Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Next Cold War






By David Hazony


A new Cold War is upon us. Though there is no Soviet Union today, the enemies of Western democracy, supported by a conglomerate of Islamic states, terror groups, and insurgents, have begun to work together with a unity of purpose reminiscent of the Soviet menace: Not only in funding, training, and arming those who seek democracy's demise; not only in mounting attacks against Israel, America, and their allies around the world; not only in seeking technological advances that will enable them to threaten the life of every Western citizen; but also in advancing a clear vision of a permanent, intractable, and ultimately victorious struggle against the West–an idea they convey articulately, consistently, and with brutal efficiency. It is this conceptual strategic clarity which gives the West's enemies a leg up, even if they are far inferior in number, wealth, and weaponry. From Tehran to Tyre, from Chechnya to the Philippines, from southern Iraq to the Afghan mountains to the madrassas of London and Paris and Cairo, these forces are unified in their aim to defeat the West, its way of life, its political forms, and its cause of freedom. And every day, because of this clarity, their power and resources grow, as they attract allies outside the Islamic world: In Venezuela, in South Africa, in North Korea.

At the center of all this, of course, is Iran. A once-friendly state has embarked on an unflinching campaign, at considerable cost to its own economy, to attain the status of a global power: Through the massive infusion of money, materiel, training, and personnel to the anti-Western forces in Lebanon (Hezbollah), the Palestinian Authority (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), and the Sunni and Shi'ite insurgencies of Iraq; through its relentless pursuit of nuclear arms, long-range missiles, and a space program; through its outsized armed forces and huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons; through its diplomatic initiatives around the world; and through its ideological battle against democracy, Zionism, and the memory of the Holocaust. For the forces of Islamic extremism and political jihad, Iran has become the cutting edge of clarity.


The West, on the other hand, enjoys no such clarity. In America, Iraq has become the overriding concern, widely seen as a Vietnam-style "quagmire" claiming thousands of American lives with no clear way either to win or to lose. (As the bells of the 2006 Congressional elections continue tolling in American ears, it is hard to hear the muezzins of the Middle East calling upon the faithful to capitalize on Western malaise.) Europeans continue to seek "diplomatic solutions" even as they contend with powerful and well-funded Islamists in their midst and their friends among the media and intellectual elites–forces that stir public opinion not against Iran and Syria, who seek their destruction, but against their natural allies, America and Israel. Throughout the West we now hear increasingly that a nuclear Iran is something one has to "learn to live with," that Iraq needs an "exit strategy," and that the real key to peace lies not in victory but in brokering agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and "engaging" Syria and Iran. The Israelis, too, suffer from a lack of clarity: By separating the Palestinian question from the struggle with Hezbollah and Iran, and by shifting the debate back to territorial concession and prisoner exchange, Israelis incentivize aggression and terror, ignore the role Hamas plays in the broader conflict, and send conciliatory signals to the Syrians. Like the Americans with Iraq, Israelis have allowed themselves to lose sight of who their enemies are, how determined they are, and what will be required to defeat them.


The greatest dangers to the West and Israel, therefore, lie not in armaments or battle plans, but in our thinking. Like World War II and the Cold War, this conflict cannot be won without first achieving clarity of purpose. Even the most urgently needed actions, such as stopping the Iranian nuclear effort, require leaders who understand the nature of the threat and have sufficient public support to enable them to act decisively. To achieve this, however, requires a major, immediate investment in the realm of ideas–a battle for understanding that must be won before the battle for freedom can be effectively engaged.

Israel, in particular, has a pivotal role to play. As the front-line state in the conflict, and the lightning rod of Islamist aggression, the world looks to Israel to see how it will respond. From its birth, Israel has served as a model to the West: In deepening its democratic character while fighting a series of wars; in fighting terror effectively, from the defeat of the PLO in the early 1970s in Gaza, to the Entebbe raid in 1976, through Operation Defensive Shield in 2002; and striking preemptively against enemies who combined genocidal rhetoric with the acquisition of sophisticated weapons, as with Egypt and Syria in 1967, and Iraq in 1981. Israel can again serve as a model of a state proud of its heritage, a democracy that knows how to fight against its tyrannical foes without sacrificing its own character. But to do this will require that Israel, too, disperse the conceptual fog in which it has been operating, recognize the strategic costs of ambiguous outcomes such as with the Lebanon war last summer, and adopt a clear and coherent vision and plan of action. If the West is to act decisively and with clarity, it may need Israel to show the way.


What would such a struggle look like? We should not fear to call this conflict by its name: It is the Second Cold War, with Iran as the approximate counterpart of the Soviet Union. Like the ussr, Iran is an enemy that even the mighty United States will probably never meet in full force on the battlefield and instead must fight via its proxies, wherever they are found. Like the Soviet Union, the Ayatollahs' regime is based on an ideological revolution that repudiates human liberty and subjects its political opponents to imprisonment and death, a regime which, in order to maintain its popular support, must continue to foment similar revolutions everywhere it can, to show that it is on the winning side of history. And like the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the Iranian regime today has two clear weaknesses, which could ultimately spell its downfall: Economic stagnation and ideological disaffection. With unemployment and inflation both deep in double digits; an increasing structural dependence on oil revenue; a negligible amount of direct foreign investment; and a stock market that has declined over 30 percent since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's heavy investment in other people's wars and its own weapons and terrorist groups must in the end exact a price in terms of support for the regime. Today, moreover, the great majority of Iranians do not identify with the government's Islamist ideology, and among young people the regime is widely derided.

 Is it possible to bring about the fall of revolutionary Iran? Despite the obvious differences, there is a great deal the West can learn from the way victory was found in the first Cold War. Led by the United States, Western countries in the 1980s mounted a campaign on a wide range of fronts–military, technological, diplomatic, public relations, and covert operations–to convince the Soviet elites that their regime was failing at every turn, and was headed for collapse. By deliberately escalating the arms race and through trade sanctions on the Soviets, America increased the pressure on the Soviet economy. By supporting dissident groups, sending radio transmissions into the Soviet Empire, and making dramatic pronouncements such as Ronald Reagan's famous Berlin Wall speech in 1987, the West emboldened the regime's internal opponents. And by supporting anti-Communist forces around the world, from Latin America to Africa to Western Europe to Afghanistan, the West halted the expansion of the Communist bloc and even began to roll it back. In all cases the goal was the same: To make it clear to the ranks of Soviet elites, upon whom the regime's legitimacy continued to depend, that they were on the wrong side of history.


When taken in combination with the Soviet Union's failing economy and widespread ideological disaffection among the populace–much as we see in Iran today–it was possible for the West's multi-front strategy to bring about the downfall of what was, during the time of Jimmy Carter, believed to be an unstoppable, expanding historical juggernaut for whom the best the West could hope was "containment" and "détente." Its vast nuclear arsenals, its pretensions to global dominance, its coherent world-historical ideology–none of these could protect it against the determined, united efforts of the free world. But it required, above all, a spiritual shift of momentum which began at home: A belief that victory was possible, that the Soviet Union was impermanent, and that concerted effort could change history. It required a new clarity of purpose.


By most measures, Iran is an easier mark than the Soviet Union. It does not yet have nuclear weapons or icbms; its Islamist ideology has less of a universal appeal; its tools of thought control are vastly inferior to the gulag and the KGB; and its revolution is not old enough to have obliterated the memory of better days for much of its population. In theory at least, it should be much easier for the West to mount a similar campaign of relentless pressure on the regime–from fomenting dissent online, to destabilizing the regime through insurgent groups inside Iran, to destroying the Iranian nuclear project, to ever-deeper economic sanctions, to fighting and winning the proxy wars that Iran has continued to wage–in order to effect the kind of change of momentum needed to enable the Iranian people to bring their own regime down the way the peoples under communism did in the 1980s and 1990s.


Yet it is precisely because of the Ayatollahs' apparent frailty that the West has failed to notice the similarities between this menace and the Soviet one a generation ago. For despite their weakness on paper, the forces of jihad are arrayed in full battle armor, and are prepared to fight to the end. What they lack in technological and industrial sophistication, they more than make up for in charisma, public-relations acumen, determination, ideological coherence, and suicidal spirit. Above all, they possess a certainty, a clarity, and a will to sacrifice which will greatly increase their chances of victory, and of continued expansion, until they are met with an equally determined enemy. 


The fall of the Iranian regime will not end the global jihad. Beyond the messianic Shi'ite movement, there is still a world of Sunni and Wahhabi revolutionaries, from al-Qaida to Hamas, determined to make war on the West even without Iran's help–just as anti-American communism did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union. Yet there can be no question that today, it is Iran that has earned the greatest admiration, given the global jihad its greatest source of hope and funds, and racked up the most impressive victories, taking on the West and its allies throughout the Middle East–and especially in Iraq, where its proxy insurgencies have frustrated American efforts and even brought about a shift in the internal politics of the United States. Iran is not the only foe, but it is the leader among them. It is only through Iran's defeat that the tide of the Second Cold War will be turned.


David Hazony


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



Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bringing our Israeli boys home.

By Ami Isseroff

It is most unpleasant to write this particular article, but, I fear, it is most necessary. Almost two years have past since Palestinian bandits loosely affiliated with the Hamas kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In July, it will also be two years since the Hezbollah kidnapped Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Our hearts go out to our kidnapped soldiers and to their families. There is no argument that we must to everything within reason to bring them home.

At the same time, we must only do what is within reason. It is difficult to remain within reason in the face of the pleas of stricken families and comrades. Who can deny the tears of a wife or a mother? If you are like me, you have received many impassioned pleas, calling on the Israeli government to make every sacrifice, agree to any bargain, give in to any conditions, in order to return the three captives.

Those who issue these pleas have the best intentions, and they are motivated by the highest ideals. Solidarity between soldiers and citizens, and the imperative to never leave anyone behind have always been an integral part of the Israeli tradition. But there are other values, other ideals, and other imperatives. Not to endanger other soldiers and citizens is an imperative and an ideal as well. Certainly, we should not endanger live soldiers and civilians in order to obtain the remains of dead ones. We must be mindful that except for Elchanan Tannenbaum, who was not captured in uniform but kidnapped in the course of a drug deal, the Hezbollah have never returned a single soldier alive. IDF examination of the site of the kidnapping of Regev and Goldwasser, including examination of their vehicles, led to the conclusion that it was unlikely that they are alive. No sign of life has come from them since.

The dangers emanating from prisoner releases are three fold. The first danger, the one most cited, is actually the least important. Released terrorists may or may not go back into the terrorism business. However, there are generally plenty more to replace them. What is lost is the deterrence of jailing terrorists, since they can be confident of fairly rapid release. But each prisoner exchange makes the next kidnapping more likely, and in each kidnapping, several more Israelis are likely to be killed.

Over the years, Israel has conducted numerous prisoner swaps, always disadvantageous. The swaps always invited more kidnappings and endangered more soldiers and civilians. The Palestinian Professor Sattar Kassem notes:

The Palestinians learned over the years that the best way to gain release for their freedom fighters is through prisoner swaps with Israelis detained in Palestine. In 1979, the Palestinians captured an Israeli soldier and exchanged him for around 80 Palestinian prisoners, including several that had been sentenced for long periods. Another swap took place in 1983, when Fateh, the organization led by Yasser Arafat, exchanged five prisoners for thousands of Palestinian prisoners. The biggest and most harmful swap for the Israelis took place in 1985 when Ahmed Jibreel, the leader of a Palestinian faction, brokered the release of around 1,150 Palestinians and Lebanese in return for three Israeli soldiers. That was an important deal because hundreds of long-term prisoners were released. All of the soldiers released in this swap had been captured in Lebanon.

The Jibreel swap was the beginning.

In 1996, the bodies of Joseph Fink & Rahamim Alsheich were returned in return for bodies of numerous Hezbollah terrorists, and an exchange of captives between the Hezbollah and the South Lebanon Army.

In 1998, Hezbollah swapped the remains of one Israeli soldier for 65 live terrorists and the remains of 40 others. These swaps were "legitimate" to the extent that the Israelis were apparently captured or killed in action. However, the lopsided ratios of exchange were tempting. Each such swap represented a clear victory for the terrorists. Though there had been previous kidnap attempts by Hamas, the Hezbollah kidnapping of Elhanan Tannenbaum and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli soldiers in Shebaa farms in 2000 inaugurated a new era, in which prisoner releases are the motivation for kidnapping soldiers, and each new deal hands the terrorists a great victory. Tannenbaum and the three bodies were exchanged for hundreds of live prisoners in 2004. That wonderful deal made another kidnapping inevitable. For Hezbollah and Hamas, it is all gain and almost no pain. The "deal" effectively signed the death warrant of every fatality in the Second Lebanon War. It also signed the death warrant of the comrades of Gilad Shalit, killed when he was captured, and ensured that he, or someone else like him, perhaps your son or my son or you, would be kidnapped. No matter what deal is made, those who were killed in the kidnapping attempts can never be brought back to life.

Hassan Nasrallah, General Secretary of the Hezbollah, is already the most popular man in the Arab world, though his Lebanese compatriots may not hold him in such high esteem. A one-sided swap agreement with Hezbollah like the 2004 deal would raise the prestige of the Hezbollah sky high. Likewise, a deal with Hamas that results in the release of prisoners like Marwan Barghouti would put all of Palestinian society in the thrall of the Hamas. Hamas would also gain legitimacy and cement its rule in Gaza. Hamas rule in the West Bank would not be far behind.

There is no doubt whatever that such a deal, and the prospect of more easy and spectacular victories, would provoke more kidnappings - more Gilad Shalits would find themselves at the mercy of Gaza oozlebarts and more Eldad Regev's and Ehud Goldwassers would disappear in the maze of Lebanon.

The much maligned government of Ehud Olmert, and PM Olmert himself, deserve credit for one act that showed better judgment than that of Ariel Sharon or Yitzhak Rabin. The "failed" Second Lebanon war, as well as the harsh response to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit were meant to signal that the kidnapping season is over, and that kidnapping attempts will be met with force, as they must.

So please, when you read the impassioned letters urging Israel to do anything and everything to get back our kidnapped soldiers, think of our kidnapped soldiers first. Think not only about the soldiers who were already kidnapped and those who are already dead, but also, and more important, about the many many soldiers and civilians who will be kidnapped or killed if Israel gives in to terrorist extortion.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008.



Palestine Nakba - the obvious mystery.

By Ami Isseroff


There is an obvious mystery about the Palestine Nakba - the situation of the Arab refugees of the 1948 Israel War of Independence. It is one of those things that is so obvious that nobody mentions it, like an elephant in the room, but why it is not mentioned by anyone at all is not obvious.

Since 1948, many of the refugees have been living in a sort of legal noman's land. As distinguished from all other refugees in the world, their needs are handled by a special United Nations Agency. The rights of Palestinian refugees are also defined differently from those of all other refugees. Their situation varies from country to country. Contrary to the stereotyped picture, most of the refugees do not live in camps.

In Jordan, there are about 1.9 million "refugees," all of whom have Jordanian citizenship. Only about 300,000 live in camps. In the Gaza strip, there are slightly under a million refugees, all of whom are citizens of the Palestinian authority. About half of them live in the infamous refugee camps. In the West Bank there are 700,000 refugees, of whom about 175,000 live in camps. They too are citizens of the Palestinian Authority. In Syria, there are about 430,000 refugees, with about 250,000 living in official or unofficial camps. Palestinian refugees in Syria can work and travel, but they are not citizens and cannot vote, in order to "preserve their identity." In Lebanon, there are about 400,000 Palestinian refugees, of whom about half live in camps. In addition to registered refugees, another 10% are not registered, and about 10,000 are "non-ID" Palestinians, Palestinians who escaped from Jordan in September 1970, and never bothered to register with authorities. In theory, Lebanon, like Syria, ratified the 1965 Casablanca protocol on treatment of Palestinian refugees. In practice, rights of Palestinians in Lebanon are severely curtailed, as they have no access to Lebanese schools or health facilities.

Numerous organizations with the words "Justice" and "Humanitarian" in their titles bewail the plight of the Arab Palestinian refugees and the injustice that was supposedly done to them by Israel in 1948. They all demand "right of return." Nobody demands "right of eating" "right of education" or "right of decent housing" for the refugees. Only the dubious "right of return" is important to these "humanitarians." But what about the poor kid in the ubiquitous photos of Palestinian refugees that are supposed to tear at the heart-strings of humanity. Doesn't he or she have a right to eat, to grow, to learn, to have a future, to get on with their life? Aren't those rights more urgent and more cogent than the right to return to a non-existent village where their ancestors lived 60 years ago?

Everyone, regardless of their stand regarding the Israel-Arab conflict is agreed that there can be no solution to the conflict without a solution of the refugee problem, and that the camps, poverty and hopelessness are breeding grounds for violence born of despair. All of the leaders of the great powers, East and West, and all of the leaders of the Arab states agree that it is urgent to find a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as do all the United States Presidential candidates. And everyone agrees that the refugee problem is at the heart of that solution.

So what is the mystery? The mystery is that nobody wants to actually do anything, or tries to do anything, to solve the refugee problem. Even more mysterious is the fact that nobody even talks about this amazing and cruel policy quirk. It is not just a matter of legal definitions and speechifying. It should be possible to quietly improve the appalling conditions in the worst camps in Lebanon, where there is often no proper sanitation and inevitably, streets are not paved. Yet nothing is done. Flush toilets and paved streets would not endanger the rights of the Palestinian Arab refugees. Mahmoud Abbas is an Arab Palestinian refugee. His rights are not curtailed in any way by the fact that he doesn't live in a camp, and enjoys flush toilets and paved streets. Since it took over Gaza and the West Bank in 1994, the Palestinian Authority did nothing to ameliorate conditions in any of the refugee camps, and made no move whatever to break up the camps and find decent housing for the inmates. After the Israeli incursion into the Jenin refugee camp, the camp itself, in all its miserable glory, was reconstructed to provide precisely the same miserable level of existence as it did before. Whose doing was that? The UN? Israel?

Even Israeli representatives are more or less silent about the misery of the Arab Palestinian refugees in the camps, and the aberrant perpetuation of the refugee "problem." Moreover, we did not hear any US presidential candidate advocating a humanitarian solution to the Palestinian Arab refugee problem, nor does the Secretary General of the UN speak of such a solution, except in the framework of a hypothetical peace agreement. The Arab states do not concern themselves with this need very much either - quite the opposite. Everyone has invented the fiction that the Palestinian refugee problem is incapable of solution until and unless the Israeli-Arab conflict is solved.

Along with about 700,000 Arab Palestinian refugees, the war instigated by the Arab states in 1948 eventually created about a million Jewish refugees. A few were Palestinian refugees thrown out of Jerusalem and Hebron and Kfar Etzion. The others were Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries. Yet there is no Jewish refugee problem, because all those refugees were absorbed into Israel or the United States or other countries. They did not wait for a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the coming of the Messiah, the perfection of the unified field theory, the demonstration of the Higgs boson or any other such wished-for but unlikely event.

Likewise, there is no problem of Indian or Pakistani refugees any more, though the creation of India and Pakistan in 1947 generated millions of refugees. In fact, there is no conflict that has generated permanent refugees. The reluctance of the Arab states to seek a humanitarian solution for the Palestinian Arab refugee problem is understandable. They want to use the problem, and the misery of the refugees, as a weapon in the war against Israel. That does not explain the silence of everyone else, from Israeli government spokespersons, to those with genuine humanitarian concerns for the refugees, to peace groups like the J Street lobby, to US presidential hopefuls. All of the economic aid that the quartet is showering on the Palestinian Authority will avail nothing, as long as the horrendous pockets of misery in the camps are sustained.

The practical solution to the Palestinian refugee problem must proceed in several stages, addressing the most urgent problems first. There is no way that any Palestinian Arab politico who lives in luxury in Ramallah or Beirut or New Haven Connecticut can justify forcing other Palestinians to live in the miserable refugee camps of Lebanon or Gaza. The first step must therefore be to eliminate all the camps, and to integrate the refugees into the economic and political life of different host countries. The UNRWA must be dismantled and the refugee problem must be given to other agencies that deal with all the rest of the refugees in the world, with precisely the same rights as any other refugees.

Anyone who wants "justice" or "rights" or "welfare" or peace for the Arabs of Palestine must recognize that eliminating the refugee camps is priority number one for improving the lot of the Arabs and for bringing the hope of peace and a normal life to the peoples of the Levant. This is true whether one is a Zionist or a member of the PLO, a Democrat or a Republican. And yet we know that mysteriously, almost nobody is going to advocate the one thing that must be done, and that ought to be done.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Diplomatic Dance with Hamas

By Efraim Karsh

Hamas established an "Islamic republic" in Gaza in early 2006, and is probably in a position to replicate this success in the West Bank - the only inhibiting factors being considerations of political expediency and Israel's effective counterinsurgency measures.

While the hope that Hamas could somehow be lured away from its genocidal agenda seems to be gaining wider currency, not only is the destruction of Israel not a bargaining chip, it is the heart of the matter.

Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, sees the struggle for Palestine as neither an ordinary political dispute between two contending nations (Israelis and Palestinians), nor even as a struggle for national self-determination by an indigenous population against a foreign occupier. Rather, it sees Palestine as but one battle in a worldwide holy war to prevent the fall of a part of the House of Islam to infidels.

In the words of Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar: "Islamic and traditional views reject the notion of establishing an independent Palestinian state....In the past, there was no independent Palestinian state....[Hence], our main goal is to establish a great Islamic state, be it pan-Arabic or pan-Islamic."

Hamas' extreme belief that a perpetual state of war exists between it and anyone, either Muslim or non-Muslim, who refuses to follow in the path of Allah does not permit it to respect, or compromise with, cultural, religious, and political beliefs that differ from its own. Its commitment to the use of violence as a religious duty means that it will never accept a political arrangement that doesn't fully correspond to its radical precepts.

No sooner had former U.S. President Jimmy Carter emerged from his Damascus meeting with Khaled Mashaal to declare Hamas' readiness to accept the Jewish state as a "neighbor next door" than the radical Islamist group demonstrated what its vision of peaceful coexistence meant by making the most ambitious attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers and detonating two car bombs at a border crossing used for the introduction of vital foodstuffs and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Hamas' foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar, reasserted the organization's commitment to Israel's destruction through demographic subversion (i.e., the "right of return") and vowed to continue the "armed struggle" against "the foundational crime at the core of the Jewish state." Attalah Abu Subh, Hamas' culture minister, amplified this assertion. "Everything we see in the Arab region and around the world - the evil of the Jews, their deceit, their cunning, their warmongering, their control of the world, and their contempt and scorn for all the peoples of the world," he argued, "is based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion - the faith that every Jew harbors in his heart."

The notion that Hamas' co-option into a political process aimed at stifling its overriding goal of destroying Israel will make it more hopeful and less despairing is a contradiction in terms. Yet the hope that Hamas could somehow be lured away from its genocidal agenda seems to be gaining wider currency. A bipartisan group of former U.S. officials, led by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, have been calling for "a genuine dialogue" with Hamas.1 Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told National Public Radio last year that some way must be found to talk to Hamas.2

Some Israelis have also joined the chorus calling for talks with Hamas. "Before we are dragged into Gaza, we must exhaust the other possibility," wrote journalist Ari Shavit. "We should offer Hamas a deal: an Islamic republic in Gaza in exchange for full demilitarization. A full and fulfilling life for a Muslim community of brothers, in exchange for giving up violence and arms altogether."

Shavit is aware that his proposal is likely to be rejected, as Hamas "tends to prefer the deaths of Israelis over the lives of Palestinians." Yet he believes that "if there is any chance of a frank negotiation with Hamas, this is the path the talks should take. Not a Carter-style illusion, not the temporary tactic of a passing tahdiye (truce), but a tough deal with tough terms. A street deal. A deal with thugs. A deal meant to give those who live on the other side of the fence a genuine opportunity to lay down the sword, pick up the Koran and become real neighbors."

But why should Hamas pay a price, any price, for something it already has? It needs no Israeli consent to establish an "Islamic republic" in Gaza. It did precisely that in early 2006, to Israel's abhorrence, and is probably in a position to replicate this success in the West Bank, the only inhibiting factors being considerations of political expediency and Israel's effective counterinsurgency measures. It can likewise obtain peace and quiet for its Gaza subjects at any given moment if it stops the rocket attacks on Israeli towns and villages and sends no "holy warriors" to blow themselves up among Israeli civilians.

Nor is Israel in a position to reach "a street deal," given the steady erosion of its deterrent prowess since the Oslo years, and especially after the hurried flight from south Lebanon on May 24, 2000, which was instrumental in triggering the so-called "al-Aqsa Intifada" and in inaugurating Hizbullah's military buildup, and numerous provocations, along Israel's northern border, that culminated in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. This war, and the thousands of rockets raining down on Israel's southern localities during the past eight years, despite countless Israeli threats of harsh retribution, afford a foretaste of Palestinian and Arab abidance by a "peace of the thugs."

Above all, not only is the destruction of Israel not a bargaining chip, it is the heart of the matter. Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, sees the struggle for Palestine as neither an ordinary political dispute between two contending nations (Israelis and Palestinians), nor even as a struggle for national self-determination by an indigenous population against a foreign occupier. Rather, it sees Palestine as but one battle in a worldwide holy war to prevent the fall of a part of the House of Islam to infidels. In the words of Mahmoud Zahar: "Islamic and traditional views reject the notion of establishing an independent Palestinian state....In the past, there was no independent Palestinian state....[Hence], our main goal is to establish a great Islamic state, be it pan-Arabic or pan-Islamic."

Hamas' charter not only promises that "Israel will exist until Islam will obliterate it," but presents the organization as the "spearhead and vanguard of the circle of struggle against World Zionism [and] the fight against the warmongering Jews." The document even incites anti-Semitic murder, arguing that "the Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.'"

There's more. According to its charter, Hamas was established not merely to "liberate Palestine from Zionist occupation" or to wipe out Jews, but to pursue the far loftier goals of spreading Allah's holy message and defending the "oppressed" throughout the world: "The Islamic Resistance Movement will spare no effort to implement the truth and abolish evil, in speech and in fact, both here and in any other location where it can reach out and exert influence."

Hamas' extreme belief that a perpetual state of war exists between it and anyone, either Muslim or non-Muslim, who refuses to follow in the path of Allah does not permit it to respect, or compromise with, cultural, religious, and political beliefs that differ from its own. Its commitment to the use of violence as a religious duty means that it will never accept a political arrangement that doesn't fully correspond to its radical precepts. As the movement's slogan puts it: "Allah is [Hamas'] goal, the Prophet its model, the Koran its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the cause of Allah its most sublime belief."

Hamas certainly sees itself as part of the larger network of jihadi movements struggling with the West. Mahmoud Zahar has expressed the hope that Hamas' victories in Gaza will inspire the mujahideen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, Khaled Mashaal declared in a Damascus mosque in early 2006: "We say this to the West, which does not act reasonably, and does not learn its lessons: by Allah, you will be defeated." He added: "Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world." He has lashed out at Western powers for helping the persecuted Christians of East Timor and for opposing Sudan's genocidal campaign in Darfur. Thus, Hamas identifies with global Islamist causes.3

All this raises the question of how a Western diplomatic embrace of Hamas would impact on the larger war on terrorism. Legitimizing a jihadi group of this sort would undoubtedly undermine the broader struggle against Islamism, and deepen the doubts of many people in the Middle East and South Asia about the determination of the West to neutralize the current threat they all face at present.

Hamas is plainly not an organization whose ideology can be integrated into any political process without undermining democracy and poisoning the norms of civil society. Hamas is not interested in peace with Israel; indeed, Mashaal has plainly stated that any tahdiye, or state of calm, is really "a tactic in conducting the struggle."4 Unfortunately for Israelis and Palestinians alike, that is not something the wishful thinking of well-meaning pundits and even former U.S. presidents can change.

*     *     *


Glenn Kessler, "Mideast Players Differ on Approach to Hamas," Washington Post, March 16, 2008,
2. Ibid.
Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi, "Understanding the Direction of the New Hamas Government: Between Tactical Pragmatism and Al-Qaeda Jihadism," Jerusalem Issue Brief, Vol. 5, No. 22, April 6, 2006,
4. "Hamas Chief Sees Truce as a 'Tactic'," Associated Press, April 27, 2008.

*     *     *
Professor Efraim Karsh is Head of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Studies at King's College, University of London, and a member of the Board of International Experts of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. His most recent book is Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale University Press, 2007).

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


Irans Mayday.

By Chloe Godin

This May Day, imagine working for a month without receiving due pay. Now imagine working for five to eight months without pay. Imagine working with no pay in a factory where the working conditions are sub-standard, the hours long and the work hard.

Imagine that at any moment now you might lose your job without severance pay, because you only have a temporary contract. Imagine going on strike to protest against these conditions and being met with police clubs. Imagine being arrested during the strike and charged with political conspiracy. Imagine risking a year in prison or worse, torture, just because you went on strike.

If you lived in Iran, and worked in Kian Tire factory, this would be your reality. Following a three-day strike in Kian Tire factory, which ended in a police crackdown on April 14, the whereabouts of 1,000 arrested workers still remains unknown.

The deteriorating economic and social conditions, harsh working circumstances, overall diminishing labor rights and labor legislation protection has forced a great majority of the 22 million member workforce to turn to trade unions for help.

Minimum wage had dwindled to $198 a month in March 2007, below the official poverty line of $300 a month. According to the 2006 International Confederation of Free Trade Unions Survey, nearly 2 million workers have not been paid; some have had withheld payment for nearly two years. An increase in the use of temporary contracts as a barrier to organizing and to diminish workers' rights further contributes to the dire working conditions. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2005 promises to improve living standards are now ringing hollow.

The Islamic councils, established by the government as a politically safe way to represent the workers, have not responded to their needs. As a result, the popularity of independent unions, seen as the sole way to improve working condition, has grown steadily. The Iranian government, alarmed by these developments, has not been willing to recognize the existence of these organizations, despite a 2003 amendment to the Labor Code that stipulates the right to form trade unions.

It is thus not surprising that a wave of strikes has washed over the country. Ranging from textile workers from the country's largest state-owned factory in Rasht, to dam workers in the western province of Elam, down to bus drivers and pharmaceutical factory employees in Tehran, employees from all across the country and from various industries are protesting.

Governmental responses to these waves of strikes have been radical: detainment, harassment, and both physical and mental persecution.

International pressure on the nuclear program and growing domestic criticism regarding economic mismanagement has led Ahmadinejad and his government to clamp down on any form of dissent, opposition or protest. Accused of "propaganda against the Islamic Republic," of "acting against national security" and "organizing illegal gatherings," hundreds of workers have thus been detained for unspecified periods of times.

Mansour Ossanlou, president of the Syndicate of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, and Mahmoud Salehi, a labor rights activist with links to the Trade Association of Saqez Bakery Workers, have become household names in Iran. The two were repeatedly arrested and placed in prison for months, even years at a time.

Following a year of intense international lobbying by the international trade union and human rights' organizations Salehi, imprisoned as a result of his participation in a 2004 May Day rally, was finally released on March 6 after having to pay a bail of 400 million rials ($43,659) – an astronomical amount in Iranian terms.

A Global Day of Action was organized on March 6 to express solidarity and call for the Iranian government to respect fundamental workers rights. As a member of the International Labor Organization, Iran must abide by ILO Convention 87 regarding the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and Convention 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining.

Whether or not this Global Day of Action had a direct positive impact on Salehi's release may never be known. However, it is clear that international groups are no longer willing to sit back and watch while labor rights, as a basic human right, are being violated in Iran. Over the past few months, Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth office, the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International have published their annual human rights reports. All of them rank Iran as one of the top human rights offenders.

Ahmadinejad may well have heard the rumblings of international disapproval, but as yet has felt no serious repercussions. The ILO must threaten Iran with the application of its supervisory machinery more effectively to ensure compliance of the ratified conventions.

If Iran continues to blatantly show signs of non-compliance, the ILO can put into practice its 'name and shame' strategy which would further damage Iran's international stance.

As promising as the recent U.K., U.S. and NGO reports have been, these need to place greater emphasis on the treatment of workers. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently announced that international negotiators are currently preparing a new package of incentives for Iran. Hopefully this package will focus not only on Iran's nuclear program, but also current human rights, and thus labor rights.

Otherwise, if Iran can still reap rewards, regardless of its treatment of workers and citizens, why should it bother to change its behavior?

Chloe Godin

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


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Happy 60th birthday, Israel: well done for surviving.



Melanie Phillips says that the prosperity and growing cultural confidence of Israel is a fitting riposte to the Western intelligentsia, American meddling and the daily propaganda assault that ignores the Islamisation of the Palestinians


What would Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion have said if, on the day that he declared the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, he had known that six decades thence Israel would be encircled by its enemies, hopelessly outnumbered and fighting for its existence? He would surely have said: so what's new?

Next week, on 8 May, Israel celebrates the 60th anniversary of that declaration. With every decade that it clocks up, people ask the same question: will Israel still be there for the next one? It is indeed astonishing that it has not only survived but is flourishing. Its situation as a permanently embattled nation is unique. On the day after Ben-Gurion declared its independence, six Arab armies invaded and tried to wipe it out. With the current exception of Egypt and Jordan, the Arab and Muslim world has been trying ever since.

Israel is the only country whose creation was approved by the UN; yet it is the only country whose legitimacy is called into question. It is the only country which the world requires to compromise with its Palestinian Arab attackers and accede to their demands, even while they are firing rockets at its schools and houses and blowing up its citizens. It is the only country which continues to provide electricity and basic services to those attackers and routinely treats thousands of Palestinians in its own hospitals, even those who have Israeli blood on their hands. And yet it is the only country which, in the court of public opinion, is condemned for behaving 'disproportionately' when it uses targeted military means to defend itself, and is accused of causing the very 'Nazi' or 'apartheid' atrocities of which it itself is the victim.

At present, the situation looks particularly ominous. Israel is menaced on several fronts by Iran which, racing to develop a nuclear weapon, is threatening a new genocide of the Jews while denying the last one. In Lebanon Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Iranian-sponsored army Hezbollah, which is once again armed with thousands of rockets, says the next attack on Israel is not a matter of 'if' but 'when'. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 Iranian-backed Hamas, which is pledged to wipe out Israel and every Jew, has built a well-trained standing army of at least 20,000 men and a huge arsenal of weapons smuggled in from Egypt, and relentlessly attacks Israel with rockets and bombs.

It is widely expected that, once Independence Day is over and President Bush has returned home from his celebratory visit, Israel will finally mount a major incursion into Gaza to deal with Hamas. If it does, Western opinion, which largely ignores Israeli victimisation, can be guaranteed to cry 'atrocity' once again. And just as before, Hamas will deliberately place women and children in the line of fire to maximise civilian casualties in order further to inflame that opinion.

For Israel finds itself trapped by a pincer movement of military and psychological attack from not only the Arab and Muslim world but also the West. And Britain, whose intelligentsia has swallowed wholesale Arab and Muslim lies, is the Western leader of those baying for Israel's head. Thanks to the poison spread by the British media, the universities, NGOs and the churches, Israel has been systematically demonised and delegitimised.

Few are aware, for example, how both Hamas and Hezbollah deliberately position both terrorists and weaponry in densely populated civilian areas, using women and children as human shields. While British headlines scream at Israel for causing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, few are aware that Hamas has been stealing fuel supplies intended for Gaza's population and blowing up the crossing points to provoke Israel into closing them, to escalate the conflict and inflame the world. Even fewer are aware that many of the most inflammatory images from the region are fabricated, since both Hamas and Hezbollah routinely stage 'atrocities' or artificially exaggerate incidents using doctored footage — courtesy of British journalists who are threatened with murder or kidnap if they fail to toe the line.

More fundamentally, the obsessional demonisation of Israel is based on a false set of beliefs taken straight from Arab propaganda — that as a result of Holocaust guilt, Israel was created when a load of European Jews with no claim to the land were dumped on Palestine, driving out its rightful Arab Muslim inhabitants.

Ben-Gurion would today be surprised to find, for example, that Israel is regarded as illegally occupying the West Bank (and until 2005, Gaza). Along with modern Israel, this was part of the territory of Palestine within which in 1922 the League of Nations gave Britain the task of re-establishing the Jewish national home because of the unique claim by the Jews — the only people for whom it had ever been their nation state, hundreds of years before the Arabs invaded it. In other words, far from being 'Palestinian land', the Jews are entitled to claim it under international law, which also gives it the right to hold on to it in self-defence. Yet 'progressive' opinion not only denies both law and history but demands (as do the Palestinians) the ethnic cleansing of every last Jewish settler from a putative Palestinian state (just as half Israel's population was created by Jews driven out of their ancient homes in Arab lands). So much for anti-racism.

The denial and inversion of such facts has singled out Israel for vilification applied to no other country. Scapegoated for crimes of which it is in fact the victim, Israel has become the Jew of the Western world. This is a victory for the Arabs in the new type of war in which they are engaged. Asymmetric warfare, whose principal battlefield is the mind, uses ostensibly powerless people (the Palestinians) who are in fact backed by powerful state actors (Iran). Such an inversion of strong and weak and the systematic use of deception are vital to the principal strategic goal of asymmetric warfare: to confuse and demoralise its victims and suborn world opinion to its cause. Even Israel itself has weakened under this. For it has an intelligentsia which is no longer confident of the nation's right to its own Jewish identity. This has created a dangerous vacuum. In Israeli universities, revisionist historians have told corrosive lies about their country's history, portraying it as having been born in sin. In the schools, children have not been taught Jewish history and parrot Arab disinformation instead.

The country's sense of national purpose has been further weakened by the 2006 Lebanon war, which punctured public belief in Israel's military invincibility, and by the ongoing crisis of political leadership caused by a political system which is endemically corrupt and excludes the brightest and the best from public office.

The result of all this is that at present, both the Israeli Left and Right are consumed by a morbid despair. The Left thinks Israel is doomed to war in perpetuity because there is no prospect of a Palestinian state — which it remains convinced is the prerequisite for peace, despite this being contrary to all history, evidence and logic. The Right, on the other hand, thinks that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is Israel's Chamberlain, about to declare peace in our time by giving away half of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and thus delivering Israel to the wolves of Arab annihilation. But both are surely missing the bigger picture.

First, despite entering its seventh decade of living under existential siege, Israel is prospering. Its economy is booming, it leads the world in high-tech, and property prices in Tel Aviv rival those in London. Second, having stared over the edge of the cultural abyss it has started to realise the danger. It is beginning to turn education round, with a new awareness dawning among high school principals of the need to teach Jewish history, identity and values. And although unprecedented numbers of mainly secular Israelis now choose to live abroad, there are rapidly growing numbers of the religiously orthodox who know exactly what they are fighting for and are prepared to die for it — as do the majority of middle-of-the-road Israeli citizens.

The same, however, can't be said of the Palestinian Arabs, who are simply falling apart. The rise of Hamas, the progressive Islamisation and terrorisation of Palestinian society and the continued corruption and factional fighting within Fatah are all taking their toll. Increasingly, Palestinians are packing up and leaving. It is they rather than the Israelis who are in despair. Their sense of national identity — always artificial — now lies finally shattered by the death cult that acts in their name. After all, with even supposedly secular Fatah being steadily Islamised, why on earth would any Palestinian in his right mind want to live in a repressive Islamic republic — which Palestine would without doubt become — where dissidents are thrown from the tops of tall buildings?

And here lies the paradox which offers the best hope for Israel's future. For the very Islamism which so menaces it might finally unlock the door to peace. This is because both Islamism and Iran threaten not just Israel but the 'moderate' Arab world too. Accordingly, the last thing those Arabs want is an Iranian-backed, Islamised state of Palestine. Egypt and Jordan simply cannot afford to have Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood on their doorsteps in a Hamas-dominated Gaza or West Bank. Currently, they rely on Israel to prevent it. But increasingly, talk of some kind of Jordan–Egypt–Palestinian confederation is in the air.

As the analyst Jonathan Spyer has noted, Jordan's recent decision to connect Jericho to the Jordanian electricity grid is an example of its increasing involvement in the West Bank. And behind the scenes, the more realistic Palestinians have grasped that their best chance of having any future at all lies in just such a confederation. Such an outcome would have history on its side. Some readers may feel the need to lie down after reading the rest of this sentence, but Jordan is historically the state of Arab Palestine. This was the original two-state 'solution' back in 1921, when Winston Churchill unilaterally gave away three quarters of the original territory of Palestine to the Hashemite dynasty, creating what is now Jordan, with the remainder supposed to go to the Jews.

But this chance of an end to the dispute is currently being undermined by the self-serving meddling of America which, like Europe, falsely casts the Arab war against Israel as a boundary dispute between Israel and the Palestinians and is trying to force the agreed outline of a Palestinian state by the time President Bush leaves office.

It is even pressuring Israel to accept Hamas's 'truce' — by which Hamas means a period when Israel doesn't attack it so it can equip itself for war undisturbed — so that on his visit to Israel next week Bush can pretend that Middle East peace in our time is imminent. But this is a virtual reality peace process, since even the 'moderate' Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has said in terms that he will never recognise Israel as a Jewish state. So what's to discuss?

Despite its sham nature, however, this appeasement process has had two baleful consequences. It has caused Olmert, under pressure from the Americans, the Israeli media and powerful Israeli oligarchs who want the economic advantages of peace at any price, to destroy checkpoints, release prisoners and float the possibility of territorial concessions — all of which promote and incite further Arab violence. And it has caused Jordan to put its own confederation idea on ice. Thus meddling America is destroying the best option for the Middle East to resolve its core dispute — that it is left to sort it out by itself.

Indeed, much of the responsibility for these six decades of conflict lie with a Western world which, from 1921 onwards, has chosen to appease Arab violence while shedding crocodile tears over its Jewish victims. But the future of Israel is the future of the West. If the front line in Israel were to go down, the West would be next. Given its current internal appeasement of Islamism, however, the West may go down anyway. At least Israel knows it has to fight to survive. As a result, in 60 years' time it will still be there. Can the same be said for Britain or Europe?


Melanie Phillips Is A Daily Mail Columnist.


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




Dead end: The heartbreaking realities of today's Israel

By David Pryce-Jones

Israel's enemies have always wished to destroy it, of course, but what's new this time is that they are avoiding the set-piece battles that lost them all previous wars, and are instead elaborating the tactics of terror. Islamist Iran has made itself the driving force. The terrorist movements Hizbullah and Hamas are both Iranian satellites, and their presence on Israel's borders ensures that Iran can already engage in terrorism on its own terms and at times of its own choosing. There's a civilizational dimension to it as well: Science and technology have hitherto given Western states their supremacy over the Muslim world. As Iran moves toward possession of the nuclear weapon, this historic advantage is neutralized. A nuclear-armed Iran will be able to promote terror at state level, changing the balance of forces as never before against the West in general and Israel in particular. You don't have to be in Israel very long, or hold many conversations, to realize how the threat from Iran induces denial in some and fear in others.

In the new Cold War shaping up between Islamism and the democratic West, Israel holds the front line. Once again, the values of the opposing sides are irreconcilable. Israel, and behind it the United States, treats even the most intractable issues as open to negotiation and compromise. In the Arab and Muslim order, power is absolute and has to be victorious, so "negotiation" and "compromise" are euphemisms for shame and surrender.

The present plight of the Palestinians perfectly illustrates how the logic of absolute power dictates extreme behavior. For the past 50 or so years, Arab nationalism had been the dominant ideology in the Middle East. Fatah under Yasser Arafat, a typically absolute leader, was the Palestinian branch of Arab nationalism, but its failure to provide a decent life for the masses was total. Islamism appeared a viable alternative. The founding of Hamas in 1987 as an Islamist movement was thus a challenge to Fatah. Slowly but steadily, the conflict between Hamas and Fatah grew, and came to an inevitable head in the civil war in Gaza in 2005. This was small-scale, but still brutal enough to frighten the population into submission.

Civil war has divided the Palestinians ideologically and even geographically, with Hamas in Gaza and Fatah on the rump of the West Bank. The loser, Mahmoud Abbas, heir of Arafat as leader of Fatah, is a broken man. Nominally he governs from his office in Ramallah, but actually he is hardly more than a figurehead. Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, the general officer commanding the Israeli army's central command, makes the stark point that, without the Israeli presence on the West Bank, Hamas would take over within two days. Yet out of the blue, President Bush said that he expects the Palestinians to have a state of their own by the end of the year, and to guarantee Israeli security on top of it. The Western powers have pledged $7.7 billion to Abbas, though how much of this will ever find its way to the people on the street is a very open question.

It is crassly Eurocentric to think that this can be negotiated to any conclusion. Iran evidently has the opposite, Islamocentric belief that power is indeed absolute, and that the conquest of Israel is not only desirable but achievable. As the ayatollahs see it, the fighting launched by Hizbullah in 2005 led to a temporary stalemate, and with a lot more arms and money they will do better next time. Hamas operates identically. The borders of the Gaza Strip with Israel and with Egypt are fortified and closed. Hamas activists have been smuggling arms through tunnels dug under the border with Egypt.

Over the last 18 months, Hamas and affiliated Islamist groups have fired some 8,000 rockets and other missiles to a depth of about twelve miles into the Israeli territory adjoining the Gaza Strip, and especially the small town of Sderot, with a population of 20,000, many of them immigrants. Known as Qassams, these rockets are erratic, and have killed only about a dozen people, though maiming many more, and driving out of their homes hundreds of others. The rockets are fired from behind a screen of civilians so that Israeli countermeasures are liable to kill innocent women and children, prompting an international outcry that the response is "disproportionate" and thus handing Hamas a propaganda victory. As a constant needling challenge to Israeli sovereignty, yet not one so damaging as to merit serious reprisal, the Hamas tactic displays undoubted imagination and innovation, however callous. The shaping of the conflict remains with them.

Lately Hamas organized a mass breakout through the fortified barrier with Egypt, and used this occasion to bring into Gaza Iranian-made Grad missiles with a heavier payload and a longer range than the Qassams. (They also brought in a number of men, possibly from al-Qaeda, trained in Iran.) At the beginning of March, several of these Grads hit the city of Ashkelon, which has a population of 120,000 and much industrial capacity. At the same moment, a barrage of some 50 Qassams was fired daily. Here was an escalation of the ongoing test of strength. An Israeli armored column then entered Gaza and killed about 120 Palestinians, most of them from Hamas, only to have to withdraw to the usual worldwide clamor about "disproportion." Olmert made it plain that if Hamas desisted from violence he would accept a truce. "We don't have a policy of operations, but rather one of systematic fighting, over time, every place there is terror," he said, or, in plain language: He has no idea what to do. As if to prove Olmert's helplessness, a Hamas gunman shot dead eight teenage students in a religious seminary in

The military strategist with whom I talked argues that there are no solutions. A truce only allows Hamas to rearm. In his view there is no alternative to a local version of the Petraeus surge, an occupation of Gaza in great force, and a clearing-out of Hamas. As the terrorists can't easily be identified and separated out from civilians, the operation would be "like punching air," both necessary and futile. Which is the problem in a nutshell.

David Pryce-Jones


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