Friday, December 7, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: Constitutional Confusion and Contusions

by Mordechai Kedar

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

In a democratic state, a constitution is supposed to express in words the basic values of its citizens and state the foundational principles that will guide the conduct of the government in a way that reflects the values that most of the citizens believe in, led by the value of freedom. The constitution is intended to limit the powers of government and to defend the citizen from the whims of those in positions of power. Even in dictatorial states there are laws, however they are mostly not effective; they do not defend the citizen from the power of the government, and the recent situation in Syria is a convincing proof of this fact. In dictatorial states the constitution is the tool that is used to  carry out the will of the dictator, as well as his intentions and sometimes even his excesses, while he shuts the mouths of his opposition with the usual claim that everything he’s doing is in accordance with the constitution and the laws that are based on it.

Egypt, after the revolution of January 25th 2011, is a state that has freed itself from the burden of a dictator, Husni Mubarak, who, together with his cronies and predecessors, the officers, ruled Egypt since July 1952 in accordance with a constitution that served as a fig leaf to cover up the fact that the government was entirely in his hands, and the whole country revolved around him as if he were a god. Now the Egyptians want a different constitution, a “democratic” one, which on one hand will promise that the government will not become a dictatorship again, and on the other hand will express the basic values of the society and defend them. This is the reason that Egypt needs a new constitution, because the previous one was nothing more than a tool to serve Mubarak. The reality of recent days is that certain groups are not pleased by the way that President Muhammad Mursi is trying to secure the constitution by referendum, so they go out into the streets to express their opinion with demonstrations that sometimes deteriorate into acts of mass violence, injuries and deaths. In order to simplify the discussion for the purpose of this article, we will say that the population in Egypt is divided into three main groups: the Secular, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis. 

The secular group wants to turn Egypt into a modern, liberal, open, Western style state, that is neither religious nor traditional in character, where the status of citizenship is equal for everyone, and takes the place of all of the other ethnic, tribal, religious, and sectarian affiliations.

The Muslim Brotherhood wants a religious state, in which Shari’a rules but does not prevent the state from adopting modern tools that exist in the world. They are in favor of women’s participation in public activities, with limitations for modesty, and believe that it is important to integrate the Coptic citizens – who are Christians – into the society, economy and the various governmental systems. But equality among citizens is seen as problematic, because according to Islam a Muslim and a Christian can never be equal, since the Christian is a “ward of the state” (dhimmi) who, according to the Qur’an (Sura 9, Verse 29) must exist in the shadow of Islam and under humiliating conditions. The statement that women are equal to men is problematic for them too, because of traditional concepts that say that “the men are responsible for the women” (Sura 4, Verse 34).

The Salafis want to see the implementation of Islamic Shari’a in all areas of life, and do not accept the adoption of any Western, modern characteristic. They insist on regarding Copts as class B citizens, and do not accept the idea that women should have public positions. They take literally the saying attributed to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam: “The best hijab for a woman is her home.” 

The main problem with the constitution in Egypt today is that every one of these three sectors sees the revolution as his own revolution, defines “democracy” according to his own concepts and values, and if the new constitution goes in a different direction then he will claim that “they stole the revolution”, he will go out to the streets and will raise hell. The only common factor to all of the sectors is their avowed refusal to allow a dictator to take control of the state, even though each one of them would agree that whoever represents their world view should rule with broad powers. In other words: each sector would agree to a “soft dictator” if he would represent that particular sector’s world view.

Below, we will examine some of the articles of the proposed constitution from the point of view of each one of the sectors, which, as noted above, are divided broadly into three groups. The reality is far more complex, because each one of the three sectors is composed of sub-sectors, who disagree with each other on most matters.

We will preface this discussion by saying that there are more than a few Salafis who view the constitution in a negative light as a matter of principle, because the constitution is a human creation, while the true and only constitution of a Muslim is the Qur’an, of heavenly creation. According to this approach, the law of a Muslim state must be the Islamic Shari’a; therefore all laws that are legislated by any human legislative body are null and void in principle. The legislator must be a religious figure who acts with religious, not civil authority: These Salafis are not considered to be participants in the argument over the constitution, because from their point of view it cannot exist.

The first article of the constitution wins universal approval of the delegates: “The Arab Republic of Egypt is an independent and sovereign state, unified and indivisible, whose regime is democratic.  Also winning general approval of the legislators is the statement that the Egyptian people is a part of two nations: the Arab and the Islamic, and it is proud to be part of the Nile Valley and the continent of Africa, and its Asiatic continuation, and of its positive contribution to human culture.”

The problems begin in article two: “Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is the official language and the principles of Islamic Shari’a are the main source of legislation”. There are a few explosive issues in this article. The first is that Islam is the religion of the state. According to the religious perspective, this statement is essential, but it is in contradiction with subsequent clauses of the constitution that state that every citizen of Egypt is equal to every other, because according to Islam, a Christian does not have equal rights to those of a Muslim, and a woman does not have equal rights to those of a man. A second explosive issue is the statement that the basis of legislation is “the principles of Shari’a” and not Shari’a itself. The word “principles” is a general word, not well defined, and there is disagreement as to its meaning. “Principles of Shari’a” is not religious law, and therefore they are merely vague assumptions. According to the Salafi perspective, the use of the term “principles” is intended to limit the practical influence of religious Islamic law to matters of personal status, mainly marriage and divorce. 

The statement that “Arabic is the official language” of Egypt excludes the Nubian minority in south central Egypt, who do not speak Arabic. 

The third article: “For Christian and Jewish Egyptians, the principles of their religious law are the main source of legislation for managing private, religious matters, as well as the method of choosing their spiritual and religious leaders.” This article is problematic in the eyes of the religious Muslims, because it grants legal validity to Jewish and Christian religious law, while Islam sees these religions as “din al-Batil” – “invalid religions” or “false religions”.

The fourth article is also problematic because it states that “the (institution) of al-Azhar is an independent and all-encompassing Islamic authority (there are no other bodies with religious authority), manages its own affairs (no one can appeal its rulings), and its role is to spread the call to Islam, religious studies and the Arabic language in Egypt and the world. The opinion of the Committee of Religious Scholars in al-Azhar will be taken into account in all matters that are connected with Islamic religious law. The sheikh of al-Azhar is independent and cannot be removed, and the law states how he will be chosen from among the Committee of Scholars. The state will fund the expenses of al-Azhar in such a way that will enable it to achieve its goals, and all of this will be settled by law. The main problem with this article is that the ruling on all matters of religion, including those that deal with administration of public and state matters, are subject to the consideration of al-Azhar. This means that al-Azhar has the authority to interfere in matters of state, and this is not acceptable to the secular sectors.  The Salafis do not see al-Azhar as the beacon which guides their steps either, because they feel that al-Azhar collaborates with the regime.  It was also true in the days of Mubarak and his predecessors when the role of al-Azhar was to create religious rulings that were suitable to the agenda of the regime, and not to true Islam. The salaries of the al-Azhar people are paid from the state, meaning the coffers of the regime, so there is the suspicion that the religious rulings they issue reflect the opinion of the regime. The exclusive religious authority that the constitution grants to al-Azhar contradicts the view held by many Salafis, who accept only their own rulings.

The fifth article has a general statement that is acceptable to everyone: “Sovereignty belongs to the people, who act accordingly, and defend it; the people preserves its patriotic unity, and is the source of authority, as is annotated in the constitution”.  

The sixth article, on the other hand, is full of potentially explosive material: “The political system is built on principles of democracy and dialogue, equality of citizenship for all citizens, with equal rights and civic responsibilities, pluralism for political views and parties, orderly transfer of power, division and balance of powers, sovereignty of the law and honoring human rights and freedoms. All of this as annotated in the constitution. It is illegal for a party to be founded on the basis of discrimination between citizens, because of differences in gender, ethnicity or religion”. The many problems in this clause relate to Islam: “Dialogue” – in Arabic “Shura” -  stems from the statement in the Qur’an (Sura 42, Verse 38) that “the kingdom of the Almighty is dialogue among people”, a sort of “the voice of the masses is like the voice of G-d” in Judaism. This sort of pronouncement angers the secular people. The expression “citizenship is equal for all citizens” means that a Muslim is equal to a Christian, and this angers the religious. The “division of authorities” is not acceptable to the religious either, because the Creator of the world is the law-maker, He is the executive and He is the judge, so how is it possible to divide the powers into three different, separate authorities, which may disagree with each other? The prohibition in this clause “to establish a political party on the basis of discrimination between citizens because of differences in religion” creates a potential threat to the Salafi parties, who therefore see it as a tool that the Muslim Brotherhood will use to close down the Salafi parties, which nibble at the support of the Brotherhood.

Article 10 touches on family matters: “The family is the basis of society, and it is founded on religion, morality and nationalism. The state and the society will adhere strictly to the original character of the Egyptian family…” The statement saying that the family is based on religion is interpreted by secular groups as a prohibition on civil marriages, which are common today in the cities of Egypt, and a prohibition of relations between men and women outside the framework of the traditional family. The secular people see this clause as severe religious coercion of the individual. The religious character of the constitution is evident in article 11 as well: “The state will monitor morality, appropriateness of behavior, and public order, it will assure a high level of education, religious and patriotic values, respect scientific facts and preserve Arab culture and the historical and cultural legacy of the people…” The state monitoring of morality is perceived by the secular people as the” modesty police”, which will punish adult men and women for behavior that Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood view as immoral. State monitoring of “scientific facts” is seen as an Islamic threat to scientific research, because Islam does not accept such theories as Darwinism, does not agree to many historical statements such as – for example – that Jerusalem was the capitol of the Jews, and especially does not accept scientific analysis of the Qur’an and the hadith, the oral tradition of Islam. On the other hand, Salafis see the remnants of Pharaonic culture that are located throughout public areas and in museums in Egypt as something that is totally negative, because the Pharaohs were infidels and idol worshipers, so if the state oversees the “historical and cultural legacy of the people” and preserves it, it actually would be acting against Islam.

Article 24 deals with education: “Religious education and Egyptian history are two basic subjects that will be included  in the educational system of all types, and until university”. Religious education? For secular students?

Later in the constitution, in Chapter 3, the authorities of the president are spelled out. One of them is “The president of the republic, with the agreement of the government, will declare an emergency situation only in the way that the law prescribes”. Since the president controls the government, this clause grants him authority, in effect exclusive authority, to declare a national emergency, in which the civil rights of individuals, groups and political parties will be cancelled, and the president will actually have the ability to shut down free political life and turn himself into a dictator, all with the sanction of law.  

Another article relating to the president states that only a majority of two thirds of the members of the parliament can remove a president from office. With the present state of affairs, in which the Muslim Brotherhood has about one half of the seats of parliament, a statement such as this means that there is no possibility of the parliament removing the president from office, even if it has the legal right to do so. 

 Thus, by weaving this fine fabric, President Mursi is about to present the Egyptian people with a constitution that is custom made for him, for the shoulders of a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who set for himself the objective of imposing Islam on all of the circles of the country. Therefore it is no miracle that the youth of the revolution of the 25th of January 2011, who removed the secular dictator Mubarak and his corrupt cronies with their own bodies, stream once more in great numbers into al-Tahrir Square, to protest against the takeover by another sort of dictator, this time a religious one. They hated Mubarak, and they fear Mursi.

The Muslim Brotherhood, who are in accord with the ways of president Mursi, claim that the majority of the population supports them and their way, and therefore they have the right to impose their agenda on the whole country.  Otherwise, why did the Almighty bring them to power, in the parliament as well as the presidency? Is there greater proof than this for their right, and even their duty, to impose Shari’a on Egypt?

The Salafis see the constitution as something totally unacceptable, and there are those among them who work – even if very cautiously – against accepting the constitution, but since they are still a minority, they are careful not to anger the president and the Muslim Brotherhood gangs who feel that they are in charge, and go around in the streets of the cities searching for people who disagree with their opinion. No one would want to meet up with them when they are angry.

Since there is a lack of societal mechanisms for conflict management, a situation is created in which people turn to the use of force as a first choice, and from here it is a short distance to total chaos that might sink Egypt in a swamp of fire, blood and tears. The citizens of Egypt, who were miserable under the rule of Mubarak, at least could eat the little that they could acquire, while today, almost two years after the revolution, they live in much more acute misery, with the plague of hunger threatening the country that in the past was “the bread basket of the Middle East”.  

The peoples and the rulers of the Middle East are absorbed by the obsession to live according to a constitution: they expect the constitution to defend them from dictatorship, and the rulers expect that the constitution will justify their undesired, unaccepted and illegitimate rule. The obsession stems from a concept called the state, which has become an invalid entity because most states in the Middle East are artificial states that were created by colonialism and for the good of colonialism only, and therefore include ethnic, tribal, religious, and sectarian groups that differ from one another and hate each other. Therefore, the elite class that controls them needs the document called a constitution, to act in accordance with it, to have it be accepted in the hearts of the various groups and to use it to justify their illegitimate regime.

 The public – which is aware of the strange role that the constitution plays – objects to it, as we see these days in the streets of Egypt and its public squares: on Tuesday this week some tens of thousands of people tried to attack the presidential palace in Cairo during a protest against the constitution, which is about to be offered for a referendum, and the constitutional declarations issued by President Mursi, among them putting himself above all other authorities, especially the judiciary, and declaring that his commands can not be repealed by any body in Egypt. Newspapers struck last week in protest of the danger that the constitution presents to freedom of speech and al-Tahrir Square is returning to the days of the demonstrations against Mubarak with slogans similar in wording:  “The people want to overthrow the regime” and “Get out!”.

In contrast, Israel has no constitution, but it is a stable and strong state because of its legitimacy in the eyes of most of the citizens as a political framework and governmental system.  Arab states have a constitution, but they are not stable because these states lack legitimacy as a framework for ruling . The constitution, as important as it may be, is not a cure for the genetic illnesses of the states of the Middle East. Stability and serenity will come to the area only when the borders that colonialism demarcated are erased and on the ruins of the present failed states, smaller states will arise but with homogeneous populations in each. These states will be legitimate in the eyes of their citizens and therefore also politically stable and economically successful, and redemption will come to the Middle East.


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

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 with permission from the author.


Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

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.

- Original materials copyright (c) by the author.

Assad Regime Distributed Gas Masks and Radiation Suits to Troops

by Caroline Akoum

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Despite repeated international warnings to the al-Assad regime against the use of chemical weapons, the Free Syrian Army [FSA] has stated that it believes it likely that al-Assad will use such weapons as a last resort should it lose hope in the possibility of reaching a political solution. 

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama warned that al-Assad will face “consequences” should he use chemical weapons against the Syrian people. He said “the world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable.” For her part, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking on Wednesday, said the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for Washington. She added “our concerns are that an increasingly desperate al-Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons, or might lose control of them to one of the many groups that are now operating in Syria.”

Captain Abdul-Salam Abdul-Razzaq, a Syrian army defector who was part of the al-Assad military’s “Chemical Weapons Department”, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the regime has already used this kind of weapon, albeit in a limited manner, namely in Baba Amr last year. The regime also threatened to use chemical weapons in al-Zabadani, distributing gas masks and radiation suits to its troops”. He added “these are only worn when chemical weapons are used.”

The al-Assad regime defector also revealed that “tests were being conducted on such weapons nearly 6 weeks ago in al-Muslimiya district in eastern Aleppo in the presence of Iranian experts.”

Captain Abdul-Razzaq also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the al-Assad regime had provided its troops with pamphlets claiming that “it is the terrorist gangs that are using chemical weapons”, perhaps as the first step in a denial should it use such arms. He stressed that as of early November, chemical weapons were being stored in numerous warehouses around the country, but these were later transferred to the Rif Dimashq area.

He revealed that the Syrian regime is in possession of a large arsenal of chemical weapons which is under the control of Scientific Research Centres based in Homs, Aleppo, Damascus and Latakia. He said that these research centres are managed by three senior Brigadier Generals affiliated to the infamous Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate, adding that the chemical weapons are under the direct supervision of experts from Iran, Russia and North Korea. Abdul-Razzaq revealed that a recent decision was taken to relocate these chemical weapons, particularly as foreign intelligence apparatus, including America’s Central Intelligence Agency [CIA], had uncovered their previous locations.

As for whether the FSA possesses the necessary expertise to deal with a chemical weapons attack, Captain Abdul-Razzaq informed Asharq Al-Awsat that FSA elements possess only a limited understanding of this, mostly from chemical weapons drills they would have undertaken as part of the regular Syrian army before their defection.

He added “however, we have acted to raise the awareness of the troops, as well as the people, towards these kinds of weapons by distributing pamphlets that contain pertinent information, most importantly that such weapons are usually deployed by aircraft flying at low altitude trailing a cloud of smoke.”

He also revealed that “the explosion [of a chemical weapon] would be faint, not loud…whilst medium-sized dark-brown fragments will be clear to see at the site of explosion.”
Abdul-Razzaq stressed that it would be very difficult for the FSA to attack a chemical weapons warehouse, particularly as this would first require intelligence as to where these warehouses are located, and then the military capabilities to secure it.

For his part, FSA Deputy Chief of Staff Colonel Aref al-Hammoud informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Syrian regime is afraid and so it may take the international warnings into consideration. However the regime's savage history confirms that it would not hesitate to use chemical weapons to kill the largest possible number of its own people."

He added that "the Syrian regime has a huge arsenal of chemical weapons, and this has not been gathered today, rather this dates back several years. They are stored in warehouses in mountainous regions of Syria and guarded by Special Forces units, most prominently Unit 417 in Damascus and Unit 418 in Homs.”

Colonel al-Hammoud acknowledged that the regime may have transported these chemical weapons to more secure locations, particularly in light of its recent defeats at the hands of the rebel forces, adding that these new warehouses are on the list of FSA targets. The FSA Deputy Chief of Staff also stressed that should his forces manage to confiscate any chemical weapons, they will immediately deliver them to specialists to be disabled adding that the FSA will never use internationally banned weapons.

He said "in the event that the regime taking the decision to use chemical weapons, the FSA would not be able to combat this, as this primarily requires anti-aircraft weaponry to disable and mitigate the effects of these weapons as much as possible.”

Caroline Akoum


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

Jewish Students Running Gauntlet of Hate

by Melanie Phillips

The delegitimisation campaign against Israel, comprising the obsessional lies and blood libels promulgated by the media and intelligentsia week in, week out, has produced this result: Jewish students in Britain are being forced to abandon their university courses out of fear. On the Jewish Chronicle blog, Marcus Dysch reports:

‘Attacks have created a “toxic atmosphere” in which Jewish students no longer feel comfortable, a delegation of community representatives told senior Edinburgh University officials.
‘Among those who felt the need to leave was a former Edinburgh Jewish Society chair who dropped out of his course to study abroad, partly because of the fall-out from an incident in which Ishmael Khaldi, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s most senior Muslim diplomat, was mobbed as he spoke at the university in February last year.
‘That incident also allegedly affected a Jewish postgraduate student so severely that she was forced to seek an extension for her dissertation before cancelling an option to continue studying in Scotland. She also left for a different course elsewhere in Europe.
‘In the most recent incident at Edinburgh, in October, an address by Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub was disrupted by chanting students waving Palestinian flags.
‘... Members of Scottish Jewish Student Chaplaincy and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities told the university bosses that Jewish students had felt it necessary to “hide their Jewish identity due to the hostile atmosphere at Edinburgh” and were now seeking “secure and safe” space on campus’ [my emphasis].

So this is what it has come to. In the 21st century, British Jews are being forced to hide their Jewish identity out of fear for their personal safety -- because they support the state of Israel in its struggle to defend itself against genocidal attack.

This disgusting and surreal state of affairs has arisen from what can only be described as the madness that has all but consumed the British intelligentsia and media, which portray Israel – the target and victim of Jew-hating extermination – in the deranged propaganda terms set out by its Arab and Muslim attackers. The result is rampant Israel-hatred, Judeophobia and Jew-baiting which is either tolerated or actively promulgated by a so-called educated class – including broadcasters and many mainstream politicians -- which on this issue is in fact totally impervious to evidence or reason.

A case in point was one of the incidents described above, when Ishmael Khaldi was forced to abandon his invited address at Edinburgh University.  He was called a Nazi and accused of representing an ‘apartheid state’ by a baying mob who unfurled Palestinian flags and screamed that the university’s Jewish society was a ‘religious club that supports violence and unjust behaviour’ before security officials hustled him away. The JC reported:

‘At one stage the mic was ripped from his lectern and a demonstrator shouted: “We don't discuss with the Ku Klux Klan, why should we discuss with this thug?”’

But Ishmael Khaldi is an Israeli Arab, a Bedouin from the Galilee who is an advisor to Israel’s Foreign Minister. He is thus living proof that Israel cannot possibly be an ‘apartheid state’. His treatment at the hands of the screaming Edinburgh University mob was therefore not merely an unconscionable outbreak of thuggery but defied reason itself. As does the whole way in which Israel is presented in British public debate.

This appalling Judeophobic violence on campus is also the direct result of the cavalier indifference of many university authorities to the Islamic radicalisation and intimidation taking place right under their noses.  Scotland may be particularly virulent – hardly surprising, since the Scot Nats routinely trash both Israel and the truth, as well as sanitising Islamic extremism – but this bigotry has also taken root in many other universities, where the authorities have simply ignored the recruitment to Islamic extremism taking place on campus, the routine eruptions of Israel-phobic bigotry and violence and the intimidation of Jewish students. 

The silence of our political class in the face of what is taking place, not just on campus but in the incitement to racial hatred that now passes for mainstream discussion of Israel in the media and public debate, is a disgrace. But that, alas, is because so much of the British body politic has itself succumbed to this madness. 

This is not a good time to be a Jew in Britain. To put it mildly. Sixty-seven years ago, when the true horror of the genocide of the Jews was finally laid bare, who would have thought that Judeophobic bigotry – tragically embedded in Britain’s ancient history -- would take hold of the country once again? 

For those concerned not just with upholding elementary decency, truth and justice but with the defence of the west against barbarism, there is simply no more urgent and crucial issue than this. The battle for Israel is also the battle for Britain and the west. In turning against Israel – the forward salient of the titanic struggle to defend civilisation --Britain and the west are turning against themselves.

Melanie Phillips


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

Trouble Down Under

by Isi Leibler

In the diplomatic debacle at the U.N. General Assembly last week, when the world's nations voted in favor of recognizing the Palestinian Authority as a nonmember observer state, two countries considered solid supporters of Israel abandoned us at a crucial moment.

Israel was shocked when Germany abstained, especially since Chancellor Angela Merkel had stated earlier that Germany would vote against the Palestinian initiative. The other unexpected defection was the last-minute abstention by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government, considered a strong supporter of Israel.

On a few recent occasions, votes by Australia at the U.N. appeared to deviate from the norm, but this was rationalized as temporary pandering to the Arabs to solicit votes for elections to the Security Council.

The dramatic tilt against Israel was spearheaded by Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who exerted enormous pressure on the Labor caucus and compelled Gillard to backtrack from her decision to oppose the Palestinian initiative. Had she not complied, she would have been humiliatingly defeated and possibly toppled as prime minister.

Carr was vigorously supported by former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, at one time one of Israel’s greatest supporters, notorious for having (while inebriated) called on Israel to “nuke” the Palestinians if they failed to halt the terror. Hawke was intimately connected to Israel’s Labor leaders, but after Menachem Begin was elected prime minister in 1977, he changed his views and today regards Israel as “intransigent." He was supported by another veteran Labor politician, former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, who since retiring from government has been consistently canvassing the Arab cause. Both fervently lobbied Labor ministers to repudiate Gillard’s policy.

Carr was appointed to his post only in March this year. Before that, he had served for 11 years as premier of Australia’s largest state, New South Wales.

Ironically, he was once considered a close friend of the Jewish community. He is knowledgeable about Jewish affairs and has a genuine and sensitive understanding of the Holocaust. In 1977, he was a founding member of the Labor Friends of Israel.

He subsequently became a passionate admirer of Israeli author Amos Oz and appears to have absorbed much of his far-Left outlook on Israeli affairs.

In 2003, as state premier, he dismayed the Jewish community and friends of Israel by presenting the Sydney Peace Prize to Palestinian political activist Hanan Ashrawi, renowned for her rabid demonization of Israel.

Carr visited Israel in August this year, meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including Ashrawi. 

On his return to Australia, he raised eyebrows when he dispatched a delegation to Iran to solicit votes for Australia’s U.N. Security Council candidature. There were also unconfirmed rumors circulating that undertakings were made to the Arabs in return for their support.

His backing of Israel during the Gaza campaign was lukewarm. In the Senate, he made the astonishing statement: “Any response by Israel needs to be proportionate and not lead to civilian casualties. We have on more than a dozen occasions called on both sides to exercise restraint." Setting aside the moral equivalence inherent in this remark, he was effectively demanding that Israel — which more than any army in history goes out of its way to minimize civilian casualties — take no action to defend its citizens from missile attacks. 

He was even more forthcoming after the U.N. vote, when he proclaimed, “I don’t apologize for the fact that Australia has interests in the Arab world. If we had voted no, that would have been a body blow to our interests in over 20 countries. The truth is they all see this as a bedrock issue.” 

He also dismissed suggestions that the Palestinians intended to exploit their new observer status to initiate charges of war crimes against Israel at the International Criminal Court. 

Carr’s change of policy was confirmed when he joined the European bandwagon and hauled Israeli Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem over the coals following Israel’s decision to build homes in the Jerusalem suburbs and adjacent areas — which the Bush administration had agreed should remain within Israel.

Australia has a long history of friendship with Israel dating back to Australian troops who served in Palestine during both world wars. Labor leader Dr. H. V. Evatt was president of the U.N. General Assembly in 1948 when the Jewish state was proclaimed ,and since then until today — with the exception of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam from 1972-1975 — successive Australian governments of all political persuasions have displayed strong friendship towards Israel.

The Liberal (conservative) government under Prime Minister John Howard, which governed Australia for 11 years prior to Labor’s electoral victory in 2007, was especially supportive of Israel, and could be compared to the Harper government in Canada today. 

When Howard visited Israel in 2000, I had already immigrated to Israel and reluctantly accepted his invitation to accompany his delegation to meet with then PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Afterwards, he solicited my opinion and I told him that I regarded Arafat as a duplicitous terrorist and did not believe he had any intention of seeking a peace settlement. I recall his response: “Should Arafat ever renege on the commitments to peace which he conveyed today, I give you a clear undertaking that as long as I am prime minister, the Jewish community and the people of Israel will never have reason to feel that I let them down.” Howard kept his word, and in subsequent years emerged as Israel’s greatest champion amongst world statesmen.

Labor, headed by Kevin Rudd, gained office in 2007 and three years later was succeeded by Julia Gillard. Under both prime ministers, but especially Gillard, Labor maintained an evenhanded bipartisan approach towards Israel.

Much of this historical bipartisanship can be attributed to a vigorous Jewish community, renowned as being one of the most vibrant Zionist communities in the Diaspora. Its leadership has never failed to speak up and take a principled stand on behalf of Israel when appropriate.

With close to 500,000 Muslims now living in Australia, many concentrated in key Labor Party electorates, their influence has impacted a number of Labor ministers. Combined with the vehement anti-Israeli orientation of the far-Left Labor factions, this enabled Carr to persuade the cabinet to tilt its policy against Israel. 

However, it is premature to totally write off the Australian Labor Party. It has a long tradition of friendship toward Israel and many of its leaders were distressed by recent developments. Besides, although understandably disheartened, Prime Minister Julia Gillard remains solidly pro-Israel, reiterating her view that this abstention was a mistake and will only serve to embolden Palestinian extremists. 

The opposition Liberal Party adamantly supports Israel. Former Prime Minister John Howard described the government’s tilt as “pathetic” and an “embarrassment."

Elections are scheduled next year and recent polls indicate that the Liberals may win by a landslide.

But unless Gillard succeeds in persuading the Labor Party caucus to change its approach, in the short term Israel should not expect support from Australia under Foreign Minister Carr. Like many of our so-called European friends, Carr may continue insisting that his motivations are based on having the Jewish state’s security at heart and trying to save Israel from itself. But when the chips are down, he will abandon us as he did at the U.N. General Assembly.

Isi Leibler


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

Time for a Nuremberg Trial for Hamas and the Pipers of Death

by Giulio Meotti


Back in the 1970s, law expert Yoram Dinstein argued that according to UN definitions, terrorism and incitement against Israelis constituted genocide. That’s why Israel, with the help of a few Western democracies, should set up a Nuremberg-type initiative for Palestinian terror leaders, who must be charged for inciting and committing genocide. In the name of the peremptory principle nullum crimen sine poena, ”No crime without a punishment,” we should prosecute Palestinian terrorists, whether as individuals or entities. They are hostes humani generis, “common enemies of humankind.”

The initiative would be a powerful rebuke of the failed International Criminal Court in the Hague, which should have prosecuted these evil leaders and promoters of genocide. The Islamic regimes of the world succeeded in changing the Court’s statute to eliminate terrorism as an offense and, at the same time, to define the Jewish inhabitants of Judea and Samaria as “war criminals.”

If Israel has no right to defend itself from genocidal attacks and the Jews have no right to live in their historic land, then Israel has no right to exist.

The Palestinian Authority tried to submit criminal cases against individual Israeli soldiers and leaders, but the prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Palestine was not yet a state, and only states could file cases. With the UN General Assembly having upgraded the Palestinians’ status to that of a non-member state, the PA will try to re-file.

The Arab clerics, who describe the Jews as sub-humans with expressions like “pig,” “cancer,” “filth,” “microbes” and “vermin,” should be put on trial for fomenting lethal anti-Jewishness reminiscent of the 1930s. An example of this religious incitement is the fatwa issued by the Muslim Brotherhood’s guru, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, permitting the killing of Jewish fetuses, on the logic that when Jews grow up they might join the Israeli army. Unfortunately, Europe is freeing these clerics, like Abu Qatada, who was recently released by the UK.

The suicide vest costs only $150 for Palestinian terror groups. But it needs “software” to operate. This is the role of the clerics who put in motion the robots of death. It’s like the piper and the rats in the famous Hamelin fairy tale.

The same with the Arab media, which distribute hate material such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or maps without Israel. Western jurisprudence would find these media outlets guilty, like the Nazi war criminal Julius Streicher, who published the anti-Semitic Der Stuermer and was found guilty by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Another example is the trial in which the Rwandan journalists were charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for inciting fellow Hutus to commit genocide against the Tutsis. At the very least, Europe must block the access to these malignant websites and include the journalists on a black list.

The legal basis for the campaign against this hatred is the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, ratified on January 12, 1951.

International tribunals have ruled that hate speech targeting a population based on discriminatory grounds constitutes crimes against humanity per Article 7 of the Rome Statute.

In 2004, three Arab intellectuals, Jawad Hashim, Shakir al-Nabulsi and Lakhdar Lafif, sent a request to the UN Security Council, urging the establishment of an international tribunal for the prosecution of Islamist incitement against Jews, Muslim “apostates” and Christians. Thanks to satellite channels, Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV can beam its incitement and hatred into European living rooms, radicalizing Muslim immigrants. Israel must ask Europe to turn off this terror offspring, which every evening repeats the same monstrous message: “The Jewish infidels are less than human, killing them is a meritorious act.” Words lead to mass murder.

Israel and its Western allies must launch a campaign to charge NGO leaders who commit incitement, enlisting the help of attorneys, journalists and writers to testify on the endless litanies of paranoia and genocidal perversion. Such people risk their careers and lives daily by denouncing the blood libels, and Israel should support them.

Hamas and other incitement leaders should be placed on a “watch list” by Western countries preventing their entrance as “inadmissible persons” (Qaradawi is already banned in the UK and US).

Brave groups, such as UN Watch, can support the battle in global forums. In 2009, a similar campaign prevented Farouk Hosni, the Egyptian minister who said that he “would burn Israeli books himself if found in Egyptian libraries,” from becoming UNESCO’s head.

Moreover, human rights groups should be flooded with the untold Israeli statistics: the 17,000 people wounded in terror attacks; the 2,000 civilians killed; the 15,000 rockets fired on southern Israeli cities; the fact that some 40% of wounded Israelis will remain with permanent disabilities.

There are wounded Israeli heroes who just want to tell their story. I can provide a list of these maimed fighters who should be invited to speak in the courts because they are the survivors of current-day genocide. In European faculties, there are still brave academicians who can denounce Hamas-supporting speakers among them. We must ask Europe to expel them.

This is an historic battle that Israel can win with the support of Westerners who still care about the fate of their civilization. To the Spanish fascists who were saying, “Viva la muerte!” the Republicans replied: “No pasarán.” We must offer the same response to contemporary death cultists.

No pasarán. They shall not pass.

Giulio Meotti


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Obama’s Impotence in the Face of Muslim Brotherhood Coup

by Arnold Ahlert

Events in Egypt continue to deteriorate. On Wednesday, rival groups of protesters clashed outside the presidential palace in Cairo, when Muslim Brotherhood supporters of President Mohamed Morsi confronted 300 opposition members who were staging a sit-in. The protesters were initially routed, but after a lull in fighting, hundreds of young Egyptians returned to the scene and a violent exchange of firebombs and rocks ensued. Gunshots were also fired, and more than 211 were injured, medical sources reported. The violence marks the worst outbreak of unrest in the deepening crisis centered on Egypt’s new draft constitution, scheduled to be put to a vote December 15.

By nightfall Wednesday, more than 10,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood had massed around the palace, setting up metal barricades to keep traffic off a stretch of road that runs parallel to the palace in Cairo’s upscale Heliopolis district. A banner saying, “May God protect Egypt and its president,” was posted on a truck the Brotherhood brought with them. On top of the truck, a man with a loudspeaker began reciting verses from the Quran. Chants from the Islamist crowd also began to fill the air. “The people want to cleanse the square” and “Morsi has legitimacy,” they intoned, according to AFP news agency. The fighting extended into Thursday morning, after riot police tried and failed to separate opposing forces. When police failed to ease tension on the streets, residents took matters into their own hands, erecting makeshift road blocks to check passers-by.

The latest round of protests is apparently an escalation of Tuesday’s violence, when anti-Morsi supporters descended on the palace, and police fired tear gas to stop their approach. Morsi was inside conducting business, but he left when the crowds “grew bigger,” according to a presidential official who spoke on condition of anonymity. By Wednesday, the protests had spread beyond Cairo, and offices of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party in Ismailia and Suez were torched.

The protests were labeled “The Last Warning,” by opposition forces, who are increasingly angered by a draft constitution that was rushed through parliament without proper consultation, and does not do enough to protect political and religious freedoms, or the rights of women and minorities. That anger is further exacerbated by Morsi’s November 15 decree, granting himself sweeping new powers absent judicial oversight. Shortly thereafter, an Islamist-dominated constitutional panel passed a draft constitution without representatives speaking for liberals and Christians.

Morsi is reportedly unruffled by the latest developments, but four of his aides resigned in protest on Wednesday, reportedly over his handling of the crisis. Three aides quit last week, so now seven of his panel of 17 advisers have left their jobs since the latest unrest began. Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekky attempted to offer the opposition a compromise, claiming that the “door for dialogue” remained open, and that amendments to the 15 disputed articles out of a total of 234 in the draft constitution could be worked out. Yet he insisted that the constitutional referendum on December 15 must go ahead regardless, even as he admitted that his “initiative” was personal, not one endorsed by Morsi.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters are urging the opposition to open up a dialogue with the Egyptian president, but they refuse to do so unless he rescinds his decrees and postpones the referendum. Opposition coordinator Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed that position. ”Today what is happening in the Egyptian street, polarization and division, is something that could, and is, actually drawing us to violence and could draw us to something worse,” he told reporters Wednesday. ”We are ready for dialogue if the constitutional decree is canceled…and the referendum on this constitution is postponed,” he added.

It is unlikely to happen. First, Morsi claimed he acted to prevent the courts, still full of pre-revolution, Mubarak appointees, from derailing the draft constitution meant to complete Egypt’s political transition. Thus, he is imbued with a sense of self-aggrandizing destiny, aided and abetted by the Brotherhood, along with the ultraconservative Salafi Islamists–all of whom are politically astute and well-organized. Second, while liberals, leftists, Christians, ex-Mubarak followers and other public sectors opposed to Morsi form a sizable opposition, they are currently incapable of organizing a mass movement or a grassroots challenge to the current power grab. As a result, opposition leaders consider their best option to be a choice between initiating a campaign for a “no” vote on the referendum, or calling for a boycott against it.

In other words, barring a miracle, it seems virtually certain that Morsi and his Islamist followers will put the finishing touches on their fascist coup in less than ten days.

As these events unfold, President Obama, who was more than willing to abet the ouster of Hosni Mubarak just under two years ago, has “responded” in a manner similar to the one he employed over one hundred times as an Illinois state Senator. Politico put it best: “As protests continued in Egypt on Wednesday, the White House declined to take sides in the conflict, noting that the United States has an important relationship with Egypt, but called for all sides to refrain from violence.” In other words Obama voted “present.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was equally “forceful,” saying dialogue was urgently needed on the new constitution, which should “respect the rights of all citizens.”

Such reticence is a reprise of what occurred when Morsi initially seized control on November 22. President Obama, who was more than willing to praise Morsi for his help brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas–the day before the Egyptian president’s first move aimed at consolidating dictatorial power–had nothing to say then, either. “We have some concerns about the decisions and declarations that were announced on November 22,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, adding that Obama praised Morsi for his help in Gaza because he deserved it. When asked if the president felt “betrayed,” by Morsi’s coup, Carney’s response was remarkable. “We see those as separate issues,” he said.

In Egypt, Saad al-Katatni, head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, illuminated exactly where the nation is headed. ”The crisis we have suffered for two weeks is on its way to an end, and very soon, God willing,” he told Reuters. That “end” will be the establishment of another Islamic state in the Middle East. It is an Islamic state the Obama administration, as evidenced by its calculated refusal to stand against this naked power grab, is willing to countenance.

Arnold Ahlert


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Clinton Excludes Israel Again from Counterterror Summit?

by Michael Rubin

Last year, the Obama administration and State Department promoted the Global Counterterrorism Forum, but acquiesced to Turkey’s demand that Israel be excluded from the forum. Apparently, as seen by his repeated endorsements of Hamas, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan believes that terrorism is always bad, unless directed at Israelis.

Last July, Rick Richman and Jonathan Tobin noted that long after Secretary Clinton had promised to do what was necessary to win Israel’s inclusion, forum meetings were going ahead without the Jewish state’s presence. Well, it’s happened again.

According to CNS’s Patrick Goodenough, the State Department has acquiesced to the forum again excluding Israel. Goodenough reports, “Six months after the Obama administration said it was ‘committed’ to involving Israel in its flagship international counter-terrorism initiative, there has evidently been little progress….”

The issue is not simply Israel’s exclusion, or the State Department’s belief that more intolerant states like Lebanon and Turkey might stay away if Israelis were at the same forum. Rather, the problem is that these radicals believe that U.S. acquiescence to their refusal to allow Israel’s inclusion is an implicit U.S. endorsement of their drive to delegitimize Israel completely. Clinton’s refusal to pull the carpet out from under the meeting by putting U.S. participation on the line not only undercuts global counter-terrorism by signaling that terrorism against Israel needn’t be on the table, but also convinces the Erdoğans of the world that momentum is on their side.

Michael Rubin

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The Case of the Disappearing PLO Mission Amendment

by Alana Goodman

Earlier this week, I wrote a post wondering whether J Street has increased its influence on the Hill after the November election. A good test, I said, was whether J Street was able to rally enough objections to legislation responding to the UN vote. 

One of these amendments — which would have shuttered the PLO mission in D.C. — was dropped from the defense authorization bill that passed the Senate earlier this week. According to Open Zion’s Ali Gharib, this proves that J Street has gained clout in Washington:
It’s indeed a juicy indicator: immediately after the recent U.N. vote on upgrading Palestine’s status, AIPAC called for a “full review” of U.S. relations with the Palestinians, including closing the PLO’s office, and backed a measure that would do just that. A J Street campaign, on the other hand, marshaled 15,000 e-mails and phone calls to Congress opposing the amendment booting the PLO from D.C.
So, who won? J Street: the amendment, somewhat mysteriously, disappeared from the bill it was attached to. JTA‘s Ron Kampeas called it “a rare fail of the pro-Israel mainstream”—but that AIPAC no longer has the monopoly on the “pro-Israel mainstream” is precisely the lesson, by the lights of Alana Goodman, that we should take from this episode. The liberal group is gaining some real clout in Washington, and Goodman, having posited that the bill to punish Palestinians was a test, should pony up and acknowledge that, by even the metric she chose to introduce, J Street indeed can claim credit for some D.C. victories. Over to you, Alana.
Did the amendment “mysteriously” disappear, as Ali writes? No — well, at least not to anybody who bothered to pick up a phone and ask. The amendment was dropped from the bill because of a technicality in Senate procedure, according to Senator Lindsey Graham’s office, which sponsored it.

“Once cloture was invoked, the amendment was not eligible for a vote because it was not technically germane to the legislation,” said Graham spokesperson Kevin Bishop.

Bishop added that Graham “will continue to explore opportunities for passing the legislation.”

More than 400 amendments were filed on the defense authorization bill and debated for days. More than half of them were dropped, either because they were considered technically non-germane (like the amendment to close the PLO mission) or overly contentious (the Obama administration threatened to veto the bill if certain provisions were included). Typically, there is a lot of conflict over the defense authorization bill, but this year it passed easily through unanimous consent, largely because amendments that may have raised objections were taken out. Senators were eager to rush this thing out the door and focus on the fiscal cliff debate.

Was this because of J Street? I’m sure that’s what J Street would like people to believe. In fact, the amendment was one of hundreds that disappeared because of a procedural technicality or administration objection. “Mystery” solved.

Alana Goodman


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The Five Myths That Empower Hamas

by Noah Beck

The recent offensive by Hamas, deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, left about 3.5 million Israelis vulnerable or sprinting to shelters as warning sirens blared. If a neighboring terrorist entity were regularly lobbing missiles at US cities, how would the US respond? Would it have accepted a cease-fire that allows the terrorists to continue arming themselves from Iran?

That is exactly what Israel was forced to do because of the diplomatic realities produced by the following five myths (vigorously propagated by the media).

1) The weaker party is always right. Sympathy for the underdog notwithstanding, the weaker party can still be the one at fault, as a visit to any children's playground can readily reveal. The same is true in military conflicts: Al Qaeda is the weaker party against the US, but that hardly makes them right.

2) Israel uses disproportionate force. But what force is proportionate to thousands of missiles raining down on your citizens? Must Israel wait until a Palestinian rocket hits a school bus or a hospital, causing mass casualties, before its response can be proportionate? Where was world outrage when Hamas fired 130 rockets and missiles at Israeli civilians in the weeks prior to Israel's targeted killing of Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari? Weren't those 130 attacks infinitely "disproportionate" because they targeted innocent civilians who were just going about their lives? Such attacks have been going on since 2001. What kind of force would the US have used and how long would it have waited to use it? Critics also argue that Israel's lower casualty count proves that Israel uses disproportionate force. But such twisted logic implies that Israel's military response would have been acceptable if only Israel had done a lousier job of protecting its civilians or simply used them as human shields.

3) The parties in this "cycle of violence" are morally indistinguishable. But Hamas purposely targets Israeli civilians and uses Palestinian civilians as human shields to maximize their casualties and score sympathy points. Israel, on the other hand, protects civilians on both sides of the conflict by using bomb shelters and the Iron Dome defense system in Israel, and by warning civilians - with leaflets, texts, and phone calls - to clear targeted areas in Gaza. Israel also expends tremendous resources gathering military intelligence for pinpoint strikes on terrorist targets -- operations that it sometimes abruptly aborts when civilians unexpectedly enter the targeted area. Critics forget that if Israel's goal were to massacre the Palestinians, Israel could do so in a few hours of indiscriminate bombardment (as Assad has done daily in Syria) rather than in days or weeks of precise military actions.

4) If Israel just gave up more land, the conflict with its neighbors would vanish. History reveals how dangerously naive this idea is. Although Jews accepted the UN's 1947 Partition Plan to divide the British Mandate between Jews and Arabs, the response from Palestinians and neighboring Arab countries was the 1948 war that nearly eradicated the nascent Jewish state. Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon in 2000, but in 2006 Hezbollah launched unprovoked attacks that led to war. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the Palestinians used it to fire 8,000 rockets at Israelis. Israel's withdrawal from Sinai is the only historical example of a territorial concession that brought peace to Israel, and the "Arab Spring" raises questions about how long even this cold peace will last.

5) Israel can make peace with Hamas. Can the US make peace with Al Qaeda? Appeasing extremists only defers the day of reckoning as history has often demonstrated. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren aptly describes Hamas as "a flagrantly anti-democratic, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-feminist and anti-gay movement dedicated to genocide." Real peace is impossible with such an organization and no prosperity will ever come to Gaza under the Hamas thugocracy that rules it. If world powers are genuinely concerned about Gaza, they should work to remove Hamas from power there.

Indeed, the world must move beyond the media-driven myths above and recognize Hamas for what it really is: an Islamist terrorist organization dangerously allied with Iran in its mission to destroy Israel. Hamas states this goal in its charter and Iranian leaders declare their genocidal intentions publicly. These forces must be stopped before the Armageddon described in my novel leaves the realm of fiction.

Noah Beck's novel, The Last Israelis, published in July, describes an attack by Iran-backed terror groups in Gaza that was disturbingly similar to the attacks of last month, when Tel-Aviv was directly targeted by missiles.


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