Saturday, March 31, 2012

Obama’s Presidency Is Now Changed

by Abe Greenwald

In the Washington Times, Charles Hurt claims this “has been, without any doubt, the worst week yet for President Obama.” He cites the fatal multi-car pile-up that is the Trayvon Martin controversy, the hot-mic incident with Dmitry Medvedev, Obamacare on the ropes at the Supreme Court, and the congressional defeat of Obama’s budget. It’s true this has been Obama’s worst week ever. But it’s also more than that. There are all sorts of ways to have a bad political week, and most don’t involve secretly colluding with the Kremlin and watching your signature policy initiative deliquesce at the Supreme Court.

For Obama detractors, this week was the mother of all “told-ya-so’s”: the disaster predictions of his presidency made manifest; all the contents of 2008’s dire prophecies conjured into the real world. The brazen courting of international bad actors, the constitutionally unfeasible leftism, and the political illiteracy have been summoned at last in the space of a few days. You no longer need conservative pundits to paint a worrisome picture when you can just go to the videotape.

Worst of all is the clear, bright line connecting the health-care showdown and the Putin pander: Barack Obama’s casual indifference to democratic principle. That the healthcare overhaul was a federally enforced protection racket is no more relevant to him than Vladimir Putin’s aggressive anti-freedom agenda. Expedience means the state compels the people to do what’s in their best interest. No one said change is easy.

The told-ya-so business is high risk. If in June it turns out that the Court didn’t shoot down all or part of Obamacare, the president will get a considerable lift. The larger context of this week from hell will be history and Obama critics will eat a plate of crow as large as the seeming political corpse on which they now feast. But that’s only politics. The essential nature of Obama’s presidency is fundamentally changed no matter what. Recovering support after the catastrophes of this week, which is certainly possible, would mean inaugurating a new kind of Obama advocacy. One no longer based on idealism or hope but rather on the kind of cynicism and opportunism that were brought to light over the last several days.

Abe Greenwald


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Assad Says Revolt is Over But The Army Keeps Shooting

by Rick Moran

The opposition claims it won't stop fighting until tanks and artillery are withdrawn for the major cities. But President Assad continues his propaganda campaign claiming the revolt against him is over.

Who is he trying to kid?


Washington and Gulf Arab states urged peace envoy Kofi Annan to set a timeline for "next steps" if there is no ceasefire, and Saudi Arabia repeated a call for rebels to be armed.

Annan has said neither measure would be helpful. The former U.N. chief's mission has brought no respite in the killings.

Syria also said it would keep its forces in cities to "maintain security" until it is safe to withdraw in line with the peace deal, which Assad has said he accepts.

Annan's plan says the army must stop violence immediately and be the first to withdraw forces.

"We cannot accept the presence of tanks and troops in armored vehicles among the people," a spokesman for Free Syrian Army commanders inside Syria said.

"We don't have a problem with the ceasefire. As soon as they remove their armored vehicles, the Free Syrian Army will not fire a single shot," Lieutenant Colonel Qassim Saad al-Din told Reuters by telephone from Homs.

A rebel officer in Damascus said separately: "When Assad's gangs stop the shelling and killing of civilians, then our leaders can issue an order to stop operations and we will commit to it to show our good intentions."

Opposition activists reported 25 people killed and five bodies found bearing signs of torture, including two children.

A protest singer in Kafr Ruma was killed when his house was raided. A young man and his sister were shot dead when state forces stormed their village, and a man died of gunshot wounds inflicted during a protest in Damascus.

The Annan plan won't work because the minimum requirement of the opposition is that Assad step aside immediately. That's not going to happen so even if there is some kind of a "cease fire," the chances are good that it will break down within days, if not sooner, and the fighting will recommence.

Rick Moran


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Justice Sonia Sotomayor's Shocking Ignorance

by Jason Lee

The liberal Supreme Court justices have demonstrated profound and shocking ignorance of the American health care system. Here's one of the most jarring examples:

"What percentage of the American people who took their son or daughter to an emergency room and that child was turned away because the parent didn't have insurance," asked Sotomayor, "... do you think there's a large percentage of the American population that would stand for the death of that child -- (who) had an allergic reaction and a simple shot would have saved the child?"

I have a precise answer for Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The percentage of American people who took their son or daughter to an emergency room and were turned away because the parent didn't have insurance is exactly zero.

No person, whether American or not, is ever turned away from an emergency room for lack of health insurance. Ever.

This simply does not happen.

Here's why:

1. It's illegal.

Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) is a U.S. Act of Congress passed in 1986 as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). It requires hospitals to provide care to anyone needing emergency healthcare treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. There are no reimbursement provisions. Participating hospitals may only transfer or discharge patients needing emergency treatment under their own informed consent, after stabilization, or when their condition requires transfer to a hospital better equipped to administer the treatment.

You can thank Republican President Ronald Reagan for that, for better or for worse.

As a health care provider who interacts with emergency room physicians on a daily basis, I can attest to the fact that seriously ill patients are never discharged from an emergency room in the tragic fashion that Sonia Sotomayor imagines. Even uninsured patients with minor, self-limited problems are treated better than that.

2. Morality and the patient-doctor relationship

Although this might come as a shocking revelation to liberal Democrats, most physicians understand the difference between right and wrong. No physician would turn away a child simply because the parent didn't have insurance. This is primarily because physicians, even conservative ones, are as compassionate as liberal Supreme Court justices. (And in securing scarce and enormously expensive resources for their patients in an emergency, physicians have virtually unlimited latitude.)

3. The legal risks of selfish, short-sighted decisions are enormous.

A jury would have no mercy on a physician who withheld treatment inappropriately, causing a child to die. The financial and professional consequences would be devastating.

It's disheartening to note that Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as profoundly ignorant as she is, will be making a monumental decision about a 2,700 page health care law. Justice Sotomayor needs to have a talk with her brother.

Jason Lee, M.D. blogs at


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More Evidence of Egyptian Police Stripping Women?

by Raymond Ibrahim

We all remember the international uproar that erupted when, during a clash between police and protesters in Egypt, the former beat and partially stripped to her bra a female protester (subsequently known as the “Blue Bra Woman”).

An older video which purports to show an Egyptian officer ordering a woman to take off all her clothes, is even worse, sparking debate anew. For the stripping is not a product of haste, blind-rage, or chaos—as apologists for the Blue Bra Woman incident argue—but deliberate, methodical, and sadistic.

According to a new report appearing yesterday on El Bashayer, Mohsin Bahsani, president of an Egyptian organization called Legal Assistance for Human Rights, has brought this video to the spotlight, saying he is preparing to submit a formal complaint to the Attorney General, asking for legal action to be taken, including identifying the perpetrators.

The video was earlier aired on the popular Egyptian program “90 Minutes” (click here; clip appears from around minute 1:45 to minute 4). It appears to be taped inside an apartment, where a man, dressed like an officer, threatens and slaps a woman around, bullying her to take off all her clothes. He constantly commands her to “strip” and orders the others in the room to keep the door closed.

First he gives her a hard, swift slap across the face when she refuses to take off her top; then she takes it off but he orders her to take her bra off as well. After protesting, she complies, but then covers her face for shame, all while sopping; he yells at her not to cover her face and gives her another hard slap. Then he resumes ordering her to continue stripping, i.e., take her pants—and presumably underwear, based on precedent—off. The video then cuts off.

The focus of 90 Minutes was whether this video is authentic and whether it can be proven that the man is a police officer. One of the guests, a journalist, seemed sure, pointing out that the man was wearing a holster with a gun in it (in Egypt, only officers are permitted to carry firearms). Likewise, the woman initially objected to being forced to strip naked, arguing “Are you going to drag me outside naked?” implying that she was being arrested and taken into custody; and after she takes her bra off, as the man orders her to continue stripping and she refuses, he threatens by saying, “Okay, off we go to the ministry [of justice],” again, implying he is an officer making an arrest.

The one main oddity of the video is that, towards the end of the clip, someone in the apartment leaps in front of the camera making a goofy face. Though one might argue that this takes away from the seriousness, and thus authenticity, of the situation, in fact, the counter argument can be made—that the jumping fool actually further demonstrates the authenticity of the video: If those making the tape were intentionally trying to frame Egypt’s police force—which the host of 90 Minutes offered as a possibility—surely they would not compromise their efforts by such a silly stunt in front of the camera.

A more likely interpretation is that the man is, in fact, an officer, who is at the apartment of friends or family, where he is doing them a “favor”— abusing his authority, “flexing his muscle” as it were, against this woman whom his buddies, for whatever reason, have targeted as needing to be threatened, shaken down, and shamed—all while some in the apartment goof around, apparently because such spectacles are not out of the ordinary.

Incidentally, this video was taken when Hosni Mubarak was in power, before the Revolution—a reminder that, brutality is not a product of this or that regime, but of culture; a reminder that the beating and stripping of the Blue-Bra woman, which caused much international outrage, may well be the tip of the iceberg.

Raymond Ibrahim


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Global March to Jerusalem? How About One to the Ruins of Homs Ayatollah Khameini?

by Farid Ghadry

It never ceases to amaze me how the will of so few who are wrong can harm the will of so many who are right. We have seen it throughout history and this Middle East basks in that glorious past we all want to forget.

Today marks the date for yet another one of those events that walks, sails, or flies towards Israel. This obsession with this little country bordering Syria is the reason why tyranny flourishes in our corner of the world or had flourished in Germany starting 1933.

According to “Stop The Bomb” NGO based in Austria, this latest circus has been organized by some of the most undesirables the world can imagine. The Mullahs of Iran, the Islamists of the region, and the extreme left looking more like Nazis than Nazis themselves.

Considering that Iran has snipers on rooftops killing innocent Syrians and Iran is helping Assad in the Genocide against our people, what right do the Mullahs have or any other group to march towards Jerusalem when Homs, or Idlib, or Hama are in dire need of saving?

Do the Israelis kill 100 people everyday? Assad does.

Do the Israelis direct their Merkavas 105mm canons against the Palestinian civilian population? Assad directs his T-72′s against women and children.

Do the Israelis use helicopters to spray Palestinians marching in funerals? Assad does.

Do the Israelis kill Palestinian doctors treating injuries? Assad does.

Do the Israelis torture children and send their mutilated bodies to their mothers? Assad does.

The worst part is how the world turns a blind eye to those stark differences of behavior by not comparing the situation in both neighboring countries. I guess because it would highlight Israeli democracy more than highlight Assad atrocities.

I would also imagine if Israel did not exist, the Mullahs would be attacking every church and every monastery in the region. The same way when Hitler had Arabs in mind after he exterminated the Jews, which is sad because the Jews, once again, pay the highest price to protect others.

Enough crudity in behavior, density in the brains, or philistinism in deeds. These dark ages of watching the regimes in Iran and in Syria survive because of lack of will and vision and countries like Israel pay a price for mere existence are not footnotes in the annals of history. They will be viewed as another form of Medievalism living off the largesse of men content to think unilaterally, even selfishly.

Farid Ghadry


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Assad Makes Tactical Move By Pledging Peace, Erdogan Says

by AK Group

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, expressing mistrust of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, claimed Assad has made a tactical move by pledging peace in order to manipulate the results of this weekend's key Syria gathering in his favor.

Damascus has accepted a cease-fire and six-point peace plan drafted by United Nations and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, his spokesman, Ahmed Favzi, said on Tuesday.

En route to Tehran after attending a nuclear security conference in Seoul, Erdoğan said Assad is attempting to influence public opinion before the second Friends of Syria meeting in İstanbul on April 1 and ruled out the possibility that the Syrian president is genuine in his promises to quell violence in the country.

"Even though we used to have a close relationship with Assad, he hasn't stuck to the promises [to make democratic reforms] he repeatedly made to us. Making promises is one of his frequently used tactics," Erdoğan said.

"Before the UN meetings, Arab League meetings and the first Friends of Syria meeting, he [Assad] made similar promises and wanted to have an influence on the decisions of those meetings. Now, he is trying to influence the results of the İstanbul [Friends of Syria] meeting in a tactical move. However, I don't believe him. If only he was sincere," Erdoğan maintained.

The Foreign Ministry also has expressed similar caution for Assad's compromise.

"We hope that Assad's decision [to accept Annan's plan] will not turn out to be an act to buy time [to conduct more violence]," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal.

Syrian National Council, or SNC, leader Burhan Ghalioun, speaking from İstanbul, said Assad's recent move is a strategy to divert attention from the ongoing violence in Syria and to cover up new assaults in the country.

Syrian opposition groups convened in İstanbul on Tuesday to seek a common front for their year-old uprising against Assad. Meanwhile, conflicts sprang up on Tuesday on Syria's Lebanese border, vindicating Turkey and the Syrian opposition's suspicions of Assad's motives.

While Assad visited the besieged Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs as a show of good intention to end violence, Syrian troops advanced into north Lebanon, destroying farm buildings and clashing with Syrian rebels, residents said.

Annan's six-point plan includes a number of appeals to the Syrian regime, such as ensuring an immediate UN-supervised truce between the regime and the opposition forces, intensifying the pace and scale of the release of arbitrarily detained persons and allowing the freedom of movement for journalists across the country.

Syria To Recall Its Turkish Envoy

Syrian-Turkish relations seem to have chilled further after Turkey withdrew its ambassador in Damascus. In a retaliatory move to the closure of Turkey's embassy in Damascus on Monday, the Syrian regime has recalled a significant number of its diplomatic staff in Turkey to Syria.

Mounzer Mounzer, Syria's ambassador to Turkey, is also expected to return to Syria soon. Syria will downgrade its diplomatic representation to the level of junior chargé d'affaires in reaction to Turkey's move to cut diplomatic relations, according to reports. Ömer Önhon, Turkey's ambassador to Syria, has already returned to Turkey after being recalled by the Turkish government.

Arab League Shuns Turkey, Iran On Syria

The Arab League has shunned Turkey and Iran from a Thursday meeting regarding Syria in Baghdad, seemingly intending to distance itself from Ankara-led aggressive policies against Damascus that prioritize toppling President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Turkey was not invited to the Baghdad meeting even though Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has worked closely with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi since the early days of the Arab Spring; Turkey has observer status at the body and Ankara has participated in almost every crucial summit held by the 22-country organization.

Though officials have said the meeting was closed to all non-Arab countries, including Turkey and Iran, a senior European Union official will take part in the summit, with the executive secretary-general of the European External Action Service, Pierre Vimont, scheduled to represent Brussels at the meeting.

There are three main reasons for Turkey's exclusion from the meeting. The first is the current chilly relationship between Ankara and Baghdad over the latter's accusations that the Turkish government is seeking to increase its influence in its southern neighbor. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki objected to Turkey's participation, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

Maliki and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan found themselves at odds earlier this year because Ankara believes al-Maliki is acting as an offshoot of the Iranian administration and provides a link between Tehran and Damascus.

As Iraq assumes the term presidency of the Arab League, the league's relations with Ankara are likely to become bumpier during this period. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was explicit in expressing his government's concern over the growing influence of regional powers Turkey and Iran inside Iraq in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

"This summit will enhance our position to stand on our feet vis-à-vis these regional powers," he said, accusing Turkey and Iran of "competing to fill the vacuum in Iraq in the absence of an Iraqi representative, strong, national unity government."

Arab League Went Too Fast On Syria

The second reason for Turkey's exclusion from the meeting seems to stem from the Arab League's intention to distance itself from the policies of Turkey and some Western powers, which are focused on toppling al-Assad.

Divided over Assad's future, the members of the Arab League will likely endorse Kofi Annan's mission, which has received a positive response from Damascus. The Annan Plan is perceived as much more realistic than other competing plans in many Arab countries, which are growing increasingly suspicious of the Friends of Syria initiative.

Some Arab countries believe the league moved too quickly in demanding that al-Assad leave office -- losing some political maneuvering room by doing so. They have also laid part of the blame on Arabi for remaining under the influence of Davutoğlu, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Related to these differing positions over Syria, the third reason for Turkey's exclusion reflects growing concerns about rising Turkish interference in the Arab world's internal affairs. A good majority of Arab politicians, scholars and journalists suspect that increasing Turkish influence carries with it the motive of glorifying the Ottoman past, something the Turkish diplomatic establishment strongly denies.

AK Group


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Salam Fayyad's Hypocrisy: Awarding Journalists and Arresting Them

by Mahmoud Dweik

In public, Fayyad is telling his people and the rest of the world how much he cries about freedom of expression. Behind the scenes, however, Fayyad's security officers are busy arresting and intimidating any Journalist who exposes corruption or voices criticism of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. How can Fayyad argue that he is serious about fighting corruption, and at the same time arrest a journalist for exposing a corruption scandal in a diplomatic mission?

The Palestinian Authority government of Salam Fayyad, announcing this week the launching of the 2012 Award for Press Freedom, invited Palestinian journalists to submit their candidacy for the prestigious award, the first if its kind in the Palestinian territories.

The award is intended to encourage freedom of media and speech in the Palestinian territories, where local journalists have long been facing a campaign of intimidation and harassment by the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Ironically, the news about the launching of the new award coincided with the arrest of Youssef Shayeb, a Palestinian journalist from Ramallah, on charges of "slander and defamation."

Fayyad's security forces in the West Bank arrested Shayeb after he published a report in a Jordanian newspaper exposing corruption in the Palestinian diplomatic mission in France.He was first detained for 48 hours, after which a Palestinian court extended his detention for an additional two weeks.

The arrest of Shayeb exposes Fayyad's double standards when it comes to freedom of expression. In public, Fayyad is telling his people and the rest of the world how much he cares about freedom of expression. To back up his claim, he has gone as far as announcing an annual award for press freedoms that would be granted to a Palestinian journalist who is chosen by a special panel of experts.

Behind the scenes, however, Fayyad's security officers are busy arresting and intimidating any journalist who exposes corruption or voices criticism of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.

To avoid responsibility for any wrongdoing, Fayyad's aides claim that their boss has no real control over the Palestinian security forces and point at President Mahmoud Abbas as the man to blame for the clampdown on journalists.

If Fayyad has no control over the security forces, then why does his government continue to pay salaries to tens of thousands of Palestinian policemen and security personnel?

Moreover, what is preventing Fayyad from speaking out against the Palestinian security forces if he is not happy with some of the things they are doing?

How can Fayyad distance himself from the Palestinian security forces one day and take credit for restoring law and order in the West Bank another day?

And how can Fayyad argue that he is serious about fighting corruption in Palestinian Authority institutions and, at the same time, arrest a journalist for exposing a corruption scandal in a diplomatic mission?

Even if Fayyad does not have direct control over the various branches of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank -- as he claims -- his job as prime minister does not absolve him of full responsibility for what happens in territories that are under his jurisdiction.

Fayyad is mistaken if he thinks that he can fool Palestinian journalists through double-talk. The arrest of the Palestinian journalist this week by his security forces has drawn strong condemnations from a large number of Palestinians.

A prime minister who orders his security officers to arrest a journalist because of an article is not a "reformist." Nor is he someone who deserves the respect of the international community for supposedly being "liberal" and "open-minded."

Many Palestinians were pinning high hopes on Fayyad mainly because he is not affiliated with Fatah or Hamas.

But there is a saying in the Arab world that if you live 40 days among any people, you become part of them. Fayyad has been living with Fatah and Hamas for too long; that is why he has begun acting and speaking like them.

Mahmoud Dweik is a journalist and analyst who lives in the West Bank.


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Violence and Rejectionism at the Heart of Palestinian “Land Day” Show

by Jonathan S. Tobin

Today’s “Land Day” demonstrations at various places in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza border, as well as a march on the Israeli-Lebanese border, are all intended to bring attention to the Palestinian campaign against Israel and to increase international sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians. But the violent nature of the protests and the demands raised by those participating give the lie to the notion that any of this has anything to do with the cause of Middle East peace.

By flinging rocks at Israeli forces in the hope that they will respond with deadly force, the Palestinians are playing their usual game in which they hope to sacrifice some of their youth in exchange for damaging the reputation of the Jewish state. More to the point, should anyone actually be listening to what they are screaming, the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders are also making it clear their goal is Israel’s destruction.

“Land Day” is an annual event that commemorates a dispute over the property of some Arab villages that turned violent in the 1970s. But it is no civil libertarian holiday. As today’s demonstrations have once again reminded us, the goal of the Palestinian street as well as those foreigners who parachute into the country to help stir the point on the issue, is to promote the “right of return” by which Arabs hope to flood the Jewish state with the descendants of the 1948 refugees.

Many of Israel’s critics — including those Jews who pose as Zionists while preaching boycotts and sanctions that give cover to a rising tide of anti-Semitic incitement around the globe — ignore what the Palestinians say they want and instead, pretend that the dispute is about borders and settlements. But as today’s events illustrate, they have but minimal interest in the Jewish communities in the West Bank, the vast majority of which are near the 1967 lines. Instead, they are focused on the nature of the Jewish state itself. The Land Day extravaganza is about an attempt to reverse the verdict of 1948, not to place an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Moreover, despite the fact that the Palestinians are constantly talking about transforming the conflict by adopting the non-violent protest methods of Gandhi, the nature of their political culture is such that they appear incapable of doing so. Violence is always a given at these events.

That is due in part to the desire of the organizers to create a new batch of martyrs to be celebrated so as to blacken Israel’s name. As accounts of today’s events make clear, the whole point is to create theatre for the cameras of the international press.

But the violence is also a function of Palestinian politics that has unfortunately always valued the spilling of blood over anything else. This is also related to the plain fact that Palestinian nationalism came into existence in the 20th century as a reaction to Zionism rather than as part of a national cultural revival as was the case with other modern national cultures. This negative impulse is why recognition of Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state is something no Palestinian leader can accept. It is also why violence against Jews and Israel is still the only way for such leaders to establish their own bona fides.

The “Land Day” show will accomplish nothing for the Palestinians except to further confirm the dead-end path of violence and confrontation in which they are stuck. If their foreign friends wish to help them, they could do so by ceasing to support these pointless exercises in violence and to begin coming to terms with the permanence of the Jewish state.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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Can my Enemy's Enemy be my Friend?

by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi and Phillip Smyth

A recurring question of the past year has been whether Israel can come out of the unrest of the "Arab Spring" with any new allies. The point is hardly immaterial: The future of Israel's peace treaty with Egypt hangs in the balance, as Egyptian political parties call for a referendum on the Camp David Accords. Observers also point to the possibility of a revolt against Hashemite rule in Amman instigated by Bedouin tribes and/or Palestinians in Jordan. This too could derail that country's peace treaty with Israel.

Conventional wisdom has generally said that Israel can attain regional support by way of an alliance or coalition of minorities. From the 1950s through the 1980s, Israel engaged in the so-called "strategy of the periphery," forging ties with minority groups in enemy states ‏(such as the Maronites in Lebanon and Kurds in Iraq‏). Additionally, Israel entered into a military alliance with Turkey, and a number of sub-Saharan African countries were engaged by Israel to counter the threat of pan-Arabism.

The concept of an alliance among regional minorities sounds like an attractive proposition. But is it realistic?

The evidence appears to suggest otherwise.

Start with the case of Syria. Recently, such commentators as Michael Young, of Lebanon's Daily Star, have suggested that the Alawites, who have under the Assad dynasty dominated the upper ranks of that country's security forces and government, could try to salvage some form of self-rule in the form of a mini-state in the northwest of Syria, should the regime lose control over Damascus.

As far back as 2002, Middle East scholar Mordechai Nisan wrote: "It is not impossible, aside from the rhetoric of animosity gushing from Damascus against Israel, that the compelling reality of a common condition can awaken the possibility of Jewish-Alawite cooperation in the future. Perhaps this will surface when the Alawites fall from power and return to their classic minority vulnerability."

In this context, on the basis of the principle that "my enemy's enemy is my friend," many Israelis are hoping for such an alliance. For example, in January, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz stated that Israel was prepared to take in Alawite refugees from Syria in the event of outright sectarian civil war.

Undoubtedly, he was aiming to lay the foundations for cordial relations between Israel and the Alawite community at large.

However, the reasoning for courting the Alawites can only be described as bordering on the realm of fantasy. As they share a land border with Hezbollah-controlled territory, there is no reason to think that the Alawites would not continue to rely on their long-standing allies − namely, Iran and Hezbollah, who perceive them to be fellow Shia − to prop up this rump state.

When many Israelis think of a loyal minority ally, the country's Druze often come to mind. Following the 1967 Six-Day War, some Israelis envisioned a Druze state that would encompass the Golan Heights and Syria's Jabal Druze. Policy makers imagined that state serving as a buffer against Syria.

However, there was significant factionalism and differing interests within the Israeli and Syrian Druze communities. When some Golan Druze leaders were approached, they leaked the plans to Syrian intelligence, effectively killing the prospective Druze entity.

Another group touted as potential allies of Israel in the region are the Christians. It is apparent that the Arab Spring has brought few signs of a bright future for them. Last year, around 200,000 Copts fled Egypt in the wake of rising mob attacks on churches and Coptic villages. In the wake of countless bombings and kidnappings, most of Iraq's Christians too have left the country. Many Syrian Christians fled the heavy fighting in Homs.

The chances of a Christian state, let alone a pro-Israel polity, in the Middle East are virtually zero. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to a state is the fact that Christians suffer from intra-sectarian conflicts. Frequently, regional Christian sects have adopted their own particular nationalist identities that clash with the ethnic beliefs of their coreligionists.

During Israel's 1982 intervention in Lebanon, a state of minorities, it engaged in creating political and military alliances with the Christians, Druze and even Shi'ite Muslims. Part of the reason Israel invaded Lebanon was to install a pro-Israel minority Christian leadership. After the assassination of pro-Israel Maronite leader Bashir Gemeyal, though, Israel's alliance with the Christians crumbled. Instead of ushering in a new era of minority cooperation, Israel was caught in an anarchic meat grinder, in which minority was pitted against minority.

Minority alliances per se shouldn't be shunned, but Israel should pursue regional alliances based more on realism than on the perception of shared oppression, with its need to create a united and mutually beneficial minority front against an almost monolithic Arab-Islamic foe ‏(essentially a utopian dream‏). With Iran's increased belligerence and nuclear ambitions, Israel's Sunni Arab enemies of old, for example, are seeing their interests dovetail with Israel's.

Predicating partnerships simply on the basis of minority status doesn't reflect the complex and often conflicting minority societal, ideological and political positions. When Bashir Gemeyal was questioned about his cooperation with Jerusalem he answered, "In politics there is nothing permanent, you don't have permanent allies and permanent enemies, we are taking the maximum advantage." Perhaps it's time for Jerusalem to adopt the same view.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and an adjunct fellow at the Middle East Forum. Phillip Smyth is a journalist and researcher specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. He travels regularly to the region.


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Jasser's Appointment Riles Islamists

by IPT News

He has different views than most of the national Muslim advocacy groups featured in the media, and for that, Islamist groups have worked to keep Zuhdi Jasser from gaining traction in the national debate over religion and extremism.

He has been smeared as an Uncle Tom, a clown and even a "sock puppet" for anti-Muslim forces. So when it was announced Monday that Jasser had been appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Islamists frothed with hyperbolic excess.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called the appointment "farcical" and urged supporters to sign a petition protesting the move. An "action alert" mailed to its listserv also steered supporters to the petition, "calling on community members and people of conscience to sign a petition for" Jasser's ouster.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council directed its Twitter followers to the petition, too, copying its claim that "Zuhdi Jasser Does Not Belong on the USCIRF." In a separate action alert, MPAC urged supporters to protest to their elected officials, calling the appointment "an affront to all Muslims."

Jasser is a Muslim. It's doubtful the move is an affront to him.

A group called the Muslim Peace Coalition issued a statement similarly calling supporters to protest the appointment, calling it "a huge insult to the American Muslims and it will have consequences in terms of demonizing Muslims abroad ... This is a guy who has made a living advocating to curb religious liberties for Muslims RIGHT HERE in the US. The contradiction and hypocrisy of this action could not be more underscored."

Jasser joining the USCIRF board is "like appointing David Duke as chair of NAACP," wrote Fida Mohammed on the petition page.

The federally-funded commission is tasked with monitoring and advocating "for religious freedom abroad wherever that right is being abused."

Jasser, an Arizona physician and Navy veteran, founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, advocating the separation of mosque and state and taking on Islamist groups he sees as working to slowly inculcate religious practice and dogma into public policy. The United States offers Muslims the greatest freedom to practice their faith because it maintains the separation.

In contrast, "The theocratic 'Islamic' regimes of the Middle East and some Muslim majority nations use Islam as a way to control Muslim populations, not to glorify God as they portend," the AIFD web page says. "The purest practice of Islam is one in which Muslims have complete freedom to accept or reject any of the tenants or laws of the faith no different than we enjoy as Americans in this Constitutional republic."

But those contesting his appointment cast Jasser as an opponent of religious liberty. His sin? Disagreeing with them while accepting funding from conservative sources, supporting law enforcement counter-terror efforts and publicly criticizing the proposed Ground Zero mosque.

"How can an individual who supports the curbing of Muslim civil and religious liberties at home be trusted as a 'commissioner' to review and analyze violations of religious freedoms abroad?" a web page featuring the petition says.

With the appointment, the USCIRF "is telling the American Muslim community and Americans of conscience, 'we are happy to insult your intelligence by pretending not to know the link between Zuhdi and some of the most vile anti-Muslim funders and entities in the country, and that we do not mind the contradiction between having him preach to the world about religious liberties while simultaneously advocating to curb YOUR liberties in THIS country,'" CAIR-Chicago Director Ahmed Rehab wrote on the petition site.

Writer Reza Aslan, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, posted a link to the petition on his Twitter feed, dismissing Jasser as "Glenn Beck's favorite Muslim." CAIR national spokesman Ibrahim Hooper echoed Rehan when he claimed Jasser has no credibility among Muslim Americans. "He has long been viewed by American Muslims and the colleagues in the civil liberties community as a mere sock puppet for Islam haters and an enabler of Islamophobia."

In an interview, Jasser said his views are being grossly distorted. Though he opposed the proposed Ground Zero mosque, his record and that of his family has been in helping build mosques in Wisconsin and Arizona. In none of the releases and Twitter posts issued this week is Jasser quoted saying anything against religious liberty or Muslims.

"If I'm such a Muslim hater, they can't find one quote from Zuhdi Jasser?" he asked. "It's like something out of Pravda or the Syrian media."

The level of vitriol directed at Jasser, and the accusation he is anti-Muslim, "is not based on anything rational. It's just name calling," said Qanta Ahmed, author of In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom. Like Jasser, Ahmed is a Muslim American physician who stands against radical elements of her faith and against Islamist political movements.

Disagreement with the national groups automatically triggers a backlash and accusations of bigotry, Ahmed said, all emanating from "monstrous organizations that want to drown out diversity."

Jasser has repeatedly taken on CAIR and its positions. In response, CAIR has tried to diminish his views, arguing he runs a small operation with a modest following. That was the line CAIR Governmental Affairs Director Corey Saylor took last March in criticizing Jasser's appearance before a House committee hearing on radicalization within the Muslim-American community.

Jasser, Saylor said, "is not representative of the mainstream Muslim community and not connected to the activities of the Muslim community to one – cooperate with law enforcement, and two – secure the civil liberties of our community."

One might say the same about CAIR. A survey released last summer by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center found just over 10 percent support for CAIR among Muslim Americans. CAIR's true following is difficult to gauge. In June 2007, the Washington Times reported that CAIR membership had plummeted 90 percent since 2001.

Records show the group sought millions of dollars from donors in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in 2006, and millions more from Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2009.

The group failed to file tax returns in the past three years which would show the amount of revenue from membership fees. That move prompted the IRS to strip CAIR of its tax exempt status last spring.

"This proves that they operate under the assumption that they represent all Muslims by virtue of calling themselves 'Islamic' or 'Muslim' in their names," Jasser said. "And if anybody disagrees with the cause of their existence, which is Islamism, they somehow are anti-Muslim."

His appointment stands to threaten that monopoly the Islamist groups wish to maintain. Jasser believes quieter lobbying has been used against him in the past with mixed results. Last July, groups opposed his appearance at a briefing on the uprising in Syria, where Jasser's family came from. One Islamist group tried to remove him from the panel, telling a congressional office it "would give him too much credibility." Jasser participated in the briefing.

But later in the summer, Jasser appeared to be sailing toward confirmation for a White House appointment to the State Department's Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. He cleared all the background checks and the vetting process, but the appointment was rescinded at the 11th hour without explanation.

Despite the "scorched earth attack" against him, Jasser said he is eager to start work with the USCIRF advocating for religious freedom for all faiths, including Muslims living under dictatorship and other repressive conditions.

The campaign against him is meaningless. There is no mechanism to undo the appointment, so it appears to be all about tainting his image. "I'm not surprised," Jasser said. "They lie and deceive about my work on a daily basis."

IPT News


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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Azeris Strengthen Israel’s Hand on Iran

by Jonathan S. Tobin

The potential for an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities may be a lot greater than skeptics may have thought. That’s the upshot of a story published yesterday in Foreign Policy that alleges Azerbaijan has granted the Israelis access to airbases in that country. If true, Israel’s ability to launch a strike from bases on Iran’s northern border would make the Jewish state’s military challenge in seeking to knock out Iran’s nuclear plants a lot simpler. The assistance of the Azeris would enable the Israelis to make repeated attacks and would eliminate the need to refuel their planes in midair in order to make the long flight from Israel to Iran.

Yet at the same time, a report in Ha’aretz insists that Tuesday’s announcement by the U.S. Defense Department that it would ask Congress for more money for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system ensures there will be no attack on Iran before the presidential election this year. While that assumption may be unfounded, along with similar speculation that followed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama earlier this month, it leaves open the possibility that Israel is heeding U.S. requests to hold off an attack. The question for Iran is, which of these stories do you believe?

On that score, there’s no question that Iran must regard the decision of the Azeris to assist an Israeli strike as being a mortal threat to their ability to defend themselves. Prior to this, all discussion of a possible Israeli strike had been tempered by the knowledge that their ability to attack Iran was severely limited by the vast distance between the two countries. When compared to the ability of the United States to project airpower from carriers stationed in the Persian Gulf as well as other bases in the Middle East, it made an Israeli attack on Iran look like a poor substitute for U.S. action. But bases in Azerbaijan completely transform the military equation between Israel and Iran. They remove the need for the Israeli Air Force to refuel planes in midair in order to secure their safe return. Support staff stationed along Iran’s northern border would also make it easier for IAF to execute repeated sorties on nuclear targets and facilitate the rescue of downed planes and pilots. The bases would vastly increase the likelihood that an Israeli air campaign against Iran would achieve a high degree of success and lower the potential for losses.

From Iran’s point of view, this is a total disaster. While they have always known they stood no chance of mounting an effective defense against a massive U.S. air campaign on their nuclear plants, an Israeli attack from 2,200 miles away did not seem as formidable a challenge. The Azeri factor does not quite put the Israeli military on a par with that of the United States but it does act as a multiplying factor with regard to Israel’s ability to launch repeated strikes.

Though the Haaretz report that spoke of Israel’s plans to attack Iran as being put on hold until next spring may encourage Tehran, the fact that the sources for the Azeri story in Foreign Policy appear to be senior U.S. military and diplomatic figures shows the Obama administration is by no means certain Netanyahu can be counted on to hold his fire until after the president is safely re-elected. The American motive for leaking the story is clear. By making public the fact that the Azeris have more or less been bribed by Israel to give them access to bases that will enable them to easily attack Iran, the United States may be hoping to accomplish two things.

One is to scare the Iranians into finally waving the white flag on its nuclear project. The story ought to make it clear to the ayatollahs there is no way they can protect themselves from either Israel or the United States if push comes to shove. The odds of the Iranians coming to their senses in this manner are slim, but the administration is determined to do whatever it can to keep the window for diplomacy on the nuclear question open for as long as it can.

The second motive is to forestall any Israeli attack. Making public the Azeri role in the military plan might force the Jewish state’s Asian ally to back away from any involvement in the project.

Whether the revelation will actually deter Israel from acting should Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak determine it is in their country’s interest to strike prior to November is still to be determined. The belief that the extra money for Iron Dome guarantees Israel won’t attack Iran this year is based on the assumption that Obama and Netanyahu came to some agreement on the issue when they met in early March. The Iranians must certainly hope this is the case. But the one thing we know today that we didn’t a few weeks ago is that Israel’s hand in this game of nuclear poker is far stronger than most people thought.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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

State Department Spin on Jerusalem Meltdown is Already Wrong

by Omri Ceren

This morning, the State Department will begin to walk back the spectacular meltdown that was yesterday’s press briefing, wherein State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland gave the Palestinians a de facto retroactive veto over Israel’s 1949 decision to make Jerusalem its capital.

The talking point will be that the Obama administration, by insisting that the status of West Jerusalem is subject to final-status negotiations, was only reiterating the explicit policies of past administrations. If that were true, then Obama critics would be making the same points they’ve made throughout this White House’s diplomatic campaign against Israel: that Obama, by making controversies out of issues everyone had been content to leave quietly buried, was unnecessarily damaging the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the prospects for long-term Middle East peace.

As it so happens, the claim is false. Previous administrations have recognized Israel’s right to at least part of its capital city. The debate has turned on whether the Jewish State is entitled to “all” of Jerusalem, not whether it’s entitled to any part of the city. It was always about not prejudicing whether Israel would have share Jerusalem with a Palestinian state, not whether the entire city was up for grabs (let alone whether the Palestinians can retroactively veto Israel’s sovereign decision to make the parts of Jerusalem it controlled pre-1967 its capital).

White Houses have declined to move the embassy out of Tel Aviv because it would be treated as a symbolic acknowledgement of Israel’s rights over all Jerusalem, e.g. a statement that Israel wouldn’t have to share the city. Sitting on their hands on the embassy allowed presidents to dodge broader questions, which had the benefit of not running contrary to black-letter American law going back to 1995 recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Until now, no administration has ever put Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem as such on the table, or implied that even West Jerusalem was up for grabs. Bush even used to insert language into his waivers stating “My administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.”

Also, there’s this from President Clinton: “the benefits of the agreement… [include] the incorporation of most of the settlers into Israel, and the Jewish capital of Jerusalem recognized by all, not just the United States, by everybody in the world.”

Also, there’s this from President Bush: “Mr. Bush said the Palestinians must elect ‘new and different’ leaders who were not ‘compromised by terror’… As soon as the Palestinians changed their leadership, stopped terrorist attacks on Israel and moved towards democracy, the U.S. would boost their economy and push Israel into meaningful negotiations… He refused to speculate on the three major sticking points: Palestinian demands that Israel return the territory won in the 1967 war, share Jerusalem as the capital and allow millions of Palestinian refugees to return.”

Also, there’s this from Senator Barack Obama. Note that while he took back the part of the speech that spoke of Israel’s capital remaining undivided, even his clarification emphasized “that Israel has a legitimate claim on” at least part of Jerusalem. Apparently that position has changed in the last few years, but the administration shouldn’t be allowed to pretend this is just the way things have always been.

Omri Ceren


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

Middle East Media Sampler for March 28, 2012

by Daniel Goldstein

1) I spoke too soon

Yesterday I wrote that both the New York Times and Washington Post had ignored this year's J-Street conference. Today the New York Times covers it with a press release news story, J Street, Pro-Israel but Opposed to Attacking Iran, Takes Its Message to Washington. The gist of the article is that AIPAC's recent convention was larger, but the folks at J-Street were more sensible because they are uniformly against attacking Iran.

Also today the New York Times has an editorial Israel’s Top Court vs. Outposts:

Israel’s Supreme Court made an important contribution to justice and kept alive hope for a two-state solution with the Palestinians, when it ruled this week that Migron, an illegal outpost built by Israeli settlers, must be dismantled by Aug. 1. Now it is up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to comply promptly, while making clear to the settlers that violent resistance will not be tolerated.

During his first stint as Prime Minister, Netanyahu made an agreement with the Palestinian Authority to withdraw from most of Hebron and Netanyahu complied. I don't know why the editors of the New York Times need to exhort Israel on this. Why not use this as an occasion to treat this as a confidence building measure that Abbas should respond to by returning to negotiations?

Here's another question. Does the New York Times consider the decisions of Israeli courts sacrosanct?

Consider the case of the Museum of Tolerance. Israel Matzav and Elder of Ziyon have noted that those seeking to stop the building have lost in the courts at every turn and that they have no historical basis for their claims.

Here's how the New York Times reported on the controversy, Gravestone Removals Add Fuel to Jerusalem Museum Dispute:

The contours of the Mamilla cemetery are part of the dispute. Wiesenthal Center supporters say that there are no human remains left in the section where they plan to build, and that only part of it was ever a cemetery. They further contend that the effort to stop the project is the work of Muslim extremists seeking a foothold in West Jerusalem, and evidence of the need for such a center to spread more tolerance.

Critics of the project say it is unconscionable to build such a center on a piece of land where Muslims were once buried, even if it has not been an active cemetery for nearly a century. The museum project is going ahead after a 2008 Israeli Supreme Court decision noting that no Muslim objections had been filed when the original parking lot was built.

There remains a dispute among Muslim clerics as to whether a former graveyard can ever be built upon for other purposes.

To the best of my knowledge there have been no editorials demanding that Islamic institutions abide by the court's rulings. So the New York Times accepts the authority of Israel's High Court of Justice, when it agrees with it. This isn't a principled position; it is deeply cynical.

2) Zogby on the API

It's been ten years since the Arab Peace Initiative was presented to the international media. James Zogby writes about its implications for the Gulf Daily News:

For many Palestinians, Oslo was a difficult step but one they knew they needed to normalise their situation, secure the right to establish their state and rebuild their community. It was not a perfect outcome and would not, they understood, redress all of their grievances. But they believed the future they could create through the Oslo process would be better.

Ten years later, Israeli settlements in the occupied lands doubled, Jerusalem had been severed from the rest of the Palestinian lands by settlements and checkpoints, poverty and unemployment increased and it had become clear that Israel has no intention of allowing a viable Palestinian state to come into existence or engage in talks to resolve other issues – refugees, borders, etc.

The second Intifada erupted. Unlike the first, it was violent and met with oppression. Heads of state met in Beirut to issue API. They hoped that by offering the Israelis what they had claimed they wanted – peace, recognition and normalcy – API would provide incentives to restart talks for peace.

The second "intifada" didn't just "erupt." It was orchestrated by Arafat. Zogby's definition of self-defense as "oppression" is outrageous.

But let's consider some of the things that have happened since 2002.

1) Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 and its withdrawal was deemed complete by the UN. Hezbollah, instead of laying down arms built up its armaments and attacked Israel sporadically until 2006, when the threat to northern Israel became so severe that Israel was force to respond.

2) Israel "disengaged" from Gaza. Like Hezbollah, Hamas used the opportunity to arm itself and attack Israel, forcing Israel into Operation Cast Lead.

3) Israel sought approval of the Magen David Adom's red star as a protected symbol by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Arab League didn't even allow this humanitarian gesture as a humanitarian gesture.

4) During the past year we've seen the "Arab spring" in which a number of the despots, who promoted the "peace initiative," deposed and killed. Would their successors have abided by the terms of an agreement? In Egypt, where the newly dominant Muslim Brotherhood is threatening the Camp David Accords could be abrogated or changed to Israel's detriment suggests that the answer is "no."

5) It's also worth noting that between the time then Crown Prince Abdullah originally proposed the idea and the time the initiative was actually presented, he changed it, at the behest of Bashar Assad, to include a reference to Lebanon, even though Israel had withdrawn completely from southern Lebanon. If the terms of the initiative changed even before it was presented, to put a new (dishonest) demand upon Israel, how many more changes could we expect.

3) Running to asylum

This Is Just the Start by Thomas Friedman, March 1, 2011

Add it all up and what does it say? It says you have a very powerful convergence of forces driving a broad movement for change. It says we’re just at the start of something huge.

Asylum claims up from Arab nations ,

Al Jazeera, March 27, 2012 (h/t tweet from Daled Amos)

The number of people seeking asylum in developed countries has risen 20 per cent in 2011, with the Arab Spring movements fueling a sharp rise in arrivals from Libya, Syria and Tunisia, the UN refugee agency has said.

The number of asylum applications in 44 countries reached 441,300 during the year, up from 368,000 recorded in 2010, the agency said on Tuesday.

Daniel Goldstein


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

Syrian Opposition Seeks to Show Alternative to Assad

by Jonathan Spyer

Syria’s fractious opposition groups began reconciliation talks in Istanbul on Tuesday aimed at demonstrating they can provide a coherent and effective alternative to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The opposition forces have been invited by Turkey and Qatar, which hold the rotating chair of the Arab League, to talks in Istanbul to try to form a common front while their homeland is convulsed by a year-old uprising that Assad is trying to crush.

About 300 dissidents attended the welcome dinner at a seaside hotel in Pendik, a distant suburb on the Asian side of Istanbul, and more were expected to join what the Turkish hosts call an “open house” meeting on Tuesday.

Burhan Ghalioun, president of the main opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has sought support for the meeting to end with a “national oath,” committing all the opposition to building a democratic state, without any agenda for revenge, and to seek reconciliation once Assad is removed.

“Based on the national responsibility on all the political powers in the Syrian revolution and the efforts to unite the opposition and its vision, we declare the basic principles that the new state will be based upon,” a draft declaration said.

It said the new Syria will be “civic, democratic and totally free,” with a transitional government to organize a ballot to elect a founding assembly to draft a new constitution.

“The Syrian people are proud of their cultural and religious diversity. Everyone will contribute in building the future,” it said.

There are likely to be fierce debates on the wording of the oath and on the strategy to overthrow Assad, as well as on calls for reform of the SNC, delegates said. Some delegates feel that while the SNC has more than 300 members, only a handful take decisions and that while all sectarian and ethnic groups are represented on the executive, that was little more than tokenism.

This article was also printed in the Jerusalem Post.

Jonathan Spyer


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The Toulouse Massacre, Why Did It Happen?

by Mudar Zahran

Should we come to accept that the followers of one particular religion get a free pass? Europe might do well to start calling things by their right names and recognize that anti-Semitism is still a problem in Europe today.

Last week, Mohammed Merah, a Muslim-Frenchman killed three Jewish children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. Merah reportedly held one little girl, Myriam Monsonego, by her hair to shoot her in the head. Three days before that, Merah shot dead three French soldiers of North African heritage. Under siege in his apartment by French counter-terrorism squad, France 24 reported Merah told negotiators he was connected to al Qaeda and what he had done was "only the beginning". He said that he was motivated by France's ban on wearing the burqa and that "the Jews have killed our brothers and sisters in Palestine." According to French officials, Merah expressed only one regret: "Not having claimed more victims," and said he was proud of having "brought France to its knees."

As Merah himself confirmed it was "only the beginning," it might be worth wondering: Why did Merah, born and raised in France to Algerian-French parents, commit such a ruthless massacre? Was he just an extreme fundamentalist who has taken Islamic teachings to the extreme, or is it basic Islamic fundamentals themselves that lead him to that? As a Muslim, and in an attempt to answer that question, I thought looked to the factual teaching of Islam on Jihad or "Holly war.".

Sahih Muslim, for example is a historically renowned book that gathers teachings of Prophet Muhammad that are considered "Sahih," as in "confirmed" and "authentic."

In Sahih Muslim, for example, and in the Book of Jihad, the first chapter is entitled: "Regarding Permission to Make A Raid, Without An Ultimatum, Upon The Disbelievers Who Have Already Been Invited to Accept Islam", Book 19, Number 4292:

"Ibn 'Aun reported: I wrote to Nafi' inquiring from him whether it was necessary to extend (to the disbelievers) an invitation to accept (Islam) before meeting them in fight. He wrote (in reply) to me that it was necessary in the early days of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) made a raid upon Banu Mustaliq while they were unaware and their cattle were having a drink at the water. He killed those who fought and imprisoned others. On that very day, he captured Juwairiya bint al-Harith. Nafi' said that this tradition was related to him by Abdullah b. Umar who (himself) was among the raiding troops."

Merah's un-alerted and un-provoked attack therefore is perfect in line with the Prophet's teachings.

Nonetheless, where does Merah's cold-blooded murder of children stand within the teachings of the prophet?

Chapter two of Sahih Muslim's book of Jihad speaks about Muhammad's advice to his military commanders sent on expeditions, Book 19, Number 4294:

"It has been reported from Sulaiman b. Buraid through his father that when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and to be good to the Muslims who were with him. He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children..."

The prophet's teachings of not killing women and children are re-enforced in another chapter, Chapter 8: "Prohibition of Killing Women and Children in War"; Book 19, Number 4319:

"It is narrated on the authority of 'Abdullah that a woman was found killed in one of the battles fought by the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). He disapproved of the killing of women and children."

Sounds humane, right? Not so fast. Right after Chapter 8 comes Chapter 9, which reads: "Permissibility of Killing Women and Children in the Night Raids Provided It Is Not Deliberate," Book 19, Number 4321:

"It is reported on the authority of Sa'b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: They are from them."

Merah killed three Jewish children who were "from them," the "evil Jews." As Merah explained to the France 24 news channel -- while he was under siege by French counter-terrorism police -- that it had not been his original plan to kill those children, that he was originally planning to kill another French soldier but missed him, so he took the next possible target. Was Merah thinking that this made the murders "Not deliberate"?

While Merah fulfilled his wish by taking away the lives of infidels and their children, and was killed himself after that, he still succeeded in executing an equally noble goal in Islamic warfare: creating "'Terror,' which is more far-reaching than the actual body count."

In a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad said he was given things that no other prophet has been given before including "I was supported with terror."

The concept of what Islamists terrorists do, therefore, is simple: create fear and terror -- which far surpass the size of the actually committed terrorist act. The expense of counter-terrorism, fr instance, is far beyond the cost of terrorist acts, and has created huge US expenses to counter terrorism, and which is now facing cuts as a result of the US economic crisis, despite threats still being present.

On a social level, the BBC reported that since the shootings,many Jewish children in France have been afraid to go to school; and Jewish teenagers have reported fears of being recognized as Jews by the way they dress.

Merah's claim-- that he had not planned in advance to attack the Jewish school — is disturbing, even if it were true. As he said, he wanted to kill a French soldier, but when his plan to kill a French soldier failed, he chose the next available target. In other words, the Jews in Toulouse were a soft target, like fish in a pond, for Merah. It does matter what the fish do: the fish do not need to do anything to "provoke" the fisherman; they are simply there for him. The fish may think that if swims more slowly or with prettier loops, that these actions might not "inflame" the fisherman, but of course there is nothing that he can do to influence the fisherman or to change how the fisherman will view him.

The image of Jews being "a soft target" seems evident in the UK as well, at least according to one British Jewish mother writing in the British newspaper, the Daily Mail, last week. In her account of anti-Semitism in the UK, she says, "In the end, I'm afraid I believe that our children are a target because no one fears a Jewish reprisal. Or, as the comedian Jackie Mason once said, "Nobody ever crossed the street to avoid a group of Jewish accountants." She then adds significantly, "We (Jews) don't make excessive demands for the State to absorb our culture. We just want to live a peaceful coexistence." Ironically, unlike the Islamists to which Mohammad Merah belonged, Jews accept the culture of the nations they live in and do not try to impose their ways, yet it is people like Merah who get acceptance and tolerance.

More alarming were the comments made by the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last week. At an event in Brussels on Monday organized for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees -- a UN entity, known as UNRWA, with an appetite for supporting anti-Zionism — Ashton paid tribute to children around the world, including a coach crash in Switzerland which killed more than 20 Belgian children, the Syrian conflict, the Toulouse shooting and "what's happened in Gaza." Ashton's comparison of children under ten years of age dragged by the hair and then killed at point-blank range in their school merely for being Jewish, to children killed in the conflict in Gaza, displays the most staggering duplicity. she knows, or should know, perfectly well that the children in Gaza are not targeted by the Israeli army, but, on the contrary, that Hamas, in deliberate violation the Geneva conventions as well as all universal norms of human rights, places the children near ammunition depots and the like, so that the children will be human shields, and appear to the world as victims of Israel instead of Hamas, where the blame actually belongs, while Israel tries to defend itself from literally thousands of rocket attacks launched by Islamist militants in densely-populated areas.

Later, Ashton said she "unreservedly" condemned the murders and said she drew no parallel between the shooting in Toulouse and the situation in Gaza. Still, the damage had done: Ashton had put the deliberate crime in Toulouse at the same level as the deaths of Palestinian children manipulated by Hamas's malignity toward its own young people; and she had put Israel on the same immoral level Merah and Hamas. Ashton nevertheless received stout support from many European parliamentarians who claimed that her comments "were taken out of context"! – a claim that should probably tell you all you need to know about many European Parliamentarians.

Looking farther into Mohamed Merah's role in fundamentalism and eventually terrorist acts, connections to other European courtiers emerge, particularly in the UK and Belgium. Mohammad Merah's brother, Abdelkader, now in the custody of French authorities, may have met radicals in the UK; and both Scotland Yard and the British internal intelligence, the MI5, seem to believe he was in the UK to meet British Muslim radicals.

Mohammad Merah and his brother were also both known to the French authorities as members of the radical group, Forsane Alizza, ["The Knights of Pride"], a radical organization associated with the fundamentalist groups Sharia4UK and Sharia4Belgium, indicating that Merah was probably right when said his attacks were "only the beginning.

In the wake of Mohammad Merah's killing spree, French intelligence authorities have come under pressure for failing to detect such an active Islamists who have been to Pakistan and Afghanistan and other training centers. Further, Merah was a suspect of the first murder of a French soldier days before he went on butchering Jewish children; nevertheless he was not detained, or even questioned.

The question is, Was [were] these oversights a mere intelligence failure which even the best of intelligence entities might encounter? Or was the fact that Mohammad Merah was a Muslim a major factor in causing French authorities to be reluctant to point a finger at him? Is the world reluctant at pointing the finger at Islamic terrorism and Islamist fundamentalist in Europe simply because to some, it might seem politically incorrect in the eyes of some? Should we come to accept that the followers of one particular religion get a free pass? When Mohammad Merah started his attacks by killing three French soldiers who were Muslims, the French authorities suspected three former French soldiers who had been dishonorably discharged because of their affiliation with neo-Nazi groups.

Far-right French presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, commenting on the massacre, said, "Entire districts are in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists and the danger is underestimated.". She is right about the threat of Islamists in Europe being underestimated, especially when entire British towns are becoming Islamic fundamentalist strongholds.

Europe would do well to start calling things by their right names; start recognizing that Islamist ideology is spreading throughout Europe and is a threat to the European way of life. acknowledging that many Muslims in Europe are falling to integrate or accept their adoptive countries, and that anti-Semitism is still a problem in Europe today.

Mudar Zahran


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

Ethnic Cleansing of Syrian Christians

by Frank Crimi

Syrian President Basher Assad isn’t the only target of Syrian rebels as Syria’s Orthodox Christian Church reports “ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians” by al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant groups in the embattled Syrian city of Homs.

The report from the Vatican news agency Fides says Brigade Faruq, which has links with elements of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Islamist mercenaries from Libya, has expelled 90 percent of Christians living in Homs, nearly 50,000 people.

Reportedly, the armed Islamists went door to door in the Christian neighborhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan informing the homeowners that if they did not leave immediately they would be shot. Then pictures of their corpses would be taken and sent to al-Jazeera, along with the message that the Syrian government had killed them.

As such, the men, women and children — denied by the Islamists from taking any of their belongings — were forced to flee to mountain villages 30 miles outside of Homs, their homes occupied by the militants who claimed the owners’ possessions as “war-booty from the Christians.”

According to reports by Barnabas Aid, a relief agency assisting Syrian Christians, the forced Christian exodus from Homs has been ongoing since the beginning of February when armed Islamists murdered more than 200 Christians, “including entire families with young children.”

At that time a representative of Barnabas Aid pleaded, “Christians are being forced to flee the city to the safety of government-controlled areas. Muslim rebel fighters and their families are taking over their homes.”

Unfortunately, Islamist attacks against Syria’s Christian community, including kidnappings and murder, have occurred almost from the onset of the popular uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad which began in March 2011.

These murders, which have killed over 100 Christians, include the hanging of a 28-year-old man; a 40 year-old father of two shot dead; two young men killed while waiting in line at a bakery; and a 37-year-old father with a pregnant wife, his body cut into pieces and thrown in a river.

Most recently, a car bombing targeted the Christian district in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, killing three and wounding 30. As Giuseppe Nazzaro, the Vicar Apostolic of Aleppo, said, “In this situation the Islamist and terrorist movements are making headway,” adding “These are bad times for religious minorities.”

Unhappily, these sectarian attacks on Christians have sparked fears that Syria could become like Iraq, where church attacks, kidnappings and forced expulsions by armed Islamist militant groups after the US invasion in 2003 drove Iraq’s Christian population from 1.4 million to less than 300,000 today.

For its part, leaders of the Syrian opposition have denied sectarian motives against Christians, noting that, even though the Syrian insurgency is rooted in the nation’s Sunni Muslim majority, all groups are welcome to join the Syrian rebellion.

Not surprisingly, that open invitation to join its ranks has gone largely unanswered among Syrian Christians who make up 10 percent of Syria’s 23 million, mostly Sunni Muslim populace.

Specifically, Syrian Christians have long viewed Assad’s secular regime as being generally more tolerant of Syria’s religious minorities, a belief certainly buttressed by the current anti-Christian violence being perpetrated against them by Syrian Islamists.

To that end, despite the Syrian government’s horrific, murderous crackdown on civilian protesters, Syrian Christians have mostly stayed away from the street protests, worried that the alternative to the Assad regime is, according to former Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, “chaos, civil war, and possibly a radical Islamist takeover.”

As was the case in Libya, that latter possibility becomes more of a reality as Islamist terror movements in and out of Syria are vying to gain influence over the Syrian revolt in hopes of gathering power if Assad falls.

For example, Sheikh Adnan al-Arour, a Syrian Salafi cleric exiled in Saudi Arabia, has been calling for jihad against the “infidel” Assad regime. Al-Arour’s exhortations have garnered him the open allegiance of several Syrian Islamist rebel brigades, including “Supporters of God Brigade” in Hama, which has praised him as “the leader of the revolution.”

In eastern Syria, the “God is Great” Brigade proclaimed its formation in an internet video that declared their fight to be a “jihad,” and which they exhorted “our fellow revolutionaries…to declare jihad in the path of God.”

The Syrian Islamist brigades are also getting assistance from outside terror organizations and mercenaries from Iraq and Libya, aid which Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged in February when he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that “al-Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria.”

That terrorist reach was on display recently when the Al-Nusra Front, a front group for al-Qaeda in Iraq according to US intelligence officials, claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing in Damascus that killed 27 and wounded more than 100.

Finally, evidence of the rising Islamist influence in the Syrian uprising was on view when several prominent figures quit the Syrian National Council (SNC), the most widely-recognized coalition of anti-regime forces, alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood had “hijacked” the SNC agenda.

It should be noted that the news of the Islamist crackdown on Christians comes at the same time that the UN is reporting that Syrian rebels are using children as fighters and are kidnapping, torturing and executing supporters of Bashar Assad and members of his security forces.

Nevertheless, President Obama has reacted to the growing sectarian violence in Syria by recently pledging to send “non-lethal” aid to the Syrian rebels, such as communications help and medical aid.

However, given the attacks it has suffered at their hands, the President may want to earmark some of those humanitarian supplies to Syria’s besieged Christian community.

Frank Crimi


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Iran and Hamas’ Genocidal Fellow Travelers

by Daniel Greenfield

In the spring of 1948, Arab Muslim armies and militias invaded the Jewish State in order to destroy it. Now after the Arab Spring yielded an Islamic Winter, efforts are being made to focus this spring on a renewed assault on Israel.

The Global March to Jerusalem is being billed as a peaceful march, but in reality it’s a Muslim crusade calling for the ethnic cleansing of a Jewish city and a number of its organizers have Hamas ties and have made genocidal statements about the Jews.

Tipping its hand is the logo of the Global March which encompasses all of Israel from Kiryat Shmona in the north all the way down to Eilat in the south, making it quite clear that this isn’t just about one city; it’s about all of them and all the land around them. It’s about the complete destruction of Israel.

The March has fairly clear echoes of the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948 and the Mufti of Jerusalem’s Holy War Army. It also follows up on the Gaza Flotilla’s aim of challenging Israeli sovereignty to provoke incidents and claim victimhood. Or as Abdul Malik Sukaryeh, the march’s Lebanon media co-coordinator, said in an interview on a Hezbollah website, while threatening a third intifada, “Is Israel going to massacre us? …This would be genocide, a real Holocaust not a pretended one.”

While ties between Hamas and its godfathers in Iran have been tested by the Syrian civil war, the Global March shows that cooperation continues between the Mullahs and the Brotherhood arm. For Iran the Global March helps shift focus from its own domestic troubles and international conflicts to the Muslim world’s chief scapegoat. And Hamas, which has found itself having to explain its position on Syria, can refocus attention on a common enemy.

Like the Gaza Flotilla, the Global March depends heavily on harnessing Western useful idiots, whom it needs in order to avoid looking like the Iran/Hamas ethnic cleansing project that it is. Like revenants summoned from their crypt, the living dead of the left, widely discredited, morally bankrupt and repugnantly shrill, rise to the call of their Islamic masters.

The Global March has already been endorsed by George Galloway and Cindy Sheehan, along with fellow Code Pink ghoul and Democratic Party fundraiser, Medea Benjamin. 9/11 Truther Richard Falk has signed on the dotted line, along with radical racist theorist Cornel West and Obama’s former mentor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

What these useful idiots are endorsing is nothing short of blatant bigotry, ethnic cleansing and genocide. That is made clear by statements from the Global March on Jerusalem organizers.

Ahmad Abo Halabiya, a Hamas figure who heads the Global March committee in Gaza and sits on the march’s International Central Committee, has said, “Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them.”

Ahmad Bahar, who sits on the Global March’s advisory board, and a Hamas leader who served as the speaker of the united Palestinian parliament, has proclaimed, “Make us victorious over the infidel people… Allah, take hold of the Jews and their allies, Allah, take hold of the Americans and their allies… Allah, count them and kill them to the last one and don’t leave even one.”

The advisory board also includes Sheikh Raed Salah, who heads up the Muslim Brotherhood inside Israel, and has accused Jews of using children’s blood in baking matza, an ancient blood libel, along with former Malaysian prime minister Mahatir Mohamad who claimed that, “the Jews rule the world by proxy.”

But that kind of company may not be too repugnant for the likes of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who stated that Obama won’t talk to him because he’s controlled by the Jews, another endorser, Desmond Tutu, who has a long history of anti-Semitic statements, and Cindy Sheehan who has claimed that her son died to benefit Israel.

Or for Judith Butler, who has waged a war to boycott the Jewish State, and has bizarrely said that, “understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important.”

Making for some middle ground on the North-American end of things is Hatem Bazian, who terrorized Jewish students in his journey from campus organizer to professor, and whose Hamas connections and events targeting Israel have made him a fixture during Israeli Apartheid Week. Also listed is Edward Peck, who received credit from Jeremiah Wright for inspiring some of his more inflammatory statements, and who has described Hamas leaders as “moderate.”

Then there’s the always reliable leftist Noam Chomsky, who has nevertheless built bridges to Holocaust deniers, Richard Falk, the 9/11 Truther who has posted anti-Semitic materials online, Francis Boyle, who has described Israel as “Jewistan” and cheerfully predicted its destruction.

That anti-Semitism is a common element among both the Islamic core of the Global March and its Western useful idiots, who like Judith Butler, are busy pretending that the March is as progressive and leftist as Hezbollah and Hamas. That toxic combination of hatred and self-hatred has been on display throughout all the attempts to camouflage the campaign against Israel in peaceful colors.

But can a campaign against the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem be seen as anything but anti-Semitic and can a movement whose logo entirely eliminates Israel while its leading activists make genocidal statements be seen as anything but genocidal?

Jerusalem is the heart of Israel. Its history is tied to that of the Jewish people. The Islamic crusade against that heritage and history should be seen within the context of the Arabization and Islamization efforts in Asia and North Africa which wiped out the identities and cultures of entire peoples. As long as Jerusalem exists by its true name, rather than Al-Quds, a generic bastardization, it stands in opposition to Mecca and the wave of genocide and ethnic cleansing that left millions without any culture and creed but that of their conquerors.

Jerusalem represents an ongoing resistance to that original march of hate, as both a city and the capital of a nation, where people of all religions and no religion at all enjoy equal rights and political freedom. That is what drives Mecca in its insane campaign of hate against Jerusalem. And that is what unites the madmen and madwomen of the far left who want to plunge the West into darkness to join in the march against Jerusalem.

Daniel Greenfield


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