Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
L'institut Canadien de Recherches sur le Judaisme
Strength of Israel will not lie

Month: March 2011

THE UN: “A PLACE OF DEEP DARKNESS AND LIES”— 7TH LUBAVITCHER REBBE (1984)

 

 

 

THE INMATES ARE RUNNING THE ASYLUM
Daniel Ayalon
Foreign Policy, March 2, 2011

 

The recent unrest in parts of the Arab world has not only exposed the appalling lack of development in these countries, but also a number of fundamental deficiencies in the international system. The United Nations, which began its life with a plurality of democratic nations, now allows for an automatic majority of nondemocratic nations. The international system dictates that Arab and Islamic nations, and their knee-jerk defenders, have a majority in almost all of its bodies.…

If there were ever an example of the inmates running the asylum, it is the U.N. Human Rights Council. This body has whitewashed the human rights record of some of the world’s most repressive regimes, while also providing them with a forum to ruminate on and condemn the actions of a free and open nation, Israel.

The Libyan regime, which is currently massacring its citizens in a desperate bid to remain in power, successfully sought a place on the Human Rights Council only last year. U.N. General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which created the council, stated that when electing members of the council, U.N. member states “shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights.” Only through an Orwellian flight of fancy could Libya’s contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights ever have been considered positive. Recent events have made it more akin to a sick joke.

Nevertheless, in a secret ballot, 155 states voted in favor of granting Libya a coveted place on the council. These votes were given to a country that was known to be involved in extrajudicial and summary executions, brutal torture, and aiding and abetting international terrorism.…

The recent human rights outrages in Libya are only the latest example of how repressive dictatorships have perverted the mission of this ostensibly august body. The international human rights organization Freedom House’s September 2010 “report card” on the council found that its “membership has become increasingly populated by authoritarian countries”—including Saudi Arabia and Cuba—and “continues to earn failing grades on its ability to respond to the world’s most pressing human rights issues.” The report further lambasted the council for its “disproportionate focus on Israel” and for becoming “appallingly politicized and dominated by some of the world’s most aggressive opponents of universal standards on human rights.”

Indeed, Qaddafi’s regime is far from the first repressive autocracy to serve on the Human Rights Council. In fact, the majority of nations currently sitting on the council are not even considered “free” by Freedom House’s extensive and detailed ranking system. Israel, on the other hand, is consistently rated as “free.…”

In light of recent events and the wretched human rights record of many of the council’s members, it should be considered a badge of honor to be condemned by such a body. If Qaddafi is the judge of what constitutes respect for human rights, then consider us—and all democracies—guilty.…

The U.N. Human Rights Council has once again proved itself outside the evolution and progress of history. The people of our region deserve better—and are hopefully slowly moving the Middle East to a better place. Let’s hope the council does not continue to serve as a barrier to their hopes and expectations.

 

OBAMA’S U.N. DEBACLE
Anne Bayefsky

National Review, March 25, 2011

 

President Obama’s decision to place the United Nations at the center of his foreign policy took another hit Friday as the U.N. Human Rights Council ended its latest session in Geneva. One of the president’s primary justifications for joining the notorious council shortly after he assumed office was its mandatory five-year review process; if the U.S. was a member, the administration claimed, it could influence this process. The process, which quietly unfolded in back rooms in Geneva over the past six months, has been exposed to be a total fraud, taking the administration’s cover down with it.

Starting last fall, the Obama team was a very active participant in a working group of the council that had been set up to tackle reform. At the end of February, the working group produced a document summarizing its decisions, and on Friday the council passed a resolution adopting that document by consensus—that is, without a vote. Regardless of the fact that every serious recommendation of the United States was rejected, Obama’s diplomats refused to call for a vote on the resolution so that they could vote against it.

They did play a little game intended to fool uninformed listeners by claiming to “dissociate” the administration from the resolution. However, since the resolution has been adopted by consensus, it will proceed unimpeded to the General Assembly, where it will be rubber-stamped. The U.S. could not have stopped the resolution, but an American vote against the measure would have been a major blow to the credibility of the Human Rights Council. It also would have set up the U.S. to leave the council as a logical consequence of the failure to reform it.

The slap in the face to President Obama is painfully clear from a short list of American demands for reform and the council’s responses.

The council has an official, permanent agenda that governs all its meetings and consists of only ten items. One of those items is reserved for condemning Israel, and another is assigned to human rights in the other 191 U.N. member states. This session, for instance, produced six resolutions condemning Israel, one resolution each on four other states, and nothing at all on the remaining 187 countries. The American delegation huffed and puffed that this obvious discrimination—which characterizes every meeting of the council—must come to an end, and proposed that the two agenda items be rolled into one. The proposal was rejected.

The American delegation proposed creating easier trigger mechanisms for convening special sessions on specific countries when serious human-rights concerns arise. The proposal was rejected. The American delegation proposed abolishing the council’s make-work “Advisory Committee.” It is currently populated by such human-rights luminaries as former Sandinista leader and suspended priest Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. (Brockmann once served as president of the U.N. General Assembly and is best remembered for a series of anti-Semitic outbursts and for coming down off his podium to hug Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.) The proposal was rejected.

The American delegation proposed making public pre-screened complaints of gross and systematic violations of human rights that are received by the council. Specific cases, which have poured into the U.N. for over half a century from poor souls around the world, have never been revealed. The proposal was rejected. The American delegation proposed expanding the time allocated to discussions of abuses in specific countries. The proposal was rejected. The American delegation proposed that states running for a seat on the council should engage in a public dialogue with General Assembly members on their human-rights record, as measured by specific criteria. The proposal was rejected.

In all, the U.N. reports that 42 proposals were put forward by the American delegation orally and in writing. Only three were accepted. Those three addressed minutiae. For instance, the Obama team proposed allowing all states that wish to speak during the council’s “universal periodic review” (UPR) to be permitted to do so. The UPR is the procedure in which the council considers the human-rights record of every state, but the council tightly controls the time spent on each country. Council members are allotted three minutes’ and non-members two minutes’ worth of comments, regardless of the scope of the issues. Since the total time is fixed, would-be commentators are frequently silenced by ending up too low on the speakers’ list. The “reform” that was proposed and accepted? Keep the total time the same and reduce the allotted time per speaker. Thirty-second critiques of human-rights abuses, here we come.

Instead of admitting their complete inability to accomplish their mission of reforming the council, however, Obama’s representatives are scrambling to sweep the disaster under the rug. Admitting their error would no doubt strike at the heart of the president’s U.N. chorus line.

On March 31, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. ambassador Susan Rice announced that the U.S. would seek to join the council “because we believe that working from within, we can make the Council a more effective forum,” and because “the Council…is scheduled to undergo a formal review of its structure and procedures in 2011, which will offer a significant opportunity for Council reform.” In a New York Times op-ed on Sept. 13, 2010, Eileen Donahoe—the United States’ ambassador to the council—called the review “a serious self-reflection exercise” and claimed that “if we do not sit at the table with others and do the work necessary to influence the process, U.S. values and priorities will not be reflected in the outcome.”

Now we know there was no “serious self-reflection.” U.S. values and priorities have not been reflected in the outcome. The reform opportunity is in shreds. The result leaves the administration with two choices. Choice number one: Admit the fiasco. Refuse to lend legitimacy to a highly discriminatory agency designed to help members…conceal their own abuses. And get out. Choice number two: Allow a bogus “reform” to be adopted by consensus, and stay put.

President Obama has evidently decided to take the second course, sending one more signal about how little he values Israel and how few are the number of human-rights victims around the world that stand any chance of capturing his attention.

 

UN INTERVENTION INTO LIBYA AN OMINOUS PRECEDENT FOR ISRAEL
Frank Gaffney, Jr.
Center for Security Policy, March 21, 2011

 

There are many reasons to be worried about the bridge-leap the Obama Administration has just undertaken in its war with Muammar Gaddafi.… Particularly concerning is the prospect that what we might call the Gaddafi Precedent will be used in the not-to-distant future to justify and threaten the use of U.S. military forces against an American ally: Israel. Here’s how such a seemingly impossible scenario might eventuate:

It begins with the Palestinian Authority seeking a UN Security Council resolution that would recognize its unilateral declaration of statehood. Three top female officials in the Obama administration reprise roles they played in the Council’s recent action on Libya: U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, a vehement critic of Israel, urges that the United States support (or at least not veto) the Palestinians’ gambit. She is supported by the senior director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Council, Samantha Power, who in the past argued for landing a “mammoth force” of American troops to protect the Palestinians from Israel. Ditto Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose unalloyed sympathy for the Palestinian cause dates back at least to her days as First Lady.

This resolution enjoys the support of the other four veto-wielding Security Council members—Russia, China, Britain and France—[and] all of the other non-permanent members except India, which joins the United States in abstaining. As a result, it is adopted with overwhelming support from what is known as the “international community.”

With a stroke of the UN’s collective pen, substantial numbers of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli citizens find themselves on the wrong side of internationally recognized borders. The Palestinian Authority (PA) insists on its longstanding position: The sovereign territory of Palestine must be rid of all Jews.… Hamas and Fatah bury the hatchet (temporarily), forging a united front…[and] then seeks international help to “liberate” their land.

As with the Gaddafi Precedent, the first to act is the Arab League. Its members unanimously endorse the use of force to protect the “Palestinian people” and end the occupation of the West Bank by the Israelis. Turkey (which is still a NATO ally, despite its ever-more-aggressive embrace of Islamism) is joined by Britain and France—two European nations increasingly hostile to Israel—in applauding this initiative in the interest of promoting “peace.” They call on the UN Security Council to authorize such steps as might be necessary to enforce the Arab League’s bidding.

Once again, Team Obama’s leading ladies—Mesdames Clinton, Power and Rice—align to support the “will of the international community.” They exemplify, and are prepared to enforce, the President’s willingness to subordinate U.S. sovereignty to the dictates of transnationalism and his personal hostility towards Israel. The concerns of Mr. Obama’s political advisors about alienating Jewish voters on the eve of the 2012 election are trumped by presidential sympathy for the Palestinian right to a homeland.

Accordingly, hard as it may be to believe given the United States’ longstanding role as Israel’s principal ally and protector, Mr. Obama acts, in accordance with the Gaddafi Precedent. He warns Israel that it must immediately take steps to dismantle its unwanted presence inside the internationally recognized State of Palestine, lest it face the sort of U.S.-enabled “coalition” military measures now underway in Libya.…

At the moment, it seems unlikely that the first application in Libya of the Gaddafi Precedent will have results consistent with U.S. interests. Even if a positive outcome is somehow forthcoming there, should Barack Obama and his anti-Israel troika of female advisors be allowed, based on that precedent, to realize the foregoing hypothetical scenario, they would surely precipitate a new international conflagration, one fraught with truly horrific repercussions—for Israel, for the United States and for freedom-loving people elsewhere.

A Congress that was effectively sidelined by Team Obama in the current crisis had better engage fully, decisively and quickly if it is to head off such a disastrous reprise.

 

HOW PALESTINIANS WILL USE THE GA TO ADVANCE STATEHOOD
David Horovitz
Jerusalem Post, March 25, 2011

 

Early in the Korean War, frustrated that the Soviet Union’s repeated use of its UN Security Council veto was thwarting council action to protect South Korea, the United States initiated what became known as the UN General Assembly’s “Uniting for Peace” resolution.

Adopted in November 1950, UNGA Resolution 377 provides that, should the five permanent members of the Security Council find themselves at odds, rendering the council incapable of exercising its “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” the General Assembly can step into the breach. If the Security Council’s permanent members cannot reach unanimity, it elaborates, and “there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression,” the General Assembly can fill the vacuum by issuing its own “appropriate recommendations” for “collective measures” to be taken by individual states—right up to and including “the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security.…”

The “Uniting for Peace” Resolution is no dead letter. It was employed, most notably, in 1981, to outflank the Security Council and recommend both sanctions against South Africa for preventing Namibian independence, and assistance, including military assistance, for those seeking Namibian independence.… The passage of that resolution, says Richard Schifter, a former US assistant secretary of state for human rights who spent years representing the US in various UN forums, “was a significant step in the process of imposing sanctions on apartheid South Africa and delegitimizing the country.”

Which is where, as you’ve doubtless figured out by now, Israel and the Palestinians come in.

As Israel’s most recent ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, explained to me this week, the existence of UNGA Resolution 377, and the precedents for its use, mean that “those who believe that the UN General Assembly’s deliberations are of a solely declarative importance are mistaken.” The GA, under “Uniting for Peace,” has teeth.…

The Palestinians have plainly been reading the UN’s small print.… Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat even referred to the possible use of the “Uniting for Peace” resolution in comments to the Ma’an news agency late last year. In Shalev’s estimation, and in that of several other experts with whom I spoke this week, including veteran American diplomat Schifter, the Palestinian leadership is moving serenely toward invoking precisely this resolution in September.

The Palestinian leadership, that is, anticipating that the US will veto its unilateral bid for statehood at the Security Council, will take the matter to the General Assembly. There it will push for the necessary two-thirds GA support for recognizing “Palestine,” presumably along the pre-1967 lines and with a “right of return” for refugees, under a “Uniting for Peace” resolution to ensure global action.… The consequences for Israel should this approach succeed…could be profoundly damaging.

Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has made no secret of its intention to secure UN support for the establishment of Palestine by September. Veteran negotiator Erekat reiterated only this week…that “the Palestinian leadership institutions (the PLO and Fatah) have decided to submit a request to the UN for recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem.…”

Such recognition, according to Erekat, would mean that “Palestine” would no longer be a matter of “disputed lands,” but rather a state under occupation. Since “Palestine” had “a permanent population, defined territory (even if that does not involve permanent borders), an effective government and the ability to establish international relations,” in Erekat’s assessment, it would meet the standards defined for a state under the terms of the Montevideo Convention of 1933 on the rights and duties of states.…

Israel is anticipating that the UN resolution would fail [in the Security Council], that a similar resolution would gain widespread but non-binding support at the GA in September, that Israel’s international legitimacy would be knocked down another notch or two, but that the unilateral approach would then reach a dead end.… [Accordingly,], the possibility of the “Uniting for Peace” resolution providing practical backing for UNGA recognition of Palestine is now, extremely belatedly, starting to shock some of the relevant players in Israel, though not all, out of their complacency.…

All is far from lost, but it could be if Israel does not muster an effective response to the Palestinian strategy. And the first key forum is the Security Council.

Would-be nations gain their membership in the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council, pointed out Schifter, who now chairs the board of directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute. And it is a safe bet that the Palestinian strategists, in drafting their resolution calling for the Security Council to recognize Palestine, will do their linguistic best to make it hard for the 15 Security Council members to say no.

It is assumed they will invoke relevant UN resolutions. They will employ comments and statements made by world leaders in support of Palestine. Says Shalev: “They’ll use words that [US Ambassador to the UN Susan] Rice, [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton, [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel and others have used in support of the Palestinians.…”

[If] the necessary nine or more of the 15 Security Council members will vote for “Palestine”…the diplomatic operation will have been a spectacular success. [Otherwise, if] the US [is] forced to utilize its veto, [then the Palestinians] will then move on to the General Assembly, with that “Uniting for Peace” resolution in their armory.

The best way for Israel to prevent any of that happening would be to achieve what is currently viewed as almost a mission impossible: to persuade at least seven of the 15 Security Council members to vote no, to abstain, or to absent themselves. That way, the statehood resolution would fail, the US would not have to employ its veto, and there would be no possibility for the Palestinians to claim Security Council deadlock and thus invoke “Uniting for Peace” in the General Assembly.

Why almost mission impossible? Because Israel has very few solid friends in the international diplomatic community these days, and even fewer among the 15 current Security Council nations…

Most Israelis may well believe that the failure to make progress in negotiations with the Palestinians stems from the other side’s refusal to take positions that would guarantee Israel’s physical and demographic security alongside the proposed Palestine.… But the sad fact is that most of the international diplomatic community simply doesn’t accept this narrative, and tends increasingly to blame strong, sovereign Israel for failing to grant independence to the weak, stateless Palestinians. Rocket attacks from Gaza, bombings at bus stops in Jerusalem, even horrific murders of fathers, mothers, children and babies in their homes, are evaluated in that context.

So there is certainly no automatic, or even readily attainable, blocking vote in the Security Council for the Palestinians’ demand for statehood, even if the establishment of that “state” is being sought while the core issues of dispute with neighboring Israel remain unresolved.…

Some in Israel, it is plain, are acutely aware of the danger. Indeed, several sources suggested to me, one of the motivations for the purportedly imminent new Netanyahu diplomatic initiative is to take the wind out of the Palestinian sails—to underline Israeli willingness to make real progress, and thus undercut Palestinian claims that they have no option…but to take the unilateral route.

The idea is to win over both international players, and the Palestinians themselves—to convince them that the bilateral route is the better route. Noting that over 110 nations have already announced their support for a Palestinian state, Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week told the Institute for National Security Studies that Israel was facing “a diplomatic tsunami that the majority of the public is unaware of.” He urged Netanyahu to “put the core issues on the table. Israel must say it is willing to discuss security borders, refugees and Jerusalem.” As things stood, he warned, Israel was being pushed “into a corner from which the old South Africa’s deterioration began.…”

THE “SEEDS OF FAILURE” HAVE BLOSSOMED— THE 3RD PALESTINIAN TERROR WAR

 

 

 

ISRAEL IS RESILIENT BUT WATCHFUL
Yossi Klein Halevi
Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2011

 

The ambulance sirens began sounding and didn’t seem to end. The terrorist attack on March 23 that killed one person and wounded 30 was the first bus bombing in Jerusalem since 2005. And it happened just as missiles from Gaza began falling on Israeli cities and towns for the first time since the Gaza War of 2009. Suddenly it was as if the normal life we’d since managed to re-inhabit was an illusion.…

After a brutal decade that began with the collapse of the peace process in September 2000, and which brought four years of suicide bombings, eight years of missile attacks, two wars, and at least two failed attempts at peacemaking, the Israeli public is resilient and sober. As terrorism and rocket attacks return to Israeli cities, and the Arab world reels, those are precisely the qualities Israelis need to cope.

The precondition for containing terrorism is national unity, and on security matters at least, the nation is cohesive. In responding to attacks on civilian Israel, the government has the support of nearly every party. Knesset members of the opposition Kadima party are demanding that the government respond even more firmly—the left pressing the right to be resolute.

Yet so far the government’s response has been restrained—and rightly so. Another Israeli-Hamas confrontation is perhaps inevitable, but not now. As the Arab world finally begins to face itself, Israel must avoid focusing the region’s attention on the Palestinian conflict. The upheavals have proven that what preoccupies the Arab peoples aren’t Israel’s actions but Arab failures. The dictators want to deflect their people’s rage back onto Israel. Moammar Gadhafi, for instance, has urged Palestinians to board ships and descend on Israel’s coast.

This is also not the time for far-reaching political initiatives. With the open question of whether Israel’s peace with Egypt will survive the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Israelis are reassessing the wisdom of land-for-peace agreements with dictators. What is the point, many here wonder, of exchanging the Golan Heights for a dubious peace with a Baathist regime [in Syria] run by the hated Allawite minority?

Israelis are asking a similar question about Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is widely resented by Palestinians as corrupt and represents at best only part of his people. Why negotiate a land for peace agreement with an unelected, one-party government?… In a time of regional change, Israelis are even more reluctant to risk irreversible strategic concessions for a deal that may well lack popular legitimacy.…

Israelis these days are preparing for Passover. The Passover seder is called a night of watching, in remembrance of the Israelites who were prepared at a moment’s notice to flee Egypt and enter the unknown. This year Passover has particular resonance. For Israelis, living in a Middle East veering between freedom and even greater repression, it is a time of active watching.

(Mr. Halevi is a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem
and a contributing editor at the New Republic.)

 

ANOTHER ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR IS INEVITABLE
Barry Rubin
Jerusalem Post, March 27, 2011

 

I’m going to make a prediction here that, unfortunately, I’m sure is going to come true.… The Egyptian revolution will make another Israel-Hamas war inevitable, with a lot more of an international mess. And I’ll go a step further: An incompetent and mistaken US policy makes such a conflict even more certain.

Why? First, Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is a revolutionary Islamist movement which genuinely views itself as directed by God, considers Jews to be subhuman, believes that a willingness to court suicide and welcome death will ensure victory and is certain that it is going to destroy Israel and then transform Palestinian society into an Islamic Garden of Eden. The well-being and even physical survival of the people it rules is of little importance to it.

Given this, there are only two ways to stop Hamas from waging war on Israel. The shorter-term solution is deterrence through strength. The defeat Hamas suffered in the 2008-2009 war forced it to retrench and become cautious for a while. The only longer-term solution is the overthrow of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, with the maximum possible destruction of the organization.

Events in Egypt, and US policy, have destroyed the shorter-term option, and made the longer-term one impossible. With better weapons, Hamas will go to war. It’s only a matter of time. Second, the Egyptian revolution removed a regime that defined the national interest as having an anti-Hamas policy. The Mubarak government did not maintain sanctions and an (albeit imperfect) blockade of [Gaza] for Israel’s benefit. It did so because it saw revolutionary Islamism as the main threat to the nation. This was not, as current US officials would have it, some cynically manipulated mirage to justify dictatorship.…

The Mubarak government saw Hamas as part of a broader, Iran-led strategic threat. A new government, whether radical nationalist, Islamist or “liberal democratic,” will have the opposite view. The Muslim Brotherhood views Hamas as its closest ally and wants it to overthrow the Palestinian Authority as well as destroy Israel. The nationalists support Hamas as part of the larger Arab struggle against Israel. The “liberal democrats” do so because they know this is a very popular position with Egyptians, and therefore to oppose it would reduce their already tiny base of support.

And so Hamas knows it now has an ally [in Egypt] rather than an enemy at its back.

Moreover, there is no incentive in Egypt—or among its nationalist and Islamist-sympathetic officers—to [continue to] block arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Hamas [will] thus [be] greatly strengthened and made more confident, and hence arrogant. It is more able to fire mortars and launch rockets and cross-border attacks, and far more eager to do so.

As for US policy, while supporting some sanctions on Hamas and refusing to engage with it, the US government has not supported overthrowing the Gaza regime, though any serious assessment of US interests shows this should be a priority—part of the war against Iranian hegemony in the region, revolutionary Islamism, terrorism and instability.…

But there is no appreciation for these points in Washington today. What makes matters worse is the Obama administration’s demand—after about a half-dozen Islamist militants were killed on a ship after they attacked IDF soldiers—to [reduce the] sanctions [imposed on Hamas]. Thus, the Obama administration…ensured that there would be a genocidal, revolutionary Islamist, subversion- spreading, anti-American, brutally repressive, anti-Christian, misogynist Iranian client on the Mediterranean.…

US support for a transformation of Egypt, with no idea where that will lead, has helped turn that nation into a Hamas ally. The Obama administration has also supplied one more reason why revolutionary Islamists feel the future belongs to them, America is finished in the region and why they should be even more aggressive.

What we are seeing now is Hamas getting new weapons and escalating its use of terrorism. In addition, we are not even seeing significant international action or even criticism of this behavior. On the contrary, the more terrorism Hamas commits, the more Israel is criticized in the Western media.

Terrorism works; aggression goes unpunished.… It’s only a matter of time until Hamas once again launches a larger-scale assault on Israel. At that point, Israel will have to respond with a major counterattack on the Gaza Strip.

Will Egypt remain neutral? Will its government stop the Muslim Brotherhood and its sympathizers, or rush arms, money and even armed Egyptian volunteers into the Gaza Strip? Will the West blame Israel for the violence? Will the US take any productive action?

This crisis is inevitable, though it might take a couple of years. Yet nobody outside Israel sees—or wants to see—what’s coming.

(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center.)

 

UNDERSTANDING THE 3RD TERROR WAR
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, March 25, 2011

 

What are we to make of the fact that no one has taken credit for [last week’s] bombing in Jerusalem?

[The] bombing was not a stand-alone event. It was part and parcel of the new Palestinian terror war that is just coming into view. As Israel considers how to contend with the emerging onslaught, it is important to notice how it differs from its predecessors.…

For the public, the new tactics are not interesting.… Israelis understand that we are entering a new period of unremitting fear, where we understand that we are in danger no matter where we are. Whether we’re in bed asleep, or our way to work or school, or sitting down on a park bench or at a restaurant, whether we’re in Rishon Lezion, Sderot, Jerusalem, Itamar or Beersheba, we are in the Palestinians’ crosshairs. All of us are “settlers.” All of us are in danger.…

The new Palestinian terror war is first and foremost a political war. Like its two predecessors, which began in 1987 and 2000, the new terror war’s primary purpose is not to murder Jews. Killing is just an added perk. The new war’s primary purpose is to weaken Israel politically in order to bring about its eventual collapse. And it is in this political context that the various terror armies’ refusal to take responsibility for [the] attack in Jerusalem…is noteworthy.…

In the two previous terror wars, the terror groups had two motivations for taking credit for their attacks. The first reason was to expand their popularity. In Palestinian society, the more Jews you kill, the more popular you are. The main reason Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections was that the Palestinians believed Hamas terror was responsible for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005.… The second reason the various groups have always been quick to take credit for attacks is that they wanted to show their state sponsors that they were putting their arms, training and financial support to good use.… Over the past several decades, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah have spent hundreds of millions of dollars arming, training and financing Palestinian terror cells.…

The fact that today neither Hamas nor Fatah is interested in taking credit for the bombing in Jerusalem or for the massacre of the Fogel family is a signal that something fundamental is changing in the political dynamic between the two factions.…

For both Fatah and Hamas, the most important target audience is Europe. But before we discuss how the Palestinians’ assessment of Europe is connected to their move to obfuscate organizational responsibility for terrorism, it is necessary to consider the concrete political goal of their new terror war.

Fatah is in the midst of a global campaign to build international support for a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence in September. From Israel’s perspective, the campaign is threatening for two reasons. First, a unilaterally declared Palestinian state will be in a de facto state of war with Israel. Second, if the Palestinians secure international recognition for their “state” in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the move will place 500,000 Jews who live in these areas in the international crosshairs.

Much of the discussion about this goal has centered on whether or not US President Barack Obama will veto a UN Security Council resolution endorsing such a declaration. And based on Obama’s behavior to date, the Palestinians have good reason to believe that he may support their move. But in truth, the discussion about how the US will respond to the planned Palestinian declaration is largely beside the point. The point of the threatened declaration is not to get a UN Security Council resolution supporting it. The point is to get the EU to enact further sanctions against Israel.

And this brings us back to the new policy of not taking credit for attacks on Israel, and to the decision to launch a new terror war in general. On the face of it, at such a sensitive time for the Palestinians diplomatically, it would seem that they would want to keep their traditional good cop-Fatah, bad cop-Hamas routine going and have Hamas take the credit for the recent attacks. Indeed, it would seem that the Palestinians would want to hold off on attacks altogether until after they declare independence.

The fact that Fatah and Hamas have neither waited until after September to attack nor sought to differentiate themselves from one another as the attacks coalesce into a new terror campaign indicates strongly that the Palestinians no longer feel they need to pretend to oppose terror to maintain European support for their war against Israel. The Palestinians assess that Europe is swiftly moving toward the point where it no longer needs to pretend to be fair to Israel. The British, French and German votes in favor of the Palestinians’ anti-Israel Security Council resolution last month were the latest sign that the key European governments have adopted openly hostile policies toward Israel.

More importantly, these policies are not the consequence of Palestinian lobbying efforts, and so Israel cannot hope to change them through counter-lobbying efforts. Europe’s abandonment of even the guise of fairness toward Israel is the product of domestic political realities in Europe itself. Between the rapidly expanding political power of Europe’s Muslim communities and the virulently anti-Israel positions nearly universally adopted by the European media, European governments are compelled to adopt ever more hostile positions toward Israel to appease their Israel-hating publics and Muslim communities.…

After the people of Europe have been brainwashed by their media and intimidated by the Muslim communities, they have developed a Pavlovian response regarding Israel whereby every mention of Israel makes them hate it more. It doesn’t matter if the story is about the massacre of Israeli children or the bombing of synagogues and nursery schools. They know that Israel is the guilty party and expect the governments to punish it.

What the Palestinian silence on who committed what atrocity tells us is that in this new terror war, the Palestinians believe they cannot lose. With Europe in tow, Fatah and Hamas feel free to join their forces and advance both militarily and politically.

 

OBAMA PLANTED SEEDS OF FAILURE
David Suissa

Huffington Post, March 30, 2011

 

A couple of years ago, I wrote an open letter to President Obama applauding his commitment to peace in the Middle East, but warning that he should be prepared to fail. My reasoning was that he was following Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result.

In critiquing his approach, I used the metaphor of trying to plant a flower into desert sand. No matter how hard you try to force it, if the earth isn’t right, nothing will grow.

This flower—a sapling would be a more apt metaphor—represents peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. For nearly two decades, this little tree has been paraded around the world as the “key to peace in the Middle East.” Accordingly, no issue has captivated globetrotting diplomats quite like this one.

Among all diplomats, perhaps the one who has spent the most time on this issue has been Dennis Ross, the point man on the peace process for three U.S. presidents, including the current administration. Several years ago, Ross said something to me at a charity event that stuck with me: His biggest regret was that they didn’t enforce the anti-incitement clause in the Oslo agreement.

Ross was revealing a painful truth about the peace process—you can’t have peace without education. You can haggle over borders all day long, but if the people living within those borders are poisoned with hate and are not prepared for compromise, no leader will sign on to an “end of conflict” agreement.

You can make a good case that, had the Palestinian Authority spent the last two decades educating their people for peace, they’d have their own state by now and we’d be talking today about common projects, not Qassam rockets.

But of course they didn’t promote peace. Instead, they promoted the well-worn script of Arab dictators who need to build street cred with the masses: Demonize the Jews and the Zionist entity. Is it any wonder that Palestinian leaders, from Arafat to Abbas, have found it so difficult to say yes to Israeli peace offers? How could they compromise with an enemy they helped to demonize? What would they say to their people? Sorry, we lied to you—the Jews really do have a claim to this land? It’s true, they’ve had a presence in Jerusalem for more than 3,000 years? If Israel is willing to withdraw settlements for the sake of peace, we should also be willing to compromise on the right of return? Let’s be nice with them so they will help us build a great country?

What is so shocking about those simple words is that we have never heard them spoken by any Palestinian leader, in English or in Arabic. Yet those words were the crucial missing ingredients to nourish the tree of peace. They needed to be spoken not occasionally at interfaith meetings, but consistently and persuasively in Palestinian schools, media, summer camps and mosques.

But who ever dared pressure Palestinian leaders to speak those words? Peace groups? A global community that kept pouring billions into Palestinian coffers while reinforcing their narrative of exclusive victimhood? The United States, which never gave Palestinians any incentive to stop glorifying terrorism and start teaching peace?

When Obama the peacemaker finally had his chance, instead of promoting peace, he promoted the tired old trope of putting pressure on Israel to make more unilateral concessions. Instead of launching, for example, a breakthrough peace-education campaign to convey to Palestinians that peace was worth [making] compromises…he came up with a new excuse for Palestinians to stay away from peace talks: A Jewish construction freeze as a precondition to those talks.

By the time he realized his blunder, it was too late. He had already lost both sides.… Obama planted seeds all right, but instead of seeds of peace, they were seeds of failure.

WEDNESDAY’S “NEWS IN REVIEW” ROUND-UP

 

 

 

Weekly Quotes

People come, they don’t even want to buy anything, but they come and say, ‘We came to support you.’ Many people insist on paying five or 10 extra shekels for a small package of gum.… This is my only livelihood, and I’ve been here for more than 20 years.… We do it because it’s our nation, the nation of Israel.”—Shimshon Moshe, describing the outpouring of public support following the re-opening of his food stand,Pitzutz Shel Kiosk, which was destroyed in a terror attack for the second time last week in Jerusalem. Moshe’s brother-in-law, David Amoyal, wounded while working in the kiosk at the time of the explosion, greatly minimized the attack’s casualties by calling the police and yelling at people to move away from a suspicious bag he had spotted near an adjacent bus stop. The bomb, which was in the bag, exploded during Amoyal’s phone call. He is a hero. (Jerusalem Post, March 30.)

 

“We’re going through a period of turmoil that can only be called historic. It is akin to the great revolutions that have taken place in modern times, but the question is which revolution is it. Is it 1989 in Europe? Or is it 1979 in Tehran? Or is it 2005, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon? Remember, there were great hopes. A million people went into the streets of Beirut.… Now, five years later, we find Hezbollah and Iran have taken over Lebanon.… We’re still in the midst of things, and of course we know which outcome we want, but we can’t be sure that we will have it. We can’t be sure that we will have it because the traditions of liberal democracy have not been prevalent, to put it mildly, in the great swath of land from Afghanistan to Morocco. It’s only been prevalent there in one place. You know which place that is. Right here, that’s right, in Israel.—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hailing Israel as the lone democracy in the Middle East, and describing the potential for the ongoing uprisings throughout the Arab world to produce something other than democratic societies. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, March 29.)

 

I am speaking to you at an extraordinary moment…it is a test of our unity. These tests repeat themselves due to plots threatening our homeland. [Deraa—where some of the bloodiest protests have taken place] is in the forefront in confronting the Israeli enemy and defending the nation.… There is a plot to break Syria apart. It began with incitement on the internet…and moved on to the media and the street. We were able to stop the American-Israeli plot. Whoever is part of the Syrian nation always stands tall. Our enemies act every day in an organized and public matter in order to harm Syria.… What has happened so far only strengthens Syria.”—Syrian President Bashar Assad, calling the intensifying protests in Syria an American-Israeli attempt to destabilize the country, and affirming that Syria “will not be defeated by any step.” (Jerusalem Post, March 30.)

 

Question: ‘Madam Secretary…tens of thousands of people have turned out protesting in Syria, which has been under the iron grip of the Asad family for so many years now, one of the most repressive regimes in the world. And when the demonstrators turned out, the regime opened fire and killed a number of civilians. Can we expect the United States to enter the conflict in the way we have entered the conflict in Libya?’ Secretary Clinton: ‘No. Each of these situations is unique.… Well, if there were a coalition of the international community, if there were the passage of Security Council resolution, if there were a call by the Arab League, if there was a condemnation that was universal—but that is not going to happen.… There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.…’ Question: ‘Secretary Gates, you have strongly condemned [Syrian dictator] Bashar Asad and said he must learn from Egypt. I think it’s fair to say he didn’t pay much attention to you.’ Secretary Gates: ‘Well, that’s not a surprise. (Laughter.).…’”—Excerpts from Bob Schieffer’s Face the Nation interview with U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates, discussing the U.S.’ muddled foreign policy of “engagement” towards Syria, despite Syria’s ongoing brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors—which has resulted in dozens of deaths throughout the country—as well as Syria’s ongoing attempt to destabilize the Middle East by sponsoring and collaborating in terrorist activities, which includeattacks on American soldiers in Iraq. (U.S. Department of State website, March 27.)

 

President Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya’s civil war has…earned the lowest public approval rating of any U.S. military operation polled by Gallup over the past four decades. In fact, it was the only U.S. military intervention polled by Gallup that received less than majority approval from Americans.… That compares to the 90 percent approval rating Americans gave President George W. Bush’s October 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan…[and] the 76 percent approval rating they gave Bush’s March 2003 invasion of Iraq.…”—Excerpts from a CNS News article, describing the findings of a recent Gallup poll, which detail the lack of popular American support for the U.S.’ war in Libya. Many pundits are attributing this to U.S. President Obama’s ongoing contradictory statements regarding the war’s objectives. (CNS News, March 24.)

 

We were very curious about the high academic achievements of the Jews. Jews have a high percentage of Nobel laureates in all fields: literature, science and economics. This is a remarkable achievement. We tried to understand what is the secret of the Jewish people? How they—more than other people—are able to reach those impressive accomplishments? Why are Jews so intelligent? The conclusion we arrived at is that one of your secrets is that you study the Talmud.… This understanding led us to teach our children as well. We believe that if we teach our children Talmud, they will also become geniuses. This is what stands behind the rationale of introducing Talmud Study to our school curriculum.”—Israel’s ambassador to South Korea, Young Sam Mah, explaining South Korea’s decision to incorporate the study of Talmud into its school curriculum. According to Mah, nearly every home in South Korea, which has a population of nearly 50 million, contains a Korean-translated Talmud. (Ynet News, March 24.)

 

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) mourns the passing of legendary American actress and ardent Zionist, Elizabeth Taylor, who has passed away, aged 79. Ms. Taylor, who enjoyed a long and hugely successful career in Hollywood, was converted to Judaism in 1959.… Among Elizabeth Taylor’s outstanding work on behalf of Israel and Jewish causes was her participating in raising $840,000 for Israel in a 1967 London gala.… The same year, she cancelled a visit to Moscow after the Soviet Union lashed out at Israel after the June 1967 Six Day War. In 1975, she was one of 60 prominent women to sign a statement to then-U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, condemning the U.N. General Assembly’s infamous Zionism-is-Racism resolution. Taylor offered herself as a hostage when 104 hostages aboard an Air France airbus were hijacked by PLO terrorists and held at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport.… Taylor frequently visited Israel and met with its leadership, including Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1983.… The ZOA is proud of its connection to Elizabeth Taylor and expresses heartfelt condolences to her family and friends at her passing.… May her soul rest in peace.”—Excerpts from a statement released by the Zionist Organization of America, extending condolences on the passing of actress Elizabeth Taylor, and detailing her unwavering support during her lifetime for the Jewish state of Israel (Israpundit, March 25.)

 

You are not Zionists and you do not care about Israeli interests. Fifty rockets a day are fired on the South and you fight against the American veto against condemnations of Israel. You are not Zionists and you do not care about Israel. Only here in Israel do we determine Israeli democracy, and you cannot determine what Israel’s interests are.”—Israeli MK (Kadima), Otniel Schneller, to J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami during a Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Public Diplomacy Committee meeting to discuss the left-wing American lobby organization, condemning J Street’s anti-Israel activities and labeling the group pro-Palestinian. (Jerusalem Post, March 29.)

 

This Facebook page constitutes an appalling abuse of technology to promote terrorist violence.… We should not be so naïve to believe that a campaign for a ‘Third Intifada’ does not portend renewed violence, especially in the current climate that has seen a dramatic increase in rocket attacks from Gaza, the brutal murder of the Fogel family in the West Bank, and a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem. We are disappointed that Facebook has rejected our request to remove this site, which is in clear violation of their terms of service”—Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti Defamation League, condemning Facebook’s refusal to remove a page from its site which encourages its more than 330,000 fans to begin a third Intifada against Israel. In response, Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, wrote a letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, requesting, on behalf of Israel, the immediate removal of the “Third Intifada,” page which calls for armed “resistance” against the Jewish state. The page has since been removed. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, March 23, Haaretz, March 26 & Jerusalem Post, March 29.)

Short Takes

EGYPT’S NEW FM WANTS TIES WITH IRAN—(Jerusalem) Egypt’s new foreign minister, Nabil al-Arabi, has confirmed that his country wants to promote ties with Tehran and that Cairo no longer sees Iran as its enemy. “Iran is a state in the region, and we have had long-term historical ties with it over the different periods,” al-Arabi told a press conference. “We will turn over a new leaf with all states, including Iran.” Al-Arabi has also been known as a vocal critic of Israel. During his service as a judge in the International Court of Justice, he supported a motion to sue the Jewish state for genocide. (Ynet News, March 30.)

 

DEATH THREATS ROCK MCGILL—(Montreal) Montreal police are investigating a McGill University student, Haaris Khan, who posted threatening, anti-Israel comments to Twitter, while attending a film screening of Indoctrinate U, a documentary that alleges American universities are biased against conservative ideas. One of Khan’s messages read, “I want to shoot everyone in this room,” while another read, “I should have brought an M16.” Khan also wrote that “I’ve infiltrated a Zionist meeting” and “I feel like I’m at a Satanist ritual.” (Macleans, March 17.)

 

‘IRON DOME’ DEPLOYED—(Jerusalem) The IDF has deployed the Iron Dome anti-rocket system for the first time ever in southern Israel. Weeks of stepped-up rocket and mortar attacks emanating from Gaza have drawn fears of renewed war, and led to new calls for the military to deploy the $200 million system. The IDF has confirmed that the system is operating, but described its actions as an “operational experiment.” Iron Dome uses cameras and radar to track incoming rockets and shoot them down within seconds of their launch. (Haaretz, March 27.)

 

FATAH, HAMAS SET TO HOLD APRIL UNITY TALKS IN CAIRO—(Jerusalem) Hamas and Fatah have agreed to renew the on-again off-again unity talks in Cairo next month in order to end their conflict 4-year conflict. The decision follows a series of meetings over the past few days between leaders of Hamas and Fatah in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Syria.A Representative of the European Union, Christian Berger, has confirmed that the European Union supports the initiative to end the Palestinian political division. (Wafa, March 23, Jerusalem Post, March 29.)

 

UN AND EU TO PROPOSE OUTLINES OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN SETTLEMENT—(New York) According to UN officials, Britain, France and Germany are urging UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in conjunction with other European countries, to propose at a mid-April meeting of the Quartet the outlines of a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to reports, the three Europeans countries are pressing to finalize the parameters of a settlement, to induce the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, March 26.)

 

U.S. SAYS EGYPT VOTE SHOULDN’T BE RUSHED—(Cairo) U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has travelled to Egypt to prod Egypt’s interim leaders not to rush to new elections, saying that new political movements need time to evolve into organized political parties. Mr. Gates said the aim of his visit was to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to Egypt’s peaceful transition to democracy, as well as to voice concern that early elections will benefit the Muslim Brotherhood. The U.S. currently believes that the Egyptian Brotherhood would muster between 10 and 30 percent of the popular vote if elections were held today. Israeli officials have told their U.S. counterparts that they believe the party could win 40 to 50 percent of the vote. (Wall Street Journal, March 24.)

 

EGYPTIAN MILITARY: MUBARAK UNDER HOUSE ARREST—(Jerusalem) According to a statement released by Egypt’s ruling military council, deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his family have been placed under house arrest in his Sharm e-Sheikh home. Last week, Egyptian newspaper reports alleged that a committee set up to investigate violence during the demonstrations that toppled Mubarak’s regime had laid charges against the former president for intentional murder of protesters. (Jerusalem Post, March 29.)

 

SAUDI ARABIA TO HOLD MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS—(Dubai) Saudi Arabia has announced that it will hold long-delayed municipal elections on April 23, but dashed the hopes of some reformists in the kingdom by confirming that women would not be allowed to vote. The previous round of municipal elections in 2005 was the only public poll ever held in the conservative Islamic monarchy, where political parties are banned; however, the elected councils have minimal political authority. Saudi Arabia’s ruling Al Saud family has signaled its unease regarding the ongoing uprisings in the Arab world by sending troops to neighboring Bahrain to help crush a Shiite uprising, and by granting its citizens financial benefits worth tens of billions of dollars. (Wall Street Journal, March 21.)

 

SOUTH AFRICAN UNIVERSITY SEVERS TIES WITH BEN GURION U.—(New York) The University of Johannesburg’s faculty senate has voted to cut ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University. In a secret ballot, 72 faculty members voted in favor of ending a memorandum of understanding between the two universities, with 45 members voting against. After an agreement between the universities to collaborate on biotechnology and water purification projects was announced in 2009, several Johannesburg faculty members protested, complaining of “Israeli apartheid.” The boycott campaign was championed by Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and at least 400 other prominent South African figures and academics. Ben Gurion University “regrets” the decision. (JTA, March 24.)

 

KNESSET ADOPTS ‘NAKBA LAW’—(Jerusalem) Israel’s Knesset has passed the “Nakba Law”, which will allow the state to fine local communities and other state-funded groups for holding events that mark what the Arab community calls the Nakba, the “catastrophe”, referring to the creation of the Jewish state of Israel. The law, which was enacted by a vote of 37 to 25, also applies to activities which deny that Israel is a Jewish state, question the country’s democratic character, or support armed struggle against the state. The Knesset also passed the Admissions Committee Law by a vote of 35 to 20 allowing Negev and Galilee Jewish communities with fewer than 400 families to vet possible residents with an admission committee. (JTA, March 23.)

 

BETTER PLACE LAUNCHES 1ST ISRAELI BATTERY-SWITCHING STATION—(Jerusalem) The Israeli company Better Place, which manufactures battery-operated automobiles, has launched its first battery-swapping station in Israel. The station is the first of approximately 40 that will open around the country in the near term. The company has also erected over 1,000 functional charging spots for the cars and thousands more will be put in place by the end of the year. At the exchange station, drivers of the battery-powered cars pull up to a set of motorized tracks, as in a car wash, and put the car in neutral; the rest of the five-minute process is fully automated. The batteries can also be charged independently, in 6 hours, and provide for 185 km. of travel. Better Place already has systems under development in Copenhagen and Tokyo, and has plans to expand to California, Hawaii and Australia. (Jerusalem Post, March 24.)

 

ARGENTINA READY TO ‘FORGET’ IRAN’S ROLE IN ATTACKS ON JEWISH COMMUNITY—(Jerusalem) According to a leaked classified document, Argentina “would be ready to freeze the investigations of [two] terrorist bombings attributed to Iran…in exchange for renewing and improving trade relations between the countries.…” The 1992 Israeli embassy bombing in Buenos Aires killed 29 people and injured 242 others; the bombing at the AMIA Jewish community center, two years later, killed 85 people and injured more than 300. Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman is alleged to have forwarded the offer to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad via Syrian President Bashar Asad. Timerman is Argentina’s first Jewish foreign minister. (Haaretz, March 27.)

 

TURKEY’S PHOTO OF THE YEAR: BLEEDING IDF SOLDIER—(Jerusalem) The picture of a bleeding IDF soldier aboard the Marmara flotilla has won Turkey’s 2010 Photo of the Year Award in the News category. The photograph shows a beaten IDF soldier with his face and head bloodied having his arm twisted by three Marmara “activists”. Contest winners received their prizes at the beginning of the month at a ceremony attended by Turkey’s parliament speaker, deputy prime minister and other high-ranking parliamentarians. (Ynet News, March 29.)

 

PALESTINIAN INCITEMENT LETTER GARNERS 27 SENATORS—(Washington) A bipartisan slate of 27 U.S. senators have signed on to a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to press the Palestinian Authority to address incitement against Israelis. The letter focuses on the massacre March 11 of five members of a family in Itamar, and suggests that the Palestinian Authority, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, has not done enough to stem incitement. A similar letter to President Obama has also been launched launched and is still garnering signatures. The J Street lobby has opposed the letters, saying they lack balance by not noting Israeli incitement and steps the P.A. has taken to tamp down incitement. (JTA, March 30.)

BLINDNESS ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS— OBAMA AND THE SYRIAN “REFORMER”

 

 

 

BREAKING NEWS:

Syrian government resigns in attempt to appease protesters

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accepted the resignation of the government. “President Assad accepts the government's resignation,” an announcement on Syrian state television said. Assad is expected to address the nation on Tuesday or Wednesday in a speech which may include a decision to abolish emergency laws, after two weeks of democracy protests gripped the country. (Reuters, March 29.)

 

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT SYRIA
Editorial
Jerusalem Post, March 27, 2011

 

The precise number of protesters killed to date in Syria in unknown. Amnesty International has estimated 55 dead in the past week in and around the southern town of Deraa alone. Syrian activists have posted graphic videos on YouTube documenting brutal murders at the hands of Bashar al-Assad’s security forces in additional cities, such as Sanamayn. One eyewitness told Al-Jazeera that more than 20 protesters had been shot dead there. One or more fatalities have also been reported in the coastal city of Latakia.

The sketchiness of the reports debunk the assumption that we all now live in a global village. A regime with the requisite wherewithal can, evidently, keep a fairly serious stranglehold on news, at least temporarily. American and European news anchors, so prominent in Libya these days, will not be heading to Damascus anytime soon. So long as Assad runs Syria, they simply won’t be allowed in.

Not only has Damascus managed to keep tight control over the goings on within its borders, and to maintain a “fear regime” that had deterred even the bravest malcontents from taking to the streets until very recently, it has even managed to win positive PR. USA Today featured a somewhat bizarre Syria supplement last month. But that was nothing compared to the puff piece carried by the fashion magazine Vogue, profiling Assad’s wife, entitled “Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert.”

The “breezy, conspiratorial and fun” wife of the autocrat admits to readers that “it’s a tough neighborhood” she lives in. But not to worry. We are informed that the 35-year-old first lady’s “central mission” is to change the “mind-set” of six million Syrians under eighteen and encourage them to engage in “active citizenship.”

Demonstrations denigrating hubby as a “traitor who kills his people” seem active enough, though probably not the sort of thing the “glamorous, young, and very chic” Asma had in mind.

Yet what one French journalist has called the Vogue article’s “surrealism” is, unfortunately, a symptom of the kind of misguided mind-set that has led the US and Europeans to pursue what has become euphemistically known as “constructive engagement” with Damascus. This meant that as long as the Syrians made the most rudimentary ostensible gestures toward peace, consecutive US administrations, with strong European encouragement, were willing to overlook its many vices.

In the summer of 2005, just over a month after Syria was forced out of Lebanon by the Cedar Revolution following 29 years of occupation, Damascus renewed its campaign against Lebanese democracy, launching a series of assassinations that targeted civil society activists, government ministers, parliamentarians and journalists. Washington issued various condemnations but did nothing.

In the winter of 2007, former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, a strong advocate of “engagement,” was in Damascus to meet with Assad while, on the other side of town, Imad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah commander responsible for the killings of some 250 American soldiers in the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, was killed.

That Mughniyeh had traveled freely to Damascus made it obvious that Syria was providing shelter to various terrorists—from insurgents making their way to Iraq to fight US troops, to Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, to members of Al Qaida and global jihad. And this “hosting” was being done under the nose of a visiting American dignitary.

In recent weeks, while the West has taken military action against Muammar Gaddafi, Syria has reportedly been helping the embattled despot. Libyan rebels last week brought down two Syrian fighter pilots; the Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith quoted sources stating that Syria had sent two dozen fighter jets to aid Gaddafi. Meanwhile, in the coming weeks, the special UN tribunal looking into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri is slated to present findings which are expected to implicate both Hezbollah and Syria in the killing. Yet, inexplicably, as Damascus continues to strengthen its ties with terrorists, including Iran, the US recently reinstated its ambassador, who had been removed in 2005 after Hariri’s assassination. And on Sunday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear that presently America has no intention of intervening militarily in Syria.

While there is reason to be acutely concerned that whoever or whatever replaces the Assad regime is liable to be still more hostile to the West and to Israel, it is surely long overdue to scrap the decades-old policy of “constructive engagement” with a leadership that showed a particular ruthlessness in mowing down tens of thousands of its own people on the last occasion that they dared mount a challenge to the Assad dynasty, in 1982.

The only thing “constructive engagement” seems to have achieved is to encourage a brutal regime to believe that it can continue to rule through murder and intimidation, while giving that regime the leeway to gain positive international PR. The effort to depict Assad’s Syria as some kind of enlightened, humane, reform-minded regime has rarely looked as imbecilic as it does today, with the president’s security forces doing his bidding and gunning down his people, just as they did in his father’s time.

 

THE ASSAD REGIME TREMBLES
Ryan Mauro
FrontPage Blog, March 28, 2011

 

The Baathist Syrian regime is facing its greatest internal challenge since Hafez al-Assad destroyed Hama in 1982 to put down a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood. Bashar Assad’s violence against protesters has ignited further discontent and it shows no sign of dissipating. If the revolution in Syria succeeds, it will remove a state sponsor of terrorism and ally of Iran with the blood of American soldiers on its hands.

Up to 126 civilians have been killed by the Syrian security forces since the uprising began and the death toll continues to climb. The Assad regime had been one of the few that seemed stable in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution as a much-anticipated “Day of Rage” in February failed to materialize. The uprising had small beginnings as lonely voices calling for protests became louder and more numerous.

The turning point came on February 17, when about 1,500 spontaneously demonstrated in Damascus following the beating of a young man by security personnel.… On February 22, about 200 people held a sit-in near the Libyan embassy to express their anger with Muammar Qaddafi and 14 were arrested. In the second week of March, many Kurdish political prisoners began a hunger strike and a dozen Syrian human rights groups called for an end to discriminatory practices against the Kurdish minority.…

On March 15, about 200 protested for freedom in Damascus. The next day, about 150 people gathered in front of the Interior Ministry to silently protest for the release of political prisoners, of which there are about 4,000. At least 33 participants were subsequently arrested, but a psychological barrier had been broken and protests were sparked in four cities, most significantly in the southern city of Deraa. Like the rest of the country, the city was unsatisfied with the economic and political conditions, but it was particularly upset over the arrest of 15 children between the ages of 10 and 15 for writing pro-revolution slogans. The regime’s security forces attacked the crowd, killing six people on March 23.

The funerals for the victims in Deraa became a rallying point for tens of thousands of demonstrators, sparking further clashes in the city. A statue of Hafez al-Assad has been toppled. It didn’t take long for protests to spread to the surrounding area and elsewhere in the country in the following days. A map created by NOWLebanon shows how the protests have truly morphed into a nationwide uprising, spreading even to the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

The situation is spiraling out of control for the Assad regime, which had to deploy the army to Latakia after a dozen died on Saturday, some of which is the result of sniper fire. There were deaths elsewhere in the country, including 20 in Sanamein.… There are also suspicions that some security forces are from Hezbollah as southern Lebanese accents have been reportedly heard.

About 4,000 people held a sit-in at Douma near Damascus, 200 of which were arrested after electricity was cut off and raids began. University dorms have been raided in Latakia. In Taurus and Deraa, the Baath Party offices have been set on fire.…

The Assad regime is coupling its aggressive posture with some concessions. It has released 260 political prisoners, including an activist from Deraa and says it will release the children that were detained. It also says that the state of emergency will be lifted. Concessions such as these have not proven adequate in the other Arab countries where violence caused a popular backlash, and there is no reason to believe Syria is any different. They also come with a catch. All but 14 of the released prisoners are Islamists, so the regime is likely trying to play on fears that the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic extremists will replace it. A presidential advisor is already trying to pin the blame on Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi. Counter-terrorism laws are reportedly being prepared to replace the emergency laws to ensure the regime’s grip on the country is not weakened.

There are two key factors to watch out for as the uprising continues. Firstly, the Kurdish minority and the Muslim Brotherhood have yet to hit the streets. Secondly, signs of dissention among the military and security forces must be looked for. The ambassador to India has resigned and there are reports of four soldiers going missing after refusing to open fire in Hassakeh in the northeast.

The Syrian regime’s violence has been widely condemned and Secretary of Defense Gates has rightly said that the army should take the side of the people, stating “…the Egyptian army stood on the sidelines and allowed people to demonstrate and in fact empowered a revolution. The Syrians might take a lesson from that.” However, Secretary of State Clinton condemned the violence but said, “Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he is a reformer.”

Bashar Assad is not a “reformer.” He is a dictator that should not be looked upon kindly or as someone the U.S. can win to its side. He is a close ally of Iran and is supporter of terrorism who is responsible for killing American soldiers in Iraq. The uprising in Syria is aimed at unseating an enemy of the West and this opportunity should not be missed as it was in Iran in 2009.

 

THE SYRIAN SPRING
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, March 28, 2011

 

Amidst the many dangers posed by the political conflagration now engulfing the Arab world, we are presented with a unique opportunity in Syria. In Egypt, the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak has empowered the Muslim Brotherhood. The Sunni jihadist movement which spawned al-Qaeda and Hamas is expected to emerge as the strongest political force after the parliamentary elections in September.

Just a month after they demanded Mubarak’s ouster, an acute case of buyer’s remorse is now plaguing his Western detractors. As the Brotherhood’s stature rises higher by the day, Western media outlets as diverse as The New York Times and Commentary Magazine are belatedly admitting that Mubarak was better than the available alternatives.

Likewise in Libya, even as US-led NATO forces continue to bomb Muammar Gaddafi’s loyalists, there is a growing recognition that the NATO-supported rebels are not exactly the French Resistance. Last Friday’s Daily Telegraph report confirming that al-Qaeda-affiliated veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are now counted among the rebels the US is supporting against Gaddafi, struck a deep blow to public support for the war.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s admission Sunday that Gaddafi posed no threat to the US and that its military intervention against Gaddafi does not serve any vital interest similarly served to sour the American public on the war effort.…

The anti-regime protests in Syria are a welcome departure from the grim choices posed by Egypt and Libya because supporting the protesters in Syria is actually a good idea.

Assad is an unadulterated rogue. He is an illicit nuclear proliferator. Israel’s reported bombing of Assad’s North Korean-built, Iranian-financed nuclear reactor at Deir al-Zour in September 2007 did not end Assad’s nuclear adventures. Not only has he refused repeated requests from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the site, commercial satellite imagery has exposed four other illicit nuclear sites in the country. The latest one, reportedly for the production of uranium yellowcake tetroflouride at Marj as Sultan near Damascus, was exposed last month by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

Assad has a large stockpile of chemical weapons including Sarin gas and blister agents. In February 2009 Jane’s Intelligence Review reported that the Syrians were working intensively to expand their chemical arsenal. Based on commercial satellite imagery, Jane’s’ analysts concluded that Syria was expending significant efforts to update its chemical weapons facilities. Analysts claimed that Syria began its work upgrading its chemical weapons program in 2005 largely as a result of Saddam Hussein’s reported transfer of his chemical weapons arsenal to Syria ahead of the US-led invasion in 2003.

The Jane’s report also claimed that Assad’s men had built new missile bays for specially adapted Scud missiles equipped to hold chemical warheads at the updated chemical weapons sites.

As for missiles, with North Korean, Iranian, Russian, Chinese and other third-party assistance, Syria has developed a massive arsenal of ballistic missile and advanced artillery capable of hitting every spot in Israel and wreaking havoc on IDF troop formations and bases.

Beyond its burgeoning unconventional arsenals, Assad is a major sponsor of terrorism. He has allowed Syria to be used as a transit point for al-Qaida terrorists en route to Iraq. Assad’s Syria is second only to Iran’s ayatollahs in its sponsorship of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian Authority.…

If the Assad regime is overthrown, it will constitute a major blow to both the Iranian regime and Hezbollah. In turn, Lebanon’s March 14 democracy movement and the Iranian Green Movement will be empowered by the defeat. Obviously aware of the dangers, Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces and Hezbollah operatives have reportedly been deeply involved in the violent repression of protesters in Syria. Their involvement is apparently so widespread that among the various chants adopted by the protesters is a call for the eradication of Hezbollah.…

Like Gaddafi today, seven years ago Assad deployed his air force against the Kurds. Scores were killed and thousands were arrested. Many of those arrested were tortured by Assad’s forces.

The discrimination that Kurds have faced under Assad and his father is appalling. Since the 1970s, more than 300,000 Kurds have been stripped of their Syrian citizenship. They have been forcibly ejected from their homes and villages in the north and resettled in squalid refugee camps in the south. The expressed purpose of these racist policies has been to prevent territorial contiguity between Syrian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurds and to “Arabize” Syrian Kurdistan where most of Syria’s oil deposits are located.

The Kurds make up around 10 percent of Syria’s population. They oppose not only the Baathist regime, but also the Muslim Brotherhood. Represented in exile by the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, since 2004 they have sought the overthrow of the Assad regime and its replacement by democratic, decentralized federal government.…

This week the KNA released a statement to the world community. Speaking for Syria’s Kurds and for their Arab, Druse, Alevi and Christian allies in Syria, it asked for the “US, France, UK and international organizations to seek [a] UN resolution condemning [the] Syrian regime for using violence against [the Syrian] people.…”

Opponents of regime change in Syria argue that if Assad is overthrown, the Muslim Brotherhood will take over. This may be true, although the presence of a well-organized Kurdish opposition means it may be more difficult for the Brotherhood to take charge than it has been in Egypt.

Aside from that, whereas the Brotherhood is clearly a worse alternative in Egypt than Mubarak was, it is far from clear that it would be worse for Syria to be led by the Brotherhood than by Assad. What would a Muslim Brotherhood regime do that Assad isn’t already doing? At a minimum, a successor regime will be weaker than the current one. Consequently, even if Syria is taken over by jihadists, they will pose less of an immediate threat to the region than Assad. They will be much more vulnerable to domestic opposition and subversion.

Even if Assad is not overthrown, and is merely forced to contain the opposition over the long haul, this too would be an improvement.…

[And] now, in a bid to quell the anti-regime protests, Assad has been forced to deploy his military to his own towns and villages. Compelled to devote his energies to staying in power, Assad has little time to stir up fires elsewhere. The first beneficiary of his weakness will be Jordan’s King Abdullah who now needs to worry less about Assad enabling a Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood-instigated civil war in Jordan.

Depressingly, under the Obama administration the US will not lift a finger to support Syrian regime opponents. In media interviews Sunday, not only did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rule out the use of force to overthrow Assad, as his troops were killing anti-regime protesters, Clinton went so far as to praise Assad as “a reformer.”

The US retreat from strategic rationality is tragic. But just because President Barack Obama limits American intervention in the Middle East to the places it can do the most harm such as Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian conflict with Israel, there is no reason for Israel not to act independently to help Assad’s domestic opponents.

Israel should arm the Kurds…[and] speak out on [their] behalf.…

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should ask the UN to speed up the release of the indictments in the investigation of the late Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman should call on the UN to behave honestly and indict Assad for ordering Hariri’s murder.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak should release information about Syria’s transfer of weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah. The government should release information about Syria’s use of terror against the Druse. Netanyahu must also state publicly that in light of the turbulence of the Arab world generally, and Assad’s murderous aggression against his own people and his neighbors specifically, Israel is committed to maintaining perpetual sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

We are living through dangerous times. But even now there is much we can do to emerge stronger from the political storm raging around us. Syria’s revolt is a rare opportunity. We’d better not squander it.

 

WHY HAS THE U.S. BEEN SO SOFT ON BASHAR ASSAD?
Martin Peretz

New Republic, March 29, 2011

 

I don’t know where to begin. So let me start with Bashar Al Assad—whose father, Hafez, Jimmy Carter wrote he had higher regard for than any other leader in the Middle East. Barack Obama never said anything quite that hagiographic about the son. But Hillary Clinton, his pliant chief diplomat, told “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the Syrian president was considered by members of Congress from both parties to be a “reformer.” How many senators and representatives will own up to Hillary’s characterization? It is hokum. The hokum started long ago. One can locate it in time: June 14, 2000, in a New York Times article by Susan Sachs headlined, “The Shy Young Doctor at Syria’s Helm.” Doctor this and doctor that. And, of course, “Dr. Bashar.” There is nothing like a first name to humanize a tyrant. “Fidel,” for example. And more: general practitioner, ophthalmologist, director of the Syrian Society for Information Technology.…

Thanks to an orchestrated campaign in the state news media to credit him with fighting corruption and promoting a more open economy, Dr. Assad also is seen as a beacon of hope for a new, more relaxed Syria. He recently told The Washington Post that he personally favored lifting all of hidebound Syria’s restrictions on what people read, watch on television or discover on the Internet. “As a point of principle, I would like everybody to be able to see everything,” he was quoted as saying. “The more you see, the more you improve.” But others, Dr. Assad added, have their reservations.

It went on more or less like this for maybe seven or eight years when the reality purveyors suddenly caught on that the dictator’s boy was a dictator himself. Until, that is, this last weekend with the aforementioned discovery of the secretary of state that he was a “reformer.”

The president must have felt similarly because he constantly pressed on Israel the view that Assad was a reasonable and trustworthy man.… Having forced both Israel and the Palestinian Authority into the cul de sac of settlements as the pivotal issue among the parties (a matter already implicitly but not definitively resolved between the two antagonists), the president needed another key to unlock and unblock the conflict.… So, rather than pressing Syria to stop its arms deliveries to Hezbollah, it began to press Israel on the Golan.

Why Obama thought the Golan Heights could be the big opener in the peace process is anybody’s guess. The fact is that the Palestinians do not care a fig for the Golan, and an Israeli concession on it would not be seen as—and would not be—a concession to anyone but the Ba’athists. Who, of course, cannot be trusted on anything. Which is one reason why Jerusalem was not inclined to experiment on a big swath of high ground that had been the source of death and destruction for first two decades of statehood.… Here the principle must be, like the principle from all just wars, that to the aggressed-upon victor belongs the spoils.

In any case, Assad’s always shaky rule over Syria is now exposed as just that. And just that because it is not based on anyone’s consent but on coercion and domestic terror. The governing 12 percent minority of the Alawite sect is Syria’s equivalent to Saddam Hussein’s clan of Tikriti Sunnis, both having ruled cruelly and bloodily. Indeed, the Assads have nursed a particular grudge against the Palestinians, almost all of them. They had little truck with Arafat and sided in the intra-Palestinian wars with the secular “socialist” schismatics who’d headquartered themselves in Syria’s capital.…

In a tangled Sunday dispatch from Washington, Mark Landler reports that the “deepening chaos in Syria … could dash any remaining hopes for a Middle East peace agreement, several analysts said.” In truth, however, there was almost no hope for such an agreement even before the challenge in the streets. Anyway, which seasoned analysts? The one he quotes is Martin Indyk, who almost always believes that tout va bien, but especially when things are going horridly.

Well, we don’t really know how badly or, for that matter, how well things are going. Still, there is something exhilarating in the Libyan rising against one of the two or three leading political crackpots of the age. And the support of that rising by Western democracies through NATO. That Obama was less than resolute in this enterprise is something we have come to expect. Of course, liberal Democrats have tried to make a virtue of the failing. The National Security Network issued an exemplary statement: “The effective handoff to NATO command and growing Arab state participation show that the United States can lead by letting others out in front.” This is double talk … or maybe agitprop….

As for Egypt, I cling to the hope that its people will realize social and economic progress with some political and legal justice. But if the new government is overwhelmed by the Muslim Brotherhood, neither of these (in any case) dicey hopes will be realized.… The Shia revolution in Iran is the very model for its Sunni enemy on the Nile. If Cairo reneges on its treaty with Israel, Egypt will find itself in another drama out of which it will not emerge either victorious or prosperous. An article by Barry Rubin in Monday’s Jerusalem Post argues that “another Israel-Hamas war is inevitable” precisely because the theology of Egypt itself will be transformed under Islamist rule.…

[I]n Syria…the Muslim Brotherhood has deep and broad rooting. Take your choice: Assad is allied with Hezbollah and Iran, militant Shi’ism on the march. Assad’s embittered enemies are soldiers of the Sunni sword. Obama tried his luck with Assad as, forgive the recollection, he also did with Dr. Ahmadinejad. The president then followed the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, in his royal bankrolling effort to lure the eye doctor away from Nasrallah. Even the dynast’s billions couldn’t do the trick. Barack Obama will not reflect on how in just a bit over two years he got himself and America into this fix.

(Martin Peretz is the editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic.)

AS LENIN SAID: WHO/WHOM?—“PROTESTERS,” “REVOLUTIONARIES,” & THE ARAB REBELLIONS

 

 

 

OBAMA’S LIBYAN WAR, THE ARAB REBELLIONS, AND ISRAEL
Frederick Krantz

 

Finally, after weeks of indecisive hesitation, and with Col. Khaddafi’s forces about to conquer Benghazi, the Libyan rebels’ last strong-hold, American President Barack Obama agreed to support a Libyan intervention.

In a hurried press conference, before ostentatiously leaving in mid-crisis for Brazil (which had just abstained onintervention in the Security Council) Obama—who weeks earlier had dramatically said Khaddafi “had to go”—informed the world that America would be part of a UN coalition imposing a “no fly” zone on Libya. Obama quickly added that the allies, not the U.S., would lead, there would never be American “boots” on the ground, and Obama proudly added, even the Arab League was supporting the venture. This did not, however, include key states with strong armies, like Egypt, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia, and it soon turned wobbly when the bombs began to fall.

Yet despite the U.S. President’s transparent, and telling, cloaking of the move in internationalist bafflegab (and now the reference to the Libyan colonel’s departure had disappeared), America’s key military role, begun on the very day marking the beginning of the Iraq war’s ninth year, soon became clear.

So too did the confusion issuing from the President’s weak leadership and incoherent policy—what was initially touted as only a “no fly” zone to protect “civilians” morphed, on day one, into a “no drive” zone, a direct assault on Khaddafi’s ground forces, including what seemed an attempt (failed) to assassinate him by bombing his presidential palace in Tripoli.

Khaddafi, of course, is far from defeated. His anti-colonial (and anti-”Christian/infidel” hype) has evidently already weakened the Arab support Obama initially trumpeted. He can also hope to divide the weak Western allies (Germany, as well as Russia and China, opposed the venture) internally (Sarkozy and the French were already being blamed for being too self-seekingly aggressive, the Turks were balking at tactical bombing, and everyone was arguing about who or what will head the NATO mission Obama has now jiggered up to replace direct US leadership).

The Colonel may be counting, too, on Obama’s losing his nerve under public and Congressional criticism (already being expressed by a united Republican front and the President’s Democratic-left “base”).

The Libyan intervention may well prove a partial, if not unmitigated, disaster. Obama has repeatedly framed it as lasting days, not weeks; but if Khaddafi endures it may well (like the initial Iraq “no fly” zone) turn first into months and then years. And if the “rebels” themselves—an amorphous, heterogeneous, and largely unknown collection with no clear leadership—splinter, or if Libya is functionally partitioned, largely along tribal lines, with Khaddafi king of Tripoli and points west, and the weak rebels dominating the east, how will the U.S. avoid ownership of a third war in a Muslim land?

A cornered Khaddafi could, as he has threatened, blow up his oil fields (which supply Italy and much of Western Europe), or launch a series of terrorist strikes against Europe and the U.S. (we should never forget that Libya provided the bulk of the foreign Sunni terrorists in Iraq, and that Khaddafi’s repeated invocation of his opposition to al-Qaeda is not entirely empty rhetoric). And even if Obama does succeed in killing Khaddafi (his and Hillary Clinton’s euphemism is “make him go away”), his sons may well continue on.

Finally, all of the imponderables of “Obama’s war” (and the Arab “revolutions” around it) bear on Israel’s security and well-being. First, Obama’s initial hesitations about confronting Khaddafi, a real Arab murderer and thug, throw an inverse light on the political values revealed by his consistently hostile stance towards democratic Israel. Secondly, in regard to the practical utility of his pro forma verbal assurances about defending Israel, we should recall his rapid jettisoning of Hosni Mubarak, America’s firmest, and oldest, Middle East Arab ally, at the beginning of the Egyptian “revolution”, his dangerous vacillation in regard to another old ally still facing “protesters”, the king of strategically-crucial Bahrain, and his hesitations about the increasingly precarious (but anti-al-Qaeda) president of Yemen, Saleh.

The Egyptian “revolution” is now safely over and in the hands of the military, which evicted the “protesters” from Tahrir Square and controls a constitution-making process marked by an ever-stronger Moslem Brotherhood (see the recent constitutional amendments vote). The Saudis, well-aware of their own security interests and explicitly rejecting Obama’s imprecations, have invaded Bahrain and put down the revolutionary pro-Iranian Shi’ite “protesters” there. (Meanwhile, President Saleh, who is being allowed to twist slowly in the revolutionary wind, may well not survive.)

And now—mirabile dictu!—sudden popular protests have broken out even in Syria, only to be bloodily suppressed, and this despite the presence of the recently-returned American ambassador, put there without Congressional approval by Obama notwithstanding Assad’s literally murderous anti-U.S. role in Iraq and Lebanon. (Secretary of Defense Gates has rejected “regime change” in Syria, and Secretary of State Clinton tells us Bashar Assad is a “reformer.”)

In short, as the Arab rebellions spread dangerously around the only regional island of stability, Israel, Barack Obama and his Administration are a foreign policy disaster, stumbling from one improvised policy to another. Marked by a leftist-anti-”colonialist” mentality (read the Cairo Speech), a weakness for “re-setting” relations with dictatorships (Russia, China, Iran, Syria), and facing a severe domestic social and economic crisis, Obama’s neo-isolationist tendency is, especially in the Middle East, increasingly evident, and for Israel nothing short of a disaster.

Obama’s brief two years in office have seen the reversal of long-standing American Middle East and Persian Gulf policy, and the collapse, actual or imminent, of key traditional American allies. And as the brief hope of a truly democratic “Arab Revolution” dims, what looms ominously in its stead is prolonged chaos and reinforcement of Islamist movements (from the Moslem Brothers in Egypt and Gaza to Al Qaeda in Yemen and, possibly Libya), as well as growing Iranian Shiite influence (in Bahrain, and with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.)

The only “bright spot” at the moment is, paradoxically, Syria, where popular Sunni elimination of the minority Alawite Assad regime would weaken Hamas, Hezbollah and, behind them, their Iranian Shiite sponsor, and might even re-spark the Iranian “Green” revolution against the mullahcracy.

Under such dangerous and unstable circumstances, and given the Obama Administration’s illusory, and dangerous, “peace process” pressures (which may well increase precisely as Obama meets defeats elsewhere) Israel must look to its own basic security. And above all, the current focus on the rebellions and their implications must not lead us into taking our eyes off the elephant in the room, the major and continuing threat to Israel of the Iranians’ nuclear program.

Given this, Israeli diplomacy must do everything it can to ensure, to minimize, to the extent possible, that the Jewish state’s international isolation, while we here in North America, the last redoubt of public support for the Jewish state, must remain united and committed to ensuring continuing, strong public and governmental backing for the Jewish state.

(Prof. Krantz is Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research,
and Editor of
the Isranet Daily Briefing)

 

EVERY REVOLUTION IS REVOLUTIONARY IN ITS OWN WAY
Simon Sebag Montefiore

NY Times, March 26, 2011

 

A revolution resembles the death of a fading star, an exhilarating Technicolor explosion that gives way not to an ordered new galaxy but to a nebula, a formless cloud of shifting energy. And though every revolution is different, because all revolutions are local, in this uncertain age of Arab uprisings and Western interventions, as American missiles bombard a defiant Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, as the ruler of Yemen totters on the brink and Syrian troops fire on protesters, the history of revolution can still offer us some clues to the future.

The German sociologist Max Weber cited three reasons for citizens to obey their rulers: “the authority of the eternal yesterday,” or historical prestige; “the authority of the extraordinary personal gift of grace,” or the ruler’s charisma; and “domination by virtue of legality,” or order and justice. The “authority of the eternal yesterday” is especially important because in the Arab world even republics tend to be dynastic.

Before his ouster, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was grooming hereditary heirs. Before his death in 2000, Hafez al-Assad, the long-reigning Syrian dictator, handed over power to his son Bashar. Colonel Qaddafi has long ruled through a phalanx of thuggish dauphins, each playing a different role—one the totalitarian enforcer, another, the pro-Western liberalizer—and each vying for the succession. Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh similarly is safeguarded by special forces commanded by sons and nephews.

Yet “the life span of a dynasty corresponds to the life span of an individual,” wrote Ibn Khaldun, the brilliant 14th-century Islamic historian-statesman. All these Arab “monarchies” have rested on the prestige of a religion (Saudi Wahhabism or Iranian Twelver Shiism), a personality (in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution; in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, the memory of the most popular Arab ruler since Saladin, President Gamal Abdel Nasser; in Saudi Arabia, the founder-king Ibn Saud) or a heredity link (Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s descent from Muhammad). But “prestige…decays inevitably,” ruled Ibn Khaldun.…

The generational difference between…wizened pharaohs and the Twitter-obsessed youth worsened the [current] crisis, which may yet mark the end of the ancient paradigm of the Arab ruler, the wise strong sheik, el Rais, the Boss. A dictator who is regularly mocked by the young for his Goth-black dyed hair and surgically enhanced cheekbones, and whose entourage features as many nurses as generals, is in trouble—he has lost “the personal gift of grace.”

Such dictators are often so sclerotic that they do not even realize there is a revolution until it is upon them. In 1848, Prince Metternich, the Austrian chancellor, was so old that he literally could not hear the mobs outside his own palace. When the riots started, I imagine Colonel Qaddafi or King Hamad al-Khalifa of Bahrain had a conversation something like this one:

“So what is it? A riot?” asked King Louis XVI in Paris in 1789. “No, Sire,” replied his confidant La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, “it is a revolution.”

Leaderless revolutions without organization have a magically spontaneous momentum that is harder to crush. Lenin had just reflected that the revolution would never happen in his lifetime when in February 1917, hungry crowds in Petrograd overthrew Nicholas II while the revolutionaries were abroad, exiled or infiltrated by the secret police.…

Once the crowds are in the streets, the ability to crush revolutions depends on the ruler’s willingness and ability to shed blood. The more moderate the regimes, like the Shah’s Iran in 1979 or Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, the easier to overthrow. The more brutal the police state, like Colonel Qaddafi’s Libya, President Saleh’s Yemen or President Assad’s Syria, the tougher to bring down. Iran has brutally repressed its opposition—it helps to not be an American ally and to exclude the international news media, as it’s much easier to massacre your people without being restrained by the State Department or CNN.

“Very pleasing commencements,” wrote Edmund Burke, observer of the French Revolution’s spiral from freedom to terror, “have often shameful, lamentable conclusions.” Look at Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution against Syria and its ally Hezbollah, which has ended with a Syrian-backed, Hezbollah-dominated government. The first success of revolution creates the exuberant dizziness of democratic freedom that we saw in Cairo and Benghazi. In Europe in 1848, in Russia in 1917, there were similarly exhilarating springs.…

The [initial] fiesta does not last long. The disorder, uncertainty and strife of a revolution make citizens yearn for stable authority, or they turn to radicalism. Certainly, extremists welcome this deterioration, as Lenin, that laconic dean of the university of revolutionology, expressed it with the slogan: “The worse, the better.” (At that point, extreme solutions become more palatable: “How can one make a revolution without firing squads?” asked Lenin.)

At this stage, leadership becomes vital: Lenin personally drove the Bolshevik coup in October 1917. Khomeini was decisive in creating a Shiite theocracy in Iran in 1979 just as Nelson Mandela ensured a peaceful transition in South Africa. But there are no clear opposition leaders in Libya, Yemen or Syria: a ruthless security apparatus has long since decimated any such candidates.

In 1848, the democratic spring did not last long before outside intervention: Czar Nicholas I of Russia crushed the revolutions in the Habsburg Empire, earning him the soubriquet “the gendarme of Europe.” The Saudi intervention against Shiite rebels in Bahrain suggests the Saudis are the gendarmes of the Gulf; in Yemen, President Saleh has also begged for Saudi help, which they have so far withheld. In Libya, of course, the reverse has happened: the West is backing the rebels against Colonel Qaddafi’s onslaught. Each case is different; all revolutions are local.

Whatever happens next in the Arab world, it will not simply be a reversion to Mubarak-ish military pharaohism. After the upheavals of 1848, strange political hybrids, modern yet authoritarian, emerged from the uncertainty: first Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the so-called prince-president and later emperor, in France; and, later, in the 1860s, Otto von Bismarck in Prussia. In complex Egypt, the result of the Arab revolutions is likely to be a similar hybrid, a new democracy, with the military in a special role of Turkish-style guardianship; in repressed Libya, it may simply be a return to tribal rivalry.

Libya, strafed by British and American planes, may be in the headlines but it is a minor country.…

Lesser countries, however, can hold the key to major ones: Syria is the old Arab heartland. The uprising in Syria could encourage resurgent revolution in its patron, Iran, which faces the challenge of exploiting the uprisings that undermine American allies without succumbing to its own unrest. Change in Syria could also liberate Lebanon from Hezbollah; the fall of the Bahraini king could infect the Saudi monarchy—just as Nasser’s overthrow of King Farouk in 1952 in Egypt led to the liquidation of the Iraqi monarchy a few years later. And we should always remember that however liberal these Facebooking revolutions may be, the rivalries between Shiite and Sunni are far more potent than Twitter and democracy.…

No single American doctrine can or should fit this newly kaleidoscopic, multifaceted universe that is the Middle East from Iran to Morocco. We must realize this will be a long game, the grand tournament of the 21st century. We should protect innocent lives when we can—with limited airpower, not boots on the ground. We must analyze which countries matter to us strategically, and after the Facebook party dies down and the students exit the streets, figure out who is really controlling events in the places important to us.

The wisest judgments belong to statesmen who knew much about crushing and making revolutions. “Old Europe is at the beginning of the end,” reflected the ultraconservative Metternich as he was beset by revolutions, “but New Europe however has not yet even begun its existence, and between the End and the Beginning, there will be Chaos.” Lenin understood that the ultimate question in each revolution is always the unfathomable alchemy of power: who controls whom. Or as he put it so succinctly: “Who whom?”

 

THE SPEECH OBAMA HASN’T GIVEN
Peggy Noonan
Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2011

 

It all seems rather mad, doesn’t it? The decision to become involved militarily in the Libyan civil war couldn’t take place within a less hospitable context. The U.S. is reeling from spending and deficits, we’re already in two wars, our military has been stretched to the limit, we’re restive at home, and no one, really, sees President Obama as the kind of leader you’d follow over the top. “This way, men!” “No, I think I’ll stay in my trench.” People didn’t hire him to start battles but to end them. They didn’t expect him to open new fronts. Did he not know this?…

Which gets me to Mr. Obama’s speech, the one he hasn’t given. I cannot for the life of me see how an American president can launch a serious military action without a full and formal national address in which he explains to the American people why he is doing what he is doing, why it is right, and why it is very much in the national interest. He referred to his aims in parts of speeches and appearances when he was in South America, but now he’s home. More is needed, more is warranted, and more is deserved.…

Without a formal and extended statement, the air of weirdness, uncertainty and confusion that surrounds this endeavor will only deepen. The questions that must be answered actually start with the essentials. What, exactly, are we doing? Why are we doing it? At what point, or after what arguments, did the president decide U.S. military involvement was warranted? Is our objective practical and doable? What is America’s overriding strategic interest? In what way are the actions taken, and to be taken, seeing to those interests?

From those questions flow many others. We know who we’re against—Moammar Gadhafi, a bad man who’s done very wicked things. But do we know who we’re for? That is, what does the U.S. government know or think it knows about the composition and motives of the rebel forces we’re attempting to assist?…

What happens if Gadhafi hangs on? The president has said he wants U.S. involvement to be brief. But what if Gadhafi is fighting on three months from now? On the other hand, what happens if Gadhafi falls, if he’s deposed in a palace coup or military coup, or is killed, or flees? What exactly do we imagine will take his place?…

The U.S. and the allies will have to provide the rebels training and give them support. They will need antitank missiles and help in coordinating air strikes. Once Gadhafi is gone, will there be a need for an international peacekeeping force to stabilize the country, to provide a peaceful transition, and to help the post-Gadhafi government restore its infrastructure? Will there be a partition? Will Libyan territory be altered?

None of this sounds like limited and discrete action. In fact, this may turn out to be true: If Gadhafi survives, the crisis will go on and on. If Gadhafi falls, the crisis will go on and on.…

Mr. Obama has apparently set great store in the fact that he was not acting alone, that Britain, France and Italy were eager to move. That’s good—better to work with friends and act in concert. But it doesn’t guarantee anything. A multilateral mistake is still a mistake.…

And what, finally, about Congress? Putting aside the past half-century’s argument about declarations of war, doesn’t Congress, as representative of the people, have the obvious authority and responsibility to support the Libyan endeavor, or not, and to authorize funds, or not?…

America has been through a difficult 10 years, and the burden of proof on the need for U.S. action would be with those who supported intervention. Chief among them, of course, is the president, who made the decision as commander in chief. He needs to sit down and tell the American people how this thing can possibly turn out well. He needs to tell them why it isn’t mad.

 

OBAMA AND LIBYA: THE PROFESSOR’S WAR
Charles Krauthammer
Washington Post, March 24, 2011

 

President Obama is proud of how he put together the Libyan operation. A model of international cooperation. All the necessary paperwork. Arab League backing. A Security Council resolution. (Everything but a resolution from the Congress of the United States, a minor inconvenience for a citizen of the world.) It’s war as designed by an Ivy League professor.

True, it took three weeks to put this together, during which time Moammar Gaddafi went from besieged, delusional (remember those youthful protesters on “hallucinogenic pills”) thug losing support by the hour—to resurgent tyrant who marshaled his forces, marched them to the gates of Benghazi and had the U.S. director of national intelligence predicting that “the regime will prevail.”

But what is military initiative and opportunity compared with paper?…

Yet Obama deemed it a great diplomatic success that the [Arab League] deigned to permit others to fight and die to save fellow Arabs for whom 19 of 21 Arab states have yet to lift a finger.

And what about that brilliant U.N. resolution? Russia’s Vladimir Putin is already calling the Libya operation a medieval crusade. China is calling for a cease-fire in place—which would completely undermine the allied effort by leaving Gaddafi in power, his people at his mercy and the country partitioned and condemned to ongoing civil war. Brazil joined China in that call for a cease-fire. This just hours after Obama ended his fawning two-day Brazil visit. Another triumph of presidential personal diplomacy.

And how about NATO? Let’s see. As of this writing, Britain wanted the operation to be led by NATO. France adamantly disagreed, citing Arab sensibilities. Germany wanted no part of anything, going so far as to pull four of its ships from NATO command in the Mediterranean. Italy hinted it might deny the allies the use of its air bases if NATO can’t get its act together. France and Germany walked out of a NATO meeting on Monday, while Norway had planes in Crete ready to go but refused to let them fly until it had some idea who the hell is running the operation. And Turkey, whose prime minister four months ago proudly accepted the Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, has been particularly resistant to the Libya operation from the beginning.

And as for the United States, who knows what American policy is. Administration officials insist we are not trying to bring down Gaddafi, even as the president insists that he must go. Although on Tuesday Obama did add “unless he changes his approach.” Approach, mind you.

In any case, for Obama, military objectives take a back seat to diplomatic appearances. The president is obsessed with pretending that we are not running the operation—a dismaying expression of Obama’s view that his country is so tainted by its various sins that it lacks the moral legitimacy to…what? Save Third World people from massacre?

Obama seems equally obsessed with handing off the lead role. Hand off to whom? NATO? Quarreling amid Turkish resistance (see above), NATO still can’t agree on taking over command of the airstrike campaign, which is what has kept the Libyan rebels alive.

This confusion is purely the result of Obama’s decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely “one of the partners among many,” he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him.… Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead—no one has anything near our capabilities, experience and resources—America is led by a man determined that it should not.…

“WE ARE A CHOSEN PEOPLE”: COMBATTING HATRED WITHOUT OURSELVES BECOMING HATERS

 

 

 

HATE IN, HAVE OUT
Andrew Roberts

National Post, March 17, 2011

 

This article is excerpted from the transcript of a speech delivered to a Toronto conference titled: “When Middle East Politics Invade Campus,” organized by Advocates for Civil Liberties on Feb. 16.

In May 2008, the University and College Union of Great Britain called for a boycott of Israeli academia, which went into immediate effect. As Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to the U.K., put it at that time: “Academics, who are supposedly society’s guardians of knowledge, objectivity and informed debate, have seen their union held hostage by radical factions, armed with political agendas and personal interests.” To boycott the professors, teachers and thinkers of an entire country, purely on grounds of nationality, which in the context of Israel effectively means grounds of race (as Arab academics do not seem to be affected), is a morally despicable thing to do, and the University and College Union should be ashamed of doing something so regressive and de facto racist.

One of the key battlegrounds in the struggle over Israel’s survival is on the campuses of the West, where opinions are being formed in the minds of the people who will constitute the national leaderships of tomorrow. I believe the battle is presently being lost, not least in the way that opinions utterly opposed to any sense of tolerance and decency are not only being aired but are being applauded.

Consider the following: In my country, Great Britain, Queen Mary’s University has recently hosted Abu Usamah, who has expressed such sentiments as that homosexuals should be thrown off mountains, that women are “deficient,” and that they should start wearing the hijab from the age of seven, because “by the age of 10 it becomes an obligation on us to force her to wear hijab and if she doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her.” NonMuslims, he says, are “pathological liars,” and “Jews and Christians are enemies to Muslims.”

London’s equally highly respected School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has a Palestine Society that has recently showed a film that included the following lines: “Allah is the greatest. He who thanks Allah will be rewarded. Oh Allah, loosen your power and strength on the Jews. Please Allah, kill them all. And don’t leave any of them alive.”

The London School of Economics (LSE) has held a lecture by Abdel Bari Atwan titled How much influence does the Zionist lobby exert in the U.S. and U.K.?, and its Palestine Solidarity Society has recently heard from Ahron Cohen, who, despite attending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent Holocaust Denial conference in Iran, in fact does not only acknowledge that the Holocaust happened, but actually blames Jewry for it: “There is no question that there was a Holocaust and gas chambers. There are too many eyewitnesses. However, our approach is that when one suffers, the one who perpetrates the suffering is obviously guilty but he will never succeed if the victim did not deserve it in one way or another.”

These academic institutions—Queen Mary’s, SOAS, the LSE and others—are not the kind of unknown Internet colleges where you might expect to hear foul, unhinged language of this kind; they are old, established, respected institutions of learning that have simply abrogated their duties to ensure that the laws regarding hate speech are not broken—and broken flagrantly—on their campuses.

Who can doubt that all this has had a direct effect on some students at least, who have in recent years gone on to perpetrate outrages that have led to deaths and mutilation? The former president of University College London’s Islamic Society, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab—the so-called underwear bomber—tried to kill everyone on a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day 2009. Omar Khan Sharif, who was a student at King’s College, London, and attended meetings of extremist Islamic organizations there, later carried out a suicide attack in a bar in Tel Aviv. Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, who was radicalized at the University of Bedfordshire, went on to blow up both himself and innocent bystanders in Sweden three months ago. There should be no surprise that the messages of these universities’ radical Islamic societies has led straight to murder and maiming: Hate in, Hate out.

Meanwhile, British trade unions regularly pass motions for economic, cultural and sporting boycotts of Israel. There was even in March 2009 calls to boycott the London Science Museum’s “Israel Day of Science,” which was going to showcase to schoolchildren Israeli advances in cancer research, solar energy and water desalination. The Independent newspaper, as part of its long-term and ongoing campaign of abuse against Israel, dutifully gave over its front-page in support of the boycott. Once you add the Guardian newspaper using its comments pages to normalize extremist ideology and legitimize terrorist organizations, and Channel 4 asking Ahmadinajad to deliver its Christmas Message, you’ll see that we have reached a position where fair-minded debate between people of good faith is at a discount, and the line between rational and irrational has been blurred so badly as to become almost meaningless.…

The Idea of the University, Cardinal John Henry Newman’s great work defining how the republic of the mind should be governed, hailed the importance of increasing the breadth of understanding, promoting excellence in scholarship, advancing student dialogue and freedom of expression and inquiry. These are still what underpin the ideal of the Academy in free societies, over a century later. Yet these are under mortal threat today.

Interestingly, one place where they are not under threat is in Israel and the occupied areas of the West Bank. Ariel University Center of Samaria, near Nablus on the West Bank, has 500 Israeli-Arab students among the 9,000 undergraduates studying at the university. Their presence at an institution that symbolizes the Israeli occupation and is the largest Israeli employer in the West Bank, comes as a surprise to many outsiders. Manar Dewany, a 20-year-old student in math and computer science who commutes each day from the Israeli-Arab town of Taybeh, says: “I never even considered it a reason for not coming here. I have no problem with it. Why not come here? This place is full of Arabs. Politics aren’t a problem here. It’s not even discussed. Studies are one thing and politics are another. Relations on campus are fine, natural. Everyone gets on well with each other. I was the only Arab student in my class last year, and I was treated the same as everyone else.”

There is a wealth of irony in the fact that one of the only places that Middle Eastern politics is not permitted to invade the campus is in the West Bank itself.…

Today we see [the] forces of ignorance and intolerance rising up once more in this campaign to boycott academics, writers and thinkers solely because of their nationality, in effect in the context of Israel therefore, because of their race.…

Israel therefore should not merely see herself as being in the front line in the War Against Terror, although of course she is. But in this present struggle over the academic boycott and the right of free speech in universities, Israel and her supporters—Jew and Gentile alike—are in the forefront of something even more important than that. For today, they stand in the very vanguard of the centuries-old struggle for truth over falsehood, knowledge over ignorance and therefore—ultimately—of civilization over barbarism.

 

HARROWING SIGHTS IN THE BALTICS
Efraim Zuroff

Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2011

 

These are hard times for the Jews of Lithuania and Latvia, especially for the Holocaust survivors among them. Within the last two weeks, one of the main avenues of the capital cities of each country hosted a well-attended march likely to send shivers down their spines and arouse tragic memories.

On March 11, about one thousand Lithuanian ultranationalists and neo- Nazis, bolstered by a delegation of their German counterparts, marched down Gediminas Avenue in the heart of Vilnius under police protection (the only persons arrested were two of the handful of brave Lithuanian protestors) shouting “Lithuania for Lithuanians” and waving swastika symbols, which in May 2010 were approved by a local court as “symbols of Lithuanian heritage.”

Five days later, about 2,500 Latvians gathered to support a march in Riga by veterans of the Latvian SS Legion from a local church to lay wreaths at the Freedom Monument, the symbol of Latvian independence. And while the marches are ostensibly different – the one in Lithuania focusing on the present and the one in Latvia dedicated to remembering the past— they both broadcast a chilling message of hostility for minorities and support for the same fascist nationalism which spawned the zealous collaboration of so many of their countrymen with Nazi Germany in the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

This was not the first time these marches have taken place. The one in Lithuania was held for the fourth year in a row and the number of its participants has steadily grown. The Latvian march has been going on for longer, but in this case as well, it appears that this year’s crowd was larger than in the past. Every year, efforts are made in both countries to legally prohibit the events, but ultimately local courts opt for freedom of expression.…

Advocates of the march continue to insist that those who served in the Latvian SS Legion had no allegiance to Germany and were “freedom fighters,” battling for an independent Latvia.… Even worse, these nationalists fail to acknowledge the important fact that many of Latvia’s worst murderers of Jews volunteered to serve in the Legion and were among its officers. Thus the attempts to turn these Legion veterans into Latvian heroes is not only a distortion of history, but is also a heartless affront to the Jewish community in general, and the survivors among them in particular.…

In Lithuania, the political leadership failed to speak out in real time and only did so half-heartedly in response to criticism, mostly from Jewish groups abroad. Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius criticized the march only because it discredited “patriotism,” while it took President Dalia Grybauskaite five days to say that “patriotic parades are welcome, but marches inciting ethnic hatred shouldn’t take place.”

Given the fact that among the leaders of the march in Vilnius were Kazimieras Uoka, a member of parliament from the prime minister’s party and Ricardas Cekutis, a high official of the government-sponsored Genocide Research Center, much more unequivocal criticism was sorely lacking. In Latvia, Foreign Minister Girts Kristovskis has nothing bad to say about the march by SS veterans, but used the occasion to lump together Communist and Nazi crimes,as part of the ongoing campaign by the Baltic countries to relativize Holocaust crimes and help hide their own extensive complicity in the atrocities of the Shoa.

In this dismal landscape, a letter of protest signed by 600 Lithuanian intellectuals calling upon the leaders of their country to “condemn and distance themselves from the march of the extreme right and neo-Nazis,” shines out like a beacon of hope, but without external support and pressure, the chances for its success are very minimal. And in that context, the silence from Brussels, Washington, and Jerusalem is incomprehensible.

(The writer is the Israel director and coordinator
of Nazi war crimes research worldwide of the
Simon Wiesenthal Center.)

 

ARE ISRAELI SETTLERS HUMAN?
Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2011

 

A few years ago, British poet and Oxford don Tom Paulin offered a view on what should be done to certain Jewish settlers. “[They] should be shot dead,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly. “I think they are Nazis, racists. I feel nothing but hatred for them.” As for Israel itself, it was, he said, “an historical obscenity.”

Last Friday, apparently one or more members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the terrorist wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s “moderate” Fatah party, broke into the West Bank home of Udi and Ruth Fogel. The Jewish couple were stabbed to death along with their 11-year-old son Yoav, their 4-year-old son Elad and their 3-month-old daughter Hadas. Photographs taken after the murders and posted online show a literal bloodbath. Is Mr. Paulin satisfied now?

Unquestionably pleased are residents of the Palestinian town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, who “hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack” and “handed out candy and sweets,” according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. The paper quoted one Rafah resident saying the massacre was “a natural response to the harm settlers inflict on the Palestinian residents in the West Bank.” Just what kind of society thinks it’s “natural” to slit the throats of children in their beds?

The answer: The same society that has named summer camps, soccer tournaments and a public square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian woman who in March 1978 killed an American photographer and hijacked a pair of Israeli buses, leading to the slaughter of 37 Israeli civilians, 13 children among them.

I have a feeling that years from now Palestinians will look back and wonder: How did we allow ourselves to become that? If and when that happens—though not until that happens—Palestinians and Israelis will at long last be able to live alongside each other in genuine peace and security.

But I also wonder whether a similar question will ever occur to the Palestinian movement’s legion of fellow travelers in the West. To wit, how did they become so infatuated with a cause that they were willing to ignore its crimes—or, if not quite ignore them, treat them as no more than a function of the supposedly infinitely greater crime of Israeli occupation?…

[The] Palestinians have grown accustomed to the waiver the rest of the world has consistently granted them over the years no matter what they do. Palestinians ought to have expectations of themselves if they mean to build a viable state. But their chances of doing so are considerably diminished if the world expects nothing of them and forgives them everything.…

[I] long entertained doubts about the wisdom and viability of much of the settlement enterprise, though I’ve never considered it the core issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—a point well borne out by the example of Gaza following Israel’s withdrawal. Now I find myself cheering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for announcing, in the wake of the Fogel family massacre, the construction of hundreds of additional homes in the settlements.…

For 60 years, no nation has been held to such stringent moral account, or such ceaseless international hectoring, as Israel. And no people has been held to so slight an account as the Palestinians. Redressing that imbalance is the essential first step in finding a solution to the conflict. The grotesque murders of the Fogels and their little children demands nothing less.

 

SELF-REFLECTION AND SELF-BLAME; ISRAEL AND OBAMA
Kenneth Levin

American Thinker, March 20, 2011

 

Much has been written about President Obama’s reported statement to a Jewish group earlier this month that Israelis should search their souls concerning the quest for peace. In this offensive comment and related remarks, Obama once more put the onus on Israel for the absence of movement towards a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while he characterized Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas as eager for a fair deal.

In fact, Abbas has used the mosques, media and schools under his control to militate against any genuine peace. The message conveyed by all three is that Jews have no historical connection to any part of Palestine, that they are mere usurpers whose presence must be expunged, and that it is the duty of every Palestinian to pursue that goal. In addition, Abbas has personally praised terrorists who have killed Israelis as the ideal all Palestinians should strive to emulate and has explicitly endorsed efforts to delegitimize Israel and its right to exist within any borders.

But Obama’s hostility to Israel appears impervious to all such realities. Perhaps this should not be surprising, as his jaundiced view of America’s traditional role in world affairs is hardly more responsive to counter-evidence. Thus, he pursues the reining in of American leadership, and the reaching out to those who wish America ill, even as his doing so entails, among other travesties, allowing Muammar Gaddafi to slaughter most of his way back to full control of Libya; promising carrots to Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir despite the continuing genocide in Darfur; and doing nothing meaningful to help the bloodied people of Iran throw off the totalitarian yoke of their nation’s theocracy.

Obama’s insulting call for Israeli soul-searching reminded many of a similarly hostile statement in July, 2009, in which he urged Israelis to do some “serious self-reflection.” But commentary on Obama’s “advice,” both then and now, has generally failed to note that, for many Israelis, the last decade has, in fact, been one of intense soul-searching and self-reflection.…

[When] in the late 1970’s [after the Six Day War], Egypt, under Anwar Sadat, broke ranks with the rest of the Arab world and agreed to a negotiated peace. Israelis now anticipated that this presaged a widening circle of Arab-Israeli accommodation. But Egypt was ostracized by all other Arab states for its accord with Israel. In addition, Egypt refused to implement the approximately two dozen agreements on normalization of trade and other relations that were part of the treaty with Israel.  Instead, it fashioned a “cold peace” that has entailed, for example, ongoing intense defamation of Israel in state-controlled media and an actual increase of anti-Semitic propaganda in Egyptian print and broadcast outlets.

As the continuation of the Arab siege, and recurrent disappointment in hopes for a change in Arab attitudes, wore away anticipation of a soon-to-be-realized genuine peace, a significant portion of the Israeli public.…embraced the delusion, despite all the evidence against it, that Arab hatred was actually due to past Israeli missteps and fault and that if Israel would only make sufficient amends, especially retreat to the pre-1967 armistice lines, then Arab hostility would be assuaged and peace would ensue.…

They abandoned all serious self-reflection and rushed en masse to endorse the Oslo agreements and embrace arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat and his cadres as their “peace partners.” On the September, 1993, evening after the signing of the initial Oslo accords on the White House lawn, Arafat declared in a broadcast to his Palestinian constituents and to the wider Arab world that they should understand Oslo as the first step in implementing the PLO’s 1974…“plan of phases…” for pursuing Israel’s annihilation. But Israel’s Oslo enthusiasts ignored Arafat’s speech and celebrated the outbreak of “peace.…”

In 1997, senior Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit, a former Oslo enthusiast, wrote, “In the early 90’s…we, the enlightened Israelis, were infected with a messianic craze.… All of a sudden, we believed that…the end of the old Middle East was near. The end of history, the end of wars, the end of the conflict.… We fooled ourselves with illusions. We were bedazzled into committing a collective act of messianic drunkenness.”

But Shavit’s opening his eyes was then a rare act among Oslo’s true believers, and he was vilified by other “enlightened Israelis.” It was only in 2000, when Arafat and his associates rejected Israel’s dramatic concessions at Camp David, rejected as well President Clinton’s bridging proposals, refused to offer any counter-proposals and instead launched their terror war against Israel, that Oslo enthusiasts in large numbers began to engage in serious self-reflection and free themselves from their erstwhile delusions.…

Today, the great majority of Israelis understand they have no “peace partner.” They understand the agenda of Hamas, which explicitly declares in its charter, in its media, in its mosques, in its schools, its dedication not only to the annihilation of Israel but to the murder of all Jews, and which daily seeks to translate its words into acts. They understand that so-called “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas, while talking of peace to foreign audiences, makes clear to his own people that he and his Fatah movement will likewise not reconcile themselves to Israel’s existence.…

Israel’s shift to serious self-reflection, to looking open-eyed at the nation’s predicament, did not come cheaply. Nearly 1,500 lives have been lost to the anti-Israel terror enabled by Oslo. With the American population some fifty times that of Israel, a proportional loss would be 75,000 dead. Let us hope President Obama’s path from apologetics, and from the hubris of ignoring the world’s grim realities, to genuine soul-searching and self-reflection does not entail America’s paying such a dear price.

(Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian
and author of
The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.)

 

‘I KNEW I WAS WITNESSING AN EXPLOSION ABOUT TO HAPPEN’
Jonah Mandel
Jerusalem Post, March 25, 2011

 

Speaking with David Amoyal on Thursday should not be taken for granted. The 52-year-old, who on Wednesday afternoon sensed that there was something very wrong about the black bag near his brother-in-law’s kiosk across from Binyenei Ha’uma, distanced people from its vicinity and called the police to report a suspicious object. Moments into the conversation with the police dispatcher, the bomb exploded and nearly took his life.

From his bed in the surgical department at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, Amoyal spoke about his harrowing near-death experience. “So there I was at my brother- in-law’s kiosk, standing in for him,” he said. “A haredi youth comes up and says there’s a suspicious bag outside.… I got a very bad feeling right away—the bag was brand new, with a shiny zipper and a box-like shape to it. That’s not the way duffel bags are supposed to look. “I immediately told the kids to get away from the bag, and called the police while distancing myself. I felt as though I was witnessing an explosion about to happen. “While I was talking to the policewoman on the phone, the bomb exploded.…

Amoyal has no plans to stop working at the kiosk, nor will he change his attitude toward any of the many people who buy there or ask for information about the bus lines. “I’ll be back there in total spite of them,” he said of the terrorists who planted the bomb. “I will also continue to help people in any way they need, including our cousins,” he said referring to the many Arabs who patronize the kiosk, which in 1994 was destroyed in a suicide bombing.

In an act of humorous defiance, the kiosk’s owner, when he rebuilt it, named it Pitzutz Shel Kiosk (“A blast of a kiosk”). “I won’t discriminate against anyone,” Moyal said. “We are a chosen people. Not like them,” he said, as he adjusted his broken body in the hospital bed and grimaced in pain.

EGYPT, SYRIA, BAHRAIN: WHAT SHALL IT BE, M.E. REVOLUTION, EVOLUTION, OR DEVOLUTION?

 

 

 

DID ISLAMISM WIN EGYPT’S REVOLUTION?
Barry Rubin

Pajamas Media, March 23, 2011

 

The world’s eyes focused on Egypt’s dramatic revolution. Yet incredibly, the media, government intelligence agencies, and experts haven’t answered a simple question: Who made the revolution and what were their motives and aims?

We have been repeatedly assured that the forces that began and led the upheaval were young, liberal, pro-democratic, technically hip people. Their organizational framework was the April 6 Youth Movement. The movement’s leadership appears to be a small group of independent people and participants with no structure. These leaders and the main activists seem to be genuinely moderate—in Egyptian political terms—and supporters of democracy.

However, whenever one can identify organized groups participating in this revolution they fall into three categories: left-wing radical Marxists or nationalists, reformists allied at the time to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamists. Since it began, the April 6 movement itself has worked closely with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The evidence for this assertion comes from simply analyzing the history of the April 6 Youth Movement. It started as a Facebook support group for a 2008 workers’ strike. By the following year, the group claimed to have a network linking 70,000 people. It is not clear who these people were but it is hard to believe that they all “joined” one at a time, as individuals with no other organizational affiliation.

Egyptian politics and Arab politics in general are often based on linkages that make strange bedfellows in Western terms. The neo-Marxist left contains strong Islamist and nationalist elements, as well as powerful anti-Western and anti-Israel sentiments. Islamists, precisely because they want to centralize power in the state, have socialist overtones. And people who seem liberal reformers often hold views quite distant from those of Western counterparts.

It is amusing that right-wing conspiracy theorists in the United States and Middle East have leaped on a Wikileaks document showing that one member of the April 6 Youth Movement attended a State Department seminar in the United States as “proof” that the U.S. government was behind the revolution. At the same time, though, the far larger-scale involvement of leftist activists in the movement and demonstrations is ignored, while that of revolutionary Islamists is minimized or explained away as harmless.

Other than backing a labor strike, the two specific issues on which the April 6 Youth Movement was active were support for bloggers being persecuted by the government and for ending sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Helping Gazans is a popular cause in Egypt. Yet the political implications of that stance are revealing. The Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas, a radical Islamist group that brutally suppresses internal dissent.

Whatever the intentions—often portrayed as humanitarian—a campaign to end Egyptian sanctions on Gaza was helping to entrench Hamas’s dictatorship and making it possible to smuggle in more arms for use in attacking Israel. It also sought to help the Muslim Brotherhood’s number-one foreign ally to become stronger. This activity—rather than a domestic issue or helping the repressed people of Sudan, Syria, or Saudi Arabia—was one of the movement’s two top priorities. This, too, is revealing of the participants’ politics.

Aside from well-meaning, hi-tech independents, the April 6 Movement was helped—or, if you wish, infiltrated—by four groups. Tagammu is Egypt’s leftist party, with strong Marxist overtones. Three other organizations have their origins in apparently liberal groups. These are the al-Ghad party, led by former opposition presidential candidate Ayman Nour; the Kifaya movement; and the National Association for Change, led by Muhammad ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nobel Peace Prize winner, and presidential candidate.

Despite its liberal origins, by the time it allied with the April 6 Movement, Kifaya was largely taken over by the Brotherhood. Its origin was in a radical nationalist and leftist movement against the U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003 (defending, by default, the Saddam Hussein regime). It reached its peak in 2005, though deep divisions among its Marxist, leftist, Arab nationalist, Islamist, and secular liberal members were tearing it apart. In 2006, trying to build its base through populist demagoguery—and avoid repression by the Mubarak regime—the group switched to focusing on anti-Israel agitation, including a demand to abrogate the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

Some of Kifaya’s own members, “deep inside, are against democracy and reform,” said Bahaa al-Din Hassan, director of Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies at the time. In 2007 the group’s leader became Abdel Wahhab al-Messiri, a former Communist and Muslim Brother, as well as one of the country’s leading antisemites, a purveyor of Jewish conspiracy theories based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

While itself liberal reformist, ElBaradei’s National Association for Change was a small group largely dependent on the Brotherhood for organizational support and vote-getting activity.

Despite all their ideological differences—left-wing, nationalist, liberal, or Islamist—all four of the groups associated with the April 6 Youth Movement had as one of their top-priority issues the goal of ending the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

But there is also an additional factor. Knowing that any direct association with the Brotherhood would discredit it in the eyes of many, the April 6 Youth Movement had an understanding with the Brotherhood. The two would cooperate and exchange information but the Brotherhood would not become too directly involved in the movement.

Contrary to many reports, the Brotherhood was fully informed of the April 6 Youth Movement’s plan to start an anti-government uprising last January but held back so as not to taint the campaign and to avoid repression if the struggle fizzled or failed. Once it saw that the movement was succeeding, the Brotherhood joined in fully.

In April 2009, the April 6 Youth Movement directly participated in creating the Egyptian Coalition for Change. This umbrella group also called for abrogating the treaty with Israel, thus putting the April 6 Youth Movement on the record as favoring this step. The April 6 Youth Movement’s partners in this coalition were mainly al-Wasat—the Brotherhood’s least radical faction, which split away convinced that the parent group would never become moderate; Brotherhood members; and al-Karama, a socialist, anti-Western, radical nationalist party.

In August 2009, the April 6 Youth Movement expressed support for the Brotherhood. It is important to understand that while the April 6 Movement was not a front for the Brotherhood, many of its activists were Islamists and leftist, while most of its members held strongly anti-Western and anti-Israel views. Moreover, the movement viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a major partner and ally.

This is not to deny that the movement’s members called for free elections and the end of the dictatorship or that the leaders genuinely wanted democracy and human rights. Yet the best-organized elements had an interpretation of democracy rather different from the Western definition of that concept.

The idea that enemies of dictatorship are themselves radicals hostile to the West seems strange to Western observers. Similarly, the idea that people who use Facebook, favor democracy, and even seem secular are sympathetic with Islamism also appears strange. Nevertheless, such cross-overs are fairly common in the Arabic-speaking world.

Similar factors shape the views of the Egyptian military leaders, the men who made the revolution possible. It is well-known in Egypt that many of the highest officers are conservative, pious Muslims who do not perceive the Brotherhood as an enemy. A symbolic sign of these attitudes has been the increasingly “Islamic dress” of the generals’ wives. By supporting the revolution, radical nationalism, and more Islamization, the officers know they can be popular and ensure that their personal wealth and business enterprises will remain untouched.

Many of these officers and their families watch clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi on television and like what he says. From the standpoint of many in the military as well as many of those involved in the revolution, Islam is the answer not because of what’s been done in Tehran but as a response to their own society’s needs.

Facing what they see as unattractive Westernization, increased crime, and injustice—while doubtful about rapid material progress—officers see Islam as the answer to problems of identity, social justice, and internal stability. Thus, a far more Islamic Egypt is attractive. Those who would never want the Brotherhood to rule the state are often open to its having far more influence in running the religious establishment and society.

Similarly, there is a popular and deep-seated hatred of Israel, America, and the West. This relates not only to opposition to policies but an interpretation of those policies as far more aggressive, anti-Islam, and anti-Egypt than they are. This hostility has been unaltered by the efforts of President Barack Obama to make Muslims like America. Indeed, this has only led to a new conspiracy theory that Obama favors the Brotherhood and the Islamization of Egypt.

Certain U.S. government actions—the special invitations of Brotherhood figures to President Obama’s Cairo speech, the president’s definition of the Arab world in Islamic terms, and his unilateral statement of supporting Brotherhood participation in the next Egyptian government—have deepened that belief. This has not led to increased popularity for the president or the United States but merely convinced some influential Egyptians to jump on the Islamist bandwagon that seems—supposedly even to the Americans—destined for victory.

The reading of Egyptian politics prevalent in the West—a joyous revolution producing an inevitably stable, moderate democracy, whose total success can only be questioned by hateful people—is profoundly misleading. A group of 100,000 politically independent young, urban middle-class Facebook users can make a revolution, at least if the army supports them. But Egyptians in the tens of millions—overwhelmingly not middle class, urban or Facebook users—will back organizations that are radical nationalist, Islamist, and far left. The moderate secular liberals, dependent on hardline forces, have now have been shoved aside in the battle for power.

The referendum on constitutional amendments demonstrated this fact. The leaders of the nationalist (Amr Moussa) and moderate democratic (ElBaradei) blocs campaigned against the changes. Yet 77 percent of Egyptians voted the way the Muslim Brotherhood urged. That doesn’t mean they were all supporters of Islamists. Yet in this test of strength, the Islamists emerged as victors.

In addition, with the Brotherhood and ElBaradei now having a bitter quarrel—hundreds of Islamists threw stones at ElBaradei to prevent him from voting—the seemingly democratic coalition has lost most of its activist backers and voters for the presidential election.

By the end of 2011, Egypt is likely to have a radical anti-American president who was the most bitterly anti-Israel of all the Mubarak era’s establishment politicians. It is also likely to have a parliament that is about 30 percent Islamist and another 30 percent plus radical nationalist.

This parliament will write a new constitution. Facebook liberals will be of minimal importance; the 8 million Christians, about 10 percent of the population, will be ignored. The Constitution will define Egypt as a Muslim state with Islam either being the main—more likely—or perhaps the sole source of law.

Anti-American, anti-Israel, and antisemitic sentiments run far deeper and wider in Egypt than Western observers perceive. The boundaries between liberal, Islamist, radical nationalist, and extreme leftist are far more porous than is assumed. And apparently hip, Facebook users can favor a Sharia state.

All of these factors will become more obvious in the coming months. Nevertheless, the disaster for regional stability and Western interests that will exist in December should have been obvious in January.

 

FOR ALL HIS FAULTS, ASSAD IS THE DEVIL WE KNOW
Yaakov Katz
Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2011

 

Since the Yom Kippur War of 1973, one of the strongest arguments some Israelis make against withdrawing from the Golan Heights and making peace with Syria is basically, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Of all of Israel’s borders including, the so-called peaceful ones with Jordan and Egypt, the border with Syria has always been the quietest. Yes, Israel fought a major war there in 1973, but since then, the border has been peaceful, with only a rare terror or criminal infiltration.

As Israel watches the ongoing demonstrations in Syria against President Bashar Assad, its greatest concern for the moment is the uncertainty that change in Syria would bring to the region. Israel has gotten used to Assad and he is almost predictable. A new regime, led by a new actor, would likely be unpredictable and when considering the large arsenal of long-range Scud missiles Syria has stockpiled over the years and the accompanying chemical warheads, Israel needs to be considered.…

It is no secret that Syria is in an economic crisis, lacking basic resources such as water, oil and produce. Assad has for years rejected opportunities to do business with the West—particularly Europe—and with runaway inflation and high unemployment he is now paying the price.

But when Israel looks at Syria it also sees the possible development of a new enemy, far more radical and extreme than the Assad they are familiar with. While not as strong and large as the Egyptian military, the Syrian military has obtained some advanced capabilities which, if the country falls apart, could fall into terrorist hands or be used by the country against Israel.

Just in recent years, Syria announced a decision to rebuild its aging air force and to procure new Russian MiG fighter jets. It has some of the most advanced surface-to-air missile systems and also has a significant number, perhaps hundreds, of Scud missiles.

In the meantime, Israeli intelligence services are cautious in trying to predict how the riots in Syria will end and whether Assad will be prepared to cede power as easily as Hosni Mubarak did in Egypt.

 

OPPOSING SYRIA’S CRACKDOWN
Editorial
Washington Post, March 24, 2011

 

In February 1982, the Syrian dictatorship headed by Hafez al-Assad responded to an uprising in the city of Hama with extraordinary violence. The town was indiscriminately bombarded by tanks and artillery; security forces then swept through the rubble and massacred the survivors. Estimates of the final death toll ranged from 10,000 to 40,000 or more. Hama became a symbol in the Arab world of what its authoritarian regimes were prepared to do to keep themselves in power.

Now the Arab uprising of 2011 has reached Syria, and Assad’s son, Bashar, is trying to apply his father’s solution. Early Wednesday, security forces stormed a mosque in the city of Daraa, where there had been five days of protest marches, and opened fire with live ammunition. According to Western news reports, the assault on the surrounding neighborhood continued through the day; an Associated Press reporter heard automatic weapons fire. At least 15 people were killed, including a prominent local doctor who was trying to provide medical aid. That brings to at least 21 the number of civilians murdered by Mr. Assad’s forces in Daraa since Friday.

The question now, for Syria and for the world, is whether the Hama approach still works.…

There are signs that Mr. Assad’s brutality is also producing a backlash. In Daraa, angry crowds numbering in the tens of thousands responded to the first shootings on Friday by burning down the ruling party headquarters and other buildings linked to the regime. On Monday, after another shooting death, the protests spread to at least two other towns.

After Wednesday’s massacre, Syrians are likely to feel still angrier—but they also will be watching the response of the outside world. That’s why it is essential that the United States and Syria’s partners in Europe act quickly to punish Mr. Assad’s behavior.…

For the past two years, the administration has pursued the futile strategy of trying to detach Mr. Assad from his alliances with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah through diplomatic stroking and promises of improved relations. It recently dispatched an ambassador to Damascus through a recess appointment to avoid congressional objections. Now it is time to recognize that Syria’s ruler is an unredeemable thug—and that the incipient domestic uprising offers a potentially precious opportunity. The United States should side strongly with the people of Daraa and do everything possible to ensure that this time, Hama methods don’t work.

 

HIGH STAKES OVER BAHRAIN
David Ignatius
Washington Post, March 15, 2011

 

The Obama administration and its support for democratic change in the Middle East has been on a collision course with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other traditional monarchies of the Persian Gulf. The crunch finally came this week with a sharp break over how to deal with protests in Bahrain.

The stakes in this latest crisis are high, even by Middle East standards, for it contains all the region’s volatile ingredients: tension between Saudis and Iranians, between Sunni Muslims and Shiites, and between democratic reformers and status-quo powers. Underlying this combustible mixture is the world’s most important strategic commodity, Persian Gulf oil. How’s that for a witch’s brew?

U.S. officials have been arguing that Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy must make political compromises to give more power to the Shiite majority there. The most emphatic statement came last weekend from Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who said during a visit to Bahrain that its “baby steps” toward reform weren’t enough and that the kingdom should step up its negotiations with the opposition.

This American enthusiasm for change has been anathema to the conservative regimes of the Gulf, and on Monday they backed Bahrain’s ruling Khalifa family with military force, marching about 2,000 troops up the causeway that links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. A senior Saudi official told me the intervention was needed to protect Bahrain’s financial district and other key facilities from violent demonstrations. He warned that radical, Iranian-backed leaders were becoming more active in the protests.

“We don’t want Iran 14 miles off our coast, and that’s not going to happen,” said the Saudi official. U.S. officials counter that Iran, so far, has been only a minor player in the Bahrain protests and that Saudi military intervention could backfire by strengthening Iran’s hand. “There is a serious breach” between the Gulf countries and Washington over the issue, warned a second Saudi official. “We’re not going in [to Bahrain] to shoot people, we’re going in to keep a system in place,” he said.

The Bahrain issue is the most important U.S.-Saudi disagreement in decades, and it could signal a fundamental change in policy. The Obama administration, in effect, is altering America’s long-standing commitment to the status quo in the Gulf, believing that change in Bahrain—as in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya—is inevitable and desirable.

The split reflects fundamental differences in strategic outlook. The Gulf regimes have come to mistrust Obama, seeing him as a weak president who will sacrifice traditional allies in his eagerness to be “on the right side of history.” They liken Obama’s rejection of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt to Jimmy Carter’s 1979 abandonment of the shah of Iran.

The crackup was predicted by a top UAE sheik in a February meeting with two visiting former U.S. officials. According to notes made during the conversation, the UAE official said: “We and the Saudis will not accept a Shiite government in Bahrain. And if your president says to the Khalifas what he said to Mubarak [to leave office], it will cause a break in our relationship with the U.S.” The UAE official warned that Gulf nations were “looking East”—to China, India and Turkey—for alternative security assistance.

The Obama White House hasn’t yielded to such pleas and threats from the Gulf. U.S. officials believe the Saudis and others have no good option to the United States as a guarantor of security. They note that military and intelligence contacts are continuing, despite the sharp disagreement over Bahrain.

In the end, this is a classic liberal-conservative argument about how best to achieve stability. The White House believes that security crackdowns won’t work any better in Bahrain than they did in Egypt or Tunisia—and that it’s time to embrace a process of democratic transition across the region. The Gulf monarchies and sheikdoms counter that concessions will only empower more radicalism—and that the big beneficiaries, in the end, will be Islamic radicals in Iran and al-Qaeda.…

EGYPT, SYRIA, BAHRAIN: WHAT SHALL IT BE, M.E. REVOLUTION, EVOLUTION, OR DEVOLUTION?

 

 

 

DID ISLAMISM WIN EGYPT’S REVOLUTION?
Barry Rubin

Pajamas Media, March 23, 2011

 

The world’s eyes focused on Egypt’s dramatic revolution. Yet incredibly, the media, government intelligence agencies, and experts haven’t answered a simple question: Who made the revolution and what were their motives and aims?

We have been repeatedly assured that the forces that began and led the upheaval were young, liberal, pro-democratic, technically hip people. Their organizational framework was the April 6 Youth Movement. The movement’s leadership appears to be a small group of independent people and participants with no structure. These leaders and the main activists seem to be genuinely moderate—in Egyptian political terms—and supporters of democracy.

However, whenever one can identify organized groups participating in this revolution they fall into three categories: left-wing radical Marxists or nationalists, reformists allied at the time to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamists. Since it began, the April 6 movement itself has worked closely with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The evidence for this assertion comes from simply analyzing the history of the April 6 Youth Movement. It started as a Facebook support group for a 2008 workers’ strike. By the following year, the group claimed to have a network linking 70,000 people. It is not clear who these people were but it is hard to believe that they all “joined” one at a time, as individuals with no other organizational affiliation.

Egyptian politics and Arab politics in general are often based on linkages that make strange bedfellows in Western terms. The neo-Marxist left contains strong Islamist and nationalist elements, as well as powerful anti-Western and anti-Israel sentiments. Islamists, precisely because they want to centralize power in the state, have socialist overtones. And people who seem liberal reformers often hold views quite distant from those of Western counterparts.

It is amusing that right-wing conspiracy theorists in the United States and Middle East have leaped on a Wikileaks document showing that one member of the April 6 Youth Movement attended a State Department seminar in the United States as “proof” that the U.S. government was behind the revolution. At the same time, though, the far larger-scale involvement of leftist activists in the movement and demonstrations is ignored, while that of revolutionary Islamists is minimized or explained away as harmless.

Other than backing a labor strike, the two specific issues on which the April 6 Youth Movement was active were support for bloggers being persecuted by the government and for ending sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Helping Gazans is a popular cause in Egypt. Yet the political implications of that stance are revealing. The Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas, a radical Islamist group that brutally suppresses internal dissent.

Whatever the intentions—often portrayed as humanitarian—a campaign to end Egyptian sanctions on Gaza was helping to entrench Hamas’s dictatorship and making it possible to smuggle in more arms for use in attacking Israel. It also sought to help the Muslim Brotherhood’s number-one foreign ally to become stronger. This activity—rather than a domestic issue or helping the repressed people of Sudan, Syria, or Saudi Arabia—was one of the movement’s two top priorities. This, too, is revealing of the participants’ politics.

Aside from well-meaning, hi-tech independents, the April 6 Movement was helped—or, if you wish, infiltrated—by four groups. Tagammu is Egypt’s leftist party, with strong Marxist overtones. Three other organizations have their origins in apparently liberal groups. These are the al-Ghad party, led by former opposition presidential candidate Ayman Nour; the Kifaya movement; and the National Association for Change, led by Muhammad ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nobel Peace Prize winner, and presidential candidate.

Despite its liberal origins, by the time it allied with the April 6 Movement, Kifaya was largely taken over by the Brotherhood. Its origin was in a radical nationalist and leftist movement against the U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003 (defending, by default, the Saddam Hussein regime). It reached its peak in 2005, though deep divisions among its Marxist, leftist, Arab nationalist, Islamist, and secular liberal members were tearing it apart. In 2006, trying to build its base through populist demagoguery—and avoid repression by the Mubarak regime—the group switched to focusing on anti-Israel agitation, including a demand to abrogate the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

Some of Kifaya’s own members, “deep inside, are against democracy and reform,” said Bahaa al-Din Hassan, director of Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies at the time. In 2007 the group’s leader became Abdel Wahhab al-Messiri, a former Communist and Muslim Brother, as well as one of the country’s leading antisemites, a purveyor of Jewish conspiracy theories based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

While itself liberal reformist, ElBaradei’s National Association for Change was a small group largely dependent on the Brotherhood for organizational support and vote-getting activity.

Despite all their ideological differences—left-wing, nationalist, liberal, or Islamist—all four of the groups associated with the April 6 Youth Movement had as one of their top-priority issues the goal of ending the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

But there is also an additional factor. Knowing that any direct association with the Brotherhood would discredit it in the eyes of many, the April 6 Youth Movement had an understanding with the Brotherhood. The two would cooperate and exchange information but the Brotherhood would not become too directly involved in the movement.

Contrary to many reports, the Brotherhood was fully informed of the April 6 Youth Movement’s plan to start an anti-government uprising last January but held back so as not to taint the campaign and to avoid repression if the struggle fizzled or failed. Once it saw that the movement was succeeding, the Brotherhood joined in fully.

In April 2009, the April 6 Youth Movement directly participated in creating the Egyptian Coalition for Change. This umbrella group also called for abrogating the treaty with Israel, thus putting the April 6 Youth Movement on the record as favoring this step. The April 6 Youth Movement’s partners in this coalition were mainly al-Wasat—the Brotherhood’s least radical faction, which split away convinced that the parent group would never become moderate; Brotherhood members; and al-Karama, a socialist, anti-Western, radical nationalist party.

In August 2009, the April 6 Youth Movement expressed support for the Brotherhood. It is important to understand that while the April 6 Movement was not a front for the Brotherhood, many of its activists were Islamists and leftist, while most of its members held strongly anti-Western and anti-Israel views. Moreover, the movement viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a major partner and ally.

This is not to deny that the movement’s members called for free elections and the end of the dictatorship or that the leaders genuinely wanted democracy and human rights. Yet the best-organized elements had an interpretation of democracy rather different from the Western definition of that concept.

The idea that enemies of dictatorship are themselves radicals hostile to the West seems strange to Western observers. Similarly, the idea that people who use Facebook, favor democracy, and even seem secular are sympathetic with Islamism also appears strange. Nevertheless, such cross-overs are fairly common in the Arabic-speaking world.

Similar factors shape the views of the Egyptian military leaders, the men who made the revolution possible. It is well-known in Egypt that many of the highest officers are conservative, pious Muslims who do not perceive the Brotherhood as an enemy. A symbolic sign of these attitudes has been the increasingly “Islamic dress” of the generals’ wives. By supporting the revolution, radical nationalism, and more Islamization, the officers know they can be popular and ensure that their personal wealth and business enterprises will remain untouched.

Many of these officers and their families watch clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi on television and like what he says. From the standpoint of many in the military as well as many of those involved in the revolution, Islam is the answer not because of what’s been done in Tehran but as a response to their own society’s needs.

Facing what they see as unattractive Westernization, increased crime, and injustice—while doubtful about rapid material progress—officers see Islam as the answer to problems of identity, social justice, and internal stability. Thus, a far more Islamic Egypt is attractive. Those who would never want the Brotherhood to rule the state are often open to its having far more influence in running the religious establishment and society.

Similarly, there is a popular and deep-seated hatred of Israel, America, and the West. This relates not only to opposition to policies but an interpretation of those policies as far more aggressive, anti-Islam, and anti-Egypt than they are. This hostility has been unaltered by the efforts of President Barack Obama to make Muslims like America. Indeed, this has only led to a new conspiracy theory that Obama favors the Brotherhood and the Islamization of Egypt.

Certain U.S. government actions—the special invitations of Brotherhood figures to President Obama’s Cairo speech, the president’s definition of the Arab world in Islamic terms, and his unilateral statement of supporting Brotherhood participation in the next Egyptian government—have deepened that belief. This has not led to increased popularity for the president or the United States but merely convinced some influential Egyptians to jump on the Islamist bandwagon that seems—supposedly even to the Americans—destined for victory.

The reading of Egyptian politics prevalent in the West—a joyous revolution producing an inevitably stable, moderate democracy, whose total success can only be questioned by hateful people—is profoundly misleading. A group of 100,000 politically independent young, urban middle-class Facebook users can make a revolution, at least if the army supports them. But Egyptians in the tens of millions—overwhelmingly not middle class, urban or Facebook users—will back organizations that are radical nationalist, Islamist, and far left. The moderate secular liberals, dependent on hardline forces, have now have been shoved aside in the battle for power.

The referendum on constitutional amendments demonstrated this fact. The leaders of the nationalist (Amr Moussa) and moderate democratic (ElBaradei) blocs campaigned against the changes. Yet 77 percent of Egyptians voted the way the Muslim Brotherhood urged. That doesn’t mean they were all supporters of Islamists. Yet in this test of strength, the Islamists emerged as victors.

In addition, with the Brotherhood and ElBaradei now having a bitter quarrel—hundreds of Islamists threw stones at ElBaradei to prevent him from voting—the seemingly democratic coalition has lost most of its activist backers and voters for the presidential election.

By the end of 2011, Egypt is likely to have a radical anti-American president who was the most bitterly anti-Israel of all the Mubarak era’s establishment politicians. It is also likely to have a parliament that is about 30 percent Islamist and another 30 percent plus radical nationalist.

This parliament will write a new constitution. Facebook liberals will be of minimal importance; the 8 million Christians, about 10 percent of the population, will be ignored. The Constitution will define Egypt as a Muslim state with Islam either being the main—more likely—or perhaps the sole source of law.

Anti-American, anti-Israel, and antisemitic sentiments run far deeper and wider in Egypt than Western observers perceive. The boundaries between liberal, Islamist, radical nationalist, and extreme leftist are far more porous than is assumed. And apparently hip, Facebook users can favor a Sharia state.

All of these factors will become more obvious in the coming months. Nevertheless, the disaster for regional stability and Western interests that will exist in December should have been obvious in January.

 

FOR ALL HIS FAULTS, ASSAD IS THE DEVIL WE KNOW
Yaakov Katz
Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2011

 

Since the Yom Kippur War of 1973, one of the strongest arguments some Israelis make against withdrawing from the Golan Heights and making peace with Syria is basically, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Of all of Israel’s borders including, the so-called peaceful ones with Jordan and Egypt, the border with Syria has always been the quietest. Yes, Israel fought a major war there in 1973, but since then, the border has been peaceful, with only a rare terror or criminal infiltration.

As Israel watches the ongoing demonstrations in Syria against President Bashar Assad, its greatest concern for the moment is the uncertainty that change in Syria would bring to the region. Israel has gotten used to Assad and he is almost predictable. A new regime, led by a new actor, would likely be unpredictable and when considering the large arsenal of long-range Scud missiles Syria has stockpiled over the years and the accompanying chemical warheads, Israel needs to be considered.…

It is no secret that Syria is in an economic crisis, lacking basic resources such as water, oil and produce. Assad has for years rejected opportunities to do business with the West—particularly Europe—and with runaway inflation and high unemployment he is now paying the price.

But when Israel looks at Syria it also sees the possible development of a new enemy, far more radical and extreme than the Assad they are familiar with. While not as strong and large as the Egyptian military, the Syrian military has obtained some advanced capabilities which, if the country falls apart, could fall into terrorist hands or be used by the country against Israel.

Just in recent years, Syria announced a decision to rebuild its aging air force and to procure new Russian MiG fighter jets. It has some of the most advanced surface-to-air missile systems and also has a significant number, perhaps hundreds, of Scud missiles.

In the meantime, Israeli intelligence services are cautious in trying to predict how the riots in Syria will end and whether Assad will be prepared to cede power as easily as Hosni Mubarak did in Egypt.

 

OPPOSING SYRIA’S CRACKDOWN
Editorial
Washington Post, March 24, 2011

 

In February 1982, the Syrian dictatorship headed by Hafez al-Assad responded to an uprising in the city of Hama with extraordinary violence. The town was indiscriminately bombarded by tanks and artillery; security forces then swept through the rubble and massacred the survivors. Estimates of the final death toll ranged from 10,000 to 40,000 or more. Hama became a symbol in the Arab world of what its authoritarian regimes were prepared to do to keep themselves in power.

Now the Arab uprising of 2011 has reached Syria, and Assad’s son, Bashar, is trying to apply his father’s solution. Early Wednesday, security forces stormed a mosque in the city of Daraa, where there had been five days of protest marches, and opened fire with live ammunition. According to Western news reports, the assault on the surrounding neighborhood continued through the day; an Associated Press reporter heard automatic weapons fire. At least 15 people were killed, including a prominent local doctor who was trying to provide medical aid. That brings to at least 21 the number of civilians murdered by Mr. Assad’s forces in Daraa since Friday.

The question now, for Syria and for the world, is whether the Hama approach still works.…

There are signs that Mr. Assad’s brutality is also producing a backlash. In Daraa, angry crowds numbering in the tens of thousands responded to the first shootings on Friday by burning down the ruling party headquarters and other buildings linked to the regime. On Monday, after another shooting death, the protests spread to at least two other towns.

After Wednesday’s massacre, Syrians are likely to feel still angrier—but they also will be watching the response of the outside world. That’s why it is essential that the United States and Syria’s partners in Europe act quickly to punish Mr. Assad’s behavior.…

For the past two years, the administration has pursued the futile strategy of trying to detach Mr. Assad from his alliances with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah through diplomatic stroking and promises of improved relations. It recently dispatched an ambassador to Damascus through a recess appointment to avoid congressional objections. Now it is time to recognize that Syria’s ruler is an unredeemable thug—and that the incipient domestic uprising offers a potentially precious opportunity. The United States should side strongly with the people of Daraa and do everything possible to ensure that this time, Hama methods don’t work.

 

HIGH STAKES OVER BAHRAIN
David Ignatius
Washington Post, March 15, 2011

 

The Obama administration and its support for democratic change in the Middle East has been on a collision course with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other traditional monarchies of the Persian Gulf. The crunch finally came this week with a sharp break over how to deal with protests in Bahrain.

The stakes in this latest crisis are high, even by Middle East standards, for it contains all the region’s volatile ingredients: tension between Saudis and Iranians, between Sunni Muslims and Shiites, and between democratic reformers and status-quo powers. Underlying this combustible mixture is the world’s most important strategic commodity, Persian Gulf oil. How’s that for a witch’s brew?

U.S. officials have been arguing that Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy must make political compromises to give more power to the Shiite majority there. The most emphatic statement came last weekend from Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who said during a visit to Bahrain that its “baby steps” toward reform weren’t enough and that the kingdom should step up its negotiations with the opposition.

This American enthusiasm for change has been anathema to the conservative regimes of the Gulf, and on Monday they backed Bahrain’s ruling Khalifa family with military force, marching about 2,000 troops up the causeway that links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. A senior Saudi official told me the intervention was needed to protect Bahrain’s financial district and other key facilities from violent demonstrations. He warned that radical, Iranian-backed leaders were becoming more active in the protests.

“We don’t want Iran 14 miles off our coast, and that’s not going to happen,” said the Saudi official. U.S. officials counter that Iran, so far, has been only a minor player in the Bahrain protests and that Saudi military intervention could backfire by strengthening Iran’s hand. “There is a serious breach” between the Gulf countries and Washington over the issue, warned a second Saudi official. “We’re not going in [to Bahrain] to shoot people, we’re going in to keep a system in place,” he said.

The Bahrain issue is the most important U.S.-Saudi disagreement in decades, and it could signal a fundamental change in policy. The Obama administration, in effect, is altering America’s long-standing commitment to the status quo in the Gulf, believing that change in Bahrain—as in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya—is inevitable and desirable.

The split reflects fundamental differences in strategic outlook. The Gulf regimes have come to mistrust Obama, seeing him as a weak president who will sacrifice traditional allies in his eagerness to be “on the right side of history.” They liken Obama’s rejection of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt to Jimmy Carter’s 1979 abandonment of the shah of Iran.

The crackup was predicted by a top UAE sheik in a February meeting with two visiting former U.S. officials. According to notes made during the conversation, the UAE official said: “We and the Saudis will not accept a Shiite government in Bahrain. And if your president says to the Khalifas what he said to Mubarak [to leave office], it will cause a break in our relationship with the U.S.” The UAE official warned that Gulf nations were “looking East”—to China, India and Turkey—for alternative security assistance.

The Obama White House hasn’t yielded to such pleas and threats from the Gulf. U.S. officials believe the Saudis and others have no good option to the United States as a guarantor of security. They note that military and intelligence contacts are continuing, despite the sharp disagreement over Bahrain.

In the end, this is a classic liberal-conservative argument about how best to achieve stability. The White House believes that security crackdowns won’t work any better in Bahrain than they did in Egypt or Tunisia—and that it’s time to embrace a process of democratic transition across the region. The Gulf monarchies and sheikdoms counter that concessions will only empower more radicalism—and that the big beneficiaries, in the end, will be Islamic radicals in Iran and al-Qaeda.…

WEDNESDAY’S “NEWS IN REVIEW” ROUND-UP

 

 

 

Weekly Quotes

[Israel will act] firmly, responsibly and wisely [to preserve the] quiet and security. Recently there are elements who want to disturb that quiet. They are trying to test our determination and the country’s staying power. They will discover that the government, the army and the Israeli public has a steel will to protect the state and its citizens.”—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, condemning today’s horrific terrorist attack in Jerusalem, which killed one and injured approximately 40 others. Netanyahu also confirmed that his government has adopted a policy on security matters in response to ongoing rocket and mortar fire emanating from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip: “The IDF is acting and will act against the terror organizations in Gaza. We will firmly and decisively defend our citizens. No country would be prepared to absorb the firing of rockets on its cities and citizens. Perhaps it will come to exchanging blows, it may continue for some time, but we are very determined to take away the terrorist organizations’ ability to harm our citizens. (Jerusalem Post, March 23.)

 

I do not scare. We will not give up. They will not terrorize us. We are making fun of their rockets. The Libyans are laughing at these rockets. We will defeat them by any method. [Libyans] are leading the international war against imperialism, against despots and I tell you, I do not scare.”—Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, in a speech broadcast on state television, vowing to emerge victorious in his battle against international forces seeking to impose a no-fly zone in his country in order to halt his forces from attacking civilians. Gadhafi’s defence ministry issued a statement warning that “any foreign military act against Libya [would] expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea to danger and civilian and military [facilities would] become targets of Libya’s counterattack.” (Gazette, March 18 & CNN, March 23.)

 

I have no mission to attack that person. And we are not doing so. We are not seeking his whereabouts or anything like that.”—General Carter Ham, U.S. regional commander for all of Africa, confirming that he has not been mandated to seek out, capture, or kill Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Ham also stated that “the [U.S.] will not provide close air support for the opposition forces. We have no mission to support opposition forces if they should engage in offensive operations.” (Globe and Mail, March 21.)

 

“‘I think it’s very easy to square our military actions and our stated policies,’ President Obama insisted during a stop in his tour of Latin America. ‘U.S. policy,’ he reiterated, is ‘that Gaddafi needs to go.’ But the military intervention in Libya…is not aimed at that goal, the president maintained. Instead, in keeping with its U.N. mandate, it has been limited to protecting Libya’s civilian population.… The administration’s principal response to this [inconsistency] has been to try turning over the mission to its allies as quickly as possible—an effort that triggered a multinational quarrel over who would take over command. But another abdication of leadership won’t free Mr. Obama from Libya for long. Because of its limits, the military intervention threatens to perpetuate a stalemate that leaves Mr. Gaddafi in power, and that over time would create both a greater humanitarian crisis and more serious threats to U.S. and European interests.… Mr. Obama [needs] to do something he has avoided from the beginning in Libya: Exercise U.S. leadership.… As initial operations in Libya have demonstrated, effective multilateral action, especially involving the military, depends on strong American participation.… Ultimately Mr. Obama’s passivity is self-defeating. The sooner he recognizes this, the better the chance of salvaging a decent outcome in Libya.”—Excerpts from a Washington Post editorial, describing U.S. president Barack Obama’s incoherent Libya policy, which threatens to turn Libya into “a giant Somalia, riven by tribal warfare and anarchy that allows al-Qaeda to create a stronghold.

 

This week, we called upon [U.S.] President Obama and [U.S. Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton to specifically condemn the honoring of [Palestinian terrorist Dalal Mughrabi] and to demand of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority that it immediately terminate incitement to hatred and murder against Israel and Jews in its schools, media, and speeches, and rescind the dozens of streets, schools, city squares, youth camps and sports tournaments named in honor of killers of Jews. To our shock and dismay, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have refused to condemn this vile, almost Nazi-like Fatah ceremony. We condemn him for this disgraceful failure and silence.… We live in the surreal situation in which President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been vocal condemning and criticizing Israeli actions with which they disagree, especially the building of homes for Jews in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, but deafeningly silent when it comes to the PA honoring terrorists. What does President Obama’s shocking, unbelievable and frightening refusal to condemn the honoring and glorifying of a major Jew-killer by Abbas’ PA, a day after an anti-Israel massacre, tell us about Obama’s true feelings about Jews and Israel?”—Zionist Organization of America National President Morton A. Klein, strongly condemning U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their shameful refusal to denounce the naming of a town square by Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in honor of the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi. Mughrabi commanded the terrorists that perpetrated the 1978 coastal road massacre in which 37 Israelis, including a dozen children, were slaughtered. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, March 21.)

 

To all those who questioned and attacked and criticized Israel for stopping Gaza-bound ships in order to check them, here is the answer. Every day there are efforts by Iran, Syria and terrorist organizations to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas. There is an axis of terror in our region, and we have to confront it if we want to prevent terrorism and create a chance for peace.…”—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, lashing out at critics of the partial Gaza blockade, after 50 tons of Iranian-made, Hamas-destined weapons were found on board the Victoria, a ship that was intercepted by the Israeli navy. Iran denied any involvement, with Iranian Army Commander-General Amir Ataollah Salehi saying “The Zionist regime’s diet is mixed with lies, lies and more lies. We deny all false reports. The Zionist regime is a usurper. There is an Islamic awakening throughout the Middle East and North Africa.… God willing, [Israel] will sink to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.…” (FrontPage Blog, March 17.)

 

[The events, which seek to promote Palestinian human rights, are frequently] accompanied by anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and bullying. These activities can cultivate an atmosphere exactly the opposite of one that is open to the free exchange of ideas and the development of the mind with the aid of facts and logic. [Repeatedly condemning Israel year after year creates a] hateful environment [that] offends not only our sense of fairness, but also our core Canadian values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”—Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, slamming Israeli Apartheid Week, and affirming that “such scapegoating [is] yet another symptom of a worrying new acceptance of the vilification of Israel and of Jews around the world.” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also strongly denounced the growing prevalence of anti-Semitism on Canadian campuses, saying “At one time…we could’ve expected threatening behaviour toward Jewish students to be rejected in any form at institutions of higher learning. Unfortunately, it is now often the behaviour of the anti-Israeli mob that is allowed to prevail.” (National Post, March 11.)

 

Of course I don’t condone any violence against anyone, but who wouldn’t fight for their country? What would any American do if their land was being taken? Remember Pearl Harbor. The Palestinian violence is to protect what little remains of Palestine. The suicide bombers act out of despair and desperation.”—Disgraced journalist Helen Thomas, in a Playboy interview, sympathizing with the plight of Palestinian suicide bombers. When asked about the Holocaust, Thomas replied, “There’s nothing wrong with remembering [the Holocaust], but why do we have to constantly remember? We’re not at fault. Do the Jews ever look at themselves? Why are they always right? Because they have been oppressed throughout history, I know. And they have this persecution. That’s true, but they shouldn’t use that to dominate.” (Contentions, March 18.)

Short Takes

JERUSALEM BLAST: MAN’S VIGILANCE SAVES LIVES—(Jerusalem) David Amoyal, who was wounded in today’s terror attack in Jerusalem, minimized the related casualties by calling police and warning by-standards after spotting a suspicious sack near the Jerusalem bus terminal, which contained the detonated explosive device. According to Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, Amoyal “saw a suspicious bag and told some youths who were nearby to stay away while he called police.” The mayor added that Amoyal needed only a few more minutes to clear the area of civilians—during his call, the bomb went off. Amoyal is a hero. (Ynet News, March 23.)

 

SYRIA ARRESTS OPPOSITION LEADER AS PROTESTS CONTINUE—(Damascus) At least twenty-one people have been killed by Syrian security forces, as hundreds of anti-government demonstrators marched in southern parts of the country for the sixth straight day. Syrian authorities have also arrested a prominent rights leader, Loay Hussein—a political prisoner from 1984 to 1991—and accused him with supporting the protestors. Opponents of the al-Assad government have been demonstrating throughout the Syria, calling for political and economic reforms and alleging massive human rights abuses. (CNN, March 22.)

 

EGYPT COMMITTEE CHARGES MUBARAK OF KILLING PROTESTERS—(Cairo) An Egyptian committee set up to investigate violence during the demonstrations that toppled Hosni Mubarak has laid charges against the former president and interior minister for intentional murder of protesters. The fact-finding committee submitted its charges to the Public Prosecutor’s office, saying Mubarak as the head of the government was criminally responsible for the death of the protesters. Egypt’s former interior minister Habib al-Adli has also been accused of ordering police to open fire at demonstrators. More than 360 people died in the Egyptian uprising and thousands were injured. (Reuters, March 23.)

 

HUNDREDS OF ISLAMISTS STONE EGYPT’S ELBARADEI—(Jerusalem) Islamists have attacked Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei outside a polling station, as he was going to vote in a referendum on constitutional amendments. “We don’t want you,” the mob shouted, throwing stones, shoes and water at the Presidential candidate. An estimated 45 million Egyptians were being asked to vote  “yes” or “no” to a package of constitutional changes, opposed by El-Baradei, that would lead to an election within six months. The main advocates of a “yes” vote have been the Muslim Brotherhood and elements of the former ruling National Democratic Party, who stand to benefit from the lack of organization of grass roots level groups if elections are held too quickly. (Ynet News, March 20.)

 

GUNMEN KILL 45 PROTESTERS IN YEMEN—(San’a, Yemen) Security forces have opened fire on crowds of antigovernment protesters in Yemen’s capital, killing an estimated 45 people and injuring hundreds—prompting Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to declare a state of emergency, and suggesting his government has shifted to a hard line against its hardening opposition. The bloodshed marked the most significant escalation in violence in Yemen’s capital since protesters began in January to call for the end of Mr. Saleh’s 32-year regime. The one-day death toll stood higher than the estimated 40 demonstration-related fatalities in Yemen until now. (Wall Street Journal, March 19.)

 

HAMAS DIGGING ‘TERROR TUNNELS’ ALONG BORDER WITH ISRAEL—(Jerusalem) According to reports, there is a growing concern within the IDF regarding increased efforts by Palestinian terrorist groups to dig tunnels along Israel’s border that could be used to infiltrate the country and perpetrate attacks. Tunnels have been used in the past by Hamas and other terrorist groups to launch attacks on Israel; the terrorists who abducted Gilad Schalit from his military post near Kerem Shalom, in June 2006, crossed into Israel through an underground tunnel. The number of tunnels leading into Israel has grown in recent years; however, their exact number is unknown to the IDF. (Jerusalem Post, March 21.)

 

U.S. PRAISES PA SECURITY PROGRESS—(Washington) The Obama administration has lauded the growth and development of Palestinian security services. “The program…is achieving notable progress on security, justice, corrections, and other new fronts,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. The White House’s comments come a week after two members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ official security forces were arrested in conjunction with the bloody massacre in Itamar in which five family members were brutally stabbed to death inside their home. The Obama administration has been pressing Israel to cede more authority to the Palestinian security services as a means of advancing the peace process. (JTA, March 22.)

 

JAPAN’S JEWISH COMMUNITY RAISES MONEY FOR RELIEF EFFORTS—(Kobe, Japan) The Jewish community of Japan has released photos of relief efforts it helped fund in the disaster-stricken country, where hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless following last week’s earthquake and tsunami. Philip Rosenfled, treasurer of the community in Tokyo, said that the country’s 2,500 Jews have raised $35,000 to provide food and shelter for the needy. For its part, Israel has also contrubted to relief efforts, having been the first nation to establish a field hospital in Japan. (Jerusalem Post, March 20 & 21.)

 

ISRAEL’S SUPREME COURT TO RULE ON DISENGAGEMENT CLEMENCY LAW—(Jerusalem)Israel’s Supreme Court has been tasked to decide whether to overrule a parliamentary law to expunge the criminal records of Jewish dissidents, whose indictments stem from the 2005 Gaza Disengagement. The Court has appointed a panel of nine judges to rule whether to accept nine petitions by left-wing groups against a parliamentary law to pardon anti-Disengagement protesters. More than 1,000 indictments were issued following the disengagement, of which approximately 400 are still in judicial proceedings. The hearing is scheduled for July 24. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, March 22.)

 

FORMER ISRAELI PRESIDENT SENTENCED TO 7 YEARS—(Jerusalem) Former Israeli President, Moshe Katsav, has been sentenced to seven years in jail for rape. Katsav has consistently denied the charges brought against him, that he twice raped an aide when he was a Cabinet minister in the late 1990s, and molested or sexually harassed two other women who worked for him during his 2000-2007 term as president. However, a three-judge panel at Tel Aviv District Court convicted him in December, alleging that his testimony had been “riddled with lies.” Katsav cried and shouted in the Tel Aviv courtroom during his sentencing. (National Post, March 23.)

 

US GOV’T TO PROBE ANTI-SEMITISM AT CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITY—(New York) In what experts are calling a “strong signal to American higher education,” the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has opened an investigation into claims of anti- Semitism at the University of California Santa Cruz. UC-Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin filed a complaint in June 2009 claiming that the university was failing to address an intensifying “hostile” environment for Jewish students, in which Jews endure “demonizing criticism.” According to former OCR chief Kenneth L. Marcus, “There’s really only one remedy if a school is to be found in violation, and that would be complete cessation of all federal funding.” (Jerusalem Post, March 17.)

 

STUDY: BIRTHRIGHT ALUMNI BETTER ISRAEL ADVOCATES, MARRY JEWISH—(San Francisco) A new study conducted by Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies has found that the impact of a Taglit-Birthright experience is significant and lasts for years. The study, “The Impact of Taglit-Birthright Israel: 2010 Update,” which focused on 2,000 young Jews who applied for and/or took part in a Birthright trip between 2001 and 2005, discovered that participants in the 10-day Israel trips become more confident advocates for Israel, are more likely to feel very connected to Israel, and are 51 percent more likely to marry a Jewish person than their peers who applied for but did not go on a Birthright trip. (JTA, March 17.)

 

UNRWA SCRAPS PLAN TO TEACH HOLOCAUST—(Amman) The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA),which provides full monetary assistance, protection and advocacy for Palestine “refugees,” has shelved plans to include the history of the Holocaust in its school textbooks. A recent statement announcing the intention triggered a wave of protest among UNRWA Arab cadres in the five areas of operation—Jordan, Lebanon, theWest Bank, Gaza and Syria. The Union of Arab Workers at UNRWA released a statement describing the plan as an “attempt to derail the relief agency from its main duty of providing humanitarian services to refugees,” and called on the organization to instead include an “enrichment” topic about the right of refugees to return to their homeland. (Jordan Times, March 18.)

 

PALIN VISITS ISRAEL—(Jerusalem) Former American vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has concluded a two-day visit to Israel, which included a tour of the Western Wall, and dinner with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at his official residence in Jerusalem. During her trip, Palin affirmed that she “absolutely supports Israel,” and that “America is the biggest friend that Israel has.” She also questioned “Why [is Israel] apologizing all the time?” Palin is the latest potential candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination to visit Israel over the last two months, joining former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. (Jerusalem Post, March 21.)

 

OUTRAGE OVER HOLOCAUST-DENYING NORWEGIAN LAWMAKER—(Jerusalem)

Members of Norway’s Labor Party have called for the resignation of lawmaker Anders Mathisen after he told the Finnmarken newspaper that the Holocaust never happened and challenged readers to prove him wrong. “There is no evidence the gas chambers or mass graves existed,” Mathisen told the newspaper. “Even reputable Holocaust historians have admitted it cannot be established.” Mathisen has accused Holocaust survivors of exaggerating their stories, and believes the public has been brainwashed by films such as “Schindler’s List.” (Jerusalem Post, March 21.)

OBAMA AND LIBYA—FULFILLING THE “PEOPLE”’S ASPIRATIONS “PEACEFULLY,” OR “STRATEGIC DEMENTIA”

 

 

 

WE INTERVENE
Leon Wieseltier
New Republic, March 21, 2011

 

After only a few days of allied military action, the Libyan nightmare has been averted, and the rebels are now marching westward again. Like the invincible Serbian juggernaut of yore, the power of Muammar Qaddafi, which frightened Secretary Gates, has been shaken. President Obama has done an admirable thing. On March 18, he gave a speech explaining his decision. The speech was both ringing and baffling: as the poet said, I wish he would explain his explanation. What follows is a commentary on some of the president’s statements. His words are in italics.

In the face of this injustice, the United States and the international community moved swiftly.

By Bosnian standards, this is swift. By Rwandan standards, anything is swift. By Libyan standards, this is in the nick of time. The non-military actions that the Obama administration took did not impede Qaddafi’s campaign against his people, and the military action that we have taken came as Qaddafi’s campaign had reached the gates of Benghazi—even breached them. The battle of Benghazi had already begun; and it would have been not a battle, but a massacre. For the citizens of Benghazi, and for the leadership of the Libyan opposition, which is based there, this is rescue, pure and simple. Operation Odyssey Dawn was launched a little over a month after the Libyan revolution, and Qaddafi’s war on it, began. For some purposes, four weeks is a short time; for other purposes, it is an eternity. The question of our alacrity is significant, because there are dire circumstances—moral emergencies—in which the traditional sequence of diplomatic, economic, and military responses, the gradualism of ordinary foreign policy, must be abridged, if the means are to match the ends. In such situations, rapid deployment is the most effective deployment.

Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners.

The president is exactly right. His decision to use force to prevent all those horrors is justified. The situation was even worse, and more urgent, than he allowed: left unchecked, Qaddafi already had committed atrocities against his people. But why do some atrocities have a claim on our conscience and our resources, and others do not? No sooner had Obama explained his decision to use force to rescue the Libyan rebels than the progressive bloggers went to work. This was Ezra Klein’s gloss on Obama’s sentences: “Every year, one million people die from malaria. About three million children die, either directly or indirectly, due to hunger. There is much we could do to help the world if we were willing. The question that needs to be asked is: Why this?” And Andrew Sullivan cleverly objected, about Obama’s view that “the U.S. cannot stand idly by while atrocities take place,” that “we have done nothing in Burma or the Congo and are actively supporting governments in Yemen and Bahrain that are doing almost exactly—if less noisily—what Qaddafi is doing.”

These are debater’s points made by people who have no reason to fear that they will ever need to be rescued. It is important that this “logic” be exposed for what it really is, because it sounds so plausible. Is it hypocritical of the United States to act against Qaddafi and not against Al Khalifa? It is. But there are worse things in this suffering world than hypocrisy. Are we inconsistent? We are. But should we abandon people to slaughter, should we consign freedom fighters to their doom, for the satisfaction of consistency? Simone Weil once remarked that as long as France retained its colonial possessions it was morally disqualified from the struggle against Hitler. It was a breathtakingly consistent and stupid remark. We should be candid. All outrage is selective. Nobody cares about everything equally. Nobody can save everybody, and everybody will not be saved. If everybody who deserves rescue will not be rescued, should nobody who deserves rescue be rescued? If we cannot do everything, must we do nothing? The history of help and rescue is a history of triage. There are also philosophical and moral and political preferences that determine the selectivity of our actions, and those preferences must be provided with valid reasons. Maybe we should be intervening in Burma or Bahrain: let the arguments be made, the principles and the interests adduced. But of course it is not the expansion of American action that interests these writers. What they seek is its contraction. Klein’s point is especially lousy. Did our inaction in Rwanda reduce the frequency of malaria in Africa? Blogging is a notoriously time-consuming vocation. Surely there is a kitchen for the homeless where Klein lives. If he were to tear himself away from his laptop, he would not solve the hunger problem, but it would help.

Yesterday, in response to a call for action by the Libyan people and the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council passed a strong resolution that demands an end to the violence against citizens. It authorizes the use of force with an explicit commitment to pursue all necessary measures to stop the killing. … And we are not going to use force beyond a well-defined goalspecifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.

Obama’s characterization of Resolution 1973 recapitulates its strongest and its weakest features. The resolution’s description of the means to be employed is remarkable: it calls for “all necessary measures,” which goes well beyond the imposition of a no-fly zone and covers the air strikes against Qaddafi’s advancing forces, air-defense systems, and command-and-control capabilities that we have been witnessing—and that are transforming the fight for the democratization of Libya into a fair fight. Moreover, “all necessary measures” are to be taken “notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970,” an obscure reference that does nothing less than repeal the arms embargo to Libya that the Security Council established at the end of February. It excludes only “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” This is a powerful warrant for the use of force against Qaddafi.

But the resolution grants this warrant, as the president indicated, “to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi.” The ends are humanitarian, not political. I have no objection to the immediate objective of relief, of course; but I wonder about what comes next. The problem, after all, is political: a popular democratic revolt was savagely attacked by a tyrant and his mercenaries and some of his army. If Qaddafi now desists, will we desist, too? Will our intervention result in the de facto partition of Libya? Will Benghazi become a free city—or worse, a “safe haven” —that will require our indefinite protection? Will Qaddafi be granted western Libya and his capital? If he survives, he wins. So what was Obama thinking when he added that “Qaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiya, and establish water, electricity, and gas supplies to all areas”? We have sent our planes and our submarines into action only for that?

If we had acted a few weeks ago, when the Libyan rebels were five hundred miles to the west, a political outcome would have been more likely. But this concrete perplexity broaches a more general consideration. There are cases—and they must be scrupulously pondered—in which it may be a mistake to dissociate the humanitarian from the political, because the atrocities that occasion the humanitarian response are political in origin, and only a political change will eliminate their cause. For this reason, I am heartened by the implication of that esoteric reference to Resolution 1970, because it may support the transfer of arms to the Libyan rebels. As long as Qaddafi stays in power, the national and regional danger remains in place, and worsens.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to help the Libyan people with humanitarian and economic assistance so that they can fulfill their aspirations peacefully.

This is bizarre. Peacefully? The Libyan people are in the midst of an armed revolt against a dictator who is in the midst of an armed campaign to crush them. There is a war in Libya. It erupted because the Libyan people finally despaired of fulfilling their aspirations peacefully. When they tried to do so, they were murdered. So they fought back. The president may not wish to be embroiled in an internecine Libyan conflict, but there he is. He should console himself that it is not a civil war, but it is a war nonetheless.

I detect in Obama’s sentence the enchantment of Tahrir Square, so a few cautionary words about what is and is not to be inferred from the revolution in Cairo are in order. What happened in Tahrir Square was extraordinary. Many hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated for many weeks against a despised regime and killed nobody. The army surrounded the demonstrators with tanks and killed nobody. (The secret police and Mubarak’s thugs did the dirty work.) Tahrir Square was a miracle—but a miracle is not a model. There will be instances—they have already occurred—when democratic protestors may resort to violence, to defend themselves or to overthrow the tyrant. Democracy does not entail pacifism. “From the beginning of these protests,” Obama continued, “we have made it clear that we are opposed to violence.” All violence? In Libya the dissidents did not begin with violence, but they took up arms in a just cause. It should not be hard for us, the children of Lexington and Concord, to understand them. And so I am puzzled by Obama’s “peacefully.” Perhaps he believes that Qaddafi will do the rational thing and leave for Caracas. If he wishes to demonstrate that he has no illusions about the rationality, and the political acceptability, of Qaddafi, whom not long ago he declared “must go,” he should recognize the provisional Libyan government, as some of our allies have done.

In this effort, the United States is prepared to act as part of an international coalition. American leadership is essential, but that does not mean acting aloneit means shaping the conditions for the international community to act together. … And this is precisely how the international community should work.

This is the experiment behind Obama’s military action, his proposed innovation in the methods and grounds of intervention. He will do it, but in a new way. The “American leadership” that is “essential” is not like, say, the American leadership of George H.W. Bush in the war for the liberation of Kuwait, which was a multilateral effort organized unilaterally, you might say, by the United States. Obama dislikes such a degree of American primacy—the perception of it, the reality of it. This dislike amounts to a historical and strategic re-orientation In Paris, Hillary Clinton articulated the re-orientation bluntly: “We did not lead this. We did not engage in unilateral actions in any way, but we strongly support the international community taking action against governments and leaders who behave as Qaddafi is unfortunately doing.”

As a practical matter, a bit of post-Iraq cunning, this makes some sense. It is useful, I suppose, that the Arab League has thrown its otherwise dubious authority behind this effort, and that “the red, green, and black of Arab flags be prominent in the military operations,” as a senior official told The New York Times, even though so far only Qatar among the Arab states is participating in the mission and its flag is not especially visible. But how useful, really? Who, really, is fooled? The campaign did not begin until the American president was persuaded that it should begin. The missiles that destroyed Qaddafi’s capabilities were American missiles. The United States will turn over command of the operation to a European ally, but not until the American military does what the American military does best. So the conduct of Operation Odyssey Dawn affirms the American centrality that American officials wish to deny. (This centrality, incidentally, is not inconsistent with Resolution 1973, which does not authorize a coalition. It “authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures…” It asks only that the individual states “inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take.” Can it be that the United Nations was less anxious about American initiative than the American president?)

The organization of Operation Odyssey Dawn represents Obama’s ambivalence about the global preeminence of the United States. So do its origins: David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy concluded that an atrocity must be militarily prevented before Barack Obama did. Or at least they said so publicly; but the public pronouncements of presidents, particularly in open societies, are necessary to prepare public opinion for a discussion of the proposed course of action. Reticence about first principles and bold actions is not a presidential virtue. “Sarkozy! Sarkozy!” the rebels in Benghazi are now shouting. I would have preferred to hear “Obama! Obama!” I have no doubt that they would have gratefully cried out the president’s name, even though we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the time Obama is finished with his serial opacities and last-minute adjustments about the democratic struggle in the Middle East, he will have forfeited the trust of both its regimes and its peoples.

“We did not lead this”: what sort of boast is that? According to Resolution 1973, Qaddafi has committed “gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, and summary executions” and “systematic attacks … against the civilian population [that] may amount to crimes against humanity.” We should have led this. I respect the deliberateness with which Obama considers sending American soldiers into battle: the Constitution gives the commander-in-chief the lonely power of life and death. But this same power makes the American president uniquely able to do—pardon my ideological naivete—good in the world. He can rescue, and save, and support, and protect. And he can know this prior to any crisis; this can be pre-deliberated. What matters is his prior conception of the American presidency and of American power. A reluctance to put American troops in harm’s way must not be confused with a reluctance to recognize, or to accept, that the thwarting of a crime against humanity is not one of the burdens of the office, but one of its glories. There is no historical shame, no historical cost, in delivering a city of 750,000 people, and a democratic revolt, from the brutal designs of a lunatic tyrant, and in being seen to be doing so. There is only honor.

(Leon Wieseltier is the literary editor of The New Republic.)

 

AMERICA’S DESCENT INTO STRATEGIC DEMENTIA
Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2011

 

The U.S.’s new war against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is the latest sign of its steady regional decline. In media interviews over the weekend, U.S. military chief Adm. Michael Mullen was hard-pressed to explain either the goal of the military strikes in Libya or their strategic rationale.

Mullen’s difficulty explaining the purpose of this new war was indicative of the increasing irrationality of U.S. foreign policy.

Traditionally, states have crafted their foreign policy to expand their wealth and bolster their national security. In this context, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has traditionally been directed towards advancing three goals: Guaranteeing the free flow of inexpensive petroleum products from the Middle East to global market; strengthening regimes and governments that are in a position to advance this core U.S. goal at the expense of U.S. enemies; and fighting against regional forces like the pan-Arabists and the jihadists that advance a political program inherently hostile to U.S. power.

Other competing interests have periodically interfered with U.S. Middle East policy. And these have to greater or lesser degrees impaired the U.S.’s ability to formulate and implement rational policies in the region.

These competing interests have included the desire to placate somewhat friendly Arab regimes that are stressed by or dominated by anti-U.S. forces; a desire to foster good relations with Europe; and a desire to win the support of the U.S. media.

Under the Obama administration, these competing interests have not merely influenced U.S. policy in the Middle East. They have dominated it. Core American interests have been thrown to the wayside.

Before considering the deleterious impact this descent into strategic dementia has had on U.S. interests, it is necessary to consider the motivations of the various sides to the foreign policy debate in the U.S. today.

All of the sides have contributed to the fact that U.S. Middle East policy is now firmly submerged in a morass of strategic insanity.

The first side in the debate is the anti-imperialist camp, represented by President Barack Obama himself. Since taking office, Obama has made clear that he views the U.S. as an imperialist power on the world stage. As a result, the overarching goal of Obama’s foreign policy has been to end U.S. global hegemony.

Obama looks to the UN as a vehicle for tethering the U.S. superpower. He views U.S. allies in the Middle East and around the world with suspicion because he feels that as U.S. allies, they are complicit with U.S. imperialism.

Given his view, Obama’s instincts dictate that he do nothing to advance the U.S.’s core interests in the Middle East. Consider his policies towards Iran. The Iranian regime threatens all of the U.S.’s core regional interests.

And yet, Obama has refused to lift a finger against the mullahs.

Operating under the assumption that U.S. enemies are right to hate America due to its global hegemony, when the mullahs stole the 2009 presidential elections for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and then violently repressed the pro-Western opposition Green Movement, Obama sided with the mullahs.

Aside from its imperative to lash out at Israel, Obama’s ideological predisposition would permit him to happily sit on the sidelines and do nothing against U.S. foe or friend alike. But given Obama’s basic suspicion of U.S. allies, to the extent he has bowed to pressure to take action in the Middle East, he has always done so to the detriment of U.S. allies.

Obama’s treatment of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is case in point.

When the Muslim Brotherhood-backed opposition protests began in late January, Obama was perfectly happy to do nothing despite the U.S.’s overwhelming national interest in preserving Mubarak in power. But when faced with domestic pressure to intervene against Mubarak, he did so with a vengeance.

Not only did Obama force Mubarak to resign. He prevented Mubarak from resigning in September and so ensured that the Brotherhood would dominate the transition period to the new regime.

Obama’s most outspoken opponents in the U.S. foreign policy debate are the neoconservatives.

Like Obama, the neoconservatives are not motivated to act by concern for the U.S.’s core regional interests. What motivates them is their belief that the U.S. must always oppose tyranny.

In some cases, like Iran and Iraq, the neoconservatives’ view was in consonance with U.S. strategic interests and so their policy recommendation of siding with regime opponents against the regimes was rational.

The problem with the neoconservative position is that it makes no distinction between liberal regime opponents and illiberal regime opponents. It can see no difference between pro-U.S. despots and anti-U.S. despots.

If there is noticeable opposition to tyrants, then the U.S. must support that opposition.

This view is what informed the neoconservative bid to oust Mubarak last month and Gaddafi this month.

The fracture between the Obama camp and the neoconservative camp came to a head with Libya. Obama wished to sit on the sidelines and the neoconservatives pushed for intervention.

To an even greater degree than in Egypt, the debate was settled by the third U.S. foreign policy camp—the opportunists. Led today by Clinton, the opportunist camp supports whoever they believe is going to make them most popular with the media and Europe.

In the case of Libya, the opportunist interests dictated military intervention against Gaddafi. Europe opposes Gaddafi because the French and the British bet early on that his opponents were winning. France recognized the opposition as the legitimate government two weeks ago.

Once Gaddafi’s counteroffensive began, France and Britain realized they would be harmed politically and economically if Gaddafi maintained power so they began calling for military strikes to overthrow him.

As for the media, they were quick to romanticize the amorphous “opposition” as freedom fighters.

Seeing the direction of the wind, Clinton jumped on the European-media bandwagon and forced Obama to agree to a military operation whose goal no one can define.

What the U.S. foreign policy fights regarding Egypt and Libya indicate is that currently, a discussion about how events impact core U.S. regional interests is completely absent from the discussion. Consequently, it should surprise no one that none of the policies the U.S. is implementing in the region advance those core interests in any way. Indeed, they are being severely damaged.

Under Mubarak, Egypt advanced U.S. interests in two main ways. First, by waging war against the Muslim Brotherhood and opposing the rise of Iranian power in the region, Mubarak weakened the regional forces that most threatened U.S. interests. Second, by managing the Suez Canal in conformance with international maritime law, Egypt facilitated the smooth transport of petroleum products to global markets and prevented Iran from operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

Since Mubarak was ousted, the ruling military junta has taken actions that signal that Egypt is no longer interested in behaving in a manner that advances U.S. interests.

Domestically, the junta has embarked on a course that all but guarantees the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in the fall.

Saturday’s referendum on constitutional amendments was a huge victory for the Brotherhood on two counts. First, it cemented Islamic law as the primary source of legislation and so paved the way for the Brotherhood’s transformation of Egypt into an Islamic state. Under Mubarak, that constitutional article meant nothing. Under the Brotherhood, it means everything.

Second, it set the date for parliamentary elections for September. Only the Brotherhood, and remnants of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party will be ready to stand for election so soon. The liberals have no chance of mounting a coherent campaign in just six months.

In anticipation of the Brotherhood’s rise to power, the military has begun realigning Egypt into the Iranian camp. This realignment is seen most openly in Egypt’s new support for Hamas. Mubarak opposed Hamas because it is part of the Brotherhood.

The junta supports it for the same reason. Newly appointed Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby has already called for the opening of Egypt’s border with Hamasruled Gaza.

There can be little doubt Hamas’s massive rocket barrage against Israel on Saturday was the product of its sense that Egypt is now on its side.

As for the Suez Canal, the junta’s behavior so far is a cause for alarm. Binding UN Security Council Resolution 1747 from 2007 bars Iran from shipping arms. Yet last month the junta thumbed its nose at international law and permitted two Iranian naval ships to traverse the canal without being inspected.

According to military sources, one of the ships carried advanced armaments. These were illicitly transferred to the German merchant ship Victoria at Syria’s Latakia port. Last week, IDF naval commandos interdicted the Victoria with its Iranian weaponry en route to Gaza via Alexandria.

Add to that Egypt’s decision to abrogate its contractual obligation to supply Israel with natural gas and we see that the junta is willing to suspend its commitment to international law in order to realign its foreign policy with Iran.

On every level, a post-Mubarak Egypt threatens the U.S. core interests that Mubarak advanced.

Then there is Libya. One of the most astounding aspects of the U.S. debate on Libya in recent weeks has been the scant attention paid to the nature of the rebels.

The rebels are reportedly represented by the so-called National Transitional Council led by several of Gaddafi’s former ministers.

But while these men—who are themselves competing for the leadership mantle—are the face of the NTC, it is unclear who stands behind them. Only nine of the NTC’s 31 members have been identified.

Unfortunately, available data suggest that the rebels championed as freedom fighters by the neoconservatives, the opportunists, the Europeans and the Western media alike are not exactly liberal democrats. Indeed, the data indicate that Gaddafi’s opponents are more aligned with al-Qaida than with the US.

Under jihadist commander Abu Yahya Al- Libi, Libyan jihadists staged anti-regime uprisings in the mid-1990s. Like today, those uprisings’ central hubs were Benghazi and Darnah.

In 2007 Al-Libi merged his forces into al- Qaida. On March 18, while denouncing the U.S., France and Britain, Al-Libi called on his forces to overthrow Gaddafi.

A 2007 US Military Academy study of information on al-Qaida forces in Iraq indicate that by far, Eastern Libya made the largest per capita contribution to al-Qaida forces in Iraq.

None of this proves that the U.S. is now assisting an al-Qaida takeover of Libya. But it certainly indicates that the forces being assisted by the U.S. in Libya are probably no more sympathetic to U.S. interests than Gaddafi is. At a minimum, the data indicate the U.S. has no compelling national interest in helping the rebels in overthrow Gaddafi.

The significance of the U.S.’s descent into strategic irrationality bodes ill not just for U.S. allies, but for America itself. Until the U.S. foreign policy community is again able to recognize and work to advance the U.S.’s core interests in the Middle East, America’s policies will threaten both its allies and itself.