Friday, October 25, 2013

Mordechai Kedar: The United States is Losing the Middle East Coalition

by Mordechai Kedar

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

Ever since the seventies, the world has become accustomed to the split in the Middle East, between those countries that support the West - Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and Israel, and we might add Turkey to this list as well. This coalition was strong mainly because of the dangers posed by those countries that were members of the opposing, Soviet, coalition: Syria, Libya, Iraq and South Yemen. Lebanon was then between the democratic hammer and the Syrian anvil.

Despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of the eighties, there were no big shifts in political orientation, and the countries that were faithful to the Western bloc led by the United States remained faithful to it until recently, mainly because a new hostile bloc was formed, led by Iran and supported by Russia and China. The stronger the Iranian threat became, the more the pro-Western countries depended on America for support.

Lately, however, the pro-Western coalition has begun to crumble, and two key countries - Saudi Arabia and Egypt - are searching for a new political crutch, ever since it became clear to them that the American crutch is nothing but "a broken reed" (Isaiah, 36:6). A few more countries can be added to this list, mainly Turkey and the Gulf Emirates.

Saudi Arabia

In an unprecedented move, the Saudi kingdom has refused to become a member of the most powerful body in the world, the Security Council of the UN, a body authorized to deal with the world's security problems and, with the power of the authority vested in it, can even declare war as a world body on a country that violates its resolutions. The question that immediately arises is: why did Saudi Arabia refuse to become a member of the body that is perhaps the only one capable of dealing with Iran's military nuclear project? Why did Saudi Arabia reject the opportunity to influence events in Syria from within the Security Council? Why doesn't Saudi Arabia take advantage of the most important stage in international policy in order to take action against Israel?

The superficial reason is that which the Saudi foreign office published, expressing an ethical position: the kingdom will not agree to enter the Security Council until the Council undergoes reforms that will enable it to fulfill its role, which is to maintain world peace. The obsolete apparatus, the wasteful practices, and double standards used by the Security Council all prevent it from fulfilling its role. There are many examples of this: the Palestinian problem has not been solved despite it having been created 65 years ago, and despite the fact that the wars stemming from it have threatened the peace of the entire region and the world several times. The Council allows the Syrian dictator continue slaughtering his citizens for almost three years without imposing effective sanctions, and the Council has failed to achieve the goal of turning the Middle East into an area free of weapons of mass destruction because it has not managed to create an effective method of oversight for military nuclear projects.

Despite the fact that the Saudis do not speak specifically about Iran in their official announcement, it is clear that their reference is not to Israel, from whom they fear no danger, but to Iran, whose nuclear plans do keep them awake at night. However, it is specifically the Iranian nuclear issue which should have pushed Saudi Arabia to become a member the Council; membership could have granted them an active role in making decisions against Iran, so why not join?

In part, the reasons relate to the way that the Saudis see the international alignment of countries recently but is also connected to the customary culture of honor in the Middle East, without which it would be impossible to understand the behavior of the Saudis, proud sons of the desert.

First of all, a person of honor does not join a club where he is considered a class 'B' member. In the Security Council there are class 'A' members - the five permanent members (the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China) who have nuclear weapons and veto power, and there are class 'B' members - the ten countries with temporary membership, who are not allowed to attain nuclear weapons and do not have veto power. Saudi Arabia would in no way agree to be a class 'B' member of any organization, and would prefer not to join because honor is more important to it than anything else.

Secondly, a person of honor does not want to be a rubber stamp for countries whose policies it doesn't agree with and he doesn't want to be subservient to others. The Saudis know that in the Security Council they would have to behave according to the American-Western dictates, despite the fact that they do not at all agree with the policy of the West in general and Obama's in particular toward a wide array of issues. The Saudis do not want to be identified with American support of Israel, with Obama's appeasement of Iran and with the Western inaction against Asad, the infidel murderer of Muslims. The Saudis also disagree with the United States' support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, because the Saudis support Sisi with all of their might, while the United States pressures Sisi - the mass murderer who destroys mosques with fire - to restore power to the Muslim Brotherhood, whom the Saudis loathe.

Of all the myriad of issues on which they disagree with the United States, the Saudis are most angry with the United States because of the American failure to stop the Iranian military nuclear plan, despite the fact that for the last five years President Obama has promised innumerable times that he will not allow Iran to attain a nuclear bomb. From the Saudis' point of view he has broken his promise, and erased himself from the list of people that the Saudis want to be in the same picture with.

Recently he even increased their fury with the attempts at appeasing the Iranians, and especially with Obama's pathetic bid to meet Rouhani when he was in the United States for the UN General Council. Rouhani refused to meet with him but ultimately agreed to receive a telephone conversation from Obama as Rouhani was on his way to the airport. Obama's behavior humiliated not only himself but also his allies, and from the Saudis' point of view he dealt them and their honor a severe blow.

A third reason for the Saudi refusal to join the Security Council is the fact that Saudi Arabia constantly works against the security of many countries: it is Saudi Arabia who finances Sunni terror in Iraq, her billions serve to oil the hundred of jihadi militias in Syria, and the Saudis pay many petro-dollars to spread radical Wahhabi Islam in Europe, Africa, Asia and America. To sit on the Security Council would be a contradiction of Saudi Arabia's activities, which actually undermine the security of many countries, and therefore might put the Saudis into embarrassing situations. And embarrassment is the last thing that a man of the Middle East is willing to tolerate, besides shame.

The government in Saudi Arabia prefers to act behind the scenes, to exert influence secretly and to act unseen, because that is where its strength lies. Sitting in the Security Council will place Saudi Arabia in the center of focus, and it is not consistent with the style of the Saudis, who prefer to act and exert influence without exposing themselves. They have everything, and they have a lot to lose. Sitting in the Security Council will not add to their reputation and will increase their friction with the nations of the world, friction that is uncomfortable to them because of their conservative and separatist points of view.

Human Rights Organizations

Western countries boast about their strict observance of human rights, within their own territories and in other countries. They allow NGOs to act freely in this matter, and some of these human rights organizations receive economic benefits such as government support and tax exemption on donations. Western countries use the reports that these organizations publish as a basis for determining their policy, despite the fact that these publications stem from the very specific cultural agenda of the organizations’ members and their financers.

Last week, the London-based organization, Amnesty International published an especially harsh report on Saudi Arabia. According to the report, Saudi Arabia does not act in accordance with the recommendations of the UN (meaning the West) in all matters related to human rights and civil freedoms, and since 2009 has even intensified the oppression of its civil rights activists through arbitrary arrests, torture and trials where the rights of the accused are not upheld. Women and foreign workers in Saudi Arabia are treated negatively, and members of non-Islamic religions are persecuted relentlessly. The Amnesty manager of the Middle East region and North Africa accuses Saudi Arabia of breaking all the promises it made to improve its human rights situation, while using economic force and political influence.

The report was publicly presented in the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and the fact that it was presented in front of the entire world raised the ire of the Saudis, who accused Amnesty and the Council of double standards. The Saudis are extremely furious toward Amnesty specifically, and the West in general because the Saudi says to himself: "Look at these hypocrites: they travel to work in a car powered by Saudi fuel, fly first class all over the world in jets that fly on Saudi fuel, sit in a fancy air conditioned office powered by electricity from Saudi oil, run a country with banks that are based on Saudi money, and spit into the Saudi oil well that allows them to live so comfortably and criticize the Saudis so sharply ".

The problem is especially grievous when Western criticism touches on the status of women and their rights in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi ban on women walking in the street without the accompaniment of a man, and the ban on women driving, voting or being elected is a religious and cultural matter, and the Saudis are totally unwilling to accept the dictates of cultural colonialism from the West, which wants to measure them, their values and their customs and traditions, against Western criteria. The Saudi is amazed: "What makes the Western, materialistic and permissive infidels think that they are better than we are?

The negative view of the Shi'ites in East Saudi Arabia stems from the Wahhabi concept that Shi'a is a sort of heresy at its core. The ever-present suspicion that the Shi'ites are biased toward Iran makes the Saudi regime apprehensive about the residents of the Eastern area, where the country's oil reserves are located, under the Shi'ites' feet. The Saudi regime constantly suspects that Iran is trying to undermine it, with the support of the Shi'ite minority, so who gave Amnesty the right to stick its nose into such a sensitive matter as Saudi national security?

Recently a number of "human rights" organizations, especially Amnesty, began criticizing the way the United States uses drones in the battle against al-Qaeda and its subsidiaries, in Pakistan and Yemen. These organizations claim that not only terrorists are killed in these attacks, but innocent citizens are killed as well. The effort that the United States invests in locating the terrorists and eliminating them does not impress these organizations, and they intend to bring the public figures that are involved in operating the drones to trial for war crimes.

Saudi Arabia also suffers from terror carried out by the organization al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), mainly from those of its people who took shelter in tribal areas of Yemen. Every few weeks, the United States eliminates world jihad operatives in Yemen, apparently with the support of Saudi intelligence. Now, here come the Western bleeding hearts organizations, demanding to stop the Western drone operations against al-Qaeda, the enemy of the West and Saudi Arabia. Is this how the West conducts itself? Is this how we can count on the West? On one hand it fights terror and on the other hand tries to tie the hands that are fighting it? This Western hypocrisy discourages the Saudis from cooperating with us at all.

The activity of Western organizations like Amnesty arouses doubts among the Saudis about how closely they want to affiliate themselves with the West. If the Western countries allow Amnesty to operate within their countries against Saudi Arabia and make it a target for the arrows of unjustified and illegitimate criticism (in the Saudi view), and if Western organizations act against the war on terror, then why should the Saudis maintain a relationship with Western countries? Perhaps they should form ties with Russia and China, countries that do not burden Saudi Arabia with annoying questions about human rights, and don't bother the royal house with matters that make no sense to them like the rights of women and foreign workers?


The United States is losing its influence in this country as well, because of its attachment to President Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The United States even froze part of its annual aid to Egypt, which very much angered the Egyptians. Even if the Egyptian army can manage if the supply of American weapons is stopped, by cutting back the aid, Obama has dealt a severe insult to the Egyptians who are proud of themselves, their country and the history of their people over thousands of years. Just for comparison: How old is the United States?

American support for the Muslim Brotherhood continues on, despite the fact that the army - who took the country from them - is fighting the Brotherhood in every possible way, and is openly supported by many sectors of the Egyptian population. Recently it has been reported that Putin may visit Egypt, and this visit to Egypt is not only for a sail on the Nile and a visit to the museums. Everyone knows that Putin's visit has a political meaning, and that Sisi's Egypt is searching today for a new crutch, since the American one has been fairly disappointing to the uniform-clad, old-new rulers of the Land of the Nile.


Since 2002, when Erdoğan rose to power, Turkey has been turning ever increasingly towards a political Islam of the same sort as the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey refused to participate in the war that the NATO allies waged against Saddam Hussein in 2003, and is furious and insulted over Europe's political objection to its joining the European Union. Its negative relations towards Israel is based on the Islamic view that negates in principle, the right of Jews to live as sovereigns in their land, instead of "ahal dhimma" (second class citizens) under the auspices of Islam.

There have been reports recently that Turkish intelligence exposed an Israeli spy network operating in Iran, and in doing this, Turkey broke the basis of faith that is so essential to intelligence and security cooperation. As a result, the United States stopped the delivery of drones to Turkey, because if they expose Israeli agents to Iran they would certainly give Iran the secrets of American drones.

The conclusion to be drawn from this is that also regarding Turkey - which is still an official NATO member - there are doubts if it is indeed an integral part of the Western coalition.


In Israel, there are a steadily increasing number of people who do not believe that the two-state solution - which the American government is trying with all of its power to promote - will bring real peace between us and the Arabs. The split between Gaza and Ramallah will not end in the foreseeable future, and the problem of terror from Gaza will not be solved even if Israel totally withdraws from Judea and Samaria. Moreover, no one in the world - not even Obama - can promise that an Arab state in Judea and Samaria will not become another Hamas state, whether by elections as happened in January 2006, or by violent takeover as happened in Gaza in June 2007. The Americans, who are pushing the two sides toward a two-state solution, would be bringing existential danger upon Israel, and many in Israel ask: If this is how our friends behave, what would our enemies do?

To this we must add several factors: the anti-Semitic spirit flooding the academic institutions in the United States, hidden behind anti-Israeli slogans; the Western political correctness that allows everyone to attack Israel but not its enemies; the fact that Islam that is gaining strength in Europe and the United States and influences Western policy in the Middle East; and the steady decrease in number, power and support of Jews in the United States.  In view of all of these factors, it is not at all clear that Israel has any reason to remain forever in the Western camp.

With the ruling family in Saudi Arabia enraged toward the United States and the West, and the regime in Egypt furious with the United States and searching for friends in other places, with Turkey behaving as if it is part of the Iranian effort and when so many Israelis have the uncomfortable feeling that the United States and Europe are acting against Israeli interests, it is not clear that the United States and the West has a coalition in the Middle East. Based on what seems like the disintegration of the Western coalition in the region, it may be that Israel must develop her relations with rising powers in the world, such as China, even if some Americans might not like it.


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.

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

A Lesser Superpower Than We Used To Be

by Shoshana Bryen

The traditional American posture as the guarantor of freedom and protector of allies, and the scourge of Nazis, Communists and al Qaeda is headed toward a less manageable, every-man-for-himself series of ad hoc arrangements that portend greater international instability in which terrorism and warfare thrive.
Here is what happens when the United States is weakened in the eyes of the world:
  • China derides U.S. economic leadership, posits itself a "source of financial stability," and suggests the yuan as a replacement for the dollar. China also announces plans to sell Pakistan two more nuclear reactors. Russia doubles down by offering Iran an anti-aircraft system and another reactor.
  • Iran announces a willingness to reach a deal for the elimination of Western sanctions, but maintains that Tehran will never give up its capability to enrich uranium, a key Israeli demand, and formerly a key demand of the U.S. and its allies. Russia further undermines the U.S. by announcing Iran has a "right" to enrichment and urging the U.S. to lift sanctions.
  • The Syrian opposition announces it will not come to talks in Geneva because its patron – the United States – has no plan and because it is opposed to talks while Assad continues to rule. Assad, in the meantime, announces that he should have won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize (OK, it was a joke) and sees no impediment to his running for re-election in 2014 (that's not).
  • Saudi Arabia declines a previously sought-after seat on the UN Security Council because, "Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill its people and burn them with chemical weapons in front of the entire world and without any deterrent or punishment is clear proof and evidence of the UN Security Council's inability to perform its duties and shoulder its responsibilities."
  • NATO ally Turkey appears to have exposed Iranians who met with Israeli intelligence in Turkey, ensuring that the Iranians are burned at home and an information flow to the West about Iranian activities is cut off. It is also possible that Turkey has been arming al Qaeda militias in Syria to fight against Syrian Kurds.
  • "Insider attacks" by the Taliban against U.S. and NATO troops increase, as do attacks against Afghan officials, interpreters and others who have cooperated with the coalition.
  • A 16-year-old girl tells the President how to run U.S. national security policy. Malala Yousefzai told reporters after her meeting in the Oval Office, "I expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."
In response, the administration has:
  • Suspended military aid and some budgetary support to Egypt, risking priority passage through the Suez Canal for U.S. naval vessels; overflight rights above the Red Sea; efforts in the Sinai to oust Iranian-supported jihadists and arms smugglers; the destruction of Hamas smuggling tunnels; and Egypt's regional weight, in the hope that Egypt would find Jeffersonian democracy.
  • Remained mute on the Turkish intelligence revelation, except, apparently, to leak the fact of it to The Washington Post. Remained mute on Turkish support for rebel factions all together.
  • Focused on the operations of the OPCW in Syria aimed at getting rid of chemical weapons, while conventional killings continue apace and hunger has become a real threat to civilians.
  • Had the Secretary of State praise Assad's cooperation with the OPCW.
  • Considered a proposal to ease sanctions on Tehran by offering it access to billions of dollars in frozen funds as a gesture, despite the opinion of negotiators that a deal is not close. The reopening of bank accounts in the U.S. could be done by Executive Order without Congressional approval.
  • Denounced the recent election in Azerbaijan, an American and Israeli ally. Fair enough, in that Western democratic norms were not adhered to. But U.S. response to fully rigged Iranian and Russian elections was much gentler. At least Azerbaijan doesn't seem to be threatened with a cutoff of the approximately $20 million in U.S. aid it is scheduled to receive in 2013. (See Egypt, below)
The suspension of aid to Egypt tossed a lifeline to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is roiling politics in Egypt by seeking violent confrontation with the government, and undermining the U.S. ally Jordan and the previously secular Turkish democracy. Notably, the suspension did not seem to presage the collapse of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty despite the insistence of many that Egypt kept the treaty only because the U.S. bribed it to do so. Cooperation against jihadists in Sinai and against Hamas in Gaza appears to indicate that there is at least some self-interest in the Treaty on both sides. Israeli officials have expressed "concern" about the aid suspension.

The President appears to be working overtime to improve relations with America's adversaries, which would not necessarily be a bad idea, except for the number of times that it has come at the expense of America's interests and allies. Even our neighbor and good friend Canada has felt the President's cold shoulder:
  • Unwilling to wait much longer for an American decision on the Keystone Pipeline that could carry more than 800,000 barrels of oil a day to the U.S. and, according to the U.S. State Department, create as many as 42,000 permanent American jobs, Canada is consider shipping the oil to China.
  • In response, Mr. Obama told The New York Times that the Keystone Pipeline would create only 50-100 jobs in the United States, and sniffed that Canada should do more to clean up carbon emissions.
When the United States is weak, as it is when it vacillates between threats to its allies and bribes to its adversaries, neither allies nor adversaries have any incentive to follow the American lead. The traditional American post-WWII posture as the guarantor of freedom of navigation and protector of a network of allies – in the Pacific, in the Middle East, in South America – and scourge of Nazis, Chinese Communists, Soviets and al Qaeda, is headed toward a less manageable "every man for himself" series of ad hoc arrangements that portend greater international instability in which terror and warfare thrive.

Shoshana Bryen


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

Why I'm Pro-Israel: A French non-Jewish Pilot Speaks Out

by Tim Larribau

Hat tip to Danilette for pointing out this article:

          As I’m writing this article, I already hear the outburst of criticism, insults, objections and gestures of despise, and maybe even hatred, that such a statement will bring upon me. But inspite of all the anger and objections that I’m about to generate, I’m indeed going to make a clear statement and explain why. I’m Pro Israel.           


To prevent accusations of partiality, let me say that I’m not a Jew. There are, indeed, in my mother’s lineage some traces of Jewishness but certainly not enough for me to be considered, or to feel, Jewish. I don’t work in finance or show businesses and therefore I have no career or financial interest in making this statement and for conspiracy theorists, I open too much my mouth to be a secret agent of Mossad. I don’t even have any jewish friends. I do know one or two, I do have been around one or two others but I have no personal, romantic or friendly relations that would influence my statement. I’m not a fan of French Jewish show-biz stars Patrick Bruel, Enrico Macias, Shirel, Elie Semoun, or Arthur even if I like Gad Elmaleh. I hate French philosopher and media star Bernard-Henri Levy, his haircut, his shirts and the fact that he poses on Libyan tanks wrecks in fashion costumes. As for French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius and for former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Khan, both Jewish by birth, it wouldn’t be suitable to write here the contempt I hold against them. The only contemporary Jewish individual for whom I do have a full measure of admiration is Israeli Air Force Colonel Giora Epstein, a physically and technically exceptional soldier and the best fighter pilot and ace of the jet age with 17 air kills over enemy aircraft. In brief, I do not preach for my parish, I do not defend my blood, I do not favour friends and I’m not soothing the feathers of my crooked nose banker.
          The partiality that I must confess, though, is that I’m a Christian believer who reads the Bible and who is very sensitive to the Jewish people, their history, their role and significance in the biblical message. These subjective elements established, I feel free to make my statement without having to constantly battle off usual prejudice.
A proud, free and independent people
             The Jews are nowadays maybe the oldest non-primitive people in history. Where all other peoples from Antiquity have been drowned in multiple conquests and assimilations, the Jews can be dated back to the gates of prehistoric times. Since their very beginnings, first as the twelve founding brothers of the twelve tribes of Israel, they were fiercely independent and free. Of course, you will object that they were slaves in Egypt! But their freedom from slavery was the first great abolitionist struggle in history and almost sent mighty Egypt to its knees. Non-historic biblical myths, will you protest! Please remember the only partiality that I confess. The Bible is THE book, THE Word of God. If you want to convince me that I’m wrong, go convince Hitler to love the Jews, it’ll be easier. And even if you consider this story only as a myth, it is still a founding legend of the Jewish Nation, which enlightens its commitment to freedom and independence.
After becoming a sovereign state, they never were a great empire and never even wished to be. They are one of the few peoples in history who stuck to their few acres of land. After the initial conquest of Canaan, God’s promised land, they never pursued any imperialist desire towards their neighbours, inspite of unending wars with them. The only nation that was entirely conquered and destroyed by Israel was Amalek. The Amalekites were such a threat to the very survival of Israel that God ordered their annihilation. God's order shows that it was not to be an economic conquest but a fight for survival as no spoil should be gained. Amalek was to be destroyed entirely, including their belongings and livestock. King Saul's disobedience to this order would lead to his downfall under God’s wrath. Religious nonsense, will you claim again? At the very least, it’s another founding legend of the Jewish people’s mentality as it is written it the Torah. 
            It is wrong to presume they had to conquer and destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan in order to settle them. Foreigners who wished to live among the Jewish people were openly accepted. Israel is one the first nation to adopt a legal status for foreigners among itself, as recorded in the Torah. Israel’s history also includes foreigners, perfectly assimilated and even decisive in Israel’s fate. Ruth the Moabite is not a Jew but still becomes King David’s great –grandmother and King David himself will entrust foreigners with important missions such as Hushai the Archite, sent to spy on his son Absalom’s rebellion or even Uriah the Hittite who, before being trapped by David to steal his wife, is one of his army officers. David’s crime on Uriah will even be met by a dramatic answer, in his own flesh, that will show him he is not above the Law, in a time where arbitrary absolutism is commonplace.
        Surprisingly, the stories of the Kings and Chronicles of Israel show a very particular and premature form of separation of powers. The Law, promulgated by God, is enforced upon all, including the King himself who cannot evade it without being recalled to his duties by God’s Prophets, acting like a judiciary power, opposing royal policies and imposing measures to the governments of Israel and Judah after the secession. The absence of royal absolutism is obvious when Queen Jezebel, a Sidonian princess who is not used to opposition, simply cannot understand why her husband King Ahab is powerless when the common citizen Naboth refuses to sell him his vineyard.
            At the crossroads of most mighty empires of Antiquity, the two Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judah will always resist the great Powers, always trying by any means to preserve their independence or to restore it when lost. This unyielding will of freedom will bring about them unending wars against their neighbours' imperialism and many times in history, it will result in blood, ashes, deportations and complete destructions of their cities and capitals.


Even the word submission sounds strange in this case because, usually there was nothing left to submit, the material, social and economic destruction being thoroughly total. The Assyrian and Babylonian Kings would have to besiege and conquer Jerusalem several times, deporting the leading Jewish class and set puppet governments, only to see these also turn against them to restore independence. Nebuchadnezzar II will completely destroy Jerusalem and will deport most of the Jewish people to Mesopotamia, reason why there were large Jewish communities in Iraq and Iran up to the middle of the 2Oth century. The Romans will go even further in 70 AD and 135 AD by destroying Jerusalem almost stone by stone, slaughtering in large numbers and deporting the remnants of the people that came back from Mesopotamia to create a new, if not independent at least autonomous, government. The Romans will even rename Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina to show the Jews nothing was left of their land, traditions and heritage.
       But, inspite of everything and while the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Muslim and Ottoman empires have disappeared, the Jewish people still exists and are still faithful to their land, traditions, language and heritage. This spirit of resistance to imperialism and totalitarianism, although powerful compared to Jewish weakness, has brought them through centuries and has let them bury all their enemies. Add to this list the European empires that segregated and expelled them, Czarist Russia that invented the word “pogrom”, the French 3rdRepublic that roared against Jewish traitors during the Dreyfus Case, the 3rdReich that enacted their extermination and the USSR that secretly continued czarist persecutions. During almost 19 centuries, while trying as best they could to survive within their many adoptive countries (that can almost be called “concentration countries” in the Nazi way for some), they never ceased repeating at each Passover: “Next year in Jerusalem”, indomitable and fierce in their will to go home and retrieve their nation. Which people can claim the same? The Assyrians have gone and Babylon is no more than an open sky museum. The Persians have gone and Persepolis with them. The Romans themselves left Rome for Ravenna. The Byzantines have melted with the Turks and have forgotten Constantinople. The Gauls no longer exist and we’re not even sure where Alesia actually was.
         IAF Mirage III  

Their surprising capability to resist adversity is all the more confirmed by the four wars in forty years since the State of Israel was created in 1947. With no army, no equipment, no trained soldiers and no reserves, crushed by a blockade on weapons and heavily outnumbered, they changed the course of events and saved their brand new nation with feats of arms for which the word glorious is almost weak. In 1956, 1967 and 1973 no matter who and what they were facing, they prevailed, fighting even further than reason can accept. It is often said, in warfare, that victory belongs to those who want it the most and each time, the Jews proved their exceptional will and a courage to move mountains.
         You can hate them because they are foreigners in your country, because they kept their culture, their traditions, their faith. You can despise them because they did not completely become you. You may want to erase them because you think they are low class race of parasites. Or you can hate them for their resilient independence and their “chosen people” arrogance that they have learned to hide. Whatever the kind of hatred they encountered, they made through time with their history, their traditions, their language, their faith with stubbornness and courage. What an amazing paradox that Hitler, who praised the idea of a pure people, rooted in history, a superior race that can survive and triumph over any ordeal, assaulted the very people that embodies this idea!
A modern nation’s economic miracle
           Without getting in the jungle of statistics and charts, there is one fact on which historians and economists agree. Only two countries in the last fifty achieved distinction of becoming developed nations, starting from nothing: South Korea and Israel. Without natural or resources, starting from an under-developed region of the Ottoman Empire whose economy was based on livestock, fishing and craftsmanship, Israel is now a leading country in high-tech and network industries, high level medical and surgical research and industrial agriculture, having successfully cultivated fertile ground in the desert, a feat unique in history. Israel's standard of living is equivalent to western nations, with a similar life expectancy. The education system is excellent and Israeli universities producer internationally recognized engineers, scientists and intellectuals.

This development, of course, is made in spite of and under the constant threat of neighbour countries that only very slowly recognize Israel while major regional powers refuse to do so. The country is surrounded by radical Islamic terrorist groups, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Salafist groups linked to Al Qaeda in the Sinai Desert.
Under constant conventional as well as terrorist threat, Israeli society and economy are models. Israel is a free, democratic country, based on the rule of law, protecting freedom of speech and of press. One should only consider a former president jailed for rape and sexual abuse or the way Israeli press harassed Armed Forces officials during the 2006 campaign in Lebanon.
Democratic freedom of choice works very well, as the three major parties of the left, center and right wings have held in office, sometimes in coalitions that do not freeze the institutions and the electoral process is proven, working without major flaws and with integrity levels equivalent to western countries.
As of citizenship, Israel is role model for successful integration. Even if Judaism and Jewish immigration are essential factors, they are not exclusive. Becoming a Israeli citizen is open and easy, as Christian and Muslim Israelis from various ethnic backgrounds can witness, even forming elite units of the Israeli Armed Forces such as the Druze Herev Battalion or the Desert Reconnaissance Bedouins Battalion to whom surveillance of the delicate southern border is entrusted. Integration of Jews from around the world is also a marvel of openness of society, each community contributing its difference to the wider Israeli community. The variety of languages, origins and cultures inside the Israeli society makes it one of the largest and most successful melting pots in history. Charges of Apartheid, commonly brought against Israel, do not stand for a single second when facing facts. A policy of defiance and defence towards the Arab populations which refuse assimilation is indeed implemented but those who wish assimilation are welcome without any discrimination 
or segregation. hebrew-bible.jpg 
The Knesset, Israel's Parliament, even has Arab members who are fully free to speak, even when it sometimes oppose Israeli interests.
One remarkable feat that must be emphasized, as a mark of Israeli society vitality, is the rehabilitation and resurrection, as a living and official language, of Hebrew which was considered and  spoken as a religious idiom. Another amazing evidence of the resilience of this people and its indomitable identity!
One can only note the historical and traditional principles of Israeli society -equality before law, rejection of tyranny, separation of powers, the welcoming and assimilation of foreigners -still permeate modern life and institutions in Israel. The more one thinks, the more one realizes that our western political model of individual freedom and responsibility of the citizen in a tolerant and open democratic rule of law is clearly influenced by the traditional Israeli model and not limited to the ancient Greek or Christianity. Israel’s existence today and the natural way it implements these principles inspite of centuries of exile and diverse political influences is a particular evidence of the universality and permanence of these values when they are not twisted or forsaken.
What about Palestinians?
         In this fine portrait of Jews and Israel, my opponents are already loading their arguments that can be summed up in one sentence: Palestinians’ fate is the only necessary evidence that everything I say is wrong. But here’s my answer.

The word “Palestine” was created by the Roman invaders after having destroyed what was then Judea and Jerusalem, deported its population and forbade them by law to return. To destroy every residual Jewish resistance to Roman domination, the method chosen was to morally rape them and to permanently redefine everything including the land. By romanizing it, latinizing the names, by encouraging immigration coming from the Desert nomadic peoples, the Romans hoped to finally cut every roots of the Jewish dream of sovereignty and independence in their homeland. But history shows the Jews have always tried to come back. During the Muslim and Crusader invasions, the Jews were there though a minority. During the Muslim era, Jerusalem and the old Judea now called Palestine were only a region of various Muslim empires. By the way, the region does not attract much interest and does not see an important cultural or economic development. Aside from the sacred significance of Jerusalem in Islam, even if the Quranic verses that seem to designate Jerusalem must be considered with caution, this land is only a Muslim conquest that is now considered part of the Muslim community as all conquered lands. The idea of an Arab nation and identity was born during the Ottoman domination and is not as much linked to the land as to ethical considerations. Arabs briefly dream of a large Arab nation including Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. When the British conquer Palestine in 1917, there was nothing as a claim of a Palestinian Arab State and there would not be any before 1970. What the Palestine Arabs want is not a Palestinian State but the integration of Palestine in the large Arab kingdom led by the Hashemite dynasty. It is therefore only natural to reject the 1947 Partition Plan since the only state they feel loyal to already exists east of the Jordan River.
          The Palestinians’ commitment to this land has no common measure with that of the Jews. The only time in history the Jews had a country, a state, a code of laws and a government was on this land. They wished no other and still do. Their only political and spiritual capital has always been Jerusalem. For the Arabs and Turks, it was only an under developed region inside a wider Muslim empire in constant expansion whose capital was either in Baghdad, Damascus or Constantinople and whose spiritual center was in Mecca and Medina before Jerusalem. When Zionism influenced European Jews to emigrate to Ottoman Palestine in late 19th Century, Jerusalem was already to a majority of Jews, as noted by French author Chateaubriand. And it is this immigration of men, competences and funds that made Palestine attractive again for Arabs. Selling land to Jews brings unexpected funds that fuels a constantly growing local economy, thus creating jobs. Palestinians see their living standards improving, their way of life becoming more civilised. Many can leave their flocks to become farm workers or craftsmen or start small businesses.
           But if the Jews do have in their religious and traditional codes a status for integrated foreigners, the Muslims are religiously not allowed to live under a non-muslim sovereignty. When Zionist claims to autonomy and independence became prominent, tensions and conflicts erupted and worsened until the UN Partition Plan of 1947. The plan was accepted without conditions by Israel which was granted a coastal strip and a desert, leaving most of the land to Palestinians who rejected the plan to claim all the land. They chose an armed confrontation as the means to return to them estates that had been sold legally. In doing so, they were grasping an economic structure they were never able to create and rejected bluntly the very idea of sharing, negotiating and of reaching compromises with the Jews, boldly stating they would push them back into the sea.
 The Palestinian tragedy lies there, in this permanent refusal of sharing and negotiation. In 1948, rather that accepting defeat and building peace that could have led to a negotiated and acceptable solution for all, the Arab leaders called their people to exile, throwing hundreds of thousands of their fellow countrymen in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, leaving Palestine open for military action and recapture against Israel. But they never succeeded and let the refugees situation become a security challenge for Jordan who will settle it in blood in September 1970. Similarly, Lebanon, unable to deal with Yasser Arafat’s PLO becoming a state within the state, will fall into a 15 years civil war. Since then, no matter what the peace plans, the work sheets, the negotiations and other attempts to conciliation, Palestinians have always chosen the hard way, confrontation and conflict, requiring Israelis to make impossible compromises and setting conditions they know Israeli leaders cannot and won’t meet. This never-ending conflict, of which they are themselves the willing hostages, can only be settled, according to them, with the downfall of Israel.
            But let’s go even further and use our imagination. If Palestinians had accepted the Partition Plan in 1947 and created the state they are now asking for, is there simply one little reason to think that Palestine would today be in a better shape than its Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi or Lebanese neighbours, with their dictators, their soviet-style planned economies that are disasters, their violent, under-educated societies in constant decline and under the threat of the worst fundamentalist extremism? The way the Gaza strip is operated by a de facto autonomous government is enough evidence. The human, social and economic disaster is total and accusing Israel is nothing but a fairy tale. Either Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Algeria, even Jordan which is still in better shape, no Arab state of the Mediterranean or Mesopotamia, although independent and freely governed, has achieved a stable society served by a prosperous economy with the demographic standards of modern nations. A Palestinian State would have in no way escaped this sad fate.
I have made my decision
Of course, it would be easy to think that I’m glorifying Israel and demonizing the Palestinians. I could easily be opposed with some abuses or crimes committed by Israeli troops, with the injustice of the West Bank colonization policy, with the disproportioned retaliations to rockets fired from the Gaza strip, with the fate of Palestinian children held at gunpoint by Zahal soldiers.
I know all this. I’m not saying Israel is perfect, that its army is exemplary, that its policy is just and that I would give a blank check to the Israeli government.
I note that Israel is a democratic nation based on the rule of law with strong institutions. I note that Israel favours economic development of its population, Jewish or not, in a spirit of freedom, equality and pursuit of happiness. I note that, in regard of the behaviour of the British forces in their colonies, French in theirs, Russian in Germany or Afghanistan, German in Europe, American in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq and Arab in their own countries, Israeli forces have shown they are capable of restraint, discipline and humanity and they should be congratulated rather than condemned.
As for Israeli colonization policy, I have a very different view than the usual dichotomy. What if it was the best thing that could happen to Palestinians? What if the Israelis, at last rid of the fear of terrorists and extermination by Arab forces, could follow their tradition of Israel’s fully integrated foreign friends, already lived by many Arabs that would not turn from it? What if the colonies brought funds, allowed businesses to open, created jobs and returned to smart Palestinians the hope of a better life far from stupid conflicts and from an Arab nationalism that has proven in every way a lamentable failure? What if Palestinians became, by a welcome mind opening and by putting an end to their unyielding bellicosity, the modern Ruth the Moabite, Hushai the Archite and Uriah the Hittite? What if, rather than uselessly promoting a two states solution that will never work, we encouraged Palestinians to settle peace right away, without conditions, and to build their lives in an Israeli nation that welcomes so much foreign cultures that it has all the keys to do it the best way? What if we encouraged Palestinian leaders to stop waving impossible ultimatums to finally address their people’s true problems and allow it to have a share of the social and economic miracle Israel has created?
I have made my decision and it is very clear. I’m pro-Israel, I’m even pro-Zionism because I believe in the extension of the Israeli state to Palestinian territories and the integration of their population, in good feelings and good will, in the Israeli nation and I’m pro-Jew because it is an admirable people that lives through the ages of time showing an exceptional resistance, a remarkable sense of freedom of equality, a touching attachment to its land, its ancient culture and traditions and that still is on the front line of modernity and of future’s challenges.
Long lives Israel and I call upon the leaders of the Western nations for them at last to support, without ambiguity and without false empathy towards irresponsible Palestinian leaders, the only democratic nation based on the rule of law that is an example for the Middle East and for many western nations who lose their values in a few decades!

Tim Larribau


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

The Confluence of Events in Syria

by Shoshana Bryen

Not saying that it will happen -- not even that it might.  But if you don't watch the confluence of events in Syria, you'll miss the possibility that it could.

Now that Washington is finished with last summer's Elizabeth O'Bagy kerfuffle over the percentage of the Syrian opposition comprising jihadist militias, it is time to admit that the war is not what the romantics wanted it to be -- doctors and teachers who rose up against the tyrant and won.  To be sure, there were doctors and teachers, and to be sure, Assad is a tyrant, but war is conducted by fighters -- and in Syria, the fighters are well-armed, well-trained, and forcing the hand of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).  Reports of local FSA commanders and local Syrian government commanders making ceasefire deals in the field could be false.  But they could also be harbingers of changing fates.

The FSA is being subsumed under and pounded by jihadists.  There are reports that hundreds of FSA fighters have been defecting to jihadist groups since the summer, with the numbers growing.  It is a tactical and political win for the Syrian government, which presents itself as the sole secular fighting force against an encroaching jihadist onslaught.  

The FSA has to ponder its position and its options. 

The Syrian opposition in the broadest sense was armed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.  The U.S. role was not overt, but arms shipments from post-Gaddafi Libya to Syria from Benghazi were well-known and well-documented.  The role of the CIA in "vetting" rebel groups was also known.  In terms of direct support, Qatar and Turkey were partial to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saudi Arabia partial to other jihadist groups and -- as a U.S. ally -- partial to the American-supported FSA.  (That may now change, as the Saudis expressed their clear unhappiness with U.S. policy in Syria.)  Al-Qaeda used the generally unguarded Iraqi border to move arms and fighters west, as it had previously used it to move east.

From the beginning, it was clear that while the FSA leadership included defectors from the Syrian Army, the majority of its fighting forces were Muslim Brotherhood-aligned.  It didn't matter much when the fight against Assad trumped the other differences.  But that didn't last, and neither did the primacy of the FSA.  In July, the Brotherhood openly called for international arms to go through the FSA for Brotherhood use.

The jihadists are mainly foreign to Syria.  Where they control territory, they have imposed sharia law in ways that are alien to the community and that the locals resent and abhor.  The jihadists are often more interested in ruling what territory they control than capturing Damascus -- which makes sense, as the city means nothing to them.  Syria as a country means nothing to them.  Their goal, as it was in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, and elsewhere, is the spread of Islamic law across borders.  In instability, chaos, and ungoverned spaces, al-Qaeda and similar groups live, train, import weapons, export fighters, and thrive.

Iraq is their model.  After the fall of Saddam, al-Qaeda established Islamic State of Iraq, which ran roughshod over the traditions and alliances of the local Sunni leadership.  When local Iraqis were ready to take them on, the U.S. military was there to help.  In Syria, the locals are on their own against a foreign surge that is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.

To that extent, Assad (and al-Sissi in Egypt) is quite right in saying, "Après moi, le déluge." 

It was never reasonable to believe that the FSA could fight off Assad's army, and even less to believe that it could fight Assad and the radicals at the same time.  Likewise, for three reasons it was naïve in the extreme to believe that if the U.S. had "armed and trained" the rebels, they could have taken Assad and given America influence for the "post-war" period.  First, the U.S. military -- openly, with American commanders, American equipment, eight years, and millions of dollars -- couldn't train an Iraqi or an Afghan military that fights competently.  Second, in neither place did U.S. training and arms translate into political capital.  And finally, al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and various other jihadist organizations were already armed and already trained -- some having fought in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

So the FSA, losing fighters on the ground to jihadist militias, and now in peril of losing Saudi arms and money, is at a crossroads.  Its leadership is secular, nationalist, and -- most important -- Syrian.  Most rebel militia leaders are none of those things.  The Assad government is all of them.

The opposition also has to consider the relative strength of Bashar Assad.  Assad started with a base of support that cannot switch sides; more than one-third of the Syrian population is Kurdish, Christian, or members of other minority groups that rely on the secular, nationalist Assad government to protect them.  The FSA's hopes that the U.S. would enter the battle have been dashed, and any hope that Israel would do so was never realistic.  Today, Assad is a partner to the U.S.-Russian agreement on OPCW and the removal of the chemical weapons arsenal; it was a small price for Assad to pay to ensure that the U.S. wouldn't attack militarily.  Russia again supplies the government with arms openly.  And Israel's "red lines," while effectively maintained, have not helped the rebels at all.

The FSA is literally between the rubble and mass graves, and the choices are stark: to continue fighting both Assad and the jihadist militias while watching its fighters defect and its people suffer ever more death and destruction, or to admit defeat by Assad and negotiate a new arrangement to try to oust the jihadists.  It will be an enormous victory for Iran, Russia, and Assad, and a corresponding loss for the Saudis (and other Sunni interests) and, of course, the Syrian people.  But it cannot be unthinkable.

You think they can't?  You think they won't?  You may be right.

Or not.

Shoshana Bryen


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