Saturday, February 13, 2016

Israel and the Reconquista of Language - Hugh Fitzgerald

by Hugh Fitzgerald

The urgency of being more vigilant about the terms of the debate.

Originally posted on Jihad Watch.

For quite some time, now, Israel has been out of the headlines. There’s been so much else going on in the Middle East and in the wonderful world of Islam. Among the dizzying vicissitudes, in Iraq and Syria we’ve had nonstop news about many different little wars, involving Sunnis and Shi’a, and regime supporters and regime overthrowers, and various endangered minorities (non-Muslim or non-Arab) – Christians and Alawites and Kurds and Yazidis in the mix, and everyone, including insufficiently-fanatical Sunnis, under attack by ISIS, while ISIS itself attracts hundreds of thousands of foreign volunteers to its not-inconsiderable caliphate carved out of northwestern Iraq and southeastern Syria, and that caliphate still stands, despite repeated hopeful predictions from Washington of its imminent demise. In Egypt, Mubarak was toppled and replaced by Muslim-Brotherhood Morsi, who in turn was toppled by a secularisant Al-Sisi, and during these ups and downs, Egypt’s Copts have endured levels of torment that varied directly with the level of Islam in the government. In Libya, Qaddafi was overthrown with Western help, but instead of becoming a peaceable kingdom, the country he once ruled with an iron fist then descended into a chaos of warfare among different factions and militias, some based on their city of origin (Misrata, Benghazi, Zintan), others distinguished according to tribe or politico-religious ideology, and to this tripolitanian tohu-va-bohu, with two different “Libyan governments” now sitting  in Tobruk and Tripoli, can be added the Islamic State, which has just opened a branch office in Sirte.

The fact of so much other news driving Israel from the front pages does not mean that the war against Israel has disappeared. The Slow Jihadists of the Palestine Authority (quondam PLO) continue to be supported by the U.N, and by the E.U., while the Fast Jihadists of Hamas have both Iran and the Islamic State in their corner. Jews are still attacked — more than two dozen Jewish civilians have been stabbed to death in the last few months — and just the other day, Hamas promised a new campaign of putting bombs on Egged busses. But without minimizing this continued violence, the Arab threat Israelis now face is simply not at the same level as was that posed by the massed might of several Arab armies – the most important were always those of Egypt and Syria — that in 1973 and 1967 and 1948 made war on the Jews of Israel. Israel is not at the moment facing that kind of danger: the Syrian military has, after four years of civil war, simply deliquesced, and the Egyptian army is more interested in destroying Hamas tunnels than in going to war against Israel, for Al-Sisi’s men understandably have little appetite for sacrificing Egyptian men, money, and materiel yet again for an “Arab” cause.
While Israel has a breathing spell, it should work to improve its hasbara — public diplomacy, public relations, propaganda. It has to be more vigilant about the terms of the debate. The first phrase to go should be “Palestinian people.” Prior to the Arab defeat in the Six-Day War, no Arab leader, diplomat, intellectual, anywhere used that phrase; they always spoke about “Arab refugees.” It only began to be employed after the military defeat in June 1967, when it became clear that the Arabs would, before attempting another military assault, have to soften up Israel, isolating it diplomatically, and making the world forget that the Arabs started that war, and the one in 1948, long before the “Palestinian people” came into existence. From 1967 on, Arab propagandists have been involved in the “construction-of-the-Palestinian-identity” project, creating a “people” by promoting a word from geographic adjective (“Palestinian”Arab) to ethnic noun (“Palestinian”). This sleight-of-word contributed mightily to the invention of the “Palestinian people” — a “people struggling for its legitimate rights” and doing it “in Palestine, where it lived since time immemorial.” To start with, in its counter-campaign, Israel should use every occasion to bring up Zuhair Mohsain’s admission to the Dutch newspaper “Trouw” in 1974 about the propagandistic value of  this fictive “Palestinian people”:
The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.
And Netanyahu, who is sensitive to language, should make it known that from now on, the Israeli government will officially refer not to the “Palestinian people” (as it has so heedlessly done in the past) but only to the “Palestinian Arabs.” And that will remind the world that the “Palestinians” are just one part of the Arab people, the people more generously endowed than any other, possessing  22 states and 14 million square miles of territory. But Israel won’t achieve that desirable result unless its own leaders and diplomats and journalists agree among themselves to stop using the phrase “Palestinian people.” Make clear that that phrase is not neutral but highly tendentious.
Second, Israel should hold up the word “Occupied” — as used in the phrase “occupied West Bank” or “occupied territories” or still worse, “occupied Arab lands” —  for inspection. For the word “occupied” is being used to suggest that Israel has no claim to the “West Bank” or Gaza other than the temporary one of being military occupant. One thinks in this regard of “Occupied Berlin,” “Occupied Vienna,” “Occupied Paris,” “Occupied Japan” – in these designations, the territory in question is under the control of an outside power or powers, that control has been won through military conquest, and the claim to that territory is understood to be temporary, based solely on that military occupation. But Israel’s claim to Gaza and the “West Bank” is not based on the fact of military occupation. These territories are properly thought of as unallocated parts of the Palestine Mandate, and the provisions of that League of Nations’ Mandate still apply. The Mandate for Palestine was created by the League of Nations for the sole and express purpose of creating the conditions for the establishment of the Jewish National Home; the territory assigned to that Mandate included Gaza and what would later be called the “West Bank.” The fact that the Jews  did not end up in possession of Gaza and the “West Bank” at the end of  the 1948-49 war did not change the legal status of those territories; Israel’s claim to them rests on the Mandate itself (and let’s not forget that there were other Mandates leading to the creation of Arab states, a British mandate for Iraq, a French mandate for Syria and Lebanon); that legal claim was not extinguished but remained, and Israel’s military conquest of those territories in the Six-Day War did not create a new claim, but did allow Israel, coming into possession by force of arms, to finally exercise that prior claim to those territories based on the Mandate. And when Israel voluntarily gave up its claim to Gaza – for reasons of intelligent self-interest – that had no bearing on Israel’s continued claim to the “West Bank.”
Instead of continuing to accept this use of the word “Occupied,” the Israeli government ought to make a fuss every time that word is used by others – foreign leaders or diplomats, U.N. personnel, BBC announcers and New York Times columnists – but a well-informed fuss, a fuss that will remind people of the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine, which undergird  the Israeli claim to the territories it won in 1967. Eventually, by dint of repetition, some will begin to grasp the point being made, and others, who may still refuse to accept the point, at least will be forced to discuss the issue of what the word “occupied” means and why Israel has a point about its misapplication that cannot be easily dismissed. Force others to look at, to study, to discuss, the terms of the Mandate for Palestine. And that discussion will, for Israel, constitute at least a partial victory.
Third, and finally, the Israelis should make sure always to use the word “Jihad” to describe the war that has been made on them even before the Jewish state was declared in 1948. In the past, it may have made some sense not to use that word. Two major Muslim powers – Turkey and Iran, that is Kemalist Turkey, and Iran of the secularizing Shah — were unofficial allies of Israel. There was an intelligent capitalizing on anti-Arab feeling among both Turks and Persians. Why needlessly antagonize these regimes, the Israelis felt, or cause them trouble in maintaining their covert alliances with Israel, by reminding their Muslim subjects of the duty of “Jihad”? But the situation now is different. Turkey’s Kemalists are out and Erdogan’s real Muslims are in, and in Iran the Shah’s secularist ancien regime has been replaced by Khomeini’s epigones, fanatical Shi’ites all. There is nothing to be gained by not starkly presenting the war against Israel, truthfully, as a “Jihad.” And since some (not all, not even most, but some) Europeans have become sufficiently alarmed at their own situation, that is, the internal threat from their own burgeoning Muslim population, to have undertaken the study of Islam on their own (their governments being of no help in this matter), and have to recognize that a “Jihad” is being waged against them, too, anything that can be done to further the understanding of a commonality of interest and a sharing of the threat, between Europe and Israel, or among  Europe, Israel, and the rest of the Infidel world, because they are all engaged in the same war of self-defense, against the same enemy, making war on them for the same reasons — can only be salutary.
This Reconquista of the lexical battlefield will be long and arduous. But for Israel, and for Infidels everywhere, there is no other choice. And now I’ve listed — correctly, I hope — a few places to start.

Hugh Fitzgerald


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The Mullahs' War on the Dollar - Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

How Obama’s trusted partner damages U.S. national interests.

I have studied Iran for over a decade and lived there many years. I came to realize that Iran’s antagonism towards “the Great Satan” is the government’s raison d'ĂȘtre. The White House needs to be cognizant of the fact: anti-Americanism is the quintessential element on which the Iranian government bases its legitimacy. This is the underlying character of the system and it is beyond the control of a single individual, even the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamanei. No matter how many carrots the US gives the ruling clerics of Iran, Iranian leaders will still make every possible effort to damage US national interests, make life harder for the American people, scuttle US foreign policy and humiliate the American government.

Iran’s latest offensive is through currency. Two Iranian officials in the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Industries and Mines told me recently that Iran is starting the process of moving away from the dollar with respect to their foreign trade and international business.

Further, Iranian officials are reportedly asking other countries not to pay them with dollars, but to pay them in cash with Euros, the Chinese Yuan, the Indian rupee, or the Russian Ruble.

Safar-Ali Karamati, deputy director of International Affairs for Marketing and Crude Oil Operation in the state-owned National Iranian Oil Co, stated that Iran’s “top priority” is “to receive cash and oil demands in euro… Because of their [European Union] single monetary unit, European customers have no problem [paying] for crude oil deals in euro[s].”

So, why is Iran turning away from using the dollar?

On one hand, Iran is attempting to reduce its dependency on the dollar in case the next American administration or the International Atomic Energy Agency realize that Iran is cheating on the nuclear agreement and that sanctions should be rolled back. This is why Rouhani is rushing to seal business deals across Europe and Asia and encouraging other parties to use any currency other than the dollar.

Yet also, from Iran’s point of view, reducing the use of petrodollars will negatively affect not only US power on the global stage -- and tip the balance of power against Washington -- but also harm the living standards of ordinary American people.

After the Islamist leaders of Iran were ensured that they can freely do business with the rest of the world thanks to the White House's efforts in removing the United Nations Security Council’s economic sanctions, the ruling clerics are now turning against the US and escalating their efforts to humiliate the US.

By getting the rest of the world en masse to pay Iran with currencies other than the dollar for its oil and gas sales, Iranian leaders hope this will subsequently lead to increases in US interest rates and American product prices in the long-term given Iran has the second largest gas and fourth largest oil reserves worldwide.

For their part, the Russians, Indians, Chinese and Europeans appear to be more than happy to fulfill Iran’s wish and pay the Islamist state of Iran with their country’s currency rather than the dollar in hopes of profiting from an opening Iranian market.

The Obama administration has been silent -- hoping appeasement might change Iran’s attitude -- but the mullahs’ currency war against the United States goes on.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a former senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf Project at Columbia University. He can be reached at Follow Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.


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Healthy Institutions Don't Boycott Israel - Alexander H. Joffe

by Alexander H. Joffe

A look at the boycott movement's failures, and successes, tells us much about the worlds in which it is embedded.

Among the enduring strengths of the Israel boycott movement are its ability to convince certain types of people that the cause is not only just but successful. But with whom are those arguments effective? There is a strong contrast between institutions governed by rules and evidence and those controlled by emotion.

Negative examples are ample: the European Commission's relentless demands that products from Israeli communities in the West Bank be specially labeled, the refusal of the student government at Vassar College to fund a J Street group on the grounds that "Zionism is an inherently racist ideology," violence directed at Jewish participants at the National LGBTQ Task Force's Creating Change conference, the demand that singer Matisyahu denounce Israel as a condition for performing at a Spanish reggae festival. Many more could be cited.

There is a strong contrast between institutions governed by rules and evidence and those controlled by emotion.
A look at the boycott movement's failures, and successes, tells us much about the worlds in which it is embedded.

Those diverse worlds—of universities and academic associations, liberal Protestant denominations, the European Commission, far-left protest movements and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), far-left Jewish groups, and Islamists—are failing, in the sense of intellectual coherence, the ability to persuade, and basic morality. Some, like liberal Protestants, are actually shrinking fast. But that doesn't mean they will lose in the end.

Few Organizations Are Discriminating Against Israel

Reality is different from how the movement portrays itself. Successes, in terms of convincing institutions to boycott, divest from, or legally sanction Israel, are meager. Global industries are uninterested in excluding Israel. Investment in Israel is rising, especially from Asia. Even trade with Europe is unimpeded. No university or corporation has sold its stock in companies, like Intel or Caterpillar, for doing business in Israel. Claims of the movement's success are therefore misleading; misrepresentation is part of its tradecraft.

Successes, in terms of convincing institutions to boycott, divest from, or legally sanction Israel, are meager.
For another thing, backlash against boycotts is growing, particularly at the state level. Legislators in Florida and California have followed the lead of Ohio, Illinois, and South Carolina in proposing laws that would prohibit anti-Israel discrimination by state agencies, including pension funds. Remarkably, similar controls are under consideration in Britain, where the Conservative Party has proposed to restrict the ability of local councils and pension funds to discriminate against Israel on political grounds.

Even at universities, where pro-boycott activists have occasionally managed to manipulate or coerce student governments into passing boycott and divestment resolutions (while harassing Jewish and pro-Israel students), in no case have university administrations, much less boards of trustees or investment managers, followed suit. To the contrary: Israel boycott and divestment resolutions are regularly denounced. It is one of the few signs that universities remain under the control of responsible adults.

Where Israel-Hating Thrives

But the opposite is true in student governments, which are regularly co-opted by pro-boycott forces and their far-left allies. So too are campus politics at large, increasingly dominated by retreaded New Left politics of pique, the Black Panther revivalism of Black Lives Matter and Ferguson, the Occupy movement's watery socialism, and neo-Victorian anti-rape protests, against a backdrop of incoherent rage over cultural appropriations and grievances, many so small as to be labeled "micro-aggressions."

It is also not surprising the anti-Israel movement also finds limited success in local "human rights commissions" and city councils—but only in places like Cambridge and Portland, where students who never fully grew up maintain the adolescent tone of local politics.

The very idea of education and the mission of the university have succumbed to the politics of rage.
A similar attitude of wide-encompassing anger applies to academics, particular academic organizations. The Israel boycott resolution adopted by the National Women's Studies Association is especially notable in this regard. Their resolution is motivated ostensibly by "intersectionality" and the "interconnectedness of systemic forms of oppression," predictably personified by Israel. Such a complex formulation of a traditional animus is neither a sign of clear thinking nor a healthy discipline.

These are signs of intellectual and moral failure, the collapse of any ideal animating the very idea of education and the mission of the university beyond the politics of rage. They portend ill for society, for there is no doubt that the activism of professors and students alike has poisoned countless classrooms.

In contrast, the rejection of an anti-Israel resolution by the American Historical Association is heartening. It suggests, unlike in women's studies, "American Studies," or anthropology, that an academic discipline which is still actually about something academic may be salvageable, before it descends down the rabbit hole of "relevance" and "social justice."

The Borders Between Rationality and Rage

But campus radicalism and "social justice" also have their limits. Despite decades of anti-American agitation, America has still not been transformed into a socialist paradise. Reality burns away many collegiate fantasies and idylls, and the sheer hysteria and accompanying intimidation of campus protests today is likely to alienate as many students from causes as attract them. That alienation is quantifiable in plummeting enrollments in the humanities and social sciences, the epicenter for anti-Israel and anti-American agitation. Another index is rising anger from parents, although skyrocketing costs play an equal role with politics.

Despite decades of anti-American agitation, America has still not been transformed into a socialist paradise.
It is also worth pointing out that calls for boycotting Israel have not impeded the actual mechanism of the university, the daily life of operations and finances, the churn of students and flows of money. Giving to universities, including, paradoxically, by Jewish donors, remains at record levels. Apparently the body and certain higher functions remain alive even as large parts of the brain have turned rabid. Of course, a university comprised of administrators, "diversity coordinators," and part-time instructors hardly deserves the name. But rules and procedures associated with the profitable business of being a university are not easily overthrown in the name of "social justice."

The recent decision by a Spanish court to award damages to an Israeli university, located inconveniently across the "Green Line," when a Spanish agency illegally excluded its students from an international technology competition, is also notable. It suggests that certain higher social functions, namely the judiciary, have not been completely infected by the virus of anti-Israel bias. In this respect it will be interesting to see the result when the European Commission's blatantly discriminatory labeling regulations for Israeli products from communities in the West Bank enters court or World Trade Organization arbitration.

The Flight from Responsibility Accelerates

There are striking contrasts between how Israel boycotts are treated by rules and results-based institutions, like legislatures, courts, and pension fund managers, and institutions ruled by emotion that have no oversight, like academic organizations, student governments, the European Commission, or the NGO sector. By exempting themselves from rules, and in some cases from the political process as a whole, the latter are often uniquely in synch with Israel boycotters, and the pro-Palestinian movement, which put the Palestinian cause above examination and exempt it from criticism.

The flight towards ideological politics and away from practicality and responsibility is a growing problem in the West.
But the fact that some institutions with real responsibilities, like British councils and labor tribunals, could contemplate Israel boycotts in the first place is another sign that politics have been infected. While the Labour Party continues to deny it supports Israel boycotts, numerous members of Parliament believe the opposite, both to pander to constituents and as a matter of personal conviction, economic consequences and morality be damned. Similar trends are evident in the progressive wings of the Democratic Party.

The flight towards ideological politics and away from practicality and responsibility is a growing problem in the West. This will intensify, precisely as a function of cascading social and political disasters, especially the collapsing Middle East and social unrest resulting from mass immigration to the West. Pressure to focus on the unique evil of Israel and away from these self-inflicted wounds and their progressive policy causes will be enormous.

But in a world of human rights abuses by ISIS, Russia, Iran, and others, the health of institutions can be measured in part by how they stand up to calls to boycott Israel. Corporations and judiciaries, and occasionally even academics, each with greatly differing mandates, have the potential to stem the flows of bias and hatred. There may even be hope for universities. The trends are not positive, nor are they so terrible to give up all hope that with strong leadership from above sense may prevail.

Alex Joffe is editor of The Ancient Near East Today, the monthly e-newsletter of the American Schools of Oriental Research. He is also a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.


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Islam: The Jinn is out of the bottle - John Grifffing

by John Griffing

Western leaders think Islam can be used for their own ends; they are dangerously wrong

Europe is on fire, in a social and financial crisis of its leaders’ own making. Its public places are now spectacles of the obscene, and its women are sexual objects for a predatory race of invaders. Its social systems are stretched to the breaking point by belligerent "refugees" who are devouring their host countries at will, while Europe’s leaders defend the invaders and blame their own citizens.

Western civilization is under attack, and rational citizens are at a loss to understand why their leaders are allowing the destruction of their societies.

Much has been written about the outrageous acts that have been committed by Muslim migrants, so we need not repeat them here. We can simply agree that the situation in Europe is disastrous, and it’s getting worse. And America is not far behind.

Western leaders are aiding and abetting this insanity with a consistency and single-mindedness of purpose that can only be explained in one way: they must think they have something to gain from the chaos created by this crisis.

What other conclusion can be drawn from the brazen ascendancy of Islam in the western world, and the deafening silence that permits its success?  Clearly, Western leaders think they can use Islam for their own ends, to consolidate their own power.

Whether their motivations are globalist, nationalist, pro-Islam, or merely megalomaniacal, they all seem to hold one belief in common: the belief that they can control Muslim migration to create the chaos necessary to justify their predetermined solutions. 

These European -- and American -- leaders think they can control what is pouring out of the Pandora’s box they’ve thrown open; they think they can put the Jinn back in the bottle at their whim.

Illustration of Jinn via

But they are dangerously underestimating those they presume to use as pawns.
In the First Century, “the Moors” -- Muslims of antiquity -- invaded and nearly conquered the entire European continent (Spain, France, Greece, Turkey, etc.)  It was only the strength of Christianity and the unity this inspired, which turned back the scourge of Islamic imperialism in Europe. 

The world of today is very similar, but with one key difference.  Europe, and less so America, now exist in a moral and religious vacuum.  There is no concrete ideology or religious paradigm posing a credible challenge to the radical adherents of Islam. 

Islam is now controlling most of Europe, either actively, or passively, due to the absence of any response from local governing authorities -- a curious void of law and order.  “Peace in our time” has now given way to the “Religion of Peace.” 

Unless Europeans and Americans rise up now to reverse this trend, one of two things will occur. Either those in power will succeed in using this crisis to advance their aims and fundamentally transform their societies, or, more likely, Islam will become dominant in the West past the point of no return.

“The Moors” have come home.  The Muslim hoard hastily imported into Europe over the cries and screams of voters are living up to the archetypes people in the West have come to fear, especially when cartoons result in lynch-mobs, and when a woman clothed according to western custom is mercilessly raped by “migrants.” 

Some would say that the murderous attacks perpetrated by Islamic radicals should be considered an aberration and unrelated to the religion of Islam. Very well; then consider:
The head of the “moderate” Muslim group CAIR Omar Ahmad (which was investigated by Congress and then ignored by Congress), wants to replace the Constitution with the Qur’an, saying, “The Quran … should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.”
Sirraj Wihhaj, unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 WTC bombings and the original person selected by President Obama to give the prayer before the 2012 DNC, also believes the Constitution should be replaced:  "It is my duty and our duty as Muslims to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Quran."
A majority of Muslims living in Britain say they want full Sharia law, a separate Muslim police force, and death for anyone who speaks against Mohammed.  The same survey revealed a majority percentage also favor terrorist attacks against Britain and the United States.  51 percent of American Muslims also say they want Shariah and the US government to become Islamic.
The Netherlands openly advocates placing Shariah -- the desert law which commands death for adulterers, death for gambling, death for leaving the faith (or having no faith), and death for homosexuals -- on the ballot.
German courts are already enforcing Shariah when requested, and the impetus for this golden nugget originated in Nuremburg. 
France has over 751 “no-go zones,” i.e. areas of land ruled by Islamic law and totally unrecognizable as French.  This was verified again after the recent French attacks.
The British already have actual Shariah courts in operation all over the United Kingdom.  These “courts” are chaired by a man who thinks amputation for petty crimes is a great idea, something he wants to “offer British society.”
Americans and Europeans need to stop acting surprised when Muslims behave like Muslims.  They are acting according to what the Qur’an says to do. It’s there in plain sight for anyone to read. And its ultimate aim is conquest and complete domination of any other culture but Islam.

Winston Churchill referred to it as a “militant and proselytizing faith.”

Like the Moors, history is repeating. And not only is history repeating, but it is repeating on a crash timetable, and with the perverse backing of the host countries destined to be remade in the image of Islamic hegemony.  Why would any true German, Frenchman or Briton cooperate in their own organized destruction if there were not some goal or elusive purpose to be accomplished by the ever less accountable and more distant governments that make such decisions?

It would only be logical to deduce that French leaders, German leaders and British leaders have determined that there is an acceptable cost to property and lives if the chaos resulting from the indiscriminate welcoming of new migrant hoards can be directed towards an unspoken goal.  This is not out of left field.  Angela Merkel calling her own people “neo-Nazis” and turning water cannons on her own citizens is indicative.

Amazingly, this mindset is evident in every recent action to open the borders of Europe and America to their new visitors. Controlled chaos is the desired result. We underestimate the depravity of Western leaders if we think the lives of American and European citizens mean anything more to them than plot points in a narrative, one leading inevitably to the end of national sovereignty.

The old expression, “the genie is out of the bottle,” comes from Arabic folklore, surrounding the devilish character known as the “Jinn” who grants wishes in exchange for the soul of the seeker. 

Western leaders have let the “Jinn” out of the bottle, and like Pandora’s box, the resulting chaos will not be contained.

John Griffing


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

The IAF’s Achilles’ Heel - Caroline Glick

by Caroline Glick

Why Israel might wait for the presidential election to sign a new defense deal with the U.S.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.

This week Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told government ministers that he may wait for the next US president before signing a new military assistance deal with America. Israel’s current military assistance package is set to expire in 2018 and the new package is supposed to include supplemental aid to compensate Israel for President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. But to date, the administration has rejected Israel’s requests for additional systems it could use to defend against Iran attacks.
Last October, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon asked US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to provide Israel with a new squadron of F-15s that Israel would outfit with its own electronics systems. Carter reportedly rejected that request as well as one for bunker buster bombs.

Carter instead insisted that Israel use the supplemental aid to purchase more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, US-made missile defense systems, and the Osprey V-22 helicopter, which Ya’alon didn’t want.

The fact that the administration wants Israel to buy more F-35s instead of F-15s is alarming both for what it tells us about America’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge against Iran and for what it tells us about the F-35, which is set to become the IAF’s next generation combat fighter.

Before considering these issues, it is worth pointing out that the US is not the ally it once was.

This week Britain’s International Institute for Strategic Studies published a report warning that the West’s decades-long military technological superiority over Russia, China and other countries is eroding. The erosion of the West’s military technological advantage over the likes of China and Russia is deeply problematic for Israel. Given the IAF’s complete dependence on US defensive and offensive systems, absent other factors, Israel is imperiled simply by keeping its eggs in America’s basket.

But there are other factors that make continued dependence on the US problematic in the extreme. The erosion of the US’s military technological superiority is matched by its growing weakness internationally. This weakness is most glaring today in Syria.

Last November, Russia deployed an S-400 anti-aircraft system in Latakia. The system is capable of downing jets from a distance of 400 km. Half of Israel, including Ben-Gurion Airport, is within its range. Last December, a member of the IDF General Staff ruminated that never in their worst nightmares did Israeli military planners imagine that the S-400 would be deployed so close to us.

The S-400 ended Israel’s regional air superiority.

It also ended US air superiority.

In late December, Bloomberg reported that right after the Russians deployed the S-400, they began targeting with radar US planes providing air support to rebel forces in Syria.

US officials called Russia’s actions “a direct and dangerous provocation.”

Rather than respond forcefully to Russia’s aggressive move, the US ended all manned flights in the area. It stopped providing air support to rebel forces. There is a direct connection between the US’s docile acceptance of its loss of air superiority in December and the brutal Russian supported assault on Aleppo today.

This week, ambassador Dennis Ross and New York Times military correspondent David Sanger, who are both generally supportive of the Obama administration, published articles excoriating Obama’s policies in Syria.

Ross and Sanger both wrote that Obama was critically mistaken when he said that Russia’s deployment to Syria would not have any significant impact on the region, and that Russia would rue the day it decided to get directly involved.

Sanger noted that the administration’s constant refrain that “there is no military solution” to the war in Syria was wrong.

There is a military solution, it’s “just not our military solution,” a senior US security official admitted to Sanger. It’s Russian President Vladimir Putin’s solution.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Ross explained that in deploying his forces to Syria, “Putin aims to demonstrate that Russia, and not America, is the main power broker in the region and increasingly elsewhere.”

In other words, Putin’s involvement in Syria is simply a means to achieve his larger goal of replacing the US as the leading superpower.

This turn of events is dangerous for Israel, not least because the first parties Russia turned to in its anti-American gambit are Israel’s worst enemies – Iran and Hezbollah, along with the Assad regime. By acting in concert, and limiting their operations – as the Iranians have done as well in Iraq – to attacking forces backed by the US, while leaving Islamic State unharmed, the Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah and Bashar Assad make clear that their alliance is first and foremost geared toward reducing US power in the region.

Rather than act on this direct challenge to the US, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry continue to talk emptily about peace conferences and cease-fires. In so doing their further destroy US credibility as an ally. As America’s primary ally and client in the region, Israel is imperiled by this behavior because it serves to hollow out its capacity to deter its enemies from attacking.

This then brings us to the F-35s and to the IAF’s procurement policies more generally.

Over the past year, the IAF began preparing to take delivery of its first squadron of F-35s. In 2010, Israel placed its first order of 19 planes.

The first two are scheduled to arrive by the end of 2016. The rest are supposed to arrive within two years.

Last year Israel ordered an additional 14 F-35s, and the IAF reportedly wishes to expand that order with an additional 17 aircraft.

By all accounts, the F-35 is an impressive next generation fighter. But at the same time, as Aaron Lerner from IMRA news aggregation service noted this week, the F-35 suffers from one major weakness that arguably cancels out all of its advantages. That weakness is the F-35’s operational dependence on software laboratories and logistics support computers located in the US.

In a manner that recalls Apple’s ability to exert perpetual control over all iPhones by making it impossible for them to long function without periodically updating their operating systems, the US has made it impossible for foreign governments to simply purchase F-35s and use them as they see fit.

As reported last November, “All F-35 aircraft operating across the world will have to update their mission data files and their Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS) profiles before and after every sortie, to ensure that on-board systems are programmed with the latest available operational data and that ALIS is kept permanently informed of each aircraft’s technical status and maintenance requirements.

“ALIS can, and has, prevented aircraft taking off because of an incomplete data file,” the report revealed.

This technical limitation on the F-35s constitutes a critical weakness from Israel’s perspective for two reasons. First, as the Defense-Aerospace article points out, the need to constantly update the ALIS in the US means that the F-35 must be connected to the Internet in order to work. All Internet connections are maintained via fiber optic underwater cables.

Defense-Aerospace cited an article published last October in reporting that those cables are “surprisingly vulnerable” to attack.

According to Nicole Starosielski, a media expert from New York University, all Internet communications go through a mere 200 underwater cables that are “concentrated in very few areas. The cables end up getting funneled through these narrow pressure points all around the globe,” she said.

The Russians are probing this vulnerability.

In October the New York Times reported that “Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.”

According to the report, the fear is that an “ultimate Russian hack on the United States could involve severing the fiber-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, economies and citizens have grown dependent.”

Given the F-35’s dependence on the Internet, such an attack, while directed at the US itself, would also ground the IAF’s main combat fighter.

The second reason the F-35’s continuous dependence on a US-based logistics system is a critical weakness is that it would be irresponsible of Israel to trust that the US will not abuse its power to undermine and block IAF operations.

This brings us back to the Pentagon’s insistence that Israel purchase only F-35s and missile defense systems. By giving Israel no option other than purchasing more F-35s, which the Americans control – to the point of being able to ground – even after they are deployed by the IAF, and defensive systems jointly developed with the US and built in the US, the Americans are hollowing out Israel’s ability to operate independently.

Clearly by waiting for the next president to conclude Israel’s military assistance package, Netanyahu is hoping that Obama’s successor will give us a better deal. But the fact is that even if a pro-Israel president is elected, Israel cannot assume that American efforts to erode Israel’s strategic independence will end once Obama leaves office.

George W. Bush, who was more supportive of Israel than Obama, also undermined Israel’s ability to attack Iran’s nuclear installations.

Moreover, given the continuing diminishment of US military power, and America’s expanding strategic vulnerabilities, the possibility that the US will be unwilling or unable to stand by Israel in the future cannot be ruled out.

This week India and Israel were poised to finalize a series of arms deals totaling $3 billion.

The final package is set to be signed during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel later this year. The deal includes various missile and electronic warfare systems.

In light of the F-35s massive vulnerabilities and the diminishment of US power in the Middle East and beyond, Netanyahu should view India’s enthusiasm for Israeli systems as an opportunity to end the IAF’s utter dependence on increasingly undependable US systems.

Instead of going through with the procurement of the 14 additional F-35s, Netanyahu should offer Modi to jointly develop a next generation fighter based on the Lavi.

Israel’s strategic environment is rapidly changing.

Technological, military and political developments in the region and worldwide must wake our leaders – including IAF commanders – to the fact that Israel cannot afford to maintain, let alone expand, its strategic dependence on the US.

Caroline Glick is the Director of the David Horowitz Freedom Center's Israel Security Project and the Senior Contributing Editor of The Jerusalem Post. For more information on Ms. Glick's work, visit


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

The brutal BDS tactics that harmed hundreds of Palestinians - Arutz Sheva Staff

by Arutz Sheva Staff

SodaStream CEO reveals long campaign, including libel, 'terror-like grenade assault,' that made him fire Arabs - and it doesn't stop.

For over eight years the Israeli company SodaStream has been dealing with ongoing attacks by the BDS movement, calling to boycott it over its factory in Mishor Adumim to the east of Jerusalem that eventually it was forced to move to the Negev in late 2014.

Large economic losses inflicted by the BDS boycott movement forced the company to make the move - but the big losers in the story are the hundreds of Palestinian Arab employees of SodaStream who lost their jobs and income.

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum spoke to Yedioth Aharonoth about the hardships which came to the company not only from hostile foreign sources, but also from within Israel.

"The state of Israel failed time after time in dealing with the matter. I struggled alone. My war is for 74 workers, although I believe that we need to absorb 100,000," said Birnbaum.

Under Birnbaum the company first began employing Palestinian Arab workers. Under his watch 2,500 workers were employed by the company, 1,300 of them at Mishor Adumim, with nearly 600 of those workers being Palestinian Arabs from Judea and Samaria.

"We were an island of peace," said Birnbaum. "We were the largest employer of Palestinians in the territories. The workers came to us on organized transport from eastern Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hevron, Jericho, Shechem (Nablus)."

"They received the same salary, the same conditions and the same benefits like the other workers, including medical insurance for workers and their families. We provided for nearly 6,000 people - the workers and their families."

Support for anti-Israel violence

But then BDS began attacking the company, in a manner that Birnbaum details was almost too simple.
The anti-Israel activists contacted senior managers of stores and quoted false claims that in many cases were accompanied by protests outside the stores. SodaStream products were repeatedly vandalized in the stores, thrown on the floor, and shoppers were shouted at and intimidated.

"In many cases our products were damaged or vandalized with stickers of grotesque pictures accusing SodaStream of war crimes such as ethnic cleansing," related the CEO.

"The violent protest against a store in Brighton, England was particularly serious. The store was attacked by BDS activists twice a week for more than two years. Police made several arrests, but the media gave wide coverage, and British parliament members, in particular the representative of the Green party Caroline Lucas, verbally supported the violent attacks."

Birnbaum recalls that "the store was closed in the end, and in the victory celebrations the activists took over our office in Cambridge using smoke grenades, like in an attack by terrorists."

"The result: retail partners who wanted to distance themselves from the conflict ended their business relations with us."

No end in sight

According to the SodaStream CEO, his company was unable to act against these attacks, except in one case in France in which a lawsuit was filed against the BDS movement for libel.

"It happened following slander we suffered, including claims of butchering Palestinian children," said Birnbaum. "They published, for example, a picture of a soda bottle covered in blood, and over it the words 'one product is worth the slaughtering of a family.'"

He noted that "the court accepted our suit, ruled in our favor and fined the organization. That was the only time in the world that the (BDS) organization was sued, but that was also the only time that we sued."

Now that SodaStream no longer is functioning in Mishor Adumim, one might expect that BDS has left it alone - but one would be wrong.

"Now they claim that we are stealing natural resources from the Bedouins, in particular land and water," said Birnbaum.

"The claim is particularly ridiculous given that fact that Rahat Mayor Talal al-Krenawi invested great efforts to convince the Israeli government and SodaStream to establish the new factory there."

Arutz Sheva Staff


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

Free Speech vs. Islamic Law? - Denis MacEoin

by Denis MacEoin

  • The law regarding freedom of speech and of religion, as it exists in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, is already compelled to protect all citizens and to extend that protection to non-citizens who come to American shores.
  • Are Muslims in need of greater protection? According to the FBI's 2014 Hate Crime Statistics, there were 1,140 victims of anti-religious hate crimes in the U.S. that year: Of those, 56.8% were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders' anti-Jewish bias. 16.1% were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders' anti-Muslim bias.
  • "We cannot agree that prohibiting speech is the way to promote tolerance, and because we continue to see the 'defamation of religions' concept used to justify censorship, criminalization, and in some cases violent assaults and deaths of political, racial, and religious minorities around the world." — U.S. Ambassador Eileen Donahoe.
  • Again and again, Muslim individuals and organizations have released documents to define Islamic human rights, and in each instance, all rights are restricted to those given by God and are subject to the phrase "according to the Shari'a."

The U.S. Congress, on December 17, 2015, passed House Resolution 569 and referred it to the House Committee on the Judiciary. The resolution is headed: "Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States." The problem is that the law regarding freedom of speech and of religion, as it exists in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, is already compelled to protect all citizens and to extend that protection to non-citizens, be they businessmen or tourists who come to American shores: "Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." No democracy should believe otherwise.

The House of Representatives' Resolution 569 introduces the following Whereas clauses:
(1) expresses its condolences for the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes;

(2) steadfastly confirms its dedication to the rights and dignity of all its citizens of all faiths, beliefs, and cultures;

(3) denounces in the strongest terms the increase of hate speech, intimidation, violence, vandalism, arson, and other hate crimes targeted against mosques, Muslims, or those perceived to be Muslim;

(4) recognizes that the United States Muslim community has made countless positive contributions to United States society;

(5) declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all United States citizens, including Muslims in the United States, should be protected and preserved;

(6) urges local and Federal law enforcement authorities to work to prevent hate crimes; and to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those perpetrators of hate crimes; and

(7) reaffirms the inalienable right of every citizen to live without fear and intimidation, and to practice their freedom of faith.

The resolution seems above criticism -- every clause in it could seemingly have the wholesale approval approbation of anyone -- yet something feels incredibly wrong. That something is the question of why the U.S. House of Representatives has issued such a resolution for Muslims and Muslims only. They and everyone else -- Christians, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, and Scientologists, right through to the adherents of satanic cults -- are already granted the full protection of the law so long as they do not break it.

Are Muslims, then, in need of greater protection than everyone else? Are they more subject to assaults, hate speech, arson attacks than any other religious community? If they were, this resolution might be welcome, even though it would not add a single article to existing legal protections. However, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports: 2014 Hate Crime Statistics, of the 1,140 victims of anti-religious hate crimes that year in the U.S.:
  • 56 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders' anti-Jewish bias.
  • 16.1 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders' anti-Muslim bias.
  • 6.2 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders' bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).
  • 6.1 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders' anti-Catholic bias.
  • 2.5 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders' anti-Protestant bias.
  • 1.2 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders' anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
  • 11.0 percent were victims of crimes motivated by the offenders' bias against other religions (anti-other religion).
On that basis, we might expect there to have been quite a few House Resolutions concerning Jews. All I have been able to find are: H.Res.293 "Expressing concern over anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement within the Palestinian Authority" and H.Res.354 – "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the safety and security of Jewish communities in Europe."

Again, both Senate and Congress have issued resolutions to condemn the persecution of the Baha'i religious minority in Iran.[1] But as the Baha'is are not persecuted in the U.S., one might not expect a resolution concerning their protection under U.S. law. These might be worthy resolutions, but have no relevance for the United States as such.

Surely, then, there should be laws protecting Jews! However, neither H.Res. 293 nor H.Res. 354 addresses that issue in distinction to H.Res. 569, which specifically concerns Muslims "in the United States." The disparity between anti-Jewish hate crimes and the much smaller incidence of anti-Muslim crimes stands in stark contrast to the indifference of Congress towards Jews in an age of rapidly rising anti-Semitism and what appears excessive (though decent) concern for Muslims.

In reality, of course, there is no need for extra legislation to protect Jews. They are already protected by existing laws, as are all other religious communities, as noted above.

Why, then, did not a single member of Congress get up on the floor to point out this manifest discrepancy? Surely it must be obvious that, should the resolution pass into law, Muslims will be the only group (religiously, politically, ethnically, or what you will) in the United States to be ring-fenced from anything that might offend them.

We know that Muslims and Muslim authorities are not robust in taking criticism or satire, but are, rather, seemingly hypersensitive to almost anything non-Muslims say of them.

The only conclusion one can draw from this is that the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/1 seems to have influenced Congress. Do not forget that the OIC is the only international religious body to have campaigned ceaselessly for legislation to protect believers of Islam from physical and verbal abuse, with verbal abuse determined according to shari'a principles rather than the traits of international or national democratic values.

In Great Britain, a landmark judgement was passed on January 5, 2016, in a court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, when a judge ruled that evangelical pastor James McConnell was not guilty of hate speech directed at Muslims. McConnell had been arrested last May after remarks during a sermon about Islam at his church. In his sermon, he had spoken of Islam as "satanic," "heathen" and "a doctrine spawned in hell." These may be sentiments with which most of the world would not agree, but entirely within the bounds of evangelical Christian theology, not least in that frequently bigoted region of fundamentalist, belief, where even the majority of fellow Christians are despatched to hellfire, with Catholics at the bottom of the heap. It is also not that different from what many Muslim clerics say about Jews and others.

As his sermon had been posted online, McConnell was charged under the Communications Act 2003 of making improper use of a public electronics communications network and of causing a grossly offensive message through those channels. But even though the judge found his remarks offensive, he was exonerated and walked out of a court a free man.

In Europe, criticisms of Islam have been met with a range of penalties. Individuals have been prosecuted and sometimes been found guilty of "Islamophobic" speech or writing -- notably Elizabeth Sabatisch-Wolff and Susanne Winter in Austria, Geert Wilders and Gregorious Nekschot in the Netherlands, Lars Hedegaard and Jesper Langballe in Denmark, Michel Houellebecq and Brigitte Bardot in France, Oriana Fallaci in Italy, and others elsewhere. Some have been exonerated, others jailed or fined. Pastor McConnell has been fortunate in avoiding jail. So far the UK has been tolerant, but further trials -- very often for what really amounts to nothing more than blasphemy as perceived by Muslim groups or individuals -- are very likely. Today, more than ever, there are forces at work that seek to make these prosecutions a certainty, not just in Europe, but in the United States, Canada, and other countries in the West.

The threat to freedom of speech a comes mainly from one quarter: an international body known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In recent years, one of the core activities of the OIC has been repeated attempts to introduce via the United Nations Human Rights Council a law forbidding any form of blasphemy, criticism, or negative comment, especially about the Islamic religion. To understand this, it is important to note that, from the time of the prophet Muhammad to the present day (and more strongly within modern radical Muslim movements), the Islamic religion has been predicated on a call for domination over all other religions and political systems. Here, for example, are some explicit expressions of that demand in radical websites: a YouTube video and a website linked to the British extremist, Omar Bakri Muhammad.

In the video, Omar Bakri declares "We must live by and make a domination and die (?) on in our da'wa (missionary work) and jihad in order to spread it [Islam] all over. The video page is entitled "Proclaim openly for Izharudeen", meaning "proclaim openly for making the faith victorious over all others," and displays a photograph of several Muslims carrying placards declaring "Islam will dominate the world: Freedom go to hell. A website publishing extracts from the classical Qur'an commentary of Ibn Kathir is headed with the words: "Islam is the Religion that will dominate over all Other Religions" and below that cites a Qur'anic verse declaring that God will "make it [Islam] victorious over all religions" before quoting several traditions declaring the same thing in various formulations. Finally, a Facebook page titled "In sha Allah, Islam will dominate the world" from which several more sites with the same statement are revealed below the main heading.

Islamic policy from the time of the seventh-century Arab conquests through the later empires was to set Muslim rulers above native populations, even if at first Muslims were in a minority. Pagans could choose to convert or die, but Jews, Christians, and before long Zoroastrians, were treated (under the oppressive terms of the Pact of 'Umar) as dhimmi people, forced to pay a protection tax, the jizya, in order to preserve their lives and property. There were different laws for people of a different religion, in addition to numerous restrictive conditions for dhimmis, including these:
We shall not build, in our cities or in their neighborhood, new monasteries, Churches, convents, or monks' cells, nor shall we repair, by day or by night, such of them as fall in ruins or are situated in the quarters of the Muslims.
We shall keep our gates wide open for passersby and travelers. We shall give board and lodging to all Muslims who pass our way for three days.
We shall not give shelter in our churches or in our dwellings to any spy, nor bide him from the Muslims.
We shall not teach the Qur'an to our children.
We shall not manifest our religion publicly nor convert anyone to it. We shall not prevent any of our kin from entering Islam if they wish it.
We shall show respect toward the Muslims, and we shall rise from our seats when they wish to sit.
We shall not seek to resemble the Muslims by imitating any of their garments, the qalansuwa, the turban, footwear, or the parting of the hair. We shall not speak as they do, nor shall we adopt their kunyas [honorific name derived from one's eldest child, such as Abu, father of]
We shall not mount on saddles, nor shall we gird swords nor bear any kind of arms nor carry them on our persons.
We shall not engrave Arabic inscriptions on our seals.
We shall not sell fermented drinks.
We shall clip the fronts of our heads.
We shall always dress in the same way wherever we may be, and we shall bind the zunar [a kind of belt] round our waists
We shall not display our crosses or our books in the roads or markets of the Muslims. We shall use only clappers in our churches very softly. We shall not raise our voices when following our dead. We shall not show lights on any of the roads of the Muslims or in their markets. We shall not bury our dead near the Muslims.
We shall not take slaves who have been allotted to Muslims.
We shall not build houses overtopping the houses of the Muslims.
A Muslim, under shari'a regulations, cannot be brought to trial or punished for killing a non-Muslim.[2]

Given this classic formulation, it is easy to see that non-Muslims living in Islamic states or empires risked their lives should they say anything whatever detrimental to Islam, considered insulting to the prophet, or thought derogatory of the Qur'an, the Hadith, shari'a law or the Muslim clerical elite.

This attitude -- that no-one is permitted to speak ill (however that be defined) of Islam or its many elements without facing condign punishment (which includes death even for Muslims who are deemed to have crossed the lines of offense and have thereby become "apostates") -- has in the past placed enormous restrictions on what may be said or written about the religion. These restrictions did not matter in the least to anyone living in a Christian country, where there was little likelihood of retaliation from Muslims. But today most Western countries have large Muslim populations, and relations between the West and the Islamic world are carried out on the world stage. The riots, assassinations, and death threats that followed Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa [religious legal opinion] in 1989 to kill the British writer, Salman Rushdie, for his novel, The Satanic Verses, were indicative of a new direction.

Since the Enlightenment, open debate and free speech have been enshrined in the laws and practices of all democracies. It is central to the American way of life since the 1791 first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which also guarantees freedom from religious coercion. To Westerners -- both legislators and the general public -- freedom of speech (and writing) seems axiomatic as a basic human right. But for Muslims, human rights are very differently understood. Again and again, when Muslim individuals and organizations have released documents to define Islamic human rights, in each instance, all rights are restricted to those given by God and are subject to the phrase "according to the Shari'a."[3] One of the best known statements of this kind is the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. Its last two articles read thus:
All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah.

The Islamic Shari'ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration.

In the present context, Article 22 is also of particular interest:
(a) Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari'ah.
1. Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari'ah.
(c) Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical Values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.
(d) It is not permitted to excite nationalistic or doctrinal hatred or to do anything that may be an incitement to any form or racial discrimination.

It is on the basis of this attitude to human rights, including the supposed right to express one's opinion freely, that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has tried many times to introduce legislation within the United Nations that controls free speech in accordance with the demands of shari'a. The OIC has advocated bans on the "defamation of religion" in general, but in reality, it is defamation of Islam that matters. In Geneva, from 19 to 30 October 2009, the Ad Hoc Committee of the Human Rights Council on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards met to update the measures for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance that the Durban I conference had formulated. During the discussion, the United States, Sweden and France all agreed that legal protection could not be provided for systems of belief or religions. However, the Syrian delegate stated clearly that "in real terms defamation means targeting Muslims".

What is deemed to be defamatory is, of course, hugely restrictive, whether it be in the form of a novel, a cartoon, or even an academic study. As experience has shown, nothing is off limits.

Between 1999 and 2010, several Muslim states, at the instigation of the OIC and supported by a range of Third World countries, introduced resolutions at the UNHRC on "the defamation of religion" no fewer than 16 times. Initially, these resolutions were passed by majority votes, with delegates from Muslim states and developing countries supporting them. Western states for the greater part opposed them on the grounds that they threatened to restrict free speech. As time passed support for the resolution began to weaken. In 2009, for example, no fewer than 200 civil societies from 46 countries urged the UNHRC to reject an upcoming resolution on the subject.

In the same year, during the debate on another resolution, the European Union's delegate, Jean-Baptiste Mattei, declared that the EU "rejected and would continue to reject the concept of defamation of religions." He went on to say that "human rights laws did not and should not protect belief systems." In the same debate, Carlos Portales from Chile noted that "the concept of the defamation of religions took them in an area that could lead to the actual prohibition of opinions." However, the UNHRC adopted the resolution -- without taking a vote.

Again, in 2010, Pakistan introduced a resolution "Combating the defamation of religion" on behalf of the OIC. Once more Jean-Baptiste Mattei opposed it. He argued that the "concept of defamation should not fall under the remit of human rights because it conflicted with the right to freedom of expression." The U.S ambassador, Eileen Donahoe, declared with great clarity that
"The United States will vote against this resolution because we view it as an ineffective way to address these concerns. We cannot agree that prohibiting speech is the way to promote tolerance, and because we continue to see the 'defamation of religions' concept used to justify censorship, criminalization, and in some cases violent assaults and deaths of political, racial, and religious minorities around the world. Contrary to the intentions of most Member States, governments are likely to abuse the rights of individuals in the name of this resolution, and in the name of the Human Rights Council."
Despite these many resolutions, members of the OIC were possibly starting to see that they were getting nowhere and that opposition to their attempt to introduce a ban on free speech through the back door was growing. They had to find a formula that would deflect criticism and win the support of Western states for whom freedom of speech was a non-negotiable condition. The answer was simple yet immensely effective. Instead of a focus on the protection of beliefs, why not stress the need to protect individual believers? On March 24, 2010, the UNHRC adopted (again without a vote) Resolution 16/18, entitled "Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion and belief."

Overnight, everyone was playing a totally different ball game. Who could refuse to support a resolution with a title like that? The OIC had, as it were, slipped past customs checks and delivered something which apparently no one could reject.

A meeting was convened on July 15, 2011, hosted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the OIC Istanbul Office in the Yildiz Palace. The affair was co-chaired by OIC Secretary-General H.E Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu; U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs.[4] The OIC was home and dry, backed by just about everyone who had previously expressed concern about its plan. A joint statement was released, calling for international support for Resolution 16/18.[5]

Resolution 16/18 has since become the gold standard according to which the international community may identify religious hatred, stereotyping, or incitement to hatred on racial or religious grounds. Understood in terms of international human rights law as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the thrust of the resolution appears unimpeachable. It is hard, if not impossible, openly to disagree with it in that context without seeming opposed to such rights.

There are, in fact, serious grounds for concern. These relate in part to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which entered into force ten years later, in 1976. This lengthy and important expression of human rights re-asserted the fundamental prescriptions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights it demands include:
  • physical integrity, in the form of the right to life and freedom from torture and slavery (Articles 6, 7, and 8);
  • liberty and security of the person, in the form of freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention and the right to habeas corpus (Articles 9 – 11);
  • procedural fairness in law, in the form of rights to due process, a fair and impartial trial, the presumption of innocence, and recognition as a person before the law (Articles 14, 15, and 16);
  • individual liberty, in the form of the freedoms of movement, thought, conscience and religion, speech, association and assembly, family rights, the right to a nationality, and the right to privacy (Articles 12, 13, 17 – 24);
  • prohibition of any propaganda for war as well as any advocacy of national or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence by law (Article 20);
  • political participation, including the right to the right to vote (Article 25);
  • Non-discrimination, minority rights and equality before the law (Articles 26 and 27).
Unexpectedly, the International Covenant came to play a role following the passage of UNHRC Resolution 16/18. Four months after the passage of the, the UNHRC itself adopted General Comment 34 on the International Covenant with respect to freedoms of opinion and expression. The Comment places strong emphasis on the importance of those freedoms. Paragraph 48 declares that:
"Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant, except in the specific circumstances envisaged in article 20, paragraph 2, of the Covenant. Such prohibitions must also comply with the strict requirements of article 19, paragraph 3, as well as such articles as 2, 5, 17, 18 and 26. Thus, for instance, it would be impermissible for any such laws to discriminate in favor of or against one or certain religions or belief systems, or their adherents over another, or religious believers over non-believers. Nor would it be permissible for such prohibitions to be used to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith."
These cautions certainly restrict the application of the OIC-instigated Resolution 16/18 from a Western human rights perspective. Viewed from that perspective, Resolution 16/18 is, at heart, hypocritical. On the surface, it makes it seem that the OIC has adopted a Western approach to human rights. In fact, it has not. Hidden from many people, including, I am sure, most of the Western members of the UN Human Rights Council is the OIC's real position on human rights. It relies solely on Islamic legal prescriptions to determine what is and what is not a right. This is easy to see.

On its own website, the OIC publishes the full text and advocates the use of the Cairo Declaration mentioned above as the basis for its actual understanding of such rights. However, as all rights under the Cairo Declaration are declared subject to shari'a laws, this can only mean that the OIC regards the Western interpretation of Resolution 16/18 as invalid. If we then add that the freedoms of opinion, speech, and other expression are nowhere permitted within the Islamic world and are often punished in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sudan and elsewhere by imprisonment, flogging, and execution, one does have to question the sincerity of the OIC in promoting freedoms that it nowhere actually recognizes.

In theory, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Baha'is and some other religious communities will resort to the terms of the resolution when they are genuinely applicable to cases of being demonized and subjected to real incitement to violence. Unfortunately, for many years now we have seen that, in reality, it is most often Muslims who try to use anti-hate legislation to condemn perfectly reasonable criticism, satire, attempts to question shari'a, or to protest Islamic extremism. Resolution 16/18 will very likely assist many Muslims in bringing even more prosecutions against non-Muslim critics or even against moderate Muslims who oppose much that is done in the name of Islam.

There are, indeed, signs that Resolution 16/18 may already be bringing its influence to bear in some democratic states, not least that former bastion of free speech, the United States.

Our natural concern for the protection of the weak and vulnerable, a concern rooted in Western Judaeo-Christian and Enlightenment values, makes it easy for legislators from different political positions to sign a document such as the US Congress H.Res. 569. They may not have seen the hidden implications of their attempt to render it illegal to offend (as defined by Muslims) the members of just one religion. The legislators may not even have seen the exceptionalism granted to Muslims but to no other religious community.

Given the existence of the First Amendment, the United States remains capable of resisting attacks on free speech and expression. It would be regrettable if H.Res. 569 could prove to be a Trojan Horse, just as was Resolution 16/18.

Legislation such as H. Res, 569 would not only end America's long tradition of free and open debate; worse, it would reverse the protection of the First Amendment.
Denis MacEoin is a scholar of Islam and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

[1] S.Res. 148 (also dated December 17, 2015) "Condemns the government of Iran's state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights." It was preceded by H.Res. 220 of May 20, 2015.
[2] See Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, 'Umdat al-salik, trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller as Reliance of the Traveller, Amana, Maryland, rev. ed. 1994, p. 584 o1.2 (2).
[3] A comprehensive, scholarly and eye-opening survey of these documents may be found in Ann Elizabeth Mayer's Islam and Human Rights. For a broader discussion of the many issues involved, see the essays in International Law and International Human Rights Law.
[4] Others attending the meeting included foreign ministers and officials from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Sudan, United Kingdom, the Vatican (Holy See), UN OHCHR, Arab League, and African Union.
[5] "Participants resolved to... reaffirm their commitment to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression by urging States to take effective measures, as set forth in Resolution 16/18... to address and combat intolerance, discrimination, and violence based on religion or belief.... Participants are encouraged to consider to provide updates... on the elimination of religious intolerance and discrimination."

Denis MacEoin is a scholar of Islam and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.


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