Saturday, October 9, 2010

Obama's new national security advisor called a 'disaster' by Gates

by Rick Moran

With the departure of General Jones from the White House, America is losing fine public servant and excellent military man. One of the few in Washington who eschewed the limelight, Jones did his job fairly competently and with a minimum of self promotion.

Will we get that lucky with his replacement?

The man picked to be President Obama's next national security advisor was sharply criticized by top officials in the administration, with the Secretary of Defense saying he would be a "disaster" in the job.
According to the new book about the Obama administration's handling of Iraq and Afghanistan by Bob Woodward, Pentagon chief Robert Gates expressed deep reservations about Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who has been tapped to be the successor to Gen. James Jones.

In the book "Obama's Wars," Woodward writes that, "Gates felt that Donilon did not understand the military or treat its senior leadership with sufficient respect."

"The secretary later told Jones that Donilon would be a ‘disaster' as Obama's national security adviser," Woodward wrote.

Jones -- a former Marine Corps Commandant who served as Obama's national security advisor since the first days of the administration -- also warned Woodward about Donilon's shortcomings, saying though he had "organizational skills," his deputy didn't know enough about the subjects on which he was advising the president.

Donilon has never bothered to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, nor is he known for his breadth of knowledge with regard to other foreign policy issues.

Ed Lasky adds:

Hey it might have been worse-the deputy NSC adviser, Ben Rhodes, was a frustrated fiction writer who morphed into the Foreign Policy speechwriter for the Obama campaign and then was promoted to be the deputy NSC adviser-with no, zero, military ,intelligence or diplomatic experience. He also was involved in writing the Cairo speech.

Maybe we should count our blessings....

Thomas Lifson adds: Donilon was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, and fought off regulatory reforms. If he does for national security what he acomplished [sic] for the econom
y, we are doomed.

Rick Moran

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

Academics Boycott the Truth

by Prof. Phyllis Chesler

Don't academics seek objective truth? Read about a study that proved just the opposite.

Academics, intellectuals—even journalists—are, presumably, concerned with objective truth and trained to recognize and avoid bias or extreme distortion. In addition, a physicist is expected to know something about physics and a Women’s Studies professor is, presumably, expected to know something about women’s rights—and wrongs; in addition, he or she is supposed to “care” about the subject in a way that a physicist may not be able to “care” about sub-atomic particles.
However, this does not seem to be the case where Israel and/or Islamic gender apartheid are concerned. And, I could also be wrong about the physicist.

Take the recent survey undertaken by Dr. Fred Gottheil, a professor or Economics at the University of Illinois. (Thank you, Carol Mizrahi, for calling this to my attention). He published his finding yesterday. Last year, a professor of English at the University of Southern California, Dr. David Lloyd, managed to garner 900 academic signatories from 150 universities for his letter-petition in favor of culturally and academically boycotting Israel; last year, Lloyd sent this letter-petition to President Barak Obama soon after he took office. According to Gottheil, Lloyd’s letter petition (which cannot be found online) “was notable not only for its criticism of Israeli policy -- that is standard fare among the set of academics who subscribe to a post-colonial view of the world -- but rather for its demonizing of the Jewish state. His technique was anything but novel. It associated Israel with pre-Mandela South Africa. Lloyd's South African-linking brushstrokes were many and crude, citing ‘collective punishment,’ ‘apartheid regime,’ ‘racist regime,’ ‘besieged Bantustans,’ ‘crimes against humanity,’ and ‘ethnocidal atrocities.’ These were layered on his fact-distorting canvas like icing on a poisoned cake.”

What Dr. Gottheil then did was smart. He painstakingly tracked down 675 of the original signatories and, without referring to the Lloyd anti-Israel petition-letter at all, asked these same academics who are, ostensibly, concerned with social justice issues, to sign a statement-petition which opposed the widespread abuse of women in the Middle East, including in the disputed Palestinian territories. Gottheil specifically mentioned and documented “honor-killing, wife-beating, female genital mutilation” and the systematic “discrimination against women, gays and lesbians in the Middle East.”

Guess what? According to Gottheil, less than 5% of these same academics (27 people!) signed his statement-petition. And, most shocking, (but not surprising to me), literally only five of the169 Women’s Studies academics signed his statement. As Gottheil puts it:

“In other words, 95 percent of those who had signed the Lloyd petition censuring Israel for human rights violation did not sign a statement concerning discrimination against women and gays and lesbians in the Middle East.”

For a long while now, I have been writing about the Stalinization and “Palestinianization” of both the academic world and the universe of Women’s Studies programs. I have written an entire book about it, The Death of Feminism, and subsequently, hundreds of articles.

When Angela Davis was in jail, I marched on her behalf. Now that she is involved in the Women’s Studies program at the University of Santa Cruz, in California, neither she nor her communist colleagues, Bettina Apteker among them, bothered to come and hear me speak about the demonization and scapegoating of Israel for the very real gender apartheid crimes of Arab and Muslim countries.

I have just been told that when Berkeley Professor Judith Butler recently lectured in Berlin the crowds numbered 5,000. People came not only because she represents the ruling, fashionable post-modern, post-structural, anti-colonialist academy, but because she is known as a prominent boycotter of Israel. Butler is both prominent as a philosopher and as a lesbian feminist, but since she is also a Jew, her real credential is her passionate advocacy against the Jewish state.

The spectacle of 5,000 Berliners cheering her on for this precise reason is a chilling one. Indeed, I have recently interviewed Clemens Heni, who confirmed that many so-called scholars of German anti-Semitism are now more interested in “Islamophobia” than in anti-Semitism. According to Dr. Heni, this is another form of either Holocaust denial or a way to continue the Holocaust.

Of course, it is also a way to appease the hostile Semites who are threatening terrorist actions against civilians, not only in the West, or in Europe but worldwide.

As academics of conscience begin to understand the worldwide propaganda campaign against Israel and to speak out against it—or to document the propaganda and to separate fact from fiction—they are quickly demonized themselves as “neo-conservative, right wing, fascists, racists, and Islamophobes.”

Remember that child who alone dared to say that the Emperor was naked? We must now all become that wise child. Truth-telling will eventually succeed but only if more and more people do it.

Prof. Phyllis Chesler

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

Why Do Radical Muslims Want to Kill Europeans?

by Khaled Abu Toameh

How true is it that Al-Qaeda's terror attacks around the world are directly linked to the Israeli-Arab conflict?

Some Middle East and terror "experts" have long maintained that the West's support for Israel was one of the main motivations behind the attacks of Al-Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist groups.

These "experts" have naively and foolishly endorsed Al-Qaeda Chief Osama bin Laden's argument that the terror attacks against the US and Western targets are the result of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

In the past, bin Laden justified his organization's attacks on Americans by citing continued US support for Israel as the main reason.

But now that it has been revealed that Al-Qaeda is also planning a new wave of terror attacks in Europe, it would be interesting to hear what excuse bin Laden would have this time.

If the Americans deserve to be murdered because of Washington's "bias" in favor of Israel, why are countries such as France, Britain and Germany -- which have, generally speaking, been very supportive of the Palestinians -- now on the black list of radical Islamic groups?

The Europeans are being targeted for the same reason the Americans are: for being "infidels" and enemies of Islam and for the Western values they represent. They are being targeted because of their failure to transform into Islamic countries. Those who think that solving the Israeli-Arab conflict will undermine Al-Qaeda and its allies do not know what they are talking about.

Bin Laden, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah are actually waging a war against Arabs and Muslims who are involved, directly and indirectly, in the Middle East peace process.

Al-Qaeda was established in 1989 in Afghanistan, and not in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or any Arab country.

Al-Qaeda was one of the by-products of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and not the creation of the Jewish state in mandatory Palestine in 1948.

Al-Qaeda was established with one goal in mind: to defeat the all the non-believers, including the US and its Arab, Muslim and Western allies.

Bin Laden and his friends want to kill Europeans not because of settlement construction in the West Bank ,or the blockade on the Gaza Strip; they want to kill Europeans because Europeans are not Muslims and have different values.

The Europeans need to understand that their support for Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular will not help them avoid "punishment" by radical Muslims.

The policy of appeasing Muslim terror groups also will not help. On the contrary, each concession by the US and its allies to Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizbullah will be interpreted as a sign of weakness that will subsequently lead to more violence.

The only connection between the Muslim terrorists and the Middle East conflict is their dream of destroying Israel.

They want to destroy Israel not because they love the Palestinians, but because they regard Jews as "infidels."

They want to destroy Israel because they believe that all of Palestine is Muslim-owned land that belongs only to Muslims.

Those who think that solving the Israeli-Arab conflict will undermine Al-Qaeda and its allies do not know what they are talking about.

Bin Laden, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah are actually waging a war against Arabs and Muslims who are involved, directly and indirectly, in the Middle East peace process.

Renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have only increased the terror groups' appetite to carry out their schemes.

The only way to deal with the terror threat is by stepping up the war against Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other radical Islamic groups.

Khaled Abu Toameh

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

The liberation of Tel al-Rabia

by Sarah Honig

Israelis have come to take the delegitimization of their national rights and hard-won sovereignty in stride. Partly it’s the overwhelming global tide of vilification. There is just so much one can rebut. After a while, apathy takes over.

We grow inured to smears – be they from glory-craving statesmen, populist politicians, British or Norwegian trade unions, supermarket shelf-stackers, sanctimonious church groups, human rights promoters, campus organizers, professors foisting intolerant agendas on impressionable students or artsy self-appointed thought-molders worldwide.

But it’s one thing not to pay heed anymore or care about what they say about us out there. It’s quite another to imbibe the slander and take it for granted as a given fact. It’s one thing to ignore the lie, but once we begin believing it, we accept that our very existence is sinful.

Once our villainy is established, we invariably become the side that’s always required to build the confidence of sworn foes, make concessions, give rather than receive, weaken itself and expose its anyway ultra-vulnerable soft underbelly to genocidal predations. The onus is forever on us.

Seems far-fetched? Not really. Examples abound of the subconscious reprogramming of our perceptions. The other day we watched with a mixture of amusement and horror a Hamas video purporting to preview its future, lusted-for conquest of Tel Aviv. Computerized visual effects showcased Hamas minions marching victoriously through the main avenues of Zionism’s greatest urban creation, pouring exultantly into its landmarks and planting Islam’s flags everywhere.

We know that this is what they script for us. This is their concept of justice. They won’t reconcile themselves to coexistence. They won’t desist until they vanquish us and obliterate all memory of us. The Arabic chronicler of Tel Aviv’s “humiliating defeat” called the city Tel al- Rabia. He thereby erased the name Zionist pioneers gave the gleaming white metropolis they built on mounds of barren, uninhabited, forbidding and constantly shifting sand dunes which they had purchased in 1909.

Tel Aviv was the Hebrew translation for Theodor Herzl’s seminal Altneuland – old-new land – embodying our bond to our historic homeland and our new endeavor to restore our national home in it. As part of their delegitimization campaign, ongoing since the 19th century, our neighbors habitually seek to expunge any connection we have to this land.

Time and again their leaders (including the deceased Yasser Arafat, his successor Mahmoud Abbas and assorted official PA mouthpieces) assert that no Jewish Temple ever existed in Jerusalem and that Jewish roots in this part of the world are trumped-up stories.

But we are inured. We take it in stride.

HOWEVER, AS the Hamas cinematic triumph was featured on our own Channel 2 news, the presenter noted the name change and informed his audience that “Hamas has reverted to Tel Aviv’s previous, original Arabic name.”

This was repeated in Yediot Aharonot.

Whoa, hold it! What previous name for Tel Aviv? There was none. Tel Aviv had no predecessor. It rose from the desolate wasteland. Nobody was here before it and it displaced nobody.

So why did this spurious comment inspire no squawk? Perhaps because we passively acquiesce to our own delegitimization.

It appeared self-evident to the anchor and news reporter that everywhere we reside, we dislodged indigenous Arabs. The original sin applies everywhere even to Rothschild Boulevard, Herzl and Ahad Ha’am streets – the cradles of embryonic Tel Aviv.

As decades pass, fewer and fewer old-timers remain to attest to how it was. New immigrants and the young (who are taught post-Zionist historiography in our schools) make the same assumptions as Channel 2’s talking head

Outright lies are incorporated into what looks like an enlightened, objective narrative. That’s how myths are born, history revised and skewed falsehoods become the moral compass for the likes of Sweden’s pension funds.

Gargantuan lies have triggered all major turning points here for more than a century. For a full 11 months the infamous Haj Amin al-Husseini (later Hitler’s avid collaborator) meticulously orchestrated the incensed spontaneity of the August 1929 countrywide massacre (remembered foremost for the destruction of Hebron’s ancient Jewish community). Husseini even prepared postcards with photomontages of Herzl (then dead for 25 years) on the Temple Mount to inflame passions about a Jewish plot to demolish al-Aksa.

Sounds familiar?

On April 19, 1936 Husseini’s provocateurs spread rumors simultaneously in different quarters of Jaffa about three Arab men and a woman who were butchered in Tel Aviv and whose bloodied remains were brought to the government hospital. Within minutes, as if by a prearranged signal, thousands descended menacingly on the British Mandatory headquarters. Officials escorted a delegation through Jaffa’s hospitals to prove that there were no bodies.

But proof wasn’t in demand. Facts were immaterial.

The agitators swore they saw corpses and the riled crowds needed no corpus delicti. Ferocious shrieks of itbah el yahud – slaughter the Jews – resonated throughout Jaffa.

The roused rabble was on the warpath to wreak vengeance on Tel Aviv.

Thus started the Nazi-financed, three-year Arab revolt that cost thousands of lives, but paradoxically fortified the emergent Jewish state, which would achieve independence 12 years later.

The Arab aggression against the Jews was based on an outright lie, but nobody sought the truth. The lie, if believed, becomes reality. Fraudulent reality then takes on a life of its own. If nurtured, it grows, multiplies and becomes an axiomatic premise for a searing sense of injustice.

The lie binds. Spurious grievances confine and scourge those they ensnare.

The Arabs (who then fanatically spurned the Palestinian moniker) were victims of their own uprising. They murdered their own brethren and sabotaged their own economy. It was a self-inflicted disaster, a precursor to the 1948 one which would follow the onslaught by seven Arab armies on day-old Israel.

The Jewish state would be blamed for surviving and would fill its thwarted would-be annihilators with yet more frustration and festering rage. Instead of abating, genocidal hate would only intensify and magnify.

Those belatedly calling themselves Palestinians portray themselves as innocents struck by a monumental calamity and continuously oppressed for no fault of their own.

They clamor for another chance, for a return to square one, presumably to recoup their losses and continue from where they left off.

NO PEACE is possible until Arab leaders tell their people they were brainwashed for decades, victimized by lies rather than Jewish injustice. So long as Arabs feel wronged, they won’t rest till they kill the last Jew in this land.

But not only our enemies need to renounce the lie.

Those among us who believe that Tel Aviv was Tel al- Rabia fan the flames too. By repeating the lie, they inadvertently supply still-implacable enemies with evidence of Jewish guilt.

Unwittingly they cast themselves in the role of the Jaffa resident who provided conclusive “proof” of the Jewish crime in 1936. He dipped his hands in the blood of two slain and mutilated Jews and ran shouting: “Here is the blood the Jews spilled.” Furious frenzy ensued.

Sarah Honig

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

Muslim Brotherhood Declares War on America; Will America Notice?

by Barry Rubin

This is one of those obscure Middle East events of the utmost significance that is ignored by the Western mass media, especially because they happen in Arabic, not English; by Western governments, because they don't fit their policies; and by experts, because they don't mesh with their preconceptions.

This explicit formulation of a revolutionary program makes it a game-changer. It should be read by every Western decisionmaker and have a direct effect on policy because this development may affect people's lives in every Western country.

OK, cnough of a build-up? Well, it isn't exaggerated. So don't think the next sentence is an anticlimax. Here we go: The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has endorsed (Arabic) (English translation by MEMRI) anti-American Jihad and pretty much every element in the al-Qaida ideology book. Since the Brotherhood is the main opposition force in Egypt and Jordan as well as the most powerful group, both politically and religiously, in the Muslim communities of Europe and North America this is pretty serious stuff.

By the way, no one can argue that he merely represents old, tired policies of the distant past because the supreme guide who said these things was elected just a few months ago. His position reflects current thinking.

Does that mean the Egyptian, Jordanian, and all the camouflaged Muslim Brotherhood fronts in Europe and North America are going to launch terrorism as one of their affiliates, Hamas, has long done? No.

But it does mean that something awaited for decades has happened: the Muslim Brotherhood is ready to move from the era of propaganda and base-building to one of revolutionary action. At least, its hundreds of thousands of followers are being given that signal. Some of them will engage in terrorist violence as individuals or forming splinter groups; others will redouble their efforts to seize control of their countries and turn them into safe areas for terrorists and instruments for war on the West.

When the extreme and arguably marginal British Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary says that Islam will conquer the West and raise its flag over the White House, that can be treated as wild rhetoric. His remark is getting lots of attention because he said it in English in an interview with CNN. Who cares what he says?

But when the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood says the same thing in Arabic, that's a program for action, a call to arms for hundreds of thousands of people, and a national security threat to every Western country.

The Brotherhood is the group that often dominates Muslim communities in the West and runs mosques. Its cadre control front groups that are often recognized by Western democratic governments and media as authoritative. Government officials in many countries meet with these groups, ask them to be advisers for counter-terrorist strategies and national policies, and even fund them.

President Barack Obama speaks about a conflict limited solely to al-Qaida. And if one is talking about the current military battle in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen that point makes sense. Yet there is a far bigger and wider battle going on in which revolutionary Islamists seek to overthrow their own rulers and wage long-term, full-scale struggle against the West. If it doesn't involve violence right now it will when they get strong enough or gain power.

More than three years ago, I warned about this development, in a detailed analysis explaining, "The banner of the Islamist revolution in the Middle East today has largely passed to groups sponsored by or derived from the Muslim Brotherhood." I pointed out the differences-especially of tactical importance-between the Brotherhood groups and al-Qaida or Hizballah, but also discussed the similarities. This exposure so upset the Brotherhood that it put a detailed response on its official website to deny my analysis.

Yet now here is the Brotherhood's new supreme guide, Muhammad Badi giving a sermon entitled, "How Islam Confronts the Oppression and Tyranny," translated by MEMRI. Incidentally, everything Badi says is in tune with the stances and holy books of normative Islam. It is not the only possible interpretation but it is a completely legitimate interpretation. Every Muslim knows, even if he disagrees with the Brotherhood's position, that this isn't heresy or hijacking or misunderstanding.

Finally, this is the group that many in the West, some in high positions, are urging to be engaged as a negotiating partner because it is supposedly moderate.

What does he say?

--Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslim's real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded. Governments have no right to stop their people from fighting the United States. "They are disregarding Allah's commandment to wage jihad for His sake with [their] money and [their] lives, so that Allah's word will reign supreme" over all non-Muslims.

--All Muslims are required by their religion to fight: "They crucially need to understand that the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life." Notice that jihad here is not interpreted as so often happens by liars, apologists, and the merely ignorant in the West as spiritual striving. The clear meaning is one of armed struggle.

--The United States is immoral, doomed to collapse, and "experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading towards its demise."

--Palestinians should back Hamas in overthrowing the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and unite in waging war on Israel.

Incidentally, what Melanie Philips has written on this issue fits perfectly here:

--Rational calculations of the kind applied by the West to its adversaries, mirror-imaging, assuming that Muslims won't act in a revolutionary and even suicidal manner want a better future for their children, etc., do not apply to the Islamist movement:

"Allah said: 'The hosts will all be routed and will turn and flee [Koran 54:45].' This verse is a promise to the believers that they shall defeat their enemies, and [that the enemies] shall withdraw. The Companions of the Prophet received this Koranic promise in Mecca, when they were weak... and a little more than nine years [later], Allah fulfilled his promise in the Battle of Badr....Can we compare that to what happened in Gaza?....Allah is the best of schemers, and that though Him you shall triumph. Islam is capable of confronting oppression and tyranny, and that the outcome of the confrontation has been predetermined by Allah."

This says: It doesn't matter how long the battle goes on, how many die, how much destruction is unleashed, how low your living standards fall, how unfavorable the odds appear to be, none of that is important or should deter you.

In the real world, of course, the Islamists are unlikely to win over the long run of, say, 50 or100 years. But those views do mean that these 50 or 100 years are going to be filled with instability and bloodshed.

Equally, Badi's claims do not mean all Muslims must agree, much less actively take up arms. They can have a different interpretation, simply disregard the arguments, and be too intimidated or materialistic or opportunistic to agree or to act. Yet hundreds of thousands will do so and millions will cheer them on. And by the same token, neither the radical nor the passive will assist in moving toward more moderation or peace or compromise.

Well, will the problem go away if people in the West condemn "Islamophobia" or make concessions or apologize or produce a just peace? No.

His words provide some important points for people in the West to consider:

"Resistance is the only solution.... The United States cannot impose an agreement upon the Palestinians, despite all the means and power at its disposal. [Today] it is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance - and the wars of Lebanon and Gaza, which were not so long ago, [are proof of this]."

First, the more the likelihood that U.S. policy might obtains a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the more anti-American violent activity will be sparked among the Islamists and their very large base of support, the more Iran and Syria will sponsor terrorism. Desirable as peace or even progress toward peace might be, the West should have no illusions about those things providing regional stability, and they will produce more instability.

Second, U.S. actions of apology, concessions, and withdrawals-whether or not any of the specific steps are useful or desirable-they are interpreted by the Islamists and by many in the Middle East as signs of weakness which should spark further aggression and violence. There are hundreds of examples of this reaction every month. Here's a leading moderate Saudi journalist explaining how many Iraqis and other Arabs are viewing the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq means that it is turning the country over to Iran. Wrong but an accurate show of that very common Middle East way of thinking.

Indeed, this last factor explains the Brotherhood's timing. Note that he says nothing about fighting Egypt's government, which won't hesitate to throw the Brotherhood leaders into prison and even to torture them. Still, the coming leadership transition in Egypt, with the death or retirement of President Husni Mubarak, seems to offer opportunities.

The new harder line coincides with the Brotherhood's announcement that it will run candidates in the November elections, another sign of its confidence and increased militancy. The Brotherhood is not a legal group but the government lets members run in other parties. Its candidates won about 20 percent of the vote in the last elections, especially impressive given the regime's repressive measures. If the Brotherhood intends to defy Egyptian law now there will be confrontations, mass arrests, and perhaps violence.

Most important of all, however, Badi and many others sense weakness on the part of the West, especially the U.S. leaders, and victory for the Islamists.

Even former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is warning about such things. Blair comes from the British Labour Party. Many conservatives understand these issues. But the West can never respond successfully without a broader consensus about the nature of the threat and the need for a strong response. Where are Blair's counterparts in the left-of-center forces in North America, the kind of people who played such a critical role in confronting and defeating the previous wave of anti-democratic extremism, Communism?

This new hardline signals:

1. Increased internal conflict in Egypt, the start of a decade-long struggle for power in the Arabic-speaking world's most important country.
2. The likelihood that more Brotherhood supporters in the West will turn to violence and fund-raising for terrorism.
3. The true nature of the radical indoctrination--preparing people for future extremism and terrorism--in the mosques and groups they control.
4. A probable upturn in anti-American terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Europe.

In August 1996, al-Qaida declared war on America, the West, Christians and Jews. Nobody important paid much attention to this. Almost exactly five years later, September 11 forced them to notice. Let it be said that in September 2010 the Muslim Brotherhood, a group with one hundred times more activists than al-Qaida, issued its declaration of war. What remains is the history of the future.

Update: A well-informed friend in Egypt just said that while he's been expecting this move by the Brotherhood for some time that I have been the only one who's noticed it outside the country. This is the kind of service I'm trying to give my readers

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

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

A Dysfunctional Foreign Policy Team: The Obama Administration's New Problem

by Barry Rubin

In what is probably the most important sign of U.S.-Israel cooperation for this year, the U.S. government has finalized the sale of the advanced F-35 to Israel.

I repeatedly try to explain to people who believe that everything the Obama Administration does is conditioned by some anti-Israel ideology or that everything is bad that this is not so. The task is to maximize the positive, handling difficult problems.

Understanding the difference between a rigid, nothing-ever-changes ideology-determined perception and understanding how things do change (even if it is hypocritical done for political gain) is one of the key factors in doing good political analysis.

Moreover, there's no country in the world where the make-up of the high-level bureaucracy is as important as in the United States. America has the most decentralized policymaking system of any democratic state. It matters very much who is the secretary of state, defense secretary, national security advisor, and intelligence chief because these are semi-independent entities which have their own institutional point of view. (I discuss this in historical detail in my book, Secrets of State.)

Of course, ultimately all must obey the president and follow his line. But they have a lot of latitude. And when there is a president who is weak or ignorant about international affairs, these people war over his ear, that is try to persuade him as to what he should do with some real effect.

So the
resignation of National Security Advisor James Jones is an event of real significance. It's being portrayed as one of those routine end-of-two-years changes, dissatisfaction with Jones has long been clear. Among other things, he has been accused of being rather unenergetic.

Despite his background as a former Marine general with 40 years in uniform, he emerged as one of the more extreme advocates of what might be called the Obama ideology in the foreign policy sector. On the Middle East, Jones was said to be the main supporter for the idea of trying to impose some U.S. devised solution on Israel and the Palestinians. He will not be missed. His replacement is top aide Tom Donilon.

The leftist Huffington Post
says that Donilon would be a disaster as national security advisor. Wow, could he really be that good? Seriously, though, it claims Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Jones can't stand him and that he used to work for FannieMae. Still, this organ--it calls Jones the president's "Iron Hand," which would provoke gales of laughter from anyone in DC who knows anything about what's been going on--is ticked off because it sees Jones as the "left-wing" of Obama advisers.

After all, these are the kind of people who think that making concessions to Syria and engaging that dictatorship doesn't have to be disrupted by "little" things like
proof the Syrian military is training Hizballah to fire missiles at Israel.

The Atlantic
agrees on how many people dislike Obama (well, they're all using the same gossip sources on this story after all) and adds that the military doesn't like him either.

Donilon is a Democratic political operative with relatively little government (and even less foreign policy) experience. He is likely, then, to be a yes-man who will do whatever Obama says without having much of an independent view. This, of course, is precisely the trap presidents can fall into, made much worse if they don't know much about international affairs.

Even worse (for the world if not for Obama) is that he is likely to look for partisan and electoral advantage in decisionmaking, something that is already a bigger problem in this administration then it was in most of its predecessors. This was clear in deciding what to do about Afghanistan and
now in Israel-Palestinian issues.

This means two things:

First, Obama is even less likely to get independent advice, leading him into more mistakes.

Second, when top-level officials are debating options, Donilon, unlike Jones, won't have some independent opinion he is pushing. The likelihood of a U.S. effort to impose a solution on the Israel-Palestinian conflict is thus reduced.

Having a top foreign policy team in heated antagonism plus a president who is ignorant on foreign affairs (sorry, but that's very true of Obama) is a formula for disaster. Add to that the lack of any strong advisor who is a junior partner of the president, think of the relationship between President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor/Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

That doesn't mean it was a love fest before, where do you think the long delays and uncertainty over Afghanistan came from?

Instead, the secretary of state isn't trusted because she's a former (bitter) political rival, who has her own (more accurate and moderate) views. The secretary of defense is a holdover from the Bush Administration and is not trusted by the White House insiders. And now the national security advisor, while not holding actively silly views, is a yes-man.

Thus, Obama is more likely to come up with his own ideas to an even greater extent. Uh-oh!

Clinton and Gates are relatively good, especially compared to the likely alternatives. Up until now, there has been a debate in which Obama could choose some compromise view between them, on one hand, and Jones plus the more ideological White House staff, on the other. But what if Obama doesnt want to listen to the advice of Clinton and Gates, then operates through Donilon to put through his unadulterated first opinion? Imagine these people meeting to decide how to respond to a nuclear Iran, an aggressive Russia, some big foreign policy crisis.

Consider, for example, what's happening inside the war on...whatever it is. People who want to talk about radical Islamist ideology are treated as if they are extremist crazies and are lucky if they don't get fired. Meanwhile,huge amounts of money are poured into psychological explanations for terrorism or strategies for countering the revolutionaries that ignore all the real causes for their behavior. It would be hard to come up deliberately with a more self-defeating approach.

These are the people who will face the difficult tasks ahead? This does not bode well for the Obama Administration or for lots of others around the world.

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

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

Friday, October 8, 2010

Obama’s Middle East Policy vs. Reality

by Jennifer Rubin

While the frantic bribe-athon by the Obama administration continues to try reimposing the settlement moratorium, building has already resumed, according to this report:

Bulldozers have been working furiously on the construction of 350 new housing units in various settlements.

As the end of the freeze approached, the settlements have made great efforts to launch a massive building campaign in response. The Yesha Council has expressed satisfaction at the large amount of construction that has taken place so far.

But there is more:

A long queue of Palestinian laborers lined up Tuesday at the entrance to the settlement of Talmon, west of Ramallah. The vehicles with white license plates parked at the side of the road, and Palestinian workers exited the vehicles.

The workers waited for the security officer to check their identity cards before entering the various construction sites spread out over the settlement that have sprung up since the end of the building freeze.

So in the real world, Palestinians get jobs and Israelis get homes. From the vague description in the report, it seems as though building, to borrow a phrase, is “up” and “in” and not “out.” (The footprint of existing settlements is not being expanded from what we can glean from this report.) My, might that be a way of proceeding from here on out? It took over 18 months for the Obami to get the parties back to direct negotiations, albeit momentarily. Perhaps after another few months they can finally go back to the 2004 Bush-Sharon understanding on settlements. That might be “smart” diplomacy.

Meanwhile, some of my colleagues are debating whether Bill Clinton is offering a sly parody of the Obami’s ”linkage” fetish:

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would take away much of the motivation for terrorism around the world.

He described the long-running conflict as the key problem in the region and said resolving it would have a knock on effect that could result in Syria ending its support for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iran turning back its controversial nuclear program.

No, I think he’s serious and the president shares the notion that if Abbas signs a piece of paper, all sorts of wonderful things will transpire. The idea that the cessation of terror and the defanging of the Iranian regime are preconditions for peace is alien to their thinking. But the upside-down view of the Middle East does explain why the non-peace talks are in disarray, the Iranian regime is gaining allies, and the Israelis will have to fend for themselves when it comes to the Iranian nuclear threat. Unfortunately, there is no adult supervision of the Obama foreign policy.

Jennifer Rubin

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

Israel-Palestinian Talks: It’s the U.S. Election Stupid!

by Barry Rubin

The New York Times tries to figure out the answer to the question I asked: Why is President Barack Obama not only putting so much prestige into quickly resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict but doing so at a moment when the prospects for success look so minimal?

And on top of that:

Why is he asking Israel for a two-month, one-time, non-renewable freeze of construction on West Bank Jewish settlements?

Why is he offering Israel so much to do something that will lead to two months of talks after which the negotiations will certainly collapse?

Why is he offering the Palestinian Authority so much to stay in the talks for eight weeks and then walk out, no hard feelings?

The headline is, “Risks and Advantage in U.S. Effort in Mideast.” So what’s the possible advantage? A big breakthrough to peace in eight weeks?

What possible gain could be made by holding just four (count `em, four) short meetings and then ending the freeze and letting everyone walk away, keeping the goodies the administration has given them?

Naturally, the Times blames the problems only on Israel, or in the words of Mark Landler’s article, “With the negotiations deadlocked over the issue of Jewish settlements.” But they are also deadlocked over the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) evident desire to find some excuse to get out of negotiations that it stalled until the previous nine-month freeze was within hours of ending.

Somehow the reporters never seem to get the story about how the PA daily broadcasts, teaches, and sermonizes that all of Israel is part of Palestine. As in the repeatedly broadcast geography lesson on official PA television:

"The West Bank and Gaza have another section in Palestine which is the Palestinian coast that spreads along the [Mediterranean] sea, from....Ashkelon in the south, until Haifa, in the Carmel Mountains. Haifa is a well-known Palestinian port. [Haifa] enjoyed a high status among Arabs and Palestinians especially before it fell to the occupation [Israel] in 1948. To its north, we find Acre. East of Acre, we reach a city with history and importance, the city of Tiberias, near a famous lake, the Sea of Galilee. Jaffa, an ancient coastal city, is the bride of the sea, and Palestine's gateway to the world."

Still, that’s not what’s most important here. This article is about the mystery of why the Obama Administration is so obsessed about making progress (or, more accurately, to pretend to be making progress) in the next few weeks.

Landler continues:

“But even if [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] signs on, some analysts predict that the two sides will end up in the same cul-de-sac in two months. Mr. Abbas, several people said, has told associates that he feels that he has no choice but to keep pushing for a freeze, largely because the Obama administration made settlements the centerpiece of its first 10 months of Middle East diplomacy.”

At least we clear see how much of this is Obama’s fault for making settlements the critical issue. Yet after interviewing the usual suspects, the author never gets close to guessing at the administration’s motivation or strategy or goal.

Indeed, it accepts the administration’s framework. Perhaps the fact that the two sides don’t want to alienate Washington would lead them to keep talking? But the Times doesn’t see the brontosaurus, the blue whale (the word elephant is insufficient here) in the small one-bedroom apartment:

Why two months? Why two months? Why two months? (There’s not only a blue whale but also an echo in here.)

If I were telling this as a joke I would scream the punchline:


Nope, no domestic politics going on here! Yes, we know the big issue is jobs and the economy. On foreign policy, administration supporters will talk about making America popular again, withdrawing from Iraq, and standing firm in Afghanistan.

Yet the administration has made the Arab-Israeli conflict its principal international issue. What possible diplomatic success can it find to put on display? And how would it look if the “peace process” would collapse and it could be pointed out that Obama wrecked any chance by his emphasis on settlements and distancing from Israel?

Hmm, maybe it would be enough to keep Israel and the Palestinian Authority just to keep pretending there will be more negotiations for another 2.5 weeks?

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

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

Israel, The Good Enemy

by Mudar Zahran


Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians has always been globally approached with standardized heavy criticism made to Israel. The main charges waved in Israel’s face have always been “the Disapropriate use of force” and “discrimination”.

Israel’s critics, either willingly or out of ignorance, choose to overlook the way many Arab countries mistreat Palestinians. Some Arab countries are almost never blamed for what they have been doing to the Palestinians for decades. Such selective recognition of facts by Israel’s critics is bizarre when weighed by truth instead of myths.

In December of 2008, Israel launched operation “cast lead” against Hamas which was launching rockets on Southern Israel on a daily basis. This operation has resulted in the death of more than 1,400 Palestinians, many said to be civilians; an absolute tragedy, nonetheless, those criticizing Israel fail to recognize that the number of causalities is small comparing to Gaza’s population of 1.5 million, considering the high density of Gaza’s population per square kilometre, the number suggests the Israeli forces were very cautious in carrying out their attacks, despite the fact that they were chasing a moving target, Hamas militants. If Israeli forces were targeting Palestinian civilians, the number of the dead would have reached tens of thousands.

On comparison; in 1976, Lebanese militiamen butchered 2,000 Palestinians; almost wiping out the entire population of Tell al-Zaatar refugee camp within days. This was revisited again in 1982 in Sabra and Shatelah massacre; where, in less than four days, Lebanese militiamen killed thousands of women and children who posed no threat as most Palestinian fighters had left then to Tunisia. Two years ago, al-Jazeera satellite network aired rare footage of Palestinians running to Israeli soldiers for refuge from the massacre.

Furthermore, most Arab atrocities against Palestinians have included documented rape cases, even of children, while not a single rape case has been reported against Israeli forces in more than sixty years of operations.

Arab governments’ oppression of the Palestinians does not stop at bloodshed and wholesale slaughters, in fact the more troubling aspects of the way they treat Palestinians is in the systematic long-range exclusion and discrimination. In Arab countries where Palestinians make up a good percentage of the population; they are depraved [sic] of all basic necessities, starting with education, down to basic healthcare. Even at countries that have granted the Palestinians citizenships; the Palestinians stand helpless and banned from every potential to improve their livelihoods.

Israel, on the other hand, has always allowed Palestinians to work there and to get paid in Western standards, and even had allowed them generous access to healthcare. In fact, Israel has also welcomed Palestinians as visitors, patients and even as investors, this generosity was only limited when Hamas started bombing Israeli civilians with no signs of an end in sight.

The complexity Israel has with Palestinians revolves around security rather than ideological issues; Israel does not have an aim to enslave the Palestinians for life or purposely degrade their humanity. While many Arab countries have designed their systems to discriminate and humiliate the Palestinians, squeezing them into illiteracy and poverty while milking them for tax money.

This has become most visible recently with calls in some Arab countries to revoke citizenships of all Palestinians there and actually to force them to seek local guarantors to obtain residency, thus enslaving them for life.

This comes as a deeper shock for Palestinians when they see Israeli Arabs, with many of them describing themselves as “Palestinians in Israel”; those are full citizens of Israel with access to all privileges. Israeli Arabs are fully represented inside the Knesset while Palestinians, in their Arab homeland, are allowed only symbolic presence in parliaments, even at countries where they are the majority. And while some Arab countries selectively withdraw citizenships from Palestinians, many Arab Knesset members do not hesitate to speak against Israel with no fear of losing their citizenships or entitlements.

Still, while the world is most vocal about Israeli military operations, it fails to recognize that Israel has been dealing with non-stop unrest on its soil since the breakout of the Intifada in 1987. Has that Intifada taken place in any Arab country; it would have ended within the first couple of weeks with an Arab army killing more than ten thousands Palestinians, most being civilians. Examples of this are countless and in all Arab countries hosting Palestinians; yet the world seems to think this reality is too overrated to recognize.

Today, with peace negotiations up and running, some Arab governments seem to want to butcher the Palestinians again on the altar of dictatorship by worsening their living conditions and making their lives more miserable, just to secure a better negotiating position or merely a seat at the negotiations table. Not to mention that many of those actually would rather see the negotiations fail in order to keep more international aid money flowing to them for “hosting” the Palestinians.

Quoting a commentator on one of my articles; “the Palestinians, do obviously need a break from their sworn Arab friends”, and perhaps they can reconnect to them when they have learned a lesson or two from their Israeli “enemies”.

Meanwhile, the world will remain silent about the Palestinians’ suffering at the hands of some of their “brothers”, as it’s too occupied with Israel.

Mudar Zahran, Jordanian of a Palestinian heritage, is an academic who resides in the UK.

Mudar Zahran

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

What about Jewish farmers?

by Orit Struck

Police protect Arab olive harvesters, but do almost nothing for Jewish farmers

The headlines informed us that the IDF, Civil Administration, and Israel Police are preparing for the olive harvesting season in Judea and Samaria. “This mission is of the highest priority,” and hence, in the midst of a period replete with terror attacks, major manpower and great operational effort will be dedicated in order to allow the harvest to go “to the last olive.”

The media also prepares and places itself at the service of the “harvest coalition” – dozens of subsidiaries of the New Israel Fund and European Union that shall accompany the harvesters in order to turn a simple, popular agricultural effort into a raging, media-covered global event. We can assume that Mitchell, Clinton, and maybe even Obama shall make time in their busy schedules to ensure that each one of the farmers known as “Palestinians” will get to enjoy the fruit of their labor.

On the other hand, in a sort of mirror image, Jewish farmers who work their land by law in the very same area suffer daily abuse at the hands of their Arab neighbors, who are backed and incited by the very same leftist human-farmer rights champions. The damages sustained by these Jewish farmers are estimated at hundreds of thousands of shekels, and who could estimate the heartache of a farmer whose corps were damaged?

Yet the State of Israel’s law enforcement authorities do almost nothing to protect them, and the media barely covers them or their pain.

About three years ago, we undertook a comprehensive inquiry into the abuse against Jewish farmers. We reviewed dozens of police cases and interviewed dozens of farmers. We discovered a wide-ranging phenomenon of deliberate, frequent, and methodical attacks premised on nationalistic rather than criminal motives: Arson, trespassing, sabotaging equipment, and the deliberate damaging of corps.

We also discovered visible involvement of leftist organizations – the very same ones that preach to us about harming corps – in terms of incitement, organization, active participation, and legal backing given to the rioters and vandals. The olive trees of Jewish farmers prompt the exact opposite reaction, for some reason.

Part of terror war

We also discovered inaction and blatant indifference by the police, even in respect to issuing authorizations for property tax purposes. Many farmers were forced to sustain major damages after the police did not see fit to dispatch investigators. Apparently the police were left with no manpower after enlisting all of it to the cause of protecting the Arab farmers.

We reviewed dozens of police files and found them empty of any probe work. On the other hand, in the cases were an investigation was carried out and suspects were apprehended, they turned out to be Arabs with a wealth of nationalistic-terroristic experience.

Abusing Jewish farmers is part of the terror war, yet the police remain unimpressed. We found significant gaps in resources, modus operandi, and police motivation in respect to protecting Jewish farmers. The chance that suspects would be arrested is almost nil. In most cases, the police stay out of Arab villages, therefore turning them into safe havens for vandals.

Meanwhile, Arab farmers arrive at work accompanied by massive army and police protection. The forces include police officers skilled in carrying out arrests and are assisted by the police’s and even Shin Bet’s intelligence agents. And if this isn’t enough, the establishment would not hesitate to issue administrative orders against people it thinks may harm Arab olives – where did the holy principle of equality before the law disappear?

In the concluding chapter of our report we wrote: There is no need whatsoever to recommend ways to improve enforcement…it would be enough if authorities decided to adopt a policy of equal enforcement, and use all the means at their disposal when protecting Arab olive harvesters to also protect Jewish farmers. Three years have passed since. Had we enjoyed huge EU budgets, we would likely issue further reports on the matter, yet regrettably there is no need for that either: Nothing has changed.

About a month ago, we turned to the police again in the wake of five arson cases that caused grave damages and even threatened the lives of residents. In all these cases, despite evidence on the ground, nobody was arrested and police files remained empty. In one case, the police did not even issue a property tax authorization, forcing the farmer to sustain the damages.

In our letters, we demanded that police commanders’ preparations for the olive harvesting season also includes an effort to protect the Jewish farmers. The letters had not been answered yet.

Orit Struck manages the legal department in Hebron’s Jewish community and runs the human rights organization in Judea and Samaria.

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

Israel’s Strange “Peace Partners”

by P. David Hornik

No sooner did Israeli-Palestinian talks start up again, after an intermission of almost two years, than they got snagged again—this time by the Palestinians’ demand that Israel extend its settlement moratorium. The moratorium—a major, unprecedented concession by Israel—was instated from late November last year to late September this year. It garnered no reciprocal gesture whatsoever from the Palestinian Authority, where virulent anti-Israel incitement continued.

Instead, PA president Mahmoud Abbas finally entered talks with Israel toward the end of the ten-month West Bank building freeze, just in time to condition any further talks on its extension. This at a time when Palestinian building in the West Bank—including a whole new city, Rawabi—continues unfettered.

Various media reports give different accounts of how likely it is that the talks will resume, and the positions of the sides. The reports agree, though, that intensive U.S. efforts to rescue the talks continue—President Barack Obama having made an envisioned Israeli-Palestinian peace a central and even obsessive goal.

Of interest, then, is a newly released poll of Palestinian public opinion. It was conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, whose director is the respected Palestinian pollster Dr. Khalil Shikaki.

Among the 1270 adult Palestinian interviewees in randomly selected places in the West Bank and Gaza, 66% wanted the Palestinian side to pull out of the talks. The survey was done just after Israel’s building freeze had expired, with small-scale construction resuming in a few settlements. As many have noted, though, previous Israeli-Palestinian talks from 1992 through early 2009 were never made conditional by the Palestinians on an end to settlement construction, which continued throughout that period.

In other words, two-thirds of the Palestinians don’t share President Obama’s enthusiasm for a negotiated agreement with Israel—to the point that they don’t even want negotiations to continue.

Last August 31 four Israeli civilians, including a nine-months-pregnant mother of six, were murdered in their car by Hamas terrorists near Hebron. The attack occurred just as the Israeli-Palestinian talks were set to resume and was viewed as a protest against them.

The poll found that 51% of the interviewees supported this attack and 44% opposed it. It was somewhat more popular in Hamas-run Gaza, where 61% approved of it, than in the West Bank, where a minority of “only” 44% did so. The attack’s popularity clearly was not harmed by the fact that 49% thought Hamas’s motivation was to derail the talks—a goal shared by a large majority of the interviewees in any case.

This does not mean, however, that Hamas itself is popular. Asked whom they would vote for if new presidential elections were held today, 57% chose Abbas and only 36% Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader in Gaza. As for legislative elections, 45% would vote for Abbas’s Fatah and only 26% for Hamas. In both cases the results are almost identical to results obtained in June.

That is, Hamas did not gain popularity from the terror attack. It’s the attack itself that is popular among the Palestinians.

In another notable finding, it turns out that if presidential elections were held between Marwan Barghouti and Haniyeh, not only would participation in the elections increase considerably but Barghouti would trounce Haniyeh by 65%-30%. Barghouti, a Fatah figure, was one of the key leaders of the Second Intifada terror onslaught against Israel and is now serving a life sentence in Israel on five counts of murder (he was acquitted on 33 other charges of murder for lack of evidence). Clearly, this not only does not harm his popularity among the Palestinians but enhances it.

Also worthy of note is that, though Hamas-run Gaza is generally considered more dictatorial than the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority, 65% of West Bankers said they cannot criticize their government without fear and just about the identical total—66%—of Gazans said the same about their government.

Seemingly, those who fervently espouse Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza as a formula for peace should take note of these appalling findings. Supporters of Israel should demand that the Obama administration explain how creating a dictatorship whose population strongly backs terror, and whose leaders are likely to be terrorists, is consistent with American values and interests.

P. David Hornik

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

The Co-op Wars: Two More Wins!

by Jon Haber

After writing about South Africa for the last week or so, I can feel the tug of international pulling on my interests (especially with regard to the role BDS is playing as a counter to peace efforts in the region itself). But before jumping into the rest of the world, an update on two more victories in the co-op boycott wars.

Most newsworthy (given its size and given the effort BDS activists put into getting them to become the second co-op to boycott Israel) is the unanimous decision by the Sacramento Natural Food Co-op to give boycott the heave ho. But I was also intrigued to read this letter sent to boycott activists by the President of the New Seasons Market Co-op in Portland, Oregon:

"...As a neighborhood grocery store, our first priority is to meet the diverse needs of our customers. Unlike some other grocery chains we are careful not to be the “food police”. We believe that customers vote with their dollars and if a product doesn’t sell well for us, then we discontinue it based on its relative sales movement compared with the overall category sales movement. We are not participating in the boycott and are not meeting with proponents of the boycott. We will, as we have always done, continue to carry the products that meet the many diverse needs of our community.”

Meanwhile, the board of the Olympia Co-op has decided to double down on their boycott policy, refusing to rescind the boycott but agreeing to carry on dialog about this decision as a booby prize to aggrieved members (which now include a former board member camping out at the co-op until the decision is reversed).

Now I know that many (especially me) have been hard on Oly since they made their boycott decision last July, criticizing both the substance of the decision and the underhanded way in which that decision got made. But we should keep in mind that Olympia has played an important role in the bigger game of BDS within a category (in this case, the category of co-ops).

Usually, it takes a couple of years before a BDS project can make its way through a category of civic institution (such as colleges and churches). That’s why BDS was such a big campus phenomenon in 2002-2004 and a church one in 2004-2006 – it simply takes that long for opposition to form and for the real decision makers within these organizations to see past their rhetoric to discover the true, propaganda, war-like nature of a BDS effort masquerading as part of a peace movement.

The one thing that can accelerate this process is excess. Given the distance in time between 2002 when campus divestment projects began and 2009 when they were revived, there was no reason why a new generation of students (and new school administrators) might not have proven vulnerable to divestment lures yet again. But then came the Hampshire Hoax which put school administrations across the nation on notice that just shaking hands with the local BDS group could land you the international news as having your campus join the global BDS project.

In the case of co-ops, Olympia has (without any prodding from anti-boycott activists) served the same purpose as Hampshire, demonstrating to other co-ops what upset they can expect if they push through with a boycott vote (as opposed to the harmony they can equally see demonstrated at co-ops that have rejected boycott such as Davis and Port Townsend).

I have no idea if the locals who are putting so much effort into getting the Oly boycott reversed will eventually succeed (I hope they do). But even as that drama plays out, Sacramento shows that co-ops now understand that boycott does not fit in with the principles of the co-op movement, and New Seasons Market demonstrates that co-ops (like campus administrators) know BDS well enough to not bother giving boycott proposals the time of day.

Jon Haber

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

Hezbollah: A Bigger Menace than Ever

by Max Boot

The New York Times has a chilling if not surprising report on how strong Hezbollah is getting. It has managed to more than rebuild its capacities since the 2006 war against Israel. As the Times notes: “According to Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s leader, Hezbollah has increased its missile stocks to 40,000, compared with 13,000 during the 2006 war; Israeli defense officials do not dispute the estimate. (In 2006, Hezbollah fired about 4,000 missiles.)”

Meanwhile, across southern Lebanon, new apartment blocks, roads, and bunkers have gone up with Iranian money. Hezbollah’s rearmament shows how predictably toothless the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon is. As the Times notes:

Party supporters have constructed dozens of enormous houses along the strategic hills that face the Israeli border, in areas that used to be mostly farmland. The houses, Hezbollah officials say, will complicate a future Israeli advance and could give Hezbollah fighters cover during ground combat.

United Nations peacekeepers and the Lebanese Army now patrol the hilly, wooded border, and under the terms of the United Nations resolution that ended the war, Hezbollah was supposed to demilitarize the area between the Israeli border and the Litani River, a distance of about 18 miles.

But Hezbollah appears to have done just the opposite. Its operatives roam strategic towns, interrogating foreigners and outsiders. New residents have been recruited to the border, and Hezbollah officials say they have recruited scores of new fighters, by their own estimates either doubling or tripling their ranks.

Oh, and if that weren’t bad enough, there is also this: “Hezbollah’s role in the government has paved the way for tighter cooperation with Lebanese intelligence units, and Lebanese officials have reportedly arrested more than 100 people suspected of being Israeli spies in the past two years.”

There is no doubt that an element of Hezbollah bluster is at play here — the group seeks to deter an Israeli strike on its Iranian sponsors. But there is little doubt that Hezbollah is a bigger menace than ever — not only to Israel but also to any hopes of regional peace. That makes it all the more astonishing that the Obama administration is devoting so much energy to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Even if the probability of a successful outcome to those talks were high (and it’s not), it would do nothing to end the menace posed by Hamas or Hezbollah. Admittedly, there is no easy solution to these terrorist groups, but one would think that defeating them would be a bigger priority for the administration than beating an allied government over the head to get it to extend a moratorium on new housing construction, which should be the endpoint, rather than the beginning, of negotiations.

Max Boot

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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Laws of War Evidently Don’t Apply to Israel

by Evelyn Gordon

The New York Times reported Monday on a U.S. soldier charged with killing Afghan civilians for fun. Yet much of the report was devoted to explaining why civilian killings by soldiers usually don’t result in indictments — like a 2008 case in which Marines allegedly fired indiscriminately at an Afghan road, killing 19 people and wounding 50. The case was closed because “the shootings began after a suicide bomber attacked the unit’s convoy,” and “the Marines said they had taken hostile gunfire after the explosion and had fired to defend themselves from perceived threats.” The Times explained:

It can be difficult to win a conviction, specialists in military law said, when defendants can make a plausible claim that they believed, in the confusion of the “fog of war,” that their lives were in danger and they needed to defend themselves.

“You often see cases of kids who just make dumb decisions,” said Gary Solis, who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University. “But killings in the heat of the moment, they don’t usually try those guys. The guys you try are the ones who have an opportunity to consider what they are doing.”

Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale, added that it’s often hard to gather evidence in conflict zones.

In many cases, he said, months have passed by the time an accusation surfaces, and so units have rotated back from the tour of duty, records are poor, and it is difficult to find witnesses.

Moreover, in the Muslim world investigators are deeply reluctant, for cultural reasons, to exhume bodies and perform autopsies.

Astoundingly, even the lone human-rights advocate quoted agreed. “The large majority of civilian harm in both Iraq and Afghanistan takes place during legitimate military operations,” said Sarah Holewinksi, executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict.

Clearly, all the above considerations also apply to Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and Gaza. Civilian deaths occurred in the heat of combat, when soldiers could plausibly have thought themselves endangered. Few witnesses will talk to Israeli investigators, yet testimony given to nongovernmental organizations is problematic as courtroom evidence, because attorneys and judges cannot question the witnesses themselves or form an impression of their credibility. And most victims are Muslims, who have religious objections to autopsies.

Yet when it comes to Israel, these factors are somehow dismissed as unimportant. That same day, the Times reported on an Israeli court’s conviction of two soldiers for crimes committed during last year’s Gaza war. Altogether, it noted, 48 cases have been opened. A third are “still in progress,” a few produced convictions, and the rest were closed, for the reasons cited above.

“But human rights groups say that the military’s criminal proceedings are insufficient” and that Israeli troops committed “atrocities that require outside investigation.”

The principle that the law applies equally to all is a cornerstone of modern Western civilization. Yet too many Westerners seem to reserve the protections granted by the laws of war for their own soldiers while denying them to Israel.

By so doing, they don’t just undermine Israel. They undermine their own civilization.

Evelyn Gordon

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

Bolivia, Venezuela, Supply Uranium to Iran

by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

With Iran is calling for the expansion of ties with Bolivia, the Iranian Minister of Industries and Mines, Ali Akbar Mehrabian, visited the Latin American country and expressed his wish to develop business relations. In a joint press release, Bolivia's President, Evo Morales, went further: he expressed his appreciation for Iranian resistance against the US; criticized the international community over the "double-standard policies" of Western states, and said his country will remain beside Iran and against the "unilateral" policies of the US.

The same concepts were repeated in a recent meeting that Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad had with Morales in New York. Pointing to the friendly,brotherly relations between Iran and Bolivia, Ahmadinejad stressed that "today the ties between the two countries have their roots in the bottom of the two nations' and officials' hearts and are expanding intensively." During the meeting, Morales described Iran as a role model for the Latin American states, especially Bolivia, and said the two countries share common views on international issues.

These declarations of intent have not positively impressed Bolivia's Jewish community, worried by their country's increased ties with a regime that has made of Anti-Semitism one of its main platforms. Ricardo Udler, president of the Israelite Circle of Bolivia, expressed his concern for the new cooperation treaties between Bolivia and Iran: "Each time an Iranian official arrives in Bolivia," Udler said, "there are negative comments against the state of Israel; and soon after, the Bolivian authorities issue a communiqué against the Jewish State." Also, said Udler, "What worries me most is the transport of uranium. Although this was never confirmed officially by the state's authorities, there is information from international agencies that indicate that uranium from Bolivia and Venezuela is being shipped to Iran."

State minister Oscar Coca, when asked about uranium, said that the presence of uranium ore in the country had yet to be confirmed, and that certainly no uranium had been shipped to Iran. He insisted that the cooperation with Iranian government covered fields such as oil exploitation, construction of tractors and the likes.

However, an Israeli report of 2009 concludes that Bolivia, alongside Venezuela, is supplying Iran with uranium for its nuclear program. The three-page document about Iranian activities in Latin America was prepared for a visit to South America by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon before a conference of the Organization of American States in Honduras. "There are reports that Venezuela supplies Iran with uranium for its nuclear program," the Israeli Foreign Ministry document states, referring to previous Israeli intelligence conclusions. It added, "Now we have evidence that also Bolivia supplies uranium to Iran." There was no immediate comment from officials in Venezuela or Bolivia on the report's allegations.

Iran is an odd partner for the socialist regimes in South America that doing business with the Ayatollahs. Ideologically, it proposes a theological state, the opposite of what Socialist societies are seeking. Technologically and scientifically, Iran is still, despite some breakthroughs in the nuclear field, a largely underdeveloped country: even though Iran is a major oil producer, it is unable to refine enough gasoline to meet its needs. Geographically, it belongs to a totally different region. So what are the advantages of developing commercial and strategic ties with a partner from so far away, and having so little to offer, when much better capabilities are available in America and in Europe? What have countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba, in common with the Islamic Republic of Iran? Nothing, really, except a deep rooted enmity toward the US.

In this process, Bolivia also fails to develop some of its most important mineral resources --- especially lithium. Half the world's reserves of lithium are buried in the Salar de Uyuni plain. What lies beneath the surface there could turn Bolivia --one of South America's poorest countries -- into the Saudi Arabia of the 21st century. As rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are vastly superior to nickel-based batteries, lithium is the oil of green technology.

The Salar de Uyuni is the latest and greatest discovery in the "Lithium Triangle": 16,000 square miles straddling northern Argentina, Chile, and southern Bolivia, where an estimated 75-90% of the world's lithium deposits are located. So far, Chile's Salar de Atacama has been the largest source and the best exploited—particularly by the Chinese, who imported 4,300 tons of it in 2008. But Bolivia cannot exploit its lithium without foreign investment and expertise, and its main competitors have the jump on it. Chile and Argentina already account for more than half the world's 27,400 metric tons of annual lithium production.

So far, the Morales government's way of working has been to sign accords or memoranda of understanding with everyone who comes along -- yet no sign of development can be seen on the ground. In four years of the Morales government, only a sum of approximately $300,000 has been spent – not even 1% of the new presidential plane that has just been bought.

International investors are also worried by the nationalistic stance taken by the Morales government, in particular the provision that the Bolivian state should maintain at least 60% of the ownership of any enterprise to be created. So while Morales is fiddling around with dismal economic deals with the Ayatollah's regime, a real opportunity is being passed up to change the economy of Bolivia for the good.

Anna Mahjar-Barducci

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

Saudi Arabia's Accelerating Social Unrest

by Irfan Al-Alawi

Social unrest has begun bursting out in Saudi Arabia since September 23. For the last five years, that date has been celebrated as Saudi National Day. Although discontent among women, non-adherents of the official Wahhabi sect, the Shia minority, and foreign workers is often predicted -- and even described -- in the kingdom, seldom does it result in significant incidents. This year, that week, including and following the holiday produced a new, and strikingly broad, wave of dissent.

Irfan Al-Alawi

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