Friday, May 30, 2014

How to Lose a War

by Douglas Murray

Among the bizarre aspects of the New York Times story was that it relied for its sources on Muslims who had been questioned while in jail. Should people imprisoned for breaking the law be deemed entirely reliable witnesses?
Although the Times would presumably be content with the NYPD infiltration of drug cartels, its recruitment of American Muslims is called "racist" and deserving of full front-page treatment.
One way media could help is to correct the lies of groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR].
For some years now the swiftest path to a Pulitzer Prize has been well-known. Notwithstanding at least one distinguished recent winner, it remains that there is only one sure-fire way to get to the attention of the Pulitzer judging committee – and that is to severely and irreparably damage American national security.

Best of all, of course, is to endanger the lives of U.S. combat personnel while they are in the field of battle. This is the arena in which the New York Times has appeared to aim for Pulitzer predominance during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But in recent weeks, the Gray Lady has outdone even herself. After all, the American and global publics may have got used to the Times helping to lose wars abroad. But how to excuse her for apparently seeking to lose a war at home in America?

A recent front page of the Times led with an article "revealing" how the New York Police Department [NYPD] had done something truly terrible. What was the outrage that demanded front-page treatment? It was, in the words of the Times' own headline writers, that "New York Police Recruit Muslims as Informants on Terrorism". The paper reported that the NYPD sought informants from within American Muslim communities and that some of those questioned by police had found the exercise "coercive." The police were reported to have kept notes of which mosque a particular suspect had attended and whether or not he had performed the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Among the bizarre aspects of the New York Times story was that it relied for its sources on Muslims who had been questioned while held in jail. There was also no querying over whether such sources could be relied upon, nor even a question if people arrested and imprisoned for breaking the law should be deemed entirely reliable witnesses.

As terrorism expert Steven Emerson put it:
"As part of the paranoid Times narrative, the reporter portrayed as unethical and racist the tried and proven law-enforcement technique of recruiting informants among different ethnic population pools. The same tactic is applied in the fight against illegal gangs, druggies, and criminal organizations: street gangs, Mexican drug cartels, Japanese yakuza gangs, Italian mafia, etc. Recruiting members of different ethnic and racial groups to infiltrate gangs and criminals has been a successful, legal and proven technique of collecting vital intelligence by law-enforcement officials across the country."
But although the Times would presumably be content with the NYPD infiltration of drug cartels, law enforcement's recruitment of members of the American Muslim community is called "racist" and such a breach of accepted protocol that it deserved full front-page treatment. And here we run headlong into the deeper denial.

It is true that only 3,000 people were killed by Islamic extremists on September 11th 2001. And it is also true that only 3 people were killed and an estimated 260 or so others wounded a year ago at the Boston Marathon just over a year ago. It was only one Islamic extremist who planted a car-bomb in Times Square in 2010 and an Islamic extremist US Army Major who gunned down 13 U.S. service personnel at Fort Hood a year earlier. And it is true that successive U.S. governments have – by an admittedly curious variety of names – described the Islamist threat as the primary domestic security threat facing American. But why, in the eyes of the New York Times, would this mean that the NYPD would even think of speaking to people the Times describes as "Muslims"? How could the NYPD have gone so far off-piste that it required specific targeting of Muslims as informers? At the heart of that question, its ludicrousness and its obviousness, lies one of the great fallacies of our age.

It is the presumption, if not hope, of politically correct media that the American people can be kept safe by a law-enforcement system simultaneously attempting to protect the public and enforce the Times' strict codes of political correctness. In that worldview there is no more reason to suspect a Muslim to be likely to commit a terrorist act than there is to suspect the same of a Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Catholic nun. Or if there is, then there should not be: because that would be racist. They seek to be color-blind, and religion-blind. But in being so, they are also terror-blind. Terrorism can indeed come from a large number of directions. But in the U.S. today there is currently more reason to fear violent extremism emanating from certain American mosques than there is to suspect it to come from the average U.S. synagogue or church.

Of course the New York Times is entitled to this form of denial and evasion just as its readers are entitled to decide whether they wish to read a paper that seeks to cover-over the cracks in their society's security problems. What is unforgivable about the story is the damage it will do far beyond the Times' readership.

It takes a great deal of courage to speak out and warn the authorities if you think something untoward is happening in your community. We know from the small number of cases where plots have been thwarted by people from Muslim communities speaking to law-enforcement and seeking their help, that this does not always come easy. Anyone who spends time looking at this subject will also know the intense suspicion that radical U.S. Muslim groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] have whipped up around the question of going to the police. Even were that not so, it is worth conceding that it requires an unusual degree of guts and independence-of-thought for anyone, of any background, to say something which could in the short term lead to the community they have come from to be viewed with greater suspicion. People have loyalties and pulls – other emotions that are wholly understandable.

But we also know how few people have the courage take such steps. The vast majority of people who see something bad happening – even simply a radical preacher or a radical speech – keep it to themselves. They do not go out and speak to law enforcement. Sometimes it is because they do not want law enforcement to know what is going on. More often it is because they think it wrong or unhelpful to "air their community's dirty linen in public." Or because they have been taught to doubt the motives of the police and agencies.

For Americans to remain safe, it is vital that fewer American Muslims feel like that. One way media could help is to correct the lies of groups such as CAIR. The media could make it plain that the police are not waging war on Muslim communities, but trying to work with them to keep everyone – Muslims and non-Muslims – safe. But the New York Times has not done that. For the sake of an unenlightening, banal, predictable and badly-sourced piece, it has instead stoked a fire of suspicion that does not need stoking and presented to the wider public the notion that the bare minimum required to keep people safe is, according to the paper, an illicit activity.

Perhaps the New York Times' bid for another Pulitzer Prize will be successful. But if and when the next bomb goes off, I hope the American public remembers which paper chose to make law-enforcement's lawful and necessary work so very much harder.

Douglas Murray


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Europe’s Lurch Right Is Bad for the Jews … and the United States

by Jonathan S. Tobin

The huge gains made by far-right nationalist parties in the European Union elections last week have a lot of people on the continent and elsewhere scared. The results threaten to undermine the hard-won European unity that has been achieved since the end of World War Two. The gains made by such parties across the board are the result of a variety of different local dynamics, but the common theme is hostility to immigrants and other religious minorities. Though center-right parties will still predominate in the EU parliament, the election threatens to further exacerbate an atmosphere in Europe in which anger against perceived outsiders morphs from localized violence to a general spirit of isolationism. The fact that many of these parties, such as France’s National Front, have flirted with anti-Semitism while others, such as Greece’s Golden Dawn, have openly embraced it seems to illustrate the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe. That last week ended with a murderous attack on Jews in Belgium also raised the fear level of embattled Jewish communities in Europe.

But there are some who are looking for a silver lining amid this dismal news. When some Jews look at Europe’s far right parties, they see a potential ally against Islamists since the nationalists there are often obsessed with what they see as a threat to their culture and national identity from the large populations of immigrants from Muslim countries. This leads some Americans who are on the right to believe that even though the EU nationalists are clearly hostile to Jews and Israel, they may nevertheless help secure Europe against Islamist influence and thus help preserve the West against those who are trying to overthrow it. While there is a superficial logic to this enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend sort of thinking, it is a grave mistake. European Jews wouldn’t be the only piece of collateral damage in the blowup of Western democracy. The far right’s victory would weaken American influence and create a far more dangerous world for all of us.

As much as the lurch right seems to represent a backlash among Europeans against outside influences, let’s put aside any illusion that these parties are really capable of routing Islamist influences. Nothing short of a turn to open fascism can evict Muslim immigrants from Europe. The rising influence of these communities and the anti-Semitism they help fuel stems not only from their numbers but also from the way the Jew-hatred they brought with them dovetails with traditional European anti-Semitism. Hostility to Israel and Jewish interests unites academics and other elites with those on the far right and Muslims. Euro nationalists of various stripes are not likely to be able to achieve their objectives with respect to Muslim immigrants because of the huge numbers involved and the resistance to that project from the traditional parties of the left and the center. But their fomenting of hate against religious minorities is likely to be more successful when it is directed against the far less numerous Jews. Though the far right and Muslims are locked in a never-ending fight, Jews are more vulnerable and easily caught in the crossfire of that conflict.

Just as important is the potential that these parties will splinter Europe in ways that are profoundly damaging to the defense of Western democracy. Small government conservatives in the United States may sympathize with those Europeans who bristle at being ruled by unaccountable EU bureaucrats in Brussels. But as much as the EU seems to be a perfect combination of the perils of big social democratic governments, a Europe that is worried about appeasing anger on the right is one that is likely to opt out of the collective security arrangements that have guaranteed the peace of the world since 1945. The EU is already a weak partner of the United States. But the increasing influence of rightist parties is liable to have a far greater impact on the ability of the U.S. to count on being able to use NATO to resist threats to collective security around the globe and in Europe as the Russian assault on Ukraine has proved.

The rise of the European right won’t do much to undermine the assault on the West from Islamists, but it could undermine any hope that the U.S. will be able to defend Western interests. European anti-Semites are, in fact, natural allies of their Muslim antagonists when it comes to making life difficult for European Jews and isolating Israel. This is an ominous development that should be viewed with horror by precisely those in the West who have rightly worried most about the way Islamists are gaining ground in Europe.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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Assad Destroys 400-Year-Old Synagogue

by Gil Ronen

Blast in central Damascus
Blast in central Damascus
AFP photo

Syrian Arab Army forces flattened the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus over the weekend. The Daily Beast, which brought exclusive photos of the destroyed synagogue, said that the attack “not only wrecked a site that’s at least 400 years old. It may have destroyed thousands of irreplaceable Jewish artifacts contained inside the synagogue, according to opposition leaders and photos obtained at the site.”

The area where the synagogue once stood has been under bombardment by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for months. The Syrian regime is laying siege to the town, one of the few rebel strongholds in the area as part of what the opposition calls Assad’s “scorched earth” policy.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the destruction of Jobar Synagogue, which was a treasure of Jewish and Syrian cultural heritage,” said Shlomo Bolts, an official at the Syrian American Council, an American charity connected to the Syrian opposition.

Bolts, a Jew of Syrian ancestry, said that the Syrian Jewish community is only the latest victim of Assad’s strategy to target religious and cultural institutions.

“Yet this is hardly the only place of worship to be destroyed by the Assad regime. The Umm al-Zinar Church [a house of worship in Homs that locals say dates back to the first centuries of Christianity], the [1,400 year-old] Khalid Ibn Walid Mosque, and countless other irreplaceable cultural sites are now lost to history due to a dictator’s manic desire to keep power at all costs,” he said.

An Israeli news report from April 2013 noted that the synagogue had been “looted and destroyed,” although later photos proved that the synagogue had taken only moderate damage from a mortar shell.

Last December, photos emerged in another Israeli news report showing that many of the synagogues most precious artifacts were intact. The report stated that the bulk of the synagogue’s artifact collection was being held safely in the hands of local leaders.

Before the conflict, the synagogue held thousands of religious and cultural treasures, including hundreds years old Torah scrolls, historical texts, precious dining ware, and ancient Judaica of all sorts. Some of the items were reportedly looted in the early days of the war. Some were reportedly placed in safekeeping. Many remained in the building until its destruction, said the Daily Beast.

Gil Ronen


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Standing Up to Turkey - Like a Wimp

by Mordechai Kedar

From the first day on which the Islamic Party gained control of the government of Turkey, Israel has attempted to pacify and reassure Erdogan, despite that leader's proven antagonism to Jews - in line with his extreme Islamic approach - that was all too evident by the 1980's. During that period, he wrote a play called "Mas-kum-ya", an abbreviation of "The Free builders, Communists and Jews" and recently called an anti-Erdogan demonstrator "Jewish seed", considered a most denigrating and humiliating insult in Turkey.

Israel has tried to be optimistic since his election twelve years ago, in 2002, noting that the army remained basically secular and therefore continued its good relations with Israel.

However, Islamic clouds gradually darkened the relations between the two countries, so that as the trend towards Islamism grew stronger in Turkey, Israel's value to Ankara lessened appreciably, as did any mutual cooperation. Israel's official spokesmen tried to minimize the significance of these developments, but the bitter reality struck Israel in the face when Erdogan – under IHH camouflage – organized the Marmara flotilla in order to break the sea embargo that Israel maintains on Gaza. 
IHH is internationally known as a terror-sponsoring Islamist organization. That fact alone justified Israel's takeover of the Mavi Marmara, even if it entailed the use of force. Israel has the right to protect itself from weapons-smuggling to Gaza, and the armed terrorists who holed up on the Marmara disguised as "human rights activists" did not convince anyone that their mission was necessary. Even the UN investigative team – of which Turkey was a member – justified the takeover after the fact.
Except that Erdogan was not convinced, continued to claim that Israel had committed a crime and increased the pressure on her to admit it, accept responsibility for it and its results, remove the blockade of Gaza, and pay compensation to the families of terrorists who were aboard the ship. Israel tried to resolve the issue behind the scenes and reach a modus vivendi between the two nations, assuming that the Marmara episode aside, there is no other problem affecting relations between Israel and Turkey under Erdogan.

Israel's policy makers seemed to believe that as soon as a compensation agreement could be signed and the sums it demands paid, there would be no more problems and relations with Turkey would go back to what they were before 2002.

But then came this week's report of Turkey's complaint to Interpol against high-ranking IDF officers who were in active service at the time of the Marmara takeover. If Interpol accepts the Turkish complaint, these officers will be unable to fly to most points on the globe, because the minute they tread on the ground of a country that is a member of Interpol, they can be arrested and sent to Turkey, imprisoned, questioned, tried and sent to the infamous Turkish jails.

This is intended to bring Israel to its knees and have it beg the Turks to spare the lives of the IDF officers whose every move out of Israel might now be controlled by Turkey.

To my mind, there is no bigger mistake than the way in which Israel dealt with the Marmara affair. From day one, Israel should have said loudly: "The Marmara was a terror ship that wanted to break a legal siege on a terrorist entity, and everyone on the ship is a terrorist. The nation that sent the ship is terror-supporting and its prime minister encourages terror. Israel acted as would any normal nation when attacked by terrorists. Therefore, Israel's actions were justified. There is no obligation to compensate families of terrorists, no other nation in the world does that."

At the same time, Israel could have ceased – and still can cease - acting like a wimp and start giving as good as she gets. Israel has to raise world consciousness as to the many terrible events in which Turkey's present and past governments have been involved: illegal occupation of North Cyprus since 1974; ethnic cleansing of the Greek minority from northern Cyprus; persecution of the Kurds in Turkey and wholesale abrogation of that minority's human rights; an illegal and illegitimate war against the Kurdish population of northern Iraq; abrogation of rights of Christians in Turkey; legitimization of one-sided turning of churches into mosques; killing of Turkish citizens taking part in protests; aid to Jihadist organizations like al Qaeda who are fighting in Syria – and many more crimes in which the Turkish government is involved up to its neck.

And in case anyone has forgotten, in WWI the Turkish army committed genocide against the Christian Armenians who had lived in the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years.

Several weeks ago, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu announced that Turkey will not reimburse the Greek refugees that she expelled from northern Cyprus to the south of the island after her illegal occupation of the area, despite the decision of the EU Court of Human Rights that Turkey must grant them reparations. Israel can use that as a precedent and say clearly: "Turkey is not paying reparations to peaceful, decent citizens. And we should pay reparations to families of terrorists?" Israel can also turn to Interpol with a complaint against Erdogan and his forces for the murder of citizens in last year's demonstrations in Istanbul's Gezi Park.

Israel, however, does nothing to embarrass the Turks, because we behave like softies and try to pacify them, even though every thinking person knows that when one gives in to blackmail, that does not lower the blackmailer's demands. The opposite is true: the more the blackmailer succeeds in squeezing his victim, the larger his appetite becomes and with it, the level of his blackmail.

Israel's softie policy encourages Erdogan and his gang to raise the pressure level on Israel, because it doesn't cost him anything. Israel must begin a public relations campaign whose goal is public exposure of the truth about Erdogan and his cohorts, while at the same time working energetically in UN corridors and Western governments to achieve that goal. When Erdogan begins to feel that the pressure that he is applying to Israel creates an opposing pressure on him, he will begin to take Israel seriously, calm down his fellow-blackmailers and adapt expectations of Israel to match Israel's willingness to reach an agreement from a position of strength that might cause him damage.

The Biblical spies that Moses sent to scout the Holy Land told the people: "We ourselves felt like little grasshoppers and that's how they (the Canaanites, ed.) perceived us." Since then, the rules have stayed the same: he who sees himself as a grasshopper and behaves as if he is spineless, cannot expect others to take him seriously and relate to him as if he were a Samson.

Israel must change its method of dealing with Erdogan's Turkey drastically, especially now that the extensive damage caused by the kid-gloves method is evident. Israel's enemies must know that acting against her will entail a high price that up to now they have been excused from paying. Only this can stop their actions against us. Love between Israel and Turkey is not an option, but this kind of love does not exist anyway. The price the Turks will have to pay will serve as a deterrent and the ensuing hesitation before their next move against us will be Israel's reward for a change in policy from pacification to frontal attack.

Mordechai Kedar


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Al-Qaeda in Syria Reaches Israel's Border

by IPT News

Violence from the Syrian Civil War has periodically spilled over onto Israeli territory. Now, Syrian Islamist fighters hoist the al-Qaida flag and praise Osama bin Laden just a few miles from Israeli troops.

According to the Jerusalem Post, a video posted by al-Qaeda's Nusra Front shows the terrorists in sight of Israeli vehicles patrolling the border.

"This view reminds us of the lion of the Mujahideen, Osama bin Laden, on the mountains of Tora Bora", stated a leader of the Nusra Front in the video.

Last year, rebels briefly conquered the Quneitra border crossing with Israel.

The rebels currently control many rural villages in the surrounding area.

Western intelligence sources believe approximately 60 insurgent groups are fighting in southern Syria and are relatively better coordinated than the divided rebel groups in the north.

However, radical Islamist terrorist organizations including the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham are strengthening and undermining the larger rebel brigades supported by Saudi Arabia.

Roughly 2,000 Nusra Front terrorists are operating in the area, demonstrating significant organizational skills in contrast to the infighting characterizing the more secular rebel groups.

Nusra terrorists control dozens of checkpoints from the Golan Heights to the Derraa on the Jordan border, supplying their fighters with basic necessities and garnering more popular support. Residents say that Nusra courts are now focused on various legal and humanitarian issues, including family disputes and transferring financial assistance to the poor.

As the more moderate rebel groups lose popular support, Islamist terrorist organizations will likely continue to strengthen. Al-Qaeda's expanding territorial control on the border with Israel is an extremely concerning development in the Syrian Civil War.

IPT News


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Obama's West Point Speech signals a presidency in deep trouble

by Thomas Lifson

Yesterday’s speech to the graduating class of West Point by President Obama may be remembered as the signal that his presidency has entered a crisis of confidence, much as Jimmy Carter’s infamous “malaise” speech has gone down in history as marking a failed presidency. Not only was the content of the speech delusional (calling Russia “isolated” in the wake of a massive and historic gas deal with China that marks a major rapprochement between two powers hostile to the United States; claiming Ukraine as an example of the success of his coalition strategy), the delivery was wooden, as if Obama were wishing he were on a golf course or basketball court, and felt a hostile vibe. And the visible reception was embarrassingly icy, with only a few people applauding at key lines, and a standing ovation in which the vast majority remained seated and unmoved, suggesting the commander in chief is held in contempt by the next generation of military leadership.

Writing at Powerline, Scott Johnson titled his quick reaction to the speech, “More mush from the wimp.” This is an allusion to an infamous Boston Globe op-ed critical of aJimmy Carter speech written by the late Globe op-ed page editor Kirk Scharfenberg. As a joke among the newsroom staff, Scharfenberg wrote “More mush form the wimp” on the piece, which was supposed to bear the headline “All must share the burden.” But his sarcastic barb was printed in 161,000 copies of the paper before being corrected.

The comparison is apt. Carter was a disaster who has been exceeded by Obama. As Carter fostered the rise of Iran’s mullahs and emboldened the Soviets, Obama has allowed Al Qaeda to spread and grow, all the while claiming it was “on the run.” As Carter’s economic policies gave rise to the neologism “stagflation,” Obama has managed to shrink the work force, hide inflation by keeping food and gasoline costs of the CPI, and make the title “recovery” a joke, as the nation remains mired in stagnation throughout his presidency.

The big difference is that Obama has enjoyed the enthusiastic support of most of the media, and their willing complicity in papering over his scandals and failures. But as of recent days, I think the limit has been reached, and his media supporters demoralized to the point of ineffectiveness.

There was something visually striking about his speech at West Point. For the first time I can remember, his teleprompter screens were visible in a good portion of the media coverage. And because of the lighting, they stood out very clearly as dark shapes. He looked absolutely pathetic, going back and forth between the two of them, in his trademark tennis match style of delivering a speech. When the prompters are invisible, it is an annoying tic, but justifiable on the presumption that he is addressing the entire audience. But when the screens are visible to viewers, the fakery leaps out, making him look like some sort of puppet whose master knows only a few moves.

Fox News showed the throughout his speech.

But as this brief clip below from Reuters, showing the cool reception he received, demonstrates, the awful truth was visible elsewhere. Needless to say, the Official White House version was a tight shot, keeping the prompters outside the field of vision.

While as an opponent of the president, I am glad that the truth of his incompetence is becoming more visible, as an American I am alarmed that we have two and half more years of him to survive. The villains of the world who run entire countries (and they are legion) see a man floundering and know how much time they have left to take advantage of our weakness. We are still paying the price for Carter’s incompetence. The ultimate toll of the Obama presidency could be far, far worse.

Thomas Lifson


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Waves of illegal minors overwhelms border facilities

by Rick Moran

More than 60,000 illegal minors have poured across the border this year and the government is having a difficult time caring for them.

As recently as 2011, just 6,000 kids crossed the border. The ten-fold increase is the result of a variety of factors, including violence and domestic abuse in their home countries, and President Obama's lax deportation policies.

Many of these kids end up as slave labor before falling into the hands of the government.

The flow is expected to grow. The number of unaccompanied, undocumented immigrants who are under 18 will likely double in 2015 to nearly 130,000 and cost U.S. taxpayers $2 billion, up from $868 million this year, according to administration estimates.
The shortage of housing for these children, some as young as 3, has already become so acute that an emergency shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, has been opened and can accommodate 1,000 of them, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in an interview with Reuters.
The issue is an added source of tension between Democrats and Republicans, who disagree on how to rewrite immigration laws. With comprehensive legislation stalled, President Barack Obama is looking at small, administrative steps he could take, which might be announced this summer. No details have been outlined but immigration groups are pressing him to take steps to keep families with children together.
The minors flooding over the border are often teenagers leaving behind poverty or violence in Mexico and other parts of Central America such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. They are sometimes seeking to reunite with a parent who is already in the United States, also without documentation.
"This is a humanitarian crisis and it requires a humanitarian response," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski said in an interview. The Maryland Democrat, a former social worker, has likened the flood of unaccompanied children to the "boat people" of past exodus movements.
Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on Mikulski's committee, said, "The need is there, you know the humanitarian aspect of it, but we're challenged on money."
Immigration groups lobbying for comprehensive reform argue that children are being hit hardest by the political deadlock.
With an even bigger funding challenge looming for 2015, Mikulski worries corners might be cut. She said children could end up being placed in federal holding cells meant only for adults and that funds might have to be shifted from other programs, such as refugee aid, to help cover the $252-per-day cost of detaining a child.
What to do? Deporting most of them would be irresponsible. We'd be sending them back into hell. Foster care? There aren't enough foster parents now for American kids.

Are they refugees or criminals? Or both?

No easy answers, that's for sure - except we're holding them so for the moment, we're responsible for them. That means ponying up the money to take care of them. But $2 billion next year? Perhaps we could send a bill to the countries where these kids originated. If they're going to encourage kids to come here, they should share in the cost of taking care of them.

It won't happen, of course. The whole point of illegal immigration to the US for these countries is that they export their problems so they don't have to deal with them. But sooner or later - and it better be sooner - some sort of reckoning will occur and it won't matter how violent these countries get or how abusive poor parents are to their kids. We can't bankroll the region's social problems. They're going to have to figure it out for themselves.

Rick Moran


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The Obama Undoctrine

by Daniel Greenfield

Afghanistan is lost, Iraq and Libya are in the middle of civil wars, Russia is carving off pieces of Ukraine and China is escalating its conflict with the rest of Asia. There isn’t a single element of Obama’s foreign policy that has proven successful. Instead it’s been one international disaster after another.

Obama just smiles into the camera and announces that “America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world.” Anyone who disagrees is engaging in partisan politics. Or reading statistics.

Having signed off on Iran’s nuclear program while its Supreme Leader boasts that the holy war will only end with America’s destruction, he claims that the “odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low.”

“From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations,” he proclaims. Meanwhile Russia and China humiliate our European and Asian allies for their worthless alliance hub.

“When a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help,” he boasts.

And yet the masked men go on occupying buildings and Boko Haram goes on killing Nigerians. America has never been stronger than under Obama. And yet it’s incapable of actually doing anything, except maybe joining New Zealand, Sweden, Taiwan, Israel and Chile in providing disaster aid to the Philippines.

And if that doesn’t work, he can always sanction the typhoon. It should do as much to stop the wall of water it as it did to stop Russia and Iran.

Obama’s speeches come from a world that exists only inside his own teleprompter. Another leader might have been reeling from a string of international failures, but he boldly triumphs over reality. The worse things are, the bigger the party he throws to celebrate his victories.

Obama’s speech focuses on Afghanistan, but never mentions the Taliban. Imagine an FDR speech that pretended that Japan didn’t exist. That’s the depth of denial it takes for Obama to claim victory.

After using up the lives of 1,600 American soldiers fighting the Taliban without ever defeating them, he takes a victory lap for defeating Al Qaeda in Afghanistan when the CIA had told him back in 2009 that there were at most 100 Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.

Thousands of Americans have been lost to an enemy whose existence Obama won’t even acknowledge as he takes another victory lap for losing another war.

With the VA scandal reminding everyone that he doesn’t just throw away the lives of soldiers abroad, but also at home, Obama is changing the subject with one Mission Accomplished speech after another. Like a politician caught with his mistress who begins taking his wife everywhere, he is suddenly in love with the military and can’t get enough photo ops with anyone wearing a uniform.

Even if they work for the post office.

In Obama’s teleprompter reality, a withdrawal is equivalent to success. Setting a withdrawal timeline with no regard for results deserves a victory parade. He wants credit for withdrawing from Afghanistan by the end of his term. Not only is he repeating the timeline mistake of his disastrous surge, but the timeline is once again pegged to a political, rather than a strategic, date.

Obama takes credit for troop removals, rather than outcomes. But if he doesn’t care that Al Qaeda in Iraq is more powerful than ever or that the Taliban control the future of Afghanistan, why didn’t he immediately withdraw the troops? Are we supposed to cheer his inability to either commit to winning a war or pull out? Is indecisiveness the virtue of a great leader?

Do we really need more applause lines about how long it took him to lose a war?

The West Point commencement address dresses up past failures as new successes and lays out a vision for the future by a lame duck leader who has failed at every foreign policy initiative. The address is an expanded version of his 2002 anti-war speech as a Chicago state senator that first brought him to the attention of his future backers. It straddles an awkward line between anti-war and interventionism.

Twelve years later, Obama hasn’t changed.

He’s still posturing as a fake centrist by setting up interventionist and isolationist straw men on both sides. Instead of defending his policies on their merits, he tries to make them seem reasonable by depicting his critics on the right and the left as extremists. After six years of foreign affairs failures, Obama is still talking as if he’s the “reasonable” centrist trying to steer a”‘sensible common sense” path.

At least those are the favorite buzzwords that his speechwriters throw in to influence the “folks.”

Obama wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants applause for being an interventionist and for being a non-interventionist. In one sentence he sounds like JFK and in another like Eugene McCarthy.

He wants to send in the troops and then get credit for pulling them out. He wants to threaten other countries and then appease them at the negotiating table. He wants to set red lines he doesn’t stand behind and apply sanctions that mean nothing. And he wants to pass off this game in which the bad guys always win and America always loses as his smart power doctrine.

That’s not a doctrine. That’s an undoctrine.

The Obama Undoctrine is all things to all people. It respects international opinion, except when it doesn’t. It doesn’t believe in military solutions, but sometimes it does. It believes in taking military action to protect our interests, rather than foreign human rights, except when it believes the opposite.

In Libya, Obama sent in the jets when Libyans in Benghazi were threatened, but not when Americans in Benghazi were threatened.

The world may look to America for help, but Americans shouldn’t.

The shiny new Obama Undoctrine proposes such groundbreaking ideas as partnering with countries fighting terrorism. This is a bold new idea from the ’50s. Other bold new ideas include using international institutions like the League of Nations, ahem, the United Nations, to stop new wars from starting.

Anyone who wants an example of the “leadership” and “strength” of the Undoctrine should look at Iran. That’s not some nasty Republican sneering at the Undoctrine.

It’s Obama’s assertion in his address.

After admitting that any nuclear agreement with Iran is a long shot, he says of his appeasement, “This is American leadership. This is American strength.”

Obama’s idea of American leadership and strength is being repeatedly humiliated and led around by the nose by a bitter enemy determined to obtain nuclear weapons in order to destroy the United States.

If that’s Obama’s idea of leadership and strength, just imagine his idea of weakness.

Then there’s NATO. He describes it as “the strongest alliance the world has ever known.” That would have sounded more impressive before NATO staked out Ukraine for the bear and went home.

And if you want something more effective, try the UN. While Obama cuts the military to the bone, he will be “investing” more money in UN peacekeeping operations.

If we’re going to spend all that money on a military, it should be one that doesn’t run away at the first sign of trouble. That way we would at least be getting some bang for our buck. But maybe a small army of child molesters spreading cholera that runs away at the first sign of trouble embodies the Undoctrine.

“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” Obama declared. “But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.”

Or as his nursery school teacher probably put it, “You’re special. Just like everyone else.”
This mess of contradictions is the Obama Undoctrine. It stands for everything and nothing. And it has accomplished nothing.

Daniel Greenfield


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

From Brunei to Boko Haram: Merely Deflection

by Raheel Raza

Boko Haram's members justify their acts in the name of Islam, and Muslim leaders are intimidated into silence. Add to this a hatred for the West and its values, and you have an explosive combination of violence and faith being pushed upon innocent civilians.
Inaction on the part of both Nigeria's government and global powers has led to this latest horrific act of abduction.
Muslims globally cannot remain under the illusion that because they put out press releases or say that Boko Haram is "not Muslim," they can distance themselves from these crimes. If they do not openly condemn Boko Haram and similar groups such as the Taliban or the Muslim Brotherhood, they are by default supporting those causes.
Recently, on a radio panel about Islamic sharia law featuring two academics from American universities -- a Muslim Professor of Islamic Studies and a Christian professor of Religious Studies -- it was frustrating trying to keep the conversation on track.

Both professors were preoccupied with "The Golden Age of Islam" and "How Christianity went through a similar crises" [sic] and other similarly irrelevant information. The real focus should have been: "What is happening in the name of Islam today and what do we do about the atrocities being perpetrated in the name of sharia as we speak?"

Unfortunately, that question was consistently being buried. For many Muslims and especially Muslim organizations, a discussion about Islam and Muslims usually ends up in defense and deflection. Rarely does the conversation focus on half the population: women. That is the crux of the problem. If women are considered only half-human, why dwell on their human rights?

It is our moral and ethical responsibility, as Muslims, to discuss and debate these issues – even though they may be considered "our dirty laundry."

But how are we going to get there when the only picture most Muslims want to paint is one of grandeur and glory of the past? One way is to take a step-by-step factual look at what is taking place in the Muslim world.

Approximately a month ago, more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in the north of Nigeria by a radical Islamist group, Boko Haram – which loosely translated means "Western education is forbidden." Since then, the terrorists have threatened to sell the girls as slaves, force them into marriage and convert those who are Christian to Islam.
Some of the Nigerian schoolgirls who were recently abducted by Boko Haram. (Image source: Boko Haram video)

Boko Haram and other extremists are who they are because they openly reject the values that make up liberal democracies as in the USA and Canada. These extremists have not embraced freedom and modernity: their aim is to live like seventh-century Muslims -- in patriarchal, tribal societies rallying against Western values.

It took the global media and world powers time to connect the dots; we in the Western world tend to look at events in Africa or the Middle East through the lens of the individual freedoms, democracy and human rights that we embrace.

Here in North America, education for both boys and girls is a given and taken for granted. In most Muslim societies, however, education for women has become a challenge, as we know from Malala Yousafzai's encounter with the Taliban. Boko Haram, the Taliban of Africa, are terrified of educated, liberated Muslim women. They prefer to keep women under a cloak of darkness.

Add to this a hatred for the West and its values, and you have an explosive combination of violence and faith being pushed upon innocent citizens. The question is, why did this happen and what do they want? Is it just about education? The answer is simple: Boko Haram has been trying to impose its version of sharia on Nigeria for a long time, and inaction on the part of both Nigeria's government and global powers has led to this latest horrific act of abduction.

This is not the first time Boko Haram has terrorized civilians and it will not be the last. Boko Haram's members believe that they are doing what God wants them to do. They justify their acts in the name of Islam, and Muslim leaders are intimidated into silence. As if speaking out would render them unfaithful to their faith. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The terrorists therefore feel empowered and emboldened to continue their horrific acts, while the world watches.

In a recent video, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says, "These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with... we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims." It is obvious that Shekau's idea of liberation is to impose his own brand of Islam on the Christian girls who were abducted.

Many apologists among Muslims like to say that Boko Haram are not really Muslims. This is another easy deflection. Deflection is not new. When 9/11 happened, many Muslims said -- and still do today -- that the 9/11 attackers were not "really" Muslims.

But are we deluding ourselves?

Boko Haram leader Shekau, known as "Darul Tawheed," is an expert in monotheism. He studied first under a cleric and then at Borno State College of Legal and Islamic Studies. He states that the members of Boko Haram are following sharia law, so they are self-defined Muslims.

We can find fault in them for orchestrating horrible crimes against humanity, but we can never fault them for being Muslim. They can throw Quranic verses and hurl hadeeth (secondary commentary) faster than we can say "fatwa."

Muslims globally cannot remain under the illusion that because they put out press releases, or state that Boko Haram is "un-Islamic," or not Muslim, they can distance themselves from these crimes against humanity. This is dishonest. If they do not openly condemn Boko Haram and similar groups such as the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood, they are by default supporting those causes.

Boko Haram is part of the same ideology that created Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. All of them follow a violent, misogynist interpretation of Islam with sharia as their guiding policy. They are wreaking havoc on both the Muslim world and the West.

The sharia that they follow is the sharia that the Sultan of Brunei now wants to impose on his people: it is hostile to women and minorities. Its followers want to persecute gays, bring back stoning and impose the terrifying apostasy laws that are a way of eliminating dissent.

Muslim organizations in North America who are followers of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology have encroached on our system. If they are really concerned about the abducted girls they must first reject the aspects of sharia that are creating monsters such as Boko Haram. This means an open and impassioned rejection of the cutting off hands, stoning, gender oppression and terms such as "armed jihad". This means asking hard questions, such as "how can we live in the 21st Century under archaic 13th century [sic] laws"?

Raheel Raza


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

Prominent Syrian Oppositionist Dr. Kamal Al-Labwani Promotes Public Initiative For Cooperation And Peace With Israel

by Ofir Winter


In recent months, Syrian liberal and prominent oppositionist Dr. Kamal Al-Labwani has been promoting a public initiative calling on Israel to provide military and diplomatic assistance to the Syrian opposition in its struggle against the Assad regime, as a preparatory move for peace and normalization with the future Syrian regime. According to a report in the London daily Al-Arab, the initiative was prepared together with Arab and regional elements, and in cooperation with elements in the U.S. Congress, and has received the blessing of senior officers and commanders in the Free Syrian Army (FSA).[1] As part of his efforts to promote the initiative, Al-Labwani attended several secret meetings in Germany on the matter, and has even expressed his willingness to visit Israel "if doing so would serve the Syrian people, peace, and the peoples of the region."[2]

In response to the initiative, presented over the past few months by Al-Labwani in a series of articles and print and TV interviews with Arab, Israeli, and Western media, the Syrian regime accused him of encouraging "the Israeli enemy" to occupy Syrian lands, and of treason against the homeland.[3] Positive comments about the initiative by Israeli Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog[4] were presented by the official Syrian news agency SANA as proof of Israel's support of the "terrorists" operating in Syria and of the scope of "the cooperation, coordination, conspiracy, and explicit plotting between the so-called 'Syrian opposition' and the Zionist entity, with the hopes of wearing down the Syrian state's forces and bringing about its destruction."[5]

Al-Labwani (b. 1957), a practicing physician, has been one of Syria's leading liberal human rights activists for over two decades. He was imprisoned from 2001 to 2004, for promoting democratic reforms in Syria as part of the Damascus Spring,[6] and again from 2005 to 2011, for "damaging national security" by visiting Washington, D.C., meeting with U.S. administration officials, and discussing democratization in Syria with them.[7] During his second spell in prison, he was released early from a 12-year sentence as part of the regime's attempts to mollify domestic public opinion in the face of increasing protests. Following his release, Al-Labwani attended nonviolent protests in Syria calling for regime change; shortly thereafter, fearing arrest or worse, he fled to Jordan, and from there applied for and was granted Swedish political asylum.

Since then, Al-Labwani worked mostly in Turkey as part of the Syrian National Council, and, after it was dismantled, as a member of the general secretariat and founding committee of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Oppositionist Forces. In early 2014, he withdrew from the national coalition, accusing it of administrative and financial corruption and of imitating the Assad regime's culture of tyranny. Since then, he has been operating independently.[8]

The following report will review the details of Al-Labwani's initiative, his attempts to market it to intra-Syrian public opinion, and some of the reactions – both supporting and hostile – that it sparked among Syrian oppositionist circles.

Dr. Kamal Al-Labwani (image:

Al-Labwani's Plan: An Israel-Enforced No-Fly Zone In Southern Syria

In recent months, in a series of articles and print and TV interviews with Arab, Israeli, and Western media, Al-Labwani presented his initiative for cooperation between the Syrian opposition and Israel, which would lead – after the civil war ends and the current regime is removed – to a warm peace and normalization between the two countries.

According to Al-Labwani, the initiative is a response to the impasse in the Syrian civil war, which is the result of the military status quo on the ground and the failure of the U.S.-, Russia-, and U.N.-sponsored Geneva talks. He says that cooperating with Israel, which possesses military might and international political influence, particularly in the U.S., could help the Syrian opposition tip the military and diplomatic balance of power in its favor, stop the ongoing bloodbath in Syria, and ultimately vanquish the Assad regime.[9] Therefore, he says, the Syrian opposition's can at this time choose "between either long-term anarchy and the ongoing suffering and torture [of the Syrian people], or a plan that the West accepts, and which could create a counterbalance to the allies of the [Assad regime], defeat their project in Syria, and rehabilitate the region in a manner befitting its residents." A plan that includes peace with Israel, he added, will be positively received in the West.[10]

The main military role that Al-Labwani intended for Israel as part of the proposed cooperation is the creation of a no-fly zone in southern Syria, which Israel would enforce without violating Syrian airspace. Under his plan, Israel would shoot down any Syrian jet within 60 seconds of takeoff with its anti-aircraft systems, which cover an area of over 100 kilometers from the Golan Heights to Damascus. This area encompasses Al-Suwayda, Daraa, the southern Rif Dimashq governorate and the Syria-Lebanon border. NATO, for its part, would be charged with attacking the Assad regime's air bases.[11] As for Israel's diplomatic role, it would be tasked, Al-Labwani says, with removing its objection to ousting the Syrian regime and consenting to its Western allies' provision of arms to the opposition forces.[12]

Al-Labwani pointed to a number of important strategic assets for Israel that his initiative would include that would make it a joint interest for both sides: On the security level, it would thwart Hizbullah's plan to establish outposts in Syria similar to the ones it holds in South Lebanon, outposts from which extremist Sunni groups could attack Israel on a daily basis on Hizbullah's behalf without this organization having to do dirty its own hands. On the domestic Syrian level, the move would prevent Syria from continuing to slide into extremism, zealotry, and anarchy – all of which endanger Israel as well. On the political level, the Syrian opposition would take the option of military action against Israel off the table, and, following the establishment of a legitimate government in Syria, work towards a peace agreement with Israel, provided that an arrangement can be made regarding the Golan Heights. On the cultural level, the agreement would result in warm, peaceful Israel-Syria relation, and could open the door to normalization of the Jewish presence in the Middle East.[13]

As for the fate of the Golan Heights under a future agreement between the sides, Al-Labwani remained somewhat vague on what the exact details would be. In an interview with Al-Arab, he implied that the Syrian opposition would be better off relinquishing the Golan Heights in return for Israeli cooperation in toppling the regime, or even "selling" it to Israel, than losing all of Syria – including the Golan Heights, which it doesn't control anyway – in the event that the civil war lasts for many more years and leads either to the country's collapse or to Assad's victory.[14] However, in another interview a few days later, on Orient News TV, which is affiliated with the Syrian opposition, he backtracked, stating that any potential future peace agreement between Syria and Israel would be conditional upon the Golan Heights' return to Syria in accordance with U.N. Resolution 242.[15] In any case, Al-Labwani said, Israelis living in the Golan Heights would be able to remain there as part of a future agreement: "The Golan will be a platform to solve all regional problems at once. We wish the Golan to become an international paradise of peace, and that its tourist attractions will open up to the entire world. Those among the [Israeli] settlers who want to stay [there] can do so, and those who want to leave for Israel or elsewhere can do so as well."[16]

To view a MEMRI TV clip of the interview with Al-Labwani, click on the arrow below:

Justification For The Initiative: Pragmatism And Paradigm Shift
Al-Labwani explained that he decided to place his initiative "on the table" publicly, openly, and transparently, so as to spark public discourse on a crucial issue once "forbidden to even think about" – that is, changing the dogmatic rejection of relations with Israel.[17] Using several arguments, Al-Labwani attempted to combat the immediate doubts raised by the initiative, recruit widespread public support for it, and respond to criticism by its opponents.

Solving The Crisis Requires Thinking Realistically And "Outside The Box"

Al-Labwani acknowledged that he himself had initially had some difficulty overcoming "the psychological barrier" related to his proposed plan: "I do not want to condemn anyone. I myself worked hard to rid myself of the prevailing dogma that is passed down from generation to generation, and is elevated to the level of sanctity and taboo – a dogma that calls to perpetuate conflicts, as opposed to burying them. I only relinquished this [way of thinking] because of the circumstances. I am not claiming to be courageous – just realistic, which is not always honorable or bold. We now must propose some solution for the suffering, groaning people.

"As politicians, we must search for a way to save [the Syrian people] from the slaughter it is carrying out with its own two hands. This can only be achieved by thinking outside the box and outside this dogma that we inherited [from previous generations]...

"This is my wakeup call. You are welcome to suggest alternatives that do not include swearing fealty to [Al-Qaeda leader] Ayman Al-Zawahiri or following [Hizbullah leader] Hassan Nasrallah, but please remain within the confines of reality."[18]

Peace With Israel Is A Precondition For Widespread Cultural Change

Al-Labwani described peace with Israel as part of a widespread move that was necessary in order for Syria to revive as a democratic, free, and progressive country. In an article titled "Israel – Our Historic Enemy?!", Al-Labwani argued that breaking free of the culture rooted in the conflict with Israel is a precondition for promoting liberalization in the Arab world. He wrote:

"Should the Arab world, as nationalists suggest, sacrifice its development, culture, democracy, and future generations, and become mired in crises and extremism for the sake of the Palestinian problem? Should we continue to use the Palestinian problem to cover up the corruption, tyranny, and backwardness suffered by Arab regimes? Should we, like Iran and the terrorist organizations, plot an all-out war against the Jewish state with nuclear and chemical weapons, so that no one will ever again be able to live in the 'Promised Land?'...

"Our problem in Syria, and that of Arabs in general, is not people like Bashar or Al-Qadhafi, but rather the [patterns] of culture, logic, and political wisdom that birthed these regimes and leaders, which include rejection of the other, fanaticism, lack of freedom, totalitarianism, fascism, idolatry, and a herd mentality, as well as personality cults, tyranny, corruption, barbarism, and crime... Without changing these cultural patterns, and without external assistance, [the Syrian people] will remain embroiled in pointless conflicts for a long time.

"It is this that spurred me to present a new vision based on a different logic, while searching for regional and international leverage to promote it. This will help us rebuild our societies and countries in a way that is different than the one we rebelled against. Since everyone in the Middle East defines themselves with regards to their position in the Arab-Israeli conflict, let us first define this conflict; the proposed solution for this complex problem will naturally reflect on the other historic topics and conflicts...

"I read an article by Yassin Sweiha on the Al-Gumhouriyya website; in it, he reviews my initiative to change the political thought process and search for a culture of peace. He concludes that this is a dangerous initiative that could change our historic identity. Since we are the enemies of Israel, [he says,] if we reconcile with it, what will happen? We will lose our identity!... This reminds me of the American movie in which the two protagonists, criminals, imagine that they are pursued by the secret police. They escape in a car and attempt to evade it. They only discover that they are imagining this when their car drives off the Brooklyn Bridge, as they float in the air before plunging into the waters."[19]

The Syrian People Cannot Continue To Bear The Brunt Of Arab Nationalism

Al-Labwani also stressed that striving for peace with Israel is no longer taboo in the Middle East, after Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, the Palestinians, and the Kurds have chosen to do so. The Syrians, he said, could also strive for peace if it helps them resolve their crisis: "Everyone has withdrawn from the Palestinian problem – 'the central problem of Arabs' – which the Syrian people carried on its shoulders for so many years. Sadat was the first to rebel against these principles, by signing the Camp David Accords; he was followed by Yasser Arafat himself, then by Jordan, and by many Arab and Islamic countries. Why should the poor, destitute Syrian citizens, who lost their families in Assad's explosive barrel attacks, whose homes and cities were destroyed, and who have been banished to the four corners of the Earth – [why should they] bear an additional brunt beyond what they already bear? After Homs, Aleppo, Deir Al-Zor, and Idlib have burned, should the Syrian people continue to bear the brunt of Arab nationalism? It pains me to ask: Why, when Bashar Al-Assad bombed us with chemical weapons, were there no protests condemning this despicable crime in a single Arab capital?"[20]

In a TV interview, Al-Labwani mentioned that peace with Israel was an "internal matter" for Syria, and that others should not interfere in it. This, he said, was because Syria is one of the last remaining countries that is not at peace with Israel, and it makes no sense to demand that the Syrian people – whose children have not gone to school for three years, and which is struggling to deal with the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees – should continue to fly the banner of the struggle against Israel all on its own.[21]

Peace Would Promote Arab Goals More Than Hizbullah's Missiles Do

Al-Labwani accused the "resistance" forces of hypocrisy, saying that they tout their slogans of struggle against Israel in the name of Arab nationalism and the Palestinian problem, but at the same time turn their weapons against their own peoples. He stated that therefore peace with Israel "would benefit the Arabs, Arabism, and Palestine more than all nationalist doctrines and all of Hassan Nasrallah's missiles," which he pointed out had ultimately been aimed "exclusively against the Syrian people."[22]

He added: "We have seen that those who call for strategic balance with the enemy and for resistance to 'the Great Satan' have turned all of their weapons stockpiles against their own people in a way that disgusted [even] the [Israeli] enemy with its ugliness."[23]

There Is No Comparing Israel's Intervention In Lebanon And Its Intervention In Syria

Al-Labwani rejected analogies between the Israeli-Syrian cooperation that he seeks and the Israeli-Maronite cooperation in Lebanon in the 1980s, and between the no-fly zone he wants Israel to establish in southern Syria and the South Lebanon security belt: "There are differences between the Israeli intervention in South Lebanon and in Syria: It intervened in South Lebanon as an occupying force, while in the [Syria] war it would intervene as a liberating force. In South Lebanon it supported a minority, while in Syria it would be defending the majority; in South Lebanon it triggered hostility, while in Syria it would provide aid and create friendship."[24]

Israel Is No Longer The Chief Enemy Of Syria And Arab Countries

In his TV interview, Al-Labwani noted that the Syrian civil war had fundamentally shaken the traditional image of Israel as an enemy, and had spurred him to distance himself from old, ossified patterns and formulate an Israel policy in keeping with dynamic interests: "Today, the 'grand' Syrian Arab army and the 'resistance' [meaning Hizbullah] attack us, while Israel treats our wounded. There have been changes in the equation of 'who is an enemy' and 'who is a friend.' The events [of recent years] have upended the terminology. Who is our enemy? Is it the Lebanese who fights us or the Israeli who lives in Jerusalem? .. Today there are many new questions, and dogmatic thinking can no longer provide answers for them."[25]

He added that, even when viewed in an historical context, most massacres against the Arabs were not carried out by Israel, but by their fellow Arabs – who share their identity and religion – or, even worse, by their own regimes, that should have been protecting and defending them. He noted that when Pope John Paul II visited Lebanon in the 1990s, he was given a handful of earth from the site of the 1996 "Israeli massacre" in Qana. Referring to an article by a French journalist that stated that the Qana incident was the only one of the dozens, even hundreds of massacres in Lebanon that had not been carried out by Lebanese, and that enumerated the 1975 'Ain Al-Rammaneh massacre (i.e. bus massacre in Beirut), the 1976 Tel Al-Zaatar massacre, the 1978 Ehden massacre, and the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre, Al-Labwani said that what this journalist was implying was that the number of Lebanese murdered by Lebanese and the number of Syrian murdered by Syrians is far greater than the number of either people murdered by Israeli Jews.[26]

He further stated that the expansionist aspirations of Iran, "which casts its eyes on Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, and the rest of the Gulf," are far more troubling than Israel's.[27] Therefore, Al-Labwani said, "after the barbarism that they have witnessed carried out by the regime, by Iran, and by their gangs, and after the international community has abandoned them, most armed forces on the ground [in Syria] no longer [categorically] oppose any cooperation with Israel."[28]

Beyond the tangible changes that prove that Israel is no longer "the main enemy," Al-Labwani said, the widespread view of Israel as an aggressor country stems from misunderstanding and ignorance. The truth, he said, is that Israel is a militaristic country that lives in fear for its existence, and the Jewish people have escaped the Holocaust and persecution, and yearn for peace and security. The adoption of this empathetic perspective would show that the provision of warmth and security to Israel by its Sunni-Arab environment might trigger a change in Israel's aggressive nature, he said.[29]

The Jews Are Our Historic Partners

As part of his call to replace tired historical myths with a fresh pragmatic approach appropriate to the current dynamic reality, Al-Labwani attacked the common view of Jews as "historic enemies": "I am against this formulaic thought process that classifies the Shi'ite or the Jew as an historical enemy. We have lived side by side with the Jews, from Khaybar [in the early days of Islam] to the establishment of the State of Israel, and fought no wars [with them]."[30] He pointed out the religious and historic commonalities between Jews and Muslims, saying: "Have we forgotten that Abraham – the historic and cultural symbol of our nation – is the father of both Ishmael and Isaac, and the grandfather of Jacob Israel – the father of Hebrews? They are our historic partners on this land..."[31]

On the issue of Israel's historic rights to the land, Al-Labwani expressed his reservations regarding the term "historic right," since according to his religion Islamic perception, land belongs to God alone, and not to any particular people: "It is usual for states to rise and fall and to change their borders following wars, [invasions] or agreements. It is usual for sovereignty over the land to be held by these transient states... [According to Islamic tradition,] when Musaylimah [bin Habib, a false prophet from the time of Muhammad] sent a letter to the Prophet Muhammad asking him to divide the ownership of the Arabian Peninsula, [the Prophet], peace be upon Him, responded: 'From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to Musaylimah the liar – the land belongs to God, and He gives it to His servants as He sees fit.' This is the philosophy of God's Messenger."[32]

By this reasoning, Al-Labwani said, the land of Israel has been conquered by many different peoples throughout history, but in the modern era it is under Israeli sovereignty and this is a fact. Even if the founders of Israel harmed the rights of the Palestinian locals who lived in Palestine at that time, he said, their children, born in Israel, must not be held responsible for this – just as modern day Sunnis must not be held responsible for the killing of Shi'ite Caliph Hussein bin 'Ali.[33]

Ambivalent Responses From Syrian Opposition

The umbrella organizations of the Syrian opposition have thus far avoided taking a clear stand on Al-Labwani's initiative. The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Oppositionist Forces, from which Al-Labwani withdrew in January 2014, expressed reservations about the suggestion to "sell" the Golan Heights to Israel in return for the latter enforcing a no-fly zone in southern Syria, but did not reject the idea of cooperation with Israel. Hadi Al-Bahra, a member of the national coalition's political committee, said in a communique that Al-Labwani was no longer a member of the coalition and that "the positions he expresses do not represent or reflect the coalition's political positions." He added that the national coalition is committed to the territorial integrity of Syrian lands and to U.N. resolutions 242 and 497 regarding the Golan Heights.[34] The FSA has not officially responded to Al-Labwani's initiative but FSA spokesman Thaer Al-Nashef said that the Syrian people would not oppose peace with Israel after the Assad regime was toppled, and that the government established in Syria after his ouster would seek to restore the Golan Heights via negotiations, as Egypt and Jordan had done previously.[35]

These vague responses indicate the disagreement that the initiative caused within the Syrian opposition: On one hand, its supporters expressed their willingness to back Al-Labwani's public call for peace with Israel for pragmatic reasons, assuming it would improve the image of the Syrian opposition in international public opinion and promote its struggle to topple the regime. They were positively inclined towards "warm peace" that would include normalization with Israel and bring economic prosperity to Syria. Some of them even contributed to formulating innovative narratives that include explicit recognition of the Jews' historic right to a country in the Middle East, and praised the positive legacy of past ties between Jews and Sunni Muslims in the region. On the other hand, Al-Labwani's opponents used Arab nationalist arguments that reject any cooperation with the Zionist entity until it withdraws from territory it conquered in 1967 and restores the Palestinians' legitimate rights. In addition, they questioned the pragmatic benefits of Al-Labwani's initiative and complained that it plays into the hands of the Syrian regime's propaganda mechanisms.

Supporters Of The Initiative

Son Of Former Syrian Defense Minister: I Do No Oppose Warm Peace With Israel

Firas Tlass, a Syrian businessman and the son of former Syrian defense minister Mustafa Tlass, said that many leaders in the national coalition and the FSA have established direct and indirect ties with the Israeli leadership after understanding that victory in the Syrian civil war is in Israel's hands. Tlass, who defected to the opposition after anti-regime protests began in Syria, stated that he does not personally oppose "full and warm peace with Israel that would enable the total development of the region and open its [borders] for passage and work for all peoples of the region." However, he added that "such a decision needs the authorization of a legitimate element elected freely by the Syrian people."[36]

Jamal Karsli: A Peaceful Message Would Benefit The Revolution

Unexpected support for Al-Labwani's peace initiative came from Jamal Karsli, a former German MP of Syrian origin, who was forced to leave the Green Party in 2002 after making antisemitic comments. Karsli, who is among the organizers of the Cordoba Conference,[37] stated that Al-Labwani's peace initiative came at the proper timing, since the Syrian public was emotionally prepared for peace with Israel more than ever, if it would bring about Assad's ouster. In addition, he said "it would be beneficial if we signal [to the West] that the Syrian opposition is willing to make peace with Israel, because the West's demands speak of uniting the opposition, combating extremism, and ensuring Israel's safety and security." Moreover, he added that the Western world was prepared "to sacrifice all the Arabs" for Israel's survival, and that therefore, "if we send the Western world the message that those controlling Syria would be a democratic elite that is prepared for peace with Israel, it would benefit the revolution." Addressing Al-Labwani's call for warm peace with Israel, Karsli claimed that normalization is already a fact on the ground in today's world, in which multinational corporations operate and peoples intermingle in the economic and media arenas.[38]

Letter To AIPAC: The Idea Of A War Against Israel Is Gone From The Syrian People's Lexicon

Shortly after Al-Labwani's initiative was announced, the National Syrian Group, which includes prominent Syrian oppositionists who are working in concert with Al-Labwani, sent a letter to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) expressing their yearning for peaceful coexistence between the two peoples, recognition of the Jewish people's rights in Israel, and their hope for Sunni-Israeli cooperation against the Iranian-Shi'ite axis.

The letter states: "Before the beginning of the Syrian people revolution against the most barbaric and murderous regime in March 2011; the Assad regime was encouraging hatred against the Israeli nation and hostility between the Israeli and Syrian people. The regime ignored the historical and geographical rights of the Jewish people in their historical land where all the prophets were born, the Promised Land...

"The Syrian Opposition started even before the revolution to call for peace with Israel through the media platform that was available to us. We the opposition clarified to the Syrian people the importance of living in real peace with Israel which is a must for the future of Syria...

"Peace with Israel has become a matter of fact and fully accepted by all the Syrian people and especially by the Sunni majority... The Sunni people of Syria have realized that living in peace with Israel is the only solution to move forward in the Middle East that we are living in...

"Israel signed a peace treaty with Arab countries among which are Egypt, and Jordan and it enjoys good relationships with Islamic countries such as Turkey and Pakistan, a relationship which was not always at its best, and we hope that the relationship between the Syrian and Israeli people will be built on strong basis to reach real, logical and lasting peace between the two countries and the two people that share the same history and geography. Golan Heights that was a commodity for the Assad regime to bargain with over 40 years will be a prosperous home that houses the two people in peace and security.

"Today we as Syrian people in general and Sunni majority in particular that are fighting a battle of freedom hand in hand with the other sects in Syria to extend a hand for peace with Israel and Israeli people and to work hand in hand to stop the bleeding that the Syrian people are suffering for the last three years as a result of the murders of the Assad regime and its alliance; the Iranian, death militias and Shiite extremists from all over the world who proved their hostility to the Israeli people...

"The hostility that the regime planted in the hearts of the Syrian people towards the Israeli and Jewish people over the years of his rule has vanished and especially among the Sunni majority. Thanks to the Syrian revolution that was the awakening call that raised awareness among the Syrian people and was a catalyst for them to seek peace and security and good future living next their neighbors. The word war has vanished from the dictionary of the Syrian people and especially the Sunni majority who they only think of real peace with the Israeli and Jewish people around the world.

"Our hand is extended to you for real peace and partnership."[39]

Opponents Of The Initiative

Burhan Ghalioun: Al-Labwani's Initiative – A Betrayal Of Syria And A Crime Against The Syrian Opposition

Syrian liberal Burhan Ghalioun, who was head of the Syrian National Council in 2010-2011, claimed that Al-Labwani's initiative was deluded, for the following reasons: "First, Israel is not an enemy of the Syrian regime who will act to topple this regime for the sake of the opposition; rather, it is an enemy of the Syrian people. Due to this hostility, and due to the interests which guide it, which are contrary [to those of the Syrian people], Israel defended the Syrian regime and cooperated with it, and it continues to do so today... Second, [should Israel decide that] the Syrian regime's [continued] existence is at odds with its interests, it will not need appeals or deals like those proposed by Al-Labwani to deliver a death-blow to this regime... Third, Israel does not need Al-Labwani to give it the Golan, for the Golan is effectively under its control, not under his control...

"[Al-Labwani's] delusions and superficial statements are meant to appeal to a small segment of the Syrian public that has lost faith in itself in the face of the humanitarian and national tragedy, and which mistakenly believes that the regime's perseverance is proof that Israel wants it to stay and that obtaining [Israeli support] is the only way to eliminate it... Al-Labwani's statements reflect that a certain destructive segment of the Syrian public is going from bad to worse, and rushing to surrender to an enemy that does not have, and cannot be expected to have, any compassion or pity for a people that once posed a threat to Israel...

"Israel is the last [country] that thinks to rescue the Syrians from their plight, the last [country] the Syrians can expect to rescue them from the violence and terror of the regime... Directing the gaze of the displaced and tortured Syrians towards [Israel], and cultivating false hopes [in their hearts] that it will help them in return for their relinquishing Syria's national truth, its principles and its spirit – that is more than just a political error. It is a betrayal of Syria and its history and a crime against the opposition. Al-Labwani won't stop hurling accusations at [the opposition], destroying its credibility and embroiling it in positions that serve no purpose other than to divide it and blacken its reputation."[40]

Syrian Opposition Activist: Cooperation With Israel Requires A Change In The Zionist Doctrine

Attorney Edward Hashwa, a Christian Syrian oppositionist, published an article in which he rejected Al-Labwani's initiative as long as the Palestinian problem remains unresolved and as long as the Zionist movement continues seeking a Jewish state "from the Nile to the Euphrates." He wrote: "The call to cooperate with Israel embarrasses and harms the Syrian opposition, and provides the regime with another trump card in its war against the people... Transitioning from a culture of war with Israel to a culture of collaboration with it requires Israel [itself] to comply. In [Arab League] summits the Arabs proposed an initiative for establishing a Palestinian state. The Palestinians made a concession by agreeing to a state that would not exceed 28% of the West Bank territories occupied in 1967 [Hashwa means 28% of Mandatory Palestine], and which would be demilitarized. They consented to the presence of U.S. troops on the border and to the annexing of the large [Jewish] settlements to Israel. They were even willing to settle for a small part of East Jerusalem, and agreed to place their capital in a village adjacent to East Jerusalem, not in [the city itself]. Despite all this, and despite the American pressure, the Zionists refused. How can a culture of peace be established in the face of such extremism?...

"Zionism is a Jewish national movement whose goal is to establish a Jewish state stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates, which will attract all the Jews of the world. In his book A Place under the Sun, which serves as his permanent election platform, [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu opposed the establishment of any kind of Palestinian state. The most he would agree to was [establishing] a 'municipal authority to handle the affairs of the Arab residents, only in areas densely populated [with Arabs], and under Israeli sovereignty.' How is it possible to establish a culture of cooperation with such a mindset? As long as we don't see a change in the Jewish political doctrine, peace and a culture of peace will remain out if reach.

"True, there is no doubt that the barbarity suffered by the [Arab] peoples at the hands of the regimes in all the Arab countries exceeds Israel's barbarity – and the war in Syria is an example of this. But does that mean that we must cooperate with a lesser form of barbarity? Or [does it mean that] we must oppose both [forms of barbarity]?... [In the 1980s], a group of Maronites cooperated with Israel, and the result was an Israeli occupation of South Lebanon that lasted 20 years. The Maronites did not achieve the decisive victory they hoped for; instead they were marginalized, divided into [those who allied themselves with] Israel versus [those who allied themselves with] the Syrian regime. Therefore, those who believe that cooperating with the Jews is the road to salvation are not thinking straight."[41]

Ofir Winter is a guest writer at MEMRI and a doctoral candidate at the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University. He is coauthor, with Uriya Shavit, of the book My Enemy, My Mentor: Arab Islamist and Liberal Discourses on the Zionist Movement and Israel (in Hebrew).


[1] Al-Arab (London), March 14, 2014.
[2] Rai Al-Yawm (Jordan), April 25, 2014.
[3] SANA (Syria), March 9, 2014.
[4], April 11, 2014;, May 1, 2014.
[5] Sana (Syria), April 14, 2014.
[6] The Damascus Spring was the Syrian political awakening after Bashar Al-Assad's took office in June 2000; during it, a number of forums promoting democracy and civil society were established throughout Syria.
[7] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 361, "Syrian Oppositionists Call for International Action," June 7, 2007.
[8], January 6, 2014;, March 23, 2014.
[9] Al-Arab (London), March 14, 2014; Orient News TV, March 19, 2014.
[10], May 13, 2014.
[11] Al-Arab (London), March 14, 2014.
[12] Orient News TV, March 19, 2014.
[13] Al-Arab (London), March 14, 2014; Orient News TV, March 19, 2014;, May 13, 2014.
[14] Al-Arab (London), March 14, 2014.
[15] Orient News TV (Syria), March 19, 2014.
[16] Al-Arab (London), March 14, 2014.
[17] Orient News TV, March 19, 2014.
[18], April 21, 2014.
[19], April 21, 2014.
[20] Al-Arab (London), March 14, 2014.
[21] Orient News TV, March 19, 2014.
[22] Al-Arab (London), March 14, 2014.
[23], April 21, 2014.
[24] Al-Arab (London), March 14, 2014.
[25] Orient News TV, March 19, 2014.
[26], April 21, 2014.
[27] Al-Arab (London), March 14, 2014.
[28], March 7, 2014.
[29] Orient News TV, March 19, 2014.
[30] Orient News TV, March 19, 2014.
[31], April 21, 2014.
[32], April 21, 2014.
[33] Orient News TV, March 19, 2014.
[34], March 16, 2014.
[35] Al-Arab (London), March 7, 2014.
[36], March 13, 2014.
[37] A conference that took place in Cordoba, Spain, in January 2014, in which Syrian oppositionist leaders, including Al-Labwani, met to coordinate positions leading up to negotiations with the Syrian regime in Geneva.
[38], March 25, 2014.
[39] The letter was sent to AIPAC in May, 2014. A copy was provided to MEMRI by one of the authors.
[40], March 16, 2014. In a scathing article he wrote in response, Al-Labwani accused Ghalioun of taking nationalist stances that do not help the opposition but effectively serve Assad and Iran., March 18, 2014.
[41], May 13, 2014.

Ofir Winter


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