Saturday, January 25, 2014

Secrets from the Temple Mount

by Nadav Shragai

In recent years, not only have the relevant government agencies failed to prevent acts of vandalism and destruction by the waqf on the Temple Mount, but they have also prevented the public from being informed of new archaeological discoveries there.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Photo credit: Reuters

Nadav Shragai


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

Inside Iran: Iran's Demographic Problem

by Ariel Ben Solomon

Is there a correlation between Iran's nuclear program and its low fertility rate or, perhaps as well, between the vitality of Islamic civilization and its shrinking birthrates? There is, according to David Goldman, a fellow at the right-wing, US-based think tank the Middle East Forum, and a longtime writer for Asia Times Online under the moniker Spengler. The author of How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too), Goldman, an economist by training, explains the impact demographic fluctuations have on the greater strategic balance of power between states and civilizations.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post during a recent visit to Israel to promote the launch of the Hebrew version of his book, Goldman explained how he has followed demographic literature and the changes in Muslim demography.

Positive demographics are a result of societies that are forward-looking and self-confident, he said.

"A lack of desire for children is typically a symptom of civilizational decline," and the Muslim world is currently witnessing such a phenomenon, he avers.

Europe is going through a similar phase and there are obvious parallels with the Muslim world, he says, pointing out that when "traditional societies encounter the modern world and lose self-confidence, traditional behavior such as religion, childbearing, and other cultural patterns change radically."

"In Iran this occurred in one generation, while in Turkey it took two."

The estimated birthrate in Iran is around 1.86 children per woman for 2013, below the replacement rate of two births per woman, according to the CIA World Factbook. However, many demographers think Iran's fertility rate is even lower, at around 1.6 to 1.7.

A fertility rate higher than 2.1 births per woman indicates population growth.

Contraception is also widely used in Iran, having been previously promoted by the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in the 1980s – although in 2012, Tehran scrapped its birth control program after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Islamic Republic should aim for a population of 150 million to 200 million.

Other Middle Eastern states' birthrates have also been declining.

According to the CIA World Factbook 2013 estimates, Turkey had a birthrate of 2.1 children per woman, Tunisia 2.01, Morocco 2.17, Saudi Arabia 2.21, Kuwait 2.56, Syria 2.77, Algeria 2.78, Egypt 2.9, Jordan 3.32, and Iraq 3.5.

According to a 2009 UN report titled "Fertility Prospects in the Arab Region," carried out by John Casterline of Ohio State University, a sharp decline in birthrates is charted, especially since the 1980s.

For example, from 1950-1955, the Algerian fertility rate was 7.3, Egypt 6.4, Tunisia 6.9, Iraq and Syria 7.3, Jordan 7.4, and Morocco, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia at 7.2.

Under the rule of the shah, before the 1979 revolution, Iran became the first Muslim country to achieve universal literacy.

The higher the literacy and education, the lower the birthrates tend to be, said Goldman, adding that Turkey is suffering from a similar trend.

By the middle of this century, a third of Iranians will be older than 60, compared to only 7 percent today, and the cost of caring for elderly dependents will crush Iran's economy, he says.

Iran is undergoing economic and demographic decline, explains Goldman, and in order to carry out the regime's regional and global expansionist ambitions, it needs more resources, which could be easier to obtain under the umbrella of nuclear weapons.

Goldman compares Iran's predicament to that of the former Soviet Union.

From the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the country's leadership began to act more aggressively – perhaps because they understood that it was the last chance to push for power amid an economic and demographic decline, Goldman explains.

In Iran, mosque attendance is low, just as church attendance is in England, he states.

"The best predictor of the number of children in industrial societies is religious observance," he says.

Asked about initiatives by some countries to counter birth rate decline by offering government subsidies, Goldman responded, "Subsidies have some effect, but the main reason to have children is not economic, but emotional."

Regarding Israel and the Palestinians, he points out that from the river to the sea, not including Gaza, the birthrate for Arab Muslims and Jews is around 3. However, the trends are going in opposite directions, with Jewish fertility increasing and Arab fertility decreasing.

"In fact," says Goldman, "the situation is worse for the Palestinians," because the official data provided by the Palestinian Authority is inflated.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said during a speech at the Saban Center in December that Israel needs to heed the "demographic time bomb" of Palestinian population growth. Goldman refutes the validity of this argument.

"The argument that there is an urgent reason to do something right now is simply false – there is no urgency," he asserts. "Palestinian Arabs have the highest living standards and upward mobility of any Arabs in the world except for some in the Gulf states."

Another important factor, he says, is that aging populations are less warlike than younger ones. The Good Friday agreement in Ireland was reached in 1998, and it was helped by a population decrease, he notes.

Asked about how this knowledge could benefit US policy, he says, "The US needs to abandon the illusion that it can stabilize most of the Muslim world."

There is going to be "a long period of chaos, and the best we can do is prevent it from hurting us."

Goldman says he agrees with Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, who said that the concept of individual rights comes even before democracy. In Western society, this is a concept derived from the Jewish idea that human beings have inalienable rights. "No such concept exists in Islam," he says.

Egypt, he says, is a "banana republic without the bananas," and is "in danger of a humanitarian disaster and social collapse."

The best-case scenario is that the Gulf states subsidize the country.

As for Syria, he believes there are two evil sides, and that a partition of the country would be best. The Russians would probably agree to some formulation where an Alawite state would be formed, he adds.

Concerning the Kurds, he says, "A Kurdish state is inevitable, and it is in the interest of the US to encourage it to be pro-American."

Regarding US politics, Goldman thinks the problem with Republican foreign policy is that it continues to "bet so much on president George W. Bush's freedom agenda" of spreading democracy throughout the Muslim world, and it "is difficult for many to back out of it."

The best policy at the moment? "Manage the chaos in the region."

Ariel Ben Solomon


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

Obama’s Middle East Fantasies

by P. David Hornik


“With respect to Israel,” President Obama said in his interview this week to the New Yorker,
the interests of Israel in stability and security are actually very closely aligned with the interests of the Sunni states…. What’s preventing them from entering into even an informal alliance with at least normalized diplomatic relations is not that their interests are profoundly in conflict but the Palestinian issue, as well as a long history of anti-Semitism that’s developed over the course of decades there, and anti-Arab sentiment that’s increased inside of Israel based on seeing buses being blown up.
Obama meant, of course, an alliance against Shiite Iran. Indeed, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has referred several times to behind-the-scenes cooperation between Israel and Sunni Arab states against the Iranian threat. The catch is “behind the scenes”; Israel is still too much the regional pariah to bring these interactions out in the open.

Obama adduces the Palestinian issue and Arab anti-Semitism going back “decades” as the factors preventing an “informal alliance” and “diplomatic relations.” The implication is that these problems—along with Israeli “anti-Arab sentiment”—can be overcome. The administration, spearheaded by Secretary of State Kerry, has indeed thrown itself headlong into another round of the “Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”

The problems with Obama’s take on the matter, however, begin with the word “decades.”
On that point the Daily Caller turned to experts Andrew Bostom and Robert Spencer, both of whom observed that “Arab”—more properly Muslim—anti-Semitism goes back to the Quran and the dawn of Islam.

In Bostom’s view, “You’re dealing with an intractable situation, and people hate intractable situations…diplomats are the worst.”

As Spencer put it:
No well-informed individual could possibly think himself capable of overturning hatreds that are founded in religious texts that are over a millennium old and are still revered by hundreds of millions of people as the perfect and unalterable word of the deity.
Who’s right? A good way to find out is to look at the behavior of the Sunni Arab states. If the Palestinian issue were really what was bugging them, along with some anti-Semitism that doesn’t run too deep, then presumably they would encourage the Palestinians to make peace with Israel—thereby clearing the way to a valuable alliance against Iran.

That, however, is not what they do.

Netanyahu said this week: “If the Palestinians expect me and my people to recognize a nation state for the Palestinian people, surely we can expect them to recognize a nation state for the Jewish people.”

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said two days earlier: “Palestine can never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”

If the Sunni Arab states were concerned to break this impasse—one of the major ones in the talks—one might think they could try nudging Abbas past his intransigent position. Actually, they do the opposite. It was reported on January 13 that nine Arab League foreign ministers had
notified…Kerry…that they will not accept Israel as a Jewish state…. Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki told the official daily Al-Ayyam [that] “A clear and unified Arab and Palestinian position was presented [to Kerry] rejecting the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state….
If the “Palestinian issue” were really—as conceived by Obama and so many others—Israel’s presence in the West Bank and the lack of Palestinian sovereignty there, and it could be resolved by Israeli withdrawal and the establishment of a Palestinian state there, why should the Jewishness of the remaining state of Israel pose such a problem?

The answer is that it poses a problem in Islamic terms—for the Palestinians and the Sunni Arab states—given the Islamic status of all of “Palestine” as a wakf where Jewish sovereignty is unthinkable.

Whoever has trouble believing this could note a video posted Tuesday on the Facebook page of Fatah—the movement Abbas heads, considered “moderate” and “secular.” In the video, as Palestinian Media Watch describes it, “a masked man in uniform standing in front of a group of other masked men, all of whom are holding weapons,” addresses Israel and says:
We swear to you that we will turn the beloved [Gaza] Strip into a graveyard for your soldiers, and we will turn Tel Aviv into a ball of fire.
That is, not only Gaza but also Tel Aviv, well within the part of Israel that is supposed to remain after the “two-state solution.” Again, if the Sunni Arab states really wanted progress on the “Palestinian issue,” they could pressure Abbas to get his movement to stop making such incendiary displays, which are hardly encouraging to Israel. Of course, they do no such thing.

The upshot? It is not that Israel cannot tacitly cooperate with Sunni Arab states, cannot successfully deter them from military aggression, and that these states’ pragmatic interests never dictate nonbelligerency or even “cold peace” (Egypt, Jordan) with Israel. All that can happen and does.

It does mean that the quest for a melodramatic resolution of all problems, based on a Palestinian state, remains as delusory [sic] as ever, and that instead of obsessively pursuing that chimera and subjecting Israel to constant corrosive pressure, the U.S. could appreciate Israel as an ally radically more democratic and advanced than its neighbors and treat it accordingly.

Clearly, in its remaining time, the Obama administration will not undergo such a transformation. One can hope some future administration will adopt that wiser approach.

P. David Hornik


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

"Mabrouk" to Abbas on Tenth Year of His Four Year Term!

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Kerry does not seem to care whether Abbas is a "rightful" president or not. He is so desperate for a diplomatic achievement that he is prepared to ignore fundamental facts. How exactly does Abbas plan to enforce a peace agreement in the Gaza Strip when he cannot even visit his private residence there?
The only way to find out what Palestinians really want is by letting them head to the ballot boxes. Palestinians representing all groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, should be allowed to run.

Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas deserves congratulations (mabrouk in Arabic). He has just entered his tenth year of his four-year term in office.

The next time US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Ramallah, he should not forget to congratulate Abbas on this happy occasion.

The fact that Abbas has is now in his tenth year of his four-year term in office should also serve as a reminder to Kerry that the PA president does not really have a mandate from his people to sign any agreement with Israel.

Abbas, who turns 79 in March, became President of the PA on January 2005. He was elected to serve until January 9, 2009.

But he has since used the conflict between his Fatah faction and Hamas as an excuse to remain in power.

Abbas's critics maintain that his decision unilaterally to extend his term in office violates Palestinian Basic Law. They have also warned that Abbas's move paves the way for "constitutional and legislative anarchy" in the Palestinian territories.

By remaining in power beyond his term, Abbas has given Hamas and other Palestinians a good excuse to argue that he is in no way authorized to sign a peace agreement with Israel.

"Mahmoud Abbas's term in office expired a long time ago," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. "He has lost his legitimacy. He does not have a mandate to negotiate or sign an agreement."

What this basically means is that Hamas and other Palestinian groups are not going to accept any deal between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, even if it includes far-reaching concessions on the part of Israel.

Abbas was recently quoted as saying once again that any deal he signs with Israel would apply not only to the West Bank, which is under his control, but to the Gaza Strip as well.

One can understand why Abbas is speaking on behalf of his constituents in the West Bank. But how exactly does Abbas intend to enforce a peace agreement in the Gaza Strip when he cannot even visit his private residence there?

While some may argue that Abbas has some legitimacy among Palestinians in the West Bank, especially in light of Fatah's control over the area, it is hard to say that he has much following in the Gaza Strip, which remains under the tight grip of Hamas and its allies.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza, in February 2007, before Hamas seized total control of Gaza. (Image source: MaanImages)

It would have been better had Abbas called new presidential elections before the resumption of the peace talks with Israel. Such a move would have embarrassed Hamas and probably forced it to comply.

But as of now it seems that neither Abbas nor Hamas is interested in holding new elections for the presidency or the legislative council. The status quo, where each side has full control over a mini-state (Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip) appears to be convenient for both parties.

However, the need for such elections has become imperative in wake of Kerry's relentless efforts to achieve an "historic" agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

The only way to find out what Palestinians really want is by allowing them to head to the ballot boxes. Palestinians representing all groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, should be allowed to run in such an election.

A victory for the radicals would mean that a majority of Palestinians do not want peace and continue to dream about the destruction of Israel. If Abbas and his political allies win, that would be great news for the peace process and Kerry's efforts to achieve a two-state solution.

Yet Kerry does not seem to care whether Abbas is a "rightful" president or not. He is so desperate for a diplomatic achievement that he is prepared to ignore fundamental facts.

How can Kerry expect Abbas to sign any document declaring the end of the conflict with Israel when many Palestinians are already pointing out that their president does not even have a mandate to act or speak on their behalf?

Khaled Abu Toameh


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

Canada's Prime Minister: A Display of Rare Courage

by Salim Mansur

"It [the new face of anti-Semitism] targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel.... What else can we call criticism that selectively concerns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to exist, to defend itself, while systematically ignoring or excusing the violence and oppression all around it?" — Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

Invited to address the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, did not hold back in expressing his government's support for the Jewish state as the lonely and beleaguered democracy in the region. As Harper told members of the Knesset, "Israel is the only country in the Middle East which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. And these are not mere notions. They are the things that, over time and against all odds, have proven to be, over and over again, the only ground in which human rights, political stability and economic prosperity may flourish.... through fire and water, Canada will stand with you."

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) introduces Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (center) at the Knesset podium, on Jan. 20, 2014. (Image source: Canada PM's Office)

Harper's address was a window into his heart and mind, and the clearest expression without any equivocation of how Canada, under his leadership, sees the bleak situation in the Middle East. It was also a message from leader of one of the G8 countries to member states of the UN, and especially to other Western democracies, that Canada's embrace of Israel transcends politics and is ethically grounded on moral principles. As Harper stated, "Canada supports Israel fundamentally because it is right to do so," because "the special relationship between Canada and Israel is rooted in shared values."

Harper's recent visit to Israel was his first since being elected prime minister in 2006 at the head of a minority Conservative Party government. His minority government was returned in the 2008 election, and then in May 2011 Harper's Conservatives finally won a majority in the Canadian parliament. Throughout this period Harper demonstrated an unflinchingly consistent, even politically courageous, support for Israel at home and abroad when such support has been seen by many as unwisely compromising Canada's even-handed approach in dealing with the problems of the region.

Canada has seen itself for a long time now as a "middle power", its influence in the world carefully harnessed through its role as a helpful fixer in the UN and other multilateral bodies. This role and the accompanying self-image over the past several decades assumed a default position for Canadian foreign policy when dealing with the developing countries of what until lately was described as the third world. It helped position Canada to be seen as an honest broker between the rich North and the poor South, and in this role Canada's political leaders through the Cold War years and after found they were regularly praised and courted by a majority of the UN member states. This meant, in time, that Canada's views on issues that garnered the support of a UN majority were also carefully crafted in part to maintain this position and image, and the diplomacy at work to effect such a result was also domestically resonant with a segment of the public that cared about Canada's image abroad.
The effectively quasi-permanent majority of the UN is comprised of developing countries of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and South America. Within this majority stands the Islamic bloc of 57 Arab and Muslim states – all are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – that, in voting together, can either make or break a majority vote at the UN. It is this influence of the OIC and the votes it can deliver that regularly isolates and reprimands Israel at the UN. It was the machinations of the Islamic bloc that led to the notorious passage of the UN General Assembly resolution in November 1975 declaring "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination." And though this resolution was revoked in 1991 after the end of the Cold War, the Islamic bloc in the UN yet pulls enough weight in voting numbers for member states to be careful not to alienate it.

Canada's involvement in the Middle East goes back to the period immediately at the end of the Second World War. Canadians contributed significantly in blood and treasure through the war, and earned for their country a place in the council of Allied powers. Canada was present at the birth of the UN in San Francisco, and when the UN deliberated over Palestine in 1947-48 Canadians were in the thick of the negotiations. Lester Pearson, a Canadian diplomat then, in April 1947 was elected chairman of the First Committee, the body responsible to make recommendations to the General Assembly on all political issues brought to the UN; and the Canadian government appointed Justice Ivan Rand of the Supreme Court of Canada as delegate to the UN Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP). Both were involved in the eventual decision to partition Palestine into two states, one for the Arabs and the other for the Jews. Since then, in just about every major development related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Canada was at the ringside in the UN's effort to broker some sort of settlement. During the aftermath of the Suez War in 1956, Pearson, as Canada's Minister for External Affairs, invented the role of peacekeeping for the UN when he negotiated introducing UN Emergency Forces in the region to maintain and monitor the ceasefire. Pearson was awarded the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, and thereafter Canada's role as the peacekeeper in the UN entered into the country's diplomatic folklore.

Canada's early record on the Middle East was primarily tactical. It was in large part driven by considerations of maneuvering between Britain and the U.S. over Palestine when the two powers differed over its partition, and on recognizing Israel. This record was tainted by the earlier decision not to open Canada to Jewish immigration when the European Jews were in most need of safety, and Harper recalled this history in his Knesset speech, stating "we have also periodically made terrible mistakes, as in the refusal of our government in the 1930s to ease the plight of Jewish refugees." But the support for the Jewish state once Canada recognized Israel was never in doubt, though this support in the UN was carefully managed not unnecessarily to unsettle relationships with the Arab states.

For most of the period after 1945 the Liberal Party governed Canada, hence it was responsible for formulating foreign policy and implementing it. In the years that followed, Canada also gradually changed as a result of a more open immigration policy, and immigrants from the Middle East and the Muslim world in time came to express their interests regarding foreign policy as it affected them or the places they left behind. The controversies of the Middle East were imported into Canada, and Ottawa's role in responding to the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict entered into domestic politics.

Under the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Canada adopted the policy of official multiculturalism. It was felt that the newly arriving immigrants, given their cultural diversity, should be assisted in becoming Canadians. But the politics of multiculturalism led political parties eventually to contend for immigrant votes, especially in the growing urban centers, by appealing to their concerns. As the numbers for immigrants from the Muslim world rapidly increased, Canada's foreign policy towards the Middle East became an issue in federal elections. It was therefore understood in Ottawa by the ruling Liberal Party that a balanced approach towards the Middle East meant working in tandem with the UN consensus approved by the Islamic bloc, while broadening the base of support for the party among the growing Muslim immigrant population, without unduly alarming the Jewish voters. This Liberal version of a balanced approach became entrenched institutionally in the government, in academia, and in the media; and questioning this approach was considered irresponsible.

In the post-9/11 world, the Liberal government led by Prime Minister Jean Chretien became even more cautious in stressing the importance of Canada's balanced approach towards the Middle East. Canada deployed soldiers in Afghanistan, in support of the UN resolutions, but Chretien's Liberals kept a wary distance from the U.S. involvement in Iraq. As organized Muslim opposition to President George W. Bush's "war on terror" became increasingly vocal, Chretien's insistence that Canada's role in the Middle East was entirely in keeping with the UN consensus meant following closely the views of the Islamic bloc. The result of such caution became indistinguishable from a policy of appeasing Muslim opinion, of remaining mostly silent in the face of rising anti-Semitism in Canada and abroad, and of watching without voicing any opposition to the spread of anti-Israel campaigns across the campuses of Canadian universities, with Israel regularly denounced as an "apartheid state."

It is this corrosive culture of anti-Israeli politics and the rise of the new anti-Semitism in the West that Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party were adamant to confront without any apology. It did not matter that Conservatives took power as a minority government in 2006 after more than a dozen years in opposition, and that for reasons of electoral politics might have decided to tread softly on issues relating to the Middle East. Instead Harper and his senior ministers, in particular Jason Kenney, openly and unapologetically spoke about support for Israel in language unheard of in Canada, while denouncing in no uncertain terms the paranoid politics of the anti-Israel groups.

This unapologetic support for Israel by Harper in Canada's parliament and at the UN earned the Conservatives the predictable disapproval of opponents at home and abroad. The Islamic bloc in the UN made it certain that Canada would not get the required votes for returning to the Security Council for the 2011-12 sessions. This was the first time in the UN history that Canada was denied the council seat as a rebuke for its embrace of Israel. Harper's opponents, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, were quick to seize upon this rebuke as evidence of how Harper had tarnished Canada's "even-handed" reputation at the UN.

Since Canada's more refined or elite opinion is mostly center-left, Harper's position on the Middle East is readily explained as an uncouth and self-serving effort to garner Jewish votes for the Conservative Party. Former Canadian diplomats such as Paul Heinbecker regularly warn Canadians how Harper's misguided policies have brought to ruin Canada's reputation, earned over the years as a reliable even-handed UN member. And academics such as Peter Jones, writing in Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, sneers how the Harper "Conservatives hew to the dictates of the Israeli right in hopes of securing votes in Canada." What remains unexplained, however, is how this support for Israel is politically calculated to be a winner for the Conservatives, when Muslims in Canada outnumber Jews by almost three to one, according to the most recent census figures provided by Statistics Canada.

Harper has shown rare fortitude, however, and even rarer courage among the contemporary class of political leaders in Western democracies, in remaining steadfast in his support for Israel. Speaking in the Knesset, Harper stated, "Our view on Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable." He talked about a world where "moral relativism today runs rampant... People who would never say they hate and blame the Jews for their own failings, or the problems of the world, instead declare their hatred of Israel and blame the only Jewish state for the problems of the Middle East."

This is the new face of anti-Semitism, Harper noted: "It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel, and attempts to make the old bigotry acceptable to a new generation." He repudiated the fashionable idea held by many in the West that the root cause of the problems in the Middle East is Israel. And to those who protest that criticism of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic, he rightly asked, "What else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to exist, to defend itself, while systematically ignoring, or excusing, the violence and oppression all around it?"

Stephen Harper's message to the Israelis, spoken in their parliament, did proud to all Canadians who expect their leaders to speak truthfully when it matters. In a world where the Jews have been treated appallingly just for beings Jews, where many states regularly berate Israel as a pariah state, and where the Holocaust still remains in the living memory of Jews, the appalling truth is how the denial of these truths grows and is expressed even within the UN that bears witness to it, and was responsible for the establishment of the Jewish state.

As the first Canadian prime minister to address the Knesset, Stephen Harper concluded his remarks by stating that in "the democratic family of nations, Israel represents values which our government takes as articles of faith and principles to drive our national life." This was not high praise and cheap politics, it was instead the summing up of the threads that bind the two democracies together in what rightly can be called a "special relationship." It is worth celebrating.

Salim Mansur


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

Iran vs. Israel at Davos

by Ryan Mauro


It was all about Iran at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Iranian regime sought to entice the West into accepting its nuclear program with promises of profit, while Israel showcased itself as the “innovation nation” that can lead the region to peace.

There are seismic strategic shifts already happening in the Middle East, in large part due to the nuclear deal with Iran and the business opportunities it presents to Europe, Turkey and Russia. The Europeans are undoubtedly tempted by the prospect of Iranian natural gas deliveries via Turkey, and Russia hopes to import more Iranian oil, increasing the regime’s exports by a whopping 50%.

A microcosm of this shift was on display at Davos when President Rouhani addressed major energy executives, dangling the prospect of lucrative business in Iran if sanctions are lifted. He also lobbied U.S., European and Arab companies for investments in energy, infrastructure, mining, automobile industries and other sectors.

“I view Iran’s economy as the most congruent, capable and closest to that of successful emerging economies,” Rouhani said. 

He also deployed the usual taqiyya, the Shiite doctrine of deception, in regards to nuclear weapons.

“We never sought and will never seek nuclear weapons,” he said. 

However, the Iranian regime still will not give international inspectors access to the Parchin military base where it is believed nuclear-related explosives experiments were carried out. The regime started cleansing the site after these tests were exposed.

In 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency released an incriminating report showing that Iran developed technologies only suitable for a nuclear missile. This included work on a nuclear warhead for its Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, nuclear triggers and even preparations for an underground nuclear test.

“I strongly and clearly declare that nuclear weapons have no place in our security strategy and that Iran has no motivation to move in that direction,” he said. 

This is the important caveat. Rouhani is speaking in the present tense. If Iran adjusts its “security strategy” in the future, then this pledge is no longer valid. The Iranians will simply claim that they “never sought” nukes and had “no motivation” to build them, but were forced to do so.

The prospects of a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran dimmed with comments made by top Iranian officials at the event.

In an interview with CNN, Rouhani said Iran will “not under any circumstances” destroy any of its centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium. Even more broadly, he vowed, “We will not accept any limitations” on nuclear technology.

The Iranian Foreign Minister likewise said in Davos that his country “did not agree to dismantle anything.” He accused the Obama Administration of falsely characterizing the deal.

The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister illustrated the weakness of the current deal by boasting, “We can return again to 20% enrichment in less than one day, and we can convert the material again.” Therefore, “the structure of our nuclear program is preserved.”

All of these statements show how difficult it will be to reach a final nuclear deal with Iran in six months. The Iranian regime wants to make powerful companies salivate at the thought of investing in Iran in order to pressure the West into accepting an otherwise unacceptable nuclear deal.

A new study by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that a viable deal must cause Iran to stay six months to one year away from creating a nuclear weapon.

This means dismantling 15,000 centrifuges, leaving only 4,000 left. That’s 15,000 more than Rouhani is willing to accept. It also requires that Iran close its underground enrichment facility at Qom, accept invasive inspections and convert its Arak heavy water reactor into a light water reactor.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told the World Economic Forum that Rouhani’s speeches are a “change of words with unchanging deeds.” He pointed out that this is why Arab governments that fear Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood have come to see Israel as a “partner.”

Netanyahu described his country as the “Innovation Nation” and promoted it as a base for technology companies. He boasted that few Western countries weathered the economic storm better than Israel has. The country’s economy grew 3.3% last year and 3.4% the previous year. Foreign direct investment exceeded 2012’s total when 2013 still had a full quarter left.

He also argued that Israel’s economic success should be a model for the region and that investors in his country actually contribute to the well-being of Arabs, including Palestinians.

Israeli investment and business with Palestinians is helping the West Bank grow economically. For example, Israeli training of Palestinian farmers has assisted its agricultural sector. Israeli security measures, condemned by Palestinians and Arabs, have created the safe environment for Palestinian businesses to be birthed. 

SodaStream, an Israeli company located in a settlement 15 minutes from Jerusalem, is actually a microcosm of the economic integration that can serve the cause of peace. The Interfaith Boycott Coalition, a wing of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, is targeting the company and those who support it, like actress Scarlett Johansson. 

Even Al-Arabiya recognizes that the boycott hurts Palestinians. SodaStream employs 900 Palestinians, 500 from the West Bank and 400 from East Jerusalem. The female workers are allowed to wear the hijab and the workers are given the same treatment as the Israeli ones. There’s even a mosque on site and Israelis and Palestinians eat lunch together.

The businessmen at Davos that invest in Israel are investing in peace. Those that invest in Iran are trying to profit off of terrorism, tyranny and nuclear weapons.

Ryan Mauro


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

Kerry Boasts of 'Pluralistic' Syria Once Assad Gone

by Raymond Ibrahim

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, was recently interviewed about Syria. While many of his assertions can be debated, one especially requires a response. Throughout the interview, he repeatedly insisted that, if Bashar Assad would only leave power, everything would go well — especially for all of Syria's minorities.

In his words: "I believe that a peace can protect all of the minorities: Druze, Christian, Ismailis, Alawites — all of them can be protected, and you can have a pluralistic Syria, in which minority rights of all people are protected."

Elsewhere in the interview, Kerry declared that "The world would protect the Alawites, Druze, Christians, and all minorities in Syria after the ousting of Assad."

The problem here is that we have precedent — exact precedent. We've seen this paradigm before and know precisely what happens once strongman dictators like Assad are gone.

As demonstrated in this article, in all Muslim nations where the U.S. has intervened to help topple dictators and bring democracy, it is precisely the minorities who suffer first. And neither the U.S. nor "the world" do much about it.

After the U.S. toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, Christian minorities were savagely attacked and slaughtered, and dozens of their churches were bombed (see here for graphic images). Christians have been terrorized into near-extinction, so that today, a decade after the ousting of Saddam, more than half of them have fled Iraq.

The "world" did nothing.

Ever since U.S.-backed, al-Qaeda-linked terrorists overthrew Qaddafi, Christians—including Americans—have been been tortured and killed (including for refusing to convert), their churches bombed, and their nuns threatened.

Not much "pluralism" there.

Once the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt, in place of Mubarak — and all with U.S. support — the persecution of Copts practically became legalized, as unprecedented numbers of Christians—men, women, and children—were arrested, often receiving more than double the maximum prison sentence, under the accusation that they "blasphemed" Islam and/or its prophet.

Not only did the U.S. do nothing — it asked the Coptic Church not to join the June Revolution that led to the ousting of the Brotherhood and Muhammad Morsi.

In short, where the U.S. works to oust secular autocrats, the quality of life for Christians and other minorities takes a major nosedive. In Saddam's Iraq, Qaddafi's Libya, and Assad's Syria (before the U.S.-sponsored war), Christians and their churches were largely protected.

Today, Syria is the third worst nation in the world in which to be Christian, Iraq is fourth, Libya 13th, and Egypt 22nd.

So how can anyone — especially Christians and other minorities — have any confidence in Kerry's repeated assurances that religious minorities will be safeguarded once secular strongman Assad is gone — and by the "world" no less — leading to a "pluralistic" Syria?

Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (Regnery, April, 2013) is a Middle East and Islam specialist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.


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