Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Mega Mosques Boom

by Daniel Greenfield

Murfreesboro, a city in the heart of Tennessee, and, Marseille, France’s second-largest city and its largest city on the Mediterranean coast, have few things in common. The two cities are separated by nearly 5,000 miles, and by equally wide divisions of language and culture. And yet Murfreesboro and Marseille are connected by a common challenge. Both cities have struggled against the creeping rise of the mega mosques.

The mega mosque in Marseille has been the subject of an extended legal fight going back a decade. The one in Murfreesboro had a briefer history of being on the wrong side of the law. But in both cases elected officials did their best to aid the mega mosques while ignoring local residents and the law.

The mega mosque business is booming around the world. The Marseille mega mosque has a proposed capacity of 7,000 seats which would make it the largest mosque in France, overshadowing the Ervy mosque which has a mere 5,000 seats. Both of these French mega mosques would have been dwarfed by a proposed London mega mosque with 12,000 seats and usability targets as high as 40,000. If the London mosque is ever built, it will dominate the Mosque of Rome, currently the most mega of all the mega mosques of Western Europe.

The Ground Zero Mosque, located near the site of the most brutal Muslim atrocity inflicted on the West in centuries, had a more modest 2,000 seating capacity plan, but would be vertically taller than most of the mega-mosques with a proposed 100,000 square feet of space. This would make it larger than the Marseille mega mosque, the Murfreesboro mega mosque and the London mega mosque. But despite their differences in size, all four mega mosque projects have followed the same pattern of lawsuits, public protests, exposures of shady mosque backers and public officials eager to look the other way.

The Cologne mega mosque in Germany has also followed the same pattern and is set to become the biggest mosque in Germany. But big is never big enough. The Stockholm mega mosque was finished in the year 2000 and has a capacity of 2,000, but a decade later there was already a proposal to replace it with an even larger mega mosque. At its current size the Stockholm mega mosque had already managed to feature sermons in support of Islamic terrorism and serve as a recruitment center for Al-Qaeda. At several times the size the situation could only get worse.

In yet another common pattern of mega mosques, the Stockholm mega mosque was funded primarily by Sheikh Zayed, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The Cologne mega mosque was primarily funded by Turkey’s Islamist government. The Marseille mega mosque is being funded by a number of foreign Muslim governments.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has said, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.” The foreign funding of mega mosques has raised the question of whether Muslim governments aren’t constructing their own barracks and armies in the middle of European cities.

In some cases the militarization of the mega mosque is so overt that it might as well be a bayonet. One of the most blatant examples may be the Copenhagen mega mosque with a capacity of 3,000 which is being financed by Iran. Iran has already constructed another mega mosque in Helsinki and has similar plans all across Europe and the world.

The Copenhagen mega mosque’s Imam is Mohammed Mahdi Khademi who ran the ideology department of the Revolutionary Guard militia, an arm of the theocratic regime, which was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United States. It would be hard to imagine a more explicit example of mega mosque militarization than a regime that sponsors acts of worldwide terror funding a mega mosque headed by the former Islamist political commissar of its terrorist wing.

Not to be left out the Sunnis are getting their own Copenhagen mega mosque funded by Saudi Arabia. This will involve an architectural “mountain” across from the University of Copenhagen topped by two minarets, transforming the Sunni-Shiite rivalry into a competition to create the biggest Islamist eyesores in a city generally known for a quieter brand of architecture.

It’s not only in the West that the mega mosques are rising. In Moscow, Muslims have taken over entire streets to call for the construction of new mosques. And the Saudis have already offered to cover the cost.

In China, Saudi money has been transforming mosque designs from the Chinese pagoda to the dome and minaret favored by their new patrons. The more traditional Chinese look of the Great Mosque of Xi’an is making way for the Xiguan Mosque, a monstrous 3,000 capacity mega mosque which looks as if a chunk of Saudi Arabia had been dropped into the middle of Lanzhou.

In Argentina, a year after the bombing of the Jewish center by Muslim terrorists, President Carlos Menem, who has been accused of complicity in the attack, allotted 7.5 acres of public land to build the King Fahd Islamic Cultural Center, the largest mosque in Latin America. It overshadows the Caracas mega mosque in Venezuela which has a capacity of 3,500. Both mega mosques were built by the Saudi royal family.

For now the Islamic Center of America, located in sunny Dearborn, Michigan where Christians can expect to be stoned if they get too close, is the largest mega mosque in the United States. The Shiite mega mosque was already the target of a Sunni Islamic terrorist plot. Nearby is the Sunni Dearborn Mosque which claims the same capacity in an extension of the Sunni-Shiite rivalry. But so long as there’s oil money fueling the projects then the mega mosques will keep on growing.

From Markham in Canada down to New York City, and from the West Midlands in the United Kingdom to Sydney, Australia; cities around the world are facing the same threats to their communities. For Muslim states the mega mosque is a tool of power giving them the ability to centralize control of overseas Muslims with a single facility in a single city. For non-Muslim countries, the mega mosque is a center of subversion and terrorism.

As the mega mosque projects grow explosively across the country and the world, so does the resistance to the long shadows that they cast.

Daniel Greenfield


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Professor Berman's Mistaken Views on the Levy Report

by Wallace Edward Brand

Professor Berman of Brown University, in an article in the Times of Israel, has derided the Levy Report that parallels my own views, published as a two part op ed at Part 1:
Part 2: See also this simplifying video: Debunking the Palestine Lie"

Professor Berman claims my view should be ignored because it is a minority view of International Lawyers, a very small minority.

International Law by consensus is no better than science by consensus. See: Michael Crighton, Aliens Cause Global Warming, Science is done by the scientific method, by individual scientists testing hypotheses. Before Semmelweis it was the consensus that obstetricians need not wash their hands before helping a woman deliver a baby and these doctors wore their blood soaked aprons from previous births as a badge of their expertise. Infant mortality was high from puerperal fever when this consensus did their work and they gave Semmelweis a very hard time for expressing his novel views, 180 died out of 1,000. The idea conflicted with both the existing medical concepts and more importantly, with the image that doctors had of themselves -- that the doctors were helping, not killing their patients. That intransigence consigned large numbers of mothers to painful, lingering deaths. The scorn and ridicule of doctors was so extreme that Semmelweis moved from Vienna and was eventually committed to a mental asylum where he died. My dermatologist recently told me that at 82, I have a thinner skin, but even though thin skinned, I can take the derision of Berman. He and his consensus are killing Israel.

Berman seems to forget we are a government of law, not a government of men. We do law by the judicial process and not by voting.

The key to understanding what was intended by the Balfour Declaration and the agreement at San Remo and the cession of Palestine in Article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres (confirmed sub silentio by the Treaty of Lausanne) is a memo of the British Foreign Office on the cusp of its publication in 1917. That was a memo dated September 19th, 1917. It has apparently been overlooked by Berman. It was issued by the British Foreign Office to respond to critics of the proposed Balfour Declaration. The chief argument of these critics was that although the Jews had had a plurality of population in Jerusalem dating from 1845 and a majority since 1863, in all of Palestine (which was what was under consideration in the grant to the Jews), the Jews had only 60,000 population out of a total population of 600,000. They argued that sovereignty by a 10% minority would be antidemocratic. Woodrow Wilson was a chief proponent of this argument. That is not a bad argument. The French gave the Alawite minority in Syria sovereignty and look at the bloody mess now. The British Foreign Office also agreed with the argument in concept, but said that as applied to the proposed Balfour policy, the antidemocratic argument was :imaginary". This was the memo written by Arnold Toynbee (later an anti-semite) and Lewis Namier. The reason they gave that it was "imaginary" was because the political or national rights WERE TO BE GRANTED TO THE JEWS IN TRUST, not to vest until the Jews had attained a population majority and were ready to exercise sovereignty just as any other modern European nation-state. England or the US were contemplated as possible trustees.

That this prediction by Toynbee and Namier actually occurred was confirmed by Winston Churchill to a visiting delegation of Arabs following WWI, and by David Lloyd-George at the Paris Peace Conference.

What is a "mandate"? It is a thing devised by Jan Smuts and defined in Article 22 of the League Covenant or charter. It was Part I of the Paris Peace Treaty. Look at it and you will find it is intended to be based on the British legal concepts of "trust" and "guardianship". So to understand what was done, one must think not in terms of a hard bench law court, but in terms of the woolsack, of equity jurisprudence. It then becomes perfectly clear that the intention was to give the trustee or mandatory power the legal interest in the political or national rights to Palestine, and the beneficial interest to the World Jewry. Then, by not ceding any of these rights to a Foreign Power during the period needed to build a Jewish majority population, by engaging in close settlement on the land, and by facilitating Jewish immigration for the purpose of attaining a majority population ultimately, the interest of the Jews would change from a beneficial interest to a legal interest and they could commence the exercise of sovereignty.

This framing of the grant in terms of equity jurisprudence also leads to another conclusion. That is that by volunteering to be a trustee at the meeting of April 25, 1920 at San Remo, England undertook the obligations of a trustee. These are fiduciary obligations, the obligation to put the beneficiary's or ward's interest before those of your own. Perfidious Albion betrayed these obligations. The people in charge changed, their interests changed, and you can see it in the British White Papers of 1922, 1928 and 1939. First Churchill urged the League of Nations to suppress close settlement by the Jews in TransJordan temporarily citing "local conditions", then he got them to cede all of Palestine East of the Jordan River to Abdullah, a foreign power. Then it blocked the immigration of the Jews into Palestine that it, as trustee, was required by the trust document to facilitate.

Why did it do this? In the case of the change for Transjordan, it was because of its secret agreement with the French, the Sykes-Picot agreement that placed Syria in the French sphere of influence. After the war, it placed Feisal, one of King Hussein's sons on the throne of Syria. After the Battle of Maysalun, the French deposed him. Abdullah, a more warlike son of Hussein, marched his tribe to Eastern Palestine from the Hejaz in the Arabian Peninsula and made ready to attack the French at Damascus. To remedy these problems, Churchill decided to place Feisal on the throne of Iraq, and to give Transjordan to Abdullah and his Hashemite tribe. To soften the impact of this sudden reversal, the favoring of Abdullah was initially termed as a temporary situation in a new Article 25 of the mandate as presented by England to the League for confirmation in 1922. Later the grant became a permanent grant.

When England abandoned its trust in 1948, the Jewish population of all Palestine was still only one third. However the UN initially awarded Israel those parts of CisJordan (Palestine West of the Jordan) to the Jews that had the greatest Jewish population and likely had a majority of Jews. In any event by 1950 the Jews had a population majority. And it is only reasonable that when the trustee abandons his trust, the trust res devolves to the beneficiary, even thought the tacit condition of population majority had not been fulfilled.

Berman ignores this. He wants to have law by consensus, not by judicial process. He is wrong.

One reason that Berman can boast his is the majority view, is the difficulty of disseminating the above view to those who would be interested in the subject matter. I tried doing this at a recent conference at Harvard on March 3,4, 2012 and at another one at UCLA on May 15th. I was unsuccessful in getting an opportunity at either conference. The conference at Harvard was dominated by Arab intellectuals such as Sara Makdisi and Israeli post Zionism history revisionists such as Ilan Pappe' . Professor Alan Dershowitz referred to it in an article in NewsMax as a anti-semitic and anti-Zionist Hatefest. At UCLA there was an alleged debate between Islamic extremists Reza Aslan and Hussein Ibish. You can find a full account of all this at

Wallace Edward Brand

Source: Middle East and Terrorism

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U.S. Extradition Request Denied for Daqduq

by Alana Goodman

Hezbollah terrorist mastermind and killer of American troops Ali Mussa Daqduq was in U.S. custody in Iraq and could have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay years ago. Instead, the Obama administration decided to let an Iraqi court try him. In a development that should come as a shock to no one, Daqduq has been cleared of charges, and the latest U.S. extradition request has been denied. The Associated Press reports the unrepentant terror leader might be back out on the streets before the end of Ramadan:

The U.S. believes Ali Mussa Daqduq is a top threat to Americans in the Middle East, and had asked Baghdad to extradite him even before two Iraqi courts found him not guilty of masterminding the 2007 raid on an American military base in the holy Shiite city of Karbala.

But the July 30 decision by the Iraqi central criminal court, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, ordered that Daqduq be freed immediately. It also makes it clear that Iraq believes the legal case against him is over.

“It is not possible to hand him over because the charges were dropped in the same case,” the three-judge panel ruled. “Therefore, the court decided to reject the request to hand over the Lebanese defendant Ali Mussa Daqduq to the U.S. judiciary authorities, and to release him immediately.”

Daqduq was in Iraq to train militants to kill American troops. He is believed to be responsible for the death of five U.S. soldiers, four of whom were captured, tortured and shot execution-style. His release would deny justice for the families of those men, and free him up to plot further attacks on Americans and our allies.

Sen. Jeff Sessions tore into the Obama administration for losing control of the situation:

The Administration had years to transfer Daqduq to our detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, but because the President seemed to lack the political will to do so—I think because of campaign promises he improvidently made—one of the most dangerous, reprehensible terrorists ever in our custody will likely be allowed to go free. We should never have been in this position.

I and others saw this coming and we pleaded with the Administration not to allow it to happen. Sadly, our warnings fell on deaf ears and, sadly, we were proven correct. …

This policy cannot be defended. It has to end. So I urge the President and his team to act forcefully now. It may not be too late. With strong action we may be able to ensure that Daqduq is not released, that he is able to be tried for the murders he committed and the American soldiers he killed.

The Obama administration would argue that this isn’t their fault, that the Status of Forces Agreement required them to hand Daqduq over to the Iraqis when they pulled out. But that’s a cop out. The administration could have informed the Iraqis that, with all due respect, some prisoners are so reprehensible that they are simply not up for negotiation. They could have brought Daqduq to justice when they had the chance. Instead, they rolled the dice on the Iraqi court system, and lost — and the world may be less safe now because of it.

Alana Goodman


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Romney, Obama and the future of Jerusalem

by Dore Gold

What helped set the stage for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's visit to Israel this week was a heated exchange several days earlier between President Barack Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, and several reporters in the White House briefing room.

Carney adamantly refused to answer their repeated questions about the view of the U.S. on what the capital of Israel was. He only answered: "Our position hasn't changed." He kept dodging the question when it was asked again. All Romney had to do to set his position apart from that of the Obama administration was to craft a single sentence which provided the clarity that Carney had avoided.

Romney opened his first public address during his Israel visit with the words: “It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.” The choreography of Romney's speech was almost as important as its content. He was not going to go into detailed aspects of his Middle East policy and directly criticize the Obama administration while he was outside the U.S. But Romney could also deliver a strong statement just by his location. He stood before the golden walls of Jerusalem at sunset, just as the fast of Tisha B'av, commemorating the destruction of the temple, was drawing to an end.

With this solemn setting, at the very beginning of his speech, he also acknowledged Israel's historical rights: "To step foot into Israel is to step foot into a nation that began with an ancient promise made in this land." With this, there was a subtle critique of Obama's famous Cairo speech from 2009, which tied the creation of Israel to the suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. Obama's speech did not address the ancient ties of the Jewish people to their land that predated the horrors of the 20th century. In contrast, Romney began his visit to Israel by acknowledging Jerusalem, with its historic past, as part of modern Israel's origins.

Whether Romney was fully aware of it or not, the subject of Jerusalem has dogged Obama's relations with Israel during most of his period in office. As a candidate, on June 4, 2008, then Senator Obama gave a forceful defense of Israel's rights in Jerusalem during his speech at the annual AIPAC policy conference: "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided." Within a day, however, he appeared on CNN and said that he had misspoken, for Jerusalem was an issue for permanent-status negotiations. He then added later that Jerusalem should not be divided physically with "barbed wire," implying that some political division might be possible in the future.

What made Jerusalem into a major subject of particular contention between the administration and Israel was Obama's insistence that his demand for an Israeli settlement freeze apply to Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, as well. This became clear in explicit statements made by Ian Kelly, the State Department spokesman, in June 2009, just one month after the first Obama-Netanyahu summit meeting in the White House.

Practically, past U.S. administrations drew a distinction between their opposition to Israeli settlement construction in the territories and their more tolerant approach to construction in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem that Israel had annexed in 1967. True, in March 1980, the Carter administration supported U.N.Security Council Resolution 465 that called on Israel to halt construction in east Jerusalem and even dismantle Israeli housing there. But President Jimmy Carter later admitted that the U.S. vote at the U.N. was a mistake and he disavowed it because of the references to Jerusalem. Carter lost the New York Democratic Primary to Senator Ted Kennedy, who backed Israel on Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the distinction between West Bank construction, which the U.S. opposed, and Jerusalem construction, which it tolerated, appeared to have changed with the advent of the Obama administration.

The controversy reached a high point in March 2010, when the Housing Ministry announced a tender for the construction of 1,600 apartments in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood beyond the 1967 lines that has existed since the mid-1990s, when it was built during the Clinton administration. The construction proposals coincided with a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who appeared to understand that the decision was taken by low-level officials. Nonetheless, tensions between Washington and Jerusalem increased. In an unusual step, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel felt compelled to publish a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post on April 16, 2010, explaining to Obama the attachment of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.

The American Jewish Committee, which has been surveying Jewish opinion in the U.S. over the last decade, found in a 2011 survey that nearly 60 percent of American Jews opposed the redivision of Jerusalem. In Israel, the opposition to dividing Jerusalem was even greater: A 2011 poll by the Dahaf Institute of Mina Tzemach found an overwhelming majority of 85% recognized the importance of maintaining a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty within the framework of any peace arrangement.

Clearly taking a strong stand against Israel on Jerusalem placed Obama at a difficult position with both Israelis and American Jews. True, Obama did not formally declare that Jerusalem must be redivided, but his opposition to Israeli construction in east Jerusalem would have any objective observer conclude that this was indeed his intention, unless he makes a declaration to the contrary.

Romney left Israelis with a positive feeling about his warm connection to Israel. But once he is back in the U.S., and no longer restricted by being on foreign soil, he should consider providing more details about his policy. Will he use the language of some of his predecessors that Jerusalem will not be divided? A capital in Western Jerusalem alone does not assure a united city in the future. To his credit, Romney declared on March 6, 2012, at the last AIPAC conference, that he "would never call for a return to the ‘67 lines.”

But does he also support the language of former President George W. Bush's famous 2004 letter to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recognizing Israel's right to defensible borders instead? What are the implications for his remarks on the 1967 lines for how he envisions the future map of Jerusalem? For Israel, which is facing great uncertainty about the shape of the Middle East in the future, the answers to these questions will be critical for it being able to determine the extent of the diplomatic support it can count on as it seeks to protect its most vital interests in the future.

Dore Gold


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Battle for Aleppo rages in Syria

by Rick Moran

Rebels of the Free Syrian Army are so far managing to maintain a perilous hold on several key neighborhoods in the city of Aleppo - Syrian's largest and the commercial center of the country.

But the Syrian army is building up a massive armored force to move in and dislodge the FSA from their positions.


A Syrian activist told Reuters the rebels had earlier sought to extend their area of control from the Salaheddine district, where the most intense fighting has been focused, northwards to the area around the television and radio station.

"The Free Syrian Army pushed from Salaheddine to al-Adhamiya where they clashed this morning with Syrian troops. But they had to retreat," the activist who identified himself as Barraa al-Halabi told Reuters.

A 19-year-old fighter called Mu'awiya al-Halabi, who was at the scene, said Syrian snipers surrounded the station and targeted the rebels.

"We were inside it for a few hours after clashes with the Syrian army but the Syrian army sent snipers and surrounded the TV station and as soon as morning came, the army started shooting. One of our fighters was martyred and four were wounded," he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said 110 people had been killed on Friday, including 88 civilians, also confirmed the clash near the television and radio station. It said the terrestrial signal for Syrian television in Aleppo had been cut off.

Syrian television said a large number of terrorists, the term it uses for the rebels, were killed and wounded after they tried to storm the television and radio station in Aleppo.

A Reuters journalist who witnessed the clashes said a helicopter strafed rebel positions with machine gun fire near a police station which anti-Assad fighters took on Friday.

"Wake up, wake up. The army's coming," local rebel commander Abu Ali told fighters sleeping in the Zibdeyyeh police station.

Black smoke rose into the sky from areas of Salaheddine, which is seen as a gateway for the Syrian army into the city of 2.5 million inhabitants. Its fate could determine the outcome of a war that has already claimed some 18,000 lives.

At least 10% of the 2.5 million inhabitants of Aleppo have become refugees. The FSA has been pleading with the international community to feed and shelter the multitude as they have no food, even for themselves. Unless a way can be found to get food to these people sometime in the next week, a massive human tragedy beyond anything that has already happened in Syria will occur.

Rick Moran


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'Why Not ObamaCare?'

by Joe Herring

Millions of people like ObamaCare. The idea of universal coverage appeals to many Americans, as does the ability to cover adult children on a parent's policy. Addressing the subject of pre-existing conditions and portability of health insurance are also considered to be major benefits by respondents in many polls.

The left has done a good job of selling the high points of the "Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act" (ACA) to a frustrated population, leading many voters to ask Republican candidates, "Why not ObamaCare?" We conservatives had better provide those folks with an understandable answer to that question, or we will live with the slow-motion horror of collectivist medicine for decades to come.

To explain the ACA, it isn't necessary to plumb the bureaucratic depths of the legislation. The bill itself is 2,700 pages, and the implementing regulations thus far written already exceed 13,000 pages, yet they cover only roughly 20% of the bill. By the time they are complete, the tax code will seem a mere pamphlet in comparison.

A compelling argument against the ACA can be made by discussing just three things: the professional backgrounds of the people who designed the scheme, the principles that underlie it, and finally, the nearly identical "sister systems" already in use around the world. Few Americans realize that the architects of the ACA have already implemented their ideas in other countries, providing us with an invaluable glimpse into our own future.

The architects of ObamaCare are all world-renowned experts on the rationing of care in a collectivist model. Dr. Donald Berwick, who was recess-appointed by President Obama to be the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (until he resigned rather than face Senate confirmation hearings), is a lifelong advocate of the single-payer collectivist model and a senior policy advisor to "The Commonwealth Fund," a left-wing American think-tank dedicated for the last 90-odd years to transitioning the American system to a nationalized model.

Berwick is one of the original architects of the rationing board for the British National Health Service, known as the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, or by the Orwellian acronym NICE. One of Berwick's Commonwealth Fund acolytes, a former Harkness Fellow at the think-tank, is Kalipso Chalkidou, the current head of the international division of NICE. She travels the world teaching other nations how to implement the NICE model of cost-containment via the withholding of treatments and procedures.

Also playing on this field is Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. A bioethicist with the National Institute of Health, Emanuel is the designer of the "Complete Lives System," a formula for making decisions as to who will receive life-saving treatment and who will not.

The collectivist model of medicine requires doctors and hospitals to input a patient's individual data into templates like the Complete Lives System, to determine the appropriate course of treatment. Using a method called "Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) (which quantifies the "best practices" for given medical circumstances), the template informs the doctor which treatments are available, and which are not "cost-effective" for that patient. Not surprisingly, the old and infirm, the very young, and the disabled score much lower than the rest of the population, and these groups are afforded fewer options for care. Comparative Effectiveness Research forms the basis for NICE and is the animating principle underlying the ACA.

President Obama appointed Ezekiel Emanuel to the "Federal Coordinating Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research" and gave the Council a billion-dollar funding endowment from his stimulus bill in 2009. The Council has received ongoing funding in excess of half a billion dollars annually ever since. Clearly, the Obama administration is serious about CER.

Whenever Congress passes a law, the nuts and bolts of its function must be codified through the writing of implementing regulations. The "devil is in the details," as the saying goes, and it is these implementing regulations that will put the teeth in the ACA's bite.

The ACA uses the phrase "... as the Secretary shall determine" a bit less than 3,000 times. It seems that whenever the bill-drafters found a provision to be thorny or difficult to design, they simply punted those decisions to the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius.

It is this distressing incoherence that delegates immense power to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. They are allowed to make momentous decisions through the writing of the implementing regulations, regarding the access, delivery, and availability of health care in America. This is what Nancy Pelosi likely referred to when she said that "we have to pass the bill so we can find out what is in it." The actual day-to-day functioning of the system has not yet been worked out, and the people making those decisions within our government -- the bureaucracy -- are the farthest removed from public scrutiny and oversight.

The ACA and systems like it seek to provide the greatest quantity of treatments for the largest number of people for the least amount of cost. While that may appear to be a laudable goal at first blush, it is important to understand what that phrase looks like in practice before embracing it. Whenever resources are limited, a balance must be struck between what can be done and what must be done. Our present system of private insurance attempts a similar task, but from a far different mindset.

While watchful of costs, private insurers are also aware of the individual legal sovereignty of each patient and that patient's ability at law to punish the insurer for failure to cover costly but necessary treatments. Also nudging the insurer towards fairness is the need to protect its own reputation in the marketplace in order to gain new clients. No one wants to buy insurance from a company known to abandon its insured.

The collectivist's concern, however, is not for the individual patient, or for that patient's particular circumstances. A collectivist system requires its administrators to focus on the health of the system as a whole when determining what treatments are approved, what tests are permissible, and which patient will "score" highly enough to merit a life-saving medical intervention.

This is the situation millions of British, Dutch, and other European citizens face daily under ObamaCare's sister-systems. The British call it "tick-box" medicine, and it is deadly. In Great Britain, tens of thousands of elderly and disabled each year are prematurely ushered to life's exit through the misuse of a palliative care protocol intended to be instituted only in the final hours of a patient's life. Instead, physicians and hospitals are placing difficult-to-treat cases on the pathway, legally withholding food and water and medical treatment, thereby hastening death. The pathway is routinely used to cut costs and clear beds for incoming patients.

In the Netherlands (under a similar system), as many as 40% of all deaths annually occur as a result of either assisted suicide or some form of euthanasia. Active euthanasia was legalized there in 2006, and the Dutch have proudly advertised that the rate of euthanasia has barely increased in the years since. However, the touted statistics have been gamed to exclude the use of "passive" euthanasia, also known as "Continuous Deep Sedation" (CDS), which has skyrocketed, accounting for as many as 49,500 deaths annually.

Dutch doctors are also placing patients into CDS under a protocol known as "intensified alleviation of symptoms," ostensibly to relieve their pain. The patient is then kept in this diminished state until his organs fail and death occurs, hastened by the effects of the sedation itself. Moreover, according to a report in the British medical journal The Lancet, 42% of the time, this scenario plays out without permission or notification of families or even the patient. These deaths are also not counted as either active or passive euthanasia, serving to further shroud the growing prevalence of state-sponsored killing.

It is telling that a collectivist model of medicine requires otherwise rational, intelligent, and highly educated men and women to devise ways of convincing themselves that they are not actively snuffing out the lives of fellow human beings.

The most compelling argument against ObamaCare has nothing to do with care or cost. It concerns power, and whether we, as citizens, choose to retain that power for ourselves or vest it in bureaucrats with whom we have no meaningful influence. ObamaCare is unconstitutional, although not for the reasons argued before the Supreme Court. Rather, ultimately, the ACA by necessity will abrogate the most fundamental right our maker reserved to us: our right to remain alive.

Joe Herring writes from Omaha, NE and welcomes visitors to his website,


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EU "Upgrades" Relations with Israel, Strangling Strings Attached

by Soeren Kern

The upgrade, which comes amid a barrage of unending criticism of Israel's policies, in fact appears aimed at increasing Israel's economic dependence on the European Union, with the objective of enhancing the bloc's leverage over the State of Israel. Authored by EU delegations to the Palestinian Authority, the document includes severe recommendations meant to strengthen Palestinian control over East Jerusalem and coerce Israel to change its policy in the West Bank. The document is unprecedented in that it deals with internal Israeli issues.

The European Union has upgraded trade and diplomatic relations with Israel in more than 60 activities and fields, including agriculture, energy and immigration.

But the wide-ranging boost to bilateral relations, which was announced at the annual EU-Israel Association Council meeting in Brussels on July 24, is unlikely to end the deep-seated hostility European officialdom harbors towards the Jewish state.

The move, which comes amid an unending barrage of European criticism of Israeli policies in the West Bank, Gaza and within Israel itself, in fact appears aimed at increasing Israel's economic dependence upon the European Union, with the objective of enhancing the bloc's leverage over the State of Israel.

As a whole, the package stops short of the full upgrade in relations that was frozen after Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip in January 2009, but is highly significant nonetheless.

Among other measures, the European Union will remove obstacles impeding Israel's access to European government-controlled markets and enhance Israel's co-operation with nine key EU agencies, including the European Police Office (Europol), the EU's Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Notably absent from the package is the Agreement on Conformity, Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA), a trade agreement that seeks to eliminate technical barriers to trade in industrial products, with the objective of increasing European access to Israeli markets, and vice-versa.

Although the European Commission and the European Council approved the ACAA in March 2010, ratification of the agreement has been held up in the European Parliament due to lobbying by pro-Palestinian activist groups, who argue that the agreement will benefit Israeli companies that do business in the disputed, so-called Occupied Territories.

The Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament (AFET) on June 7 recommended that the ACAA be ratified, but its fate will be determined by the Committee on International Trade (INTA), which is scheduled to vote on the measure on September 18, 2012.

In any event, the official EU statement announcing the upgrade in bilateral relations is also replete with condescending criticism of Israel, which the EU accuses of perpetrating a wide range of human rights abuses in the "occupied Palestinian territory (oPt)" and within Israel itself.

Among other items, the statement refers to Israel's obligation to protect the rights of the Arab-Palestinian minority, stressing the "importance to address it as a core problem in its own right." The document also condemns the "excessive recourse by Israel to administrative detention."

The EU urges Israel "to refrain from actions which may…curtail the freedom of association and freedom of speech (of civil society)" and it calls on Israel to prosecute "settler extremists" for their "continuous violence and deliberate provocations against Palestinian civilians."

The statement "stresses Israel's obligations regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian population" and condemns "developments on the ground which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible, such as, inter alia, the marked acceleration of settlement construction, ongoing evictions of Palestinians and the demolition of their housing and infrastructure in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including East Jerusalem, the worsening living conditions of the Palestinian population and serious limitations for the Palestinian Authority to promote the economic development of Palestinian communities, in particular in Area C."

The EU is also "concerned about reports on a possible resumption of construction of the separation barrier because the EU considers that the separation barrier where built on occupied land is illegal under international law, constitutes an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two-state solution impossible."

The statement comes amid a wave of official EU criticism of Israel that is often one-sided, disproportionate and bordering on obsessive.

In July, for example, the European Parliament passed a highly biased resolution accusing Israel of literally dozens of offenses against the Palestinian population, Palestinian institutions and even Arab Bedouins. The statement criticizes Israel for "expansion of settlements and settler violence, planning restrictions and the consequent acute house shortage, house demolitions, evictions and displacements, confiscation of land, difficult access to natural resources, and the lack of basic social services and assistance…" The resolution even accuses Israel of "creating an institutional and leadership vacuum in the local Palestinian population."

In June, EU "Foreign Minister" Catherine Ashton, who has a well-earned reputation for making statements that seek to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state, criticized Israeli policies that "are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible." Since assuming her post in December 2009, Ashton has never criticized Palestinian obstructionism and their setting impossible preconditions for entering genuine peace talks with Israel. (In March, Ashton famously equated the killing of three children at a Jewish school in France with "what is happening in Gaza.")

In May, the EU's 27 foreign ministers unanimously condemned "the ongoing evictions and house demolitions in East Jerusalem, changes to the residency status of Palestinians…the prevention of peaceful Palestinian cultural, economic, social or political activities…the worsening living conditions of the Palestinian population…of jeopardizing the major achievements of the Palestinian Authority in state-building…the continuous settler violence and deliberate provocations against Palestinian civilians…" But nowhere does the document call on the Palestinian Authority to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, a move that arguably more than any other would advance Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

In January 2012, the EU published a document called "The EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem" which makes an urgent plea for the EU to adopt a more "active and visible" implementation of its policy towards Israel and the peace process.

Authored by EU delegations to the Palestinian Authority, the document includes severe recommendations meant to strengthen Palestinian control over East Jerusalem and coerce Israel to change its policy in the West Bank.

The document recommends that the European Union fund Palestinian construction projects in Area C of the West Bank without Israel's cooperation, undermining Israeli control. But under the Oslo Accords, Area C is under full Israeli civil and security control; it contains all of Israel's West Bank settlements and a small Palestinian population. The EU document also states that Israel's policies are undermining the prospect of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, and calls on Israel to support Palestinian construction across Area C and in East Jerusalem.

The report includes a radical proposal for "appropriate EU legislation to prevent/discourage financial transactions in support of settlement activity." Under the proposal, the European Commission would use legislation to force European companies to stop doing business with companies involved in settlement construction and commercial activities.

Recommendations include the preparation of a "blacklist" of settlers considered violent in order to consider later the option of banning them from entering the European Union. The document also seeks to encourage more PA activity and representation in East Jerusalem.

The report advises senior EU figures visiting East Jerusalem to refrain from being escorted by official Israeli representatives or security personnel. In addition, the document encourages officials to instruct European tourism firms to refrain from supporting Israeli businesses located in East Jerusalem and to raise EU public awareness of Israeli products originating from the settlements or from East Jerusalem.

In December 2011, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz obtained a classified working paper produced by European embassies in Israel, which recommended that the European Union should consider Israel's treatment of its Arab population a "core issue, not second tier to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

The document is unprecedented in that it deals with internal Israeli issues. According to European diplomats and senior Foreign Ministry officials quoted by Haaretz, the document was written and sent to EU headquarters in Brussels behind the back of the Israeli government.

Other issues the document deals with include "the lack of progress in the peace process, the continued occupation of the territories, Israel's definition of itself as Jewish and democratic, and the influence of the Israeli Arab population."

The original document also included suggestions for action the EU should take, but these were removed from the final version at the insistence of several countries. Among these were the suggestion that the EU file an official protest every time a bill discriminating against Arabs passes a second reading in the Knesset, and that the EU ensure that all Arab towns have completed urban plans, "with each member state potentially 'adopting' a municipality to this end."

Haaretz reported that, according to a European diplomat involved in drafting the report, work on it began in 2010 at the initiative of Britain. The idea was to write a report that could be debated by a forum of EU foreign ministers. At some point, however, several countries, among them the Czech Republic, Poland and the Netherlands, expressed objections to its contents and the document was watered down.

Also in December, four EU members of the UN Security Council issued an angry joint statement branding Israeli "settlements" in Palestinian occupied territories and East Jerusalem as "illegal under international law." The statement said: "We call on the Israeli government to reverse these steps. The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel's long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements."

While the EU continues to exert pressure on Israel, Jerusalem has been unable to extract meaningful concessions from Brussels. For example, the EU has once again rejected an Israeli request that the bloc designate the Lebanon-based Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently launched a new diplomatic push to convince the EU to outlaw Hezbollah following the murders of five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver on July 18. Israel blames Hezbollah for the suicide bombing at Bulgaria's Burgas airport.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, whose country currently heads the EU presidency, said there is "no consensus among the EU member states for putting Hezbollah on the terrorist list of the organization," and claimed that there is "no tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism."

Lieberman has also failed to persuade Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, to "intervene" on Israel's behalf in a controversy regarding Tunisia's desire to include a clause in its new constitution making normalized relations with Israel a criminal offense.

As these examples and many others indicate, Israel should be under no illusion that the recent "upgrading" of bilateral relations with the European Union will end European hostility toward the Jewish state. Quite to the contrary; Israel should be expecting an increase in European meddling in its internal affairs.

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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The French Railroad and the Holocaust

by Michael Curtis

In all these legal encounters, the SNCF has used contradictory, but successful, arguments. In the French case, it argues that the court has no jurisdiction over it because it was a private company. In the U.S., it argues that courts have no jurisdiction over it because it was not a private company but an arm of the French government.

Even though in wartime France, under the Vichy regime headed by Marshal Pétain, people behaved in a manner thought necessary for survival, the issue of legal as well as moral judgment has arisen again in lawsuits involving the actions of the Societé Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), the French railroad system, during World War II. For a long time there was denial and an eerie silence on the part of postwar French authorities in general, and the SNCF in particular, about their participation in the Holocaust. Only on November 4, 2010 did Guillaume Pepy, the present chair of the SNCF, issue a statement that "The Nazis and their French Vichy collaborators directed these terrible actions," and conveyed "profound sorrow and regret for the consequences" of the acts of SNCF. Those acts were the transport in French trains of 76,000 Jews in France to the death camps.

Pepy again spoke on the issue in January 2011 in Bobigny, a suburb of Paris, the depot and transfer point from which 22,000 Jews who had been interned at Drancy were shipped to Auschwitz and other places. He then said "In the name of the SNCF I bow down before the victims, the survivors, the children of those deported, and before the suffering that still lives." He pledged that a memorial would be built at Bobigny to commemorate the victims.

Whether this pledge was sincere or cynical is a matter of judgment particularly in view of the eagerness with which the SNCF has been a bidder to build lucrative high-speed rail projects in Florida and California, where a number of Holocaust survivors still live.

Opposition from Holocaust survivors in these two states has arisen because of the fact that the SNCF has never made any restitution or reparations to the victims. In spite of these recent expressions of regret, the company is still unwilling to provide compensation to survivors for its wartime actions, all of which have been amply documented. From March 27, 1942 to August 17, 1944, in French trains, the SNCF transported 76,000 Jews in 75 convoys from French camps to the death camps. Fewer than 3,000 would return.

Two facts make the participation of the SNCF in the Holocaust even more jarring. One is that the transports continued into August 1944, two months after the Allied landing on D-Day and a week before Paris was liberated. The other is the Germans paid SNCF per head and per kilometer for a third class ticket for the victims who, in fact, were cheated even in this way by being transported, in about 3,000 cattle wagons, each usually containing 50 people. Accounts of those transports indicate that conditions were horrendous: long trips lacking elementary hygiene, and with minimal food and water supplies. The SNCF was well paid for its activities; it even continued to reclaim payments of bills after the liberation.

Did the SNCF have any choice other than to transport the 76,000 Jews to death camps? By an agreement of June 30, 1940, Germany approved the principle of French operation of the French railroads under German supervision. Like other French agencies, the SNCF willingly undertook the services required by the Nazis. Although it did in reality have a margin for manoeuvre and to undercut orders, it ran the transport trains without any secrecy on regular schedules, in full knowledge of the ultimate fate of the Jewish passengers. It never tried to delay a train or to prompt sabotage. Except in a few cases, orders were carried out without protest or resistance. The railcars were disinfected after each deportation and prepared for the next shipment. Senior rail officials accompanied the trains to the French border.

Those officials justified their behavior in two ways. One was that the SNCF was simply applying the laws and rule of the Vichy government. The other was that they were forced to comply with the Nazi demands. These arguments are not only morally putrid and inhumane; they were also refuted -- albeit indirectly: the SNCF was not specifically mentioned by name -- by the French Conseil d'État in February 2009, when it declared that the state, at that time governed by the Vichy government, was responsible for facilitating the deportation of Jews. Both the Vichy government and the SNCF were now seen to have committed crimes against humanity.

The arguments of the SNCF officials are fallacious. Only one SNCF worker, a man named Léon Bronchart, refused on October 31, 1942 to work on a convoy. He was given only a brief suspension for his action; he has been honored by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as a "righteous gentile." His action showed that acts of courage and refusal to comply with unjust orders were possible without serious punishment.

On the actions of the SNCF, the official, impartial report by Christian Bachelier is devastating. Bachelier found no record of any official protest by SNCF against the deportations. He concluded that, right from the start, representatives of SNCF were involved in the technical details of transport. The SNCF participated in the events following the roundup of 13,000 Jews in Paris on July 16, 1942, 8,000 of whom were held in the Vél d'Hiver cycling stadium, since demolished. The SNCF also managed the transport of these Jews to the camps of the Loiret. In addition, the SNCF managed the transport of Jews from the "free" Vichy area to occupied northern France. The French convoys of these victims, openly and fully listed as part of European railroad scheduling agenda, were formed, routed, and driven by French railroad employees.

The moral case against SNCF is clear; more in question is the legal argument. The SNCF was formed on January 1,1938 by the consolidation of five privately owned rail companies; the French state owned 51% and subsidized it. During World War II, between 1940 and 1944, it remained a private enterprise, controlled by the Vichy government, but was acquired by the French state only after the war. On December 31, 1982 all assets of the SNCF passed to the state; thus SNCF became a state-owned body without any change to its corporate form.

Up to 2001 the French government and its agencies were immune from prosecution because they, including SNCF, claimed sovereign immunity. This immunity was lifted in 2001 and therefore agencies could be sued. Further, because it is partly state-owned, the SNCF has continued to claim protection under the U.S. 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act.

Holocaust survivors and descendants of those transported have in recent years, both in France and in the U.S., sought financial compensation as well as SNCF acknowledgment of guilt. A lawsuit was brought in France by Alain Lipietz on behalf of his uncle and his half-brother, who had been transported in 1944 from Toulouse to Drancy, the French antechamber of Auschwitz. In June 2006, the court in Toulouse found the SNCF guilty of collaborating with the Nazis in deporting the two men. Even though both men survived the war, the SNCF was fined 61,000 euros for this act. However, in the Court of Appeals in Bordeaux, in March 2007, the case was dismissed. The case then went to the Conseil d'État, the French administrative court of last resort, which, without commenting on the substantive issues, concluded on December 21, 2007 that it lacked jurisdiction in the matter as the grievance was not a French state issue. Its rationale was that although the SNCF during the war was a mixed enterprise, essentially it was a private company.

After the Lipietz trial hundreds of other survivors filed similar claims. As France has no class-action suits, the SNCF has to answer each claim, which leads to individual lawsuits. Since the decision of the Conseil d'État, however, the French courts are closed to individual suits against SNCF.

In the U.S., a class-action suit (Abrams v. SNCF) was brought on behalf of over 300 survivors. The court held in December 2001 that it lacked jurisdiction because SNCF was an agency or instrumentality of a foreign state protected under the U.S. 1976 law. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that at the time the actions occurred, the SNCF was not a state agency. But the charges that SNCF had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity were dismissed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for lack of jurisdiction. It held that the "evil actions" of SNCF were not "susceptible to legal redress in U.S. federal court today."

Another lawsuit (Freund v. SNCF), filed in March 2006 by 26 persons who were then joined by 400 others, charged that the SNCF collaborated with the occupation authorities, complied with their instructions and profited from its actions. The main attorney for the plaintiffs, Harriet Tamen, contends that SNCF was an independent commercial and economic entity and therefore can be sued.

There is no French government fund with a finite amount with which to compensate victims. Ms. Tamen contends that the only specific fund was established by French banks -- with no funding from the government -- to make restitution for funds that were taken from Jewish account holders but which were never returned. The lawsuit she is conducting is not against the government but against a privately owned French company alleged to have been involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in September 2010 held that immunity still applied to SNCF.

In all these legal encounters the SNCF has used contradictory, but successful, arguments. In the French case, it argues that the court has no jurisdiction over it because it was a private company. In the U.S., it argues that courts have no jurisdiction over it because it was not a private company but an arm of the French government.

To overcome the obstacles a bill, the Holocaust Rail Victims Justice Act, was introduced in the US Congress in March 2011 to allow US citizens and others to make claims and to take action against railroad companies that had deported them or their relatives to Nazi concentration camps on trains owned or operated by those companies. The bill would waive the claim of the SNCF that it is shielded by foreign sovereignty protection. At this point, August 2012, the bill has not passed.

Some French historians and official Jewish community leaders, including Roger Cukierman , head of CRIF (the official organization of French Jews), and Serge Klarsfeld and his son Arno, have opposed or been neutral to the claims against the SNCF on the grounds that it was acting under duress, under orders, and that it has been more forthright than other French bodies in explaining its wartime activities. But it is difficult to accept this perspective of SNCF in view of the recent statements of Mr. Pepy that "the French and their Vichy collaborators directed these terrible actions." The time is long overdue for reparation to be paid.

Michael Curtis is author of Should Israel Exist? A Sovereign Nation under attack by the International Community.


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Dealing with the Devil in Syria

by Robert Spencer

A video circulating this week of Syrian rebels shouting “Allahu akbar” and executing four Assad partisans has horrified many in the West, but there have been numerous indications before this that the resistance to the Assad regime is not made up of the democratic pluralists of mainstream media myth.

Not surprisingly, that hasn’t stopped Barack Obama. According to Reuters Wednesday, he “has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.”

This will meet with bipartisan support. Gary Schmitt and Thomas Donnelly wondered last week in the mainstream Republican Weekly Standard: “Why hasn’t President Obama intervened militarily in Syria? After all, this is a president who issued a directive last year stating that a ‘core’ national security interest of the United States would be to prevent mass atrocities of precisely the kind Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is now unleashing on his own people. And this is a president who, to his credit, helped remove Muammar Qaddafi from power.”

Schmitt and Donnelly appear untroubled by the fact that the new leadership of Libya is made up of Muslim Brotherhood Sharia supremacists who, as they impose the fullness of Islamic law upon Libya, will impose all of Sharia’s legal oppression of women, non-Muslims, ex-Muslims, and others, and are certain to be no friend of the United States. And now they want Barack Obama to enable a similar regime to come to power in Syria. Their call for him to do so didn’t mention the Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaeda, of course. Instead, they give the impression that they accept the prevailing mainstream media myth, that the anti-Assad forces in Syria are Western-style pluralist democrats, as they were advertised as being in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

They aren’t any such thing in Syria, any more than they were in those other “Arab Spring” countries. John Cantlie, a British photographer, and his Dutch colleague, Jeroen Oerlemans, were recently kidnapped by Islamic supremacist rebels in Syria who threatened to murder them unless they converted to Islam. Significantly, they noted that where they were held, the rebel fighters were Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Chechens, with nary a Syrian in sight – a clear indication that jihadis from all over the world had traveled to Syria to participate in what they considered to be a jihad there: the uprising against the Assad regime. “As soon as Assad has fallen,” Oerlemans declared, “these fighters want to introduce Islamic law, Sharia, in Syria.”

Another sign of the jihadist character of the Syrian rebels is the rampant persecution of Christians. The Christians in Syrian generally tend to favor the Alawite Assad regime, which despite its repressive character is still a Ba’athist, generally secular regime that accords Christians more rights than they would enjoy in a Sharia state. “We’re too frightened to talk,” one Christian told an inquiring journalist. “Last summer Salafists came to Qusayr, foreigners. They stirred the local rebels against us. They sermonized on Fridays in the mosques that it was a sacred duty to drive us away. We were constantly accused of working for the regime. And Christians had to pay bribes to the jihadists repeatedly in order to avoid getting killed.” Another added: “Anyone who believes in this cross suffers.”

Thousands of Christians have been displaced from their homes, and others have left Syria altogether. Melkite Greek Catholic Bishop Philip Tournyol Clos lamented: “The picture for us is utter desolation. The church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their inhabitants, who fled without taking anything.”

They have done so in the face of increasing jihadist assertiveness. In mid-July, a group calling itself the Brigade of Islam claimed responsibility for a bombing that murdered several key Syrian officials, including the nation’s defense minister and Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has said that he believes that al-Qaeda was responsible for this bombing – and certainly it is active among the Syrian rebel forces.

The main beneficiary, however, of the toppling of Assad could be the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria Brotherhood chief Mohammad Riad Shakfa has said that after “long years of repression by the regime,” the movement has its best-ever chance to seize power there. The ANSAmed news agency explains: “The biggest force on the Syrian National Council, which is the West’s main opposition interlocutor, and very influential in the Syrian Free Army, the Muslim Brotherhood is supported by Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also a Sunnite, and whom Assad accuses of fomenting a religious war in his country. If Syria were to follow the Egyptian model post-Assad, the country’s next leader might well be from the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Of course, Barack Obama enabled the new Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt to take power, and has warmly supported it despite increasing signs that it intends to impose Sharia, continue the repression of Christians that has been rampant in Egypt since the beginning of the “Arab Spring,” and even go to war with Israel. So why should Syria be any different? And indeed, it is not: in both cases, the United States is applauding and abetting the installation of regimes that will not show any gratitude toward its patrons in Washington, but which will instead pursue a jihadist course that is almost certainly to mean decades of strife and bloodshed to come.

If Jimmy Carter had any vestigial moral sense, he would deeply regret his active role in enabling the advent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And if Barack Obama has any, he should likewise one day regret his role in the advent of Islamic supremacist Sharia states in Egypt and Syria. But however those men view their sorry legacy, conservatives of all camps should not make the mistake of supporting U.S. intervention on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies in Syria.

Robert Spencer


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The Death of Diplomacy in Syria

by Rick Moran

Citing the intransigence of the Assad regime and the lack of unity in the UN Security Council, Special Envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League Kofi Annan resigned his position effective at the end of the month. The former UN Secretary General is quitting at a time when violence in Syria has exploded into a full blown sectarian civil war, with atrocities being committed on both sides, and the major world powers now committed to their own proxy war, backing one side or the other in an increasingly chaotic and violent conflict.

Annan’s resignation also signals, for all intents and purposes, the end of diplomatic efforts to halt the conflict. Ban Ki-moon, the current UN Secretary General, says he will name a replacement for Annan but no one in the international community expects the next envoy to have any more luck in halting the violence than Annan did. There is a desultory debate in the UN General Assembly over a Syrian resolution that is already so watered down that in order to get a majority vote in that powerless body, sponsors have removed a demand for President Assad to step down and dropped a call for sanctions on Syria.

Meanwhile, the war has escalated almost exponentially since the blast that killed 4 key advisors to Assad on July 18. The emboldened Free Syrian Army (FSA) is tenaciously hanging on to positions in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and the country’s commercial center, as government forces are shelling, bombing, strafing, and terrorizing the city of 2.5 million people. More than 250,000 refugees have poured out of the city and the FSA is pleading for humanitarian aid to feed and shelter the multitudes.

Annan’s futile efforts to stop the violence in Syria are added to other failures in his career that include an inability to stop the massacres in Bosnia in the 1990s, the Rwandan genocide where 800,000 were murdered, the tragedy in Darfur where upwards of 450,000 were killed, and Iraq’s oil for food scandal that hit close to home when his own son was accused of profiting from Saddam Hussein’s multi-billion dollar bribery schemes. Each of those horrific events occurred either while he was serving as Secretary General of the UN, or head of the world body’s peacekeeping efforts in Rwanda when he failed to act to prevent the slaughter of Tutsi tribesmen.

But Annan has a point. His mission was doomed from the start because the Security Council and the world community was unable to come together to address the tragedy. The lion’s share of the blame for that can be placed directly on Russia and China, whose vetoes of Security Council resolution after resolution gave Bashar Assad cover to carry out his war against his own people. But there is plenty of blame left for the United States, the European countries, and the Arab League, who clung for months to Annan’s moribund “peace plan” despite a mountain of evidence that it had failed almost as soon as it was negotiated last April.

This failure to face up to reality moved Senator John McCain to launch a powerful, accusatory speech on the Senate floor in which he pilloried the Obama administration for it’s faith in the Annan plan, which he said was “doomed to failure” from the start.

Isn’t it foolish to base your policy and non-intervention on the belief that somehow a former secretary general of the United Nations’ mission would succeed, when it was clear that the Syrian people were not going to be satisfied with the continuous barbarous regime of Bashar al-Assad?

McCain advocates arming the FSA — something the administration still says they are not prepared to do. Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One, “Our position has not changed: We provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition,” adding, “We don’t believe that adding to the number of weapons in Syria is what’s needed to help bring about a peaceful transition.”

While another leak from the administration revealed that President Obama had signed a “secret” intelligence finding in the last few months, authorizing the CIA to assist the rebels, the finding is more window dressing than a dramatic change in policy. The US will coordinate activities at a base in Turkey that is a rebel conduit for arms and assistance. Previously it was revealed that the CIA is evaluating various units in the FSA to determine whether they are patriots, or terrorists — a determination that has prevented the West from fully getting behind the armed opposition and supplying them with weapons that could spell the difference on the battlefield.

With diplomatic efforts now officially dead, the world’s gaze turns to the conflict itself and the growing power and ability to resist of the FSA, as well as President Assad’s escalation of indiscriminate attacks on civilians. A shocking BBC report tells of government soldiers going from house to house in Aleppo demanding to see resident’s papers. At least 70 were killed in the operation, while opposition activists claim that many people were dragged out of their homes and summarily executed.

The FSA is also apparently not above committing war crimes. A video has surfaced that shows FSA fighters leading Syrian soldiers outdoors and placed against a wall. After shouting some slogans, the prisoners are murdered in a hail of gunfire.

The increasing ferocity of the fighting has made the city of Aleppo — a modern, cultured metropolis — into a shooting gallery and potential humanitarian disaster of nearly unthinkable proportions. The quarter of a million refugees who have fled the fighting are in danger of starvation and death by exposure to the elements. An FSA colonel, Abu Hamza, told the Guardian newspaper:

“We can’t feed them,” he said. “We need help. We don’t even have food for our own families, or for ourselves. We cannot survive for much longer under these conditions. We are talking a few weeks.”

There is no realistic way to get aid to those people. Even the Red Cross is powerless to move as long as Assad’s troops prevent them from doing so. With the rebels now having captured several tanks and perhaps supplied, via Turkey, with shoulder fired anti-aircraft weapons, the battle for Aleppo is shaping up to be a long, drawn out affair. And the longer the battle lasts, the more dire the humanitarian situation will become.

Did Annan’s mission ever have a chance of succeeding? “Bottom line on Kofi’s mission. D.O.A. from the get go,” Aaron David Miller, a Middle East scholar at the Wilson Center, a research group in Washington, said in an e-mail to the New York Times. “Too much blood spilled for a negotiated settlement between the Assads and the rebels, and not enough for foreign intervention to pressure the Assads to leave.”

Perhaps Annan was partly right; he was never going to succeed unless Russia and China relented in their opposition to strong measures to force Assad to the bargaining table, and the US and other “Friends of Syria” put pressure on Vladmir Putin to change his policy. But the US and the Arab League worked at cross-purposes at times, and much of Europe hung back awaiting a clearer picture. At the end, there was only Annan’s ridiculous “peace plan” that all sides in the conflict ignored and only the well meaning diplomats at the UN who believed still had a chance of working.

And as the debate in the General Assembly is revealing, not all diplomats are “well meaning.” The resolution, written by Saudi Arabia and pushed by the Arab League, was weakened to the point of irrelevancy when, as an AP dispatch relates, “Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Algeria, Argentina and other Latin American nations…had problems with a resolution calling for regime change or for sanctions. The new draft no longer asks other nations to place sanctions on Syria.” One might inquire what’s the point of passing a resolution that has no force behind it and that doesn’t call for any pressure to be placed on President Assad. The answer is, there is no point. The resolution does take a swipe at Russia and China (not by name) by “deploring” the failure of the Security Council to act. But there is no specific call for action by the Assembly for the Security Council to take any meaningful steps to end the crisis.

Thus are consciences assuaged at the UN as the escalating violence in Syria threatens to spill over into neighboring countries and engulf the region in war.

What are men with good intentions to do in the face of such evil and hate? Good intentions didn’t stop Hitler, or Tojo, or any other penny-ante thug since the end of World War II with murder in their heart and mayhem on their minds. President Obama is probably correct in trying to keep the US out of the conflict. But a little more realism should be forthcoming from the administration. If this is to be a proxy war, we should probably do more to see that our proxies win it. The worst case scenario is to have President Assad eventually triumph which would strengthen Russia, Iran, and China in the region. Anything we can do to prevent that — including expending the same amount of energy in supporting the rebels that the Russians are using to prop up Assad — would be a welcome change in policy.

Rick Moran


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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: Christians of the Middle East - Endangered Communities

by Mordechai Kedar

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

For hundreds of years, members of many religions lived side by side in the Middle East, usually with a spirit of mutual tolerance and acceptance of the Other. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Druze, Alawites, Zoroastrians, Sabais, Mandaeans, Ahmadis and Bahais minimized the differences between their groups and conducted themselves in the public domain in a reasonable way. Christians, who had connections to European culture were even the harbingers of modern Arab nationalism in the late 19th century, and they contributed greatly to the spread of modern ideologies in the area, principally Socialism, specifically the Ba'ath party, and liberalism. These modern European ideologies were to provide the residents of the Middle East with a modern substitute for the traditional religious, sectarian, ethnic and tribal identity, thereby creating a new egalitarian consciousness, upon which could be built a new, modern society where the members of all religions would be equal to each other, and a modern civil state such as those in Europe, where all of its residents would have equal rights and responsibilities.

The problem with these modern ideologies that were imported from the West is that they are contrary to the spirit of Islam which holds that "Islam is supreme and there is nothing above it", so Jews and Christians can live under its protection, but as dhimmis, with fewer rights than the Muslims. Modern states, mainly those which have undergone revolution in the past (Syria, Iraq, Egypt, South Yemen, Libya), have tried to create a system of law which treats Muslims and Christians equally, and in the process have angered the Islamic zealots, who kept a low profile in the past in order not to give the authoritarian power of the state an excuse to strike them with its iron fist.

Naturally, the egalitarian ideologies attracted the religious minorities, because this gave them the "certificate of kashrut" that allowed them to enter - as equals to the Muslims - into the circles of society, government, management, culture, education and livelihood. Christians became ministers of the government, mayors, ambassadors and managers, as well as officers in the Arab armies. The first minister of the treasury of the modern state of Iraq was a Jew, in Syria Alawites ran the state beginning in 1966, and Druze filled senior positions. During the second half of the twentieth century it seemed that the egalitarian national consciousness had permanently removed the traditional differences from the public consciousness.

However, in parallel, during the last twenty years, the idea of the modern Arab state has been losing its power, while social consciousness is being reinforced, such that the various sectors and their traditional leadership are increasingly the focus of public attention. Two main factors have contributed to this process: one is the discussion about human rights that has penetrated into the public consciousness, and one is the media, mainly the satellite TV channels, which focus on the individual: his difficulties, misery, desires and hopes. The focus of the public has changed from noble ideology to bitter reality, from the dictatorial state to social consciousness, which centers on human rights. The egalitarian ideologies decreased in importance after it became clear to the public that they are no more than hollow slogans that are intended to justify the existence of the dictatorship, which has failed to provide reasonable living conditions, a stable economy, personal security, work, education, welfare and health to a majority of its population.

The rout that the Arab states suffered at the hands of Israel, especially regarding the Six Day War (1967), contributed to the general feeling of disillusionment with Arab nationalism and with the failure to achieve the principal tasks that it had set for itself - to destroy the "Zionist Entity" and to achieve Arab unity. With the decline of the modern ideologies imported from Europe, the traditional, original, ideologies of the Middle East - tribalism and Islam - were restored to their prior importance, and with them the particularistic, separatist concepts, based on images, stereotypes and Islamic Shari'a. In keeping with these traditional trends, they sought where to place the blame for the terrible situation in the Middle East, and the tendency to see the different one, the Other, as guilty, immediately caused the Christians to be placed on the defendant's seat.

The "Christian West" is perceived by traditional Islam as responsible for all of the ills of the region: the establishment of the State of Israel, its arming and its reinforcement, are perceived as a "Western" project and therefore also as a "Christian plot" and "modern crusade". During the past twenty years, permissive ideas have increasingly permeated into Middle Eastern societies, mainly by means of satellite TV channels and the Internet, presenting a difficult challenge to the normative Islamic system, family values and accepted standards of modesty in the region. Traditional Islamic circles have placed responsibility for the moral deterioration within their societies on the "West", which is led by Christians. The war that the West conducted against Iraq under the command of the United States in 1991, the war that the West conducted against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan beginning in 2001 ("crusade", as President George Bush called it at first) and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 all exacerbated the regional rage against the "Christian" West. The traditional support by the "Western Christians" of the smug billionaires from the Gulf countries flush with petrodollars, also arouses the envy of the indigent, unemployed, ignorant and sick Arab masses, and this jealousy is translated into rage directed toward the local Christians, who serve as the scapegoats.

Another reason for the hatred towards Christians is the great difference between the Western "Christian" states and the Islamic states: the West is thriving, flourishing, rich, developed, democratic, honors the rights of the individual and the citizen, even those of children and women, while the Middle Eastern societies lag behind, are poor, stagnant, dictatorial, violent and oppressive. These differences create envy within the peoples of the Middle East and this leads to hatred. This hatred is also directed toward the "Westerner", meaning the local Christian. It can be said in general that the worse and more complex these problems in any specific location in the Middle East have become, the worse the Christians there are treated by the surrounding Muslim environment.

In the days of the First World War, the Turkish Muslims slaughtered more than a million Armenian Christians because of the suspicion that they were cooperating with the Christian European super-powers against the Muslim Turkish Ottoman Empire, which was defeated in the war. The nations of the world did the Turks a favor when they ignored the religious component, because if the slaughter had been called a "massacre of Christians" as indeed was the case, modern Turkey would have carried the extremely problematic "mark of Cain" on its political forehead until today.

Since 2003, there have been a number of severe attacks in churches in Iraq when they were filled with people; other churches have been broken into and looted, Christian women were forced to wear a head covering in the public, Christian homes were broken into and robbed, and businesses of Christians suffered harassment. As of today, only about half of the Christians that were present in Iraq in 2003 remain there.

In Egypt, in recent years, there have been many terror attacks against the Copts as they emerged from their churches, and many of them were killed and wounded. Especially noteworthy is the car bomb that exploded next to the church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve of 2011, that caused the death of about forty people and wounded about two hundred. Egyptians who convert from Islam to Christianity are received among the Christians as heroes, but according to the law, which permits conversion from Christianity to Islam, but not the opposite, they have committed a transgression. Not one day passes without some violent act being reported against Copts in Egypt. As a result of this, the Copts emigrate from Egypt in great numbers; according to the estimate, between one quarter and one third of them have emigrated over the years.

In Sudan, the civil war that was conducted between the Islamic North and the Christian and pagan South (the longest-lasting civil war in the world), caused two million fatalities over more than fifty years. Salafis in Tunisia recently slaughtered a youth who converted to Christianity and recorded it on video. In Lebanon, the whole history of the state during its eighty years is that of an experiment to establish and maintain a state intended for the Maronite Christians, despite the fact that they were a minority and the Muslims were the majority. It is a story about how the Maronites strive to survive in a state ruled by the increasingly powerful Shi'ite Hizb'Allah, and how they cling to their historic dwelling place, Mount Lebanon, despite the temptation to emigrate to other states where life is more comfortable and serene. As a result of this never ending struggle for survival, between one quarter and one third of its Christian residents have emigrated from Lebanon over the years.

The situation in Syria in the past year and a half is threatening to the Christian minority in that state as well. The Christians traditionally took part in the government of Asad, because he promised them security, as he promised other minorities. Because they are identified with Asad, they are today targets for harassment, murder, rape, robbery and looting by the Muslim majority. The anarchy that reigns in some areas allows the Muslims to break into churches, businesses of Christians and their private houses, in order to plunder and murder. It is not known how many Christians have fled from Syria, but the estimate is that between one tenth and one fifth of those who resided there until a year and a half ago, no longer do.

In the Palestinian Authority - Gaza, Judea and Samaria - the Christians suffer from built-in discrimination: the Christian library in Gaza was destroyed by fire, pressure is put on the Christian youth to convert to Islam, Muslims have taken over the houses of the residents of the Christian city Beit Jalla, which is south of Jerusalem, in order to turn them into firing positions from where they can shoot into the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo. All of its residents have fled to South America. Muslim terrorists escaped from the hands of the IDF into the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and desecrated it while taking shelter there. Lands and houses, officially owned by Churches in Bethlehem area, were forcibly confiscated by the Muslims who live in that area. About one quarter of the Christians who lived in the area of the Palestinian Authority in the past have left it.

Since the "Arab Spring" broke out toward the end of 2010, it has become clear that the Arab project of nationalism has failed, and with it, the concept of the modern Arab state is descending into oblivion. Islam, which is increasing in strength, along with growing tribalism, casts a dark, threatening shadow over the Christians in the Middle East, who come to the only possible conclusion and flee in droves from the area. The Pope related to this problem lately and expressed great concern over it.

By the way, the only state in the Middle East where the number of Christians is not decreasing is the State of Israel. Can anyone explain this?


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.