Month: June 2011





Max Boot

Contentions, June 22, 2011


L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace!” To Napoleon and other great generals the willingness to be bold and audacious was the key to victory. Barack Obama is no Napoleon. He seems to believe that timidity is the key to success—that flip-flopping and triangulating can somehow convince our enemies to make nice. He is sorely mistaken, and it is our troops in Afghanistan and their allies who will pay the price for his unwillingness to back them all the way to victory.

Having ordered a surge of 30,000 troops back in 2009, Obama is now pulling the plug on the effort just when it was showing success.

During the past half year our troops had taken back large portions of Helmand and Kandahar provinces from the Taliban. They are now holding that ground against determined Taliban counterattacks. But this is only stage one of a well-thought-out campaign plan designed by Gen. David Petraeus. Stage two calls for extending the security bubble to Regional Command-East—to the treacherous, mountainous terrain where the Haqqani Network, the Taliban, and the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin have their strongholds. By electing to pull out 10,000 surge troops this year and 20,000 more by next summer, Obama is making it virtually impossible to implement this campaign plan. He is even throwing into doubt our ability to consolidate gains in the south.

But nor is he simply opting for a counter-terrorism strategy of air strikes and commando raids as advocated by Vice President Biden. We will still have 70,000 troops in Afghanistan by the fall of 2012: too many for a purely counter-terrorist approach but too few to successfully implement a counterinsurgency strategy.

Obama is making life much more difficult for the troops that remain. He is ham-stringing them, forcing them to assume high levels of risk, and throwing into doubt their ability to accomplish the job they were sent to do—namely to create an Afghanistan strong enough to resist terrorists and insurgents. It is not just that we will now lack the troop numbers needed to secure such a vast and spread out country. We will also lose the all important element of momentum which we had gained with the surge and the ensuing counterinsurgency campaign.

When, last fall, Obama agreed at the NATO summit in Lisbon that our forces would not transition security to Afghan control until 2014, he signaled a long-term commitment. That made ordinary Afghans more willing to trust us and turn against the Taliban. With his speech [last week] he signaled hesitation, doubt, and irresolution. Why should anyone in Afghanistan, or for that matter Pakistan, trust us now? They will assume we are on the way out and therefore not worth risking their necks to help.

As usual Obama said nothing about seeking victory in Afghanistan over the Haqqanis, the Taliban, or other extremist groups closely allied with Al Qaeda. Instead he spoke above all of his desire to get out of Afghanistan. “This is the beginning—but not the end—of our effort to wind down this war,” he said.

That is all our enemies need to hear. They will now be convinced that we do not have the will to see the war through and will act accordingly.

Clearly Obama’s motivation is political–he wants the surge troops out before he must face the voters in November 2012. Certainly there is no operational reason to pull so many troops out so quickly—a step he is taking in the face of unanimous military advice to the contrary. As a short-term political ploy this may be successful. But history will not be deceived. Obama will be judged not on how quickly he pulled troops out but on what kind of country they leave behind. With his feckless announcement, he has greatly increased the possibility of a historic defeat for American forces in Afghanistan. If that were to happen, posterity will not judge him kindly.…


Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2011


What does it mean that the U.S. will now be withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan on an accelerated and defined timetable in order to focus, as President Obama said last week, on “nation building here at home”?

It emboldens the Taliban, which thanks to Mr. Obama’s surge and David Petraeus’s generalship had all but been ousted from its traditional strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. “My soul, and the soul of thousands of Taliban who have been blown up, are happy,” Taliban field commander Jamal Khan told the Daily Beast of his reaction to Mr. Obama’s speech. “I had more than 50 encounters with U.S. forces and their technology. But the biggest difference in ending this war was not technology but the more powerful Islamic ideology and religion.”

It increases the risk to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, where the fatality count was finally starting to come down after peaking in 2010. Fewer troops means that U.S. commanders will have to make an invidious choice between clearing territory of enemies and holding and building it for friends. “Whether it is Nangarhar or Ghazni, Kandahar or Herat, the place where we decide to ‘surge’ with remaining forces will leave a window open—and the Taliban will crawl in,” says a U.S. military official with experience in Afghanistan. “Any commander who has experienced a withdrawal under pressure knows that it is perhaps the most difficult operation you can conduct and certainly the most dangerous; it gives the attacker a feeling of superiority and demoralizes the withdrawing force.”

It strengthens already potent anti-American forces in Pakistan and weakens the hand of moderates. Skeptics of the U.S. within Pakistan’s government, particularly the army, will mark the U.S. withdrawal as further evidence that Washington is a congenitally unreliable ally. Opponents of the U.S. outside of the government will capitalize politically on the perception of American weakness. Drone strikes, which outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta has called “the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership,” will likely come to an end. Islamabad will also find new reasons to patch up its differences with erstwhile allies in the Taliban and other terrorist groups as a way of keeping its options open.

It strengthens the hand of Iran, which, as the Journal’s Jay Solomon reported, “is moving to cement ties with the leaders of three key American allies—Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq—highlighting Tehran’s efforts to take a greater role in the region as the U.S. military pulls out.” As a demonstration of those ties, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi paid a visit to Kabul last week to sign a bilateral security agreement. “We believe that expansion of joint defense and security cooperation with Iran is in favor of our interests,” said his Afghan counterpart Abdulrahim Wardak.

It further weakens NATO, whose future is already in doubt given its inability to oust Moammar Gadhafi from Tripoli. In the last decade it became the fashion to say of the alliance that it was either “out of area”—meaning Europe—or “out of business.” Leaving and losing Afghanistan spells the latter.

It gives Hamid Karzai opportunity and motive to reinvent himself as an anti-American leader. The Afghan president is already well on his way to forging a close political alliance with insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is believed to have given Osama bin Laden safe passage out of Afghanistan in 2001 and is wanted by the U.S. on a $25 million bounty. Mr. Karzai is said to be furious that the Obama administration made no effort to get a strategic forces agreement that would have left a residual U.S. force after 2014. “I think the reality of their complete withdrawal has struck home,” Afghan Human Rights Commissioner Nader Nadery tells the Associated Press. “Now he sees they may go and they don’t want a [military] presence here…and perhaps now he is thinking, ‘Who will protect me?’”

It accelerates Afghanistan’s barely suppressed, and invariably violent, centrifugal forces. There are already reports that the old Northern Alliance, which held out against the Taliban in the 1990s and took Kabul in 2001, may be reconstituting itself as a fighting force in anticipation of a hostile government in Kabul. This is a formula for civil, and perhaps regional, war; it is not clear what kind of “partnership” the U.S. could hope to build, as Mr. Obama promised to do, with whatever emerges from its ashes.

Finally, it signals that the United States, like Britain before it, is a waning power. In his speech last week, Mr. Obama waxed eloquent on the point that “what sets America apart is not solely our power—it is the principles upon which our union was founded.” Very true. But a nation that abandons to the Taliban those it was once committed to protect shows that it lacks power and principle alike.

At the end of “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the film quotes the late congressman saying: “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world.… And then we f—ed up the endgame.” To watch President Obama’s Afghan policy unfold is to understand exactly what Wilson meant.


George H. Wittman

American Spectator, June 23, 2011


There have been many characterizations of “victory” with respect to the Afghan conflict, but none of them appears capable of being put into effect. Perhaps the reason for this is that Afghanistan is a country defined by no other purpose than to be the site of constant disagreement.

There is no central order—nor has there ever been—demanding peace. There is no single Afghan language. There is no ethnic unity. There is no modern economic dynamism other than the country’s role as a trading crossroads—and today in monetary terms that primarily means varying forms of drug production, processing, and distribution. The arable land is about ten percent and that which is cultivated is a little more than half of that. Afghanistan’s economy is predominantly subsistence level, and has been for centuries. From the Afghans’ point of view, the closest thing to victory would be just to be allowed to go about their lives with minimal interference.

President Hamid Karzai, the urbane, multilingual, pretend leader of the nation, has essentially said: “Train and equip our indigenous security forces; provide a continuing fund for reconstruction and development; declare victory, if you wish, then leave. Afghanistan will handle the rest. But please do it quickly because we really need to have all you foreigners out of here.”

The response from Washington has been: “We can’t leave until al Qaeda can’t reestablish itself in your country and we know the Taliban can not take over the country; the drug trade is eliminated or at least controlled; and the nation can be drawn together in mutual security.” In other words, the country known as Afghanistan must be reborn as a peaceful, self-sustaining entity. Of course there is little chance of that happening unless the history of the nation since the early 1800s is ignored.

Out of an approximate population of 30 million, of which about 12% live in Kabul and its environs, there are hundreds of tribes, sub-tribes, and families divided among seven principal ethnic groups. As an example, the largest ethnic group, the Pashtun, include some 60 tribes and 400 sub-tribes. The overriding allegiance of all Afghans is to their family/clan structure. This is not a base for a modern cohesive national structure unless a dominant leader arises who can bring the disparate elements together. Anyone with that ambition usually is restricted by his own ethnicity or else ends up assassinated by a rival group. This calculus is the basis for continuing internal competition and combat between and among the various partisan elements. The Taliban originally came to power in that environment.

Purportedly, General David Petraeus had submitted several options for withdrawal to the White House. President Obama also had recommendations from his own political advisors. It is certain that Gen. Petraeus would have loaded his options to provide ample military cover for withdrawal. Nonetheless he knew that Obama also would weigh his own political advantages in making a decision. This does not make for the best possible military strategic situation to evolve, but guarantees that troops would be withdrawn in a manner that satisfies White House re-election politics.

A mantle of pseudo-military science has been placed over the issue of withdrawal from Afghanistan. The terms counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism have become the shorthand for differing types of continuing involvement of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. One concept, counter-insurgency, takes more military forces than the other. But the other attacks this theme of “pacification” by limiting action to political/military target-specific operations. Field-experienced observers know that one actually does not exclude the other. In any case when the self-serving rhetoric is stripped away, the actual result is that troops are being removed before a definitive result has been obtained.…

Obama is now in full obfuscation mode as he struggles with the domestic political problem of attempting to run for reelection while at the same time justifying his espousal of what he termed “the real war.” That war he effectually now seeks to end by bringing the Taliban into a “unity” government in Kabul. In other words, he would seek to turn a defeat into a victory simply by altering the characterization of the original aim.

The entire concept of truly defeating the Taliban has been based on denying these forces a sanctuary in Pakistan. This strategy has evolved as politically and militarily impossible—certainly in the current time frame. What President Obama’s intention now appears to be is to turn Afghanistan over to Pakistan as their problem. And how, Mr. President, do you think the increasingly influential pro-Taliban political forces in Pakistan will deal with that?


Fotini Christia

Foreign Affairs, June 26, 2011


U.S. President Barack Obama’s June 22 speech on withdrawal from Afghanistan made an already tense situation on the ground tenser. He called for an accelerated withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. troops from the country over the next year. The Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan police are stronger than they were before the U.S. troop surge, he said; Afghans have returned to markets and other public places; and women are starting to seize new opportunities to get an education or a job. But where Obama touts success, Afghans see fragility.

In fact, most striking for Afghans, Obama’s speech was not about “transition,” the euphemism for withdrawal the United States typically favors, but about abrupt disengagement, with no convincing commitment to seeing Afghanistan through to peace. The speech was clear on the plan to bring U.S. troops home but vague on the specifics of how to leave behind a stable Afghanistan, beyond asserting that the Afghan government would now have to take the lead. But Afghanistan’s weak government and embattled president do not inspire confidence. Afghans seem convinced that the country will relapse into all-out civil war after the United States withdraws.

Many Afghans understandably fear for their lives. During a large international development agency’s recent meeting in Kabul, an Afghan employee asked “What is the plan for evacuating local staff when the United States withdraws?” Amid charts illustrating dwindling aid deliveries, she foresaw Kabul becoming another Saigon.…

Afghan President Hamid Karzai often declares the country ready to manage its own security. He even routinely threatens to limit NATO’s operational freedom by preventing troops from targeting private homes, allegedly to avoid civilian casualties, despite intelligence suggesting that some are serving as Taliban safe houses. His bluster has some appeal for Afghans who take pride in never having been defeated by foreign invaders. But, in essence, most Afghans see his rants as delusional. They know that the government is not ready to guarantee their security. Ethnic divisions and seasonal attrition plague the ANA and corruption, illiteracy, and drug abuse plague the police.

Moreover, Afghans are concerned about the economic losses that will come with the U.S. withdrawal. They realize that the country’s strong growth rate is fleeting, mostly a reflection of the billions of dollars and huge quantities of goods shipped into the country to maintain the foreign forces stationed there and heaps of development aid. The armies will take their money with them when they leave and development aid is already on the decline. In 2010, the U.S. Department of State and USAID spent $4.2 billion, but the budget was reduced to $2.5 billion for 2011 and is expected to dwindle even further in the coming years.

For the Taliban, of course, the United States’ upcoming withdrawal is no “drawdown from a position of strength,” as Obama called it. In their public reactions to the speech they used an evocative term, farar, to describe the Americans as “running away” from defeat. Although clearly Taliban propaganda, the idea is not entirely farfetched. In recent months, the Taliban have reclaimed territory in the wild eastern province of Nuristan and they continue to wage a countrywide campaign against district governors and chiefs of police. They also continue to perpetrate frequent suicide attacks in the capital and the country’s south and east, often by attackers dressed in police uniforms. They intend to show—as indeed they have shown—that they have infiltrated the Afghan National Security Forces, the institution that is supposed to provide the security that will enable the United States’ timely exit.…

If Obama were intent on alleviating some of the Afghans’ fears, he could have framed the speech differently, focusing on the number of U.S. troops left behind—in 2012, still a whopping 68,000—and the ways they will work to secure gains on the ground, however fragile. He could have talked about the billions of dollars in development aid pledged to the country and how he intends to channel the funds. But even these factors are not enough to save Afghanistan.…

With Obama’s speech, the United States signaled that it is not in Afghanistan to stay. What is important, then, is to be clear about what the United States commits to delivering on the way out—in terms of money, security, and the creation of a sustainable future. The administration has so far avoided defining what success in Afghanistan actually means and it cannot be vague any longer. There is much confusion on the ground, and the Afghan girls and women attending school and the others sacrificing their lives fighting against the insurgency deserve a straight answer as much as the people in the United States do.





This proposal was harsh; it was not simple for the State of Israel. However, we agreed to accept it in the belief that it was balanced between our desire to secure Gilad’s release and to prevent possible harm to the lives and security of the Israeli people.”—Israeli prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, confirming his acceptance of a proposal by a German mediator to secure the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Hamas rejected the offer, which its political bureau deputy chief Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk called “unjust.” Marzouk said the mediator “endorsed the unfair and unjust positions of the Zionist government,” and confirmed that “there is no chance that the German mediator will return, because he is not carrying out his duties and is failing in his mission.” June 25 marked the fifth anniversary of Shalit’s capture in a cross-border raid carried out by Palestinian militants. (JTA, June 28.)


Because there has been no sign of life from Mr. Shalit for almost two years, the ICRC is now demanding that Hamas prove that he is alive.…”—Excerpt from a statement released by The International Committee of the Red Cross, calling upon the Hamas terrorist organization to provide proof that IDF soldier Gilad Schalit is alive. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri immediately denounced the ICRC’s request, saying “The Red Cross should not get involved in Israeli security games aimed at reaching Shalit. It should take a stand that results in ending the suffering of Palestinian prisoners.” (Jerusalem Post, June 23.)


If we succeed in opening the door for negotiations, we’re not going to stop from attaining what belongs to us as Palestinians in this General Assembly starting on September 20.”—Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, confirming that the Palestinians will seek United Nations recognition as an independent state in September even if peace negotiations with Israel are under way. Mansour stressed that “declaring a state is…not considered unilateral.” (Ynet News, June 24.)


I figured out that I made a mistake, but I didn’t realize how big the issue was. This is Jerusalem. This is home. Immediately when I made the turn a 12-year-old boy started screaming ‘Jew, Jew’. Each time he called out dozens more people arrived.…They started throwing rocks and cement blocks right into the car. I realized I was going to die.… [I searched for] children or young people, I tried to look them in the eyes and find an ounce of humanity in them but all I could see was murder in heir eyes. I felt my life would be over at any minute.”—Nir Nachshon, who was extricated from a lynch after his GPS device mistakenly led him into the east Jerusalem village of Issawiya, recalling his horrific near-death experience, perpetrated by Palestinian ‘civilians’. Nachshon is presently in the Ein Kerem Medical Center; he is expected to make a full recovery. (Ynet News, June 27.)


We hope to leave as planned in a few days. We are not against Israel or the Israeli government. Our actions are only against the policies of the Israeli government. The ships are ready.…We are optimistic because…we have the will of the people. This is the key to our effort.”—Excerpts from a press conference held in Athens by the organizers of the second Gaza flotilla, confirming that plans to set sail are proceeding as scheduled. In response, the Israeli National Security Cabinet voted to “adamantly” stop the flotilla from breaching the blockade placed on the Strip. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also weighed in, warning Americans against participating in the upcoming flotilla: “We do not believe the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza. We think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke action by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves,” Clinton said. (Ynet News, June 24 & 27.)


This is clearly a Zionist issue.… Those of Bnei Menashe who have already immigrated have proved to be Jews and Zionists for all intents and purposes. Even Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has ruled that they belong to the people of Israel. I hope we can bring them here in a move which will benefit both them and the State of Israel.”—Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, hailing the decision by Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Immigrant Absorption to coordinate the immigration to Israel of the 7,300 members of Bnei Menashe—a northeastern Indian community claiming decent from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The Committee has appointed an inter-ministerial team of director-generals to prepare an operative plan for the mass aliyah, which is expected to be approved by the government next month. (Ynet News, June 28.)


The UN has an important role in fighting terrorism and I hope that the Tehran conference can attain great goals. Moving towards negotiation and recognition among nations according to the UN charter, having friendly relations with nations and improving relations among them and performing humanistic activities are some of the important strategies against terrorism.”—UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a written massage to the First International Conference on the Global Fight against Terrorism, praising the Islamic Republic of Iran for hosting the “very important” event, and describing it as a major step forward in the war on terrorism. Mr. Ki-moon failed to note, however, that Iran is one of the world’s major violators of human rights, and promoter and exporter of terrorism, financing the operations of both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza,. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, June 25.)


Many issues…might come up after the NATO military force goes out of Afghanistan. The three presidents were very forthcoming in carrying out the cooperation and contacts so as to make sure things will go as smoothly as it could.”—Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, following a summit convened by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, in conjunction with both the Afghan and Pakistani presidents, discussing the potential for Iran to cement ties with leaders of key American allies as the U.S. military begins to withdraw from the region. (Wall Street Journal, June 27.)


He is maneuvering for three things—to leave the country, to have money and to be shielded from the International Criminal Court. He is maneuvering to go to another African country or even Belarus because the president there is his friend. I think that he will leave Libya in a few weeks, in two or three weeks at the most.”—Former Libyan foreign minister Abdurrahaman Shalgam, one of the highest-ranking Libyan officials to defect to the opposition, affirming his belief that embattled Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi will seek asylum in another country within a few weeks. (Jerusalem Post, June 23.)


There is no doubt that Israel is superior to all Arab countries in the sphere of Information Technology.… Israel spends 4.7 percent of its total GDP on scientific research, which is the highest in the world. However, Arab states are spending 0.2 percent of their total incomes [on research and development].… Regarding patent rights, Israel has registered 16,805 patents. However, Arab countries have only 836 patents which is 5 percent of what Israel has.… Regarding per capita expenditure on scientific research, Israel stands at the number one position by spending $1272.8 per capita [the United States ranks second with $1205.9].… However, the Arab countries ranked a hundred times less than Israel by spending an average of $14.7 annually per capita.”—Excerpts from an article published by the Qatar-based Peninsula, entitled “Israel Trumps The Arab World,” describing the findings of a comparative study—“Scientific Research and Patent Rights Compared”—between Arab nations and Israel, conducted by Dr Khalid Said Rubaia, a Palestinian researcher at American Arab University. (Peninsula, June 25.)


The executives at Delta Airlines have apparently never heard the old joke about landing a plane in the Middle Eastern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is the one where the pilot announces, ‘Welcome to Saudi Arabia, please set your watches back a thousand years.’ The backward Saudi kingdom will in fact gain a new business partner in Delta, which has dug its heels in on its decision to allow Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) to join its Sky Team Alliance, despite the fact that such a relationship may put the American carrier in a position of having to ban Jews or holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights in New York or Washington, D.C. bound for Jeddah.…”—Excerpts from an article entitled “Flying Delta’s Friendly, Jew-Free Skies,” describing Delta Airline’s decision to partner with Saudi Arabian Airlines, the national carrier of a country which, according to “the Supreme Commission for Tourism, will not issue visas to the following groups of people: ‘An Israeli passport holder or a passport that has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp…[and] Jewish People.” (FrontPage, June 27.)


Short Takes


REPORT: 5 HEZBOLLAH MEMBERS TO BE INDICTED FOR HARIRI MURDER—(Jerusalem) The London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper has reported that the special judicial authority set up to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will soon indict five Hezbollah operatives in connection with the 2005 murder. According to the report, the court will file a motion with Beirut’s government to produce the five for questioning, but their identities are expected to remain shielded at this time. The London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat also reported that legal proceedings are expected against several of the Shiite group’s members, saying the indictment may be filed “in a matter of days.” (Ynet News, June 27.)


HEZBOLLAH MOVING ARSENAL FROM SYRIA TO LEBANON—(Jerusalem) An anonymous Western expert on Iran-Syria relations has confirmed to the French daily Le Figaro that Hezbollah is moving its weapons arsenal from Syria to Lebanon over fears that the ongoing anti-Assad demonstrations will lead to regime change. The expert reported that Western intelligence had monitored the movement of trucks, allegedly transporting Iranian-made Zelzal, Fajr 3 and Fajr 4 rockets, from the Syrian border to eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa valley. Le Figaro said that Hizbullah’s logistics units based in Syria were helping the party move its arsenal. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, June 25.)


WARNING TO ASSAD: ATTACK US, WE’LL HIT YOU PERSONALLY—(Jerusalem) According to Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, Israel has sent a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad warning him that if he starts a war with the Jewish state in order to divert attention from domestic problems, Israel will target him personally. According to the report, the personal warning was sent through Turkish intermediaries following intelligence reports of unusual Syrian troop movements, including the moving of long-range ballistic missiles that could be used to target Israel. The report added that the IDF has increased its preparedness on the northern border out of fear that Hezbollah may attempt to stage another kidnapping of soldiers or civilians along the Lebanese border. (Jerusalem Post, June 29.)


SYRIAN REFUGEES FLOCK TO TURKEY—(Jerusalem) The Turkish Foreign Ministry has confirmed that more than 11,700 Syrians have crossed into the country, and are currently being housed or seeking shelter in Turkish refugee camps. Syrians continue to flee en masse; last week, approximately 1,500 refugees crossed into Turkey in one day, as Syrian troops backed by tanks continued to violently suppress protests against President Bashar Assad’s rule. The Syrian opposition alleges that 1,400 people have been killed over the course of Syria’s 3-month-old pro-democracy movement. (Ynet News, June 24.)

ICC ISSUES ARREST WARRANT FOR GADDAFI, SON, SPY CHIEF—(The Hague) The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and the country’s spy chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, on charges of crimes against humanity. Gaddafi has “absolute, ultimate and unquestioned control” over Libya’s state apparatus and its security forces, presiding judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng said in reading out the ruling. She added that both Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam “conceived and orchestrated a plan to deter and quell by all means the civilian demonstrations” against the regime and that al-Senussi used his position of command to have attacks carried out. (Reuters, June 27.)


IRAN PARLIAMENT SUMMONS AHMADINEJAD FOR QUESTIONING—(Tehran) Iran’s parliament has summoned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for questioning, raising tensions in a power struggle between factions in the Islamic Republic’s ruling elite. Ahmadinejadmust attend the assembly within a month, after 100 lawmakers signed a motion calling him in. Unless he can persuade parliament to withdraw the summons, Ahmadinejad will face questions over his delay in nominating a sports minister and in granting parliament-approved funding to the Tehran Metro. As well as facing pressure over policy issues, Ahmadinejad faces accusations that many of his closest aides are part of a “deviant current” who they say put secular nationalism ahead of Islamic values and are a threat to Iran’s clerical rule. (Wall Street Journal, June 27.)


NUCLEAR EXPERTS KILLED IN RUSSIA PLANE CRASH HELPED DESIGN IRAN FACILITY—(Jerusalem) Security sources in Russia have confirmed that the five nuclear experts killed in a plane crash in northern Russia last week had assisted in the design of an Iranian atomic facility. The scientists—who included lead designers Sergei Rizhov, Gennadi Benyok, Nicolai Tronov and Russia’s top nuclear technological expert, Andrei Tropinov—worked at Bushehr after the contract for the plant’s construction passed from the German Siemens company to Russian hands. According to unnamed sources, although Iranian nuclear scientists have in the past been involved in unexplained accidents and plane crashes, there is no official suspicion of foul play. The sources said that the death of the scientists is a great blow to the Russian nuclear industry.(Haaretz, June 23.)


AL QAEDA MILITANTS ESCAPE YEMENI PRISON—(San’a, Yemen) Dozens of al Qaeda militants have escaped from a prison in Yemen, the latest sign that Yemen’s political upheaval has emboldened terrorists to challenge authorities in the country’s nearly lawless south. In a carefully choreographed escape from the Mukalla prison in Hadramout province, 57 al Qaeda-linked militants attacked their guards and seized their weapons before they made their way through a 45-meter tunnel to freedom. According to officials, many of the inmates who escaped belonged to a local Hadramout cell blamed for a series of attacks on security forces in the last two years. Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen has been linked to several nearly successful attacks on U.S. targets, including the plot to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner in December 2009. The group also put sophisticated bombs into U.S.-addressed parcels that made it onto cargo flights last year. (Wall Street Journal, June 22.)


IN RESTRUCTURING, KEY CANADIAN JEWISH OFFICIALS ARE LET GO—(Toronto) Several senior employees of the Canadian Jewish Congress have lost their jobs in a restructuring of Canada’s Jewish organizations and advocacy agencies. The personnel moves were “mandated” by the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), according to CJC President Mark Freiman in a statement to his board on June 24. Earlier this month, the boards of CIJA and United Israel Appeal Federations Canada approved a major overhaul of communal organizations. A new, as-yet unnamed super agency, will assume the role of CJC, the Canada-Israel Committee and other groups. For months, Canada’s Jewish community has expressed concerns that the CJC, founded in 1919, would cease to exist under the changes. (JTA, June 26.)


JEWISH BONES FOUND IN MEDIEVAL WELL IN ENGLAND—(Berlin) According to forensic scientists, bones found in a medieval well in England are likely the remains of Ashkenazi Jews murdered in the 12th century. The burial site in Norwich is the only one of its kind ever found, according to the BBC, which in July will broadcast a documentary on the discovery. Workers preparing the ground for construction of a shopping center discovered the bones of 17 individuals, including 11 children, in 2004. A team of scientists led by forensic anthropologist Sue Black analyzed the bones, and DNA expert Ian Barnes determined that the victims were all related, most probably coming from one Ashkenazi Jewish family. The scientists speculate that the individuals were thrown into the well—victims of Jewish hatred that was rampant at the time. “There are records of Jewish people being forced out of the area,” said Caroline Wilkinson, who works in cranio-facial identification,“but there was no concrete evidence of persecution until now.” (JTA, June 28.)


DUTCH APPROVE BAN ON ANIMAL SLAUGHTER—(Jerusalem) The Dutch parliament has voted to ban ritual slaughter of animals, a move strongly opposed by the country’s Jewish minority, but left a loophole that might let religious butchering continue. The bill, forwarded by the Animal Rights Party, the first such group in Europe to win seats in a national parliament, passed the lower house of parliament by 116 votes to 30; it must be approved by the upper house before becoming law. The bill stipulates that livestock must be stunned before being slaughtered, contrary to Jewish kosher laws that require animals to be fully conscious. Jewish communities in Holland have condemned the proposed ban as a violation of their religious freedom. “The very fact that there is a discussion about this is very painful for the Jewish community,” said Netherlands Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs. “Those who survived the (second world) war remember the very first law made by the Germans in Holland was the banning of schechita or the Jewish way of slaughtering animals.” (Ynet News, June 29.)


JEWISH GRAVES VANDALIZED AT MOUNT OF OLIVES—(Jerusalem) More than a dozen graves at the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem have been vandalized, the latest in a series of attacks on one of Judaism’s oldest cemeteries. The recent damage is in addition to vandalism sustained at the cemetery last month on Nakba Day, when Palestinian Arabs hurled large rocks and boulders toward the graves, chipping and breaking at least 15. Concurrently, local Arabs began illegally expanding a mosque to within 15 feet of the grave of Menachem Begin. There are an estimated 150,000 graves on the Mount, where Jews have been buried since biblical times. (JTA, June 22.)


PROPOSED SAN FRANCISCO CIRCUMCISION BAN IS CHALLENGED—(San Francisco) Opponents of a proposition to ban circumcision in San Francisco, including the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti-Defamation League, have filed a lawsuit in the California Superior Court to have the measure removed from the November ballot. Although public opposition to the ballot measure has centered on religious freedom and the health benefits of circumcision, the lawsuit is more narrowly focused on the fact that medical procedures in California are regulated by the state, not by local municipalities. The ballot measure would make it a misdemeanor to circumcise any male under the age of 18 within city limits. Violators would face a $1,000 fine and a year in jail. A similar ballot proposal in Santa Monica, California, was withdrawn by its supporters following the outcry generated by the San Francisco ballot measure, which some claim is motivated by anti-Semitism. (JTA, June 23.)






Hamas Rejects German Mediator’s Offer on Shalit


JERUSALEM—Hamas [has] rejected an offer to free captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit made by [a] German mediator, a deal which the Israeli government had accepted.

Hamas political bureau deputy chief Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk called the offer “unjust” and said the German mediator “endorsed the unfair and unjust positions of the Zionist government.… There is no chance that the German mediator will return, because he is not carrying out his duties and is failing in his mission.…”

A German government spokesman confirmed on Monday that Israel had accepted the mediator’s proposal.…

 “This proposal was harsh; it was not simple for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday in a statement released after the weekly Cabinet meeting. “However, we agreed to accept it in the belief that it was balanced between our desire to secure Gilad’s release and to prevent possible harm to the lives and security of the Israeli people.…”

June 25 marked the fifth anniversary of Shalit’s capture in a cross-border raid near Gaza. (JTA, June 28.)



Baruch Cohen

In loving memory of Malca, z’l

In memory of the victims of the Yassi Pogrom


“Besides Germany itself, Romania was thus the only country which implemented all the steps of the destruction process from definition to killings” (pg. 485).

“Witnesses and survivors testifying to the manner in which the Romanian conducted their killing operation speak of the scenes unduplicated in Axis Europe” (pg. 486).

Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews

“The Judaic religion is a satanic fatally criminal and perverse faith. The murderous satanic character of Yid religion…logically and unavoidably breeds nomadic and parasitic Judaism the way we see it now around the world.”


A.C. Cuza—Leader of the Romanian Christian Party,
1924 “Shvut”—Tel Aviv University, 1963

From Diaspora Research Institute Centre
for the History of Jews in Romania,
Tel Aviv, 1993


In Romania, the killings of Jews began in June 1940 with the retreat of the Romanian army from territories ceded to Soviet Russia. The extermination policy of Romanian Jews, which had been latent in Romania since the 1920s, was received enthusiastically by civil and military administrators, as well as the infamous fascist Iron Guard movement.

On June 11 and 12, 1941 the Romanian and German governments signed several accords in Munich and later in Berchtesgaden. Romania not only became a most devoted ally of Germany, but unconditionally supported Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

On the eve of Saturday, June 28, 1941, the chilling cry of air sirens could be heard throughout Yassi. The government claimed it was a “false alarm”. Later in the day, however, the sky was set ablaze by rockets, signaling to the public to begin the pogrom against the Jews. The following day, Duminica Aceia, the Sunday That Was, would unfold as the bloodiest day in the history of Romanian Jewry.

The Yassi Jews were forcibly gathered and brought to the police headquarters where they were fired upon at random. Within twenty-four hours, a proud, creative, and culturally rich Jewish community was destroyed. Yassi was the cradle of Yiddish theatre, yet in a matter of moments the internationally renowned Abraham Goldfarb Yiddish Theatre was no more! Of the 35,000 Jews who lived in Yassi, an estimated 10,000-12,000 were brutally maimed or murdered. An additional 2,420 Jews were crammed into two death trains, the horrors of which continue to this day to echo in the souls of the few who managed to survive.

“By the number of its victims, by the bestiality of the means used to torture and kill, by the vast scope of the pillaging and destruction, by the vast scope of the public authorities to whom the life and property of the citizens were entrusted,” writes Matatias Carp in his book Cartea Neagra: The Black Book, “the Pogrom of Yassi marked at the local level the crowning of an accursed, injurious effort which violated the Romanian conscience for a period of three-quarters of a century, and it opens at the worldwide level the most tragic chapters in history. It became the signal, not only to the Romanian Antonescu’s government, but also to all fascist Europe or massacres which during the following years were to kill six million Jewish people.”

Curzio Malaparte, an Italian journalist for the Corriere dela Sera, at the time reported that “there were groups of Jews in the street followed by soldiers and inhabitants of city arrived with sticks and iron bars, groups of gendarmes firing weapons into the doors and windows of Jewish homes.” As Malaparte writes in his book Kaput, “packs of dogs ran up gendarmes, and soldiers armed with guns were watching over them seeking to separate the corpses and put them at the cage of the streets.”

The Romanian government’s policy regarding the Jews was clear and deliberate, as noted by I.C. Butnaru in his book The Silent Holocaust: “Ion Antonescu, Romania’s Fuhrer, clearly stated [that] ‘It makes no difference to me that we’ll go down in history as barbarians. The Roman Empire performed a series of acts of barbarian according to our present standards and nevertheless it was considered the most significant political establishment. There has not existed a more favorable moment in our history. If it is needed, shoot all of them with machine guns.”

Such are the terrible recollections of the notorious “Sunday That Was,” the day of the Yassi Pogrom!

Zakor! Remember! Never again! Never forgotten!

Itgadal V’itkadash.

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)


Butnaru, I. C. The Silent Holocaust: Romania and its Jews. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992

Hieberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. Chicago: Quadrangle Paperback Books, 1967

Matatias, Carp. The Black Book – Cartea Neagra: Vol 2. Bucharest: Diogene, 1996.


Barry Rubin

Jerusalem Post, June 13, 2011


The elections in Turkey [held June 12] marked a revolution. When Iran’s revolution happened and the Islamists took over in 1979, everyone knew it. In contrast, Turkey’s revolution has been a stealth operation. It has succeeded brilliantly, while Western governments have failed shockingly to understand what’s going on.

Now we are at a turning point—an event every bit as significant as the revolutions in Iran and Egypt. Of course, it will take time, but now Turkey is set on a path that is ending the republic established by Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. The Turkey that belongs to an alliance of radical Islamists abroad and at home has been launched.

Here are the election numbers: The stealth Islamist party, Justice and Development (AKP), received almost exactly 50 percent of the vote. Under the Turkish system, this will give it 325 members of parliament, or about 60% of the seats. On the opposition side, the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) got about 26% of the vote and 135 seats. The right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took 13%, giving it 54 seats. There are also 36 independents, all of them Kurdish communalists. Eleven parties didn’t make the minimum 10% barrier (they received only about 1% or less each).…

The outcome is…overwhelmingly bad…[as] the AKP’s percentage of voters keeps rising. Most of the people who back the party don’t want an Islamist regime, and don’t think of the AKP in those terms. It rather seems to them to be a strong nationalist party respecting religious tradition that is making Turkey an important international power and is doing a good job on the economy.

The AKP got almost—remember that, almost—everything it wanted. It increased voter support more than any other party, and will be in power for four—and perhaps many more—years, infiltrating institutions, producing a new constitution, intimidating opponents, altering Turkish foreign policy, and shifting public opinion against Americans and Jews to a larger degree.

The only point on which the AKP seemingly fell short is that it didn’t get the two-thirds of parliament needed to pretty much write Turkey’s new constitution any way it wanted.

But so what? Deals with a few willing parliamentarians from other parties could provide the five additional votes needed for submitting an AKP-authored constitution to a referendum. The government can offer individuals a lot, including what I will delicately call personal benefits for their support. And given the way the parliamentary elections went, the AKP can almost certainly win that referendum.

In short, the AKP is entrenched in power, and can now proceed with the fundamental transformation of Turkey.

The AKP has become famous for the subtlety of its Islamism, disguising itself as a “center-right” reform party. Some people in the Arab world are starting to talk about this as a model. Notably, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is fascinated by the strategy. Yet as the Islamist party gains more and more power and support—Turkey has demonstrated this—it becomes more ambitious, daring and extreme.

This would include:

• A constitution that would take the country far down the road to a more Islamist society.

• A more presidential style of government, empowering the mercurial (a nice word for personally unstable and frighteningly arrogant) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to become chief executive.

• A government that can infiltrate, take over and transform the remaining hold-out institutions, especially the armed forces and courts, along with the remainder of the media that has not yet been bought up or intimidated by the Islamists.

• A government whose policy is to align with Islamists like Iran, Syria (not Islamist but part of the Tehran-led alliance), Hamas, Hezbollah and perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood.

• A government against US and Western interests.

• A government that, to put it bluntly, hates Israel, and many of whose members hate Jews.

• For Israel, the end of any dreams of restoring the alliance with Turkey, or even normal diplomatic relations.

This is the regime that sponsored the first Gaza flotilla and is now behind the second. From an Israeli perspective, Turkey’s government is now on the side of our enemies.

It is hard to state these unpleasant realities, and many will not want to face them. There will be no shortage of soothing analyses and encouraging talk about Turkish democracy succeeding, moderate Muslim politics, and how “great” it is that the army’s political power is destroyed.

Don’t be fooled.

This is a [occurrence] for the United States and Europe, as well as for the prospects of stability and peace in the Middle East. And it isn’t great news for the relatively moderate Arab states either. It is the end of the republic as established by Ataturk in the 1920s and modified into a multi-party democracy in the 1950s.

Yet how many people in the West actually appreciate what’s happening? How many journalists will celebrate the election as a victory for democracy? Lenin once reportedly remarked that he would get the capitalists to sell him the rope with which to hang them.

The AKP has gotten the West to provide that rope as a gift.

(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs [MERIA] Journal and Turkish Studies.)


Ryan Mauro

FrontPage, June 13, 2011


Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory in [the June 12th] elections. The Islamists won half of the vote, leaving them short of the two-thirds majority they sought in the parliament, which would have allowed them to rewrite the constitution unobstructed. However, the AKP’s huge victory means the Islamists will still control Turkey and oversee the writing of a new constitution.

The election actually results in a slight loss for the AKP. The party currently holds 331 of the 550 seats in parliament, and is projected to now only have 325. The Islamists must win the support of only five non-AKP seats to put up a draft constitution for a referendum. The popularity of Prime Minister Erdogan and his party means that such a referendum is very likely to pass. The AKP may not have the two-thirds majority that would have allowed for a unilateral writing of the constitution, or even enough to unilaterally submit a draft for a referendum, but not much stands in its way.

“Elections taking place today are likely to be the last fair and free ones in Turkey. With Turkey’s leading Islamist party controlling all three branches of the government and the military sidelined, little will stop it from changing the rules to keep power into the indefinite future,” wrote Dr. Daniel Pipes of the electoral results.

In September, 58 percent of Turks voted in favor of a referendum that paved the way for a new constitution. Tellingly, Iran endorsed the referendum. A key objective was to undermine the power of the military that has acted as a vanguard of secularism. It asserts civilian control over the military and increased the power of the president and the parliament over the judiciary. Both the presidency and the parliament are controlled by the AKP.

The Erdogan government’s reforms were welcomed in the West because they make Turkey more democratic structurally, but these reforms have coincided with disturbing crackdowns on political opponents. The government has blocked many websites, including YouTube, without having to explain why. Over 60 journalists have been imprisoned for what they’ve written. Two of them were arrested in March and have still not been informed of the charges against them. As Dr. Barry Rubin points out, the Erdogan government has “repressed opposition and arrested hundreds of critics, bought up 40 percent of the media, and installed its people in the bureaucracy.”

There has also been a concerted effort to decrease the political influence of the military. Over 160 current and former military officers have been charged with involvement in an alleged coup plot in 2003. It has been called the “the largest-ever crackdown on Turkey’s military.” The government claims that elements of the military sought to carry out attacks, including the bombing of mosques. Those arrested have also been accused of planning to foment conflict by provoking Greece to shoot down a Turkish military aircraft. Top officials including the former commander of the First Army and former leaders of the air force, special forces and navy have been arrested. Erdogan’s opponents allege that the arrests are politically-motivated.

Erdogan was originally a member of the Welfare Party, which has been called the “motherboard of Turkish Islamists.” He was arrested for his involvement in the party. He later formed the AKP, which has been praised by the Muslim Brotherhood for “exposing of the failure of the secular trend.” Erdogan’s foreign policy has become increasingly hostile to the West as his party has grown in power.

His National Security Council removed Iran and Syria as designated threats, but labeled Israel as a “major threat.” Erdogan opposed the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar Bashir because, in his words, “no Muslim could perpetrate a genocide.” He has received an award from Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and has dragged his feet in confronting him. Erdogan said in June 2010, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization.… They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.”

Erdogan has brought Turkey closer to Iran. In December, Ahmadinejad addressed the Economic Cooperation Organization in Turkey and declared that an “Islamic World Order” must replace the secular capitalist world order. Turkey has opposed U.N. sanctions on Iran, and Erdogan and President Gul met with the Iranian-backed militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr in the spring of 2009 despite the American and Iraqi blood on his hands. Turkey has denied reports that the Iranian regime secretly donated to Erdogan’s campaign.

Turkey has held joint military exercises with Syria and has been accused of having a joint military campaign with Iran against Iraqi Kurdish militants. Fortunately, Erdogan has turned on Syrian President Assad in the wake of his violence against his people. Turkey is hosting meetings of the Syrian opposition, but Erdogan may be trying to assist the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

Erdogan has become increasingly confrontational towards Israel, with the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident as the prime example. The extremist IHH group behind the ambush of Israeli soldiers has strong ties to the Erdogan government and the AKP. A French counter-terrorism magistrate determined that the IHH’s goal is “overthrowing the democratic, secular and constitutional order present in Turkey and replacing it with an Islamic state founded on the Shariah.” The Israeli Defense Forces now has photos of IHH members with guns onboard the Mavi Marmara.

Erdogan’s AKP will now begin working on a new constitution. Turkey’s fate will soon be decided, and the Islamists are in the driver’s seat.


Marc Champion & Jay Solomon
Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2011


Unrest in Syria is triggering early signs of a thaw in relations between Israel and Turkey, as Ankara adapts its assertive foreign policy to meet fallout from the Arab Spring.…

In the latest sign, Turkish newspapers published an interview with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in which he called for reconciliation with Ankara and praised Turkey’s Syria policy, appealing to a common interest in the stability of a country both Israel and Turkey border. “The leadership demonstrated by Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan over the issue of Syria was very, very encouraging. This should be noticed and appreciated in the region,” said Mr. Ayalon, who became infamous in Turkey after he humiliated Ankara’s ambassador on camera last year.

Mr. Ayalon’s comments followed surprisingly warm letters of congratulation to Mr. Erdogan for his June 12 re-election, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli Knesset.

Turkey, for its part, pressed a Turkish charity not to send the Mavi Marmara, the Gaza-bound aid ship on which Israeli commandos last year killed nine passengers, for a repeat voyage later this month.

That is a significant change from a year ago, when Turkey’s relations with Israel and then the U.S. chilled in the wake of the Mavi Marmara clash and Ankara’s decision to vote against a U.S.-backed resolution to impose new United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran.

It also appears Syria’s crackdown has pushed Ankara and Washington into closer cooperation. U.S. officials said Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan and President Barack Obama have discussed Syria twice by phone during the recent crisis and have developed a similar view on how to handle President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. officials said Washington in many ways is now following Ankara’s lead on Syria, as Turkey tries to persuade the regime to change, but not necessarily to leave power. “The president and Prime Minister Erdogan have a very close relationship,” said a White House official. “They talk often and get a lot of interesting things done.…”

Turkey and Israel remain at odds, however, over the Palestinian issue.… Mr. Erdogan [recently] called Israel’s treatment of Gaza “inhumane” at a news conference in Ankara with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He also pledged to support Mr. Abbas’s bid to secure UN recognition in September—a move Israel and the U.S. oppose.

An Israeli diplomat acknowledged relations with Ankara remain difficult. “There are things going on behind the scenes, but when it comes to heads-of-state meetings, we are not there. It is more quiet diplomacy,” he said.






Five Hezbollah Members To Be Indicted In Hariri Assassination


Five high ranking Hezbollah officials are expected to be indicted in the next few days by the United Nations special tribunal investigating the assassination of Rafik Hariri, London-based Asharq Alawsat reported on Monday.

Once the indictments are released, the identities of the accused will be kept secret for a short period in order to allow the Lebanese government to investigate and arrest them, according to the report.…

Tension is currently rising in Lebanon, amid reports that the STL is to issue indictments in the very near future. The tribunal is tasked with investigating the 2005 murder of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, which took place on February 14, 2005. The indictments were originally expected to be issued by the end of 2010, but were postponed several times.

Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare’s filing of the indictment in January and expansion in March set off political crises in Lebanon, where the Shi’ite group Hezbollah and its allies toppled the government of Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri. The release of the indictments is expected to have serious ramifications in Lebanon and region-wide, even threatening to throw Lebanon into civil war. (Jerusalem Post, June 27.)



Zeina Karam

Huffington Post, June 13, 2011


Hezbollah and its allies [have risen] to a position of unprecedented dominance in Lebanon’s government, giving its patrons Syria and Iran greater sway in the Middle East.

Lebanon Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced a new Cabinet—[Hezbollah and its allies control 18 of the 30 seats]—after the country has operated for five months without a functioning government. The move caps Hezbollah’s steady rise over decades from resistance group against Israel to Lebanon’s most powerful military and political force.…

The new government opens the door for renewed Syrian influence in Lebanon at a time the Syrian leadership is struggling at home. It’s a remarkable turnaround from 2005, when fallout from the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri led to massive anti-Syrian protests in Lebanon. The protests, dubbed the “Cedar Revolution,” drove tens of thousands of Syrian troops out of Lebanon and ended decades of Syrian domination over its smaller neighbor.

The ascendancy of Hezbollah is a setback for the United States, which has provided Lebanon with $720 million in military aid since 2006 and has tried in vain to move the country firmly into a Western sphere and end Iranian and Syrian influence. It also underscores Iran’s growing influence in the region at a time when Washington’s is falling.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called for an immediate cut-off of U.S. funds to the new government “as long as any violent extremist group designated by the U.S. as foreign terrorist organizations participates in it.”

“For years, members of Congress warned that it was unwise to fund a Lebanese government in which Hezbollah participated. It was clear that Hezbollah’s influence was growing, and that the executive branch had no long-term strategy to deal with that reality, and no contingency plan to stop U.S. aid from falling into the wrong hands,” the Florida Republican said in a statement.…

A Hezbollah-led government would obviously raise tensions with Israel, which fought a devastating 34-day war against the Shiite militants in 2006.… Lebanon, torn apart by decades of civil war and deep sectarian divides, has had several major military conflicts with neighboring Israel.

Hezbollah forced the collapse of Lebanon’s previous, pro-Western government in January over fears it would be indicted by a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the killing of Hariri, a billionaire businessman and political leader who had been trying to limit Syria’s domination of Lebanon in the months before his death.… Hariri’s son, Saad, who was prime minister in January, refused to denounce the tribunal or cut off Lebanon’s 49 percent share of the funding for it. Hezbollah and its allies then walked out of the government…and secured enough support in parliament to name Mikati as the new prime minister.… Saad Hariri, who has described Mikati’s nomination as a coup, vowed not to be part of the new government. His Western-backed coalition is now the opposition in Lebanon.

Once seen solely as Iran’s militant arm in Lebanon, Hezbollah has reinvented itself as a more conventional political movement. It has joined the government and become involved in domestic politics, but fighting Israel remains the group’s priority.


Michael Young
Al Arabiya News, June 16, 2011


Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad may be struggling with problems at home, but he still has pull in Beirut. Lebanon’s prime minister designate, Najib Miqati, finally formed a government after a five-month delay. Syria’s fingerprints were all over it.…

What is it that suddenly altered the mood in Damascus? After all, the Syrian leadership had not previously applied pressure on Mr Miqati and its friends in Beirut, strongly suggesting that it welcomed a Lebanese vacuum. One can only speculate, but the widening revolt in Syria and the regime’s growing regional and international isolation, particularly its divorce from states such as Turkey and Qatar, were surely factors. With so much shifting around Mr. Al Assad and his acolytes, they apparently concluded that it was preferable to employ Lebanon as a tool in their confrontation with the outside, by forming a favorable government, rather than exploiting the void in the country.

This does not bode well. Mr. Miqati insisted that his cabinet would represent all Lebanese, a reminder that the March 14 coalition led by the caretaker prime minister, Saad Hariri, has refused to join.… Aside from Syria, those bolstering the new team are Hezbollah and Michel Aoun, whose hostility to March 14 is profound. Mr. Miqati and his “centrist” allies in the government—Mr. Suleiman and Mr. Jumblatt—will labor to ensure that their partners do not settle political scores.

Mr Berri’s decision, and more important that of Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general, to accept a smaller Shiite share of ministers was not fortuitous. It facilitated Mr. Miqati’s task, therefore aiding President Assad’s regime. The lower Shiite profile also was destined to achieve two other objectives: it allows Mr. Miqati to say that his government is not controlled by Hezbollah, lending it Sunni legitimacy inside Lebanon while also reassuring Arab states and the international community. And, more perniciously, it places the onus of failure on the prime minister, even if Hezbollah knows that it will have great sway over cabinet decisions despite having few ministers.

Hezbollah has two priorities. The party wants a clear policy statement by the government officially sanctioning its weapons; and it wants the state to take its distance from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon dealing with the assassination in 2005 of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister. The tribunal is expected to issue an indictment within three months, and there have been indications that Hezbollah members will be accused of involvement.…

However, Hezbollah also has a more overarching ambition. The party anxiously realizes that Syria’s regime is facing an existential threat, and that its collapse would transform power relations in the Levant to Iran’s detriment, and therefore its own. It has no ready solution to this predicament, but Hezbollah will strive more than ever to anchor itself in the institutions of the Lebanese state, and to dominate them and marginalize its political adversaries in order to resist potentially disadvantageous change. That is why Mr. Miqati’s government will hit turbulence, especially over whatever affects Hezbollah’s future.

The prime minister can already anticipate three major headaches. The first is that Hezbollah will push for the government not to cooperate with the special tribunal. It’s difficult to see how Mr. Miqati, against the wishes of Syria, Hezbollah and Mr Aoun, will be able to resist this demand, despite his worries that it could place Lebanon on a collision course with the United Nations Security Council, which established the institution. Even Mr Jumblatt has little room to maneuver on the tribunal, having repeatedly denounced it as a “politicized” body.

Mr. Miqati was also obliged to accept an appointee of Suleiman Franjieh, a prominent Syrian ally, as defense minister. This will further discredit the Lebanese army in the eyes of the United States and many in the international community. American military assistance will almost certainly dry up. Equally worrisome is that several countries participating in the UN force in southern Lebanon believe the army to be under the influence of Hezbollah. This impression, not altogether unjustified, could well determine their continued commitment to maintaining troops in Lebanon, when some contingents have already expressed an intention to leave.

A third problem for Mr. Miqati will be internal political discord. The foes of March 14 today have wide latitude to dismantle the political, security and financial edifice the coalition put in place after the Syrian withdrawal in 2005. While Mr. Miqati will try to limit the damages, such measures will provoke a backlash from March 14, particularly the partisans of Mr Hariri, the dominant Lebanese Sunni figure. These conflicts, at a time of crisis in Syria and volatility in the region, could destabilize Lebanon in dangerous ways.

That’s not to mention the myriad other challenges Mr. Miqati will wrestle with—above all a potentially serious decline in economic confidence and the strains following from the state’s support for the Assad regime, when most Lebanese Sunnis sympathize with the Syrian opposition. Lebanon’s new government may mean the country is out of the frying pan, but nothing suggests it will avoid the fire.



Reuters, June 22, 2011


Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group is preparing for a possible war with Israel to relieve perceived Western pressure to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its guardian ally, sources close to the movement say. The radical Shi’ite group, which has a powerful militia armed by Damascus and Iran, is watching the unrest in neighboring Syria with alarm and is determined to prevent the West from exploiting popular protests to bring down Assad.…

Officials say [Hezbollah] will not stand idly by as international pressure mounts on Assad to yield to protesters. It is committed to do whatever it takes politically to help deflect what it sees as a foreign campaign against Damascus,…readying for a possible war with Israel if Assad is weakened.…

“When [Hezbollah] sees the West gearing up to bring [Assad] down, it will not just watch,” a Lebanese official close to the group’s thinking [recently said]. “This is a battle for existence for the group and it is time to return the favor (of Syria’s support). It will do that by fending off some of the international pressure,” he added.

The militant group, established nearly 30 years ago to confront Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon, fought an inconclusive 34-day war with Israel in 2006.… Hezbollah believes the West is working to reshape the Middle East by replacing Assad with a ruler friendly to Israel and hostile to itself. “The region now is at war, a war between what is good and what is backed by Washington.… Syria is the good,” said a Lebanon-based Arab official close to Syria.…

Hezbollah inflicted serious damage and casualties by firing missiles deep into Israel during the 2006 conflict, and was able to sustain weeks of rocket attacks despite a major Israeli military incursion into Lebanon. Western intelligence sources say the movement’s arsenal has been more than replenished since the fighting ended, with European-led UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon powerless to prevent supplies entering mostly from Syria.

Syria, which borders Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan, has regional influence because of its alliance with Iran and its continued role in Lebanon, despite ending a 29-year military presence there in 2005. It also has an influence in Iraq. “If the situation in Syria collapses it will have repercussions that will go beyond Syria,” the Arab official said. “None of Syria’s allies would accept the fall of Syria even if it led to turning the table upside down—war (with Israel) could be one of the options.” The Lebanese official said: “All options are open including opening the fronts in Golan (Heights) and in south Lebanon.…”


Frank Crimi
FrontPage, June 15, 2011


[U.S.] Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently claimed that Hezbollah possessed chemical and biological weapons. The news comes as the IDF contends the terror organization has now amassed more than 50,000 missiles and rockets, heightening Israel’s concerns over its vulnerability to a Hezbollah assault.

The assertion by Gates followed reports in April 2011 that Libyan rebels had ransacked chemical weapons storage depots in and around the Libyan city of Benghazi. There they obtained at least 2,000 artillery shells carrying mustard gas and 1,200 nerve gas shells, which they sold to both Hezbollah and Hamas.

Not surprisingly, Iran was believed to be the broker of the deal. Of course, Iran has long been accused of supplying Hezbollah with chemical weapons, the last time in 2009 when chemical traces were discovered in a Hezbollah weapons warehouse.

Although Hezbollah denies having chemically-armed missiles or rockets, it doesn’t deny their importance to the terror organization. According to Hezbollah leader Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, “These are our pride and dignity…no one will be able to grab them, neither in Lebanon nor in the world.”

Unfortunately for Israelis, Hezbollah’s precious stockpile has now surpassed over 50,000 missiles and rockets according to the IDF. The IDF has also determined the number of pre-designated targets of Hezbollah launch sites to have grown from around 200 in 2006 to now somewhere in the thousands.

In fact, in April 2011 Israeli officials had already identified 550 underground bunkers, 300 surveillance sites and 100 other facilities south of the Litani River in southern Lebanon, the zone where Hezbollah is supposedly banned from keeping weapons under the UN-sponsored truce that ended the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war.

The entire situation has added to growing Israeli concern over its increasing vulnerability from Hezbollah’s already enormous and growing stockpile of weaponry, which according to former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens can now “reach every corner of Israel and threaten its entire civilian population.”

Even though Israel has a newly deployed Iron Dome anti-missile system, that system remains vulnerable to massive salvos fired from Hezbollah’s short-range missile systems. For example, during the 34-day war in 2006, Hezbollah unleashed nearly 4,000 missiles and rockets—around 120 a day—into northern Israel. However, 2009 Wikileaks documents reveal Israel expects a new war with Hezbollah to last two months, with 500 missiles a day, including 100 that would reach Tel Aviv. More worrisome is that Israel’s Home Front Command admitted in April 2011 that only 31 percent of Israel’s 7 million people had been supplied gas masks.

Added into this troubling equation are reports surfacing of Hezbollah busily moving weapons from the chaos in Syria and distributing them immediately to its forces so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Yet, despite the presence of a 12,000 man UN truce keeping force (UNIFIL) and 15,000 Lebanese soldiers (LAF), both forces have been unable to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling weapons in southern Lebanon. To that end, Israel has been seeking to have the UN enforce a much tougher mandate than what is currently in place.

As it stands now, most of Hezbollah’s weapons are held in populated civilian areas but UNIFIL forces can’t enter those villages and towns unless it is coordinated with the Lebanese Army. However, more often than not, the LAF tips off Hezbollah prior to such a move.…

Hezbollah is taking advantage of Lebanon’s current political vacuum to stir up trouble along the UN-mapped frontier with Israel. The most recent outbreak of violence there came in May when Hezbollah and Syrian-backed protesters stormed the Israeli border but were fired upon by Lebanese troops, killing 10 people in the process. However, a similar such scheduled protest on Naksa Day—the 44th anniversary of the Six Day War—was averted when Hezbollah called it off after Israel had issued a not-so-veiled warning that those behind the protests “would be held accountable.”

Still, despite Hezbollah’s apparent cold feet, it has long been itching for a fight with Israel, most fervently since the assassination in 2008 of Hezbollah’s chief of military operations Imad Mughniyeh. In April 2011, Israelis were already being warned of Hezbollah attacks against Israeli overseas targets. The preference of Hezbollah according to Israeli intelligence officials was to bomb an overseas target like an Israeli embassy or consulate rather than the Lebanese border region so it would give Hezbollah more deniability. Fortunately, those anticipated attacks never materialized.

Yet while those overseas attempts by Hezbollah may have been foiled, it’s only a matter of time before it targets its deadly arsenal on Israel itself. While Syria and Iran are actively engaging in acts of provocation with Israel, their terrorist proxy organization Hezbollah would be the most likely to lead an actual assault.

It’s certainly a role Hezbollah doesn’t shy from. According to Nasrallah, “Negotiations (with Israel) are the crazy and futile options that don’t achieve any results.” Even the Israelis know what’s coming. As Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said about the current truce with Hezbollah, “This is not forever.… You need to be ready for every test.”

The contents of that test were chillingly presented by Nasrallah when he said, “The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.” Unfortunately for Israelis, Hezbollah’s love of death may soon come in the form of a barrage of missiles and rockets.





Alan M. Dershowitz
Jerusalem Magazine, June 15, 2011


At a time of increasing—and increasingly complex—anti-Semitism throughout the world, Yale University has decided to shut down the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, YIISA. Founded in 2006, YIISA is headed by a distinguished scholar, Charles Small, with an international reputation for serious interdisciplinary research. The precipitous decision to close YIISA, made without even a semblance of due process and transparency, could not have come at a worse time. Nor could it have sent a worse message.

I recently returned from a trip abroad—England, Norway, South Africa, among other countries—where I experienced the changing face and growing acceptability of anti-Semitism. Sometimes it hid behind the facade of anti-Zionism, but increasingly the hatred was directed against Jews, Judaism, Jewish culture, the Jewish people and the very concept of a Jewish State (by people who favor the existence of many Muslim States).

In England, a prominent and popular Jazz musician rails against the Jewish people, denies the Holocaust and apologizes to the Nazis for having once compared the Jewish state to Nazi Germany, since in his view Israel is far worse. In Norway, a prominent professor openly criticizes the Jewish people as a group and Jewish culture as a collective deviation. In Johannesburg, the university severs its ties with an Israeli university, while in Cape Town a newspaper headline welcomes me with the following words, “Dershowitz is not welcome here” and an excuse is found to cancel a scheduled lecture by me at the university.

Throughout my visits to European capitals, I hear concern from Jewish students who are terrified about speaking out, wearing yarmulkes, Stars of David or anything else that identifies them as Jews.

In the United States, and particularly at American universities, matters are not [yet] as bad. There are of course some exceptions, such as at several campuses at the University of California where Muslim students have tried to censor pro-Israel speakers and have been treated as heroes for doing so, while those who support pro-Israel speakers are treated as pariahs. The same is true at some Canadian universities as well.

One university that has been a model of tolerance, up until now, has been Yale, where Jewish and pro-Israel students feel empowered and comfortable, as do Muslim and anti-Israel students. Perhaps this is why the Yale Administration had no hesitancy in dropping YIISA. It can easily defend itself against charges of bias by saying, “Some of my best organizations are Jewish!” But this is no excuse.

Since Yale has thus far refused to release the so-called study on which it claims to have based its decision—or even to show it to those most directly affected—it is impossible to know the real reasons behind this controversial action. The two offered by Yale do not satisfy academic criteria. The first, that there was insufficient faculty interest in the initiative, is simply not true. Many faculty members, both inside and outside of Yale, have supported the initiative and have participated in its programs. I myself have delivered a lecture and serve on an advisory board. Several distinguished academics from around the world have also participated. But even if it were true, a lack of interest by the Yale faculty in the growing problem of anti-Semitism, would be a symptom of the problem and not an excuse for refusing to study it.

The second claimed reason was a lack of scholarly output from this relatively new institution. This too is doubtful since numerous articles, books, conferences and other scholarly output have been generated over the past several years—with the promise of more to come.

I have been in and around American academic institutions for more than half a century. Never before have I seen such a lack of process and fairness in the termination of a program. Generally, if there is any dissatisfaction with the program, university administrator sit down with those in charge and seek ways of improving it. Rarely if ever is the program simply shut down, as this one has been. Yale has some explaining to do.…

One of the most important human rights issues of the 21st Century is whether Israel’s actions in defense of its citizens, or indeed its very existence, will provide the newest excuse for the oldest of bigotries. There has rarely been a more important time for the interdisciplinary study of the spreading phenomenon of anti-Semitism in the world today. Yale has a chance to be at the forefront of this study. Instead it has taken a cowardly step away from the controversy.…


Alex Joffe

Jewish Ideas Daily, June 13, 2011


The modern university is no longer made up simply of departments and regular professors teaching students. Ancillary centers, programs, and initiatives proliferate, undertaking research on every conceivable topic and, in exchange for use of the university’s name, bringing in prestige, money, and the occasional celebrity. The fates of such entities rarely make the New York Post. But anti-Semitism is not a normal subject.

Just how abnormal a subject it is, and how volatile its study can be, has come to public attention with Yale University’s termination of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) after five years of successful operation. Led by the sociologist Charles Small, YIISA was the largest research unit in North America devoted to examining an issue of great antiquity and urgent contemporary significance. Its mission was defined clearly: “to explore this subject matter in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary framework from an array of approaches and perspectives as well as regional contexts.”

Pursuant to that mission, YIISA annually assembled groups of scholars for seminars and conferences and published a series of studies. The scholars attached to the initiative included such figures as David Hirsh of Goldsmiths College in London, Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian attorney general, and Bassam Tibi, professor emeritus of international relations at the University of Goettingen. Dozens of other well-credentialed academics participated in YIISA seminars, with interns, graduate fellows, and Yale faculty members helping to realize the enterprise’s promise of becoming a “vibrant space” for scholarship, discussion, and debate.

But “initiatives” are fragile things, and this one, evidently, initiated more than its host had bargained for. At a 2010 conference titled “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity,” experts from around the world gathered to deliberate the most dangerous global form of contemporary anti-Semitism, namely, the Muslim variety. Dangerous in more ways than one: the event’s discussions provoked the ire of some Yale faculty and students, as well as representatives of the official Muslim world; the ire evidently caused institutional discomfiture; and YIISA’s fate was sealed.

No doubt other considerations went into Yale’s decision to shut down this enterprise; it is difficult to know for sure. But the finality of the move, and the evasive rationales advanced for it, suggest a desire to dodge the issue. After all, universities rarely admit mistakes and even more rarely correct them. More typical are bureaucratic fixes: downgrading “programs” to “projects,” moving units to smaller office spaces (the academic equivalent of Siberia), or, in truly bad situations, replacing leaders and putting units in receivership. Why pull the plug so completely?

In the event, Yale’s stated reasons for terminating YIISA omit any mention of the 2010 conference or its subject matter. The university’s director of strategic communications, according to Abby Wisse Schachter who broke the story in the New York Post, asserted that the decision was made on the basis of YIISA’s failure to “serve the research and teaching interests of some significant Yale faculty and…[to] be sustained by the creative energy of a critical mass of Yale faculty.” Unspecified were the interests that were not being served or sustained, let alone the nature of the alleged failure.

To counter criticism of its action, Yale dribbled out a few additional statements. To Donald Green, the director of the institute where YIISA was housed, the problem lay both in YIISA’s professional standards and in its non-popularity: “Little scholarly work appeared in top-tier journals in behavioral science, comparative politics, or history. Courses created in this area did not attract large numbers of students.”

It may indeed be that course enrollments were low, but so are enrollments in any number of areas that universities deem worthy of study. In any case, such numbers are of little relevance to an entity like YIISA, which was by definition a research and not a teaching unit, and which held numerous events attracting public attention and open to the entire Yale community.

As far as publications are concerned, YIISA, just like similar centers and programs at Yale, published its own highly regarded monograph series that made its scholars’ work freely available for download. Since when is the wide dissemination of scholarly products no longer an important academic goal? Nor is Yale known for applying the “top-tier” criterion across the board. The Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, for example, is a center-Left policy group currently directed by the former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo. It attracts wealthy and powerful speakers, some of whom are or may become Yale donors, and releases its reports and findings not in so-called “top-tier journals” but in various house-branded forms. It is hardly unique in this.

But the pious invocation of “top-tier” academic journals with their hoary review processes is itself specious. Offering a comparison with YIISA’s record in this respect, Green touted the “extraordinary number” of articles in such journals produced by yet another Yale research “initiative.” This is the Field Experiments Initiative, dedicated to “randomized studies of voter mobilization, peer counseling of homeless people, campaign activities in Africa, and the persuasiveness of televised campaign advertisements.” The fact that the jargon-laden study of campaign advertisements yields more placements in academic journals than do analyses of anti-Semitism speaks dreary volumes about the gatekeepers of so much of contemporary scholarship, about the subjects they consider respectable, and about the standards of judgment they apply.

And here we return to the unspoken nub of the matter. At its 2010 conference, YIISA dared to tackle, openly, the single deadliest form of contemporary anti-Semitism, bringing together for this purpose a bevy of “top-tier” scholars from around the world. It was, clearly, the very holding of such an event that raised hackles from within and without. One response came from Maen Rashid Areikat, the Washington representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization: “It’s shocking that a respected institution like Yale would give a platform to these right-wing extremists and their odious views.… I urge you to publicly dissociate yourself and Yale University from the anti-Arab extremism and hate-mongering that were on display during this conference.”

This, from an operative of a group whose very name is soaked with the blood of murdered Jews and whose doctrines have poisoned the minds and disfigured the passions of whole generations, including in centers of elite Western opinion. Asked about the possible influence of responses like Areikat’s in its decision to terminate YIISA, a Yale spokesman huffed that the university “doesn’t make decisions about individual programs…based on outside criticism.” Maybe so. But it would be naïve to suppose that Yale is anything less than super-sensitive to its institutional self-interest in a part of the world whose favor it may wish to court—and the all too palpable consequences of whose wrath it seeks to avoid.

It is well known, for instance, that Yale has long been seeking support from wealthy Arab donors. In particular, it has wooed Saudi Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, who in 2005 gave $20 million apiece to Harvard and Georgetown for Islamic-studies programs. (Yale, which competed vigorously for the prize, made it to the final round.) True to their donors’ intent, such academic programs are faithful disseminators of the “narrative” of Muslim victimization. In the same connection, it should likewise be borne in mind that in 2009, alerted to the imminent publication by its own press of a scholarly book on the Danish-cartoons controversy, the Yale administration summarily intervened to yank images of the cartoons from the final product—on the grounds that their appearance might elicit “violence.”

That craven decision was made, allegedly, on the advice of experts gathered for the task, a number of them on the Yale faculty. The same or similar experts, one imagines, now constitute the unnamed “critical mass” whose “research and teaching interests” YIISA is condemned for having failed to serve. Among them, no doubt, are Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, formerly of the State Department and National Security Council and now senior fellows of Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. The Leveretts, strong defenders of the Iranian (and Syrian) regimes, famously charged the George W. Bush administration with ignoring crucial opportunities to negotiate with the mullahs of Tehran, and have criticized the Obama administration on the same grounds. In 2009, Hillary Mann Leverett took her graduate students to New York to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations; reportedly, he enlightened them on the absence of proof for the Holocaust.

There is no need to impute a conspiracy here; it suffices to recognize a confluence of factors—and a mindset. Exactly 60 years ago, the young William F. Buckley, Jr., in God and Man at Yale, published a withering critique of, in the words of a recent appraisal, “the intolerance of the academy toward unfashionable concepts…the stultifying effects of elitist groupthink on thought, and…the failure of the university to engage a wide range of ideas fairly and in simple good faith.” At the time, the particular issue salient in Buckley’s mind was the academy’s refusal to engage the subject of God and man. Today, it is the refusal to engage the global campaign to defame, de-legitimate, and demonize the Jewish people. As the fact of anti-Semitism grows, including on some North American campuses, one large, serious academic effort to study anti-Semitism has been shut down.

(Alex Joffe is a research scholar with the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.)


Eye on a Crazy Planet, June 13, 2011


Picture the following: A discussion in a post-graduate university class on the topic of Jews turns ugly. The professor is uncritical when one student says he doesn’t want to be around Jews. Another student complains about “rich Jews,” implying their excessive power. In a subsequent class, the same professor, as if to validate those points, says half her department faculty are Jews and with her approbation, students conduct a ‘Jew count’.

While this sounds like an episode in Germany leading up to the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws, it occurred more recently and much closer to home, at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Social Work. Now, more details are emerging under the exceptional circumstance of two U of T professors publicly criticizing a colleague for facilitating classroom anti-Semitism and the university administration’s inadequate response.

The controversy began when some visible minority students in a Social Work Master’s program at the University of Toronto [U of T] expressed discomfort about being around “rich Jews,” in Professor Rupaleem Bhuyan’s class, regarding a proposed outing in 2009 to the Baycrest Centre, an internationally renowned Jewish geriatric and research facility. They were undoubtedly confident of a sympathetic ear from her. The previous year, Bhuyan denounced Israel as a satellite of the United States, unworthy of distinction as a separate country.

The few Jewish students in Bhuyan’s Master’s Program class were intimidated into silence for much of the discussion by a classroom culture slanted against them. Finally, one young woman spoke up, protesting her grandparents had come to Canada with virtually nothing and she was proud her family could now afford the fees for them to reside at Baycrest.

That must have rung an alarm bell for Professor Bhuyan, because startlingly, she then admonished her students not to divulge what transpired in class to outsiders.

But her classroom was not Las Vegas and what happened there did not stay there. Some outraged Jewish students approached Professor Paula David, who in turn consulted senior professors Ernie Lightman and Adrienne Chambon.

“Students are in a vulnerable position and dread officially attaching their name to complaints against a professor in a program like Social Work” said Lightman. “Aside from determining grades, they fear one bad word from a professor to a social agency can eliminate their employment prospects.”

In the face of such circumstances, Lightman assumed the voice of the Jewish students who endured the vitriol in Bhuyan’s class. He, with Chambon spoke to Faye Mishna, the Dean of Social Work about the incidents. A letter Lightman wrote to U of T President David Naylor about the matter also became public.

By way of response, Mishna, without specific reference to the incident or Bhuyan, sent out a pair of letters to the Social Work department generically condemning anti-Semitism.

Lightman believes the university’s response was absurd. “The department’s approach seemed to imply a widespread problem with anti-Semitism—which there wasn’t—and that everyone is potentially a racist when one professor promoted anti-Semitism and was never held publicly accountable.…”

Chambon, a Jewish professor who is Director of PhD programs in the Social Work department, was particularly pained by these events. Originally from France, she relates that “I am from Europe and of a generation with bad memories of the sinister results of Jew counts.” After hearing about the incident, Chambon arranged to meet with Bhuyan.

“I was flabbergasted” Chambon disclosed. “She told me ‘racialized’ students come from underprivileged backgrounds and were justified in not wanting to be around old Jews because they are rich and would make them uneasy. I couldn’t believe my ears. I took some paper and wrote down what she said in front of her. Bhuyan then said the donor plaques at the university were all from rich Jews, which she felt proved her point. Aside from being factually wrong, it reflects an attitude that polarizes groups and reinforces stereotypes that do not belong in the teaching of Social Work.”

Professor Bhuyan did not reply to a request to comment for this article and the University refused to add to Social Work Department Dean Mishna’s response that, “the Faculty took all steps to address the matter appropriately at the time of the incident and thereafter.”

Nothing could be more false in the opinion of Lightman, Chambon and others. While patiently waiting for the wheels of justice to grind slowly, they instead saw them go off the rails.

Bhuyan, an untenured Assistant Professor, who never offered a public apology for her behaviour, was rewarded by the University with a contract renewal. That development has frustrated a number of professors in a dysfunctional Social Work Department that remains divided in opposing camps. Lightman insists this matter must be exposed and wrote a recent article about it for The Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.

Lightman asserts, “It’s ironic that a department purporting to teach anti-racism is incapable of dealing with racism in its own house. We have a responsibility to students to ensure faculty do not abuse the power inherent in their positions, and to the community-at-large to ensure all the Social Workers it graduates reflect and promote the values of the field. That hasn’t happened here.” [Ed.: Please see ‘On Topics’ for Mr. Lightman’s full article, entitled “Antisemitism at the University of Toronto”.]





Weekly Quotes

A move like that will be a violation of all the agreements that were signed until today. Israel will no longer be committed to the agreements signed with the Palestinians in the past 18 years. In light of [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas’s current stance, the chances for negotiations are zero. Abbas is not interested in an agreement. He wants conflict, because that is his personal interest, even though it is against the Palestinians’ interest, and many oppose him.”—Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in a meeting with his EU counterpart Catherine Ashton, declaring that if the Palestinians seek a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN General Assembly in September, it will mark the end of the Oslo Accords. (Jerusalem Post, June 17.)


The debate over how many Jews and how many Palestinians will be between the Jordan and the sea is irrelevant. It does not matter to me whether there are half a million more Palestinians or less because I have no wish to annex them into Israel. I want to separate from them so that they will not be Israeli citizens. I am interested that there be a solid Jewish majority inside the State of Israel.…”—Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in response to a report published by the Jewish People Policy Institute on demographic changes among Jews and Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank, discounting the notion that these trends will result in a Palestinian majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and suggesting that one option to prevent this fate is to physically part from the Palestinians, perhaps by relinquishing portions of the West Bank. (Haaretz, June 21.)


The White House’s growing struggles to maintain support, in NATO and especially at home, show what happens when a President tries to lead a war from behind.… The greatest military alliance in history can’t defeat a rag-tag band of mercenaries answering to a much-loathed dictator. One reason is that the U.S. has retreated to the rear since April 7, when Mr. Obama handed over the lead to the French, British, Canadian and other European NATO members.… No U.S. ship participates in the arms embargo, and the USNS Comfort, a medical treatment facility, is on a goodwill visit to the Caribbean rather than the Gulf of Sidra. The U.S. still hasn’t recognized the rebel Transitional National Council, still hasn’t unfrozen Gadhafi’s assets to finance the rebel effort, and as far as we know still hasn’t tried to raise money from the Arab League for the war effort. Mr. Obama likes to boast that the U.S. isn’t acting “alone” in this conflict, but in the first Gulf War the U.S. collected $55 billion to push Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. No wonder Gadhafi thinks he can hold on.…”—Excerpt from a Wall Street Journal editorial, entitled “Leading Libya From Behind,” criticizing U.S. president Barack Obama’s gross mismanagement of the ongoing war in Libya. (Wall Street Journal, June 18.)


I want to express my sincere gratitude for your thoughtful discussion of the issues. We are confident that history will see the wisdom of your country in debating these issues. We are counting on the United States Congress to its continued investigation of military activities of NATO and its allies to confirm what we believe is a clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.”—Excerpts from a letter written by embattled Libyan president Colonel Muammar Qaddafi to the U.S. Congress, expressing his gratitude for the passage by the House of a resolution that rebuked the Obama administration for maintaining an American role in the Libyan campaign without Congressional consent. (NY Times, June 11.)


The real reason for the delay in the forming and convening of the government is disagreement over Fayyad. President Abbas insists on nominating Salam Fayyad, whose appointment Hamas categorically rejects. That has led the two sides to postpone the meeting rather than announce the collapse of the reconciliation.”—A senior Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, attributing the postponement of the formation of a Palestinian unity deal to internal disagreement between Fatah and Hamas over Salaam Fayyad’s nomination for prime minister. Hamas leader Ismail Radwan reinforced this reality, saying “Fayyad is not wanted because his name is linked to Palestinian division, the debt-ridden Palestinian economy and operations by the [Palestinian Authority] security services against the resistance.” (Independent Media Review and Analysis, June 20.)


What has been behind decline in support for the war? The obvious. It has gone on almost 10 years. It is America’s longest war. We have been there longer than the Soviets were. No one in a position of authority credibly or coherently explains the path to victory, or even what victory would look like. Are we losing young men so that a year from now we can commence 10 years of peace talks with the Taliban? Toward what end? What will we be asking for, that they be nice? America is now full of veterans of Afghanistan, and while many will agree with the original mission, or the current mission as they understand it, it is certain that at the American dinner table the cost, complexity and confusion of the effort are being discussed. And the killing of Osama bin Laden provided a psychic endpoint to the drama. The day we went into Afghanistan, we were trying to find him and kill him. Six weeks ago, we found him and killed him. All wars run on a great rush of feeling, of fervor. That feeling and fervor have on an essential level been satisfied. But there’s something else, probably the most important fact of all. We are as a nation, on paper, almost bankrupt. Or bankrupt, depending on how you judge. Among the Republican candidates for president, there is a growing awareness that America does not have a foreign policy unless we have the money to pay for it.… We cannot lead, or even be an example, without money. And we are out of it. Therefore, reordering our financial life and seeing to our financial strength is the single most constructive thing we can do to create and maintain a sound U.S. foreign policy. If we want to be safe in the world, we must be sturdy at home.… The problem with Afghanistan, and Iraq for that matter, is not only that after 10 years our efforts have turned out to be—polite word—inconclusive. We are spending money we don’t have for aims we cannot even articulate.”—Excerpt from Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal article, entitled “Republicans Return to Reality,” rationalizing the decline in American public support for the war in Afghanistan, and warning of the impending fiscal ramifications should the U.S. continue along the same path. (Wall Street Journal, June 18-19.)


My government will be happy to work with the new Turkish government on finding a resolution to all outstanding issues between our countries, in the hope of re-establishing our cooperation and renewing the spirit of friendship which has characterized the relations between our peoples for many generations.”—Excerpts of a letter, published by the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman, sent by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan following Erdogan’s recent re-election, calling for a restoration of friendship between the two countries. Government sources have confirmed that Israel regrets the deterioration in its relations with Turkey, and believes that a positive bilateral relationship between Jerusalem and Ankara serves both countries. (Jerusalem Post, June 21.


The recent death of Milivoj Asner in Austria, unprosecuted for his crimes, is a travesty of justice which reinforces the total failure of the Austrian judicial authorities to adequately deal with the issue of Nazi war criminals during the past more than three decades. Asner’s role in the persecution and death of hundreds of Serb, Jewish and Roma residents of the city of Pozega, Croatia in his capacity as local Ustasha police chief was critical, and his criminal responsibility for their tragic fate is absolutely clear.”—Simon Wiesenthal Center official Efraim Zuroff, criticizing Austria for its failure to convict alleged Nazi collaborator Milivoj Asner, who died earlier this week, and calling it a sign of shame for the local authorities. (Jerusalem Post, June 21.)

Short Takes

PALESTINIAN RECONCILIATION SUMMIT POSTPONED—(Jerusalem) Palestinian officials have confirmed that a high-profile meeting between the leaders of rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas has been postponed indefinitely. The meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal had been expected to name a new prime minister to preside over the emerging unity government, but officials from both sides acknowledged there are still disagreements over who will lead the coalition. According to senior Palestinian officials, Hamas’s insistence on excluding current PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad is the major obstacle preventing the actualization of the reconciliation agreement. (Ynet News, June 19.)


HAMAS ARMED WING REJECTS 1,000-PRISONER SHALIT DEAL—(Jerusalem) According to German government sources, a deal in which Israel would release approximately 1,000 prisoners in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been rejected by Hamas’ armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, despite approval by the groups political wing. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking at a joint appearance with French president Nicholas Sarkozy, recently called efforts to release Shalit “a very important matter.” For France, the Shalit case is particularly sensitive because the captive soldier holds dual Israeli-French citizenship. (Jerusalem Post, June 18.)


IDF IDENTIFIES THOUSANDS OF HEZBOLLAH SITES IN LEBANON—(Jerusalem) The IDF has identified thousands of Hezbollah sites throughout Lebanon, making its “target bank” many times larger than it was in 2006 on the eve of the Second Lebanon War. According to a senior military officer, the IDF knew of approximately 200 pre-designated Hezbollah targets on July 12, 2006. Today the bank has thousands more sites that would constitute legitimate targets in the event of a future war with Hezbollah. Earlier this year, the IDF released a map showing 950 locations scattered across the country—a majority of them bunkers and surveillance sites. According to the officer, Hezbollah is also believed to have passed the 50,000 mark in the number of rockets and missiles it has obtained. (Jerusalem Post, June 10.)


MUFTI OF LEBANON: PALESTINIANS ARE ‘TRASH’, NOT WELCOME—(Jerusalem) The mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, has condemned Palestinians as “trash” and said they are no longer welcome in his country. “We’ve hosted you and no longer want you. You [Palestinians] will never be victorious. Nor will your cause.” Sheikh Qabbani’s remarks were made during a meeting held in his office in Beirut with a Palestinian delegation representing refugees and various Palestinian factions in Lebanon. More than 400,000 Palestinians live in Lebanon, most of them in refugee camps. Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora apologized on behalf of the mufti, saying the Sheikh lost his temper following complaints that Palestinians living in Lebanon had illegally seized lands belonging to the state and the Islamic Wakf Trust. (Jerusalem Post, June 16.)


ZAWAHRI NAMED AL-QAIDA CHIEF—(Dubai) Ayman al-Zawahri has taken command of al-Qaida following last month’s killing of Osama bin Laden. “The general leadership of al-Qaida group, after the completion of consultation, announces that Sheikh Dr. Ayman Zawahri, may G-d give him success, has assumed responsibility for command of the group,” the Islamist website Ansar al-Mujahideen (Followers of the Holy Warriors) said in a statement. Long known as bin Laden’s lieutenant and the brains behind many of al-Qaida’s operations, Egyptian-born Zawahri has vowed to press ahead with al Qaida’s campaign against the United States and its allies. Believed to be in his late 50s, Zawahri met bin Laden in the mid-1980s when both were in Pakistan to support guerrillas fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. (Reuters, June 16.)


AFGHANISTAN’S KARZAI CONFIRMS U.S. IN TALKS WITH TALIBAN—(Kabul) Afghan President Hamid Karzai has for the first time officially confirmed that the U.S. is involved in negotiations with the Taliban regarding a possible settlement to the near decade-long war in Afghanistan. “Peace talks are going on with the Taliban. The foreign military and especially the United States itself is going ahead with these negotiations,” Karzai said in a speech in Kabul. There are many Afghans who fear talks with the insurgents could undo much of the progress made since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban government. There currently are about 100,000 U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan, up from about 34,000 when Obama took office in 2009. (Reuters, June 18.)


AFGHAN CIVILIAN DEATHS SET A MONTHLY RECORD, U.N. SAYS—(Kabul) The United Nations has announced that May was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since it began keeping count in 2007—the result of intense fighting, as militants seek to combat against the surge in American forces and undermine the government of president Hamid Karzai. The record number of casualties is particularly disconcerting, as the U.N.’s special representative to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, recently undertook a major effort to curb their occurrence. In May, 368 afghan civilians died in conflict-related incidents. (NY Times, June 11.)


EX-TUNISIAN PRESIDENT BEN ALI SENTENCED TO 35 YEARS IN JAIL—(Tunis) A Tunisian court has sentenced ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in absentia, to 35 years in jail, after finding him guilty of theft and unlawful possession of cash and jewellery; Ben Ali will have to pay fines totalling 91 million Tunisian dinars ($65.6 million). The judge said the verdict on other charges, relating to illegal possession of drugs and weapons, would be pronounced on June 30. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14, after mass protests against his 23-year rule. Ben Ali said in a statement that he was deceived into leaving the country, and denied giving orders for security forces to shoot at protesters who were demanding he step down. (Reuters, June 20.)


QUEBEC PARENTS CHALLENGE BAN ON DAY CARE RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION—(Toronto)Jewish parents in Quebec have gone to court to challenge a government ban on religious instruction in government-subsidized day care programs, which they say violates their rights to freedom of religion guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Under the new rules, which came into effect June 1, subsidized day care centers may celebrate cultural aspects of religious holidays, but may not teach “a belief, a dogma or the practice of a specific religion.” Danielle Sabbah, president of the Association of Child Care Centres of the Jewish Community, called the directives troublesome: “The problem is that in the Jewish religion, traditions, culture and the religious aspect are mixed together.” The policy leaves it up to inspectors to determine when the line between culture and religion is crossed. (JTA, June 3.)


PEACE PRIZE FOR CHOMSKY DRAWS IRE IN AUSTRALIA—(Sydney, Australia) The awarding of a peace prize to American Jewish intellectual Noam Chomsky, a harsh critic of Israel and of American foreign policy, is drawing opposition in Australia. “The choice of Noam Chomsky continues a pattern of Sydney Peace Prize recipients who have demonstrated questionable credentials as legitimate peace-makers,” said Vic Alhadeff, chief executive of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies. Chomsky, 82, sparked a furor recently with an essay on the killing of Osama bin Laden in which he wrote that George W. Bush’s crimes “vastly exceed” those of the al Qaeda leader. Chomsky, who is “honored to receive this prestigious award,” will fly to Australia in November to collect his $50,000 prize and deliver the City of Sydney Peace Prize lecture at the University of Sydney. (JTA, June 3.)


DORE GOLD RECEIVES GUARDIAN OF ZION AWARD—(Jerusalem) Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has received the Guardian of Zion Award presented annually by Bar-Ilan University’s Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies. Those receiving the honor are chosen because they have “dedicated their lives to the perpetuation and strengthening of Jerusalem.” Gold, who served as Israeli ambassador to the UN from 1997-1999, has written extensively on Jerusalem, as well as on Israel and the Middle East in general. He has served as an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during both his terms of office, and was an adviser to former prime minister Ariel Sharon. The first Guardian of ZionAward honoree was Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel. (Jerusalem Post, June 7.)


LETTER SHOWS FIRST-KNOWN DESIRE BY HITLER TO REMOVE JEWS—(Jerusalem) The Simon Wiesenthal Centerhas unveiled a signed letter by Adolf Hitler that contains what is believed to be his earliest transcribed calls for the removal of Jews from Germany. Purchased from a private dealer for $150,000, the letter is “one of the most important documents in the entire history of the Third Reich,” according to Rabbi Marvin Heir, founder of the Wiesenthal Center. In the letter, Hitler explains his dissatisfaction with a Jewish race growing in the midst of the German nation, holding “feelings, thoughts, and aspirations” different to those of the German people. The letter proves that as early as 1919, Hitler was contemplating the total “removal of Jews” (German: “Entfernung der Juden”) from German society.The letter, found by a U.S. soldier in 1945 in the Nazi Archives near Nuremberg, will go on permanent display in the Wiesenthal Center’s Holocaust museum in July. (Jerusalem Post, June 8.)


LITHUANIA COMPENSATES JEWS FOR NAZI, SOVIET ERA LOSSES—(Vilius) Lithuania’s parliament has passed a long-awaited bill to compensate the Jewish community for communal property taken during the Nazi and Soviet occupations of the country. Under the bill, the government would pay 125 million litas ($51.93 million) between 2013 and 2023 to a special fund; a further 3 million litas would be paid directly to Holocaust survivors in 2012. The bill, which aims “to restore historical justice,” was backed by 82 lawmakers in the 141-seat parliament with 18 abstentions. “With this bill we demonstrate good will and an understanding of the tragedy the Jewish community suffered during the Holocaust,” Lithuania Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said in a statement. More than 90 percent of Lithuania’s 220,000-strong Jewish community were wiped out during the Holocaust. (Reuters, June 21.)


U.S. DENIES JONATHAN POLLARD’S REQUEST TO ATTEND HIS FATHER’S FUNERAL—(Jerusalem) The White House has spurned requests by Israel to allow Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to attend his father’s funeral. Pollard’s father Morris passed away at the age of 95, after complications from an illness. Heads of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations expressed dismay and regret at the decision, saying in a statement that the “humanitarian gesture was warranted,” adding that “it underscores the need for prompt action to release Jonathan Pollard after 25 years of imprisonment. (Haaretz, June 20.)





Baruch Cohen


In memory of the beloved Malca, z’’l

We must not forget Jonathan Pollard, nor must we keep silent!

Pollard’s genuine and only concern was the security of Israel, the most faithful and closest ally of the U.S.

U.S. security was not altered by Pollard’s activity. In 1985, the year of Pollard’s arrest, the U.S. defense intelligence establishment was suffering a wave of humiliations, as far more dangerous spies were uncovered in the intelligence community. None of the information given by Pollard jeopardized U.S. interests.

The Pollard case represents a test case for American justice. The Obama administration has an opportunity now to restore pride in America’s tradition of fair and open-minded after 25 years of injustice. Jonathan Pollard has served more than his time and deserves to be released!

Jewry in the U.S., in Israel, and all over the world must not rest until Pollard—who spied for an American ally, after all, not for an American enemy, and has served 25 years for his deeds. Enough is enough!

Justice must be done.

President Obama, and now is the moment to show that America remains capable of doing and can overcome bias and revenge!

We must not keep quiet! Do not be silent!

Free Pollard—Today!

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)


Jay Solomon

Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2011


The Obama administration and European governments are stepping up efforts to revive Arab-Israeli peace talks, saying they have little time to head off a Palestinian drive to seek a United Nations vote on statehood.

The White House [last] week dispatched its top Middle East negotiators, Dennis Ross and David Hale, to the region to try to gain Israeli and Palestinian agreement to resume negotiations based on parameters President Barack Obama laid out last month [i.e. utilizing Israel’s borders before the 1967 Six-Day War as the baseline for new talks].…

In recent days, Mr. Obama has sought to build public support for his position on the peace process, which has been strongly criticized by both Republicans and Democrats. On June 10, the White House’s senior director for the Middle East, Steven Simon, told Jewish-American leaders that the international community had roughly a month to convince Mr. Abbas to give up his campaign at the U.N.… Mr. Simon said the Palestinians appeared “forthcoming” in responding to Mr. Obama’s calls for a resumption of negotiations based on the 1967 lines, but that Israel needed more convincing.

Mr. Netanyahu has called Israel’s borders before the Six-Day War “indefensible” and criticized Mr. Obama’s position as a backtracking from previous U.S. commitments.…


Dore Gold

Weekly Standard, June 20, 2011


When President Barak Obama first made his controversial reference to the 1967 lines as the basis for future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on May 19, 2011, he introduced one main caveat that stuck out: the idea that there would be “mutually agreed swaps” of land between the two sides. He added that both sides were entitled to “secure and recognized borders.” But the inclusion of land swaps also raised many questions.

Several months after Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Six Day War, the U.N. Security Council defined the territorial terms of a future peace settlement in Resolution 242, which over the decades became the cornerstone for all Arab-Israeli diplomacy. At the time, the Soviets had tried to brand Israel as the aggressor in the war and force on it a full withdrawal, but Resolution 242 made clear that Israel was not expected to withdraw from all the territories that came into its possession, meaning that Israel was not required to withdraw from 100 percent of the West Bank.

Given this background, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made clear in his last Knesset address in October 1995 that Israel would never withdraw to the 1967 lines. He stressed that Israel would have to retain control of the Jordan Valley, the great eastern, geographic barrier which provided for its security for decades since the Six Day War. He didn’t say a word about land swaps. For neither Resolution 242 nor any subsequent signed agreements with the Palestinians stipulated that Israel would have to pay for any West Bank land it would retain by handing over its own sovereign land in exchange.

So where did the idea of land swaps come from? During the mid-1990s there were multiple backchannel efforts to see if it was possible to reach a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians argued that when Israel signed a peace agreement with Egypt, it agreed to withdraw from 100 percent of the Sinai Peninsula. So they asked how could PLO chairman Yasser Arafat be given less than what Egyptian president Anwar Sadat received.

As a result, Israeli academics involved in these backchannel talks accepted the principle that the Palestinians would obtain 100 percent of the territory, just like the Egyptians, despite the language of Resolution 242, and they proposed giving Israeli land to the Palestinians as compensation for any West Bank land retained by Israel. This idea appeared in the 1995 Beilin-Abu Mazen paper, which was neither signed nor embraced by the Israeli or the Palestinian leaderships. Indeed, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) subsequently denied in May 1999 that any agreement of this sort existed.

There is a huge difference between Egypt and the Palestinians. Egypt was the first Arab state to make peace, and in recognition of that fact, Prime Minister Menachem Begin gave Sadat all of Sinai. Moreover, the Israeli-Egyptian border had been a recognized international boundary since the time of the Ottoman Empire. The pre-1967 Israeli boundary with the West Bank was not a real international boundary; it was only an armistice line demarcating where Arab armies had been stopped when they invaded the nascent state of Israel in 1948.

In July 2000 at the Camp David Summit, the Clinton administration raised the land swap idea that had been proposed by Israeli academics, but neither Camp David nor the subsequent negotiating effort at Taba succeeded. Israel’s foreign minister at the time, Shlomo Ben-Ami, admitted in an interview in Haaretz on September 14, 2001: “I’m not sure that the whole idea of a land swap is feasible.” In short, when the idea was actually tested in high-stakes negotiations, the land swap idea proved to be far more difficult to implement as the basis for a final agreement.

After the collapse of the Camp David talks, President Clinton tried to summarize Israeli and Palestinian positions and put forward a U.S. proposal that still featured the land swap. But to his credit, Clinton also stipulated: “These are my ideas. If they are not accepted, they are off the table, they go with me when I leave office.” The Clinton team informed the incoming Bush administration about this point. Notably, land swaps were not part of the 2003 Roadmap for Peace or in the April 14, 2004 letter from President Bush to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

It was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who resurrected the land swap idea in 2008 as part of newly proposed Israeli concessions that went even further than Israel’s positions at Camp David and Taba. It came up in these years in other Israeli-Palestinian contacts, as well. But Mahmoud Abbas was only willing to talk about a land swap based on 1.9 percent of the territory, which related to the size of the areas of Jewish settlement, but which did not even touch on Israel’s security needs. So the land swap idea still proved to be unworkable.

Writing in Haaretz on May 29, 2011, Prof. Gideon Biger, from Tel Aviv University’s department of geography, warned that Israel cannot agree to a land swap greater than the equivalent of 2.5 percent of the territories since Israel does not have vast areas of empty land which can be transferred. Any land swap of greater size would involve areas of vital Israeli civilian and military infrastructure.

Furthermore, in the summaries of the past negotiations with Prime Minister Olmert, the Palestinians noted that they would be demanding land swaps of “comparable value”—meaning, they would not accept some remote sand dunes in exchange for high quality land near the center of Israel. In short, given the limitations on the quantity and quality of territory that Israel could conceivably offer, the land swap idea was emerging as impractical.

In Jerusalem, the old pre-1967 armistice line placed the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, and the Old City as a whole on the Arab side of the border. From 1948 to 1967, Jews were denied access to their holy sites; some 55 synagogues and study halls were systematically destroyed, while the Old City was ethnically cleansed of all its Jewish residents. If land swaps have to be “mutually agreed” does that give the Palestinians a veto over Israeli claims beyond the 1967 line in the Old City, like the Western Wall?

The land swap question points to a deeper dilemma in U.S.-Israel relations. What is the standing of ideas from failed negotiations in the past that appear in the diplomatic record? President Obama told AIPAC on May 22 that the 1967 lines with land swaps “has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations.” Just because an idea was discussed in the past, does that make it part of the diplomatic agenda in the future, even if the idea was never part of any legally binding, signed agreements?

In October 1986, President Ronald Reagan met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, and made a radical proposal that both superpowers eliminate all of their ballistic missiles, in order to focus their energies on developing missile defenses alone. The idea didn’t work, Reagan’s proposal was not accepted, and the arms control negotiations took a totally different direction. But what if today Russian president Dmitry Medvedev asked President Obama to implement Reagan’s proposals? Would the U.S. have any obligation to diplomatic ideas that did not lead to a finalized treaty?

Fortunately, there are other points in President Obama’s recent remarks about Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that can take the parties away from the 1967 lines and assuage the Israeli side. At AIPAC, the president spoke about “the new demographic realities on the ground” which appears to take into account the large settlement blocs that Israel will eventually incorporate. Using the language of Resolution 242, Obama referred to “secure and recognized borders,” and added: “Israel must be able to defend itself—by itself—against any threat.”

However, for Israelis, mentioning the 1967 lines without these qualifications brings back memories of an Israel that was 8 miles wide, and a time when its vulnerability turned it into a repeated target of hegemonial powers of the Middle East, that made its destruction their principle cause. Sure, Israel won the Six Day War from the 1967 lines, but it had to resort to a preemptive strike as four armies converged on its borders. No Israeli would like to live with such a short fuse again. The alternative to the 1967 lines are defensible borders, which must emerge if a viable peace is to be reached.

(Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations,
is president of the
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.)


Stewart Weiss

Jerusalem Magazine, June 17, 2011


To be a Jew is to have a long and accurate memory. While we hold that to forgive is a sacred obligation—a mitzva, even—it can be downright fatal to forget.

When Barack Obama was first running for president, a friend of mine called and urged me to support him, both in person and in print. Now, this friend knew that for some odd reason, I do not have that all-too-common American Jewish malady of automatically voting for every Democrat on the ticket, regardless of his policies or personality. He knew that I tended to side with the Republicans, whom I see as more sympathetic to my views on Israel’s security, the settlements and Jerusalem. But he tried to persuade me to change my vote with a potent argument.

“Do you see how isolated Israel is in the world today?” he argued. “Virtually no one takes our side anymore; not in the United Nations, the European Union, the world media or the universities. The name ‘Israel’ has become a pejorative curse-word across the globe. But Obama can change all of that. He has immense credibility in all the circles where Israel is defamed; he can promote Israel’s cause and change Israel’s negative image with his brilliant powers of persuasion. You can depend on him for that!”

I was almost convinced that Obama could be trusted to safeguard Israel. But today, almost three years later, when the Jewish state—by virtually all accounts—is infinitely more isolated and more maligned than ever before, I remember that conversation and realize just how foolish it would have been to place my faith in Obama. No, I cannot depend on the U.S. president, for he is a failed Messiah—at least as far as Israel is concerned.

Nor can I depend on any country in Europe, that other bastion of “enlightened” civilization. Not Germany, which swears it will safeguard us from another Holocaust, yet is one of Iran’s largest trading partners. And not England, which sold us out in 1948 and which, despite having a large and active Jewish community, is the seat of rabid anti-Israelism on the continent.…

The fact is, there are only two parties on which I can depend. One is God.… And the other is the Palestinians.

Yes, the Palestinians. Though they thoroughly, obsessively hate us—polls consistently show that a solid majority of Palestinians, at every level, want us violently thrown out of the region—they always come through and bail us out. Whenever we start to waver and seriously consider making far-ranging and dangerous concessions, whenever we wonder wistfully whether maybe just this once they really do want to make peace with us, they save us from disaster by showing their true colors. They hit us over the head with such blatant rejectionism that only the most gullible do-gooder would acknowledge them as serious partners.

When then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak was ready to make radical, dangerous concessions at Camp David in 2000, Arafat the intransigent saved us by refusing to take “yes” for an answer, shocking even Bill Clinton, who had hosted the PLO leader during his term of office more than any other foreign leader. And when, in 2008, the other Ehud, prime minister Olmert, unilaterally proposed sending Israel back to pre-’67 borders, it was the PA that got cold feet and backed away at the last moment.

And now, just at the moment when Obama has formulated his grandiose peace plan—based largely on still more Israeli concessions—the Palestinians shoot him down once more: by forging an unholy alliance with Hamas, partnering up with a Nazi-like ideology that makes crystal-clear its unending desire to wipe Israel off the face of the map; by the outrageous op-ed penned by Mahmoud Abbas in the New York Times—the “audacity of lies,” I call it—in which he attempts to rewrite the historical record in a fashion that would make even Paul Bunyan blush; and by utterly, completely rejecting [Binyamin] Netanyahu’s speech in Congress even before the applause had died down.

Is there any pie-in-the-sky, eternal optimist who would still enter into an agreement with liars and libelers such as these? Even Obama must have gnashed his teeth as the Palestinians screamed out loud and clear: No compromise, no conciliation, no concessions. “If only they could just keep their mouths shut and pretend to accept Israel,” he must have thought, “I could get the Israelis to buy into this fiasco.”

But, praise to God, the Palestinians rescued us once again. Like Pharaoh, who just couldn’t let our people go and so had that “sinking feeling” at the Red Sea, and like the Jordanians, who just couldn’t hold back from joining an already defeated Egyptian-Syrian axis in 1967 and so lost the Old City and the West Bank, the Palestinians simply cannot contain their deep-seated conviction that this land just ain’t big enough for the both of us. Thanks to you, Palestinians, for chasing away the illusions and letting us all see the truth.

(Mr. Weiss is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana.)


Seth Mandel

FrontPage, June 17, 2011


A year ago, veteran American Mideast negotiator Aaron David Miller wrote a much-talked about article for Foreign Policy (FP) magazine in which he disavowed any hope for the Arab-Israeli peace process. Called “The False Religion of Mideast Peace: And Why I’m No Longer a Believer,” the piece detailed his disillusionment with what began with the Clinton administration’s Mideast peacemaking, of which he was a participant, in the 1990s. The main casualty of the failure of the administration’s efforts throughout that decade, Miller had written, was hope. “And that has been the story line ever since: more process than peace.”

But that line, buried 3,000 words into the 5,000-word cover story, should have been featured more prominently. It’s the point. Because if there’s one thing that has been proven time and again in the course of Arab-Israeli negotiations, it’s that you cannot have both peace and the process; it’s one or the other.

Just in time for the first anniversary of the FP story, Miller has another one striking similar themes. The main difference this time is that Miller now exhorts President Obama to join him in hopelessness. Called “The Virtues of Folding,” Miller’s message is simple: give up—at least for now.

“Thirty months in, a self-styled transformative president with big ideas and ambitions as a peacemaker finds himself with no negotiations, no peace process, no relationship with an Israeli prime minister, no traction with Palestinians, and no strategy to achieve a breakthrough,” Miller writes.

To be sure, the process of which Miller was a part caused so much damage to the lives of Israeli Arabs and Jews that we should be perfectly content to let him retire without protest. But Miller has still—unbelievably—refused to learn the primary lesson from all his years of failure: the peace process was over before Miller ever got involved.

That doesn’t mean that neither side wants peace. Most Israelis have always wanted peace, and if the polls are accurate many Palestinians want peace as well. It’s the process that has always stood as the principal hindrance to peace. The process allows the Palestinian leadership to soak up foreign money. It allows the United Nations—via its Relief and Works Agency—to keep generations of Palestinian families mired in poverty by assigning them a nonsensical “refugee” status that encourages the Arab leaders of their country of residence—Syria, Lebanon, Jordan—to preserve their identities as second-class citizens. And it forces Israel to make tangible concessions in return for promises.

Contrary to popular mythology, the peace process didn’t begin with the Paris peace conference and the Oslo accords; that’s where it ended. Here is Yitzhak Rabin—the symbol of the peace process for many, especially on the left—speaking to the Knesset in 1992: “From this moment on, the concept of a ‘peace process’ is irrelevant. From now on we shall speak not of a ‘process’ but of making peace.”

This was echoed by Palestinian legislator and terrorist Leila Khaled (who once led a bungled attempt on Rabin’s life): “You know, it’s a process, but it’s not a peace process. It’s a political process where the balance of forces is for Israelis and not for us and they have all the cards to play with and the Palestinians have nothing to depend on, especially (when) the PLO is not united.… We are from the other side, against the whole process.”

Rabin’s quote perfectly encapsulated the Israeli position—we want real peace, not endless blathering, photo ops, and empty promises. And Khaled represented the Palestinian leadership’s preference for a process whose underlying goal was explicitly not peace.

Of course, the Palestinians got their way. Rabin couldn’t convince the rest of the world that the peace process had ended (not that he put in enough effort on that front). That makes the Palestinian threat to call for a vote at September’s UN General Assembly on Palestinian statehood so ironic. The vote is the Palestinian expression that they now believe the entire peace process has concluded—and any European country that votes for Palestinian statehood is expressing that same sentiment.

Every Western leader who has called for Israel to return to the negotiating table has done so using the same formulation: “Negotiations are the only way toward a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict,” in the words of the joint statement from the G-8 countries. You either believe that or you don’t. A vote for Palestinian statehood at the UN is a public pronouncement that you don’t. In which case, I would expect that every country that votes for statehood understands they have forfeited their credibility on pressuring Israel to negotiate. The hectoring ends at Turtle Bay.

Those who support this ridiculous stunt at the UN are also acknowledging another aspect of the peace process: negotiations have always been a scam to pilfer what rightfully belongs to the Israelis. For example, through biblical history, modern history, 20th century history, and Israeli history, there is an unmatched Jewish national attachment and possession of Hebron. The Arabs of pre-state Israel massacred the town’s Jewish residents in 1929, and the world has been rewarding them for it ever since. Shechem is already under Arab control. The Palestinians have been negotiating with the purpose of establishing in the international community’s opinion some right to Jerusalem. They have succeeded in this with the Europeans, and Obama’s suggestion that the two sides start with the 1967 lines is the closest the Palestinians will likely ever get with the United States.

Therefore, the negotiating process has yielded all it can for the Palestinians, and the rest they will attempt to take—as they have indicated consistently throughout the years—by force. This is what is behind the UN statehood gambit. If this is the end of the peace process—again—it may be for real this time.






Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2011


For six months, global attention has fixed on the historic upheavals roiling the Arab world from Tunisia to Bahrain. But the biggest Middle Eastern story continues to be the steady progress Tehran has made toward acquiring the components of a deliverable nuclear weapon. The most recent news is disquieting, to say the least.

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency “de-restricted” its most recent report on Iran’s nuclear progress. Despite hopes that the 2009 Stuxnet computer virus had slowed or even crippled Tehran’s efforts, the IAEA reports that in the last six months Tehran had enriched some 970 kilos of uranium to reactor-grade levels, or LEU, bringing its total stockpile of LEU to 4,105 kilos.

Iran has also enriched 56.7 kilos of uranium to a 20% level, ostensibly to produce medical isotopes but bringing it measurably closer to the 90% level needed for a bomb. Iran also announced that it will begin installing a more efficient type of centrifuge to enrich uranium at its once-secret facility near the city of Qom.

The IAEA devoted considerable space to what it calls the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program, noting that “there are indications that certain [undisclosed nuclear-related activities] may have continued beyond 2004.” This further discredits the flawed and politicized 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that suggested Iran had halted its nuclear weaponization efforts after 2003. The authors of that estimate, which undermined Western efforts to stop Iran, have a lot to answer for.

Iran’s suspected activities, says the IAEA, include “producing uranium metal…into components relevant to a nuclear device”; “multipoint explosive initiation and hemispherical detonation studies”; and “missile re-entry vehicle redesign activities for a new payload assessed as being nuclear in nature.”

Perhaps there’s an innocent explanation for all this, like Iran wanting to achieve technological independence in the manufacture of a new generation of refrigerators. And there will always be credulous Western reporters who will take Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s word that Iran’s intentions are peaceful.

We wonder what those reporters think of an article that appeared in April on the website of the regime’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and talks openly about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear test—a break from the usual Iranian policy of denying any interest in a bomb. “The day after [the] Islamic Republic of Iran’s first nuclear test will be an ordinary day for us Iranians but in the eyes of some of us there will be a new sparkle,” reads the article. The author goes on to imagine that “the strength of the explosion was not so great as to cause severe damage to the region nor so weak that Iranian scientists face any problems running their test.”

The day of that test may not be far off. In an analysis this month for the Non-proliferation Policy Education Center, Rand scholar Gregory S. Jones writes that even in the absence of a clandestine nuclear program, “Iran can now produce a weapon’s worth (20 kilograms) of HEU [weapons-grade uranium] any time it wishes. With Iran’s current number of operating centrifuges, the batch recycling process would take about two months.”

Rand later issued a press release saying that Mr. Jones’s analysis was not an official Rand study, which suggests to us how reluctant members of America’s foreign policy elite are to hear the truth about Iran’s ambitions. If we admit the danger, then we might have to do something about it before Iran becomes a nuclear power.

The Obama Administration has begun to take the nuclear threat from Iran more seriously after squandering a year in the fruitless pursuit of a negotiated settlement. The Administration also seems to have gotten wise to Iran’s efforts to shape this Arab Spring to its own purposes, not least by backing the Assad regime in its repression of Syrians and providing support to radicals in Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere.

Yet so far, neither American nor U.N. sanctions have been much of a brake on the mullahs’ nuclear pursuits. If President Obama is serious when he says a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable,” he’ll need to do more than arrange another round of sanctions and wag a stern finger at a regime that’s grown emboldened by the perception of American weakness.


James Lewis

American Thinker, June 8, 2011


According to a RAND report, the United States and the world have blown the chance to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. Half a year ago, U.S. air strikes and a no-fly zone might have prevented a nuclear bomb in the hands of the martyrdom ideology of Khomeinist Iran. That window has now slammed shut. In about 8 weeks, the RAND report concludes, Iran will have the nuclear material for its first bomb.

RAND Corporation’s Gregory S. Jones believes that Iran has produced almost 40 kilograms of uranium enriched near 20% percent. Jones suggests that air strikes can no longer stop Ahmadinejad’s rush to nuclear weapons. It appears that the Obama administration knowingly allowed the optimal window of opportunity against Iranian nuclear weapons to pass. As a result, the world has suddenly become immensely more dangerous.

The slogan “Death to Israel! Death to America!” has been chanted on a daily basis by mass meetings in Iran. It is sheer wishful thinking to believe that after 30 years of daily threats they don’t really mean it. The Obama Administration either believes there is no looming nuclear threat, or that it’s willing to live with it.…

Thirty years after Jimmy Carter allowed Iran to be conquered by the Ayatollah Khomeini, a proponent of martyrdom war to spread Shiite Islam, Iran has the means to strike countries it has threatened directly, including Saudi Arabia and Israel. Iran’s ballistic missile program, with major North Korean help, may be able to reach the United States by 2015. ICBMs only require a flight time of about half an hour.

It is likely that Saudi Arabia and possibly Egypt will import their own nuclear weapons from Pakistan, which is now rushing to build an advanced plant for uranium production. An American nuclear scientist who visited a North Korean centrifuge plant recently reported that the plant he saw was so advanced it could only have been built with Chinese help. North Korea therefore seems to have been working as a Chinese proxy to promote worldwide proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Iran is dominated by a martyrdom ideology. Ahmadinejad was likely involved in mass suicide charges in the Iran-Iraq war, in which boys wearing green plastic “Keys to Paradise” were ordered to drive their motorcycles into Saddam Hussein’s minefields. Ahmadinejad is thought to be a “Twelver,” a devout believer in the Shiite Mahdi (messiah), who will bring Armageddon to infidels and victory to an extremist sect of Shi’ism.

No nuclear war has occurred in the last sixty years since Stalin’s (stolen) atom bomb explosion. Rational nations do not commit suicide. The Iranian Twelver regime is the first openly suicide-promoting regime since the Japanese Imperial cult of World War II. Ahmadinejad is a religious fanatic who claims to have direct conversations with Allah and the Twelfth Imam, a claim that has led to internal struggles between Ayatollah Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard factions. Khamenei recently arrested Ahmadinejad supporters accusing them of practicing witchcraft against the dominance of the religious elite.…

The world has had 30 years to prepare for this moment. Only the United States has the military power to knock down Iran’s nuclear industry and impose a no-fly zone that will keep Iranian missiles and aircraft from being launched. Israel is motivated to do it, but cannot sustain a long air campaign.…

Dr. Jones’ eight-week estimate for the first Iranian Bomb may be off by weeks or months. Nobody can doubt that we will be facing a nuclear Iran some time soon. George W. Bush was mercilessly mocked for launching a preemptive war against Saddam Hussein because Bush did not want to take the risk that Saddam might have WMD’s. It now appears that Obama has failed to preempt Iran’s nuclear breakout. We will therefore have an opportunity soon to find out what happens when the United States does not try prevent rogue regimes from getting nukes.


Reza Kahlili

Pajamas Media, June 9, 2011


According to sources in the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered them to proceed immediately with the completion of the Iranian atomic bomb project, including testing and arming of missiles with nuclear payload.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s decision is based on a belief by the Islamic regime’s strategists that both America and Israel lack the courage and the ability to dismantle the Iranian nuclear facilities. The Iranian regime believes that America and Israel fear Iran’s retaliation, and that it has had them frozen in place and confused as to what action to take next. They have concluded that this presents a great opportunity for the Iranian regime to become a nuclear-armed state without any interference from the outside.

Khamenei offered the same message on June 1 at the Imam Hussein Military Academy: “The Great Satan, since the early days of the Revolution, has mobilized its military, financial, propaganda, and political empire to defeat the Islamic Revolution and the Iranian nation, but the political realities in Iran and the region show that the U.S. has been brought to its knees by the Islamic Revolution.”

He further stated that the failure of the U.S. policies in the Middle East and the promising revival of Islam in the region are the realization of the divine promises to the Iranian nation—and that the recent events herald the realization of God’s promise that Islam and the Muslims will ultimately triumph.

The authorization for nuclear weapons by the supreme leader has been followed by the recent announcement by the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Fereidoon Abbasi, that Iran will start the installation of more advanced centrifuges at the previously secret site, the Fordo plant near the city of Qom. He also said that this will triple Iran’s production of 20 percent enriched uranium.

A chilling article titled “The Next Day after the Iranian Nuclear Bomb Test Will be a Normal Day” recently appeared on an Iranian website,, which is run by the Revolutionary Guards. This is the first time that an outlet belonging to the Iranian government openly talked about a nuclear bomb—Iran has insisted repeatedly that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The commentary states that after the Iranian nuclear bomb test, everyone will be able to go about their business as usual. The explosion will not be so strong as to bring destruction to the neighboring areas, though not so weak that the Iranian scientists have difficulties with their test. But it will be a day for Iranians to be filled with pride. The article even predicts playfully how Western media will cover the event.

Most chilling is how the article ends with a quote from the Quran (Al Enfal 60): “And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah.…”

America and its European allies have continuously tried to change the behavior of the regime with incentives and negotiations. The Iranian leaders refused every time to accept any offer, buying time in order to get to the point of no return. The jihadists in Iran will have their nuclear bomb, and we have only ourselves to blame.


Michael Singh

Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2011


Mohsen Chizari gets around.

A top commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Chizari was hit with sanctions last week by the Obama administration. Given his nationality, one might assume that he was sanctioned in relation to the Iranian regime’s nuclear pursuits or its crackdown on dissidents. In fact, Chizari, the Quds Force Chief Qasem Soleimani, and the organization itself were targeted for abetting oppression somewhere else: Syria.

According to the U.S. government, the Iranians are complicit in the Assad regime’s “human rights abuses and repression of the Syrian people.”

If Chizari’s name sounds familiar, it may be because he was arrested by U.S. troops in Baghdad in December 2006. According to media reports, Chizari was detained while inside the compound of Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim with another Quds Force commander. The two men were reportedly in possession of detailed reports about weapons shipments into Iraq, including of so-called explosively formed projectiles, which were responsible for the deaths of scores of U.S. soldiers. Chizari was subsequently expelled into Iran by the Iraqi government.

It should come as little surprise that Chizari has shown up in both hot spots. Wherever there’s trouble, he’ll be there to aid the troublemakers or stir things up himself.

The Quds Force reports directly to Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and it serves as the linchpin in Iran’s regional strategy. Iran funds and arms groups like Hezbollah to threaten Israel and thwart democracy-building in Lebanon. And it equips terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan to stymie U.S. efforts to establish peace and security in those places. In all of these cases, the Quds Force is the regime’s instrument of choice.

Iran’s leaders crowed when popular uprisings unseated their old foes Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. But the travails of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad have clearly caused concern in Tehran. Assad is a long-time ally of Iran, and under his rule Syria has served as a conduit eastward for foreign fighters to enter Iraq to fight U.S. troops, and for Iranian weaponry to flow westward to arm Hezbollah and Hamas. Damascus is essentially the bar scene from “Star Wars” for terrorists in the Middle East, providing a locale where Iranian allies such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad can coordinate unperturbed.

Were Assad to fall, a key link in Iran’s strategic chain across the region would be broken. While Iran could possibly find work-arounds to supply Hezbollah, such as by sea or air, it would lose both strategic depth and an eager ally. Furthermore, if protesters in Syria were to inspire Iran’s own democracy activists to redouble their efforts, the Iranian regime would find itself in serious peril. Thus it is unsurprising that it has dispatched the Quds Force to help Assad stop the Arab Spring at his doorstep.

Iran’s latest involvement in Syria should be a wake-up call. Iran’s direct assistance in the Syrian regime’s crackdown has attracted criticism from many quarters; it’s even put Tehran at odds with erstwhile allies such as Turkey. Iran’s actions have also contributed to a shift in the Obama administration’s approach toward Tehran. In addition to imposing sanctions on Chizari and his ilk, on April 22 President Obama said that Assad was mimicking Iran’s “brutal tactics.”

Ultimately, tough words and sanctions will not be enough. Chizari and his exploits in Iraq and Syria represent one facet of the threat posed by Iran. If our hopes for freedom and stability in the region are to be realized, we must defeat Iran’s efforts to expand its power and influence—above all by denying it the nuclear weapons that would further its destabilizing designs.

(Mr. Singh is the managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
He was senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council
during the George W. Bush administration.



Jerusalem Post, June 17, 2011


While on assignment in Astana, Kazakhstan, Herb Keinon, [the Jerusalem Post’s] diplomatic correspondent, had the harrowing experience of attending a conference of heads of state that featured as an honored guest-speaker a man “who, if he just could, would love to incinerate me and mine and all that is dear to me.”

Particularly discomfiting for Keinon was the fact that the man, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was received with a remarkable equanimity as he spouted his vicious verbal abuse of Israel, the U.S. and the West. His statement to the effect that 60 plus years of Zionism has brought only humiliation and destruction to the Palestinians and the region evoked no more of a response than his harangue blaming the US and the West for, among other things, 9/11, which, he said, was the pretext for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The forum of heads of state—known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization—was hardly a global leadership gathering. Representatives of countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were in attendance. But so were international heavyweights such as Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who both sat impassively as Ahmadinejad ranted.

The outrage in Astana is a minor precursor to the really big show, which has been repeating itself annually since Ahmadinejad was first elected president in 2005. Come September, the head of the Islamic Republic will likely attend—and address—the UN General Assembly in New York. If he hasn’t already, Ahmadinejad will soon apply for a U.S. visa.

Though the U.S. should in principle deny Ahmadinejad entry to a country which he devotes so much of his time in public appearances to disparaging…it is highly unlikely that this will happen, just as it has not happened in the past. Under its treaty with the UN, the U.S. must grant heads of UN member states entry to attend UN assemblies. And Iran is a member state.

If justice reigned in the UN, Iran’s violation of a UN Security Council declaration that demands a halt to the country’s nuclear program, or its president’s outspoken Holocaust denial, a violation of a UN General Assembly resolution dating back to January 2007, would be reason enough too for special censure. Ahmadinejad’s public declarations to “wipe Israel off the map,” combined with his push for nuclear capability and Holocaust denial, produce a truly frightening result.

Here is a country whose leadership has rejected the lessons of the Holocaust and openly incites genocide of the Jewish people living in Israel while actively seeking the means to perpetrate such a genocide. Instead of being allowed to traipse around the world attending respectable conferences and forums and being received with honor, Ahmadinejad should be arrested.

As former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler has pointed out, Ahmadinejad is in clear breach of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. International legislation passed in December 1948 in the shadow of the Holocaust, the convention was designed precisely to prevent the repeat of the kind of mass-murder that was carried out against the Jewish people during World War II, which Iran’s president has publicly encouraged. “Persons committing this crime shall be punished,” states the convention, “whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.”

None of this is likely to happen. However, unlike the equanimity with which Ahmadinejad was received in Astana this week by the presidents of China and Russia, Western countries that have maintained their moral bearings can be counted on to stage a major walk-out should Ahmadinejad address this September’s General Assembly.

Last year, when the Iranian president claimed during his annual speech to the assembly that the U.S. government had “orchestrated” 9/11, representatives from the U.S. and the EU’s 27 member-states left the hall. A similar walk-out was staged by British and EU officials in April 2009 at a UN summit against racism in Geneva dubbed “Durban II” during Ahmadinejad’s speech there.

Representatives from the U.S., Israel, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had boycotted the entire conference, which attempted, like the 2001 Durban I summit, to single out Israel and equate Zionism with racism.

These walk-outs, which contrast so sharply with the indifference that rightly appalled Keinon, are essential if basic moral distinctions are to be made between good and evil. The moral lesson taught by German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis for plotting to assassinate Hitler, is no less relevant today. Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.





Diana Ming

Dartmouth, May 25, 2011


Libyan Jews comprise one of the smallest ethnic Jewish populations in the world today and possess a deeply rooted and unique cultural identity, Harvey Goldberg, an anthropologist from Hebrew University in Israel, said in a lecture in Kemeny Hall on Tuesday. Goldberg, who began researching Libyan Jews in 1961, said the notion of “Libyan Jewry” should never be taken for granted because of its “valuable and precious” past.

Jewish populations have existed in the North African regions of current-day Yemen, Iraq and Libya since ancient times, according to Goldberg. During the 20th century, over 30,000 Jews lived in the Libyan region, he said. “In Libya [there] emerged general categories of Jews in reference to immigrating groups,” Goldberg said. “In many ways these categories were very revealing.”

The largest population of Jews in Libya at this time was centered in the capital city of Tripoli, Goldberg said. The Jews who lived in the region surrounding the city were known as “Tripolitans,” he said. Goldberg also discussed other local Jewish groups including Gharyan Jews from the Libyan town of Gharyan as well as the Amrusi Jews from Amrus. Jews from these areas felt strong cultural and social bonds with their towns, according to Goldberg.

“Among immigrants, local identities certainly played some role in perceptions even though others may not have been cognizant of them,” Goldberg said. “The term ‘Jew’ alone had little meaning in the villages in North Africa.” After World War II in 1948, over 80 percent of Libyan Jews moved to the newly founded state of Israel, Goldberg said.…

Despite the passionate cultural ties that Libyan Jews maintained while in Israel, struggles to preserve the Libyan Jewish identity persisted on a greater scale, Goldberg said. When war broke out in Libya in the 1960s and Muammar el-Qaddafi assumed control of the country in 1969, the situation for Jews still living in Libya became “untenable,” Goldberg said.

In one instance of a lack of cultural awareness under Qaddafi’s regime, plans to construct a road in Tripoli destroyed a Jewish cemetery, Goldberg said. In response to discriminatory actions by the Libyan government, many Libyan Jewish leaders “took steps to make sure the memory of the dead and the past in Libya would be made elsewhere,” Goldberg said.

One of the most prominent efforts to “solidify” the Libyan Jewish identity included the creation of the Libyan Jews Heritage Center in Israel, he said. The heritage center includes an education and research center as well as a museum, according to Goldberg. “The heritage center emphasizes the ethnic experience of Libyan Jews,” Goldberg said. “Part of its success is that it creates accessible generational connections between first generation Libyan Jews and future generations.”

While the Libyan Jewish population in Israel remains one of the smallest of North African Jews, Libyan Jews’ integration into Israeli life was successful and relatively quiet, Goldberg said.…


Jon Jensen

Minnesota Post, April 20, 2011


As Jews around the world celebrate the Passover holiday this week, which commemorates the Biblical migration of the Israelites from ancient Egypt, some in Tunisia’s Jewish minority are considering their own modern-day exodus.

In the three months since the ouster of former strongman President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s interim government has struggled to reinstate normalcy in this once prosperous Mediterranean nation.

For some in Djerba’s small Jewish community, many of whom work in the tourism industry, the financial uncertainty is becoming too much to bear. The long absence of security on the streets in Tunisia seems to have scared away many foreigners and their vital tourist dollars, a large component of the country’s economy.

Most European tourists came for the whitewashed, dome-topped bazaars and lavish five-star hotels dotting the desert landscape on this resort island. And with the conflict worsening next door in Libya—just a short drive from Djerba’s sunny beaches—Tunisia’s already battered tourism sector has largely dried up.

“I have only seen one customer all week long,” said Haddad Sion, the owner of a gold shop in Houmt Souq, the largest city in Djerba. “If business continues as is, I will have no choice but to leave, either to go to Paris or Jerusalem.”

Djerba has long been home to one of the oldest and largest communities of Jews in North Africa.

Their numbers have dwindled to about 1,500 over the past 50 years—only a tiny fraction compared to Tunisia’s nearly 10 million Muslim residents. At its peak in the 1950s, Tunisia’s Jewish population numbered about 100,000, according to sociologist Claude Sitbon.…

Today, with secular Ben Ali out of the picture, Tunisia’s once-banned Islamists are making a political comeback—to the dismay of many of Djerba’s Jews.

“Ben Ali was good for the Jewish people,” said Daniel Sayada, a jeweler in Houmt Souq. “Since the revolution, being a Muslim is coming back in fashion. And I’m very uncertain on whether this is a good thing for us.”

The Islamist al-Nahda, or renaissance, movement has registered to form a political party and announced their intentions to compete in parliamentary elections scheduled for later this summer. Al-Nahda members have argued that freedom and democracy in post-revolution Tunisia means that all political parties should have the chance to compete freely.

Still, some Jews here are fearful that Islamist leadership would drastically alter the laws in the secular North African state. “We’re definitely scared about the idea of what a takeover by Al-Nahda would look like. I worry that many things here would change,” said Gabriel Attea, who has already moved his family from Djerba to Paris.

For Jews hoping to leave, Israel’s government is trying to make things easier. After Tunisia’s revolution, Tel Aviv offered several financial incentives toward the immigration of any Jews living in Tunisia, citing the economic hardships facing Jews in the post-Ben Ali era.…

Tunisia’s interim government blasted Israel’s attempt to “to tarnish the image of post-Revolution Tunisia and arouse suspicions about the country’s security, its economy and stability,” according to Tunisia’s official TAP news agency.

But the option to emigrate may be resonating with some in Djerba. “We are scared here. There’s just not enough security,” said Haddad, the gold vendor. “I fear an Islamist government that would try to change everything in Tunisia.…”



Jerusalem Post, June 1 ,2011


A lattice of corrugated iron Star of Davids marks Afghanistan’s only working synagogue, a white-washed, two-story building tucked into a sidestreet in the center of Kabul.

Kebabs, carpets and flowers are served and sold on the ground floor of the synagogue, which has been transformed into businesses over the last 18 months by the country’s sole remaining Jew, who lives upstairs in a small pink room.

Cafe manager Sayed Ahmad is unfazed by his small cafe’s history, where Kabul’s hundreds-strong Jewish community once gathered for prayers. Most fled to Israel and the United States amid the Soviet invasion of 1979.

“Some of my customers know this is the synagogue and know about the Jew upstairs, but they don’t care and neither do I,” Ahmad told Reuters in his cafe, where bearded men on purple cushions puff on water pipes and eat traditional Afghan food.

The firebrand anti-Semitism found in some other Muslim countries, often fueled by anti-Israeli sentiment, seems noticeably absent among ordinary Afghans. “I pray my way and he prays his way. I see him as a friend, someone to spend time with,” Ahmad said of his landlord, sitting beside large black and silver wall-hangings depicting Mecca.

Zebulon Simentov, who chose to stay behind when his wife and children emigrated to Israel, has been known to conduct services in the upstairs of the synagogue for visiting Jews even though he is not a rabbi. He achieved fame beyond Afghanistan’s borders because of a raging feud with the country’s second-last Jew that only ended when his rival died in 2005, and which inspired a US play.

Now living alone in the synagogue, the 52 year-old says the building has become too hard to maintain. “This place is big and I need money,” he told Reuters as he adjusted his pajama-like shalwar kameez, traditional clothing for men in the region.

Simentov traces his ancestors to the western Afghan city of Herat, the cradle of Afghanistan’s Jewish civilization, which he still visits sometimes. But after 2,000 years, the community there has died out.

Today, only raised Jewish graves with Hebrew lettering and ornate stone synagogues remain, one of which was renovated two years ago and turned into a school for Afghan children, a move celebrated by Herat’s Jews who had left for the West.

In Kabul, Simentov spends most of his time in his small room, where Hebrew calendars look down on a small red sofa bed and a mahogany table laden with silver bowls of almonds and Sabbath candles.

The last Afghan Jew is well liked, known simply as ‘Yehud.’ Three businessmen now rent space from him, and may be joined by others, in a city where despite decades of war, property prices are booming and space is at a premium. He said a grey-painted room littered with concrete debris, adjoining his, would also be put on the market. “Soon that one will also be rented out.”

Wary of talking to reporters after years of media attention, he declined to comment further on his plans for the synagogue. But he is well-liked by his neighbors and tenants. Amongst the unpaved and dusty roads encircling his synagogue, he is known simply as “the Jew”, or “Yehud” in his native Dari.

His penchant for whiskey—extremely expensive and hard to obtain in Muslim Afghanistan, but totally permissible in Judaism—has also earned him affection. “Everyone here is doing their own kind of business. I am doing mine and he is doing his. We just want to feed our families,” said Qadar Zada, perched on a stack of deep red carpets in the shop he opened six months ago.



Reuters, June 5, 2011


In the capital of one of the world’s most religiously-diverse countries, a rabbi who has never been ordained bends ancient customs, ensuring New Delhi’s 10 Jewish families a place to worship.

Unlike most synagogues, there is no separation of men and women as Jewish-born worshippers, converts and followers of other faiths chant Psalms in perfect Hebrew, with doors thrown open to all. The service leader never asks attendees what religion they follow, and envisions his daughter becoming India’s first female rabbi.

“Being a small community, we cannot be so rigid, so orthodox,” says Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, honorary secretary of the synagogue whose unpaid job of thirty years has overlooked religious convention to keep this tiny group together.

“Our openness, our liberal approach is what allows us to survive. For reading the Torah, you must require 10 men, a minyan. But I made radical changes, because why should we discriminate between women and men? I count the women.”

In the small Judah Hyam Synagogue, tucked between one of the city’s most popular markets and most expensive hotels, the tight community, as inconspicuous as the small black plaque outside, gathers every Friday to bring in Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath.

The synagogue and its adjoining cemetery, gifted to Delhi’s Jews by the Indian government in 1956, is one of over 30 in India, where Jews first arrived 2,000 years ago but account for barely 5,000 people in a population exceeding 1.2 billion.

Lieutenant General J.F.R. Jacob, a former governor of Punjab and Goa and the synagogue’s President, leads the service alongside a Canadian tourist for a dozen worshippers who have travelled up to 30 kilometers (19 miles) across the city.

Some of the small crowd have been coming to the small, brightly-lit synagogue for decades, and say the weekly services are crucial in binding together the city’s Jewish families.

During the High Holidays, the synagogue’s sparse but dedicated crowd is substantially bolstered by Israeli diplomats and other Jewish expatriates, while up to 10,000 international travelers visit during India’s busy winter tourist period. “We are a tiny, miniscule community, but what keeps us together is a special bond. We are one family, we meet, we talk, we share with each other,” says Shulamith, Malekar’s daughter, minutes after her father offers a blessing for the daughter of a 94-year-old woman he knows from Kolkata.

After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which six Jews were kidnapped and killed by militants who had stormed a Jewish outreach center, the government posted ten paramilitary soldiers outside the tiny Delhi synagogue, a precaution repeated following the killing of Osama bin Laden this month.

The targeted attack was an isolated incident in a country that has seen bloody conflicts between Hindus, which account for over 80% of the population, Muslims and Sikhs since independence from Britain in 1947.

“I am an Indian first and a Jew second. India is one of the places where Jews have never suffered from anti-Semitism or persecution, therefore I consider India my motherland,” said Malekar, who lives in a small cottage in the synagogue complex.

India’s 1951 census listed 35,000 Jews, mostly living in or around the commercial hub of Mumbai, where 4,000 live today, and where the city’s biggest fishing docks bear the name of the Sassoon family, the country’s most famous Jewish residents.

Malekar, a qualified attorney and former deputy secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, participates in national memorial services for independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi and the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

He was invited to deliver Jewish prayers at the burial services of former Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi, and was part of an interfaith prayer service during the funeral of popular guru Sathya Sai Baba last month.

“Israel is in my heart, but India is in my blood,” says Malekar, who recounts a legend of a shipwreck in the 4th century that landed seven families on the shores of Mumbai.

“We have survived here this long,” says Elizabeth, a regular at the New Delhi synagogue. “Somebody will always be here.”


James D. Davis
Sun Sentinel, May 16, 2011


Rabbi Gershom Sizomu knew he wanted to be a Jewish scholar. He also understood his position as a leader in the small Jewish community of Uganda. But he didn’t quite grasp that he would one day deal with jobs, clinics, mosquito nets and other mundane matters.

“It’s like being president of a country,” the quiet but outgoing African rabbi says, just after addressing high school students this past week at the Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton. But he says it’s all part of spirituality. “Religion is not just about keeping Shabbat and kashrut alive. Good relationships include God and man. You must fulfill your obligations among people.”

Sizomu, 42, may not be a president, but he does lead the 1,500-member Abayudaya community in Uganda. This past week he introduced the community around South Florida, not only speaking but playing guitar and singing in his tenor voice. In fact, he did take part in a recording that earned a Grammy nomination in 2004.

His main message: The Abayudaya, whose name means “People of Judah,” are part of the worldwide Jewish community, and much of their story has reprised Jewish themes of liberation and community building.

“Judaism is not homogenous; it has different languages and cultures,” Sizomu says. “The Abayudaya journey is the Jewish journey. We celebrate that.”

The message meshes with that of Be’chol Lashon, an organization that emphasizes Jewish diversity, for which he is the senior rabbinic associate. His current 25-day tour began in San Francisco, where Be’chol Lashon has its headquarters, then went to Maryland, New York and Boston. From South Florida, Sizomu goes to New Mexico before returning to California.

In contrast to the Beta Israel of Ethiopia and the Lemba of southern Africa, the Abayudaya accepted Judaism less than a century ago. A great warrior named Semei Kakungulu gave Christian missionaries a hearing, but preferred Judaism.

“He found the Old Testament structure, of a relationship of obligation between God and man, resonated,” Sizomu says. “If man does something for God, God does something for man.”

The Abayudaya began practicing Judaism in 1919, but some gradually drifted away. Then Idi Amin, the nation’s brutal dictator from 1971 to 1979, began to ban any expression of Judaism, including kippot or Sabbath services, on pain of death.

“We went underground, so when we emerged, we were stronger,” he says. He said Amin was overthrown on the eve of Passover. “We compared that to the Israelites who left Egypt.”

To be connected with world Jewry, more than 350 Abayudaya underwent a mass mikvah baptism in 2002. The following year, Sizomu entered the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. He was ordained in 2008, then returned to Uganda and opened a yeshiva, or rabbinic school.

Other big concerns are health and jobs for the Abayudaya.

With help from Be’chol Lashon, the Ugandan government and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Abayudaya have designed a five-year health and development plan. It includes things as simple as mosquito nets and as complicated as a medical clinic.

The clinic is up, but it hasn’t been equipped yet. Sizomu is trying to find donors for X-ray, ultrasound and other equipment. That, plus personnel, will cost $300,000, he says.

Once up and running, the clinic could supply jobs for secretaries, security, teachers and maintenance workers, Sizomu says. Other enterprises include a guesthouse, an Internet café, bracelets and crocheted kippot. So many mundane matters to handle. How does Sizomu keep from feeling overwhelmed? His ebullience brings a quick answer. “I just have no boundaries,” he says, spreading his hands. “I just think and think. No end.”


Aryeh Tepper

Jewish Ideas Daily, January 4, 2011


In 1974, a strange letter from northeastern India landed on the desk of Israel’s then Prime Minister Golda Meir. It was sent by a group of Indians claiming to be descendants of the tribe of Menashe, one of the ten tribes “lost” to Jewish history after the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom in 721 B.C.E. The writers hoped the prime minister would recognize their portion in the extended family of Israel. Although Golda didn’t respond, the Indians persisted, and their persistence paid off: today, 1,700 members of the community called Bnei Menashe, the children of Menashe, live in Israel. Recently the ministry of immigrant absorption urged the government to bring the remaining 7,000 members of the community home.

Are the Bnei Menashe really descendants of one of the ten lost tribes? It depends on whom you ask. The Indians themselves harbor no doubts. Their forefathers sang a traditional song about crossing the Red Sea; they have a history of circumcising their children on the eighth day; and, rice-eaters, they once celebrated a springtime festival in which they ate unleavened bread.

The way the Bnei Menashe tell it, their distant ancestors, after being exiled from the land of Israel, traveled east until reaching China, where they settled for a few hundred years. Religious persecution then drove them to the isolated northeastern Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram, where most of the community lives today. British missionaries succeeded in converting some members to Christianity during the 19th century, but by the latter half of the following century the Bnei Menashe had returned to their Jewish roots and begun their roller coaster of a ride back to the land of Israel.

They got a push when Eliyahu Avichail, a rabbi and messianic dreamer, made contact with them in the early 1980s. Convinced of their Jewish ancestry, he nevertheless explained that, having been cut off from the Jewish people for so long, they would be required to undergo Orthodox conversion. Happy to demonstrate the intensity of their desire, the Bnei Menashe agreed: between 1990 and 2003, approximately 800 members of the community managed to settle in Israel by entering as tourists and officially converting once inside.

In 1997, the Bnei Menashe were honored with their first reply from an Israeli official when another in their long series of petitions reached Michael Freund, then an aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and today the chairman of Shavei Israel, an organization dedicated to helping “lost Jews.”  Skeptical but moved by their sincere piety, Freund decided to help them; in time, he also became convinced that they were indeed what they claimed to be, and started to lobby intensely on their behalf.

The Middle East being the Middle East, politics inevitably insinuates itself into every story. The slow but steady flow of Bnei Menashe into Israel was halted in 2003 when Israeli leftists charged that they were being cynically manipulated by the settler movement for messianic-political purposes; indeed, fully one-third of the community lives in the West Bank city of Kiryat Arba, and the Bnei Menashe also formed the largest immigrant group in Gaza prior to the 2005 disengagement. Freund counters that the community set up shop in the territories because no one else was willing and able to take them in. In order to prevent further politicization of the issue, Shavei Israel has directed the most recent arrivals to Israel’s north.

To the delight of the Bnei Menashe, in 2005 the Sephardi chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, ruled that the community belongs to “the seed of [the people] Israel” and dispatched a rabbinical court to India to assist in converting members of the community formally. But “mass conversion” is against the law in India, and the government ordered the rabbinical team to leave. Which brings us to the present situation, and the recent declaration by the immigration ministry urging the government to take action on behalf of the aspiring community.

Beyond the needs and challenges of immigration to Israel, there is much to be said about the Bnei Menashe episode. The Jewish people have been dreaming of the ten lost tribes for a long, long time, the way brothers sometimes dream of one day seeing siblings they’ve lost. It is an especially poignant dream for a people that historically has felt, and been, alone. Thus it was that, in the late 1990s, the writer Hillel Halkin, intrigued by the Bnei Menashe story, set out to explore its various dimensions and implications and ended up journeying to India and publishing a book on the subject, Across the Sabbath River.

After much investigation, Halkin, a self-declared “amateur historian,” concluded that there might indeed be a kernel of historical truth to the group’s claims. If a small number of Israelite exiles had mingled with local Indians, from whom some of the Bnei Menashe are descended, that would explain the biblically resonant stories and customs remembered by the elders of this “Manasite tribe.” And if that was the case, Halkin wrote, the modern debate over the history of the Bible would have to be revised:

For years now, a war [has] been raging between the biblical traditionalists and the revisionists, [the latter of whom hold] that the Bible was a late document composed in Persian or Hellenistic times, when many of its stories and customs were invented. If a group of Manasite tribesman, permanently separated from their fellow Israelites in the 8th century B.C.E., had known some of these stories and practiced some of these customs, it might be possible to refine the terms of the debate.

In addition to possibly shedding light on Israel’s distant past, the story of the Bnei Menashe also touches deeply upon questions of Jewish identity. Toward the end of Across the Sabbath River, Halkin speculates that genetic testing might help make sense of the story of the Bnei Menashe. Taking up his challenge, two Israeli geneticists invited him to participate in a study of the community’s DNA. The results came back almost entirely negative.

Of course, not everybody is happy with the current fad of DNA testing in general. Some observers worry that it might, among other things, be a way of re-admitting the much-maligned notion of a Jewish “race” in through the back door. Are Jews a religion, then? Not simply a religion: even if testing should explode the notion that they constitute a distinctive race, they are unquestionably bound by biological ties.

If the Jews are neither a religion nor a race, what are they? The best answer would seem to be the Bible’s: they are the children of Israel—that is, an extended family with a distinctive way of life. Like every self-respecting family, moreover, they are entitled to ask questions of anyone wishing to join them. Hence, the whole notion of conversion, about which, DNA or no DNA, Jewish religious law could not be clearer. If the Bnei Menashe convert to Judaism, they’re Jews.

Maybe the Bnei Menashe are descended from the ten lost tribes; maybe not. Either way, they’re part of the family now.





Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, June 3, 2011


The coverage of recent events in Egypt is further proof that Western elites cannot see the forest for the trees. Over the past week, leading newspapers have devoted relatively in-depth coverage to the Egyptian military authorities’ repressive actions in subduing protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, particularly during their large protest last Friday.

That is, they have provided in-depth coverage of one spent force repressing another spent force. Neither the military nor the protesters are calling the shots anymore in Egypt, if they ever were. That is the job of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The proximate cause of last Friday’s mass demonstration was what the so-called Twitter and Facebook revolutionaries consider the military’s slowness to respond to their demand for ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s head on a platter. The military responded by announcing that Mubarak and his sons will go on trial for capital crimes on August 3.

Beyond bloodlust, the supposedly liberal young sweethearts of the Western media are demanding a cancellation of the results of the referendum held in March on the sequencing of elections and constitutional reform. Voting in that referendum was widely assessed as the freest vote in Egyptian history. Seventy-seven percent of the public voted to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in September and to appoint members of a constitutional assembly from among the elected members of the next parliament to prepare Egypt’s new constitution.

The protesters rightly assert that the early elections will pave the way for the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt, since the Brotherhood is the only well-organized political force in Egypt. But then, the liberals said they wanted popular rule.

The Facebook protesters demanded Mubarak’s immediate removal from power in January. They would not negotiate Mubarak’s offer to use the remainder of his final term to shepherd Egypt towards a quasi-democratic process that might have prevented the Brotherhood from taking over.

In their fantasy world—which they inhabit with Western intellectuals—the fates of nations are determined by the number of “likes” on your facebook page. And so, when they had the power to avert the democratic Islamist takeover of their country in January, they squandered it.

Now, when it is too late, they are trying to win through rioting what they failed to win at the ballot box, thus discrediting their protestations of liberal values.

Their new idea was spelled out last week at an EU-sponsored conference in Cairo. According to the Egyptian media, they hope to convince the military they protest against to stack the deck for the constitutional assembly in a way that prevents the Brotherhood from controlling the proceedings. As Hishan el-Bastawisy, a former appellate judge and presidential hopeful explained, “What we can push for now is that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has to put some guarantees of choosing the constituent assembly in the sense that it does not reflect the parliamentary majority.”

So much for Egypt’s liberal democrats.

AS FOR the military, its actions to date make clear that its commanders do not see themselves as guardians of secular rule in Egypt. Instead, they see themselves as engines for a transition from Mubarak’s authoritarian secularism to the Brotherhood’s populist Islamism.

Since forcing Mubarak to resign, the military junta has embraced Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. They engineered the Palestinian unity government which will pave the way for Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian Authority’s legislative and presidential elections scheduled for the fall.

Then there is Sinai. Since the revolution, the military has allowed Sinai to become a major base not only for Hamas but for the global jihad. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Monday, Egyptian authorities are not asserting their sovereignty in Sinai and jihadists from Hamas, al-Qaida and other groups are inundating the peninsula.

Last week’s move to open Egypt’s border with Gaza at the Rafah passage is further proof that the military has made its peace with the Islamic takeover of Egypt. While the likes of The New York Times make light of the significance of the move by pointing to the restrictions that Egypt has placed on Palestinian travel, the fact is that the Egyptians just accepted Hamas’s sovereignty over an international border.…

Not only is Egypt denying itself hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues by cutting off gas shipments to Israel, (and Jordan, Syria and Lebanon). It is destroying its reputation as a credible place to do business. And according to the New York Times, it is also making it impossible for the Obama administration to help the Egyptian economy. The Times’ reported this week that the US tied President Barack Obama’s pledge of $1 billion in debt forgiveness and $1b. in loan guarantees to the Egyptian authorities asserting sovereignty in northern Sinai. Presumably this means they must renew gas shipments to Israel and fight terror.

The fact that the military would rather facilitate Egypt’s economic collapse than take the unpopular step of renewing gas shipments to Israel ought to end any thought that economic interests trump political sentiments. This situation will only get worse when the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt in September.…

When Mubarak was overthrown in January, the Brotherhood announced it would only contest 30% of the parliamentary seats. Last month the percentage rose to 50. In all likelihood, in September the Brotherhood will contest and win the majority of the seats in the Egyptian parliament.

When Mubarak was overthrown, the Brotherhood announced it would not run a candidate for president. And when Brotherhood Shura governing council member and Physicians Union leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh announced last month that he is running for president, the Brotherhood quickly denied that he is the movement’s candidate. But there is no reason to believe them.

According to a report Thursday in Egypt’s Al- Masry al-Youm’s English edition, the Brotherhood is playing to win. They are invoking the strategies of the movement’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, for establishing an Islamic state. His strategy had three stages: indoctrination, empowerment and implementation. Al-Masry al-Youm cites Khairat al- Shater, the Brotherhood’s “organizational architect,” as having recently asserted that the Brotherhood is currently in the second stage and moving steadily towards the third stage.

Now that we understand that they are about to implement their goal of Islamic statehood, we need to ask what it means for Egypt and the region.

On Sunday, Brotherhood Chairman Mohammed Badie gave an interview to Egyptian television that was posted on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English website Badie’s statements indicated that the Brotherhood will end any thought of democracy in Egypt by taking control over the media. Badie said that the Brotherhood is about to launch a public news channel, “with commitment to the ethics of the society and the rules of the Islamic faith.”

He also demanded that state radio and television begin broadcasting recordings of Banna’s speeches and sermons. Finally, he complained about the anti-Brotherhood hostility of most private media organs in Egypt.

As for Israel, Badie was asked how a Brotherhood- led Egypt would react if Israel takes military action against Hamas. His response was honest enough. As he put it, “The situation will change in such a case, and the Egyptian people will have their voice heard. Any government in power will have to respect the choice of the people, whatever that is, like in any democracy.”

In other words, the peace between Israel and Egypt will die of populist causes.…

The West’s intoxication with the myth of the Arab Spring means that currently, the political winds are siding with Egypt. If Egypt were to start a war with Israel, or simply support Hamas in a war against Israel, at a minimum, Cairo would enjoy the same treatment from Europe and the US that the Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government and army enjoyed in 2006. To block this possibility, the government must begin educating opinion shapers and political leaders in the West about the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood It must also call for a cut-off of US military aid to Egypt.…

With the Iranians now apparently moving from developing nuclear capabilities to developing nuclear warheads, and with the Palestinians escalating their political war and planning their next terror war against Israel, it stands to reason that nobody in the government or the IDF wants to consider the strategic implications of Egypt’s reversion from peace partner to enemy.

But Israel doesn’t get to decide what our neighbors do. We can only take the necessary steps to minimize their ability to harm us.

It’s time to get cracking.


Yaroslav Trofimov

Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2011


Five weeks after the fall of the Egyptian regime, Ayman Anwar Mitri’s apartment was torched. When he showed up to investigate, he was bundled inside by bearded Islamists.

Mr. Mitri is a member of the Christian Coptic minority that accounts for one-tenth of the country’s 83 million people. The Islamists accused him of having rented the apartment—by then unoccupied—to loose Muslim women.

Inside the burnt apartment, they beat him with the charred remains of his furniture. Then, one of them produced a box cutter and performed what he considered an appropriate punishment under Islam: He amputated Mr. Mitri’s right ear.

“When they were beating me, they kept saying: ‘We won’t leave any Christians in this country,’“ Mr. Mitri recalled in a recent interview, two months after the March attack. Blood dripped through a plastic tube from his unhealed wound to a plastic container. “Here, there is a war against the Copts,” he said.

His attackers, who were never arrested or prosecuted, follow the ultra-fundamentalist Salafi strain of Islam that promotes an austere, Saudi-inspired worldview. Before President Hosni Mubarak was toppled on Feb. 11, the Salafis mostly confined themselves to preaching. Since then, they’ve entered the political arena, drawing crowds and swaying government decisions. Salafi militants also have blocked roads, burned churches and killed Copts.

The Salafi vigilantes who brutalized Mr. Mitri later ignited a bigger controversy that is still playing out here in Qena, an upper Nile governorate of three million people—almost one-third of them Copts. In April, Egypt’s new government appointed a Christian to be Qena’s new governor, replacing another Christian who had held the post under Mr. Mubarak. The Salafis responded by demanding a Muslim governor and organizing mass protests, showcasing the movement’s new political influence.

The crisis in Qena, still not fully resolved, raises questions about what kind of Egypt will emerge from the post-revolutionary chaos—and whether its revolution will adhere to the ideals of democracy and equality that inspired it.…

Until recently, fears of an Islamist takeover in Egypt centered on the Muslim Brotherhood, a much better known organization that’s trying to project a new image of moderation. While many liberal Egyptians remain deeply suspicious of the Brothers’ true intentions, the Brotherhood now says it accepts Copts—the Middle East’s largest religious minority—in all government positions, with the possible exception of president.

By contrast, many Salafis believe it is forbidden by Islam for Christians to exercise political power over Muslims in any capacity, such as governors, mayors or ministers. “If the Christian is efficient, he could be a deputy or an adviser,” says prominent Salafi cleric Abdelmoneim Shehat.

Unlike the Brothers, the Salafis long refused to participate in elections and dismissed democracy as un-Islamic—a view held by their spiritual guides in Saudi Arabia. Numbering in the millions around the Arab world, Salafis seek to emulate the ways of the “salaf,” the Prophet Muhammad’s seventh-century companions, and usually reject later theological, social and political innovations as heresy. Osama bin Laden belonged to the jihadi current of Salafism that’s trying to overthrow Arab regimes. Many other Salafis, including Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi religious establishment, and until recently, key Egyptian clerics, hold that obeying political rulers is mandatory in Islam.

After the revolution, however, many Egyptian Salafis decided that the shortest way to the Islamic state they desire is through the ballot box. They joined the Brotherhood in backing conservative constitutional amendments that passed in a March referendum. Salafi leaders say they are likely to coordinate with the Brotherhood to field a slate of Islamist candidates for parliamentary elections planned for September.

“We’ve found out after the revolution that the Salafis and the Brotherhood have the same concerns,” says Safwat Hegazy, a popular Saudi-trained TV preacher who belonged to the Brotherhood in his youth and has emerged as one of Egypt’s most influential Salafi voices.…

In Qena, a leafy city that prides itself on being named Egypt’s cleanest, the Salafi militants who attacked Mr. Mitri and radicalized the protests against the Coptic governor were led by a young man named al-Hosseini Kamal. He had been incarcerated under Mr. Mubarak on suspicion of terrorist activities and, like thousands of such detainees, was set free after the revolution.

According to Mr. Mitri and witnesses cited in the police report, it was Mr. Kamal who cut off Mr. Mitri’s ear, after first slicing his arm and neck.… In days after the amputation, the Salafi militants threatened to kill Mr. Mitri’s siblings and to kidnap his children if he pressed charges, Mr. Mitri and his relatives say. Police refused to help, he says. Scared, he changed his initial testimony to say he didn’t know who attacked him.

Instead of prosecution, Egyptian authorities pushed for a “reconciliation” between Mr. Mitri and his attackers. At the reconciliation ceremony, a beaming Mr. Kamal shook hands with the local military commander and other notables.

The ear amputation was a “mistake” and “the young people didn’t mean it,” says Qureishi Salama, imam of one of Qena’s largest mosques and a leader of the budding Salafi movement in Qena. Asked about the concerns of Christians, he responds, without elaborating: “Only those Christians who did something wrong should be fearful.…”


Barry Rubin
Rubin Reports, Friday, June 3, 2011


1. How Egypt is the New Iran

To put it simply, what has happened in Egypt is not just the undoing of the “Mubarak regime” but the undoing of the “Sadat regime,” that is, repealing the revolution Anwar al-Sadat made in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Sadat changed Egypt’s course from a radical state trying to destabilize other Arab countries, destroy Israel, and oppose U.S. interests. He deemphasized spreading revolution, made peace with Israel, and allied Egypt with the United States.

Now, with help from President Barack Obama, those processes have been undone. Egypt will return to the pre-Sadat era to support radical forces, try to wipe Israel off the map, and oppose U.S. interests.

According to a recent poll, 65 percent of Egyptians said they supported the revolution because of economic reasons; only 19 percent cited lack of democracy. Eighty percent of Egyptians say they believe their economic situation will improve in the next year. But it won’t. Foreign investment won’t risk sending money to Egypt; tourists won’t risk going.

When Arab governments can’t provide cheap bread they turn to cheaper hatred and foreign adventures. The only question is the relative proportion of radical nationalism and Islamism there will be in that mix. The mass media will discover this in September. Yet it is obvious in June.

Egypt’s transformation will be for today what Iran’s meant for the last thirty years. Inasmuch as U.S. influence had an effect, Jimmy Carter’s incompetence helped give us Islamist Iran, Barack Obama’s incompetence and ideology helped give us radical (perhaps Islamist) Egypt.


2. Egyptian “Moderate” Leader: We Don’t Want to Fight Israel; We Just Have To.

And what about the Facebook kid moderates? One of their main leaders, Ahmed Maher, gave a talk at MIT on April 29. He said, according to the translation:

“We do not want to have any problems or war with anyone. But there are things we cannot ignore. There are people beside [neighboring} us being oppressed and killed. And they have been treated very harshly, Palestine. We cannot remain silent about something like this.”

In fact, though, the translation was wrong. He used the word “ibada,” which doesn’t mean “oppressed and killed” it means “genocide.”

This mistranslation softens the point and the extreme hatred even Egyptian “moderates” have toward Israel. But let’s leave that aside to consider what Maher’s saying: “We don’t want conflict or war with our neighbors BUT there’s genocide next door and so…if you believe genocide is being committed next door one must act, right? If the United States went to war to “protect” Libyans; how can Egypt not do so to save fellow Arabs and Muslims from being murdered a few miles away?

Thirty years after the Egypt-Israel peace treaty; eighteen years after Israel agreed to the Palestinian Authority ruling almost all West Bank/Gaza Palestinians;  and six years after Israel withdrew from all of the Gaza Strip, the basic Egyptian moderate’s view of Israel has not changed one bit.…

Why should Israel’s giving up all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem have any more effect than Israel leaving the Sinai Penninsula, the Gaza Strip, southern Lebanon, and the populated portions of the West Bank? And how can anyone dare assert that doing so would end the conflict without even having the decency to deal with these facts?…


3. So Who Are the Good Guys in Egypt?

A star is born and her name is Yasmine el-Rashidi. She’s written an E-book on Egypt’s revolution. Her article is featured in the New York Review of Books. El-Rashidi is good at describing conditions in Egypt. Her article begins:

“On a recent afternoon…in a busy downtown Cairo street, armed men exchanged gunfire, threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and freely wielded knives in broad daylight. The two-hour fight, which began as an attempt by some shop-owners to extort the customers of others, left 89 wounded and many stores destroyed. In the new Egypt, incidents like this are becoming commonplace. On many nights I go to bed to the sound of gunfire.…”

“Even more worrying, it seems increasingly clear that a variety of groups have been encouraging the violence.…There have been a series of attacks on Copts, and the perpetrators seem to include hardline Islamists (often referred to as Salafis), remnants of the former regime, and even, indirectly, some elements of the military now in charge, who have allowed these attacks to play out—all groups that in some way have an interest in disrupting a smooth transition to a freely elected civil government and democratic state.”

The second paragraph is a typical view hinting at a conspiracy rather than facing the reality that Muslim militants have long hated Christians and that preachers and key Islamic texts incite that violence. If any Arabs are facing “ibada” it isn’t the Palestinians, it’s the Christians of Egypt, and also the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Pakistan, and several other places.

At any rate, el-Rashid shows she’s sophisticated by not blaming Zionist and American agents. Many or most Egyptians will do so. Indeed, in one of the first talk-backs to her article an Arab reader says this instability is being promoted by the United States, Israel, and the Gulf states (i.e. Saudi Arabia).

So who are the good guys? El Rashid proposes a candidate: the Muslim Brotherhood. Of course, it genuinely does want a smooth transition to an elected government since they’re the ones who’ll be elected. In her long article, El-Rashid only mentions the Muslim Brotherhood to praise it as being moderate and a force advocating tolerance.

Yet the Brotherhood is allied with the “radicals.” The two groups work together and their differences are merely tactical, not strategic. What’s emerging in many places as the new line among Western media and experts: Al-Qaida, Salafi extremists, bad! Hamas, Syrian regime, Muslim Brotherhood, good!

We’re already hearing that theme regarding the Gaza Strip and as a rationale for opposing a revolution in Syria. Perhaps that’s what they’ll tell us after the Brotherhood emerges as the most powerful bloc in Egypt.

(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs [GLORIA] Center,and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs [MERIA] Journal.)