslims.

In 1996, British adherents of Tabligh i Jamaat [TJ], the Muslim preaching movement that reflects the fundamentalist Deobandi ideology of the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban, purchased a large tract of land in an industrial area of West Ham, in the London Borough of Newham. The property was formerly a chemical factory, but TJ proposed to erect a "mega-mosque" there, serving tens of thousands of worshippers, with extensive visitors' and conference centres, guest hostelries, a religious school, and parking space.

Little attention was paid to the "mega-mosque" project until Londoners, both Muslim and non-Muslim, were disturbed to learn that, if realized, the TJ complex would appear adjacent to the new Stadium built for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The successful bid for London to host this year's Olympic Games came in 2005, almost a decade after TJ obtained the parcel on which it intended to place the "mega-mosque." The Stadium opened last month. The Games will commence on 27 July. Opposition to the "mega-mosque" has left its future unresolved.

Community representatives opposed to the "mega-mosque" have demanded enforcement of an agreement between TJ and Newham Council, announced in February 2011, and calling for TJ to submit a valid planning application for the construction within one year. Absent such documentation, TJ was supposed to remove its temporary structures and car-park paving.

The February 2012 deadline for a construction application passed without TJ's compliance. Having defaulted on that promise, TJ is left with a makeshift "Islamic" presence close to the Olympic Stadium.

The organization held a public event in February at which it described its vision ambitiously, including a mosque eight stories high and apartment buildings of from four to seven stories each. Public-relations propaganda cannot, however, substitute for fulfillment of a solemn, legal commitment made to local authorities and disregarded.

The TJ project has been renamed several times, having been described originally in promotional literature as the "London Markaz" ("Center" in Arabic). But while London already has a Central Mosque in Regents Park, financed mainly by Saudi Arabia, the London "mega-mosque" was designated as a hub for TJ activities in Europe. It has also been called the "Masjid-e-Ilyas," to honour, presumably, Ilyas Al-Kandhlawi (1885-1944), founder and first "ameer" or "commander" of TJ. More recently it was entitled the "Abbey Mills Mosque" after the industrial zone in which it was to be opened. It is now known as the "Riverine Centre," an innocuous name, and is listed in online mosque directories as the "Riverine Centre/Masjid-E-Ilyas/Markaz."

TJ leaders in the UK were delighted with the prospect that the "mega-mosque" would tower over the Olympic Stadium, and provide TJ with benign media attention during sports broadcasting. In 2007, Abdul Khaliq, TJ representative and "mega-mosque" director, stated, "We would like to think that the Olympic authority will use it as the Islamic quarter of the 2012 Games." TJ was encouraged by Ken Livingstone, the radical Labour Mayor of London from 2000 to 2008, who endorsed the scheme, and denounced its critics as prejudiced against Muslims and purveyors of false information. (Livingstone, it should be noted, lost his bid to regain his old post in London's recent mayoral vote, in which Conservative Boris Johnson was re-elected.)

Alan Craig, leader of the Christian Peoples' Alliance and a former Newham Council member, has been an outspoken and activist opponent of the "mega-mosque;" his views on it and TJ, however, are hardly anti-Muslim. Rather, Craig has questioned the character and intentions of TJ in terms shared by the overwhelming number of Muslim adversaries of Deobandi radicalism. Craig has described TJ correctly as "fundamentalist, separatist, sexist, and anti-social," and has warned that the "mega-mosque" would harm community relations and integration of Muslims in London.

Muslims against the "mega-mosque" once included a group called "Sunni Friends of Newham," who warned that the TJ plan would discriminate against Muslims unaffiliated with the movement, alienate non-Muslims, and radicalize Muslim youth. The Muslim antagonists to the TJ campaign – knowing all too well the reality of Deobandi extremism in South Asia – collected 2,500 signatures on a petition against the "mega-mosque" but faded from the scene, apparently because of TJ pressure.

MegaMosqueNoThanks, an organization led by Craig, has most recently called attention to TJ's failure to abide by its 2011 voluntary and binding undertaking made to Newham Council. To emphasize, TJ pledged to produce a valid planning application before February of this year. The movement did not carry out its agreed duties. Craig has said, "Not for the first time TJ has failed to keep an undertaking. The group has an history of breaking planning laws, flouting building regulations and breaching solemn agreements. Its track record is one of negligence and irresponsibility. We are urging Newham Council to move them off the site and to knock down the buildings."

Craig and other non-Muslims challenging TJ and the "mega-mosque" should be supported by Muslims concerned about preventing alienation between non-Muslims and them. The continuing penetration of Deobandism is a problem everywhere South Asian Muslims are found. In Afghanistan and Pakistan the Deobandi-inspired Taliban wage open terrorism. India's Muslim minority of 160 million is divided as the Deobandis have seized positions in community institutions. Bangladesh is the scene of annual TJ assemblies drawing millions of participants. TJ and other Deobandi agents claim to have taken over a majority of UK mosques.

In the U.S., the influence of Deobandism and of the Pakistani jihadist followers of Abu'l Ala Mawdudi (1903-79) predominates among South Asian Muslims, who account for a plurality of American Muslims. Marcia Hermansen of Loyola University in Chicago has written that followers of Barelvism --the majority trend among Muslims in the Indian subcontinent and the South Asian Sunni communities abroad -- have given up organizing a body to represent their interests in America. Barelvis are traditionalists opposed to Deobandism, and who support instead Sufi spirituality and who proclaim loyalty to non-Muslim authorities. According to Hermansen, their "failure may have occurred as a result of factors specific to the Muslim subculture in the United States, for example, the fact that most community organizations were already controlled by anti-Sufi Islamists" -- an assessment that is unfortunately accurate.

Alan Craig and others drew a necessary line against TJ and Deobandi penetration of European Islam in denouncing the "mega-mosque." Their current demand is legally sound. The debris of the "mega-mosque" imposture should be cleared away from West Ham before the end of next month and the beginning of the Olympics. It is a blight on London, and on the standing of moderate, traditional, and conventional British Muslims.

Irfan Al-Alawi


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

Kuwait: New Death Penalty for Blasphemy

by Mohshin Habib

So what should international human rights organization regard as the threat: the Quran, Quranic instructions, or the people who are just following its recommended path?

Kuwaiti lawmakers have passed a legal amendment authorizing the death penalty for Muslims who curse their God or the Quran, or who defame their Prophet Mohammed or his wife. In the amended article, if the defendant publicly repents and apologizes for the crime, the penalty will be reduced to five years in jail, a fine of 10,000 Kuwaiti Dinars (KD), or both.

The approved article states that non-Muslims who commit the same crime face at least 10 years in jail. Some MPs demanded the death penalty should also apply to them as well. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan boast the same death penalty law for blasphemy. In other Muslim countries, there are different interpretations to executing people who are outspoken and have different opinion. The Islamic States also never tolerate apostasy, conversion, or freedom from religion.

Islam is a belief. It is not clear in any Muslim country why a man before a court in any Muslim country would be termed Muslim if he does not believe in the religion, or possibly any religion, just because he happened to be born into a home in which Islam happened to be the religion of the family living there.

Overriding Kuwaiti disapproval, international human rights organizations, including the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, expressed deep concern. The Chairman of USCIRF, Leo Leonard, said he judged these penalties as alarming and contrary to international human rights standards.

As the commission recognizes the Quran as a holy script for the Muslims, however, the question arises as to how can the commission can feel concerned about the new law if the law has been derived from the Quranic instructions of which they ostensibly approve?

Although most Islamists formally say that the Quran itself does not prescribe any earthly punishment for apostasy, in fact Sharia Law and Islamic schools of jurisprudence strongly advocate that an apostate must be either executed or imprisoned until he or she re-converts to Islam. In the last 1400 years, Islam has been always harsh and brutal to non-believers, apostates and people who might have different opinions. Here is what Quran says on these issues:

  • But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever you find them. - 4:89
  • Therefore, we stirred among them [unbelievers] enmity and hatred, which shall endure till the Day of Resurrection, when Allah will declare to them all that they have done. - 5:14
  • O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Those of you who make them his friends are one of them. God does not guide an unjust people. - 5:54
  • Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme - 8:39
  • O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there are 20 steadfast men among you, they shall vanquish 200; and if there are a hundred, they shall rout a thousand unbelievers, for they are devoid of understanding. - 8:65
  • It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he has made slaughter in the land. - 8:67
  • Allah will humble the unbelievers. Allah and His apostle are free from obligations to idol-worshipers. Proclaim a woeful punishment to the unbelievers. - 9:2-3
  • When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. - 9:5
  • Believers! Know that idolators are unclean. - 9:28
  • Fight those who believe neither in God nor the Last Day, nor what has been forbidden by God and his messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are People of the Book, until they pay the tribute and have been humbled. The unbelievers are impure and their abode is hell. Humiliate the non-Muslims to such an extent that they surrender and pay tribute. - 9:29
  • Whether unarmed or well-equipped, march on and fight for the cause of Allah, with your wealth and your persons. - 9:41
  • O Prophet! Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey's end. - 9:73
  • Allah has purchased of their faithful lives and worldly goods, and in return has promised them the Garden. They will fight for His cause, kill and be killed. - 9:111
  • Fight unbelievers who are near to you. 9:123 [Different translation: Believers! Make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Let them find harshness in you. (Another source: ) Ye who believe! Murder those of the disbelievers....]
  • As for those who are slain in the cause of Allah, He will not allow their works to perish. He will vouchsafe them guidance and ennoble their state; He will admit them to the Paradise He has made known to them. - 10:4-15
  • Allah has cursed the unbelievers and proposed for them a blazing hell. - 33:60
  • Unbelievers are enemies of Allah and they will roast in hell. - 41:14
  • When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds, then set them free, either by grace or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens. - 47:4 [Different translation: When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads, and when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly.]
  • Those who are slain in the way of Allah - he will never let their deeds be lost. Soon will he guide them and improve their condition, and admit them to the Garden, which he has announced for them. - 47:5
  • Muslims are harsh against the unbelievers, merciful to one another. - 48:25
  • Muhammad is Allah's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another. Through them, Allah seeks to enrage the unbelievers. - 48:29
  • Prophet! Make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal sternly with them. Hell shall be their home, evil their fate. - 66:9
  • The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of hell. They are the vilest of all creatures. - 98:51

These verses have been directly informed by the Quran – and are being taken literally. So what should international human rights organizations regard as the threat: the Quran, Quranic instructions, or the people who are just following its recommended path?

Mohshin Habib


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

Obama’s Presidency and the Pathologies of Progressivism

by Bruce Thornton

Obama’s presidency has failed miserably, but it has accomplished one thing: it has revealed for all to see the lethal pathologies of progressive ideology. This doesn’t mean progressivism will go away. We thought the New Democrat Bill Clinton had put progressive ideas to rest when he said that the era of big government was over, and then reformed welfare and cut government spending from 23.5% of GDP to 19.5%. Yet despite the success that followed his rejection of failed liberal policies, here we are in the fourth year of Obama’s term, saddled with $5 trillion in new debt, a stalled economy, a National Labor Relations Board carrying water for the unions, a blatantly politicized Department of Justice, and rapidly metastasizing entitlement programs. Meanwhile the president indulges in class-warfare rhetoric young a century ago, and calls for even more redistributionist deficit spending to benefit his political cronies and clients.

The worst economic recovery since World War II that Obama and the Democrats midwifed has exposed the failure of the notion that the government can create economic growth and wealth rather than merely expropriating it from the creative and productive, and that centralized planning and regulating by “experts” can more efficiently allocate resources than the free market does. But more important is the underlying idea of progressivism that Obama’s policies is predicated on: Perfect justice, prosperity, and equality are possible if enlightened elites are given the power to organize and run society according to “scientific” knowledge about human nature and behavior. For two centuries this hubristic idea has led to failure, misery, and murder on a vast scale, yet progressives continue to increase government power in order to create this impossible utopia. Obamacare is just the latest iteration of this frequently demonstrated fallacy that complex human behavior, which reflects the unpredictable free will of millions of unique individuals, can be organized, controlled and regimented in order to achieve some dream-world utopia. That progressives still cling to this exploded idea despite the evidence of history and a disintegrating E.U. shows just how reactionary and blinkered they are.

But the list of progressive fallacies exposed by Obama is much longer. He has laid bare the hypocrisies and failures of the race-based identity politics that lie behind affirmative action and other racialist policies. Only by dint of the Jim Crow one-drop rule can someone who is half-black, who was raised in one of the least black states in the union by white grandparents, who had no exposure to black American culture and mores in his formative years, and who graduated from exclusive, elitist, predominantly white universities be considered authentically black. Moreover, his manifest ignorance about everything from pronunciation of common words to the basics of history and economics has exposed the gross inflation of his abilities by whites, one based not on performance but on assertion. Remember the presidential historian who claimed, with no evidence from transcripts or test scores, that Obama was probably the smartest president ever? Obama illustrates the truth that progressive racial policies are based on the illiberal idea that predicates minority identity on simplistic group stereotypes and the presumption of victimhood based on nothing other than melanin quotient and hair texture.

Then there’s the obvious dishonesty of progressive claims to care for the welfare of the “people” and battle for their interests against the elite. Remember Al Gore’s 2000 campaign slogan, “The People vs the Powerful”? Or Occupy Wall Street’s “We are the 99%”? In the progressive worldview, public employees who earn more than private sector workers, enjoy greater job security, and get gold-plated health and retirement benefits are the downtrodden workers that evil capitalist stooges like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker are eager to destroy. Twenty-something Occupy Wall Street riffraff––with federally subsidized, useless college degrees and the leisure to befoul public spaces and vandalize private property in order to promote decrepit bumper-sticker politics––are “dissident” idealists bravely opposing the “man.” Zillionaire movie stars and pop divas with little or no education are noble, enlightened protestors against “income inequality” and the depredations of the “1%.” Well-heeled global-warming alarmists gorging on federal “clean-energy” subsidies and trailing King-Kong carbon footprints are admired champions of the environment being ravaged by corporate barbarians.

In fact, it is the progressives who are the party of big-money elites out of touch with the average American. In 2008 Obama reaped a third of a billion dollars from blue-state plutocrats like Goldman Sachs, the University of California, Time-Warner, Google, and Microsoft. This trolling for cash in America’s richest zip codes is continuing this election cycle, which has seen Vogue editor Anna Wintour offer hoi polloi a chance to win a seat at her fundraiser for Obama. Even liberal Juan Williams saw the class snobbery of letting “someone who reeks of ornamental excess announce that the peasants can have a place at the table.” But why are we surprised? As David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin document in their just-published The New Leviathan, progressive tax-exempt foundations, with a near-trillion-dollar war chest, outspend conservatives 7-1, while currency manipulator George Soros pour billions into progressive causes. Meanwhile, the most populist, grass-roots political movement in decades, the Tea Party, is slandered as racist hillbillies clinging to their guns and religion.

Next is the big lie that progressives are all about human freedom. What they have promoted is more accurately called license: the selfish freedom to do whatever you want no matter the cost, which then must be picked up by the taxpayer. Hence the elevation of abortion into the most important sacrament in the progressive church. Sexual pleasure and license can now appear to be “cost free” because no matter how careless or stupid people are, the consequences of their bad choices can be eliminated or mitigated on somebody else’s nickel. Progressive freedom is all about the freedom to indulge selfish appetites without the restraints of virtue, shame, guilt, or morality––unless, of course, one desires to better oneself economically without the state meddling in your business and filching your earnings. Then we will hear fire-and-brimstone sermons about the “greed” of the “selfish” redolent of Cotton Mather.

Genuine political freedom, on the other hand, the freedom to run our lives and the state according to high principles that seek to make us better human beings worthy of freedom, always entails the need for personal responsibility and accountability, and the acceptance of risk and failure. But these are all anathema to the progressive, who wants the state to take responsibility for our actions, insulate us from the consequences of our bad choices, and compensate for our loss of true freedom by distracting us with the license to gratify our appetites. But as political philosophers from Plato to Tocqueville have pointed out, this “soft despotism” ends up empowering the state and “enlightened” elites, and thus puts at risk our political freedom and autonomy.

Finally, the arch-virtue of the progressive, tolerance, is in fact the rankest intolerance. We should tolerate pornography and vulgarity in the public square, but stamp out religious speech or criminalize conservative criticism as “hate speech.” We should understand and sympathize with the terrorist and not rush to judge him, but reflexively condemn and hound those who try to stop him. We should seek out and promote diverse points of view, but censor or silence those of “conservatives” and other ideological reprobates. We should show “civility” in our political discourse, but savage with relish political enemies. We should admire and privilege non-Western religions, but attack Christianity and Judaism as oppressive superstitions. We should praise and promote all lifestyles no matter how distasteful or sordid, yet ridicule traditional mores and virtues. We should root out racism, sexism, and homophobia, but make an exception for minorities, feminists, and Muslims.

Failed economic theory, illiberal racial policies, elitist snobbery, political freedom reduced to selfish license, and intolerance of disagreement and dissent––these are some of the pathologies of progressivism that have been illustrated every day of Obama’s presidency. It will take November’s election to show whether a critical mass of Americans has finally had their fill of this rancid progressive wine, or whether it returns once again in a new bottle.

Bruce Thornton


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

Eric Holder’s Corrupt Agenda

by Arnold Ahlert

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it was filing a lawsuit against Florida over the state’s push to clean its voter roles of dead and foreign voters. The move comes on the heels of Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, scheduling a vote by his panel on June 20th aimed at holding U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents in the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal. While the corrupt practices of Holder’s DOJ may finally be getting the attention they deserve, it is also becoming apparent that the department is not just degrading the principles of law and order to advance a radical leftist agenda — but to enhance president’s Obama’s re-election chances by any means necessary.

The DOJ’s lawsuit against Florida is little more than the latest evidence of the highly politicized nature of the department and the man at its helm. As mentioned above, the state has been singled out for attempting to purge its voter rolls of non-citizens. Yet as testimony by former DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams to the House of Representatives revealed, the department has taken exactly the opposite approach with other states, “deliberately refusing to enforce Section 8 and require states to purge rolls because of philosophical disagreement with the purging statute.” He further testified that during his time in the Voting Section, “political appointees expressed open and outright hostility to enforcing Section 8.”

The DOJ’s sudden interest in enforcing Section 8 in Florida rests on two contentions. One, that Florida has conducted its effort “within the 90-day quiet period before an election for federal office established by the law” and that “Florida’s use of inaccurate and unreliable voter verification procedures violates the requirement in Section 8 of the NVRA that any such program be uniform and nondiscriminatory.”

Both contentions are easily debunked. On Tuesday, Republican Governor Rick Scott revealed that Florida has been forced to use state databases to cleanse voter rolls because the Department of Homeland Security has refused to allow his state access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE), a national immigration database needed to confirm citizenship status. According to Scott, the DHS has stonewalled the state for nine months. This undercuts both of the DOJ’s arguments, even as it reveals the Orwellian nature of an Obama administration willing to deny Florida a more reliable database and timely access to it, while suing the state for “violations” it forced the state to preform.

Scott has taken notice. He announced that Florida will file suit for access. “We’ve done all the right things,” he said in an appearance on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “We’re put in a position where we don’t have a choice but to sue them to get access to a database…to make sure that your right as a citizen is not diluted by a non-citizen.” Scott also revealed the critical reason why. “We tried to use our own database to do it…even with that database, we’ve found 100 people not entitled to vote and we know 50 of them have voted.”

Florida is only the latest example of the blatant prejudice that emanates from the DOJ. Both Texas and South Carolina are being sued for enacting voter photo ID statutes despite a 6-3 ruling by the United States Supreme in 2008 upholding Indiana’s right to require such identification for voting. This implies that Eric Holder and company believe each state must file individual suits before SOTUS to achieve the same right.

The same prejudice is seen in lawsuits against states seeking to enforce immigration laws the DOJ routinely ignores. Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah have all been targeted–even as not a single suit has been filed against any of the numerous “sanctuary cities” whose illegal alien-protecting statutes are unambiguous violations of federal immigration law. Taken as a whole the message is clear: anything that conflicts with the progressive agenda of the Obama administration becomes a target, while anything that accrues to it remains beneath the radar.

And the primary tactic for enforcing that message is crystal clear as well: delay, delay, delay. Delay the conclusion of a gunrunning scandal that may engulf high-ranking administration officials. Delay the implementation of voter photo ID requirements in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling permitting them. Delay the cleansing of tainted voter rolls that would weed out ineligible voters. Delay enforcing immigration laws in sanctuary cities and the implementation of laws designed to address illegal immigration. Delay for how long?

Until after the general election in November, at least.

With respect to voter ID laws, immigration statutes and voter rolls, such delays are likely a slam dunk. The wheels of justice grind slow, and there is no doubt that every effort will be made by the DOJ to appeal every decision that goes against them all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. And until Darrell Issa finally reached the limit of his patience, it was virtually certain that the Fast and Furious investigation, already more than a year old, would have continued past next November as well.

It probably will anyway. Speaking before a Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Mr. Holder, much like Iranian nuclear negotiators, claimed he was willing to work out a compromise with the House Government and Oversight Committee. “I want to make sure it is very clear that I’m offering–I myself–to sit down with the [House] speaker, the chairman, with you and work our way through this in an attempt to avoid a constitutional crisis and come up with ways, creative ways, in which to make these materials available,” Holder told Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). Grassley remained skeptical. “Here we are, one year later, and the Terry family is still waiting for answers, they’re still waiting for justice,” he said.

Yet Holder’s newfound attitude apparently resonated with Issa. Yesterday he sent a letter to Holder urging him to make the Committee an offer.

“Let me be clear–if the Department of Justice submits a serious proposal for how it intends to alter its refusal to produce critical documents subpoenaed by the Committee, I am ready and willing to meet to discuss your proposal,” Issa wrote. No other conditions were set by Issa, but Sen. Grassley kept up the pressure. He wants to see the 80,000 documents that were subpoenaed, of which the DOJ has so far produced only 7,600. Grassley told Fox News that he would be satisfied only “when they cough up” the rest of those documents.

As for timeliness regarding the investigation, i.e. the public disclosure of top secret national security secrets, forget it. Even with the appointment of a special prosecutor in the far less serious “outing” of CIA agent Valerie Plame, that investigation took two years. The president opposes the appointment of a special counsel in this case, leaving Eric Holder to conduct the investigation. Holder has appointed two prosecutors, Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, to direct “separate probes that are already being conducted by the FBI.” The phrase separate probes suggests that, at some point those probes will have to be reconciled, undoubtedly lengthening the time of an investigation.

Whether the American public can put the pieces of these various efforts together remains to be seen. They’re certainly not going to get any help from the mainstream media. For example, CNN has characterized potential contempt charges against Holder as “politics,” while Tuesday marked the first time NBC news saw fit to cover Fast and Furious at all. Apparently some prominent players in the Fourth Estate are every bit as invested in obscuring reality as Eric Holder and the Obama administration. All of them remain fully committed to getting Barack Obama to the finish line in November relatively unscathed and unchallenged by legitimate concerns about the voting process.

And their tactic is as simple as it is corrupt. It is best described by an old aphorism: justice delayed is justice denied.

Arnold Ahlert


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

Further Thoughts on Not Intervening in Syria

by Daniel Pipes

My article today, "Stay out of the Syrian Morass," has evinced a number of comments. Some responses:

  • Jonathan Tobin wrote a refutation at the Commentary weblog, "Contentions." The key paragraph reads:

    Assad's survival will mean not just more Syrian slaughter but will be a huge victory for his Iranian allies that will strengthen their position enormously. One way or another, the West needs to prevent that from happening. The reasons for not doing something about Syria are like those for not doing something about the Iranian nuclear threat. The consequences of intervention will be messy and possibly awful. Yet the alternative is far worse.

    My reply: Yes, Assad's survival will be a boost to the mullahs in Tehran, but (1) it's unlikely to happen and (2) the prospect of a new, aggressive Islamist regime ruling from Damascus does not inspire me to want to help it reach power. Both it and Assad are, to use Tobin's word, "awful."

    That being the case, unless Western powers are prepared to impose their own will in Syria, it's better to stand aside and not be responsible what comes next, better not to be in any way morally implicated in any of their actions. Also, and this is not a minor point: when both sides have murderous intentions toward us, why put American lives at risk?

  • Reader Jim Evans writes at National Review Online that "Mr. Pipes fails to mention that Christians who make up 10% of the Syrian population or about two million Christians … generally either support Assad or don't want the violence of the terrorists. ... Yes, Assad is a dictator, but killing innocent Christian women and children is immoral." My reply: Correct, I did not mention the Syrian Christians or other minorities, all of whom are in greater jeopardy due to Islamist advances. However great my concern for their welfare, I do not believe that their predicament warrants a U.S.-backed intervention.

    Two further points on this general topic of humanitarian intervention: Along with Max Boot and Michael O'Hanlon, I agree that the U.S. government should create a foreign legion; for me, its main benefit lies in permitting Washington to deploy forces for humanitarian purposes without fear of a backlash due to casualties. That said, this legion should be deployed to the very worst humanitarian crises - which might not include Syria at all but rather such failed states as Somalia, Chad, the Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. (How many readers are aware that over 5 million were estimated killed during the decade 1998-2007 in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to a civil war in that country?)

  • A reader suggests (in a private note to me) that working with the future leaders of Syria will win their gratitude and improve future relations with them: My reply: Intense skepticism. Recall what happened within days of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Here is how I described sentiments at the time:

    Thousands of Iraqi Shi'ites chanted "No to America, No to Saddam, Yes to Islam" a few days ago, during pilgrimage rites at the holy city of Karbala. Increasing numbers of Iraqis appear to agree with these sentiments. They have ominous implications for the coalition forces. Gratitude for liberation usually has a short shelf life, and Iraq will be no exception. As a middle-aged factory manager put it, "Thank you, Americans. But now we don't need anybody to stay here anymore."

    Likewise, gratitude in Syria will be brief and superficial.

  • "stranchan" argues at that "some sort of non-political intervention should be implemented to help save the lives of these poor people." My reply: Yes, humanitarian aid (but not the sort that we saw in Libya) is a good idea, such as food, tents, and medicines.

Daniel Pipes


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

An Alliance of Communism and Islam: Chavez and Ahmadinejad

by George Jochnowitz

Hugo Chavez is a good Marxist. That’s why he believes in a world where everybody thinks alike. Marx looked forward to the day when the “final stage of communism” would come and the state would wither away, since without economic differences people would no longer disagree with each other. Like any good Marxist leader, Chavez runs a state with no opposition. According to the New York Times in a news story entitled “Chavez Forces Venezuela to Contemplate a Void” (June 12), “President Hugo Chavez is the undisputed, 24-7, one-man show of Venezuelan politics, its be-all and end-all. He makes laws on his own, with the stroke of a pen. He expropriates buildings and businesses with a wave of his hand. His face smiles on billboards and posters.” Those are strong words for the New York Times to use, but they reflect reality.

Chavez, a good Marxist, is actively pursuing a policy of friendship with Iran, as all Marxists have done ever since Khomeini turned Iran into a theocracy. On February 9, 2007, the Associated Press ran a story under the headline “Iran, Venezuela to begin direct flights.” In the article we read, “Relations between the two countries have tightened under Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who are united in their antagonism to the U.S. government.”

They are united in more ways than one. Hugo Chavez, like all Marxists leaders, has allied himself with radical Islam. Chavez, who called President Bush “el Diablo,” has always been in total agreement with Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, who refers to America as the Great Satan. Iran, in turn, has officially recognized Chavez as an ally. The August 1, 2006, issue of the official English-language newspaper China Daily printed a news story entitled “Chavez receives Iran’s highest award.” We learn from this news item that “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented Chavez with the Iranian Republic Medal in a ceremony at Tehran University.” The medal was awarded to show gratitude to Chavez for his “support for Iran’s stance on the international scene, especially its opposition to a resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency.” The resolution in question was a decision to report Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear program.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez talks about helping the poor, but what he really wants to do is to end freedom and bring about a Marxist society. That is why the National Assembly of Venezuela has granted him free rein to rule by presidential decree for 18 months. The purpose is ostensibly to accelerate changes in society. Chavez doesn’t need free rein. The National Assembly supports him. He has asked for free rein in order to end democracy and civil society. He is doing what Marx advocated.

Marx was opposed to the idea of civil society. In his essay “On the Jewish Question,” he said, “Practical need, egoism, is the principle of civil society, and is revealed as such in its pure form as soon as civil society has fully engendered the political state. The god of practical need and self-interest is money” [emphasis in original]. But these words did not sufficiently express Marx’s disgust with the idea. In the same essay, he went on to say, “It is from its own entrails that civil society ceaselessly engenders the Jew.”

The Marxist vision of the future implies the realization of a society without disagreement and, therefore, the end of history. That is why thought reform is considered a desirable and realizable goal. Those societies that have attempted to reshape human nature have been noted for their ruthlessness. All of the cruelty of Communist states, all of the evils committed by Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, are implicit in the Marxist idea of the withering away of the state.

Lenin, in Chapter 5 of The State and Revolution, says that “The State will be able to wither away completely . . . when people have become accustomed to observe the fundamental rules of social life, and their labor is so productive, that they voluntarily work according to their ability. Until the ‘higher’ phase of Communism arrives, the Socialists demand the strictest control, by society and by the State, of the quantity of labour and the quantity of consumption” [emphasis in original]. Lenin (who used the word “Socialism” to mean “Communism”) sounds hypocritical and contradictory: strictest control seems a peculiar way to arrive at a stage where there is no control. Unfortunately, there is no contradiction. The “strictest control” called for by Lenin was needed because human nature would have to be altered in order to produce the society he envisioned, otherwise people might not “voluntarily work according to their ability.” Indeed, such a stateless world would be unchanging and without strife, or else government would have to reappear.

Thought reform was an explicit Chinese goal in the days of Mao Zedong and remains so today, although the words themselves [sixiang gaizao in Chinese] have fallen out of favor. Chairman Mao claimed that all power came from the barrel of a gun, but he ruled not only through force but through something akin to divine right: he was revered not only as an individual but as the symbol of the inevitable triumph of Communism.

The extreme form of Islam espoused by Ahmadinejad is like the world envisioned by Marx, a world where everyone thinks alike. It is a world that fears freedom and diversity. Chavez is on the road to making his country another North Korea – a place where everyone will obey the Dear Leader. China and Russia have embraced capitalism but have not renounced Marxism. They too are friends of Ahmadinejad. The Marxist-Islamic alliance is alive and well.

Chavez is suffering from cancer and elections are scheduled for October. If Chavez is still alive and well, he will win, as Marxist dictators always do. Nobody knows what will happen if he is unable to run, or if he dies or resigns after being elected. Will a new Venezuelan president rethink Venezuela’s commitment to Ahmadinejad? We can only hope.

George Jochnowitz


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

Mordechai Kedar: An Open Letter to President Asad

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

The Druze writer, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Salman Masalha, addresses President Asad personally and reproves him for the failure of the hollow pan-Arab slogans of brotherhood and equality that his party uses in order to justify the oppression of his people and the murderous brutality of recent decades.

The article was originally published on the Internet site Elaph about six months ago, was translated to Hebrew by Arie Goos and now appears on the Internet site "Megafon". (The comments of Dr. Kedar are in parentheses.)

Dear Mr. President,
It is difficult for me to address you with this title, but because at least officially, as of now, you carry this title and fulfill this role, politeness and protocol oblige me to address you in this way. And so, I will begin:

Dear Mr. President,
Ever since the flames licked the body of Bouazizi in Tunisia (in December 2010, the start of the "domino effect" of the "Arab Spring"), and their sparks then flew to various locations of the Arab world, you haven't understood, nor have any of those who raised you to power by means of a constitutional farce, explained to you, that the Arab coals hidden under the Arab dust and sand for so many long generations of tyranny will set your house aflame as well.

You have declared many times, to the Western media, of course, that Syria is different from Tunisia, different from Libya and different from Egypt. Indeed, in the process of aggressive investigative reporting, the truth did rise to the surface, proving the emptiness of the whole false Ba'ath ideology which claims "one Arab nation with an eternal mission".

Even so, with the kindling of the flames in the Arab states, the power of this slogan quickly collapsed. Its thunderous fall, as you expressed it in your own words, exposed to all, the nationalist lie that the Ba'ath has been spreading for many generations. These glittering slogans have aroused us for such a long time, and unfortunately still excite the feelings even of those who have outgrown Arab nationalism.

The false ideology behind the Ba'ath slogans, in Iraq as well as in Syria - where it still rules officially - hides the darkness of the prisons into which all of the seekers of freedom among the Arab citizens - the cultural as well as the political - are thrown.

Indeed, this Ba'ath party was never anything but a racist Arab ideology, and because of this it became, essentially, a tribal ideology. Yes, this was the situation in the land of Aram Naharaim, Iraq of Saddam Hussein, and this is the current situation in Syria. When you became president, there were those who hoped, naively, that because you studied in the West and you became acquainted with Western culture, and because you know how to use the Internet, Facebook and other modern media, perhaps some wisps of the aroma of freedom and openness of the Western world would have clung to you.

Oh! What naivety! Indeed, they were all naive because they didn't know that you yourself were never free. All the years that passed in the West were carried away in the wind. What is depressing is the speed with which the glittering slogans disappeared with the first wind of freedom. There is another son, recently captured, who was said to have received Western education, and that he is open, in contrast to his father. However, the moment that the intifada broke out in Libya, we saw how Saif al-Islam Qadhafi returned to his nature, which overcame everything that he had acquired in the West. Overnight, those who were involved in the intifada became rats.

And the same goes for you too, Mr. President. Yes, you were not a free man, not even for one day. Why, you are the son of your father. And therefore, if you had really been free you would have refused to allow your father pass down the rule to you by a constitutional farce. If you had been really free you would have insisted on continuing your work as an ophthalmologist. You would have continued to support people to see the light with your assistance. But you were not that sort. Your studies in the cultured West did not avail you, and none of its culture of freedom clung to you.

You returned to the natural tribal Arab nature that overcomes anything else that may have been acquired. That is how the saying, "Syria is not Tunisia and isn't Egypt..." became a banner of return to his tribal Arab roots. These roots are the source of the sorrows of the Arabs. These principles are what push these human societies to the abyss whenever some members of this nation attempt to break free from it.

Yes, Mr. President. This primitive tribal fanaticism is what presents the greatest pitfall to a modern state. This fanaticism is what prevents the emergence of a people, in the full sense of the term.

Mr. President, it is so painful to tell you: this is the truth about you. Actually, this is the truth about all of us. And now, after all of these crimes carried out by the regime that you head, life in Syria will never return to the way it was in the past. It cannot be that the storms of emotion will be calmed as if nothing ever happened. Mr. President, the time has come for you to understand the bitter truth, and so you must pack your suitcases. You must let the people be.

The throats that your brutal "Shabikha" have slit, scream from under the earth: Yalla, Get out of here, O Bashar!

And if slogans have any power, our way may prove successful.

This concludes the article of Salman Masalha. Since these words were written, the situation in Syria has deteriorated, and the worse the situation of the regime, the more murderous it has become, and the more cruel it becomes, the more determined are the rebels.

Mutual deeds of slaughter in recent months have taken the lives of dozens and more every day among children, women and men whose only sin was that they belong to the wrong religious group: Muslims slaughter Alawites, and they - in revenge - slaughter Muslims. Scenes of horror appear in all the media, and even the nations of the world have begun to feel uncomfortable with these spectacles.

The pressure on Russia is increasing, and its leaders are beginning to talk about the "Syrian people" and their suffering, not because they have become supporters of the revolution or human rights, but rather because they fear the loss of all of their assets in Syria - ports on the Mediterranean Sea and many investments - if the rebellion ultimately succeeds. They are concerned that the next Syrian regime will throw them out in revenge for their support of Asad. But talk is one thing and deeds are another: The Russians have begun to transfer attack helicopters to the Syrian regime, those that can shoot rockets on the citizens, despite the fact that these rockets are intended mainly to destroy tanks. They still try to breathe life into the Syrian regime, despite that - and perhaps because - the battles have now reached the suburbs of Damascus.

The latest development is that an air defense battalion has crossed over to the rebels' side, and in response, the battalion was bombed from the air, and it's not clear how much the air defense battalion can actually contribute to the rebellion. Nevertheless, this does signify a widening of the cracks in the walls of the military, because the plague of desertion is spreading, and senior officers are crossing over to the side of the rebels. The "Free Syrian Army" received anti-tank ammunition from Turkey and Libya via Lebanon, and the funding for it comes from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The leaders of the rebellion call to the Syrians living outside of Syria, Arabs and people of conscience in the world to demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy, to stop it from supporting the regime. The United States protests to Russia about the supply of helicopters, but finds it difficult to contribute more than harsh words to the effort of the Syrian people to get rid of the butcher that rules them.

In this situation, where the world stands and passively watches how a mass murderer, son of a mass murderer, slaughters his people, Israel must come to three necessary conclusions:

A. If, G-d forbid, there is a situation where our neighbors will ever overcome us, there is no reason to assume that our enemies will relate to us any better than the way in which they relate to one another. If they only could, they would slaughter us and humiliate our women and our daughters at least in the same way in which they do to the men, women and Syrian daughters. The behavior of the tribes in Libya and in Yemen to each other, just as the way that the Egyptian military treats the demonstrators, shows us how they would behave toward us if they only could. Can anyone prove otherwise?

B. The world has been standing for a year and a half, watching impotently as the butcher of Damascus slaughters his citizens. There is no reason to believe that the world would behave any differently if we were in a similar situation to the Syrian people. This is nothing new: After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, it took the world half a year to shoot the first shot against Saddam's military, and during this period the Iraqi soldiers killed hundreds of Kuwaitis, humiliated beyond words all the daughters of the state, looted all the banks and emptied all the possessions of the houses of the Kuwaitis. We, just like the Syrians, cannot depend on the conscience of the world (if there is such a thing) in any matter that relates to our national and personal security.

C. The borders of Israel must be determined according to the worst case scenario: the possibility of an Iranian invasion into Jordan via Iraq obligates us to remain forever in the Jordan Valley, and the possibility that a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria will become a Hamas state like Gaza obligates us to remain forever in the rural areas between the cities of Judea and Samaria. Peace agreements like those that we have with Egypt and Jordan are not a guarantee of security, especially while there are regime changes such as those that we see these days in Egypt.


Dr. Mordechai Kedar ( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav.

Links to Dr. Kedar's recent articles on this blog:

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

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

Share It