Month: February 2011

WHAT THEY DID, AND WHAT WE MUST REMEMBER

 

 

BOOK REVIEW:
THE DEATH MARCHES:
THE FINAL PHASE OF NAZIGENOCIDE
Timothy Snyder
Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2011

 

In spring 1945, as battle-hardened American and British soldiers entered Germany, they came upon shocking evidence of mass murder. The sight of the living skeletons and mounds of bodies at Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen fills the soldiers’ letters home as they tried to record and understand what they were seeing. On April 15, in Gardelegen, in middle Germany, GIs found the remains of more than a thousand concentration-camp prisoners. They had been burned alive in a barn. Some of the corpses were still smoking.

The newspapers and the newsreels made such sights the singular image of Nazi horror. In the decades since, as we have begun to understand the special character of the Holocaust, these appalling images of abuse and slaughter have come to stand for the mass killing of the Jews of Europe. But as Daniel Blatman points out in “The Death Marches,” his admirable new book, this is not quite right. The concentration camps still functioning in Germany were not killing facilities. In the last months of the war, they [became]…overwhelmed with prisoners evacuated from other sites further to the east. These evacuations were death marches in which some 250,000 people were killed, either during their woeful journey or after they reached their destinations.… And so it was in the camps liberated by U.S. troops.

As Mr. Blatman, a professor of history at Hebrew University, notes, “The history of the concentration camps does not necessarily coincide with the Final Solution.” Horrible though this is to contemplate, for Jews a concentration camp could be a step away rather than toward certain death. The Holocaust generally took place in killing fields and death factories, not at concentration camps. It began in the occupied Soviet Union in 1941, where most of the victims were shot. It spread to occupied Poland, where Polish and European Jews were gassed at Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibór, Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau. But in 1942, as the policy of extermination was spreading from the occupied Soviet Union to occupied Poland, the Nazis found themselves short of labor. Thus some Jews were “selected” to be slave laborers in camps rather than immediately killed.

Over the death pits and in the extermination camps, Jews died among other Jews. In the concentration camps, Jews joined people sentenced for many reasons: Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, French Resistance fighters, Yugoslav communists, German Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jews, like the others, were killed here when they were no longer useful as slave labor. But, Mr. Blatman notes, the “extermination of prisoners was not the main objective of the concentration camps.” The main objective was to support German industry, especially the arms industry.

Mr. Blatman’s subject is the fate of these prisoners as various camps were dissolved near the end of the war. Because the laborers were regarded as units of economic utility, those who could be moved were transported west to work in the Reich as the Red Army approached. (Those who could not be moved were mostly shot.) Because the evacuated prisoners had no significance in the Nazi view beyond the economic, they were killed when the evacuation became senseless. For guards, escorted prisoners were a ticket away from combat duty. By this logic, prisoners who slowed the march were a hindrance and killed. Prisoners marching through Germany and Austria were also now among civilians who didn’t scruple to kill them. As bombs fell and enemy armies approached, the haggard prisoners were seen by the locals as a security threat. They represented the populations that, according to Nazi propaganda, should be cleansed from Europe.

Mr. Blatman is scrupulous and fair-minded. He writes of instances when “Polish, Czech, and German citizens handed out food and water” and records the cases of Polish and Lithuanian Catholics who sheltered Jews who had slipped away from death marches. The fate of the prisoners, Jewish or non-Jewish, was in his account essentially the same. Yet in some respects the death marches should perhaps still be seen as part of the history of the Holocaust. Unlike most of the others on the death marches, Jews knew that their families were already dead. In a number of the murders here chronicled, it is clear that it was easier for the German and Austrian murderers to pull the trigger when they saw their victims as Jews. Mr. Blatman convincingly demonstrates that the spirit of genocide that Germans had brought with them to Eastern Europe had returned, by the end of the war, to the German heartland itself.…

Mr. Blatman chronicles, authoritatively, an important chapter in the history of Nazi Germany. But because the death marches and associated massacres do not fit our presumptions about genocide, his important book opens again the crucial question of the 20th century: why we kill.

(Mr. Snyder is professor of history at Yale University.
His most recent book is “Blood Lands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin”.
)

 

BOOK REVIEW:
THE BERLIN-BAGHDAD EXPRESS
Tibor Krausz

Jerusalem Post, February 1, 2011

 

More than a century ago, the German diplomat Max von Oppenheim made a startlingly accurate prediction. In a consular dispatch from Cairo to Berlin in 1906, he wrote: “[T]he demographic strength of Islamic lands will one day have a great significance for European states.” He added knowingly: “We must not forget that everything taking place in a Mohammedan country sends waves across the entire world of Islam.”

Kaiser Wilhelm II’s point man in the Middle East was no idle observer of that trend. He was actively seeking to rekindle Islamic fervor against European colonial powers—not so much out of sympathy for real or imagined Arab grievances as out of cold opportunism.

Oppenheim hoped to dislodge Britain from its empire in Asia by grafting German expansionism onto incipient pan-Islamism in order to lay the ideological foundations for Germany’s domination of the region. The Catholic scion of a prominent Jewish banking family (on his father’s side), he cultivated fire-breathing Islamists, penned vitriolic screeds against Britain in Cairo newspapers, and did his best to raise the green banner of jihad. From the summer of 1914 onwards…Oppenheim’s intrepid German jihad agents were fanning out across the Middle East and Central Asia. They were on a mission for Wilhelm, a vain, impetuous, impressionable megalomaniac given to larger-than-life posturing.

In his grandiose Weltpolitik, the Kaiser sought to unite Europe and Asia under the stewardship of Imperial Germany. His ambitions were to culminate in a feat of engineering to provide a gateway for Germany into the heart of continental Asia: a railway link between Berlin and Baghdad. Ground for the grand project, which would be financed and engineered entirely by Germany, was broken at Istanbul’s Haydarpasha Station in mid-1906. From there, the line would have to traverse 2,000 miles of marshes, deserts, forbidding mountain ranges and the lands of marauding nomads, all the way to Baghdad (then a sleepy backwater) and on to the Persian Gulf.

The story of the Ottoman Empire’s demise and the accompanying shenanigans by European powers that permanently reshaped the Middle East’s political landscape has often been told. Where Sean McMeekin breaks new ground in his informative “The Berlin-Baghdad Express” is demonstrating in minute detail the extent of German efforts to further the cause of newly resurgent radical Islamism in a misguided attempt to enlist it as an ally. He disagrees with historians like David Fromkin, author of the seminal “A Peace to End All Peace,” who have portrayed German attempts to stoke the fire of jihad as peripheral to the country’s strategic plans in the Great War. McMeekin, who teaches at Yale and has plumbed formerly unexplored Turkish documents, insists that “Germany’s leaders saw in Islam the secret weapon which would decide the world war.”

At the heart of that policy stood the German emperor, the heir to chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s unified and increasingly belligerent Germany. In McMeekin’s account, Wilhelm comes across as a bumbling (no surprise there) yet ultimately sinister figure whose impulsive politicking would have lasting consequences for the Middle East. A grandstanding romantic and an avid orientalist, Wilhelm strove to reshape a region coming undone at the seams after centuries of Ottoman rule.… “Whereas Hitler [would be] willing to concede the British their global, sea-based empire in recognition of his own domination of the Eurasian landmass,” McMeekin writes, “Wilhelm wanted the British empire too, including its crown jewels of Egypt and India.…”

Wilhelm found his intrepid envoy to the Arab world in Oppenheim, whose fortune from his family’s banking dynasty allowed him, McMeekin writes, to “moonlight alternately as explorer, writer, diplomat, archaeologist and prospector.” An unscrupulous operator, Oppenheim came into his own first as a German consular representative in Cairo, then as head of Germany’s Intelligence Bureau for the East in Berlin—“the jihad bureau,” as McMeekin calls it—during the war. A self-styled “Baron” who was “almost preternaturally favorable to all things Arab,” Oppenheim began planning a global jihad “with Germans and Muslims fighting together, shoulder to shoulder,” in his own words. Accordingly, his agents began bribing Muslim jurists, from Mecca to Kabul, into issuing specially designed fatwa rulings. The German-sponsored holy war was to be launched selectively: “against all Europeans, with the exceptions of Austrians, Hungarians, and Germans” (i.e. Central Powers nationalities). By war’s end Germany was to have spent a colossal 3 billion marks in all on its jihad effort.…

The rapid unraveling of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century became a rallying cry for Muslims worldwide.… Oppenheim’s jihad bureau was busy concocting stories of Britain’s anti-Muslim perfidy. Throughout much of the Ottoman Empire, German-sponsored jihadist pamphlets—in Arabic, Farsi and Urdu—were stirring up age-old ethnic and religious resentments, triggering flare-ups of violence against local Christians. “The blood of the infidels in the Islamic lands may be shed with impunity,” Oppenheim demanded bombastically, citing the scriptural authority of the Koran to “slay [the unbelievers] wherever ye find them.” “The Kaiser’s desire,” in the laconic words of a German official, was “to let loose 300 million Mohammedans in a gigantic St. Bartholomew’s massacre of Christians.”

German propaganda helped pioneer the modern phenomenon of harnessing the time-honored doctrine of jihad to the cause of indiscriminate bloodshed. In a chilling precursor to al-Qaeda, Oppenheim called for a “jihad by bands,” whereby pious Muslims formed localized terror cells in India, Central Asia, and Egypt to assassinate nationals of the Entente Powers (the British, French and Russian alliance which stood against the German-led Central Powers).… “The German jihad was up and running,” McMeekin notes wryly.…

Germany’s earnest if half-baked efforts during World War I have left an indelible mark on the region. For one thing, German engineers laid down what still forms “the backbone of the railway systems of modern Turkey, Syria, Jordan, northern Arabia and even a good deal of Israel and Palestine,” McMeekin points out. Less happily, the Kaiser’s dogged agitation for jihad helped sow the seeds of the enduring religious fanaticism that continues to blight the world today.

Needless to say, neither the Kaiser nor Oppenheim had any regrets in hindsight. Wilhelm, the erstwhile Zionist sympathizer, began blaming Germany’s defeat in the war on—who else?—the Jews. Presaging Hitler, in a letter dated December 2, 1919, Wilhelm extolled his compatriots not to “rest until these parasites have been wiped out from German soil and exterminated.” As for Oppenheim, the progeny of Jews gladly embraced the status of “honorary Aryan” the Nazi regime bestowed on him, along with the decoration for his services in fomenting jihad against the fatherland’s enemies.

In July 1940, Oppenheim, zealous as ever, produced a new “Memorandum on the Revolutionizing of the Middle East.” He had by then become a close friend of the rabidly anti-Semitic grand mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, who had distinguished himself by orchestrating lynch mobs against Palestinian Jews. McMeekin posits that the mufti had drawn inspiration from Oppenheim’s one-time jihad fatwas for his own against Jews and Brits, including his notorious ruling in 1948, which sanctified the murder of Israelis as a Muslim duty in perpetuity.…

And so Oppenheim’s political legacy lives on—not only in the homicidal religious militancy he worked so hard to unleash but also in a prevalent form of benighted cultural relativism that blinds itself to the implacable hostility of Islamism to Western civilization. It was quite a life’s work for a wealthy dilettante in the service of a narcissistic fool.

 

THE CONSCIENCE OF A JEWISH CONSERVATIVE
Ruth R. Wisse
Jerusalem Post, January 23, 2011

 

A Jewish thinker is normally someone devoted to the study and interpretation of Jewish texts, Jewish history, Jewish issues, Jewish ideas. The late Irving Kristol (1920-2009) was, for the most part, something else: a consummate American intellectual. Founding editor of The Public Interest, contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, he is best known as the “godfather” of neoconservatism, a movement of ideas that spurred a major realignment in American politics.

Yet as we are reminded by The Neoconservative Persuasion, a sparkling collection of his essays edited by his widow, the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, Kristol was also an important Jewish thinker—and especially important for American Jews.…

When he got a job at Commentary magazine in 1947, Kristol was assigned the area of religion as the only editor then interested in theology. Along with literature and politics, he read Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, Christian theologians and the writings of American rabbis who complained that Commentary did not pay them sufficient attention. One of these rabbis was Milton Steinberg, whose book, Basic Judaism, occasioned Kristol’s first attempt, in 1948, to set down his thoughts about Judaism in a review included in this volume.

On the whole, he appreciated Steinberg’s view of Judaism as a system of living religiously rather than a system of religious thought. But he was troubled by something shallow in Steinberg’s “religion of the good deed and the good community,” which struck him as fatally blind to the serious torment of a Jewish heretic like Franz Kafka and in general to the problem of evil. Why didn’t American rabbis like Steinberg address the gulf between God’s imperatives and man’s cruelties?

Kristol was disturbed by “the transformation of [traditional Jewish] messianism into a shallow, if sincere, humanitarianism,” by the retirement of “Jewish thinking” into sociological platitudes. His critique of the thinness of American Jewish theology is even more striking today than it was at the time.

If it was odd for a secular Jewish intellectual to be rousing rabbis to their spiritual duties, it was no less odd for Kristol to oppose the liberal drift of American Jewry, not to mention the leftward tendencies of most of his fellow intellectuals. But he had learned something from personal experience. As an infantryman in Europe during World War II, Kristol had seen American fighting strength put to the service of rescuing civilization from its enemies.…

As far as the Jews were concerned, Kristol thought that the encounter between the worst of European weakness and the best of American power ought to have wised them up politically, making them vigilant against declared enemies; he was disappointed to find how keen they remained to ignore history’s teachings. In later decades, those same teachings were what prompted Kristol’s definition of a neoconservative as “a liberal who has been mugged by reality”: that is, someone essentially hopeful of human progress who—however reluctantly—musters the ability to confront the forces that would thwart it.

The phrase spoke for those who in the late 1960s and early ‘70s were sobered up by aggressions against the American democratic order, and against Israel and the Jews, and by the failure of so many to stand up to them: from without, Soviet expansionism, Arab revanchism and other cold-war dangers; from within, New Left violence and the anti-American excesses of the accurately-named counterculture.

Kristol marveled that the liberalism of Jews, who ought to have been the first to rally in defense of the goodness of American society and its values, remained “especially rich in illusions.” How could Jews, of all people, fail to appreciate the justice of Israel or the force of the enmity against it; how could they blithely continue to support socialist, quasi-socialist or left-liberal positions that demonstrably threatened the social and economic health of the United States?

Kristol’s 1988 analysis of Jewish liberalism ends with the expressed conviction that his coreligionists’ “cognitive dissonance” could not continue for much longer. A final, darker essay on the subject, “On the Political Stupidity of the Jews” (1999), suggests no such hope, though one suspects that so congenitally even-tempered an observer still longed for evidence to the contrary.

Norman Podhoretz, the longtime editor of Commentary and, with Kristol, the most powerful voice of neoconservatism, has held up his late friend and colleague as “a great warrior on the battlefield of ideas and a great general in the political and cultural wars of our time.” The military metaphor is apt—there was, and there continues to be, a great battle of ideas over the essential worth of our civilization, and great battles require great leaders.

In the struggle for the minds of American Jews in particular, Kristol’s leadership was of a special kind. To him, the reflexes of American Jews had atrophied; over-habituated by too many centuries of accommodation to power, they had become unable or unwilling to recognize where their true friends lay, and who were now their true enemies. He encouraged them to consider afresh what it meant, and what it would take, to persevere as a minority in a primarily Christian country—without obsolete fears of religious persecution.

In a climate of cultural conformism—the elites being, as Kristol reminded us, much more conformist than the average American—this Jewish intellectual, as independent-minded as they come, gave American Jews the best guidelines for becoming at once fully mature citizens of their country and fully mature representatives of their people.

(The writer is professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard.)

GADHAFI, THE UN & THE U.S.: TRAGEDY, AND FAILURES, IN THE DESERT

 

 

 

DICTATOR LOSES GRIP IN DESERT
Charles Levinson, Margaret Coker, & Tahani Karrar-Lewsley
Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2011

 

On the ground in the eastern chunk of this oil-rich desert nation, the signs of rebellion are plain to see in the armories of a military base near Baida: Weapons crates lie busted open and empty. Rifles are missing from their racks. Left behind are helmets and gas masks and cleaning kits—things that can’t shoot.

For four days, rebels newly armed with anti-aircraft guns and Kalashnikovs battled forces loyal to Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi and commanded by one of his sons. After days of firefights, feints and an ambush on unarmed local sheiks, the regime forces surrendered their hold on the vital local airport Tuesday morning—placing nearly all of eastern Libya outside Col. Gadhafi’s control.

The battle for Baida airport is one example of how quickly the tide across Libya has turned against Col. Gadhafi. A brutal crackdown by pro-Gadhafi forces across the country has left at least 300 dead over six days, civil-rights groups say.

On Tuesday, Libya’s top policeman, a longtime Gadhafi loyalist, joined the string of diplomats, soldiers and others to abandon their leader of 42 years. In a video aired on the Al Jazeera news channel Tuesday, Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi announced his support for anti-Gadhafi protesters and called on Libya’s armed forces to switch loyalties. It was unclear how much influence he has over the key security forces considered die-hard loyalists to the regime, such as the armed revolutionary committees or the military units controlled by Col. Gadhafi’s family members.

The defections came as Libya teetered. In the country’s eastern half, an anti-Gadhafi stronghold where protests began just last week, only one additional airport, in the region’s main city of Benghazi, remained in government control. In the coastal city of Tobruq, also in the east, Libya’s historic red, black and green flag, which was barred during Col. Gadhafi’s four-decade reign, flew over many buildings. The all-green flag of the Gadhafi regime was nowhere to be seen.

In the capital of Tripoli—a traditional stronghold of Col. Gadhafi’s power—the leader publicly defied protesters seeking to end his rule. He vowed to remain in the country “until the end.” “I am not going to leave this land. I will die here as a martyr,” he said in a rambling, 80-minute address on state television. He vowed to take back the eastern cities under rebel control and show no mercy to those he says have acted against the nation.

Around midnight, following the leader’s speech, Tripoli residents reported heavy machine-gun battles in the capital’s center and a near-constant wail of sirens. Residents say carloads of the leader’s supporters cruised around the city in the early evening, waving green flags as a symbol for their loyalty to Col. Gadhafi. Pro-Gadhafi security agents roamed the city, blaring a message over bull horns and loud speakers that people forming in groups on the streets would be shot, two residents of the capital said.…

With Col. Gadhafi inciting more clashes and the streets around Tripoli still heavily patrolled by uniformed security forces, many Libyans feared that the nation could fracture on tribal or regional lines. “We’ve been calling for an end to Gadhafi’s rule for years,” said Hafed Al-Ghwell, a U.S.-based Libyan opposition activist. “But what we’ve always feared is the day after. Right now it looks like the worst-case scenario is coming true—that Libya becomes like Somalia, with every strongman with a gun ruling his own fiefdom.…”

 

THE UN’S LIBYA FAILURES
Editorial
Jerusalem Post, February 21, 2011

 

It was an old and festering wound in Libyans’ collective memory that was the immediate cause of the bloody clashes that broke out in the streets of Benghazi last Tuesday evening. A group of families whose sons were brutally massacred by the Libyan authorities would not abandon their quest for justice. They refused to be rebuffed yet again by state officials.

In 1996, an estimated 1,200 prisoners, mostly opponents of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorial regime, were rounded up and gunned down in the space of a few hours in Tripoli’s infamous Abu Salim prison. The victims’ bodies were reportedly removed from the prison in wheelbarrows and refrigerated trucks and buried in mass graves. To this day, the Libyan authorities refuse to disclose the whereabouts of these graves. It wasn’t until 2004 that Gaddafi admitted that the massacre had taken place.…

Neither the Abu Salim prison massacre nor the many other human rights abuses perpetrated by Gaddafi’s regime over the past four decades have been singled out for censure by the world’s purported protector of human rights—the UN’s Human Rights Council.

Established in 2006 with a mandate to reform its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the HRC has in the past five years issued some 50 resolutions that condemn countries; of those, 35 have been focused on Israel, and not one has been issued against Libya. Even as of Monday evening, as protesters were being shot down in the streets of Libya, no emergency session of the HRC had been called by its members, which include the U.S. and the EU, as Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, noted in a soon-to-appear interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Ilan Evyatar. Neuer called this omission by the HRC and its members “not only a let-down to the many Libyans risking their lives for freedom, but a shirking of [the HRC’s] obligations.”

Indeed, instead of being condemned, Libya has been lionized. In May 2010, Libya was, absurdly, elected as a member of the HRC, a move that was not blocked by the Obama administration (as Iran’s bid for membership was). This was the culmination of a steady ascendancy to every important diplomatic body at the UN—including the African Union chairmanship, the UN Security Council and the presidency of the UN General Assembly. In a 100-minute rant given before the assembly in September 2009, his first since he took control of Libya in a military coup in 1969, Gaddafi exploited the opportunity to liken the UN Security Council to a “terror council” because of the veto rights enjoyed by the U.S. and the other four UNSC permanent members.

A month earlier, the man U.S. president Richard Nixon had referred to as the “mad dog of the Middle East” met with former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain. “Late evening with Col. Kaddafi at his ‘ranch’ in Libya—interesting meeting with an interesting man,” McCain tweeted the next day. Several weeks later, this “interesting man” ignored McCain’s request not to give a “hero’s welcome” to freed Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al- Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent.

While engagement has proved a dismal failure, other methods have been more effective. It should be recalled that it was in the wake of the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq that Gaddafi, anxious not to become America’s next target, magnanimously offered to scrap his nascent nuclear program.

Although the U.S. no longer enjoys the kind of influence it had in the region after the Iraq invasion, the Obama administration can move from a defensive strategy in the UN of vetoing the many anti-Israel resolutions, to an offensive approach—along with other democracies—singling out countries like Libya in a concerted shame campaign.

Perhaps if more pressure had been brought to bear against Gaddafi when he just might have been ready to listen, Libya’s citizens would not now be getting shot down in the streets by a “mad dog” regime. At the very least, the UN would have retained a modicum of moral legitimacy.

 

LIBYA’S LEGACY
Michael J. Totten
New Republic, February 23, 2011

 

Not since Saddam Hussein’s regime was demolished in 2003 has an Arab head of state run a more ruthlessly repressive terror state than Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak were small-government libertarians by comparison. The implications of the uprising in Libya are therefore much bigger than they were in Tunisia or Egypt: If ordinary citizens can overthrow Qaddafi, of all people, every other despot in the region may look vulnerable—including Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran.

I managed to finagle a visa for myself just after Libyan-American relations defrosted in 2004, and the U.S. government lifted the travel ban. I was one of the first Americans to legally visit the country in decades, and what I saw there was appalling. The capital looks and feels gruesomely communist, which wasn’t surprising, considering that Qaddafi’s “Green Book,” where he fleshes out his lunatic ideology, is a bizarre mixture of the Communist Manifesto and the Koran (though references to Islam are stripped out). What did surprise me was how much terror he instilled in the hearts and minds of his people. No one I met said they liked him. No one would even speak of him unless there were no other Libyans present. Some were even afraid to utter his name, as though saying it out loud might conjure him.… “We keep our heads down and our mouths shut. We do our jobs, we go home. If I talk, they will take me out of my house in the night and put me in prison,” [one shopkeeper told me when we were alone.]

The system he runs is basically Stalinist and one of the last total surveillance police states in the world. Freedom House ranks Libya near North Korea and Turkmenistan, the most oppressive countries by far, in its utter dearth of human and political rights. I believe it. Obvious intelligence agents worked my hotel lobby, staring at and listening to everyone, and the U.S. State Department warned Americans at the time that even hotel rooms for foreigners likely were bugged.

Posters bearing the boss’s face are typical in dictatorships, but, in Libya, Qaddafi’s arrogant portrait is everywhere, on every street and in every shop. State propaganda appears on billboards along the sides of the road out in the desert. He even carved “Al Fateh Forever,” the name of his “revolution,” into the side of a mountain. The only way you can truly get away from him is to venture into the roadless sand seas of the Sahara.

The contrast between Libya and its neighbors is stark. When I visited Tunisia just a few months before going to Tripoli, I met plenty of people willing to criticize Ben Ali even when others were present. Sure, they lowered their voices, but they didn’t cower in fear. Egypt under Mubarak was even more open. I spoke to dissident bloggers like “Big Pharaoh” and “Sandmonkey” in restaurants and bars, and they didn’t care if anyone heard them slagging the president. Cairo’s mukhabarat didn’t seem to mind what anyone said as long as they didn’t act on their disgruntlement. Granted, regimes like these wouldn’t have lasted decades if they were easy to get rid of, but, ultimately, they lack the staying power of the hard totalitarian states.

States like Libya, that is. Tunisia is pleasant, prosperous, and heavily Frenchified, while Egypt is a poverty-stricken shambles, but Ben Ali and Mubarak were both pragmatic, standard issue authoritarians. Qaddafi, by comparison, is an emotionally unstable ideological megalomaniac. He says he’s the sun of Africa and swears to unite the Arabs and Africans underneath him. He has repeatedly threatened to ban money and schools, and he treats his country, communist-style, like a mad scientist’s laboratory. What I knew when I was there holds true today, even as his grip on power seems shaky: This guy is not going to liberalize, and he is not going to go quietly.

Indeed, his instruments of internal repression are proving as ruthless as promised in the face of strong civilian protests. (Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi and third largest city of Bayda are now reported to be in the hands of the opposition and under the guardianship of citizen militias and officers who have switched sides.) They’re busy assaulting demonstrators not with rubber bullets and tear gas but with artillery fire, attack helicopters, and war planes. Qaddafi has even imported mercenaries from Sub-Saharan Africa in case his own military officers flinch at orders to murder their neighbors (which some of them have, joining the demonstrators in the streets).

Ben Ali and Mubarak were low-hanging fruit, but, if a tyrant as vicious and murderous as Qaddafi can be taken out, it would seem just about anyone can be. If the people of Libya manage to overthrow him, it might even inspire Iran’s Green Movement to finish what it started in 2009 and push all the way to the end. But if Qaddafi survives by mass murder, which he just might, and if the world lets him get away with it, the Iranian regime and other despotic governments will take comfort in the knowledge that they, too, might do the same without consequence.

 

OBAMA’S PATHETIC RESPONSE TO LIBYA
Elliott Abrams
Weekly Standard, February 23, 2011

 

With a thousand Libyans (and perhaps many more) dead already from the Qaddafi regime’s attacks on its own population, and with reports of thousands of mercenaries and militiamen streaming toward Tripoli, President Obama finally spoke to the nation about this violence on Wednesday afternoon. He announced solemnly that he was sending Secretary of State Clinton to Geneva to visit the U.N. Human Rights Council and “hold consultations”—next Monday! But fear not: Undersecretary of State Bill Burns is apparently traveling sooner than that to “several stops in Europe” and then even in the actual Middle East, to “intensify our consultations.”

This is not so much a feeble response as a non-response. It is an announcement to Qaddafi that we won’t even get the secretary of State moving for five more days—five more days of likely slaughter. The verbs the president employed in his remarks are toothless: we will “monitor” and “coordinate” and “consult.” We will “speak with one voice.” While he “strongly” condemned “the use of violence in Libya” the president could not bring himself to condemn the regime or its leader, the man who is imposing this reign of terror. He did say “the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, and to respect the rights of its people. It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities, and face the cost of continued violations of human rights.” But at what cost? He did not say. The closest the president came to speaking of action was this: “I’ve also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis. This includes those actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners, or those that we’ll carry out through multilateral institutions.” No one knows what this means, but it presumably may mean sanctions. Maybe. Next week. Because “prepare” is not an action verb either.

Some parts of the world are way ahead of us. Denunciations came faster and have been stronger in Europe, and yesterday Amre Moussa suspended Libya from the Arab League. That’s a good test. When Amre Moussa, the long-time secretary general of the Arab League, is ahead of you in denouncing human rights violations, you are reacting a bit slowly.

The administration has followed its near silence over Iran in June 2009 and its wavering on Egypt last month with days of silence on Libya. Finally the president has spoken and said next to nothing. For a superpower this is an embarrassment. Belgium and Luxembourg can consult and coordinate and monitor; can we do no more? How about sending Stuart Levey (leaving Treasury soon but still there) off to get freezes on all Qaddafi family assets? Instead of sending Hillary Clinton to the Human Rights Council, how about sending the Marine commandant or the chief of staff of the Air Force to NATO headquarters? Perhaps that message would be a bit more likely to capture Qaddafi’s attention. How about demanding indictments of Qaddafi for war crimes right now?

The administration has quietly told reporters that it can say no more, lest Americans in Libya be attacked by the regime or taken hostage. That’s a real concern, but once again silence is the right response for countries with no options and no capabilities. For us, the right reaction to such threats and such fears is to call Musa Kusa, Qaddafi’s long-time intelligence chief, and tell him that if the regime attacks any American we will find him wherever he is, however long it takes, and he will meet the same fate as Saddam Hussein. And tell him to pass that on to Qaddafi.

WEDNESDAY’S “NEWS IN REVIEW” ROUND-UP

 

 

 

Weekly Quotes

Our opposition to the resolution before this Council today should…not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity. On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace.… While we agree with our fellow Council members—and indeed, with the wider world—about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians. We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution.”—Excerpts from the Explanation of Vote by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice, describing the U.S. administration’s solemn regret for vetoing a vehemently anti-Israeli Security Council resolution calling Israeli settlements “illegal.” (U.S. Mission to the UN website, February 18.)

 

Support for this anti-Israel statement is a major concession to enemies of the Jewish State.… It telegraphs that the U.S. can be bullied into abandoning critical democratic allies and core U.S. principles. Palestinian leaders refuse to negotiate directly with Israel, while Israel has made unprecedented concessions and continues to repeatedly offer to negotiate anywhere, anytime.… Offering to criticize our closest ally at the UN isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable.… The Administration should change course, stand unequivocally with Israel, and publicly pledge to block any anti-Israel UN Security Council action.”—U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman of theHouse Foreign Affairs Committee, condemning the Obama administration’s effort to circumvent using its UN Security Council veto power, by making concession to the Palestinian Authority, including an offer to support a “water-downed” Security Council Presidential Statement labelling Israeli settlement as “illegitimate.” Reports have surfaced that President Obama was also willing to support a UN Security Council visit to the Middle East, the first since 1979, and to commit to using strong language to criticize Israel’s settlement policies in a future statement by the Middle East Quartet. (Committee on foreign Affairs Website, February 17 & Jerusalem Post, February 18.)

 

The United States of America’s use of the veto to prevent the passage of a UN resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policy confirms that it is not an honest broker.… This first veto of the administration of President Barack Obama puts the credibility of the sponsor of the peace process in jeopardy.… We see the U.S. veto as encouraging Israel to move forward in the processes of settlement and Judaizing Jerusalem, and the construction of a wall of annexation and expansion. [We] hold the U.S. administration to be fully responsible for the consequences and repercussions.”—Excerpts from a statement released by the Palestinian Authority entitled U.S. Veto: An Obstacle to Peace, berating the Obama administration for its actions in the UN, and affirming that the U.S. “is no longer able to carry out its responsibilities as a sponsor of any future Palestinian–Israeli negotiations.” (FrontPage Blog, February 22.)

 

Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the revolution, I am not a president to step down…I have nowhere to resign from.… I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired…[but] when I do, everything will burn.… Come out of your homes, those who love Muammar Gaddafi. Women, men, girls, boys, those who side with Muammar Gaddafi and the revolution.… Chase [the protesters], arrest them, hand them over to the security [forces].… I will not leave the country and will die as a martyr.”—Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, in a televised speech, incoherently describing himself as the leader of an uprising against the one being waged against his own regime. More than 300 Libyans have reportedly been killed by Gaddafi supporters and security forces at protests being held throughout the country. (National Post, February 22.)

 

Don’t fight history. You can’t delay the day when it starts. The Arab world has changed. Don’t let anyone steal this revolution from you—those hypocrites who will put on a new face that suits them. The revolution isn’t over. It has just started to build Egypt.…”—Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, during his first public appearance in Egypt in 50 years, telling more than one million Muslim Egyptians gathered at Tahrir square to “guard your revolution.” According to Shadi Hamid, a research director at the Brookings Institute, Qaradawi is “an Islamist…of the Brotherhood school of thought…[and] very much in the mainstream of Egyptian society.” Although Qaradawi is considered “moderate,” he has been quoted as saying: “Muslims are against the expansive, oppressive Zionist movement…” and “Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them.” (Jerusalem Post, February 20.)

 

I tell the fighters of the resistance that one day they might be asked to liberate the Galilee. The Israelis are afraid.… Gantz came to visit the Lebanon border—welcome. He is the one that was defeated and pulled IDF troops out of Lebanon. You have a completely weak chief of staff.”—Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, at a “Resistance Martyrs Day” ceremony, criticizing newly appointed IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and explaining that the Middle East’s main problem is “the existence of Israel…that killed and slaughtered, confiscated the lands and kicked people…with sponsorship from the West.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Nasrallah’s comments by asserting that “[Israel] has a strong army, and a united people. We want peace with all of our neighbors, but the IDF is ready and prepared to defend Israel against all our enemies.” Netanyahu then called on Nasrallah to remain “hiding in a bunker.” (Jerusalem Post, February 16 & 17.)

 

This sharp growth attests to an increase in Israeli citizens’ standard of living. This stems from a responsible economic policy that does not violate the budgetary framework.… This policy has brought over 100,000 jobs in the past year and has lowered unemployment to the lowest level in the Western world.”—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing satisfaction over a Central Bureau of Statistics report showing that  Israel’s economy grew by 5.4% in the second half of 2010. (IMRA, February 16.)

 

I’ve never hidden my hobby, because there’s nothing shameful in it, however weird it might seem to those who aren’t fascinated by military history.… I never realized that other people, including friends and colleagues, might wonder why I care about these things. Thousands of military history buffs collect war paraphernalia because we want to learn from the past.…”—Marc Garlasco, former military analyst at Human Rights Watch, describing his affinity for collecting Nazi memorabilia, which, when discovered, led to him being suspended—with pay—from the NGO. When asked whether there was a connection between his fascination with the Nazis and the numerous reports he compiled for HRW that were perceived as severely biased against Israel, Garlasco denied any such association, saying he “has never held or expressed…anti-Semitic views.” Mr. Garlasco is currently working as a senior human rights officer at the United Nations. (Commentary Blog, February 20 & NY Times, 2009.)

 

Italy, like Austria, was a partner of Nazi Germany—not a victim, as the populace generally holds. Unlike Germany, we have never even begun the process of soul-searching. Italians don’t feel involved—they do not consider themselves as having collaborated. This museum, which will cover global Holocaust history but will have a special section on Italy, will speak directly to Italians, and not just Italian Jews.… The Nazis [were] aided by Italian Fascists.… We will be telling a story that will, unfortunately, unveil a black heart, but the formation of contemporary Italian identity – including that of new immigrants—must incorporate this knowledge.”—Marcello Pezzetti, director of Italy’s first Holocaust museum, to be built in Rome, explaining the project’s goal, to increase Italians’ awareness of their own role in the Holocaust. (Jerusalem Post, February 22.)

Short Takes

ABBAS TO VISIT CANADA TO MEET JEWISH LEADERS—(Toronto) According to the Canadian Jewish News, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Canada “within the next six months,” specifically to have a “meaningful dialogue” with a “cross-section of Canadian Jewry.” According to the report, the visit was arranged privately between Mr. Abbas and Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, during one of Mr. Cotler’s regular visits to the Middle East. The meeting between Mr. Abbas and the Jewish community is being hosted officially by Mr. Cotler and the bipartisan committee he formed, the joint House-Senate Committee on Middle East Peace and Reconciliation. (Canadian Jewish News, February 10.)

 

KNESSET ENACTS LAW REQUIRING NGO FUNDING TRANSPARENCY—(New York) The Knesset has passed a bill requiring nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations to disclose funding from foreign governments. The Foreign Government NGO Funding Transparency Bill also requires nonprofit groups to disclose whether they have been persuaded to take certain stances in exchange for funding. NGO Monitor applauded the passage of the transparency bill, saying that it helps protect Israeli democracy and civil society from manipulation, and provides the appropriate framework to hold foreign governments accountable for their NGO funding. (JTA, February 22.)

 

MUBARAK REFUSES PHONE CALLS FROM OBAMA—(Jerusalem) According to a report by the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak refuses to respond to telephone calls from U.S. President Barack Obama because he feels “humiliated, and [is] embittered at Obama’s…statement about the need for him to resign immediately.” The report adds that the former president is residing at his palace in Sharm el-Sheikh, and has declined an invitation from Saudi King Abdullah to come to the kingdom, saying he preferred to die on Egyptian soil. (Ynet News, February 17.)

 

TWO IRANIAN WARSHIPS ENTER SUEZ CANAL—(Cairo) Two Iranian naval vessels have entered the Suez en route to Syria, marking the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution that Tehran has sent military ships through the strategic waterway. According to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, the purpose of the military exercise is to train Iranian navy cadets in a year-long mission. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, rebuked the move, saying “To my regret, the international community is not showing a readiness to deal with the recurring Iranian provocations. The international community must understand that Israel cannot forever ignore [them].” (National Post, February 17 & Associated Press, February 22.)

 

LIBYA DEATH TOLL SURGES IN CRACKDOWN—(Cairo) According to Human Rights Watch, approximately 300 Libyans have been killed in protests against the 42-year-long rule of  Moammar Gadhafi. The fiercest fighting is taking place in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, as anti-government protesters continue to clash with pro-government forces. Reports confirm that pro-Gadhafi loyalists and security officials have been driving throughout the city firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at anyone in the streets. Four Libyan officials have resigned thus far to protest the “excessive use of violence,” including Libya’s Justice Minister and Ambassadors to the Arab League, India and China. (Haaretz &Wall Street Journal, February 21.)

 

EGYPTIAN MAN NAMES DAUGHTER ‘FACEBOOK’ IN TRIBUTE TO SUCCESS OF PROTESTS—(Jerusalem) An Egyptian couple has named their firstborn daughter “Facebook,” in tribute to the social media networks that played a role in organizing the widespread protests that have destabilized the Arab world. Facebook, in particular, has become a phenomenon in Egypt, with the Egyptian army, which has been running the country since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak, having created its own page last week. (Haaretz, February 20.)

 

INDIA AND PAKISTAN AGREE TO RENEW PEACE TALKS—(New Delhi) India and Pakistan have announced that the two countries will resume peace talks that have been stalled since 2008, when Pakistani militants staged coordinated terrorist attacks in Mumbai, killing 163. The agreement sets the stage for high-level, wide-ranging talks on a variety of contentious issues, including the status of the disputed border region of Kashmir. The two sides have repeatedly tried to resume talks since 2008, but efforts failed as New Delhi had insisted that Islamabad make progress fighting terrorism within Pakistan and put the planners of the Mumbai attack on trial. (NY Times, February 10.)

 

ISRAELI MISSIONS CLOSE DUE TO HEZBOLLAH THREAT—(Jerusalem) The Israeli Foreign Ministry has temporarily closed some of its diplomatic missions abroad, including the Israeli Embassy in Ankara and the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, due to the risk of possible terror attacks coordinated by Hezbollah. Israel embassies were previously on heightened alert, following concrete warnings of possible attacks timed to mark the third anniversary of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination. (Jerusalem Post, February 17.)

 

LEBANESE MAN SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR SPYING FOR ISRAEL—(Beirut) A Lebanese military court has convicted a man of spying for Israel from 1997 to 2009, and sentenced him to death. Amin al-Baba was found guilty of providing Israeli intelligence agents with information in return for money, and entering an enemy state. Lebanon and Israel technically remain at war, and more than 100 people in Lebanon have been arrested since 2009 on suspicion of collaborating with the Jewish state. The new sentence brings the total number of Lebanese sentenced to death for spying for Israel to nine. (Associated Press, February 18.)

 

FAYYAD PROPOSES UNITY GOVT WITH HAMAS—(Ramallah) Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has proposed forming a unity government with Hamas, which would leave the Islamist terrorist group in full control of Gaza. Fayyad claims that his proposal, which comes as he seeks to form a new government, would not vastly change the situation on the ground, but rather would pave the way for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Longtime rivals, tensions between Hamas and Fatah reached a breaking point in 2007, a year after Hamas won legislative elections, which led to Fatah being ousted from the Gaza Strip. Since then, various attempts to reconcile have failed. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, February 22.)

 

ARAB LEAGUE CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF ISRAELI TOURISM CONFERENCE—(Cairo) The Arab League has called for a boycott of Israel’s tourism conference to be held in Jerusalem at the end of February. In a statement released by the League, those States which have been invited to the conference are encouraged not to participate as “what is happening in Jerusalem [is] killing and displacement, confiscation of property of Jerusalem, demolition, siege and starvation, actions [that run] contrary to international law and international resolutions.” The statement also begged countries to refrain from establishing embassies in Jerusalem. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, February 22.)

 

ARROW 2 MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM SUCCESSFULLY TESTED—(Jerusalem) In face of Iran’s continued race for nuclear power, Israel has successfully tested its Arrow 2 defense system off the coast of California. The military exercise, conducted jointly by the IAF, the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Homa Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, was the eighteenth test of the Arrow, and the second in which the modified Arrow 2 was tested in its entirety. The Arrow was developed to operate as a vast shield against the potential deployment of Iranian ballistic missiles. (Jerusalem Post, February 22.)

 

NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL TO BE NAMED—(New York) According to reports, top White House Middle East adviser Dan Shapiro will serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Shapiro is believed to have a good relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and accompanied U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell on several diplomatic shuttle missions to Israel. Shapiro would replace James Cunningham, who has served in the envoy’s post for three years. (JTA, February 22.)

 

CHILEAN MINERS VISIT ISRAEL—(Jerusalem) Thirty-one of the 33 miners who were trapped for 68 days underground in Chile have arrived in Israel for a week-long trip. The miners will enjoy an extensive tour organized by the Israeli Tourism Ministry, which will include visits to the Western Wall, the Knesset, Bethlehem, Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, and a number of churches. The miners’ trip has not been without controversy, however; they caused an “outrage” by refusing an invitation from the Palestinian Authority to visit its “territories” as well. (Ynet News, February 22.)

 

OSLO ORDERS ISRAELI EMBASSY TO MOVE—(Jerusalem) The city of Oslo, Norway, has ordered the Israeli embassy to relocate to a new site within a year. According to reports, the embassy is considered a security threat to local residents and its stringent security measures disrupt their quality of life. Michael Eligal, Israel’s ambassador to Oslo, has informed the Israeli Foreign Ministry that he is having trouble finding an alternative site for the building because landowners are refusing to sell property to the embassy. (JTA, February 21.)

 

BRAZIL’S HIGHEST COURT NAMES FIRST JEW—(Rio de Janeiro) Brazil’s Senate has approved the appointment of Judge Luiz Fux to the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court, marking the first time a Jew has occupied a seat on Brazil’s highest court. Fux, 57, was born to Romanian grandparents who fled to Brazil during World War II. (JTA, February 10.)

 

DEMAND FOR BIRTHRIGHT-TAGLIT HITS NEW HIGH IN N. AMERICA—(Jerusalem) A record-breaking number of North American applicants have signed up to take part in Birthright-Taglit this year. The program, which brings young Jewish adults from the Diaspora to Israel on free, 10-day educational tours, received 40,108 applications during its recently completed seven-day registration period. In January, the Government of Israel announced it would contribute $100 million in funding over the next three years to facilitate Birthright’s expansion. (Jerusalem Post, February 23.)

U.S. “FOLLY” AND THE LEGITIMACY OF “SETTLEMENTS”

 

 

 

AVOIDING EUPHORIA OVER OBAMA
Isi Leibler
Jerusalem Post, February 21, 2011

 

A strange euphoria seems to have blinded some Israelis and American Jews concerning the context of President Barack Obama’s veto of a UN resolution. In the past, blatantly one-sided anti- Israeli resolutions were vetoed as a matter of course. On this occasion, the issue was complicated because of the Obama administration’s disastrous, long-standing obsession with the settlements, which paved the way for the unprecedented Palestinian demand for a settlement freeze as a precondition to negotiations.

Desperate to avoid employing the veto, Obama extended extraordinary concessions to the Palestinians if they agreed to modify the language of the resolution. He offered a Security Council “presidential statement” expressing identical views to the resolution condemning the Jewish presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. He was willing to endorse a Russian proposal for a Security Council fact-finding mission on settlements and a proposed expansion of the Quartet’s involvement to cover areas ranging from the 1967 borders to the political status of Jerusalem. According to The Wall Street Journal, at the last moment Obama phoned PA President Mahmoud Abbas offering to endorse or abstain on the resolution if the Palestinians agreed to replace the word “illegal” with “illegitimate” in relation to settlements.

Normal procedure after such a vote would have been a simple U.S. statement that the resolution was one-sided and that the Security Council was not the venue to engage in this issue. It could also have noted that Israel had frozen settlements for 10 months while the Palestinians still refused to negotiate. Instead, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice made a supplementary statement condemning settlements, employing some of the most vehement language against the Jewish state ever used by a senior U.S. official.

That Abbas refused to accept Obama’s extraordinary offers reflects the fact that the Palestinians are now being hoisted by their own petard. [Palestinian] incitement has been so effective that following the Al Jazeera disclosures of [potential] concessions discussed [with Israeli officials] behind closed doors—which [the Palestinian Authority] had no intention of ever implementing or even revealing to their people—[the PA] cannot now contemplate the slightest compromise without being condemned as traitors.

With global anti-Israeli hostility combining with the seething cauldron of revolution in the Arab world, Abbas is confident that by avoiding negotiations, he will oblige the Obama administration to intensify pressure on Israel. He also appreciates the effectiveness of engaging in “lawfare” rather than terrorism, with a massive program of demonization, boycott and delegitimization in the UN pipeline where the most outrageously anti-Israeli resolutions are guaranteed an automatic majority. We can anticipate a cascade of resolutions seeking to transform Israel into a pariah state, accusing it of breaching international law, branding its leaders as war criminals and seeking to drag it into the International Court of Justice.

The U.S. relationship now assumes even greater importance to our security, both militarily and diplomatically.… It is likely that despite the disastrous consequences of Obama’s failed efforts to engage with rogue states, were he not facing re-election, he would not allow Israel’s security to stand in the way of his efforts to appease the Islamic world.…

It is chilling to contemplate how the administration may seek to “balance” its veto by imposing new pressures on Israel, which could soon be facing rejectionist states on most of its borders. We must now invest all our resources into strengthening U.S.-Israel ties…in light of uncertainties with the new Egypt, and Iran’s growing regional influence.… We must have a comprehensive plan if we are to persuade the American public and Congress to remain steadfast. Otherwise, the Obama administration might throw us to the wolves.

 

…LET’S PRETEND IT’S ABOUT ISRAEL
Anne Bayefsky & Benjamin Weinthal
National Review, February 21, 2011

 

It is no coincidence that the Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government, a non-standing member of the UN Security Council and an Iranian subsidiary, sponsored a resolution last Friday condemning Israeli housing construction in the disputed territories. The anti-Israel-resolution activity diverted the UN Security Council from passing resolutions against such authoritarian regimes as Iran and Libya for shooting their citizens and suppressing pro-democracy efforts.

Arab despots—and Iran’s regime—have a tried-and-true method for deflecting attention from their profoundly anti-democratic and repressive political systems: Formulate a UN resolution to condemn the Jewish State and its vibrant democracy. The fact that EU countries—for example Germany, which asserts that Israel’s national security is integral to German interests—joined the diplomatic assault on Israel is nothing short of a major body blow to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.…

[Furthermore], the explanation U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice gave to the Security Council after casting her negative vote neatly captured the Obama administration’s Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde approach to the Jewish State. Instead of taking the opportunity to mention the critical problems unfolding in the Middle East…she labeled Israel’s home-building “folly and illegitimacy” and castigated [Israel] as “devastat[ing] trust…and threaten[ing] the prospects for peace.” Make no mistake, Iran, Libya, Algeria, and the rest of the thugs brutalizing their populations took notice. After all, this took place in the UN body with ultimate responsibility for protecting international peace and security.

The UN’s pathological obsession with turning Israel into a diplomatic punching bag was well known before the vote. But there is no excuse for the United States, or Britain, France, and Germany, to legitimize the spectacle. The EU’s bizarre and flawed fixation on settlement construction as the linchpin of Mideast peace turned absurd in the British, German, and French statement advocating a one-sided resolution rebuking Israel. It stated: “A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.” In short, while paying lip service to a negotiated resolution to the conflict, the EU unilaterally purported to settle one of the core elements to be negotiated.

The German move was an extension of its intemperate legislative language toward Israel. In 2010, the Merkel administration made no effort to convince members of its coalition government in the Bundestag not to agree to a resolution blaming the Jewish state for “violating the principle of proportionality” against the occupants of the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara. The ship contained a hardcore group of jihadists whose only aim was to diminish Israel’s right to self-defense and create an Iranian port on the Mediterranean.

Israel’s ambassador to Berlin was apparently under the mistaken impression that the Merkel administration would likely reject the [latest] Security Council resolution. But the anti-Israeli writing was plainly on the wall. As a 2009 WikiLeaks cable from U.S. diplomats in Berlin reveals, Christoph Heusgen, a senior adviser to Merkel, urged the U.S to water down its opposition to the U.N.’s anti-Israel “Goldstone Report” in order to force Israel to freeze settlement construction. The dispatch from Heusgen, Merkel’s point man on the Middle East, ought to raise giant question marks over her oft-repeated declarations to the U.S. Congress and the Israeli Knesset that the Jewish state’s security is “non-negotiable” for Germany.…

British and French support for the resolution comes at a time when we are learning how deeply immersed both countries are with the dirty business of propping up unsavory regimes in Tunisia and Libya. WikiLeaks cables point directly to Britain’s role in releasing the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, in exchange for British energy giant BP’s right to access and develop Libyan oil. During the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tunisia, France’s foreign minister Michele Alliot-Marie offered a sophisticated French police-skills program to the security forces of now-deposed Tunisian despot Ben Ali.

It is long overdue for the EU and the U.S. to make good on their promise to leave the talks about all final-status issues, including settlements and territorial compromises, to the parties themselves. As of today, the EU has given the Palestinians no compelling reason to return to the bargaining table or get serious about living side-by-side with a Jewish state. Instead of obsessing over Israel, the time is now ripe to acquire a healthy obsession with democracy promotion in the Muslim and Arab worlds.

 

TIME TO SAY THANK-YOU TO CONGRESS
Evelyn Gordon
Jerusalem Post, February 21, 2011

 

Last week’s U.S. veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements once again highlighted the critical role Congress plays in the U.S.-Israel alliance. And it’s long past time for Israel to give Congress…thanks for its ongoing support. Granted, the veto decision was technically made by President Barack Obama, not by Congress. The question is why.

Obama agreed with every word of the resolution, as UN Ambassador Susan Rice told the council explicitly after the vote. He is ideologically opposed to the veto; this was the first he has cast in over two years in office. Administration officials worried openly that the vote would damage Washington’s status in the Arab world at a time when the upheavals there have already thrown its influence into question.

And [Obama] certainly wasn’t motivated by a sudden attack of pro-Israel sentiment: According to media reports, he was prepared to sell out Israel’s most vital negotiating interests to avoid having to cast this veto. To tempt the Palestinians into withdrawing the resolution, he reportedly offered various perks, including a pledge of support for a Quartet statement that, for the first time, would back their demand for a state with borders based on the 1967 lines. That would deal a double blow to Israel’s security: by undermining its quest for defensible borders (which the 1967 lines emphatically are not), and by showing that American promises can’t be trusted. After all, such a statement would nullify the pledges former President George W. Bush gave Israel…a “steadfast commitment” to “secure, defensible borders” and acknowledgment that a “full and complete return” to the 1967 lines is “unrealistic.”

So given all this, why did Obama nevertheless veto the resolution? Because Congress sent an unequivocal bipartisan message that it wouldn’t tolerate anything else. And while technically, Congress has no say over America’s UN votes, Obama wasn’t prepared to pick a fight with Congress on this matter when he will need its support on numerous vital domestic issues.

Too many Israeli prime ministers forget that Congress wields such power. They view their personal relationship with the president as the be all and end all of U.S.-Israel relations, and are therefore prepared to concede on important issues for the sake of retaining the president’s support. Last week’s vote thus provides a timely reminder that the president and America are not synonymous: Israel can stand up to the president without sacrificing American support, because this support is based on shared interests and values rather than any specific policy.…

 

THE SETTLEMENTS ISSUE:
DISTORTING THE GENEVA CONVENTION AND THE OSLO ACCORDS
Alan Baker

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, January 5, 2011

 

Palestinian representatives at the UN have prepared a draft resolution…that will seek to declare that Israeli settlements are “illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of peace.” The claim is not new. The issue of the legality of Israel’s settlements and the rationale of Israel’s settlements policy have for years dominated the attention of the international community. This has been evident in countless reports of different UN bodies, rapporteurs, and resolutions, as well as in political declarations and statements by governments and leaders. In varying degrees, they consider Israel’s settlements to be in violation of international law, specifically Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of August 12, 1949.

But apart from the almost standardized, oft-repeated, and commonly accepted clichés as to the “illegality of Israel’s settlements,” or the “flagrant violation” of the Geneva Convention…there has been little genuine attempt to elaborate and consider the substantive legal reasoning behind this view. Yet there are a number of very relevant factors that inevitably must be considered when making such a serious accusation against Israel. These factors include: i. the text of the sixth paragraph of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the circumstances of, and reasons for, its inclusion in the Convention in December 1949; ii. the unique circumstances of the territory and the context of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship that has developed since 1993 through a series of agreements between them. These agreements have created a sui generis framework that, of necessity, influences and even overrides any general determinations unrelated to that framework.

What Does Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Say?

Immediately after the Second World War, the need arose to draft an international convention to protect civilians in times of armed conflict in light of the massive numbers of civilians forced to leave their homes during the war, and the glaring lack of effective protection for civilians under any of the then valid conventions or treaties. In this context, the sixth paragraph of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

The authoritative and official commentary by the…International Committee of the Red Cross, published in 1958 in order to assist “Governments and armed forces…called upon to assume responsibility in applying the Geneva Conventions,” clarifies this provision as follows: “It is intended to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain Powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territories. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race.…”

There is nothing to link such circumstances to Israel’s settlement policy. The circumstances in which Article 49(6) of the Geneva Convention was drafted, and specifically the meaning attached by the International Committee of the Red Cross itself to that article, raise a serious question as to the relevance of linkage to and reliance on the article by the international community as the basis and criterion for determining Israel’s settlements as illegal. One may further ask if this is not a misreading, misunderstanding, or even distortion of that article and its context.

The international lawyer Prof. Eugene V. Rostow, a former dean of Yale Law School and Undersecretary of State, stated in 1990: “[T]he Convention prohibits many of the inhumane practices of the Nazis and the Soviet Union during and before the Second World War—the mass transfer of people into and out of occupied territories for purposes of extermination, slave labor or colonization, for example.… The Jewish settlers in the West Bank are most emphatically volunteers. They have not been ‘deported’ or ‘transferred’ to the area by the Government of Israel, and their movement involves none of the atrocious purposes or harmful effects on the existing population it is the goal of the Geneva Convention to prevent.”

Ambassador Morris Abram, a member of the U.S. staff at the Nuremburg Tribunal and later involved in the drafting of the Fourth Geneva Convention, is on record as stating that the convention: “was not designed to cover situations like Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, but rather the forcible transfer, deportation or resettlement of large numbers of people.…”

Article 49(6) uses terminology that is indicative of governmental action in coercing its citizens to move. Yet Israel has not forcibly deported or mass-transferred its citizens into the territories. It has consistently maintained a policy enabling people to reside voluntarily on land that is not privately owned.… Israel has never expressed any intention to colonize the territories, to confiscate land, nor to displace the local population for political or racial reasons, nor to alter the demographic nature of the area.

The series of agreements signed with the Palestinian leadership has in fact placed the entire issue of the status of the territory, as well as Israel’s settlements, on the negotiating table—a factor that proves the lack of any intention to colonize or displace. The fact that Israel chose unilaterally to dismantle its settlements and remove its citizens from the Gaza Strip in 2005 is further evidence of this.

The status of the territory, including the rights of the parties therein and the Israeli settlements, are the central negotiating issues between the two sides. In this context, and pursuant to its obligations in Article XXXI (7) of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of 1993, Israel has not taken any step to alter the status of the territory, which is open for determination in the Permanent Status negotiations.…

Unique Circumstances of Territory and Special Nature of the Israel-Palestinian Relationship

There is a further and no less important reason why the Geneva Convention provisions regarding transfer of populations cannot be considered relevant in any event to the Israeli-Palestinian context. The entirely unique and sui generis situation, history, and circumstances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict regarding the territories, as well as the series of agreements and memoranda that have been signed between the Palestinian leadership and the Government of Israel, have produced a special independent regime—a lex specialis—that governs all aspects of the relationship between them, including the settlements issue.…

The special regime governing the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is set out in the series of agreements and memoranda negotiated between 1993 and 1999 and still valid. These documents cover all the central issues between them including issues of governance, security, elections, jurisdiction, human rights, legal issues, and the like. In this framework there is no specific provision either restricting planning, zoning and continued construction by either party, of towns and villages, or freezing such construction.

Furthermore, the two sides agreed in the 1995 Interim Agreement, signed and witnessed by the U.S., the EU, Egypt, Jordan, Russia, and Norway, on a division of their respective jurisdictions in the West Bank into areas A and B (Palestinian jurisdiction) and area C (Israeli jurisdiction). They defined the respective powers and responsibilities of each side in the areas they control. Israel’s powers and responsibilities in Area C include all aspects regarding its settlements—all this pending the outcome of the Permanent Status negotiations. This division was accepted and agreed upon by the Palestinians, who cannot now invoke the Geneva Convention regime in order to bypass their acceptance of the Interim Agreement or their and the international community’s acknowledgement of that agreement’s relevance and continued validity.…

Conclusion

The main proponent orchestrating the settlement issue over the years has been the Palestinian leadership, which has decided to isolate and take up the issue of settlements as an independent “cause célèbre,” despite the fact that it is among the agreed-upon items to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians in the Permanent Status negotiations. The Palestinians chose to proceed with this policy in full awareness of the fact that in their agreements, Israel had not obligated itself in any way to refrain from, halt, or freeze construction in the settlements.

The Palestinians preferred to take the settlement issue outside the framework of the agreements with a view to opening a concerted international campaign to isolate Israel on this issue and turn it into the international issue that we are witnessing today. Furthermore, raising the settlement issue has succeeded in blocking any progress in the negotiating process, so much so that the Palestinian leadership is now holding any return to a negotiation mode as a hostage to a settlement freeze.… The international community cannot seriously ignore the factors set out above, as well as the implications that any such new resolution or decision might have on the already agreed-upon, delicate structure of the peace process.

TWITTER, FACEBOOK, & JOURNALISTS ABOUND… BUT IS THE MEDIA’S MESSAGE AUTHENTIC?

 

 

THE REALITY OF REVOLUTION
David Rieff
New Republic, February 14, 2011

 

In both the euphoria and the apprehension that have accompanied the popular uprisings in the Arab Middle East…there has been an avalanche of the usual cyber-utopian techno-babble about the emancipatory potential of the Bluetooth devices and Twitter feeds for which authoritarian tyrannies are said to be no match. The political simple-mindedness of this may not always be at the level of a Tim Connors, the California venture capitalist…who began a blog post on the subject with the following sentence: “10 folks in a small apartment in Egypt used social media and cell phones to start a revolution, and 17 days later the president of many decades is out of power.” But it is not all that far from it either.

Throughout its extensive coverage of the events in Tahrir Square, CNN devoted an enormous amount of time to what was appearing on blogs or being tweeted, and to the Mubarak regime’s decision…to shut down access to the internet and cell phones.… And, as President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton went back and forth about what position to take on whether Mubarak should stay or go, the one subject about which they seemed in no doubt…was that he should turn the internet and the mobile phones back on.…

Were information technology not the Golden Calf of our age, no sensible person could possibly believe that the North African revolution took place thanks to social media. As Evgeny Morozov points out in his fine new book, The Net Delusion, this is the same sort of utopian credulousness that led Marx to write that the communications revolution of the railways under the Raj would lead Indians to give up the caste system. This is not to say that social networks don’t matter; they matter a lot. But they do not incarnate freedom, do not bring about some final, heaven-like stage of human history. Indeed, if there was a proximate cause, on the order of Connors’ “10 folks in a small apartment using social networks,” to the Tunisian uprising, it was that least virtual of political acts—the decision of Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in the central Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid who burned himself to death in protest over the police seizing his [produce] cart…and more generally, over police brutality and grinding unemployment, poverty, and lack of opportunity. That was the action that provoked the first anti-government demonstrations in Tunisia and soon spawned other self-immolations from Egypt to Mauritania.

But self-immolations do not fit into the cyber-utopian narrative. Like suicide bombings, they are simply too far removed from almost all of us who come from the West. In contrast, tweets and Facebook and the rest of life in cyberspace are essential to the way we now live (if we don’t join in, we’re curmudgeons, contrarians, etc.—the Silicon Valley equivalent, I suppose, of the old Marxist condemnation of those who were “on the wrong side of history”). So, in rooting for the tweeters in Tahrir Square, we are actually rooting for ourselves.

But what’s wrong with that, you may ask, if what we are supporting in Tunis or in Cairo, and hoping for in Algiers and Tripoli and Sana and Nouakchoutt, are the best of our ideals both personally and as societies—our belief in individual freedom and in representative democracy? To which the answer is: nothing, so long, that is, as we do not confuse our situation with theirs. My fear, though, is that this is precisely what we are doing.

Democracy, freedom of expression, individual rights, and the rule of law are all wonderful things.… But these democratic dreams are likely to benefit only a small minority of the population, even if, in a country as populous as Egypt, that is still a great many people in absolute numbers.… It will be a fine thing if, as has been promised in both Algeria and Egypt, the army makes good on its promises to end decades-old states of emergency. But will these changes from the top down, from which the upper middle classes—the Bluetooth, tweeting classes, to be blunt—stand to benefit almost immediately, do anything to improve the lot of the Mohamed Bouazizis of the world? Will they find it easier to find a job, feed their families, in short, to live with dignity? On that, surely, the verdict is very much still out.

Certainly, poor Tunisians don’t seem very confident. In the weeks since the fall of the Ben Ali dictatorship…thousands upon thousands of Tunisians have set out in boats trying to reach Europe and a better life.… [However], the young men on these often far too unseaworthy boats are not chronicling their trip on their mobile phone cameras, or tweeting about them, or notifying their friends on their Facebook pages that they have decided to throw the dice and try to make it to Europe. And there are far more of these people in the Arab Middle East today than the kind of young democracy activists that we have quite rightly been extolling in the West during these past several extraordinary weeks.…

In Yeats’ great poem “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” the airman flying for the Royal Flying Corps over the trenches muses on why he ever volunteered to fight for Britain. Thinking of his countrymen in his own village back home, the airman acknowledges that:

My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.

If, when you read this, it is past dark in Europe and North Africa, remember those boats heading north, crammed with the twenty-first century’s equivalent of Kiltartan’s poor, and ask yourself whether what they see is what we see. At the very least, Caveat celebrator.

(David Rieff is a contributing editor for The New Republic.)

 

THE REAL EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION
WILL NOT BE BROUGHT TO YOU BY CNN
Daniel Greenfield
Daniel Greenfield Blog, February 16, 2011

 

There are two Egyptian revolutions. The one marketed for Western consumption by Egyptian bloggers and the American media—and the real revolution. The rape of [CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent] Lara Logan brought that second revolution out of the shadows for the first time. This was certainly not the first sexual assault arising out of the Jan. 25 protests. It won’t be the last either. The Western educated Egyptians promoting the protests have always managed to sell the press on the story that all the violence, from the looting of the Egyptian museum, the attacks on reporters, the prison breaks and the mass rapes and robberies were all the work of pro-Mubarak forces. But when Logan was attacked, she was among a crowd celebrating the fall of Mubarak. These were the very people that she and her colleagues had come to Egypt to support.

The actual Jan. 25 revolution was wildly different from the one depicted in news reports. Behind the veil of English speaking Twitter feeds by young activists, is an angry and bigoted population.… Few of the gullible Western supporters who follow the revolution by Twitter, understand just how much the ordinary Egyptian taking part in the protests hates them. Behind all the English language signs produced for the foreign press and the articulate bloggers cultivated by the U.S and EU governments, is [a] mob who believes that Mubarak was a puppet of the CIA and the Mossad. And who believe the same thing about all the earnest CNN and CBS correspondents who came to be photographed against the background of a revolution.…

The cries of “Yahood, Yahood” or “Jew, Jew” reportedly shouted at CBS’s Logan while she was being sexually assaulted, reflect two things. Yahood is a common insult in the Middle East. American soldiers in Iraq are referred to as Yahood or Jews. (Some have drawn geopolitical inferences from this, but you only need to turn on South Park to see ‘Jew’ used as an insult in our own hemisphere.) The difference is that in the Muslim world, ‘Yahood’ is far more ubiquitous, and often accompanied by conspiracy theories and violent threats. The negative depiction of Jews is rooted in the Koran, making it ubiquitous through the Muslim world.

The other aspect of it however is the prevalence of conspiracy theories throughout the Arab Muslim world. In Egypt, Nazi propaganda merged with traditional Islamic beliefs to give rise to Islamofascist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood. While Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are given little credibility in civilized nations—they are still highly popular in the Muslim world. Conspiracy theories are the best refuge of failed societies.…

The real Egyptian revolution was mob violence against the targets of their conspiracy theories, rather than a movement toward democracy. Assaults on Western reporters are not an aberration, but the norm. As often as CNN cheers on the revolution, the average Egyptian will still call them Yahood and CIA. Because the average Egyptian is fueled by hate for outside forces, rather than a striving for progress and reform.

Egyptian activists are apologizing to Lara Logan on Twitter, and assuring everyone that this does not represent Egypt. But there are far more Egyptians who harass women, than use Twitter to promote democracy.… Sexual violence is a routine part of Egyptian mob scenes. In 2006, a crowd celebrating Eid Al-Fitr began assaulting every woman in sight. In 2009 alone, the UK foreign office reported handling nearly 30 cases of sexual assault against British nationals… According to a 2008 study, 68 percent of Egyptian women complained of being harassed on a daily basis, while 98 percent of foreign women did.

[As such], when a group of jubilant enthusiasts of democracy found themselves near a Western female reporter without police supervision, what followed was absolutely horrible [but also] terribly inevitable. It is what 98 percent of foreign women in Egypt risk encountering every day.…

 

LARA LOGAN AND MEDIA RULES
Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, February 18, 2011

 

Among the least analyzed aspects of the Egyptian revolution has been the significance of the widespread violence against the foreign media covering the demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The Western media have been unanimous in their sympathetic coverage of the demonstrators in Egypt. Why would the demonstrators want to brutalize them? And why have Western media outlets been so reticent in discussing the significance of their own reporters’ brutalization at the hands of the Egyptian demonstrators?

To date the most egregious attack on a foreign journalist in Cairo’s Tahrir Square took place last Friday, when CBS’s senior foreign correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted and brutally beaten by a mob of Egyptian men. Her own network, CBS, took several days to even report the story, and when it did, it left out important information. The fact that Logan was brutalized for 20 to 30 minutes and that her attackers screamed out “Jew, Jew, Jew” as they ravaged her was absent from the CBS report and from most other follow-on reports in the U.S. media.…

So far the only culprit the U.S. media have managed to find for the sexual assault perpetrated against Lara Logan…has been a radical leftist reporter named Nir Rosen. On Tuesday, Rosen wrote defamatory attacks against Logan on his Twitter account. He mocked her suffering and bemoaned the fame the attack would win her. Rosen’s statements on Twitter set off a feeding frenzy of reporters and commentators who raced to condemn him. New York University’s Center for Law and Security, where Rosen served as a fellow, hastened to demand his resignation.

The onslaught against Rosen for his anti-Logan statements is extremely revealing about the nature of the international media. Rosen’s writings reveal him as an anti-Semite and an anti-American. Rosen has written prolifically about his hope to see Israel destroyed. His war reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq unfailingly takes the side of America’s enemies. He was an embedded reporter with the Taliban and is an outspoken champion of Hezbollah, Hamas and the Taliban.

Rosen’s hateful politics have brought him book contracts, prestigious fellowships, interviews on influential television shows and even a request to give testimony before the U.S. Senate. His work has been published in elite magazines and newspapers. No one batted a lash when he called for Israel to be destroyed or supported the Taliban.… But for attacking Logan, he was excommunicated from polite society.…

In the hopes of rehabilitating himself, Rosen gave a groveling interview to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night in which he called himself “a jerk.” But it is too late. He broke the rules.

The story of the media at Tahrir Square exposes those rules for all to see. The bravery of the journalists on the scene, the media’s determination to ignore Islamic misogyny, and their expulsion of Rosen from polite society all tell us that what drives the international media is not a quest for truth. It is a quest to advance the ideology of identity politics.

Identity politics revolve around the narrative of victimization. For adherents to identity politics…the status of victimhood is not determined by facts, but by membership in an identity group.… In light of this, a person’s membership in specific victim groups is far more important than his behavior. And there is a clear pecking order of victimhood in identity politics. Anti-American Third World national, religious and ethnic groups are at the top of the victim food chain. They out-victim everyone else. After them come the Western victims: Racial minorities, women, homosexuals, children and animals. Israelis, Jews, Americans, white males and rich people are the predetermined perpetrators.…

In cases when victim groups are attacked by victim groups—for instance when Iraqis were attacked by Saddam, or Palestinians are attacked by the PA, the media tend to ignore the story. When members of Western victim groups are attacked by Third World victims, the story can be reported, but with as little mention of the identity of the victim-perpetrators as possible. So it was with coverage of Logan and the rest of the foreign reporters assaulted in Egypt. They were attacked by invisible attackers with no identities, no barbaric values, no moral responsibility, and no criminal culpability. CBS went so far as to blur the faces of the men who surrounded Logan in the moments before she was attacked.

When we understand the rules of reportage as dictated by adherents to identity politics, we understand why Rosen was excommunicated when he mocked Logan and not when he called for Israel’s destruction, condemned the commemoration of the September 11 attacks, or sided with the Taliban and the Iraqi insurgents killing Americans. In those cases, he followed the rules—preferring the cause of “victims” over the lives of “perpetrators.” But when he mocked Logan, he crossed the line. He treated Logan as a perpetrator because he thought of her as an insufficiently anti-American reporter. He didn’t realize that when she was brutalized, she had slid into the victim category.…

Lara Logan and the other hundred reporters attacked in Tahrir Square are real victims, not because of who they are, but because of what happened to them. The Egyptians who attacked them are real criminals, not because of who they are, but because of what they did. But until reporters are willing to admit this—that is, until they dump their ideological attachment to identity politics in favor of the truth—news consumers worldwide will continue to receive news reports that obfuscate more than they tell us about the world we live in.

 

THE AL JAZEERA EFFECT
Hugh Miles
Foreign Policy, February 8, 2011

 

“Long live Al Jazeera!” chanted Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square on Feb. 6. Many Arabs—not least the staff at Al Jazeera—have said for years that the Arab satellite network would help bring about a popular revolution in the Middle East. Now, after 15 years of broadcasting, it appears the prediction has come true. There is little question that the network played a key role in the revolution that began as a ripple in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, and ended up a wave that threatens to wash away Egypt’s long-standing regime.…

Al Jazeera’s powerful images of angry crowds and bloody morgues undercut the Egyptian regime’s self-serving arguments and stood in sharp contrast to the state-run TV channels, which promoted such a dishonest version of events that some of their journalists resigned in disgust. At least one popular TV talk-show presenter, Mahmoud Saad, was later seen being carried on the shoulders of triumphant demonstrators in Tahrir Square. While Al Jazeera was showing hundreds of thousands of people calling for the end of the regime, Egyptian TV showed humdrum scenes of traffic quietly passing by; when Al Jazeera reported hundreds of people queuing for bread and petrol, Egyptian TV showed happy shoppers with full fridges using footage filmed at an unknown time in the past.

During the uprising in Cairo, the Egyptian government systematically targeted Al Jazeera in an attempt to impede the network’s gathering and broadcasting of news. On Jan. 27 Al Jazeera Mubasher, the network’s livechannel, was dropped by the government-run satellite transmission company, Nilesat. On Jan. 30, outgoing Egyptian Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi ordered the offices of all Al Jazeera bureaus in Egypt to be shut down and the accreditation of all network journalists to be revoked. At the height of the protests, Nilesat broke its contractual agreement with the network and stopped transmitting the signal of Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel—which meant viewers outside Egypt could only follow the channel on satellites not controlled by the Egyptian authorities. To the rescue came at least 10 other Arabic-language TV stations, which stepped in and offered to carry Al Jazeera’s content.…

[On Jan. 31], six Al Jazeera English journalists were briefly detained and then released, their camera equipment confiscated by the Egyptian military. On Feb. 3, two unnamed Al Jazeera English journalists were attacked by Mubarak supporters; three more were detained. On Feb. 4, Al Jazeera’s Cairo office was stormed and vandalized by pro-Mubarak supporters. Equipment was set on fire and the Cairo bureau chief and an Al Jazeera correspondent were arrested. Two days later, the Egyptian military detained another correspondent, Ayman Mohyeldin; he was released after nine hours in custody. The Al Jazeera website has also been under relentless cyberattack since the onset of the uprising.…

After the first few days of the uprising, the Egyptian state media began running an insidious propaganda campaign in an apparent effort to terrorize ordinary Egyptians into staying at home and off the streets. Channel 1 on Egypt state TV issued vague yet alarming warnings about armed thugs trying to infiltrate the protests and later broadcast live phone-ins in which members of the public complained about looting and disorder.… Egyptian state media also issued warnings of international journalists with a “hidden agenda” and accused Al Jazeera of “inciting the people.” One supposed “foreign agent” was shown on Egyptian state TV with face obscured, claiming that she had been trained by “Americans and Israelis” in Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based.

But the lid on Pandora’s box has been prized open.… Given Al Jazeera’s enormous influence on the Arab street and its…message that Arab dictatorships are, in fact, mortal, it is no wonder dictators and despots across the region have been left feeling rather rattled.… But whether the Al Jazeera effect will continue to ripple across the Middle East or the heavy hand of state pressure will attempt to shut Pandora’s box again—however temporarily—is yet too close to call.

 

You are cordially invited to a film screening to be held at the Beth Zion Congregation on Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 8:00 PM. The documentary “Iranium” gives the viewing public a better understanding of the threat posed by a nuclear Iran. The Honourable Irwin Cotler MP will be the guest speaker. Prof. Cotler’s knowledge of the repressive Iranian regime is vast and his work on international human rights issues is tremendous.

A true social action program, there will be a petition available for signing, which will ask the Federal government to redouble its efforts to hold the Iranian leadership accountable for state-sanctioned domestic repression and human rights abuses. Prof. Cotler has promised to personally bring this petition to the House of Commons.

Please call the Beth Zion office at 514-489-8411 #24 to reserve your place.

THE WAR IN IRAQ— THROUGH THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER…

 

 

RUMSFELD’S ‘SLICE OF HISTORY’
Kimberly Strassel
Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2011

 

“I’d read other folks’ books about things I’d been involved in…and I’d think, My goodness, that’s not my perspective,” chuckles former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in [our] interview.… “I remember talking to [former Secretary of State] George Shultz and he said, ‘Don, that’s the way it is. Everyone has their slice of history and you need to write yours one day so that it is part of the records.’”

History, meet Mr. Rumsfeld’s view. With [the] release of “Known and Unknown”—the 78-year-old’s memoir…—“Rummy” is offering his slice of history.…

At the heart of Mr. Rumsfeld’s book is an important critique of the Bush administration that has been largely missing from the debate over Iraq. The dominant narrative to date has been that a cowboy president and his posse of neocons went to war without adequate preparation and ran roughshod over doubts by more sober bureaucratic and strategic minds.

What Mr. Rumsfeld offers is a far more believable account of events, one that holds individuals responsible for failures of execution. He describes a White House with internal problems, at the heart of which was a National Security Council overseen in Mr. Bush’s first term by Condoleezza Rice. Ms. Rice’s style of management, argues Mr. Rumsfeld, led to indecision, which in turn led to the lack of a coherent post-invasion plan, to a sluggish transfer of power to Iraqis, and to a festering insurgency. If nothing else, this gives historians something valuable to ponder as they work on an honest appraisal of the Bush years.…

Mr. Rumsfeld devotes an early chapter to his meditations on the purpose of the National Security Council (NSC), accompanied by his judgment that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice did a poor job of airing and debating substantive disagreements between the State and Defense departments. Rivalries between State and Defense are nothing new, yet Ms. Rice’s most “notable feature” of management, writes Mr. Rumsfeld, “was her commitment, whenever possible, to ‘bridging’ differences between the agencies, rather than bringing those differences to the President for decisions.…”

The memoir relates notable instances when this dynamic played out, but none with more consequence than the muddled plan for post-war Iraq. The Defense Department pushed early on “to do what we’d done in Afghanistan”—where a tribal loya jirga had quickly anointed Hamid Karzai as leader. “The goal was to move quickly to have an Iraqi face on the leadership in the country, as opposed to a foreign occupation.” Mr. Rumsfeld’s early takeaway from NSC meetings was that “the president agreed.”

Yet Colin Powell’s State Department was adamantly opposed. It was suspicious of allowing Iraqi exiles to help govern, claiming they’d undermine “legitimacy.” It also didn’t believe a joint U.S.-Iraqi power-sharing agreement would work. These were clear, substantive policy differences, yet in Mr. Rumsfeld’s telling, Ms. Rice allowed the impasse to drag on.

The result was the long, damaging regency of Paul Bremer as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority—which Mr. Rumsfeld believes helped inspire the initial Iraq insurgency. Mr. Bremer, who set up shop in one of Saddam’s opulent palaces, continued to postpone the creation of an Iraqi transitional government. He instead appointed a “governing council” of Iraqis but refused to give even them any responsibility. The result: delays in elections and in building post-Saddam institutions.…

Officially, Mr. Bremer reported to Mr. Rumsfeld. But he “viewed himself as the president’s man, had a background in the State Department, and a relationship with Condi Rice,” says Mr. Rumsfeld. So Mr. Bremer chose what guidance he preferred, which Mr. Rumsfeld describes as the equivalent of having “four or eight hands on the steering wheel.” Critical issues—whom the U.S. should support, who should have power, how quickly to turn over authority—lingered. I ask Mr. Rumsfeld why he didn’t simply fire Mr. Bremer. He says he couldn’t. Mr. Bremer was “a presidential envoy” and served at Mr. Bush’s pleasure.

Mr. Rumsfeld somewhat shields the president in his book. When the president was brought options, insists Mr. Rumsfeld, “he was perfectly willing” to make decisions. Then again, the book makes clear that Mr. Bush was aware of the ugly conflicts between State and Defense. And there’s no getting around Mr. Bush’s responsibility as wartime manager and Ms. Rice’s boss.

Mr. Rumsfeld is less blunt about his own department’s mistakes, though he does sidle into them. One question is why it took so long to replace Gens. George Casey and John Abizaid, on whose watch the Iraqi insurgency grew. Mr. Rumsfeld’s memoir notes that no one on the NSC or the Joint Chiefs had recommended they be removed by the autumn of 2006, Mr. Rumsfeld’s last months on the job. Yet he does acknowledge a visit in September of 2006 from retired Gen. Jack Keane, a key architect of the surge, who warned that the two generals were not “sufficiently aware of the gravity of the situation.” When I ask Mr. Rumsfeld if they were indeed left in Iraq too long, he concedes: “In retrospect, you could make that case.”

He isn’t as willing to acknowledge that he was slow to address Iraq’s insurgency. It was never one insurgency, he says, but rather it “evolved, and took different shapes.” The first wave, he says, was “Saddam and his Baathists attempting to regain power” aided by “criminals” whom Saddam had released from jail. Then came the influx of terrorists—“facilitated through Damascus”—coming to fight against Americans. Al Qaeda joined the fray, as did a Shiite uprising under Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. “We couldn’t lose any battles over there, but we couldn’t beat them militarily,” he says. “Because there was no one to beat. It was a totally unconventional asymmetrical circumstance.”

Mr. Rumsfeld thus takes an unorthodox view of the significance of President Bush’s surge, which began to take effect in early 2007. He argues that by 2006 things were, in fact, improving in Iraq. The Anbar Awakening—which Mr. Rumsfeld credits as beginning in the fall of 2006—“had convinced a lot of Sunnis they didn’t want to be associated with al Qaeda,” and “the government of Iraq was evolving the ability to take on some of the radicals” with the help of Iraqi security forces that had become “very capable.”

As a result, he argues, the force of President Bush’s surge was as much “psychological” as anything else. “The president’s decision galvanized the opinion in Iraq. It said: ‘Look, if you think it is going to go to the insurgents, you are wrong.’” The fact of the statement, argues Mr. Rumsfeld, mattered as much as did the increase of troops “tactically or strategically.”

Though viewed by many as the spear of Mr. Bush’s “freedom agenda,” Mr. Rumsfeld also expresses misgivings about “nation-building.” He disagrees with the “Pottery Barn rule”—attributed to Mr. Powell—that “if you break it, you own it,” arguing Iraq was already broken under Saddam. While he acknowledges that the U.S. had security obligations to Iraq, he expresses discomfort with Mr. Bush’s broad promises for democracy, and he worries that countries too frequently develop an overreliance on the U.S.…

Mr. Rumsfeld’s critics are bitter that his memoir didn’t go the obvious commercial route, serving up a grand apology for his role in the wars. Yet readers might be appreciative to find themselves in possession of a serious memoir, more in keeping with the older Washington tradition of Dean Acheson or Henry Kissinger. As might the historians.

 

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE: THE RUMSFELD VIEW
Editorial
Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2011

 

Following are excerpts from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s new book, “Known and Unknown.….”

Mr. Rumsfeld discloses that, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush never asked his defense chief whether he thought the invasion a good idea:

While President Bush and I had many discussions about the war preparations, I do not recall his ever asking me if I thought going to war with Iraq was the right decision. The President was the one charged with the tough choice to commit U.S. forces. I did not speculate on the thought process that brought him to his ultimate, necessarily lonely decision. We were all hearing the same things in briefing after briefing, and one National Security Council meeting after another, mulling over what we knew of the Iraqi regime and what the intelligence community believed about its capabilities and intentions. Though there were differences among us, they were not differences at the substantive or strategic levels of whether or not to allow Saddam Hussein’s regime to remain in power. Not one person in NSC meetings at which I was present stated or hinted that they were opposed to, or even hesitant, about the president’s decision. I took it that Bush assumed, as I did, that each of us had reached the same conclusion.

As the occupation of Iraq turned ugly, stories emerged that Ms. Rice was going to take over management of postwar Iraq and oversight of Coalition Provisional Authority chief L. Paul Bremer from the Pentagon :

…I had been eager for the State Department to accept more responsibility in Iraq and would have been the last person to shut them out. When we asked the State Department to send experts to Iraq, they failed to meet their quotas. When we asked for support for reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and Iraq, they struggled to fill them. When the State Department was in charge of training the Iraqi police, it did not get the job done.… I was skeptical that either the National Security Council or the State Department truly wanted to be accountable for the administration’s Iraq policy, and I was all too aware that Rice and the NSC were not able to manage it.

On Oct. 6, 2003, I sent a memo to the president with copies to Vice President Cheney and [White House Chief of Staff] Andy Card. “In Monday’s paper,” I wrote, “Condi, in effect, announced that the President is concerned about the post-war Iraq stabilization efforts and that, as a result, he has asked Condi Rice and the National Security Council to assume responsibility for post-war Iraq.” I recommended that Bremer’s reporting relationship be formally moved from Defense to the NSC or state. I further noted that I had told Bremer months earlier that I would prefer to have him report to the president, Rice, or Powell.… No one took up my offer. In fact, Rice shortly thereafter reversed herself, apparently at the president’s insistence, and informed the press that, contrary to her previous announcement, nothing about the administration’s Iraq policy had changed.…

After the disclosure of abuses at the military’s Abu Ghraib detention facility, Mr. Rumsfeld writes that he offered his resignation in response:

The previous week had been excruciating because the scandal was so damaging to our armed forces and the country. I generally thrived under pressure, but I wasn’t thriving now. Abu Ghraib was threatening to consume the Defense Department, eclipsing the fine work thousands of service-men and -women did every day.…

On May 10, 2004, President Bush came to the Pentagon for a briefing on Iraq.… As we sat at the round table in my office overlooking the Pentagon’s River Entrance, I handed him a…letter of resignation. “By this letter I am resigning as secretary of defense,” it read. “I have concluded that the damage from the acts of abuse that happened on my watch, by individuals for whose conduct I am ultimately responsible, can best be responded to by my resignation.…” Nonetheless, [the President] insisted that he wanted some time to think about it and to consult with others. The next day, Vice President Cheney came to the Pentagon. “Don, 35 years ago this week, I went to work for you,” he said, “and on this one you’re wrong.” In the end, Bush refused to accept my resignation.

(Adapted from Known and Unknown: A Memoir by Donald Rumsfeld.…)

 

DONALD RUMSFELD’S IRAQ REVISIONISM
Dan Senor & Roman Martinez

Washington Post, February 15, 2011

 

What went wrong in Iraq? According to Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir, U.S. difficulties stemmed not from the Pentagon’s failure to plan for the war’s aftermath—or Rumsfeld’s unwillingness as defense secretary to provide enough troops to secure Iraqis after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Rumsfeld pins most of the blame on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for its alleged mishandling of Iraq’s political transition in 2003-04, which “stoked nationalist resentments” and “fanned the embers of what would become the Iraqi insurgency.”

We were Defense Department officials through the early phases of the war and worked for the CPA in Baghdad. We have defended many of the difficult decisions Rumsfeld made and respect his service to our country. But his book paints an inaccurate and unfair history of U.S. policymaking concerning Iraq’s political transition.

Rumsfeld’s basic theme is that the CPA erred by failing to grant Iraqis “the right to govern themselves” early in the U.S.-led occupation. Rumsfeld claims that he favored a “swift transition” of power to an “Iraqi transitional government” and that the Bush administration formally endorsed this strategy when it approved the Pentagon’s plan for an Iraqi Interim Authority in March 2003. He writes that the head of the CPA, L. Paul Bremer, unilaterally decided not to implement this plan.

But Rumsfeld’s own contemporaneous memos undermine this notion. The 26 “Principles for Iraq—Policy Guidelines” that Rumsfeld gave Bremer in May 2003 said nothing about handing real power to Iraqis.… The CPA should “assert authority over the country,” he wrote, and should “not accept or tolerate self-appointed [Iraqi] ‘leaders.’” There should be “clarity that the Coalition is in charge, with no conflicting signals to the Iraqi people,” Rumsfeld wrote. He directed Bremer to take a “hands-on” approach to Iraq’s “political reconstruction,” noting that “the Coalition will consistently steer the process to achieve the stated objectives” and should “not ‘let a thousand flowers bloom.’” The “transition from despotism to a democracy will not happen easily or fast.…” he concluded.

If Rumsfeld’s goal was to quickly empower an Iraqi government, this was a strange way to communicate that objective.

Rumsfeld also claims that the Bush administration decided, before the war, to hand over power to an unelected sovereign Iraqi government. [However], shortly after the end of major combat operations, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith testified before a House committee on May 15, 2003, that the administration planned for the CPA to govern Iraq. The CPA would establish an Iraqi Interim Authority (IIA), Feith explained, whose most important responsibility would be to design the process by which Iraqis would create a new Iraqi government after drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

The president and his top advisers explicitly decided not to make the IIA a fully empowered Iraqi government. As one declassified Pentagon memo explained, the IIA would “take responsibility” for overseeing certain government offices and ministries—but only as determined by the CPA. And Pentagon officials envisioned that the CPA would retain an absolute veto over any IIA decision.…

[Yet], Rumsfeld claims that it was “startling news” when Bremer wrote…in September 2003 that a fully empowered sovereign Iraqi government would take power only after elections were held under a new and democratic constitution. But Bremer had confirmed this exact sequence of events repeatedly in the summer of 2003, in private memos to the president and Rumsfeld, public speeches and the CPA strategic plan that he shared with Rumsfeld for comments in early July. Rumsfeld criticizes the plan now, but he agreed with it at the time: “You’re on the mark,” he wrote to Bremer in September 2003. “I agree with your memo and will send it to [the president] and members of the [National Security Council].…”

Without basic security for ordinary Iraqis, it was extraordinarily difficult to achieve lasting progress in Iraq, especially with respect to a political transition that required negotiation and compromise among competing factions. Establishing public safety was what we failed to do during Rumsfeld’s tenure. Only after he resigned and President Bush deployed more troops and a traditional counterinsurgency approach did things begin to turn around.

Policymakers in Washington and Baghdad did their best to craft workable solutions under extreme circumstances. We at the CPA certainly made our share of mistakes. We only wish Rumsfeld would accept responsibility for his.

(The writers were based in Baghdad in 2003-04 as officials of the Defense Department
and the Coalition Provisional Authority.
)

THE WAR IN IRAQ— THROUGH THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER…

 

 

RUMSFELD’S ‘SLICE OF HISTORY’
Kimberly Strassel
Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2011

 

“I’d read other folks’ books about things I’d been involved in…and I’d think, My goodness, that’s not my perspective,” chuckles former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in [our] interview.… “I remember talking to [former Secretary of State] George Shultz and he said, ‘Don, that’s the way it is. Everyone has their slice of history and you need to write yours one day so that it is part of the records.’”

History, meet Mr. Rumsfeld’s view. With [the] release of “Known and Unknown”—the 78-year-old’s memoir…—“Rummy” is offering his slice of history.…

At the heart of Mr. Rumsfeld’s book is an important critique of the Bush administration that has been largely missing from the debate over Iraq. The dominant narrative to date has been that a cowboy president and his posse of neocons went to war without adequate preparation and ran roughshod over doubts by more sober bureaucratic and strategic minds.

What Mr. Rumsfeld offers is a far more believable account of events, one that holds individuals responsible for failures of execution. He describes a White House with internal problems, at the heart of which was a National Security Council overseen in Mr. Bush’s first term by Condoleezza Rice. Ms. Rice’s style of management, argues Mr. Rumsfeld, led to indecision, which in turn led to the lack of a coherent post-invasion plan, to a sluggish transfer of power to Iraqis, and to a festering insurgency. If nothing else, this gives historians something valuable to ponder as they work on an honest appraisal of the Bush years.…

Mr. Rumsfeld devotes an early chapter to his meditations on the purpose of the National Security Council (NSC), accompanied by his judgment that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice did a poor job of airing and debating substantive disagreements between the State and Defense departments. Rivalries between State and Defense are nothing new, yet Ms. Rice’s most “notable feature” of management, writes Mr. Rumsfeld, “was her commitment, whenever possible, to ‘bridging’ differences between the agencies, rather than bringing those differences to the President for decisions.…”

The memoir relates notable instances when this dynamic played out, but none with more consequence than the muddled plan for post-war Iraq. The Defense Department pushed early on “to do what we’d done in Afghanistan”—where a tribal loya jirga had quickly anointed Hamid Karzai as leader. “The goal was to move quickly to have an Iraqi face on the leadership in the country, as opposed to a foreign occupation.” Mr. Rumsfeld’s early takeaway from NSC meetings was that “the president agreed.”

Yet Colin Powell’s State Department was adamantly opposed. It was suspicious of allowing Iraqi exiles to help govern, claiming they’d undermine “legitimacy.” It also didn’t believe a joint U.S.-Iraqi power-sharing agreement would work. These were clear, substantive policy differences, yet in Mr. Rumsfeld’s telling, Ms. Rice allowed the impasse to drag on.

The result was the long, damaging regency of Paul Bremer as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority—which Mr. Rumsfeld believes helped inspire the initial Iraq insurgency. Mr. Bremer, who set up shop in one of Saddam’s opulent palaces, continued to postpone the creation of an Iraqi transitional government. He instead appointed a “governing council” of Iraqis but refused to give even them any responsibility. The result: delays in elections and in building post-Saddam institutions.…

Officially, Mr. Bremer reported to Mr. Rumsfeld. But he “viewed himself as the president’s man, had a background in the State Department, and a relationship with Condi Rice,” says Mr. Rumsfeld. So Mr. Bremer chose what guidance he preferred, which Mr. Rumsfeld describes as the equivalent of having “four or eight hands on the steering wheel.” Critical issues—whom the U.S. should support, who should have power, how quickly to turn over authority—lingered. I ask Mr. Rumsfeld why he didn’t simply fire Mr. Bremer. He says he couldn’t. Mr. Bremer was “a presidential envoy” and served at Mr. Bush’s pleasure.

Mr. Rumsfeld somewhat shields the president in his book. When the president was brought options, insists Mr. Rumsfeld, “he was perfectly willing” to make decisions. Then again, the book makes clear that Mr. Bush was aware of the ugly conflicts between State and Defense. And there’s no getting around Mr. Bush’s responsibility as wartime manager and Ms. Rice’s boss.

Mr. Rumsfeld is less blunt about his own department’s mistakes, though he does sidle into them. One question is why it took so long to replace Gens. George Casey and John Abizaid, on whose watch the Iraqi insurgency grew. Mr. Rumsfeld’s memoir notes that no one on the NSC or the Joint Chiefs had recommended they be removed by the autumn of 2006, Mr. Rumsfeld’s last months on the job. Yet he does acknowledge a visit in September of 2006 from retired Gen. Jack Keane, a key architect of the surge, who warned that the two generals were not “sufficiently aware of the gravity of the situation.” When I ask Mr. Rumsfeld if they were indeed left in Iraq too long, he concedes: “In retrospect, you could make that case.”

He isn’t as willing to acknowledge that he was slow to address Iraq’s insurgency. It was never one insurgency, he says, but rather it “evolved, and took different shapes.” The first wave, he says, was “Saddam and his Baathists attempting to regain power” aided by “criminals” whom Saddam had released from jail. Then came the influx of terrorists—“facilitated through Damascus”—coming to fight against Americans. Al Qaeda joined the fray, as did a Shiite uprising under Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. “We couldn’t lose any battles over there, but we couldn’t beat them militarily,” he says. “Because there was no one to beat. It was a totally unconventional asymmetrical circumstance.”

Mr. Rumsfeld thus takes an unorthodox view of the significance of President Bush’s surge, which began to take effect in early 2007. He argues that by 2006 things were, in fact, improving in Iraq. The Anbar Awakening—which Mr. Rumsfeld credits as beginning in the fall of 2006—“had convinced a lot of Sunnis they didn’t want to be associated with al Qaeda,” and “the government of Iraq was evolving the ability to take on some of the radicals” with the help of Iraqi security forces that had become “very capable.”

As a result, he argues, the force of President Bush’s surge was as much “psychological” as anything else. “The president’s decision galvanized the opinion in Iraq. It said: ‘Look, if you think it is going to go to the insurgents, you are wrong.’” The fact of the statement, argues Mr. Rumsfeld, mattered as much as did the increase of troops “tactically or strategically.”

Though viewed by many as the spear of Mr. Bush’s “freedom agenda,” Mr. Rumsfeld also expresses misgivings about “nation-building.” He disagrees with the “Pottery Barn rule”—attributed to Mr. Powell—that “if you break it, you own it,” arguing Iraq was already broken under Saddam. While he acknowledges that the U.S. had security obligations to Iraq, he expresses discomfort with Mr. Bush’s broad promises for democracy, and he worries that countries too frequently develop an overreliance on the U.S.…

Mr. Rumsfeld’s critics are bitter that his memoir didn’t go the obvious commercial route, serving up a grand apology for his role in the wars. Yet readers might be appreciative to find themselves in possession of a serious memoir, more in keeping with the older Washington tradition of Dean Acheson or Henry Kissinger. As might the historians.

 

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE: THE RUMSFELD VIEW
Editorial
Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2011

 

Following are excerpts from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s new book, “Known and Unknown.….”

Mr. Rumsfeld discloses that, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush never asked his defense chief whether he thought the invasion a good idea:

While President Bush and I had many discussions about the war preparations, I do not recall his ever asking me if I thought going to war with Iraq was the right decision. The President was the one charged with the tough choice to commit U.S. forces. I did not speculate on the thought process that brought him to his ultimate, necessarily lonely decision. We were all hearing the same things in briefing after briefing, and one National Security Council meeting after another, mulling over what we knew of the Iraqi regime and what the intelligence community believed about its capabilities and intentions. Though there were differences among us, they were not differences at the substantive or strategic levels of whether or not to allow Saddam Hussein’s regime to remain in power. Not one person in NSC meetings at which I was present stated or hinted that they were opposed to, or even hesitant, about the president’s decision. I took it that Bush assumed, as I did, that each of us had reached the same conclusion.

As the occupation of Iraq turned ugly, stories emerged that Ms. Rice was going to take over management of postwar Iraq and oversight of Coalition Provisional Authority chief L. Paul Bremer from the Pentagon :

…I had been eager for the State Department to accept more responsibility in Iraq and would have been the last person to shut them out. When we asked the State Department to send experts to Iraq, they failed to meet their quotas. When we asked for support for reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and Iraq, they struggled to fill them. When the State Department was in charge of training the Iraqi police, it did not get the job done.… I was skeptical that either the National Security Council or the State Department truly wanted to be accountable for the administration’s Iraq policy, and I was all too aware that Rice and the NSC were not able to manage it.

On Oct. 6, 2003, I sent a memo to the president with copies to Vice President Cheney and [White House Chief of Staff] Andy Card. “In Monday’s paper,” I wrote, “Condi, in effect, announced that the President is concerned about the post-war Iraq stabilization efforts and that, as a result, he has asked Condi Rice and the National Security Council to assume responsibility for post-war Iraq.” I recommended that Bremer’s reporting relationship be formally moved from Defense to the NSC or state. I further noted that I had told Bremer months earlier that I would prefer to have him report to the president, Rice, or Powell.… No one took up my offer. In fact, Rice shortly thereafter reversed herself, apparently at the president’s insistence, and informed the press that, contrary to her previous announcement, nothing about the administration’s Iraq policy had changed.…

After the disclosure of abuses at the military’s Abu Ghraib detention facility, Mr. Rumsfeld writes that he offered his resignation in response:

The previous week had been excruciating because the scandal was so damaging to our armed forces and the country. I generally thrived under pressure, but I wasn’t thriving now. Abu Ghraib was threatening to consume the Defense Department, eclipsing the fine work thousands of service-men and -women did every day.…

On May 10, 2004, President Bush came to the Pentagon for a briefing on Iraq.… As we sat at the round table in my office overlooking the Pentagon’s River Entrance, I handed him a…letter of resignation. “By this letter I am resigning as secretary of defense,” it read. “I have concluded that the damage from the acts of abuse that happened on my watch, by individuals for whose conduct I am ultimately responsible, can best be responded to by my resignation.…” Nonetheless, [the President] insisted that he wanted some time to think about it and to consult with others. The next day, Vice President Cheney came to the Pentagon. “Don, 35 years ago this week, I went to work for you,” he said, “and on this one you’re wrong.” In the end, Bush refused to accept my resignation.

(Adapted from Known and Unknown: A Memoir by Donald Rumsfeld.…)

 

DONALD RUMSFELD’S IRAQ REVISIONISM
Dan Senor & Roman Martinez

Washington Post, February 15, 2011

 

What went wrong in Iraq? According to Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir, U.S. difficulties stemmed not from the Pentagon’s failure to plan for the war’s aftermath—or Rumsfeld’s unwillingness as defense secretary to provide enough troops to secure Iraqis after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Rumsfeld pins most of the blame on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for its alleged mishandling of Iraq’s political transition in 2003-04, which “stoked nationalist resentments” and “fanned the embers of what would become the Iraqi insurgency.”

We were Defense Department officials through the early phases of the war and worked for the CPA in Baghdad. We have defended many of the difficult decisions Rumsfeld made and respect his service to our country. But his book paints an inaccurate and unfair history of U.S. policymaking concerning Iraq’s political transition.

Rumsfeld’s basic theme is that the CPA erred by failing to grant Iraqis “the right to govern themselves” early in the U.S.-led occupation. Rumsfeld claims that he favored a “swift transition” of power to an “Iraqi transitional government” and that the Bush administration formally endorsed this strategy when it approved the Pentagon’s plan for an Iraqi Interim Authority in March 2003. He writes that the head of the CPA, L. Paul Bremer, unilaterally decided not to implement this plan.

But Rumsfeld’s own contemporaneous memos undermine this notion. The 26 “Principles for Iraq—Policy Guidelines” that Rumsfeld gave Bremer in May 2003 said nothing about handing real power to Iraqis.… The CPA should “assert authority over the country,” he wrote, and should “not accept or tolerate self-appointed [Iraqi] ‘leaders.’” There should be “clarity that the Coalition is in charge, with no conflicting signals to the Iraqi people,” Rumsfeld wrote. He directed Bremer to take a “hands-on” approach to Iraq’s “political reconstruction,” noting that “the Coalition will consistently steer the process to achieve the stated objectives” and should “not ‘let a thousand flowers bloom.’” The “transition from despotism to a democracy will not happen easily or fast.…” he concluded.

If Rumsfeld’s goal was to quickly empower an Iraqi government, this was a strange way to communicate that objective.

Rumsfeld also claims that the Bush administration decided, before the war, to hand over power to an unelected sovereign Iraqi government. [However], shortly after the end of major combat operations, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith testified before a House committee on May 15, 2003, that the administration planned for the CPA to govern Iraq. The CPA would establish an Iraqi Interim Authority (IIA), Feith explained, whose most important responsibility would be to design the process by which Iraqis would create a new Iraqi government after drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

The president and his top advisers explicitly decided not to make the IIA a fully empowered Iraqi government. As one declassified Pentagon memo explained, the IIA would “take responsibility” for overseeing certain government offices and ministries—but only as determined by the CPA. And Pentagon officials envisioned that the CPA would retain an absolute veto over any IIA decision.…

[Yet], Rumsfeld claims that it was “startling news” when Bremer wrote…in September 2003 that a fully empowered sovereign Iraqi government would take power only after elections were held under a new and democratic constitution. But Bremer had confirmed this exact sequence of events repeatedly in the summer of 2003, in private memos to the president and Rumsfeld, public speeches and the CPA strategic plan that he shared with Rumsfeld for comments in early July. Rumsfeld criticizes the plan now, but he agreed with it at the time: “You’re on the mark,” he wrote to Bremer in September 2003. “I agree with your memo and will send it to [the president] and members of the [National Security Council].…”

Without basic security for ordinary Iraqis, it was extraordinarily difficult to achieve lasting progress in Iraq, especially with respect to a political transition that required negotiation and compromise among competing factions. Establishing public safety was what we failed to do during Rumsfeld’s tenure. Only after he resigned and President Bush deployed more troops and a traditional counterinsurgency approach did things begin to turn around.

Policymakers in Washington and Baghdad did their best to craft workable solutions under extreme circumstances. We at the CPA certainly made our share of mistakes. We only wish Rumsfeld would accept responsibility for his.

(The writers were based in Baghdad in 2003-04 as officials of the Defense Department
and the Coalition Provisional Authority.
)

WEDNESDAY’S “NEWS IN REVIEW” ROUND-UP

 

 

“The following quotations are from ‘Jihad is the Way,’ a Muslim Brotherhood publication, illustrating central ideas of its ideology.…

“National goal: Islamic world domination
…the Islamic Ummah [nation]…can regain its power and be liberated and assume its rightful position which was intended by Allah, as the most exalted nation among men , as the leaders of humanity.… Know your status, and believe firmly that you are the masters of the world, even if your enemies desire your degradation.…

“Means: Jihad—a mandatory religious duty
Then comes the power of arms and weapons,… and this is the role of Jihad.Jihad is a religious public duty…incumbent upon the Islamic nation, and is a personal duty to fend off the infidels’ attack on the nation.… The symbol of the [Muslim] Brotherhood is the book of Allah [the Quran] between two swords. The swords symbolize Jihad and the force that protects the truth represented in Allah’s book.… That is, go out to battle, oh believers, young and old, by foot or with animal, under all circumstances and conditions.…

“Timing: Don’t rush, prepare carefully for Jihad
…despite this, the [Muslim] Brotherhood is not rushed by youth’s enthusiasm into immature and unplanned action which will not alter the bad reality and may even harm the Islamic activity, and will benefit the people of falsehood.… Prepare yourself and train in the art of warfare, and embrace the causes of power. You must learn the ways and manners and laws of war. You must learn them and embrace them and adhere to them, so that your Jihad will be the one accepted by Allah.”

“Personal goal: Aspire to Shahada—Death for Allah
Allah is our goal, the Prophet is our leader, the Quran is our constitution, the Jihad is our way, and the Death for Allah is our most exalted wish.”

Jihad against Israel:

Honorable brothers have achieved Shahada (Martyrdom) on the soil of beloved Palestine, during the years ‘47 and ‘48, [while] in their Jihad against the criminal, thieving, gangs of Zion. The Imam and Shahid (Martyr) Hassan Al-Banna is considered as a Shahid (Martyr) of Palestine, even if he was not killed on its soil.”—Excerpts from Palestinian Media Watch’s translation of “Jihad is the Way” by Mustafa Mashhur, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt from 1996-2002, describing the organization’s ambitions. (Palestinian Media Watch, February 9.)

 

Fleets of boats should take Palestinians…and wait by the Palestinian shores until the problem is resolved.… We need to create a problem for the world. This is not a declaration of war. This is a call for peace.… All Arab states which have relations with Israel are cowardly regimes.”—Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in his first major speech since the popular uprising in neighbouring Egypt, urging Palestinian refugees to capitalise on the wave of revolts in the Middle East by massing on the borders of Israel until their demands are met. (Ynet News, February 14.)

 

We have made very clear that we do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues.… And we will continue to employ the tools that we have to make sure that continues to not happen. The only way that this is going to be resolved is through engagement through the parties, and that is our clear and consistent position.”—U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, in a statement to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, confirming that the U.S. will veto a UN resolution put forth by the Palestinian Authority that condemns Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (AFP, February 10.)

 

We are presenting the inhuman actions of Israel against the Palestinians, and that for 50 years it has been slaying the Muslim public and killing children mercilessly. All of the countries in the world watched the violence on board the Marmara without doing a thing. The people who were killed there were our heroes. Our goal is not to allow anyone to forget the Zionist raid on the Marmara and to remember the suffering of the Palestinian people, who are being tormented by Israeli actions.”—Avşin Bedir, director of the new Turkish play ‘Dying to Give Life—Mavi Marmara,’ explaining the significance of the theatrical production. The show, which recently premiered in Istanbul before a crowd of approximately 1000 people, documents the May 31, 2010 Israeli “raid” on the Turkish terror ship Mavi Marmara. (Ynet News, February 9.)

 

We receive information from various countries and collect information from our own sources that give us concern over the possible use of nuclear materials for military purposes.… We are not sure if they are hiding something. We continue to press them.… For the time being, I don’t see any indication that we can make progress.… Iran is somehow producing uranium enriched to 3.5 percent and 20 percent.… A Security Council resolution asks Iran to suspend [enrichment]. But contrary to this resolution they keep doing it.”—Yukia Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in an interview in Vienna, confirming that Iran continues to produce enriched uranium at a “very steady” pace despite international sanctions. When asked whether Iranian “President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad seems very determined to build a nuclear program”, Amano replied “I have the same impression.

 

Dear Mr. Soros…I’m writing to let you know that I share your enthusiasm for democracy and open societies, but I need to challenge your view of Israel.… You might have seen the latest findings from the independent Freedom House, which reports that ‘The Middle East and North Africa remained the region with the lowest level of freedom in 2010.…’ Of the 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, 14 countries (population: 330 million) are ‘not free,’ 3 countries (population: 39.3 million) are ‘partly free’ and only one country (population: 7.6 million) is ‘free.’ That free country is Israel. Since you are…the founder of the Open Society Foundation (it works ‘to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens’), I figured that Israel’s democratic success would be a source of pride.… [However], even when you are presented with a glaring example of the value of Israel’s open and civil society, you refuse to give the country its due.… You are like many Israel bashers who call themselves ‘pro-Israel.’ They’re so used to criticizing Israel under the guise of ‘tough love,’ that when they see an opportunity to show a little pride…they quickly change the subject.… G-d forbid Israel bashers should ever take a time-out from criticism and say, ‘Israel must spread its democratic values throughout the Middle East!’ But no, that would make Israel look too good, and shift the attention to the 330 million Arabs who are not free…and whose voices have been drowned out for decades by the world’s obsession with blaming Israel for the ills of the Middle East.”—David Suissa, founder of OLAM magazine, in an open letter to George Soros, criticizing Soros’ Washington Post article in which he erroneously labels Israel as the “main stumbling block” to democratic progress in Egypt. (Jewish Journal, February 8.)

 

Such labels can be perceived as emotive, and admittedly require a finding by a court of law to be legally conclusive. However, such language, in the special rapporteur’s view, more accurately describes the realities of the occupation as of the end of 2010 than the more neutral seeming description of factual developments that disguises the structures of this occupation which has undermined the rights under international law of the Palestinian people for 43 years.… The dual discriminatory structure of settler administration, security, mobility and law as compared to the Palestinian subjugation seems to qualify the long Israeli occupation of the West Bank as an instance of apartheid.”—Disgraced UN special investigator Richard Falk, in a report which he will deliver to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March, justifying his recommendation to The International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on Israeli acts of “colonialism,” and “ethnic cleansing” in the West Bank. An outspoken critic of Israel, Falk has compared Israeli policies toward the Palestinians with those of the Nazis during WWII. Falk is also the author of a February 16, 1979 New York Times op-ed entitled “Trusting Khomeini,” in which he wrote that “The depiction of [Ayatollah Khomeini] as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false. What is also encouraging is that his entourage of close advisers is uniformly composed of moderate, progressive individuals.… Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on nonviolent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.” (Jerusalem Post & Wall Street Journal, February 15.)

 

“[I am] anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. Everything that happens today in the world has to do with the Zionists.… American Jews are behind the world economic crisis that has hit Greece also.”—Mikis Theodorakis, best known for composing the musical score to the film Zorba the Greek, blaming the world’s ills on the “Zionists.” In an interview on Greek television, Theodorakis berated Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for establishing closer relations with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was guilty, he said, of “war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center reacted to Theodorakis’ “obsessive anti-Jewish hatemongering” by calling on the International Music Council to strip the Greek composer of his 2005 IMC-UNESCO International Music Prize. (Jerusalem Post, February 15.)

Short Takes

IRAN’S NATANZ NUCLEAR FACILITY RECOVERED QUICKLY FROM STUXNET—(Vienna) According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, Iranian scientists successfully contained the damage to the Natanz nuclear facility caused by the computer worm Stuxnet. In a six-month period beginning in late 2009, U.N. officials recorded surveillance footage showing the dismantling, and subsequent replacement of more than 10 percent of the Natanz plant’s 9,000 centrifuge machines used to enrich uranium. An IAEA report due for release this month is expected to show steady or even slightly elevated production rates at the enrichment plant this past year. A draft report by Washington-based nuclear experts also concluded that the net impact of Stuxnet was relatively minor. (Washington Post, February 16.)

 

IRAN PROTEST SEES ARREST ORDER FOR OPPOSITION LEADERS—(Tehran) Iranian lawmakers and clerics have called on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to order the arrest and trial of the country’s two most prominent opposition leaders, following the largest protests in Iran for more than a year. Dozens of lawmakers led a spontaneous demonstration in parliament, pumping their fists in the air while demanding the execution of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been under house arrest since last week. In a statement, 221 members of parliament said: “We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment.”(Washington Post, February 15.)

 

EGYPT LOSING CONTROL OF SINAI TO BEDUIN—(Jerusalem) Concern is mounting in Israel over reports that the Egyptian police force has abandoned the Sinai Peninsula due to growing Bedouin violence, and that the territory will turn into a breeding ground for global jihad. In recent years, the Sinai has become a launching pad for attacks against Israel, including by Hamas, which several months ago launched Katyusha rockets into Eilat from the Egyptian territory. The mounting unrest in Sinai induced Israel two weeks ago to allow the deployment of 800 Egyptian soldiers in Sharm e-Sheikh and Rafah, the first time Egypt has had a military presence in Sinai since signing the 1979 peace accord with Israel Israel has also agreed to a second limited deployment of Egyptian troops to secure the demilitarized north Sinai, where suspected sabotage has disrupted gas supply from Egypt. Israel is urging its citizens to leave the Sinai immediately. (Jerusalem Post, February 13 & Reuters, February 16.)

 

PA TO HOLD ELECTIONS IN JULY—(Jerusalem) In response to the unrest in Egypt, the Palestinian Authority has announced that it will hold elections in local municipalities in the West Bank and Gaza on July 9, 2011. The most recent municipal elections held by the Palestinians took place in 2005, when Hamas succeeded in overtaking a number of cities in the West Bank, which led to its victory in the parliamentary elections a year later. Hamas has already announced that it will boycott elections until a truce is declared between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Fatah-ruled Ramallah. (Ynet News, February 10.)

 

PALESTINIAN EREKAT RESIGNS—(Jericho) Saeb Erekat, the longtime chief Palestinian negotiator, has resigned following a massive leak of peace process-related documents from his office. Dubbed “PaliLeaks”, the papers suggest that Palestinian negotiators, including Erekat, considered making concessions to Israel on the issues of East Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees during talks in 2008. The revelations caused a storm of controversy in the Arab world, resulting in Erakat being branded a traitor by the Palestinians. Erekat, 55, will continue serving as a member of the executive committee of the PLO, but will no longer be “involved personally” in negotiations. (Washington Post, February 15.)

 

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY SETTLES RHODE ISLAND LAWSUIT—(Providence, R.I.,) The Palestinian Authority has settled a federal lawsuit in Rhode Island over the shooting deaths of an American couple driving home from a wedding in Israel. Yaron Ungar, a 25-year-old rabbinical student, and his pregnant wife, Efrat Ungar, were killed in June 1996 in a drive-by shooting by Palestinian gunmen. The Ungars’ relatives sued in 2000 under a federal statute called the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows the estates of U.S. citizens killed by terrorist attacks overseas to recover damages. The settlement erases a $116 million default judgment entered against the Palestinian Authority for initially refusing to respond to the lawsuit. Terms of the settlement were not released. (Associated Press, February 14.)

 

SAAD HARIRI TO JOIN OPPOSITION—(Beirut) Outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has confirmed that he will join the political opposition to Hezbollah. Hariri’s successor, Hezbollah-backed billionaire Najib Mikati, is negotiating to form a cabinet and had called on Mr. Hariri to join a unity government. In an impassioned speech to supporters, Mr. Hariri accused Hezbollah and its allies of “lies, betrayal and lack of loyalty,” and reaffirmed his support for a United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Mr. Hariri’s move secures Hezbollah’s place as the dominant political force in the next Lebanese government. (Wall Street Journal, February 15.)

 

IRAQI DEFECTOR ADMITS FABRICATING BIO-WEAPONS PROGRAM—(Baghdad)

The Iraqi defector who played a key role in convincing American and British intelligence services that Iraq had a secret biological weapons program has admitted he lied. Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball, confirmed that he fabricated stories of Iraqi mobile bio-weapons trucks and clandestine nuclear factories in an attempt to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime. The admission comes just after the eighth anniversary of Colin Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations in which the then-US secretary of state, relying heavily on al-Janabi’s falsities, justified going to war in Iraq. It also follows the release of former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s memoirs, in which he admitted Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction program. (Little Green Footballs, February 15.)

 

WIKILEAKS: SYRIA, QATAR TRIED TO SABOTAGE SHALIT DEAL—(Jerusalem) According to leaked diplomatic cables, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told U.S. General David Petraeus in June 2009 that Syria and Qatar sabotaged a proposed Gilad Shalit prisoner swap by offering Hamas $50 million to keep the soldier in captivity. In the cables, Mubarak also claimed that Syria and Qatar provide regular financial support to Hamas, and that Qatar, in particular, played an important role in Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. The cables do not specify whether Hamas accepted the $50 million offer to keep Shalit hostage. (Ynet News, February 10.)

 

OBAMA UNDERCUTS BRITAIN—(New York) Documents from WikiLeaks indicate that the Obama administration, in a move to facilitate the signing of the new START treaty, agreed to pass on secret information about the British nuclear arsenal to Russia, including the serial numbers of its warheads. In 2009, the United States lobbied Britain to supply Moscow with the data needed to calculate the exact size of the British nuclear arsenal; London however, refused. It now appears that the administration provided the information, although the U.S. State Department branded the story “bunk.” (NY Post, February 10.)

 

JORDAN: KILLER OF SEVEN ISRAELI GIRLS WON’T BE RELEASED—(Jerusalem) Amidst growing domestic protests, Jordanian officials have confirmed, in response to Israel inquiries, that the country has no plans to release Ahmed Daqamseh, who gunned down seven Israeli schoolgirls at Naharayim in 1997. Jordan’s new justice minister Hussein Mjali, who had previously organized a “solidarity” movement to have the prisoner freed, joined dozens of protestors in Amman calling for the terrorist’s release. In an interview with a Jordanian Arabic-news daily, Mjali called Israel an “enemy and terrorist state,” that “arrests and practices destruction on a daily basis, [so] Ahmed al-Daqamish [must] be released.”(Jerusalem Post, February 15.)

 

TUNISIAN JEWS COMPLAIN TO FOREIGN MINISTER—(Jerusalem) The Jewish community of Tunisia has filed an official complaint with Tunisian Interior Minister Fahrat Rajhi after several of its members were harassed by protesters outside a synagogue in the capital, Tunis. Roger Bismut, the leader of the Tunisian Jewish described the events: “It was a small group of people on the way to the demonstration. Passing before the synagogues they said the prophet is coming back and the Jews should be careful.… It’s a small thing but I prefer to go to the interior minister.” Rajhi responded to the complaint by publicly promising to protect the country’s estimated 1,200 Jews from harm. (Jerusalem Post, February 15.)

DEMOCRACY IN EGYPT?—LEST WE FORGET…

 

 

IRAN: PRECONDITIONS AND PROVOCATIONS
Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, February 10, 2011

 

The January 21-22 meeting in Istanbul between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1), aimed at reaching at least some understandings regarding Iran’s nuclear program, concluded in a resounding failure. To understand why is to shed light on the larger question of Iran’s regional role.

In the course of the meeting, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, head of the Iranian delegation, laid down two preconditions: a cessation of the sanctions against Iran, and recognition of its right to nuclear fuel and enrichment. In practice, the insistence on such preconditions rendered the meeting superfluous. “These preconditions are not a way to proceed,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton noted at the end of the meeting. But they came as no surprise. As Tehran had declared both before and during the talks, it did not want to deal with the nuclear issue at all but with the “entire range of regional and international problems.”

It was a small, if telling, example of how Iranian behavior prior to, during, and following the talks attested to Iran’s sense of supreme self-confidence. Western pressure notwithstanding, Iran draws encouragement from its progress on the nuclear program, from regional developments in Lebanon and Iraq, and from the frozen negotiations in the Palestinian arena. It senses that it can persist in its provocations against the West without paying any price whatsoever.… Indeed, last month’s talks in Turkey offered Iran an opportunity to show how the center of power has shifted from Western dominance to Islamic hegemony under Tehran’s leadership.…

Upon the conclusion of the talks, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad hastened to emphasize that…the West had to reconcile itself to a nuclear Iran as a fait accompli. Western behavior towards Iran must take this fact as its point of departure, the Iranian leader insisted. “Conditions are now prepared for reaching good agreements in future sessions,” Ahmedinejad said, “if the opposite side complies with justice and respect (for Iran’s nuclear rights).” He boasted that the world powers had failed to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state, that even hundreds of superpowers could not budge Iran from its positions.…

Iran now has sufficient low-level enriched uranium to manufacture a nuclear bomb or two. If the Iranian leadership should decide, on the basis of strategic considerations at home or abroad, to do so, it could enrich uranium to the high level requisite for nuclear weapons. (Iran currently claims that it can already enrich to a level of 20 percent to supply the research needs of the Tehran reactor.)

A recent study by the Federation of American Scientists warned of complacency and a dulling of the sense of urgency on the part of the West. Inter alia, the report concluded that “despite a drop in centrifuge numbers during 2010, the total enrichment capacity of Iran’s main facility has increased relative to previous years.… It would take Iran anywhere from five months to almost a year to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a single crude bomb.…”

Reports of a delay in Iran’s nuclear progress due to the damage inflicted by the Stuxnet computer virus only reinforce Iran’s position, and at the same time allow the country to continue making progress on its clandestine military nuclear program. In their current scope, the sanctions may damage the Iranian economy and may impede the nuclear program’s pace, but are not likely to induce Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guards to forgo the military nuclear program, vital for anchoring regime stability. For the moment, then, Iran only derives encouragement from the West’s persistent haplessness.

Iran today is demonstrating that it is capable of detrimentally influencing regional politics (the Israeli-Palestinian peace process) and regional stability (in Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Afghanistan). Iran also sees itself as inspiring the democratic awakening in the Arab world (Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan), viewing events in Egypt as the direct continuation of Khomeini’s revolution.… Therefore, we must restore a sense of urgency and once more put a credible military threat on the agenda. (According to the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, in 2003 such a threat caused Iran temporarily to abandon the military track of its nuclear program due to apprehensions about an American attack.)

American President Barack Obama has the opportunity to “correct” the line that he adopted at the start of his term vis-à-vis Iran, a line that allowed Iran to harden its position on the nuclear issue and intensify its influence in Middle Eastern affairs.… The alternative is grim: a weakening of the moderate Arab camp, a strengthening of the “resistance camp” (Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, and the other Palestinian terror organizations influenced by Iran), and a steep decline in American influence in the region. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, “We have time. But not a lot of time.”

 

BEIRUT CALLING
John R. Bolton
LA Times, February 3, 2011

 

Despite the media’s recent focus on Egypt, events in Lebanon may well tell us more about the troubled prospects for Middle Eastern democracy. The fall of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government, replaced by a Hezbollah-dominated coalition, dramatically imperils Beirut’s democratic Cedar Revolution.

Financed and dominated by Iran, terrorist Hezbollah has consistently refused to disarm and become a legitimate political party. Instead, it enjoys the best of both worlds, contesting elections while retaining the military ability to enforce its will against uncongenial results. History will rightly blame the West for the tragedy of the takeover in Beirut, because of its unwillingness to stand against Hezbollah and its Iranian puppet masters.…

In mid-January at The Hague, the prosecutor for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon submitted long-awaited indictments regarding the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Although the indictments are not yet public, they are widely expected to finger top leaders in Hezbollah, Syria and potentially Iran, and they are doubtless behind Hezbollah’s decision to assert itself by collapsing the government of Hariri’s son.

Rescuing Lebanon from radicals and terrorists will require strong action, noticeably absent in recent U.S. policy. We can no longer pretend that the special tribunal’s existence is an adequate response to the real problem in Lebanon: Tehran’s long-standing drive for regional hegemony. It was always a mistake to confuse the effectiveness of an international criminal court with courts of real constitutional governments, and harmfully naive to think that the special tribunal could operate in a vacuum, as the events in Lebanon make painfully clear.…

For years before Hariri’s February 2005 murder, the West explained away or ignored Hezbollah’s clear role as an active agent of Syrian and Iranian influence. Western dupes and sympathizers noted Hezbollah’s support for schools and hospitals among Lebanon’s Shiite Muslims as if it were a different Hezbollah from the one terrorizing Israel and subverting and intimidating Lebanon’s faltering efforts at representative government. Hezbollah’s diaphanous justification for its military capability—expelling Israel from Lebanon—in effect ended in 2000 when Israel complied with U.N. Security Council resolutions by withdrawing its forces from southern Lebanon. Of course, protecting Lebanon is legitimately the responsibility only of the Lebanese armed forces, which in fact Syria and Hezbollah have also been working to bring under their control.

Western support for Lebanese democracy has been for the most part limited to a series of Security Council resolutions, particularly Resolution 1559, calling for Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, and Resolution 1595, creating an international investigation commission to assist Lebanon in prosecuting the Hariri assassination. But Hezbollah foiled these efforts in 2006 by provoking war with Israel. The Security Council ultimately imposed a cease-fire and called for “the disarming of all armed groups in Lebanon,” for an embargo against rearming Hezbollah and for Lebanon’s government to take control of its entire territory, in order to eliminate Hezbollah’s state within a state.

But, as so often before, the West did not follow through. Instead, Iran and Syria rearmed and restored Hezbollah to greater strength (unequivocally demonstrating that Hezbollah was their proxy).

The West must insist on enforcing the Security Council resolutions in support of Lebanese sovereignty and peaceful, representative government, or stop engaging in meaningless gestures. This is our last opportunity before Hezbollah’s armed capabilities swallow democracy in Lebanon, perhaps permanently, and dramatically increase the risk of renewed hostilities throughout the region.…

Unlike Washington’s repeated prior failures, we must refuse to recognize any Hezbollah-dominated government as legitimate.… The White House has been obsessed for two years with pressuring Israel to make concessions to Palestinians instead of focusing on the manifestations of Iran’s menace. Perhaps the humiliation of Hezbollah’s collapsing of Saad Hariri’s government as Hariri was meeting in the Oval Office will help spur Obama into meaningful action. If not, the lights will be going out in Lebanon for a long time to come, with devastating consequences in the broader Middle East.

 

(John R. Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.)

OBAMA AND [THE] SYRIAN TRAP
Matthew RJ Brodsky

Ynet News, January 5, 2011

 

…The Obama administration is eyeing an opportunity to make headway with Syria. The theory is nothing new: If the regime in Damascus can make peace with Israel, end its sponsorship of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, distance itself from Iran, and reorient itself toward the West, then the U.S. would further isolate Tehran’s rulers while giving a critical boost to peace efforts around the region.

To that end, President Obama confirmed the new U.S. ambassador to Syria and reports have surfaced of a recent back channel opened between the White House and Syrian officials in Damascus. While Team Obama may see such a development as a panacea for what ails the Middle East, the reality is that Syria will simply use the opportunity to play all sides against each other and pocket concessions, while preserving the very status quo that Washington seeks to alter.

The timing could not be any better for the Assad regime. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon tasked with investigating the string of assassinations in 2005 including that of the pro-freedom, former Lebanese premier, Rafik Hariri, is set to hand down indictments in a matter of weeks. Hezbollah will likely be held responsible with the support and orders coming from Assad’s inner circle. Moreover, just last month U.S. satellite imagery revealed a compound in Western Syria with hundreds of missile-shaped items, functionally related to the North Korean-designed nuclear reactor destroyed in September 2007. For more than two years, Syria has blocked International Atomic Energy Agency access to the remains of the al-Kibar nuclear site and similar installations.

The pattern is already familiar. Damascus makes tactical choices for diplomatic engagement without making the strategic decision to change its worldview in a manner consistent with a state seeking either peace or a regional realignment. By engaging with Syria now, the U.S. not only ensures that Damascus will not be held to account, but it rewards their rogue behavior and emboldens America’s enemies.…

The Assad regime always benefits from the process of peace, but it is the process and not the peace that interests Damascus. That is because Syria has no intention of trading alliances or stopping its support for terrorists as its regional importance rests solely on its capacity to light fires around the region.… President Assad still considers Hamas to be a legitimate resistance group and preserving Hezbollah’s strength is a strategic imperative for the regime whose first foreign policy priority is regaining and retaining its domination over Lebanon. Simply put, for Syria, the rewards for a peace agreement acceptable in Jerusalem and Washington are far outweighed by the benefits provided by its strategic and longstanding alignment with Tehran.

[The Obama administration’s] current flirtation with Damascus, then, only provides benefits to Syria. This distraction points to an American foreign policy in the Middle East that for two years has been built on a fundamental misreading of the region. Indeed, it still rests upon the belief that the problem is one of communication, rather than the decisions and strategic calculations of states and actors such as Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

President Obama came into office with engagement as his mantra, seeking to reset U.S. relations around the globe. One can only hope the White House finds the reset button quickly when it comes to its current approach to the Middle East.

(Matthew RJ Brodsky is Director of Policy of the Jewish Policy Centerin Washington, DC.)

 

WE WILL NOT BE TURKEY’S PUNCHING BAG
Avigdor Lieberman

Jerusalem Post, January 5, 2011

 

Contrary to popular assertions, the current crisis [between Israel and] Turkey did not begin yesterday and certainly not after the events surrounding the flotilla in May.… The exact genesis of the current crisis can be traced to the moment in January 2009 when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan verbally attacked and humiliated [Israeli] President Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Everyone who saw this unsettling scene was left in no doubt that this outburst was not improvised or reactive, but part of a carefully thought-out strategy.…

The completely unilateral change in [Israeli-Turkish] relations is not reflective of [Israel’s] actions; rather it is the result of Turkey’s internal politics. Turkey’s relations with Israel are only a small reflection of what is occurring in Turkish society. The best example of this is Ankara’s decision not to vote for sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council, in direct opposition to its allies in NATO.

Unfortunately, recent events in Turkey are reminiscent of Iran before the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei. Like Turkey, Iran was among Israel’s closest allies and the two nations held good relations between both governments and people. Similarly, the Khomenei revolution was the result of internal factors and had absolutely no connection to Israel.

During the last couple of months, the incitement against Israel has reached new heights. During Erdogan’s visit to Lebanon in late November, he said that Turkey will not “remain silent” while Israel will “kill women and children using modern aircraft, tanks…phosphorus munitions and cluster bombs.” It is important to note that Erdogan’s visit followed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon a month prior. It was difficult for us to perceive any differences in the vitriol of the two.…

The hatred and incitement reached its peak during the dreadful spectacle when a crowd of 100,000 welcomed the terror ship Mavi Marmara back to Istanbul chanting jihadist slogans and “Death to Israel.” The lack of condemnation for these outrageous scenes from any official Turkish sources makes it extremely hard for us to show restraint. We will not be a punching bag and will react, as any other sovereign nation, to such insults and abuse.

If the Turkish government is truly honest about seeking to normalize relations with Israel, it needs to stop looking for excuses and attaching preconditions.… We are seeking a return to a frank and honest dialogue with Turkey, and I invite my counterpart, Foreign Minister Davutoglu, to Jerusalem, or any other location, where we can discuss all issues of relevance to both nations and the wider region. Allies can have disagreements; it is how we deal with these disagreements that is the true mark of any relationship.

(Avigdor Lieberman is the Israeli deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.)

 

WE COULD STILL ‘LOSE’ IRAQ
Max Boot
LA Times, February 13, 2011

 

…Remember Iraq? That country we [the U.S.] invaded in 2003? The one where more than 4,400 American soldiers have lost their lives and more than 32,000 have been wounded? The one where we’ve spent nearly $800 billion?

As recently as 2008, Iraq dominated American politics. But now it’s a nonstory. Other subjects have pushed it off the front page, from the economy and healthcare to Afghanistan, Tunisia and Egypt. In a way, Iraq has been a victim of its own success. Because it seems to be doing relatively well, policymakers have shifted their attention to more urgent concerns. But there is a danger that our present inattention could undo the progress that so many have struggled so hard to attain.

Iraq has made impressive gains since 2006, when it was on the brink of all-out civil war. Violence is down more than 90% even as the number of U.S. troops has fallen to 50,000 from 170,000. The Iraqi political system continues to function with the recent inauguration of a new coalition government led by returning Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. And the economy is picking up steam, as contracts are signed with foreign companies that can tap the country’s vast oil reserves.

But there remain disquieting reminders of darker days. More than 250 Iraqis died in terrorist attacks in January, up from 151 in December, with most of those attacks attributed to Al Qaeda in Iraq, a group whose obituary has been written more than once. Roughly as many civilians died in Iraq last year as in Afghanistan—about 2,400. Remind me again which country is at peace?

The political situation [in Iraq] remains as uncertain as the security situation; indeed, the two are closely connected. The formation of a new government occurred only after an agonizing nine-month deadlock in 2010. Iyad Allawi, who won the most votes, lost the prime minister’s office and accepted as a consolation prize leadership of a new strategic policy council with undefined powers. His primarily Sunni Muslim backers remain convinced they will be frozen out of power by the Shiite prime minister. Maliki, in turn, is deeply suspicious of Sunni groups such as the Sons of Iraq, as well as of his Shiite rivals in cleric Muqtada Sadr’s movement and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Shiites and Sunnis are united chiefly by their desire to curb Kurdish autonomy, a prospect that fills the Kurds with understandable dread.

In short, Iraq remains a volcano. It has been capped for the moment but could erupt again. Especially because the most effective cap—a U.S. military presence—is due to be removed at the end of the year. Prospects of a security accord that would keep American forces in Iraq past 2011 are rapidly dimming. Maliki, who spent long years of exile in Syria and Iran—no fans of the United States—has always been suspicious of America. He would certainly prefer not to have tens of thousands of U.S. troops under a four-star general looking over his shoulder. President Obama, for his part, came to office pledging to withdraw from Iraq and, judging by his State of the Union address, appears determined to do just that.

Unless both men change course and soon, the mission now performed by 50,000 U.S. troops will be left to about 1,000 diplomats and perhaps 100 soldiers in an Office of Security Cooperation, with thousands of mostly non-American contractors providing security and logistical support.…

This is worrisome because if there is any lesson in American military history, it is that the longer U.S. troops stay in a post-conflict area, the greater the odds of a successful transition to democracy. The iconic examples are Germany, Japan and South Korea. When U.S. forces leave prematurely, on the other hand, the odds of a bad outcome greatly increase, whether in the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, Haiti in the 1930s and 1990s, or Somalia in the 1990s. Foreign peacekeepers are still in Bosnia and Kosovo long after the end of their conflicts. Does anyone think that Iraq is more stable than those postage-stamp-size countries on the periphery of Europe?

Iraq may very well muddle through no matter what. It has so far. But I would be a lot more confident about its future if we were making a bigger commitment. It would be a tragedy if, after years of struggle and sacrifice, we were to lose Iraq now…because of our own attention deficit disorder.

(Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.)

‘DEMOCRACY’ IN EGYPT INDUCES PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS—‘HAMASTAN’, PART II?

 

 

MUBARAK’S DEPARTURE OPENS THE WAY
TO A BIGGER CHALLENGE FOR EGYPT
David Frum
National Post, February 11, 2011

 

Egyptians are celebrating the fall of Hosni Mubarak. But we are not Egyptians. We are entitled to ask: What does this event mean for us? For Western interests? For peace in the Middle East? For the security of energy supplies? Western governments hope for a transition to an Egypt that is more democratic while still Western-oriented. But such a transition will not be easy to achieve.

Mubarak fell because he could not deliver prosperity to his people. Half the population of Egypt lives on $2 a day or less. Millions of Egyptians depend on state-subsidized bread. When Hosni Mubarak took power in 1981, the average Egyptian was 2.5 times richer than the average Chinese citizen. Today, the average Chinese is 50% richer than the average Egyptian.

Egypt has the largest population of unemployed university graduates in the Middle East. It is the world’s largest importer of grain: Sixty percent of the grain eaten in Egypt is purchased abroad, and at prices that have risen sharply since 2005. Egypt has lost the ability to feed itself in large part because the population has doubled since Mubarak took power in 1981—and quadrupled since 1950. Displaced peasants move to urban slums: Cairo’s population is estimated at some 17 million.

Disappointed by meager opportunities, these new city-dwellers turn for consolation to more intense forms of religion, which promise that Islamic government can deliver social justice. If Egypt’s new government does not deliver quick results, that Islamic message will gain appeal.…

To hold power, Egypt’s new democratizing government must do what Mubarak did not do: deliver quick economic benefits while accelerating long-term growth. Unfortunately, those two goals radically conflict with each other. Egypt is a heavily state-directed economy, led by inefficient state-owned industries, overseen by a bloated bureaucracy. Long-term growth demands that bureaucracy shrink and that industry be privatized. In the short run, however, those two economic reforms imply higher unemployment, especially for the university-educated.

Unemployment will bring discontent—and in a more democratic Egypt, governments will be less able than Mubarak’s police state to survive the protests of the discontented. Those rejoicing over the changes in Egypt should remember that other revolutions have inspired similar hopes. And they should remember what became of those hopes within a very few short months and years.

Edmund Burke foresaw it all 220 years ago. He observed the overthrow of another authoritarian regime, the French monarchy, and reflected prophetically on what he saw: “When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work; and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air, is plainly broke loose; but we ought to suspend our judgment…until we see something deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they have really received one.… The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints.”

If Egypt can move toward democracy while excluding from power the anti-democratic Islamic movements; if Egyptian defence and security services continue to co-operate with the United States; if Egypt honors the peace treaty with Israel; if Egypt protects and respects its Christian religious minority—then this revolution will truly be a liberation. But if an authoritarian government has given way to instability; if successor governments try to appease Islamism by breaking with the United States and persecuting Christians; if they connive with Hamas and abrogate the peace with Israel—then this revolution will show itself one of the great disasters in the history of the Middle East.

But the most likely course is also the most depressing: Egypt opens a little, then closes again. The regime tries to buy popularity by bloating the state sector. It emits nationalist noises against the United States and Israel, downgrading co-operation with former partners. Its foreign policy pivots away from the West and toward Turkey and Iran. In this scenario, Egypt’s future would resemble its Nasserist past: exploiting nationalism to justify authoritarianism. The new dawn will yield to the old twilight.

 

EGYPT’S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD?
GAZA’S HAMAS? LEBANON’S HEZBOLLAH?
DALAL MUGHRABI PROVES FATAH IS NO DIFFERENT!
Moshe Phillips

NewsRealBlog, February 14, 2011

 

Much ink has been spilled over the last several weeks over questions about the Muslim Brotherhood. How powerful is it? How extreme is it? How dangerous is the group? Are they sponsors of terrorism? No doubt now that Mubarak has relinquished power these questions will continue to be debated. And let’s be clear, these are vitally important questions for Egypt, for the U.S. for Israel and for the entire Middle East.

But, the things being asked about Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood must be asked about [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’] Fatah Party as well. They should have been asked a long time ago.

Fatah is the largest component of the PLO. It was led by Yasser Arafat until his death in 2004.… Fatah is the Palestinian entity that the U.S. State Department groomed for leadership of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) beginning in 1988 when Arafat supposedly renounced terrorism.

We are expected to believe that Fatah is different. We are told to believe that the PLO has changed. There are just a few problems with that—the big one being that they really have not changed. The Palestine National Covenant continues to call for the destruction of Israel and Zionism.…

When Mubarak’s predecessor Sadat forged ahead and negotiated with Israel, Fatah struggled to find a way to stop the negotiations. They chose violence. Violence against non-military Israeli targets.… Fatah sent a unit of its terrorists into the heart of Israel. On a quiet coastal road north of Tel Aviv they hijacked a bus full of civilians. On that terrible day of violence and terror 38 were murdered. Thirteen were children; 77 were injured. The first victim was an American citizen named Gail Rubin.

Dalal Mughrabi, the female leader of the terrorists, shot Rubin in the head at point blank range.… Rubin was a nature photographer from New York and she was taking pictures on the beach when [Mughrabi] found her. She was 39 years old.…

That was March 11, 1978. It was the deadliest attack against civilians in Israel’s history up to that time.… In the intervening decades, the attack was seldom mentioned in the world media. But Fatah never forgot it. They never forgot their hero Dalal. They turned her into a martyr.

In 2010 the Palestinian Authority government named a town square in El Bireh after this murderer. In Jericho, a summer program for students was named for her. Just last week the U.N. was exposed for supporting Fatah’s efforts to honor Mughrabi.

But no matter what Fatah does, Israel and the U.S. seek to keep them at the center of Arab-Israeli politics. Of course Fatah is very different than Hamas.… But that does not mean they don’t share many common goals. And the destruction of Israel is the most important one of those goals.…

This State Department game (that too many successive Israel governments have participated in) of pretending that Fatah will ever be a peace partner must end. Fatah remains what it has always been, a violent criminal organization with a Nazi-like hatred for Jews at its core. The United States undertook a policy of de-Nazification in Europe after World War II to insure that its victory would not be in vain.… It is past time for the de-Fatahification work to begin.

 

HARD TO TAKE PALESTINIAN ELECTION PLAN SERIOUSLY
Jonathan S. Tobin
Commentary Blog, February 13, 2011

 

Hard on the heels of the fall of Egypt’s Mubarak, another Arab authoritarian is trying to pretend to be a democratic leader. The Palestinian Authority announced on Saturday that it planned to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by September. That sounds nice, but those expecting a flowering of Palestinian democracy shouldn’t hold their collective breath.

After all, it is the Palestinians who have proved as much as anyone that there is more to democracy than holding an election. Palestinian Authority elections in the past never meant much since the candidates—and the results—were controlled by the ruling Fatah Party. But when Hamas, a terrorist group that is just as anti-democratic and even more violent than Fatah, contested the 2006 parliamentary ballot, the result was a Hamas victory. For the next year, the two sides co-existed uneasily until Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup.

The reaction of Hamas to the PA’s announcement yesterday was a declaration that such a vote was illegitimate, since the PA government has been holding onto power for years after Mahmoud Abbas’s presidential term expired. They’re right about that, but the PA’s rule in the West Bank is no more illegitimate than that of Hamas in Gaza.

It is anybody’s guess as to which of these two groups of terrorists is more popular in the West Bank, but the idea that any race that pitted them against each other would be in any way democratic is a joke. But whatever the outcome of such a vote (assuming one ever happens), a push for more voting is not what is needed if the long-term goal is the creation of a democratic and peaceful Palestinian Arab government.

As hard as it will be to create space for genuine democrats in Egypt between the military on the one side and the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood on the other, there is even less room for a Facebook/Twitter revolution among the Palestinians. Palestinian political culture remains stuck in an endless loop of anti-Israel hate and lust for terrorist violence. The only players that offer something really different, such as the economic development plans put forward by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, are, like Fayyad, popular in the West but have no real following of their own. It is only the people with the guns who count in Palestinian politics.

Both the United States and Israel ought to encourage and, where possible, support the creation of democratic institutions in Palestinian society so as to lay the groundwork for a theoretical sea change in which peace could become possible. But yet another Palestinian election contested by terrorist gunmen and their fronts won’t bring them any closer to democracy.

 

FOR VALID ELECTIONS
Editorial

Jerusalem Post, February 13, 2011

 

The ripple effects of Hosni Mubarak’s ouster over the weekend are being felt all over the region. The message being sent out from Tahrir Square is that Mideast leaders who want to stay in power must garner legitimacy through a fair, democratic election process.…

In response, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, anxious to shore up legitimacy for Fatah leadership, announced on Saturday, just one day after Mubarak stepped down, that the PA would hold presidential and parliamentary elections as early as September. Abbas hopes, apparently, to learn from Mubarak’s mistake and receive a new mandate from the people.

But that will be easier said than done. Hamas, which forcibly took away control of the Gaza Strip from the PA in 2007 after winning the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, has announced that it will boycott such elections, already therefore robbing a Fatah victory of any real significance.

Dr. Nabil Kukali, director-general of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, says Hamas opposes elections right now because it is afraid of losing.… Still, it is not at all clear that Kukali’s assessment is up to date. In recent weeks the PA has suffered a drop in popularity. Though there was nothing terribly new in the “Palestine Papers,” this trove of classified documents was tendentiously leaked by Al-Jazeera as “proof” that the Palestinian negotiating team had “caved in” to Israeli demands by recognizing a few Jewish neighborhoods in parts of east Jerusalem or by showing some flexibility on the Palestinian refugees’ right of return. It is not at all clear, therefore, that Fatah would win elections against Hamas, particularly in the West Bank.

Regardless of which of the two is more popular, however, it would be a mistake to rush headlong into elections again right now anyway. Among the Palestinians, precisely as among the Egyptians, premature elections will not be sufficient to establish a stable democracy.

In the West Bank, Fatah thugs continue to arrest and intimidate Hamas-affiliated activists. Hamas is doing the same to Fatah members in Gaza. Neither in the West Bank nor in Gaza is there freedom of the press or freedom of assembly (when dozens of Palestinians tried to stage an anti-Mubarak rally in Ramallah last week, PA security forces used force to disperse them). The court systems in both areas are far from fair-handed, and the official education systems continue to incite against Israel. In both places, “fear societies” continue to exist, where voters will simply choose whichever of the two violent factions they think will protect them best.

Violently controlled by Hamas, Gaza appears to be a lost cause for the near future. But as in post-Mubarak Egypt, the Abbas-led PA has an opportunity to deepen the process of democratic institution building and to create the genuinely free climate, which are the prerequisites to a truly democratic election.

This should be the Palestinians’ lesson from the events that led to Mubarak’s ouster. Succeeding would send an invaluable message to the people of Gaza that there is an…alternative to Hamas.