Saturday, July 14, 2012

Affirming the Jewish State’s Territorial Rights

by P. David Hornik

This week a three-person committee appointed in January by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu started handing out its 89-page report on settlements and the legal status of Israel’s presence in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). The committee was led by Edmund Levy, a retired Supreme Court justice, and also included Alan Baker, a former ambassador to Canada and legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, and Tchia Shapira, a former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court.

The report’s (summarized here) conclusions on the most basic level are consistent with what any fair, informed consideration of the issue will indicate. First, Israel is not an occupier in the West Bank; second, what the 1949 Geneva Convention said about population transfers—in response to Nazi occupations in World War II—does not apply to Israel’s circumstances in the West Bank; and third, “according to international law, Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal.”

The reasons are straightforward. In the Palestine Mandate of 1922, the League of Nations granted Jews the right to “close settlement” of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean—including, of course, the West Bank. While, according to the terms of the 1947 UN Partition Resolution, the Jewish leadership was willing to forgo its right to parts of the land where a Palestinian state was to be established, including the West Bank, the Palestinian and Arab side emphatically rejected the partition plan and instead launched a war to strangle the newborn state of Israel in its cradle.

When the dust cleared from that conflict, Judea and Samaria were in the hands of Jordan—which had conquered them as part of a violent aggression aimed at eradicating another state. Jordan’s rule there from 1949 to 1967 was never recognized by any world body, or by any individual countries other than Britain and Pakistan. In the 1967 Six-Day War—in which Egypt, Syria, and Jordan again tried to wipe out the Jewish state—Israel instead conquered the West Bank back from Jordan. In 1988 Jordan formally renounced all claim to the territory.

Simple logic, then, dictates that since 1967 the West Bank has belonged to Israel—unless it should voluntarily choose, similar to the Jewish leadership in 1947, to forgo part of its right to it. First, no international legal document has ever superseded the Palestine Mandate and its terms have never been abrogated. Second, Jordan was one of the aggressors in the 1967 conflict, and to say the attacked party is obligated to restore land to the attacking side—in other words, that aggression must be rewarded—mocks both common sense and morality.

Those points have, indeed, been asserted by international legal luminaries like Stephen M. Schwebel, who wrote in the aftermath of the war that:

As between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem.

Also affirming Israel’s rights was the late renowned legal scholar Eugene V. Rostow, who wrote that Israel’s right to settle the West Bank was “unassailable.” Experts taking similar views since 1967 have included Julius Stone, David Matas, David M. Phillips (hat tip to Ted Belman for the latter three links), and others.

None of this, of course, has stopped Israel’s alleged “occupation” and settlement of the West Bank from being one of the causes célèbres of international politics since 1967, with the UN and the EU—bodies very much under Arab and Muslim sway—ritually denouncing both as “illegal.” And while U.S. presidents except for Jimmy Carter have not viewed the settlements as illegal, they have been highly critical of them and insistent, to varying degrees, that Israel’s relinquishment of lands conquered in 1967 is a key to peace.

Indeed, the State Department lost no time reacting to the Levy Committee’s conclusions, with spokesman Patrick Ventrell saying:

“we’ve seen the reports that an Israeli government appointed panel has recommended legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.”

With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the way to Israel next week, many expect further unpleasantness. And the New York Times, for its part, went so far as to call the committee’s report a “potentially disastrous blow” that, among other things, could help Iran progress with its nuclear program by diverting attention to something—Israeli settlements—that the Times views as a comparable if not worse menace.

The Levy Committee’s conclusions are not binding, and Netanyahu is now “studying” them without having endorsed them. Still, this is a good occasion for all who consider themselves friends of Israel, with its best interests in mind—including those inclined to object harshly to the report’s conclusions—to take heed of a few points:

1. Some 342,000 Israeli Jews now live in the West Bank along with about 250,000 in eastern Jerusalem—also reconquered in 1967 and considered “occupied.” Those 600,000 or so people constitute about 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population. Moreover, some of this community is under violent attack, from stones and Molotov cocktails to, in some cases, outright slaughter or attempted slaughter. Under such circumstances, publicly branding this community as “illegitimate”—as the Obama administration repeatedly does—appears irresponsible, unreasonable, and as possibly fanning the flames of aggression. It also projects the image of Israel as a rogue state and appears to confirm, and encourage, those whose enmity to the Jewish state is deep-seated and radical.

2. The Palestine Mandate’s recognition of Jewish rights to the land west of the Jordan River was not arbitrary, but based on a unique historical connection going back thousands of years. Indeed, the only time for thousands of years when Jews did not live in Judea and Samaria—the heartland of Israel—was during the nineteen-year Jordanian occupation when they were barred from doing so. To sacralize—in effect—that brief span of Jordanian rule by delegitimizing all subsequent Jewish life in Judea and Samaria is an extreme position unwarranted by logic, history, or morality.

3. There are times when a paradigm needs to be shifted. The paradigm of Israeli land concessions as the key to peace has not only been regnant for decades—but, by now, put to the test several times whether in unilateral form or under the terms of peace agreements. Results: the Israeli withdrawals from southern Lebanon, Gaza, and Sinai have created vacuums that were sooner or later filled by radical Islamist forces—not only harming and threatening Israel but damaging and imperiling Lebanon and Egypt as well and creating anti-Western hothouses. As for the partial Israeli troop withdrawal from the West Bank in the 1990s, it unleashed a savage terror war that took Israel from 2002 to 2005 to quell. Today, the Arabs of Judea and Samaria enjoy a high level of autonomy with Israel maintaining ultimate security control. It would be a reasonable paradigm shift to start regarding this situation as relatively stable and optimal—yes, even with Jews living in the territory as well.

P. David Hornik


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Human Rights Groups Sacrifice Syrians for Misguided Principle

by Michael Rubin

There is no doubt whatsoever that what is occurring in Syria is a humanitarian tragedy. The Assad regime has concluded that Western governments do not have the will to back up their rhetoric with action, and so have accelerated the atrocity and mass slaughter to new levels. While reports once spoke of a dozen people being killed in a day, some recent reports from Syria suggest an order of greater magnitude is now the norm.

Human rights groups wring their hands that Russia and China are not on the same page at the UN Security Council, but representatives from several prominent groups hold out hope that there can be some sort of magic formula that will bring Moscow and Beijing onboard. Such hope is, of course, misplaced. Syria hosts Russia’s only military base outside the confines of the former Soviet Union, and Vladimir Putin will always prioritize strategic position above averting humanitarian tragedy.

The questions human rights groups need to face is whether it is moral to, in effect, sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of Syrians upon the principle that no action is legitimate unless the United Nations says it is. They may not like the question framed in that way, but there is no avoiding it.

There are many military strategies which might provide immediate protection to the Syrian people. Max Boot and Reuel Marc Gerecht have discussed some of them. Syrians point out to me that limited airpower would be effective in stopping the pulverization of neighborhoods and towns by Syrian artillery. Syrian forces are afraid to set up mortars and artillery too close to urban areas, because residents will attack and lynch them. So much of the artillery barrages are launched from open fields, meaning that Western air forces could target the perpetrators with little risk of collateral damage.

It is time human rights groups recognize that the embrace of human rights and support for predominance of the United Nations in the international system are often mutually exclusive values, and be open about whether human rights advocates now place a political agenda above protecting and preserving human rights.

Michael Rubin


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Going negative, the lying Democratic way

by Ethel C. Fenig

Further proof--not that it was needed--of Democratic trickery, deceptiveness and desperation is summarized in this The New Republic headline, "Bain Attacks Might Work, Even If It Can't Be Proven":

While Nate Cohn is referring to the effectiveness of the shrill negative Romney ads by President Barack Obama (D) re-election camp rather than their proven erroneous content, no matter. For the Dems, just go-- no, not rogue, that's too difficult--but false. Because lying about Bain might work.

[T]he Bain attacks only need to reinforce existing unfavorable perceptions of Romney among undecided voters or raise apprehensions that might ultimately be exploited by future stories or attacks. This might not show up in the head to heads in July, but it could in November if Obama reclaims a portion of the white working class vote or they don't turn out for Romney.

As Cohn worriedly noted previously

Why haven't historic events changed the election? None alter the fundamentals of the race: poor economic conditions have lodged Obama's approval rating beneath 50 percent,


What could change the game? Not ideological battles, like gay marriage or health care, which reinforce existing partisan divides and energize voters who have already cast their ballots.


[A]ttitudes toward the Republican nominee are malleable at this early stage. For that reason, reports about the effectiveness of the Bain attacks must be taken seriously. The attacks strike at the core of Romney's business message and provide the foundation for additional attacks on Romney's policy proposals and primary gaffes. While they are unlikely to break the race open, the Bain attacks could plausibly make a lasting difference, unlike the big but transient news of the last two months.

So, the effect of the newly deemed constitutional (Un)Affordable Health (Obama)care Act is...transient? And lying about Romney will make voters forget their intense distaste for it. Well then, if necessary, lie! And it is necessary. Go opaque; don't even release, oh say, college transcripts. Deny proven questionable associates. Just divert and attack wildly.

We now have another glimpse in the clear window of the post Rep Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) new/old Democrat civility.

Ethel C. Fenig


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Good News? Revolutionary Islamists Taking Power Produces Moderation and Ends Terrorism!

by Barry Rubin

Well, now at least the debate is in the open and we can see just how questionable are the talking points of those who claim the United States has nothing to fear from Islamists.

The New York Times publishes an article with the promising title of “Fast-Changing Arab World is Upending U.S. Assumptions,” yet sadly, the article shows that certain assumptions are not changing at all. Indeed, are not even discussed. To summarize the article’s thesis: before Obama’s election, the United States thought that pro-American regimes were good and radical Islamists were bad — but now we know better.

For decades, Obama’s predecessors supported a number of Arab governments, including those in Egypt and Tunisia but not Syria. Obama put the emphasis on engaging Syria, but did not directly challenge the Egyptian and Tunisian governments until uprisings began against them in January 2011. Then he threw those two under the bus as fast as possible. But that policy did not apply to anti-American Syria, which he abandoned only in August 2011 after four months of full-scale revolt and massacres far more intense than those which made it abandon the Egyptian and Tunisian governments during the first week of demonstrations.

What makes the effort to talk seriously about the Middle East nowadays so frustrating is that the “mainstream” debate, as illustrated by the Times article, devotes no space to suggesting the following: perhaps the rapid rise of Islamists might be bad for the United States, and the outbreak of violence from Salafist groups, two armed cross-border attacks on Israel, or other events suggest that the threat had been underestimated.

No, not at all. When talking with “experts”, and in the journalist’s own editorializing, the only theme is that the United States used to overestimate the Islamist threat, but now it knows better.

I was fascinated by a remark by State Department spokesperson Victoria J. Nuland:

It’s a new day in Egypt. It’s a new day in a lot of countries across the Middle East and North Africa.

True, it is a new era but it is an era when radical Islamists are seizing power or threatening to seize power in lots of countries. That’s not a sunny good morning in the Middle East. In addition, Nuland’s is a very kind of American-style suggestion that whatever went before doesn’t matter. The history of these radical groups and their ideology is of no importance. We’re all starting over with a clean slate.

The Times journalist explains:

American officials did not always carefully distinguish between Islamists, who advocate a leading role for Islam in government, and violent jihadists, who espouse the same goal but advocate terrorism to achieve it.

To say that a group like the Muslim Brotherhood just advocates “a leading role for Islam in government” is not quite the point. The issue: what do they want to do with this “leading role”? Might they have some agenda after they give Islam a leading role in government, such as destroying women’s rights, oppressing Christians, attacking Israel, forcing the people to conform to the Islamists’ definition of Islam, and smashing U.S. interests?

It is the ability of leading mass media outlets to produce sentences like the following that drives me to despair:

American hostility to Islamist movements, in fact, long predated Sept. 11, in part because of the United States’ support for secular autocrats in Arab countries.

In other words, it is all America’s fault for not being sufficiently sensitive in comprehending the perspective of the Islamist movements. What about the other, unmentioned, part: the fact of the Islamist movements’ hostility to America, their support for terrorism, their blood-curdling expressions of anti-Semitic hatred, and their stated intention of repressing everybody else at home?

Two brief historical examples: A) In March 2002, the Muslim Brotherhood announced it had established an armed wing, eight of whose members were ready to be suicide bombers in attacking Israel. B) When an Islamist inspired by Brotherhood leaders’ call for his murder tried to assassinate Egypt’s Nobel prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz, a top Brotherhood official testified in the terrorist’s defense that he was right to try to murder the aged author.

So is there any risk from the rise of revolutionary Islamists today? Absolutely not, explains the Times writer. According to him:

[Experts] suggest that Americans should not assume that the rise of Islamists puts the United States in greater danger from terrorists. The opposite may well be the case, they say.

More recently, of course, we have the formation of Salafist morality squads, attacks on churches, and the extremely radical rhetoric of the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential campaign when all the niqabs were lifted to show the ferocious hatreds and extremism underneath.

Barry Rubin


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Column One: Obama’s Spectacular Failure

by Caroline B. Glick

Before crowd of scores of thousands, Mursi pledged to work for release from US federal prison of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman.

US President Barack Obama in NY
Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing

Two weeks ago, in an unofficial inauguration ceremony at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi took off his mask of moderation. Before a crowd of scores of thousands, Mursi pledged to work for the release from US federal prison of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman.

According to The New York Times’ account of his speech, Mursi said, “I see signs [being held by members of the crowd] for Omar Abdel-Rahman and detainees’ pictures. It is my duty and I will make all efforts to have them free, including Omar Abdel-Rahman.”

Otherwise known as the blind sheikh, Abdel Rahman was the mastermind of the jihadist cell in New Jersey that perpetrated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. His cell also murdered Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York in 1990. They plotted the assassination of then-president Hosni Mubarak. They intended to bomb New York landmarks including the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and the UN headquarters.

Rahman was the leader of Gama’a al-Islamia – the Islamic Group, responsible, among other things for the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. A renowned Sunni religious authority, Rahman wrote the fatwa, or Islamic ruling, permitting Sadat’s murder in retribution for his signing the peace treaty with Israel. The Islamic group is listed by the State Department as a specially designated terrorist organization.

After his conviction in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Abdel-Rahman issued another fatwa calling for jihad against the US. After the September 11, 2001, attacks, Osama bin Laden cited Abdel-Rahman’s fatwa as the religious justification for them.

By calling for Abdel-Rahman’s release, Mursi has aligned himself and his government with the US’s worst enemies. By calling for Abdel-Rahman’s release during his unofficial inauguration ceremony, Mursi signaled that he cares more about winning the acclaim of the most violent, America-hating jihadists in the world than with cultivating good relations with America.

And in response to Mursi’s supreme act of unfriendliness, US President Barack Obama invited Mursi to visit him at the White House.

Mursi is not the only Abdel Rahman supporter to enjoy the warm hospitality of the White House.

His personal terror organization has also been the recipient of administration largesse. Despite the fact that federal law makes it a felony to assist members of specially designated terrorist organizations, last month the State Department invited group member Hani Nour Eldin, a newly elected member of the Islamist-dominated Egyptian parliament, to visit the US and meet with senior US officials at the White House and the State Department, as part of a delegation of Egyptian parliamentarians.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refused to provide any explanation for the administration’s decision to break federal law in order to host Eldin in Washington. Nuland simply claimed, “We have an interest in engaging a broad cross-section of Egyptians who are seeking to peacefully shape Egypt’s future. The goal of this delegation... was to have consultations both with think tanks but also with government folks, with a broad spectrum representing all the colors of Egyptian politics.”

MURSI IS not the only Arab leader who embraces terrorists only to be embraced by the US government. In a seemingly unrelated matter, this week it was reported that in an attempt to satisfy the Obama administration’s urgent desire to renew negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, and to satisfy the Palestinians’ insatiable desire to celebrate terrorists, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered to release 124 Palestinian terrorist murderers from Israeli prisons in exchange for a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas.

Alas, Abbas refused. He didn’t think Netanyahu’s offer was generous enough.

And how did the Obama administration respond to Abbas’s demand for the mass release of terrorists and his continued refusal to resume negotiations with Israel? By attacking Israel.

The proximate cause of the Obama administration’s most recent assault on Israel is the publication of the legal opinion of a panel of expert Israeli jurists regarding the legality of Israeli communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines. Netanyahu commissioned the panel, led by retired Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy, to investigate the international legal status of these towns and villages and to provide the government with guidance relating to future construction of Israeli communities beyond the armistice lines.

The committee’s findings, published this week, concluded that under international law, these communities are completely legal.

There is nothing remotely revolutionary about this finding. This has been Israel’s position since 1967, and arguably since 1922.

The international legal basis for the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 was the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. That document gave the Jewish people the legal right to sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, as well as all the land Israel took control over during the 1948- 49 War of Independence.

Not only did the Mandate give the Jewish people the legal right to the areas, it enjoined the British Mandatory authorities to “facilitate... close settlement by Jews on the land, including state lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”

So not only was Jewish settlement not prohibited. It was required.

Although this has been Israel’s position all along, Netanyahu apparently felt the need to have its legitimacy renewed in light of the all-out assault against Israel’s legal rights led by the Palestinians, and joined enthusiastically by the Obama administration.

In a previous attempt to appease Obama’s rapacious appetite for Israeli concessions, Netanyahu temporarily abrogated Israel’s legal rights by banning Jews from exercising their property rights in Judea and Samaria for 10 months in 2010. All the legal opinion published this week does is restate what Israel’s position has always been.

Whereas the Obama administration opted to embrace Mursi even as he embraces Abdel-Rahman, the Obama administration vociferously condemned Israel for having the nerve to ask a panel of senior jurists to opine about its rights. In a press briefing, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell banged the rhetorical hammer.

As he put it, “The US position on settlements is clear. Obviously, we’ve seen the reports that an Israeli government-appointed panel has recommended legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.”

In short then, for the Obama administration, it is all well and fine for the newly elected president of what was until two years ago the US’s most important Arab ally to embrace a terror mastermind indirectly responsible for the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans. It is okay to invite members of jihadist terror groups to come to Washington and meet with senior US officials in a US taxpayer- funded trip. It is even okay for the head of a would-be-state that the US is trying to create to embrace every single Palestinian terrorist, including those who have murdered Americans. But for Israel’s elected government to ask an expert panel to determine whether Israel is acting in accordance with international law in permitting Jews to live on land the Palestinians insist must be Jewfree is an affront.

THE DISPARITY between the administration’s treatment of the Mursi government on the one hand and the Netanyahu government on the other places the nature of its Middle East policy in stark relief.

Obama came into office with a theory on which he based his Middle East policy. His theory was that jihadists hate America because the US supports Israel. By placing what Obama referred to as “daylight” between the US and Israel, he believed he would convince the jihadists to put aside their hatred of America.

Obama has implemented this policy for three and a half years. And its record of spectacular failure is unbroken.

Obama’s failure is exposed in all its dangerous consequence by a simple fact. Since he entered office, the Americans have dispensed with far fewer jihadists than they have empowered.

Since January 2009, the Muslim world has become vastly more radicalized. No Islamist government in power in 2009 has been overthrown. But several key states – first and foremost Egypt – that were led by pro-Western, US-allied governments when Obama entered office are now ruled by Islamists.

It is true that the election results in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and elsewhere are not Obama’s fault. But they still expose the wrongness of his policy. Obama’s policy of putting daylight between the US and Israel, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood against US allies like Mubarak, involves being bad to America’s friends and good to America’s enemies. This policy cannot help but strengthen your enemies against yourself and your friends.

Rather than contend with the bitter consequences of his policy, Obama and his surrogates have opted to simply deny the dangerous reality he has engendered through his actions. Even worse they have come up with explanations for maintaining this policy despite its flagrant failure.

Nowhere was this effort more obvious than in a made-to-order New York Times analysis this week titled, “As Islamists gain influence, Washington reassesses who its friends are.”

The analysis embraces the notion that it is possible and reasonable to appease the likes of Mursi and his America-hating jihadist supporters and coalition partners. It quotes Michele Dunne from the Atlantic Council who claimed that on the one hand, if the Muslim Brotherhood and its radical comrades are allowed to take over Egypt, their entry into mainstream politics should reduce the terrorism threat. On the other hand, she warned, “If Islamist groups like the Brotherhood lose faith in democracy, that’s when there could be dire consequences.”

In other words, the analysis argues that the US should respond to the ascent of its enemies by pretending its enemies are its friends.

Aside from its jaw-dropping irresponsibility, this bit of intellectual sophistry requires a complete denial of reality. The Taliban were in power in Afghanistan in 2001. Their political power didn’t stop them from cooperating with al-Qaida. Hamas has been in charge of Gaza since 2007. That hasn’t stopped it from carrying out terrorism against Israel. The mullahs have been in charge of Iran from 33 years. That hasn’t stopped them from serving as the largest terrorism sponsors in the world. Hezbollah has been involved in mainstream politics in Lebanon since 2000 and it has remained one of the most active terrorist organizations in the world.

And so on and so forth.

Back in the 1980s, the Reagan administration happily cooperated with the precursors of al-Qaida in America’s covert war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It never occurred to the Americans then that the same people working with them to overthrow the Soviets would one day follow the lead of the blind sheikh and attack America.

Unlike the mujahadin in Afghanistan, the Muslim Brotherhood has never fought a common foe with the Americans. The US is supporting it for nothing – while seeking to win its support by turning on America’s most stable allies.

Can there be any doubt that this policy will end badly?

Caroline B. Glick


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Exclusive: ADC's Misleading Sob Story on Elashi Brothers

by IPT News

The news release from the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) depicts a family torn apart by a heartless bureaucracy. Two brothers, stateless Palestinians, were "taken by ICE and the U.S. Air Marshalls (sic) from their children in Texas and sent to Egypt," where they are not welcome.

The release conveyed the ADC's "extreme disappointment" over the move. "The actions of DHS and ICE are alarming, troubling, and intolerable. ADC has demanded, and will continue to demand, a clear explanation as to why these brothers were deported," said ADC Legal Director Abed Ayoub.

The brothers are never named. If they were, the explanation would be quite clear.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism has confirmed that the men deported last week are Bayan and Basman Elashi. Both are convicted felons tied to a terror-financing network based out of Dallas. And both had final orders of deportation issued against them in 2008 and 2009 that were never appealed, immigration records show.

Yet another brother, Ghassan Elashi, was a founder and chairman of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), an American fundraising arm for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. HLF was part of the "Palestine Committee," an umbrella organization created by the Muslim Brotherhood in America to help Hamas politically and financially. Basman Elashi, along with brothers Ghassan and Hazim, also appears on a telephone list of Palestine Committee members. Basman's entry is just above Nihad Awad, founder and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The Elashi brothers also worked for Infocom, a webhosting company in Richardson Tex. Prosecutors say the company received $250,000 from Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, who was indicted in the case.

Bayan Elashi was Infocom's chief executive officer. Basman was its logistics and credit manager. In 2004, each was convicted of money laundering, export violations to Libya and Syria involving computer shipments and making false statements to federal officials. In a separate trial a year later, Bayan Elashi was convicted on 10 counts of dealing in the property of a Specially Designated Terrorist for transactions with Marzook, while Basman was convicted on one count.

Bayan Elashi was sentenced to 84 months in prison, while Bayan was sentenced to 80 months. Brother Hazim Elashi, Infocom's manager of personal computer systems, was sentenced to 66 months after being convicted in the case, and was deported from the United States in April 2008.

Ghassan Elashi is serving a 65-year sentence after being convicted in the HLF case.

The ADC did not find any of this information significant enough to mention. Rather, it claimed that the deportation was done clumsily, with the Elashis essentially dumped on a tarmac with no place to go.

"The brothers do not have permission to stay in Egypt. Further, due to the blockade of Gaza and Israeli polices they cannot enter Palestine. The brothers are currently detained at the airport in Cairo, and appear likely to be detained indefinitely."

Standard procedure in any deportation case is for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to work with the host country before the person is sent back. It isn't clear whether the claims about the Elashis being detained at the airport are true.

However, the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza is open five days each week, and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh expressed confidence Thursday that the new Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt soon will open it permanently, allowing them to cross into Palestinian territory.

In addition, Ayoub decried "the deplorable living conditions in Gaza resulting from an illegal blockade," and questioned why the Elashis would be sent there. Israel's blockade of Gaza, stemming from Hamas's takeover of the territory and subsequent campaign of rocket fire at Israeli civilian communities, was declared legal by a United Nations review because "Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza." In addition, while Gaza is economically in turmoil, the Red Cross has said there is no humanitarian crisis there. In fact, some aspects of life appear relatively comfortable.

The ADC is considered a respectable organization. President Obama took the time to deliver a recorded message for the group's recent convention.

In this case, however, it has issued an alert that seems deliberately misleading in order to take a shot at the Department of Homeland Security and cast the plight of the Elashis in a sympathetic tone that doesn't match their records.

IPT News


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Israel’s Plan to Smooth Troubled Waters

by Stephen Brown

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) general staff does not foresee smooth sailing ahead in Israel’s territorial waters as it recently approved a navy request to buy four new warships at a cost of about $750 million. If the Israeli government gives the green light for the purchase, the last hurdle, the navy hopes to acquire the 1,200 ton vessels, equipped with advanced missile and anti-missile weapons systems, before the end of the year and have them ready for operations in 2013.

Traditionally regarded as the “stepbrother” of the other two branches of the Israeli military, the navy has seen its importance increase with the discovery of massive deposits of natural gas offshore in Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Israel’s two big EEZ gas discoveries are the Leviathan and Tamar fields. The gas rigs erected to exploit these fields, the navy believes, are now attractive targets for Islamist terrorist attacks, especially during wartime.

Described as the biggest natural gas discoveries worldwide in the last decade, the Israeli offshore fields will not only make Israel self-sufficient in energy but also supply the Israeli economy with billions of dollars from export sales when they come on line in the next few years. As a result, the Israeli military is determined to protect this strategically important asset, especially the rigs, from terrorist attacks, which involves the purchase and deployment of more warships.

“The size of the gas reservoirs is larger than the size of the state of Israel and has significant consequences for how we operate and how we grow,” said Admiral Ram Rothberg, head of Israel’s navy. “The main solution is to be in the area to protect the rigs and ensure that the gas reaches Israel.”

The difficulties encountered with Israel’s current source of natural gas, Egypt, indicate how vulnerable and targeted the Jewish state’s energy supply is by terrorist attack. Since Egypt’s “Arab Spring” began in early 2011, terrorists have repeatedly bombed the pipeline that carries the gas through the Sinai to Israel. And Egypt as an energy source will probably not become any securer for Israel if a Muslim Brotherhood government takes power in Cairo.

The Israeli navy views enemy missiles as the major threat to the all-important offshore gas rigs. Israel knows Hezbollah has the capability to fire such weapons as it heavily damaged an Israeli naval vessel with an anti-ship missile, killing four sailors, in the 2006 Lebanon War. And Hezbollah may not be the only Islamist terrorist group possessing such a lethal weapon. Only last February, the navy discovered on an Iranian ship six Iranian Nasr-1 radar-guided anti-ship missiles that it believes were destined for al-Jihad in Gaza. The navy is also concerned about Syria’s acquisition of Russia’s Yakhont anti-ship missile, which has a range of 300 kilometers. Since Syria is a major supplier of weaponry to Hezbollah, the Israeli military fears the Yakhont could wind up in its hands.

“The Yakhont is a significant weapon and the navy knows how to provide a response for all different missile threats on every possible front,” said Rothberg.

As part of this protective front, the Israeli military is considering placing anti-missile systems on gas rigs due to be built in Israel’s EEZ in the coming years. The navy has already informed the gas exploration companies that they must install radar systems on their platforms. These measures are meant to counter attacks on the platforms from Hezbollah-fired anti-ship missiles as well as by “explosives-laden vessels.” The USS Cole was attacked by one such deadly suicide craft in 2000 that saw 17 American sailors killed, 39 wounded and “a 40-by-40-foot hole” blown in the ship’s side.

Besides attacks on the gas rigs, Israel fears that Hezbollah’s and al-Jihad’s possession of sophisticated anti-ship missiles may cause a serious problem with ship traffic to the Jewish state if used against merchant vessels. Such an attempt to blockade the Israeli coast would cause a serious disruption to the Israeli economy and military effort. Approximately 99 percent of Israeli imports, the Jerusalem Post reports, arrive by ship, “including ammunition and military hardware.”

“Navy assessments are that Hezbollah will try to attack cargo ships within a 30-kilometer radius of Israel in an effort to get commercial vessels to refuse to sail there during a war,” the Post states.

Also among the measures Israel believes its Islamist enemies may employ to blockade the Israeli coast are naval mines. Among the weapons reportedly smuggled into Gaza from Libyan warehouses after the downfall of Gaddafi, the possibility of naval mines being among them has generally been overlooked. Gaddafi’s navy is known to have possessed a store of such mines, which it used in the recent civil conflict to blockade the rebel port of Misrata. And Israel believes it is a very real possibility that some mines will eventually wind up in Gaza, if they are not there already. Even Egypt is worried about the Gaza terrorists’ use of naval mines since, if not anchored down, they could drift into Egyptian waters.

And it is not only attacks by irregular terrorist forces that justify the proposed purchase of the four new Israeli warships. Regular Turkish warships and aircraft menacingly shadowed, but did not interfere with, the transfer of an American gas rig from Israeli to Greek Cypriot waters last year. Turkey is angry that Greek Cyprus, Israel’s ally, is exploring for gas without including Turkish northern Cyprus. Turkey has also threatened to have its warships escort the next aid flotilla to Gaza, a threat it has yet to fulfill. And with a Muslim Brotherhood government becoming a reality in Egypt, the Israeli navy will also have to keep a closer eye on that country’s navy. The Egyptian navy is currently having two modern submarines built in Germany where Israel has purchased similar vessels.

“The navy will play a critical role on any front, or war,” said Rothberg.

Stephen Brown


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

Thoughts on the Muslim Mind

by Tarek Heggy

This mental, intellectual and cultural stagnation represents not only a danger for humanity, but for the Muslims themselves, in that, among other limiting features, it places them and their societies in a state of enmity, even war, with the rest of humanity.

Forty years ago, one of the subjects offered for a Masters degree in law was Islamic Jurisprudence -- a massive, purely human endeavour, whose founder, the Grand Imam Abu Hanifa al-No'man, defined it as the science of extracting practical rulings from legal proofs.

The subject extended beyond the four established legal schools – the Hanafite, Malakite, Shafi'i, and Hanbalite – and even beyond the legal schools founded by other Sunni sects that have since fallen into oblivion -- and into the realm of Shiite jurisprudence. The school of Muslim theology I admired most was the Mu'tazalites and their offshoots -- especially the ideas of Ghilan Al-Demeshky, who challenged the doctrine of predestination on the grounds that it denies man's responsibility for his deeds, good and bad, and which led me to ask a number of nagging questions.

The jurists who founded the four main Sunni schools of law --Abu Hanifa, Malik ibn-Anas, Mohamed bin Idriss Al-Shafei and Ahmed ibn-Hanbal -- lived in the period between 70 and 220 Hijrah [690 to 840 AD]. Strangely, the earliest of these jurists was more liberal than his successor, who was in turn more liberal than his successor, while the fourth was the most conservative of all, allowing no scope for independent thinking, and asserting the primacy of tradition [naql] over reason ['aql]. While, for example, Abu Hanifa allowed jurists to refuse to base their rulings on the Hadiths [sayings or acts attributed to the prophet Mohammed] known as akhbar ahad [accounts of individuals], Ahmed ibn-Hanbal, who followed, stamped as authoritative legislative enactments more than ten thousand Hadiths, the great majority of which were, not surprisingly, accounts of individuals.

The conservatives in Islamic history were selective in what they presented to seekers of knowledge. Thanks to them, many Muslims today believe that the greatest Islamic thinkers always believed in predetermination. Many other great Islamic thinkers, however -- for instance, the Kadarites -- rejected the doctrine of predetermination. There are countless further examples of the subjective way the conservative elements in the world of Islam distorted historical facts to suit their purpose; the result of which distortion was to produce among Muslims a pattern of passivity at odds with the realm of knowledge, culture and science. One of the most famous examples is the conservatives' concealment of Abu Hanifa's opinion on the punishment for apostasy – death. Although he did not totally reject the punishment, the great jurist effectively invalidated it by holding that an apostate can repent, and that the period of repentance is "the length of the apostate's life."

Some of the greatest Muslim thinkers such as Ibn Sinna, Al-Faraby, Ibn Rushd and so many others, were branded as heretics by the Hanbalites. Although one of Ibn Hanbal's folllowers, Ibn Taymiyah, was a man of limited intellectual abilities, incapable of dealing with deep philosophical issues, he gave himself the right to accuse of heresy noble and original thinkers who were far superior to him in every way. Thus, because of an obscurantist ruler -- the eighth Abbasid caliph Al-Mu'tasim -- and because of the growing dominion and influence of conservative Muslim jurists -- such as Ahmed Ibn Hanbal and the interpreters of his tenets, Ibn Taymiyah and Qaiym Al Juzeya -- the Muslim mind became afflicted with a singular case of rigidity, passivity and stagnation – even fossilization.

This mental, intellectual and cultural stagnation not only represents a danger for humanity, but for the Muslims themselves, in that, among other limiting features, it places them and their societies in a state of enmity, even war, with the rest of humanity.

At some point, however, despite the backwardness and extreme primitiveness that has afflicted the minds of millions of today's Muslims who have become polarized around a worldview totally divorced from the reality of the age and from contemporary science and culture, the future will shake the Muslim mind and destroy many of the fossilized ideas that have held sway for so long, similarly to Christianity after the earthquake set off by Martin Luther and Jean (John) Calvin.

The Muslims will come to realize the need to keep religion separate from the State and from constitutional and statutory legislation. I can even see the day they will adopt a legal system based on the doctrine that upholds "the specificity of the purpose, not the generality of the text." This would allow for enlightened opinions compatible with the age, and the march of human progress in respect of women and the Other.

But before we reach that point, many years and decades will have elapsed, and many bitter battles will have been fought before reason, science and progress can claim victory over the dark legacy of a journey that began with a ruler who allowed the Hanbalites to slaughter, in the literal sense of the word, the Mu'tazalites in the alleys of Damascus.

From that day until the present, free thinkers in our societies continue being slaughtered, either literally or figuratively, with weapons wielded by forces of darkness without parallel in the annals of history.

Tarek Heggy


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Does Freezing Settlements Help Peace?

by Mudar Zahran

Israel has given such "goodwill gestures" to the Palestinians before, but the reciprocal gestures were never as good-willed. In exchange for "goodwill gestures," Israel gets concussions.

The current US administration has been advocating the freezing of Israeli settlement activity in Judea and Samaria, and so have several global players involved in the peace process. Evidence on the ground, however, seems to suggest that freezing settlement activity only fuels radicalism and terrorism, encourages delegitimizing Israel, deprives Palestinians of decent livelihoods and works significantly against achieving the long-sought peace.

On June 4, 2009, when President Obama addressed the Muslim world from Cairo, he said: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements" because they "undermine efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop." Since then, the U.S. has relentlessly been pressuring the Israeli government to freeze the construction of settlements, eventually resulting in a ten month freeze of settlement activities by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. At one point, Netanyahu demanded that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state in exchange for Israel's settlements' freeze, an offer the Palestinian Authority had refused.

Pressure on Israel to freeze its settlement activity is also advocated by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who earlier this year called on Israel to halt settlement activity as "goodwill gesture" to the Palestinians. Israel has given such "goodwill gestures" to the Palestinians before, but the reciprocal gestures were never as good-willed. In exchange for "goodwill gestures," Israel gets concussions. After Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, driving its own Israeli settlers from their homes by force, Hamas utilized the withdrawal for its propaganda, claiming it was a victory over Israel, and then started firing more Kassam rockets from Gaza into southern Israeli cities. After that, Hamas took over the entire Gaza strip by force from the Palestinian Authority and has been ruling there ever since.

It seems the concussions Israel keeps getting from its "goodwill gesture" in Gaza have extended to neighbouring Egypt. In an article published by the Washington Institute in January 2012, seasoned Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari reports that since Israel's 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula has become a major base for terrorists' infrastructure, with the Bedouins becoming more radicalized and aiding Hamas with illegal trade. Arms smuggling into Gaza has risen to a record high, with "ever-larger sectors of the northern Sinai population becoming linked to Gaza and falling under the political and ideological influence of Hamas and the like." All of this leads the inhabitants of the Sinai to think that they are entitled to become another terrorism forefront.

Concussion outcomes from Israel's withdrawal from land are nothing new. When Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah quickly expanded the presence of its militants in southern Lebanon to the point of launching an unprecedented rocket attack on Israel in 2006. Why wouldn't an expansion of an Israeli settlements freeze or a total Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria only lead again to an explosion in terrorist activities as has been the case in other places? Precedents suggest the outcome will not be different.

What is strange is how casual the world has become about asking Israel to stop building settlements on its own land. For example, last May, German President Joachim Gauck called on Israel to make "a goodwill gesture" in its settlement policy. Considering the historical sensitivity between Germany and Israel, one would think the German president would be more cautious about undermining Israel's right to build homes on its own soil. What can be seen is that the demonization of settlers and settlements has become so regular that it is reaching the point where the delegitimization of Israel is becoming legitimized -- probably just what the delegitimizers were hoping for.

The question about the legitimacy or legality of the settlements by itself is puzzling: historically, Judea and Samaria are legitimate parts of Israel -- you just have to look at the evidence. The Balfour Declaration by which the British government confirmed that it favoured "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people ... and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object," was incorporated into the Sèvres peace treaty with Turkey and the British Mandate for Palestine, which was legally commissioned to Great Britain by the League of Nations, the equivalent of today's United Nations, thus making Israel's control of the entire British Mandate for Palestine — including Judea and Samaria — an internationally legitimate right. Since the draft of the Mandate was formally confirmed by the Council of the League of Nations on 24 July 1922, it would seem to be in accord with international law.

When Israel became independent in 1948, Jordanian armed forces occupied Judea and Samaria, only to annex it later, an act declared illegal then by the Arab League. Only three countries, in fact, recognized Jordanian rule over Judea and Samaria, Britain: Iraq (then under the Hashemite rule), and Pakistan. [George Washington University Law School (2005). The George Washington International Law Review. George Washington University. p. 390. Retrieved 21 December 2010. "Jordan's illegal occupation and Annexation of the West Bank]. It would seem clear, therefore, that the only control over Judea and Samaria that has a foundation in international law is Israel's; thus, Israelis building settlements there would be no different than Americans building housing projects in Massachusetts or Texas.

Further, it is worthwhile to look at what the settlements mean for the Palestinians suffering high unemployment rates in the Palestinian territories: thousands of them work in Israeli settlements. According to the Manufacturers Association of Israel, about 22,000 Palestinians were employed in construction, agriculture, manufacturing and service industries in the settlements. Nevertheless, in 2010, the Palestinian Authority banned its citizens from working in Israeli settlements under the threat of prosecution -- an act that has angered the Palestinian public. They have a good reason to be angry: the Palestinian Authority fails to create enough jobs for them while the Israeli settlers offer them wages amounting to double the money they could make working in their hometowns. The Palestinian news agency, Maan, reports that the average daily wages for settlement workers were 150 shekels ($44) per day, compared to 76.9 ($22) in the Judea and Samaria and 46.2 ($13.50) in Gaza. Maan also quotes Israeli settlement leader Yaakov David Ha'ivri saying that Palestinians working in the settlement were making close to three times the wages they would be making under the Palestinian Authority -- confirming that the ban on Palestinians working in settlements had actually "never materialized."

Freezing settlement activity therefore will only mean fewer jobs for the Palestinians, who will suffer with their families -- and as the proverb has it, "A hungry man can be an angry man."

Supporters of the freezing of Israeli settlements have yet to provide evidence that it helps peace. They also need to recognize that they are undermining the legitimacy of Israel's right to its own soil, all while depriving Palestinians of their livelihoods and paving the way for more terrorist acts.

It is about time the peace process serves up some justice.

Mudar Zahran


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European Armies Recruiting Muslim Soldiers

by Soeren Kern

The chaplain's top priority has been to organize a pilgrimage to Mecca for Muslim soldiers. "For me, the army is not about standing up for a nation; it's about finding a job."

Germany is seeking to recruit more Muslims into its army: it cannot find enough native Germans to fill its ranks after it abolished the draft.

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière announced his intention to "multiculturalize" the German Bundeswehr (Federal Defense Force) during a June 20 headhunting mission to the Turkish capital Ankara, where he declared: "I want the [German] army to be representative of a cross-section of the German population."

Germany formally discontinued compulsory military service on July 1, 2011 as part of a comprehensive reform aimed at creating a smaller and more agile army of about 185,000 professional soldiers.

But during its first twelve months of existence, Germany's new all-volunteer army has been unable to meet its recruiting goals, and military manpower prospects look dim for the foreseeable future.

In a desperate search for soldiers, German military officials have now identified Germany's Muslim Turkish population (3.5 million and counting) as a new source for potential recruits.

Maizière has been trying to jump-start the recruitment of German Turks by offering them some unique incentives to sign up for military service. Maizière's trip to Ankara, for example, was aimed at persuading the Turkish government to waive the compulsory military service requirement in Turkey for those individuals who possess Turkish-German dual nationality and who serve at least 15 months in the German army.

Maizière believes that Turks would rather serve in Germany than in Turkey, but Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz dismissed the idea out of hand, arguing that Turkish law does not permit Turkish citizens to substitute compulsory military service in Turkey for voluntary service in Germany, or any other country for that matter.

Maizière continues to insist that Turks serving in the German armed forces must have German citizenship, and that he has no intention of recruiting non-German citizens. "The model of a German foreign legion is out of the question," Maizière told reporters in Ankara.

But pressure is building for demographically challenged Germany to lower the military qualification standards and begin recruiting foreigners to staff its armed forces.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces in the German Bundestag, Hellmut Königshaus, recently argued that non-citizens should be allowed to join the German military. As an incentive, he proposed that Germany offer those immigrants who agree to become soldiers a fast-track procedure to become naturalized German citizens.

Königshaus has also dismissed the possibility of loyalty problems with individuals who do not have a German passport. "The requirement naturally must be that foreign candidates profess loyalty to our country and our Constitution, and also speak German," Königshaus said. "But why should the integration of foreigners in the military be any different than the integration of foreigners in the national football team?"

The answer to that question can be found in France, where the military has faced significant problems integrating Muslim soldiers into its ranks.

Muslim immigrants now represent an estimated 15% of all French military personnel (exact figures are unavailable; French law prohibits collecting data on religious affiliation). In real terms, there are around 30,000 active duty Muslims out of a total of 220,000 military personnel in the French Armed Forces.

Much of the debate about the issue of Muslims serving in the French military has revolved around the hypothetical question of how to predict the loyalty of Muslim troops in cases where the French military is involved in armed conflict with Muslim countries.

The issue of troop loyalty was brought to the fore following the Muslim riots in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities in October and 2005. The riots affected 274 French towns and cities and caused more than €200 million in property damage – as rioters burned 8,973 vehicles and hundreds of buildings.

At the time, French authorities were concerned that the riots might expand into a nationwide uprising of Muslims throughout the country; they were trying to forecast the behavior of Muslim soldiers in the case that the French army would be called upon to restore order.

Some surveys of Muslim immigrants in French suburbs show that fewer than 10% of respondents consider themselves French and just 1% say they are willing to die for France.

Consider a French-Algerian soldier named Aïcha who was asked about a hypothetical military conflict between France and Algeria. Dressed in a French army uniform, he said he could not imagine making war against his own people: "In my head, I am Algerian, I don't feel French. For me, the army is not about standing up for a nation, it's about finding a job." (The quote has since been removed from the website of the National Museum for Immigration History, the Cité nationale de l'histoire de l'immigration, where it was first published.)

The French daily newspaper Le Monde has quoted excerpts of a classified report that was prepared for the French Ministry of Defense on the topic of "Young Frenchmen of North African Origin" (JFOM, military parlance for "jeunes Français d'origine maghrébine") in the French military. The report states: "The JFOM are 3.5 times more likely [than native French soldiers] to commit desertion, six times more likely to refuse to obey orders, six times more likely to insult a superior officer, and eight times more likely to commit acts of insubordination."

The Le Monde article also makes mention of a mutiny aboard the French aircraft carrier Foch. News of the mutiny was first reported by the French newspapers La Marseillaise and L'Humanité; additional details were later filled in by other French newspapers.

The incident occurred during the NATO intervention in the former Yugoslavian province of Kosovo in 1999. The mutiny involved some 60 sailors of North African Muslim origin who kidnapped their weapons officer, supposedly to protest living conditions aboard the aircraft carrier. After being holed up in the ship's cafeteria for more than two days, French marine commando teams were sent in to "restore order" on the ship by liberating the kidnapped officer and evicting the mutineers, who were quickly "repatriated" to France.

Although the French Ministry of Defense has consistently refused to comment on the veracity of the reports (defense officials went so far as to ask the French media not to publish articles about the incident), several sources say the real reason behind the mutiny was that the North African sailors were opposed to French airstrikes on Kosovo, which is 90% Muslim.

More recently, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported that some Muslim soldiers in the French army had refused to fight in Afghanistan, citing their faith. A military spokesman interviewed by the newspaper said the refusal to deploy to Afghanistan represents "a misunderstanding of the meaning of their commitment to bear arms for France and to defend its interests and values ​​at all times and everywhere." The officer added: "A disciplinary procedure is systematically engaged in cases of a refusal to fight, resulting in most cases in a termination of contract."

Separately, during a March 2011 hearing on defense issues at the Assemblée Nationale, the lower house of the French Parliament, former French Minister of Defense Michèle Alliot-Marie revealed that the French Navy was having problems with "self-appointed imams" on board French naval vessels. In particular, commanders on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle became alarmed at the large groups of Muslims who were gathering on the ship. According to the testimony, the problem was being "resolved" by hiring professional imams to prevent self-appointed preachers from "giving [Muslim soldiers] alternative concepts of what it means to serve in the army."

The first such Muslim chaplain is a 32-year-old French-Tunisian named Mohamed-Ali Bouharb. According to Le Figaro, Bouharb's top priority as chaplain has been to organize a pilgrimage to Mecca for Muslim soldiers. The Defence Ministry actually promised to provide two government planes, seating 220 persons each, to fly the Muslim troops to Saudi Arabia so that they would not have to travel on private commercial flights.

Although religion and state remain firmly separated in the rest of French society, the military has accommodated its Muslim personnel in other ways as well. Acceding to Bouharb's demands, for example, the military now provides Muslim soldiers with halal meals and prayer rooms. The Muslim chaplaincy also publishes a magazine exclusively for Muslim soldiers, with glossy photos of mosques and recipes for meals to break the Ramadan fast.

In 2010, Bouharb caused a scandal when, in an interview with the American Internet newspaper Huffington Post, he publicly criticized the French president's decision to ban the burqa. Bouharb said: "[The burqa debate] is an excellent means to keep public opinion busy and to evade the real issues of unemployment, housing and economic crisis. And just as a reminder, this issue concerns only a very small minority of French Muslim women."

Following an uproar in France over the soldier's public criticism of the Commander in Chief, Bouharb tried to backtrack, saying his comments were taken out of context. But as the controversy drew attention to Bouharb's background, it emerged that he is in fact a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer.

For example, a cover story about Bouharb in a French Muslim cultural magazine called Salam News revealed that he had studied Islamic theology at the European Institute for Human Science (EIHS), a school run by the Muslim Brotherhood. French newspapers also reported that Bouharb has been attending conferences sponsored by the Union of Islamic Organization of France (UOIF), which represents the Muslim Brotherhood in France.

According to the Observatory of the Islamization of France, a research group, Bouharb "can legitimately be suspected of being an Islamist mole in the heart of the French army."

Other European countries have also had their concerns about Muslims in their militaries. In Austria, for example, three Muslim soldiers stationed at the Maria Theresien Barracks in the Hietzing district of Vienna refused to salute the Austrian flag at a parade (they actually turned their backs on it), explaining it is incompatible with their religion.

The Austrian newspaper Die Presse reported (the original article has been removed from the newspaper's website but a copy of the article can be found here) that three soldiers, all with Austrian citizenship, said they could not submit to the Austrian flag, and that also in the future they would not salute the flag nor even look at it.

The newspaper reported that the Muslim soldiers were not disciplined, but that an imam was eventually summoned to issue a fatwa (religious ruling) stating that Muslims are allowed to salute the Austrian flag.

Austrian Army officers have also complained that Muslim conscripts -- about 3.5% of the Austrian armed forces -- are unable to do most jobs because they have permission to pray five times a day, no matter what job they are performing at the time. Some who attend Friday prayers stay away for the rest of the day.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch army has stepped up its recruitment of Muslim youth to offset allegations of discrimination. But now the military intelligence agency MIVD is worried that an unknown number of Muslim soldiers are suspected sympathizers with radical Islamists. In its most recent annual report, MIVD states that it has conducted a number of investigations into "alleged radicalization of military personnel" as "there are signs that indicate a possible radicalization of Muslim individuals or groups within the armed forces." In past years, the Dutch military has investigated at least ten Muslim servicemen for subversion.

In Spain, military commanders terminated the contracts of more than a dozen Muslim soldiers stationed in the city of Ceuta, a Spanish exclave on the northern coast of Morocco, based on classified information that pointed to "lack of trust or dubious loyalty." Spanish authorities have been concerned about the security of Ceuta and its sister city Melilla, which Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has long threatened to "reconquer" for Islam.

In Switzerland, newspapers (here, here and here) have reported about concerns about the rising number of Muslim soldiers in the Swiss army. In 2010, the Swiss government drafted new rules that give Muslim soldiers special privileges, especially when it comes to food. But the five daily prayers will not be possible; recruits will be able to pray only once the day's army duties are over.

Soeren Kern is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.


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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: Tribal Democracy

by Mordechai Kedar

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

At the end of last week, for the first time in its history, free democratic elections were held in Libya for the 200 members of the Transitional Legislative Council; 120 "independent" members, meaning representatives of tribes and cities, and 80 representatives from nationwide political parties. As of this writing, the official results have still not been publicized, but according to the assessment of observers, Islamic forces have won a minority of seats in parliament. It should be mentioned that during the past year a Salafi jihadist stream led by Abd al-Hakim Belhadj appeared in Libya, which was a cause of very great concern to some external observers.

Libya is a desert country, part of the dry, arid Great Sahara Desert. Life in the desert constrains its residents to live within the framework of a clan, the size of which is limited by available sources of livelihood in the desert environment. Near a spring and its vegetation, which provides food and drink for them and their flocks, they would prefer to remain within a larger framework which would enable them to defend the sources of their livelihood. But in this arid environment of scant resources, they practice that which Abraham said to Lot in the Judean Desert "Please part from me" (Genesis 13: 9) and thus they live within smaller frameworks. The smaller the group, the more solidarity, toughness and cruelty is demanded in order to defend itself, its sources of livelihood and the honor of its daughters and wives from outsiders,

In Libya there is another factor which has had the effect of increasing tribal cohesion, and this is the dictatorial regime of Qadhaffi. In the context of life under a dictator, in which the tribe also serves as a defense of the individual against the oppression of the regime, the regime must work with the tribe, which defends the individual, in such a way as to arrive at agreements with the tribe and to honor its autonomy and interests, its leaders and its laws and customs. The desert tribe gives its members immunity from the state apparatuses; the situation of the Bedouin in the Negev vis a vis the Israeli government and in Sinai vis a vis the Egyptian government, are a good examples of this.

The conditions of the desert combined with the dictatorship of Qadhaffi created a situation where the great majority of the Libyan population was engaged in an ongoing battle against the forces of nature and the cruelty of man. This situation strengthened the tribal frameworks and turned them into fearless and merciless fighting militiamen. The difficulties create toughness, the battle justifies violence and the problems strengthen solidarity. This situation explains why Qadhaffi had to be so cruel in order to impose his rule upon the population, because there must be a match between the level of violence practiced by a society and the violence that a regime must use in order to subdue a society to submit to his authority for an extended period. There are rumors in Libya that the number of kalashnikovs possessed by the populace is twice the number of residents. Even if this rumor is an exaggeration, it is not far from the bitter and violent reality of this state, because people have weapons and will use them whenever a disagreement arises between them, and where a society engages in blood feuds, it is very difficult to put an end to them, and they continue for a long time and cause many casualties.

The Western democratic model is built on a basic rule, which is that everyone - individuals as well as groups - is constrained not to act with violence but to conduct disagreements and conflicts between them in a legitimate way, not by violence. Another principle in a democratic system is the importance of the individual who goes to the poll and votes according to his conscience, not according to the dictates of his family. However the elimination of the tribal framework and its function is an impossible task in the short run, and therefore young democracies must allow traditional, ethnic, tribal, religious and sectarian frameworks to express themselves, within a young democratic system. This forces it to fight for its legitimacy and survival vis a vis long-standing frameworks that are traditional, legitimate, strong, and sometimes violent .

Libya is a tribal society with a recent dictatorial past, and should not be expected to erase its tribal character and become an individualistic society overnight. A Marxist experiment such as this was carried out in South Yemen between 1967 and 1990, and failed. The migration to the city as a result of the development of an oil-based economy created in Libya a stratum of people with a local consciousness and less of a tribal one, but the characteristics of its behavior within the new framework are no different from those that characterized behavior within the tribal framework. The Bedouin proverb says: "It is easy to take the Bedouin out of the desert, but difficult to take the desert out of the Bedouin".

Since Qadhaffi was overthrown a year ago, conflicts have broken out between the tribes and the main ethnic groups in Libya, Arabs and Berbers, and it was clear that the new political framework, in order to be an acceptable and legitimate system, must consider the social, tribal structure of the population and not try to fight it. Therefore, the National Transitional Council which has been managing the state since the fall of Qadhaffi, pre-allocated 120 seats, which is 60 percent of the 200 seats of the parliament that was elected at the end of last week, to "independent representatives", meaning representatives of the tribes and the cities, and only 40 percent of the representatives (80 seats) from general national parties which are based on ideology, not on the tribe. The results were as expected: the Islamists were in the minority and the liberals, along with the independent representatives of the tribes, formed the majority.

Those in Libya who are responsible for planning the elections, learned from the experience of Tunisia and Egypt, who allocated much weight to the general national ideological parties, and this enabled the Islamist parties to win the leadership positions, since they were better organized than the liberal parties, their leadership has religious approval and they have organized, recognized and coherent ideologies. Liberals, who are usually anonymous, transmit new, unknown, incoherent ideas, which are usually not clearly understood by the population, part of which cannot read or write, and therefore are unable to win over large portions of the young democratic system in a tribal society. And if the Liberals transmit messages contrary to the religion or the tribal tradition, they are rejected.

The elections that were held in Libya were intended to set up a group that will write the constitution for the state, meaning the prescription according to which authorities will be divided between the parliament, the president, the legal system and the military. It is evident that in Libya they are learning from the failed experiments of Egypt, in which the military, which was appointed by Mubarak, and according to a legal ruling from Mubarak's era, dispersed the democratically elected Islamic parliament, greatly diminished the authorities of the Islamist president, who was also elected democratically, and cannot set up a body that will write the constitution for the state. The parliament in Libya is intended to allow a greater expression to the social mosaic of Libya, and to create an arena for political battle which is not violent and will not engender a contest between the liberals and the Islamists within it, and all of this without undermining its typical tribal character,.

No need to get excited by the announcements of people in Libya that Islamic Shari'a will be the basis for legislation in Libya, because - unlike Egypt where about one tenth of the citizens are Coptic Christians - all of the citizens of Libya are Muslims, and Shari'a guides their way. The tribal culture does not usually carry out amputation of the hands of thieves, and if someone sips a beer or whiskey in his house, the tribe will not necessarily make a big deal out of it. The fact that the Islamists, who won the lead in Tunisia and Egypt, have not solved the problems of their states diminishes the attractiveness of the Muslim Brotherhood motto "The Solution is Islam", and in Libya apparently the feeling is widespread that in reality, this is not the solution.

The new regime in Libya will have to find the teetering balance point between tribalism and individualism, between tradition and modernism, between Islam and liberalism, taking into account the divided, or even fragmented, social structure of the population, in the centers of power such as Tripolitania in the West, Cyrenaica in the East and Sabha in the South, with the local economic interests that are connected with the oil industry, and especially - with the many weapons that are in the hands of the population and the willingness of their owners to use them without warning.

No doubt, the task of post-Qadhaffi Libya is difficult; the road is long but the alternative is to return to dictatorship or to sink into a swamp of fire, blood and tears, that no one will be able to escape from. From this honorable stage I send the wishes of the citizens of Israel to our Libyan friends, that they will succeed in the enormous task that history has imposed upon them; that they will lead Libya forward towards success, and that they will remember that on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea there is a small democratic state that is willing to share with Libya its experience in industry, agriculture, desalination of water, water management, research, development, science and art.


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

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav.

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

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

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