ARAB SPRING DRIFTS INTO SUMMER STALEMATES
Brian Murphy & Barbara Surk
Huffington Post, July 14, 2011
Among the protest banners in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was a hand-drawn map of the Arab Spring with black target symbols covering each country hit by anti-government uprisings since the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt were ousted earlier this year.
But the bull’s-eyes could easily be replaced with question marks as the groundswell for change has splintered into scattered and indecisive conflicts that have left thousands dead and Western policymakers juggling roles from NATO airstrikes in Libya to worried bystanders in Syria and Yemen.
The stalemates could shift into a deeper holding pattern in August during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when the pace of daily life traditionally slows as the Islamic world observes a dawn-to-dusk fast and other customs such as temporary truces.
It’s a huge and traumatic undertaking to shove aside regimes with decades in power—and sway over nearly every decision down to who gets hired as street sweeper. Iran did it with the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and the American-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein cleaned the slate for Iraq and ushered in years of near civil war.
But no such wholesale change appears in the pipeline with the present revolts. That has raised concern that even if the leaders fall, the pillars of the regimes could survive, as happened when military rulers took temporary control after Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak stepped down.
“Half revolution doesn’t work,” a headline last week in Egypt’s Al-Ahram Al-Massai newspaper said after demonstrators returned to Tahrir Square to press for swifter political reforms and bolder legal action against officials from Mubarak’s regime who were accused of corruption and killing protesters.
But even a halfway mark appears farther along than most of the rebellions against the Mideast’s old guard.
Cores of loyal security forces in Yemen and Syria keep the regimes hanging on despite relentless protests. In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi could face a moment of truth as rebels press closer to the capital Tripoli and NATO warplanes hammer military sites, yet the anti-Gadhafi militias have no clear leader to prevent possible power grabs to control the country’s oil riches if he is ousted.
The country where the Arab Spring began, Tunisia, has been shaken by unrest—including a rise in ultraconservative Islamists—ahead of planned elections in October to elect an assembly that will write a new constitution. Some political groups are urging further delays in the election to give new parties a chance to organize.
Egypt, meanwhile, is questioning when—or if—the ruling military council will surrender power. The caretaker rulers [have] effectively announced a delay of the elections.…
In tiny Bahrain authorities apparently tipped the scales clearly in their favor. Security forces—aided by Saudi-led reinforcements—smothered an uprising by the kingdom’s majority Shiites seeking greater rights from the Sunni rulers. A so-called “national dialogue” began this month, but it’s unlikely that the 200-year-old ruling dynasty will give up any significant hold on power and may need a heavy hand to keep Shiite-led protests from reigniting.
“It’s not over, but we are in an ugly situation now,” said Christopher Davidson, a lecturer on Middle East and Gulf affairs at Britain’s Durham University. That’s why the definition of the Arab Spring is increasingly being stretched.…
BALLOTS, BULLETS AND OBAMA’S ROLE
IN RENASCENT MUSLIM WORLD
Jerusalem Magazine, July 13, 2011
A plethora of self-righteous rhetoric has been wasted on the Arab Spring with the attending dominance of ballots over bullets, although until now there have scarcely been signs of a spring per se.
Initially, there were high hopes for democracy to triumph in places where non-authoritarian forms of government have hitherto never existed. Instead however, in one case after another, hopes have been shattered with the primacy of bullets overwhelming any attempts for new democracies to emerge. And due to his nonsensical policies, [U.S.] President Barack Obama—apparent leader of the free world—is inadvertently supporting the supremacy of bullets.
Democracy is not only about elections and voting rights. In some countries, including Iraq and Lebanon, elections have been known to give rise to massacres. But even in cases where votes are not rigged and elections are conducted peacefully, various political struggles still arise. Take Turkey for example, where elections invariably hail a string of arrests—particularly of journalists—and a denial of civil rights coupled with McCarthy-esque stifling of the opposition or imposed Islamization. Ironically, such acts often appeal to the most uneducated strata of these societies, which subsequently constitute the base of political parties in the main—as is the case of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party.
In 2008 in Lebanon, Hezbollah, the proxy of Iran and Syria, took over Beirut and its communication centers by force and then imposed its minority vote on the cabinet by threatening the use of more force. This was an attempt to scuttle any moves to arrest the Hezbollah-protected murderers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the leader that came closest to forming a democratically-elected majority government.
Paradoxically, more than any other country, the US—which ostensibly claims to democratize those countries by ballots—has contributed to spreading the use of bullets instead. Take Syria and Libya as examples. Prior to President Obama’s non-policy of engagement in the Middle East, the tough and demanding policy of the Bush administration was paying off: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been under siege; forced out of Lebanon, he was isolated both politically and economically, and under pressure to retreat from his axis with Iran.
But then Obama began courting Muslims with sycophantic gestures of friendship, including reinstating his ambassador in Damascus, prostrating before the Saudi king—the most reactionary monarch in the Middle East—and finally allowing the Turks to sacrifice Israel—their democratic ally in the region—for the prize of acquiring new authoritarian allies in Iran and Syria.
As a result, Arab and Muslim dictators got the impression that since America was now their friend they could do as they jolly well pleased.…
As for Assad, well he began to massacre his own people at will, and when this began to become a sticky issue he sent Palestinians to challenge Israel’s borders as a deflection. Reinforced by US consent—implicit in its silence—King Abdullah and other leaders in Gulf States are dispatching their troops to quell protestors in Bahrain. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah effectively have carte blanche to reverse anything achieved by the Bush administration.…
The Obama administration—which no longer dares to call a spade a spade and dissimulates the mounting Islamic violence as “a minority of extremists,” is getting further and further away from the previous administration’s mission; the current administration has unwittingly shrunk the lexicon of viable terminology for terrorists—thereby changing the face of Bush’s “war on terror.”
This has allowed the Muslim world to once again slide into the familiar game of bullet-policy.
WILL TURMOIL DRAG LIBYA’S REBELS UNDER?
Washington Post, July 31, 2011
Until last Thursday, Libya was beginning to look like the relative good news in the troubled summer that has followed the Arab Spring. The United States and more than 30 other governments had recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC), based in the rebel capital of Benghazi, as Libya’s legitimate government. Its military forces appeared to be slowly gaining ground against those of Moammar Gaddafi, who was isolated in Tripoli.
Two senior members of the TNC touring Washington last week talked cheerily about their plans to stabilize the country after Gaddafi’s departure and quickly install a liberal democracy. “Libya is actually the easy case,” one veteran Washington democracy expert enthused to me after hearing them speak.
Then came the sudden killing on Thursday of Abdul Fatah Younis, the TNC’s senior military commander, under still-unexplained—and very troubling—circumstances. The murder plunged the new government and its capital into turmoil, and raised urgent questions in NATO capitals about whether the TNC or its ragtag army were in danger of crumbling.
It also illustrated one of the enduring themes of the uprisings across the Middle East: the constant tension between the yearning for modernism—for democracy and personal freedom—that is driving a huge rising generation into the streets, and the atavistic forces of tribalism, sectarianism, corruption and autocracy that keep threatening to drag the revolutions under.
Younis, the Libyan rebel commander, appears to be a victim of what might be called the Old Middle East undertow. It’s not yet known exactly who killed him or why, but we do know that he had been called to Benghazi by elements of the rebel leadership to answer unspecified questions about his behavior and was murdered by fighters escorting him. Angry demonstrations by members of Younis’s Obeidi tribe hinted at the internecine conflict that some experts believe may be the most serious threat to a post-Gaddafi Libya.…
The Old Middle East has pulled [the TNC’s] military commander under. In Libya, as in so much of the region this summer, it’s an open question whether a new Arab order can survive that undertow.
CAUTION: STORM APPROACHING
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, July 15, 2011
It was seven months ago that Mohammed Bouazizi, a vegetable peddler in Tunisia, set himself and the Arab world on fire. The 26- year-old staged his suicidal protest on the steps of the local city hall after a municipal inspector took away his unlicensed vegetable cart, thus denying him the ability to feed his family of eight.
Most depictions of the Arab revolutions that followed his act have cast them as struggles for freedom and good government. These depictions miss the main cause of these political upheavals. No doubt millions of Arabs are upset about the freedom deficit in Arab lands. But the fact is that economics has played a decisive role in all of them.
In Bouazizi’s case, his self-immolation was provoked by financial desperation. And if current trends continue, the revolutionary ferment we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg.
Moreover, the political whirlwind will not be contained in the Middle East.
Most of the news coming out about Egypt today emanates from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. There the protesters continue to demand ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s head on a platter alongside the skulls of his sons, business associates, advisors and everyone else who prospered under his rule. While the supposedly liberal democratic protesters’ swift descent into bloodlust is no doubt worth noting, the main reason these protesters continue to gain so much international attention is because they are easy to find. A reporter looking for a story’s failsafe option is to mosey on over to the square and put a microphone into the crowd.
But while easily accessible, the action at Tahrir Square is not Egypt’s most important story. The most important, strategically consequential story is that Egypt is rapidly going broke. By the end of the year, the military dictatorship will likely not only default on Egypt’s loans; Field Marshal Tantawi and his deputies will almost certainly be unable to feed the Egyptian people.
Some raw statistics are in order here.
Among Egypt’s population of 80 million, some 32 million are illiterate. They engage in subsistence farming that is too inefficient to support them. Egypt needs to import half of its food.
As David Goldman, (aka Spengler), reported in Asia Times Online, in May the International Monetary Fund warned of the impending economic collapse of non-oil exporting Arab countries saying, “In the current baseline scenario the external financing needs of the region’s oil importers is projected to exceed $160 billion during 2011-13.” Goldman noted, “That’s almost three years’ worth of Egypt’s total annual imports as of 2010.”
Since Mubarak was overthrown in February, Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have plummeted from $36b. to $25b.-28b.… As Goldman explained, the problem is capital flight. Due in no small part to the protesters in Tahrir Square calling for the arrest of all those who did business with the former regime, Egypt’s wealthy and foreign investors are taking their money out of the country.
At the Arab Banking Summit in Rome last month, Jordan’s Finance Minister Mohammed Abu Hammour warned, “There is capital flight and $500 million a week is leaving the Arab world.” According to Goldman, “Although Hammour did not mention countries in his talk…most of the capital flight is coming from Egypt, and at an annual rate roughly equal to Egypt’s remaining reserves.”
What this means is that in a few short months, Egypt will be unable to pay for its imports. And consequently, it will be unable to feed its people.
Egypt is far from alone. Take Syria. There, too, capital is fleeing the country as the government rushes to quell the mass anti-regime protests.
Just as Egyptian and Tunisian protesters hoped that a new regime would bring them more freedom, so the mass protests sweeping Syria are in part due to politics. But like in Egypt and Tunisia, Syria’s economic woes are dictating much of what is happening on the ground and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Last month, Syrian President Bashar Assad gave a speech warning of “weakness or collapse of the Syrian economy.” As a report last month by Reuters explained, the immediate impact of Assad’s speech was capital flight and the devaluation of the Syrian pound by 8 percent.
For the past decade, Assad has been trying to liberalize the Syrian economy. He enacted some free market reforms, opened a stock exchange and attempted to draw foreign investment to the country. While largely unsuccessful in alleviating Syria’s massive poverty, these reforms did enable the country a modest growth rate of around 2.5% per year.
In response to the mass protests threatening his regime, Assad has effectively ended his experiment with the free market. He fired his government minister in charge of the economic reforms and put all the projects on hold. Instead, according to a report this week in Syria Today, the government has steeply increased public sector wages and offered 100,000 temporary workers full-time contracts. The Syrian government also announced a 25% cut in the price of diesel fuel, at a cost to the government of $527m. per year.… As Reuters reported, the government has been forced to spend $70m.-$80m. a week to buck up the local currency. So between protecting the Syrian pound and paying for political loyalty, the Assad regime is quickly drying up Syria’s treasury.
In the event the regime is overthrown, a successor regime will face the sure prospect of economic collapse, much as the Egyptian regime does. And in the event that Assad remains in power, he will continue to reap the economic whirlwind of what he has sown in the form of political instability and violence.
What this means is that we can expect continued political turmoil in both countries as they are consumed by debt and tens of millions of people face the prospect of starvation. This political turmoil can be expected to give rise to dangerous if unknowable military developments.
Poor Arab nations such as Egypt and Syria are far from the only ones facing economic disaster. The $3b. loan the IMF offered Egypt may be among the last loans of that magnitude the IMF is able to offer because quite simply, European lenders are themselves staring into the economic abyss.
Greece’s debt crisis is not a local problem. It now appears increasingly likely that the EU is going to have to accept Greece defaulting on at least part of its debt.… Worse still, the banking crisis will only intensify in the wake of a Greek default. Debt pressure on Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, which are all also on the brink of defaulting on their debts, will grow. Italy is Europe’s fourth largest economy. Its debt is about the size of Germany’s.
If Italy goes into default, the implications for the European and US banking systems—and for their economies generally—will be devastating.
The current debt-ceiling negotiations between US President Barack Obama and the Republican congressional leadership have made it apparent that Obama is ideologically committed to increasing government spending and taxes in the face of a weak economy. If Obama is reelected next year, the dire implications of four more years of his economic policies for the US and global economies cannot be overstated.
Due to the economic policies implemented by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu since his first tenure as prime minister in 1996-99, in the face of this economic disaster, Israel is likely to find itself in the unlikely position of standing along China and India as among the only stable, growing economies in the world. Israel’s banking sector is largely unexposed to European debt. Israel’s gross external debt is 44% of GDP. This compares well not only to European debt levels of well over 100% of GDP but to the US debt level, which stands at 98% of GDP.…
Israel’s economy is likely to remain one of the country’s most valuable strategic assets. Just as economic prosperity allowed Israel to absorb the cost of the Second Lebanon War with barely a hiccup, so continued economic growth will play a key role in protecting it from the economically induced political upheavals likely to ensue throughout much of the Arab world and Europe.
Aside from remaining economically responsible, as Israel approaches the coming storms it is important for it to act with utmost caution politically. It must adopt policies that provide it with the most maneuver room and the greatest deterrent force.
First and foremost, this means that it is imperative that Israel not commit itself to any agreements with any Arab regime. In 1977, the Camp David Agreement with then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, in which Israel surrendered the strategically invaluable Sinai for a peace treaty, seemed like a reasonable gamble. In 2011, a similar agreement with Assad or with the Palestinian Authority, (whose budget is largely financed from international aid), would be the height of strategic insanity.
Beyond that, with the rising double specter of Egyptian economic collapse and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, Israel must prepare for the prospect of war with Egypt. Recently it was reported that IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz has opted to spread over several years Israel’s military preparations for a return to hostilities with Egypt. Gantz’s decision reportedly is due to his desire to avoid provoking Egypt with a rapid expansion of the IDF’s order of battle.
Gantz’s caution is understandable. But it is unacceptable. Given the escalating threats emanating from Egypt—not the least of which is the expanding security vacuum in Sinai—Israel must prepare for war now.
So, too, with the US’s weak economy, Obama’s Muslim Brotherhood-friendly foreign policy, and Europe’s history of responding to economic hardship with xenophobia, Israel’s need to develop the means of militarily defending itself from a cascade of emerging threats becomes all the more apparent.
The economic storms may pass by Israel. But the political tempests they unleash will reach us.
To emerge safely from what is coming, Israel needs to hunker down and prepare for the worst.
THE COLLAPSE OF ZIONIST LEADERSHIP
Jerusalem Post, June 23, 2011
The Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization will be meeting in Jerusalem next week. Of late, the media have been conveying the message that many Diaspora Jews, especially youngsters, are becoming alienated from the Jewish state. It is sometimes even implied that more Jews are engaged in castigating than defending Israel.
This is certainly a wild exaggeration. Despite the combined impact of postmodernism and the hostile anti-Israeli environment, the majority of activists, including young people, remain faithful to the Jewish state, which represents the core of their Jewish identity.
However, it’s true that established Jewish leaders in many communities display a penchant to downplay pro-Israel advocacy and assume a low profile. This trend was boosted as the liberal media began highlighting and lauding as heroes Jews who demonize the Jewish state. This in turn emboldened them to demand recognition as legitimate members of the mainstream Jewish community.
Regrettably the response of many confused communal leaders was to prattle on about the virtues of enlarging the “Jewish tent” to include organizations like J Street, which inaccurately portray themselves as “pro-Israel, pro-peace” while shamelessly lobbying foreign governments to exert pressure on Israel. They failed to appreciate the incongruity of integrating into their ranks groups whose prime objective is to undermine Israel.
This chaotic arena led to what can only be described as bizarre behavior unprecedented in Jewish communal life: “rabbis” claiming to promote “tikkun olam” by actively supporting and engaging with avowed enemies of the Jewish people; debates conducted within federations as to whether Jewish philanthropic funding should be directed to organizations promoting anti-Israel plays and films; the New York Jewish Federation bestowing $1 million of charitable funds on the fervently anti-Israel George Soros-sponsored group Jewish Funds for Justice; individual Hillel directors treating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a dispute between two morally equivalent parties, on occasion even favoring the Palestinians; and student activists in the UK, Canada and the United States being urged by Jewish establishment bodies to assume low profiles and avoid confronting anti- Israel demonstrations.
What typifies this insanity was a recent “very difficult decision” undertaken following a fervent debate at Brandeis University’s Hillel as to whether to exclude from the “big tent” Jewish Voices for Peace—an organization shamelessly calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. The problem was resolved by endorsing a recommendation by Martin Raffel (senior vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs), who ruled that supporting boycotts of goods produced in the West Bank should be considered a legitimate (!) Jewish activity. However, as Jewish Voices for Peace also opposed an independent Jewish state, he felt that this “crossed a red line,” and the decision was made to exclude them! It is incomprehensible why preponderantly Zionist contributors to these philanthropic organizations tolerate such abuse of funds.
The principal reason for the emergence of such troubling developments seems to emanate from inadequate leadership. During the early years of the state, Labor Zionist governments invested major resources toward nurturing links with Diaspora Jewish leaders.
No aspiring Jewish communal leader would conceivably contemplate criticizing policies which could have life-or-death implications for Israelis.
However, recent government leaders, including prime ministers, have neglected Diaspora Jewish leadership, and instead fawned over wealthy Jews, from whom they solicit support for their political and personal enterprises.
Historically, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the World Zionist Organization (WZO) were the principal parties responsible for promoting the Zionist cause within Diaspora Jewish communities. In fact, their program of Kibbush Hakehilot—the Zionist “conquest of Jewish communities”—succeeded to such an extent that support for the Jewish state from “Zionist” and Jewish communal leaders became virtually indistinguishable.
Alas, that activity eroded in the 1980s, as JAFI was largely reduced to a bloated bureaucracratic instrumentality occupied with activities that could equally be conducted by other state instrumentalities.
Nobody disputes that JAFI still operates important Zionist educational projects like Birthright and Masa.
The seminars on delegitimization which they will be conducting at their forthcoming board meeting are a commendable academic exercise, but are duplicated by virtually every major Jewish organization engaged in public affairs, and the participants are not necessarily likely to be indulging in Israel advocacy. However, beyond such projects, JAFI has abysmally failed to fulfill its principal obligation—promoting the centrality of Israel in Jewish communal life throughout the world.
Despite great expectations, the chairman of JAFI, Natan Sharansky, a hero of the Jewish people and the symbol for renascent Zionism, has until now proven a major disappointment. He is perceived as having capitulated to the demands of wealthy (primarily American) board members determined to dilute core Zionist projects and transform JAFI into a replica of the American Jewish fundraising federation system.
Many Zionists were deeply frustrated with Sharansky’s decision to substitute JAFI’s traditional primary goal of aliya (which was already operated by Nefesh B’Nefesh) and concentrate almost exclusively on the vague objective of “promoting Jewish identity,” which surely does not conflict with aliya, and which everyone supports. Ironically the aliya department was disbanded precisely when Western countries began to emerge as a major new potential source of immigrants.
The WZO, whose funding has been drastically curtailed and which is now totally separated from JAFI, is justly regarded as an utterly impotent body with marginal impact on the Jewish world. It continues convening global meetings and congresses in which nobody takes the slightest interest. Other than the Australian, British and South African Zionist federations, which carry on with minimal support from the parent body, its Diaspora offshoots have disintegrated.
Today, WE desperately need a global Jewish pro-Israel caucus which could emerge from a reformed JAFI. But it should not depend on existing personnel tainted with failure, or primarily on wealthy donors. It must incorporate a wide cross-section of Diaspora and Israeli Jewish activists engaged in public communal life and encompassing all sides of the political spectrum and religious streams within Judaism. The sole proviso for entry should be a genuine commitment to promoting Israel as the center of the Jewish people.
The principal objective of a reformed JAFI must be the reconstruction of an unashamedly pro-Israel Jewish leadership in Diaspora communities, including within the American federations, Hillel and rabbinical bodies. It should endeavor to ensure that only those willing to publicly support the right of Israel to defend itself will be elected to communal leadership roles.
Such an action group should speak out when establishment communal leaders remain silent in the face of anti-Israel activity. Importantly, it should promote Zionist education and ensure that every Jewish high school allocates at least a few hours a week to teaching about modern Israel, so that when students arrive on campus they are sufficiently informed to respond to the anti-Israel onslaughts.
In the profoundly challenging times now confronting the Jewish people, action to bring about such changes should be considered an absolute priority.
Representing the vast majority of committed Jews, a group dedicated to these objectives would have a dramatic impact on the quality of Jewish communal life, and help restore bonds between the Diaspora and Israel.
CAN ISRAEL BE A “JEWISH STATE?”
Council on Foreign Relations, July 14, 2011
Negotiations between Israel and the PLO have been stalled for many reasons, but a central issue is the Palestinian refusal to acknowledge Israel as a “Jewish state.”
The whole idea behind the partition of the Palestine Mandate in 1947 was, in the words of U.N. General Assembly resolution 181, the creation of an “Arab state” and a “Jewish state.” The Arab rejection of Israel as a Jewish state is in fact at the heart of the Middle East conflict. It is based on the widespread refusal to accept Israel as a permanent presence in the region, but is usually couched in more acceptable terminology—indeed, the language of “rights.” As one news story put it, “Palestinian negotiators have recognized Israel’s right to exist, but not as a Jewish state, which officials say would prejudice the right of return for refugees and violate the rights of Israel’s non-Jewish residents.”
In other words, the argument is that if Israel is a “Jewish state” it will certainly, unavoidably, necessarily discriminate against non-Jews. The problem with this debating point is that those who use it apply it only to Israel; no one ever voices any concern about states based on Islam and discriminating in favor of Muslims.
There are actually four states whose very name contains a religious reference: the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. But beyond those, in every Muslim-majority country the constitution asserts a special role for Islam. The Jordanian constitution says “Islam is the religion of the State” and of course “No person shall ascend the Throne unless he is a Moslem…of Moslem parents.” No converts! But Jordan has a Christian minority that is five to eight percent of the population (Eastern Orthodox, Circassian, Melkite, and other sects).
Egypt is about ten or even fifteen percent Christian (Copts), but its current provisional constitution states that “Islam is the religion of the state.… Principles of Islamic law (Shari’a) are the principal source of legislation.” Moreover, this is unlikely to change: presidential candidate Mohammad ElBaradei, viewed as a Westernized moderate, recently released his version of a new Egyptian constitution that similarly holds “Islam shall be the religion of the state.… Sharia shall be the main source of legislation.”
The constitution of Malaysia states that “Islam is the religion of the Federation,” even though the country is only about sixty percent Muslim. It is roughly twenty percent Buddhist, ten percent Christian, and six percent Hindu, among other religions.
There are many similar examples. The religion of the state is Islam in Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait (where there are estimates that fifteen percent of the population is non-Muslim)—and one could lengthen the list. In Afghanistan, the constitution holds that “The sacred religion of Islam is the religion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” and “No law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.” The president must be a Muslim. The Saudis go one further, refusing even to have a constitution: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion; God’s Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, are its constitution.…”
It is worth adding that Muslim states are not alone in their religious ties. The constitution of Denmark, for example, states that “The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and, as such, it shall be supported by the State,” and unsurprisingly “The King shall be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.” Same for Norway: “The Evangelical-Lutheran religion shall remain the official religion of the State” and “The King shall at all times profess the Evangelical-Lutheran religion.” And of course, the Queen of England is “Defender of the Faith,” and the faith is Anglican Christianity.
So what? So the usual arguments against the acknowledgement of Israel as a Jewish state are hypocritical and specious. Every Arab state is far more Islamic than the “Jewish state” of Israel is Jewish; to take one example, Israel imposes no religious test for the offices of president or prime minister. Moreover, the treatment of religious minorities is far better than in the Muslim states, as the flat ban on building even a single church in Saudi Arabia and the repeated violence against Christians in Egypt and Pakistan remind us. If some secular professor maintains that all states should be devoid of religious identity, fair enough; that is a principled argument. But when Arab political leaders say they will never acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, that isn’t an argument at all. It is a reminder of their continuing refusal to make peace with the Jewish state and with the very idea that the Jews can have a state in what they view as the Dar al-Islam.
IN RAVAGED LIBYA, GHOSTS OF JEWISH PAST
Ynet News, July 22, 2011
What was once the most beautiful synagogue in Libya’s capital city can now be entered only by sneaking through a hole smashed in a back wall, climbing over dusty trash and crossing a stairwell strewn with abandoned shoes to a space occupied by cooing pigeons.
The synagogue, Dar al-Bishi, was once the center of a prosperous Jewish community, one whose last remnants were expelled decades ago in the early days of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
Inside Libya, little trace of them remains. Abroad, however, surviving members and descendants of the community are very much alive, watching with fascination from afar as Gaddafi’s forces and a NATO-backed rebel insurgency battle for control of a country some of them still see as home.
“I have somewhat mixed feelings. I am sympathetic to people who want him out,” said Libya-born Gina Bublil-Waldman, referring to the embattled dictator.
But Bublil-Waldman, who heads an organization of Jews from Arab countries in San Francisco, said she was still angry and hurt by the memory of her family’s expulsion from Libya. Those feelings remained strong, she said, and at this point she “would be afraid to go.
Navit Barel, a 34-year-old Israeli of Libyan descent, said the upheaval made her want to visit the country where her parents were born. Her mother and father, now deceased, both grew up near the Dar al-Bishi synagogue.
“I feel like it brought back my yearning to talk to my father,” she said.
Libyan Jews seem proud of their heritage and even nostalgic for their ancestral home. But they are also bitter at the mistreatment they suffered at the hands of Libyan Muslims and at the eventual elimination of an ancient native community in a wave of anti-Jewish violence linked to the rise of the Zionist movement and the creation of Israel.
Today, most of the community’s few crumbling remains lie in Hara Kabira, a sandy slum that was once Tripoli’s Jewish quarter.
Inside the Dar al-Bishi synagogue, faded Hebrew above an empty ark where Torah scrolls were once kept reads “Shema Israel”—“Hear, O Israel”—the beginning of a Jewish prayer. The floor is strewn with decades of garbage.
What was once a ritual bath next to the synagogue now houses impoverished Libyan families. In a nearby alley, three arched doorways in a yellow facade are decorated with Jewish stars of David. The building was once the Ben Yehuda Jewish youth club, said Maurice Roumani, a Libyan-born Israeli and Libyan Jewry expert. Barel’s father, Eliyahu, taught Hebrew there.
The government now owns it.
Jews first arrived in what is now Libya some 2,300 years ago. They settled mostly in coastal towns like Tripoli and Benghazi and lived under a shifting string of rulers, including Romans, Ottoman Turks, Italians and ultimately the independent Arab state that has now descended into civil war.
Some prospered as merchants, physicians and jewelers. Under Muslim rule, they saw periods of relative tolerance and bursts of hostility. Italy took over in 1911, and eventually the fascist government of Benito Mussolini issued discriminatory laws against Jews, dismissing some from government jobs and ordering them to work on Saturdays, the Jewish day of rest.
In the 1940s, thousands were sent to concentration camps in North Africa where hundreds died. Some were deported to concentration camps in Germany and Austria.
Their troubles didn’t end with the war. Across the Arab world, anger about the Zionist project in Palestine turned Jewish neighbors into perceived enemies. In November 1945, mobs throughout Libya went on a three-day rampage, burning down Jewish shops and homes and killing at least 130 Jews, among them three dozen children.
After Israel was founded in 1948, it became a refuge for Jews of ancient Middle Eastern communities, including those of Libya. Barel’s father fled in 1949, and her mother soon after. Most were gone by the time Gaddafi seized power in 1969. The new dictator expelled the rest, who were ordered to leave with one suitcase and a small amount of cash.
Jewish properties were confiscated. There was no way to determine how many. Debts to Jews were officially erased. Jewish cemeteries were turned into dumping grounds or built over, and most of the dozens of synagogues around the country were either demolished or put to different use. Some became mosques. A community that numbered about 37,000 at its peak vanished.
Inside Libya, the memory of Jews is fading. Elderly Muslim residents who remember their neighbors stay silent, worried they’ll be accused of being Jewish sympathizers.
“There were Jews here once, but they left,” said one Muslim resident of Tripoli’s old Jewish quarter. He nervously shrugged when asked of their fate.
Still, the Libyan Jewish community left small legacies behind.
Their famous fish stew, known as hraimeh, is widely eaten in Libya today. Recently, a government official accompanying international reporters to a seafood restaurant in Tripoli called it “Jewish food” as he hungrily scooped it up. Muslims who defy their faith’s ban on alcohol imbibe homemade bocha, a fig-based spirit once made by local Jews.
Today, Libyan Jews and their descendants number around 110,000. Most live in Israel, with others in Italy and elsewhere. None, if any, have any desire to return as residents, but Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the embattled Gaddafi government, said they would be allowed back—if they first disavowed their Israeli citizenship. “They cannot have both,” Ibrahim said.
The Benghazi-based rebel government would not comment on whether it had any intention of mending relations with the country’s old Jewish community. Spokesman Jalal al-Gallal would say only that there would be “freedom of religion” in a future Libya.
Roumani, the Libyan Jewry expert, said he has a yearning to return, but knows that the places he knew are long gone.
Roumani described a memory of himself as a child in Benghazi: He is walking to synagogue with his father, listening to a chanted recitation of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, coming from a radio in a nearby cafe.
The synagogue is now a Coptic Christian church. His father’s grave was lost when Gaddafi’s regime built over the cemetery.
THE ROAD TO SERFDOM AND THE ARAB REVOLT
Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2011
The late great Austrian economist F.A. Hayek would have seen the Arab Spring for the economic revolt it was right from the start. For generations the Arab populations had bartered away their political freedom for economic protection. They rose in rebellion when it dawned on them that the bargain had not worked, that the system of subsidies, and the promise of equality held out by the autocrats, had proven a colossal failure.
What Hayek would call the Arab world’s “road to serfdom” began when the old order of merchants and landholders was upended in the 1950s and ‘60s by a political and military class that assumed supreme power. The officers and ideologues who came to rule Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria and Yemen were men contemptuous of the marketplace and of economic freedom. As a rule, they hailed from the underclass and had no regard for the sanctity of wealth and property. They had come to level the economic order, and they put the merchant classes, and those who were the mainstay of the free market, to flight.
It was in the 1950s that the foreign minorities who had figured prominently in the economic life of Egypt after the cotton boom of the 1860s, and who had drawn that country into the web of the world economy, would be sent packing. The Jews and the Greeks and the Italians would take with them their skills and habits. The military class, and the Fabian socialists around them, distrusted free trade and the marketplace and were determined to rule over them or without them.
The Egyptian way would help tilt the balance against the private sector in other Arab lands as well. In Iraq, the Jews of the country, on its soil for well over two millennia, were dispossessed and banished in 1950-51. They had mastered the retail trade and were the most active community in the commerce of Baghdad. Some Shiite merchants stepped into their role, but this was short-lived. Military officers and ideologues of the Baath Party from the “Sunni triangle”—men with little going for them save their lust for wealth and power—came into possession of the country and its oil wealth. They, like their counterparts in Egypt, were believers in central planning and “social equality.” By the 1980s, Saddam Hussein, a Sunni thug born from crushing poverty, would come to think of the wealth of the country as his own.
In Libya, a deranged Moammar Gadhafi did Saddam one better. After his 1969 military coup, he demolished the private sector in 1973 and established what he called “Islamic Socialism.” Gadhafi’s so-called popular democracy basically nationalized the entire economy, rendering the Libyan people superfluous by denying them the skills and the social capital necessary for a viable life.
In his 1944 masterpiece, “The Road to Serfdom,” Hayek wrote that in freedom-crushing totalitarian societies “the worst get on top.” In words that described the Europe of his time but also capture the contemporary Arab condition, he wrote: “To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, it is not enough that a man should be prepared to accept specious justification of vile deeds; he must himself be prepared actively to break every moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to achieve the end set for him. Since it is the supreme leader who alone determines the ends, his instruments must have no moral convictions of their own.”
This well describes the decades-long brutal dictatorship of Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, and now his son Bashar’s rule. It is said that Hafez began his dynasty with little more than a modest officer’s salary. His dominion would beget a family of enormous wealth: The Makhloufs, the in-laws of the House of Assad, came to control crucial sectors of the Syrian economy.
The Alawites, the religious sect to which the Assad clan belongs, had been poor peasants and sharecroppers, but political and military power raised them to new heights. The merchants of Damascus and Aleppo, and the landholders in Homs and Hama, were forced to submit to the new order. They could make their peace with the economy of extortion, cut Alawite officers into long-established businesses, or be swept aside.
But a decade or so ago this ruling bargain—subsidies and economic redistribution in return for popular quiescence—began to unravel. The populations in Arab lands had swelled and it had become virtually impossible to guarantee jobs for the young and poorly educated. Economic nationalism, and the war on the marketplace, had betrayed the Arabs. They had the highest unemployment levels among developing nations, the highest jobless rate among the young, and the lowest rates of economic participation among women. The Arab political order was living on borrowed time, and on fear of official terror.
Attempts at “reform” were made. But in the arc of the Arab economies, the public sector of one regime became the private sector of the next. Sons, sons-in-law and nephews of the rulers made a seamless transition into the rigged marketplace when “privatization” was forced onto stagnant enterprises. Of course, this bore no resemblance to market-driven economics in a transparent system. This was crony capitalism of the worst kind, and it was recognized as such by Arab populations. Indeed, this economic plunder was what finally severed the bond between Hosni Mubarak and an Egyptian population known for its timeless patience and stoicism.
The sad truth of Arab social and economic development is that the free-market reforms and economic liberalization that remade East Asia and Latin America bypassed the Arab world. This is the great challenge of the Arab Spring and of the forces that brought it about. The marketplace has had few, if any, Arab defenders. If the tremendous upheaval at play in Arab lands is driven by a desire to capture state power—and the economic prerogatives that come with political power—the revolution will reproduce the failures of the past.
In Yemen, a schoolteacher named Amani Ali, worn out by the poverty and anarchy of that poorest of Arab states, recently gave voice to a sentiment that has been the autocrats’ prop: “We don’t want change,” he said. “We don’t want freedom. We want food and safety.” True wisdom, and an end to their road to serfdom, will only come when the Arab people make the connection between economic and political liberty.
(Mr. Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution
is co-chairman of Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.)
FIVE MONTHS OF WAITING
Sharif Abdel Kouddous
Foreign Policy, July 15, 2011
Five months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Tahrir Square has, once again, been transformed into a mass protest encampment and the epicenter of the struggle for change in Egypt. Thousands of protesters are entering the second week of a sit-in reminiscent of the one that captured the world’s attention during the 18-day uprising that began on Jan. 25.
At the heart of the matter is the feeling of many that the basic demands of the revolution have gone unfulfilled, with little indication that a path for real change lies ahead; that the calls for justice and accountability for members of the former regime and security forces accused of killing protesters have gone unanswered; and that the revolutionary demands of “bread, freedom, social justice” have all but been abandoned.…
In Tahrir, protesters have dug in for the long haul. The middle of the square has been converted into a tent city, complete with winding pathways, food stocking centers, and a hairdresser. Electricity has been routed from street lamps to power fans and recharge cell phones. Wi-Fi Internet connections and satellite TV have been set up. Protesters have organized popular committees to protect the entrances, sweep the streets, and make collective decisions about living in the square.…
The sit-in began after issues that have been simmering for the past five months boiled over in the last few weeks, culminating in massive demonstrations across the country on July 8—the biggest protests since the Supreme Council came to power.
The anger and frustration began to escalate on June 26, when the trial of the much-reviled former interior minister, Habib Al-Adly, and six of his aides was postponed for a second time. The victims’ outraged family members gathered outside the courthouse and pelted police vehicles with rocks as they drove away. Two days later, clashes broke out between police and relatives of those killed in the uprising at an event honoring martyrs of the revolution. The clashes quickly spread to the Interior Ministry and Tahrir Square, where thousands of demonstrators had rushed in solidarity, and escalated into the largest street battles between security forces and protesters since Mubarak’s fall. Security forces used rubber bullets, birdshot, tear-gas canisters, as well as reportedly live ammunition, in some cases, against the demonstrators and taunted them, some while brandishing swords. Protesters fought back with rocks and Molotov cocktails, and more than 1,000 people were injured. The fierce clashes convinced many that the security apparatus remains unreformed.…
Less than a week later, clashes erupted at a Cairo courthouse after a judge ordered the release on bail of seven police officers accused of killing 17 protesters and wounding 300 others in the canal city of Suez—widely viewed as the symbolic heart of the revolution. The ruling touched off two days of rioting in Suez, with hundreds of people torching police cars and trying to storm government buildings.… Over the past five months, only one policeman has been convicted—in absentia—for the killing of protesters during the revolution, in which nearly 1,000 people were killed. Over the same time period, more than 10,000 civilians have been tried in military courts, where they are routinely denied access to lawyers and family and receive sentences ranging from a few months to five years.…
Despite the scale of the July 8 protests and the open sit-in, there was no immediate reaction from the Supreme Council. Instead, in what activists saw as another provocation, the military announced that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi had sworn in a new minister of information, the Wafd Party’s Osama Heikal. The Information Ministry has long been viewed as an integral part of the state propaganda apparatus, and many believed the position, which had not been filled for five months, would remain vacant.…
On July 9, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf vowed to suspend police officers accused of killing protesters and said a panel would be created to speed up court cases against them and those accused of corruption. However, that same evening, the interior minister, Maj. Gen. Mansour Essawi, publicly contradicted Sharaf’s statement and refused to suspend accused policemen.…
A July 12 televised address by the council’s Gen. Mohsen el Fangari…warned that Egypt was “facing a planned and organized attempt to disrupt the country’s domestic stability” and that the Supreme Council “will take any and every action to confront and stop the threats surrounding the country.” In a gesture much-derided by the protesters, Fangari repeatedly wagged his finger at the camera and insisted the military “will not give up its role in administering the country in such a critical time in the history of Egypt.”
The statement did not have the desired effect. That afternoon, in an impressive display of force, thousands marched out of Tahrir Square to the parliament building and the headquarters of the Cabinet of Ministers, which were being guarded by the military a few blocks away. Chanting loudly, they called for Tantawi to step down and blasted the Interior Ministry as thugs. In the evening, Tahrir had its most crowded night since the July 8 sit-in began, with thousands of people crowding the square until the early morning hours in defiance of the Supreme Council.…
The next day, Essawi announced the early retirement of 669 senior police officers in what he called “the biggest shake-up in the history of the police.” While it did not release their names, the Interior Ministry said 18 police generals and nine other senior officers were let go because they were accused of killing protesters in the uprising. In Tahrir, the move was largely viewed as a cosmetic change that did not properly address issues of accountability or a restructuring of the security forces.…
The Supreme Council also announced that parliamentary elections originally planned for September would be postponed until October or November. Many political groups had wanted to delay the poll to give them more time to prepare, and welcomed the move.…
Yet as the days go by, more tents are being set up in the square—numbering between 150 and 200—with no end in sight. Many point to a list of demands put forward by a large number of groups taking part in the sit-in. They include: banning the use of military trials again civilians and the immediate release of all those sentenced in such trials; establishing a special court to try those implicated in the killing of protesters and the immediate suspension all implicated police officers; replacing the interior minister with a civilian appointee and the declaration of a plan and timetable for the full restructuring of the Interior Ministry; replacing the prosecutor general; holding public trials for members of the ousted regime; and replacing the current budget with one that better responds to the basic demands of the poor.
During the 18-day uprising, a common chant that rang out in Tahrir was “The army and the people are one hand.” Five months later, a more frequent chant you hear is for Tantawi to step down and for military rule to end. Egypt’s revolution, it seems, is far from over.
EGYPT: BOUND TO EXPLODE?
Independent Media Review & Analysis, July 22, 2011
…Six months [after the Jan. 25 revolution began] the situation in Egypt has only worsened, not improved. Unemployment, which stood at 25% during Mubarak’s rule, has risen dramatically. It is now estimated at 50% or higher, i.e. one of every two wage earners does not have a steady job. The rise in unemployment stems primarily from the disappearance of the tourism industry. Millions of tourists had arrived each year and provided good income for hotel, restaurant and nightclub workers; for taxi and bus drivers; for souvenir and clothing manufacturers; for operators of Nile cruises.… Since the outbreak of the revolution, there are hardly any tourists and those millions of Egyptians who directly and indirectly benefited from such visitors have been without income for six months. Since the unemployed consume less food, clothing and services, many other branches of the economy have suffered from the domino effect of the downturn in tourism. Only a very few of the tens of thousands of Egyptians who are now completing their academic studies will find work.…
Hopes that the new government would clean up the corruption in the public sector have been dashed. Police officers suspected of fatally shooting protestors in January and February have not been suspended, interrogated or put on trial for their crimes. Even Mubarak, allegedly responsible for the shooting of demonstrators, is spending the last few months awaiting trial in a Sharm al-Sheikh hotel rather than in prison.…
The question that has occupied Egyptians this past month is what should come first: should constitutional change precede elections, or should such change be the responsibility of the parliament to be chosen in the next elections. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces resolved the question by deciding to hold elections first; however, they continue to be postponed and are now tentatively scheduled for November. The dozens of new parties will not have sufficient time to organize, giving an advantage to the established parties including the Muslim Brotherhood; the split in that movement, however, has already given birth to five parties and it is unclear if all of them will ultimately run separately.…
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is playing a critically important role. On the one hand, the army took a sympathetic approach towards the revolutionary youth and ousted Mubarak from power. On the other hand, the military undertook the difficult task of running the country during the transition; of restoring the public’s faith in the government corrupt bureaucracy, which has remained largely intact; of stabilizing the economy and of conducting democratic elections in which a president and two parliamentary houses—the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council—would be chosen to jointly establish a government. The public, primarily the young people of the revolution, have well understood this difficult task and have generally accepted the decisions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces over the last few months.
However, this past month has seen a turning point: the army increasingly operates as a ruling body and less as an organization assisting the people in achieving their goals. The public is growing less and less enamored of the Council of Armed Forces and is already waving signs in al-Tahrir Square along the lines of: “Down With the Council of the Armed Forces”; “Council of Armed Forces—Your Credit Has Run Out; “The Revolution Continues”; “Stop Military Trials for Civilians Now”. The names assigned to recent Fridays express the public’s rage at the situation—“Friday of Rage” and “Friday of Warning”—with everyone understanding at whom the rage and warnings are directed.
The above developments have been clearly reflected in the behavior of one of the members of the Council of Armed Forces, General Mohsen Fangary. From the beginning of the revolution on January 25th, he supported the rights of citizens to express their opinions peacefully, and has been very popular among the masses. Two weeks ago, on July 12th, he appeared on local and international media and, in a frightening and intimidating tone, read a statement issued by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces while waving his finger threateningly: “…The council will not relinquish its role during this critical period in Egypt’s history.… Freedom of expression is guaranteed to all, but only within the boundaries of the law. Elections will be the first step, after which the constitution will be drafted. The special courts (i.e. military courts) will not be abolished. The army will not allow violent protests or the obstruction of economic activity; it will not permit the spreading of rumors and misinformation which could lead to disunity, disobedience and the dismantling of the homeland; it will give precedence to the interests of the public over those of individuals. The council will not allow anyone to seize power and will take the necessary measures against threats to the homeland.”
Millions of Egyptians listened with great concern to this threatening announcement, which made it clear to them—from no less than the thundering voice of the popular General Fangary—that the period of hugs and flowers had ended.…
In the next few weeks or months, the [Egyptian] Spring is liable to turn into the Egyptian Summer—hot, steamy, violent and repulsive—in which the cat will be let out of the bag and the youth of Al Tahrir Square will realize that they have replaced one group of officers with another, that instead of Mubarak, they have Tantawi or Fangary, all cut from the same cloth. If conflict erupts, Heaven forefend, it will take place between the revolutionary youth and the army, which, this time, might fire massively at them.
The army may in the interim throw protesters some bones, such as a show trial for Mubarak (if he lives), his wife and sons, and the public might even get to see them swinging from a rope in al-Tahrir Square; aside from momentary joy, however, this will not calm the street. The standing of the Israeli embassy and the peace agreement with Israel might also be impacted, because the army may employ such a stratagem to douse the flames.
In the event of major clashes between the army and the population, many Egyptians are liable to try and reach Israel via Sinai and the open border. Israel must prepare for such a scenario so that it is not caught by surprise when thousands of Egyptians arrive daily, fleeing the cruelty of their army.
EGYPT’S FUNDAMENTALIST SUMMER
Sarah A. Topol
Slate, July 14, 2011
The lease on the gleaming new headquarters of the Nour Party in Mansoura, a large city in the fertile Nile delta 90 miles north of Cairo, was signed just last week, and chairs still in their plastic factory wrapping are stacked against the lime green walls. Seated in the conference room, Sherif Taha Hassan, the spokesman for the local branch of this ultraconservative Islamist party, is beaming as we discuss its chances for success in Egypt’s first parliamentary election since the revolution, tentatively scheduled for the fall. “There is a large Salafi base in Egyptian society. Once people figure out the goals of the party and its [Islamic] reference, they will come to join,” Hassan says, grinning.
Before this spring’s Egyptian revolution, Salafis—adherents to a fundamentalist approach to Islam influenced by Saudi Arabia—eschewed politics.…
Today, Nour is printing shiny blue fliers, hand-painting placards, organizing community outreach meetings, and setting up volunteer medical teams to go into villages to treat the impoverished, as well as offering reduced-price prescription drugs bearing the party’s logo at participating pharmacies, subsidized by Nour. The first Salafis in Egypt officially to register as a political party, Nour has already set up offices in 15 of the country’s 27 governorates, more than can be said for most of the fledgling liberal parties, who remain worried about organizing effective nationwide campaigns before the vote.…
Salafism is not a singular ideology with one leader; instead, it is a broad conservative movement that includes some extreme views. Salafis aspire to emulate the ways of the Prophet Muhammad’s seventh-century companions, known as the saluf. In Egypt, most Salafi schools of thought are influential in particular geographic areas—Nour in Alexandria, Al-Fadila (Virtue) in Cairo, for example—and the possibility of alliances of different sheiks across the country bringing supporters to each other’s campaigns may help all the Salafis at the ballot box.
The Salafis trying to form political parties have thus far stayed mostly neutral when it comes to controversial issues, but individual Salafi sheiks have made harsh statements to the Egyptian media denouncing the possibility of a Christian president and the right of women to assume positions of power.…
Whatever their numbers, the presence of vocal fundamentalist parties in the next parliament, which will be tasked with selecting the 100-member council that will be drafting Egypt’s new constitution, may well affect policy discussions in this already conservative country. “The Salafis could drag the parliamentary debate further to the right by setting the standard for ‘Islamic authenticity,’ saying that they represent the true voice of Islam,” says Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center.…
Eventually, Hammad concedes, the Nour Party will attempt to apply the whole of its fundamentalist understanding of Islam, which includes archaic punishments, like stoning adulterers and cutting off thieves’ hands. “But this is according to steps. This is not in one morning, that if I am the president of Egypt, I will come and cut off your hand,” Hammad tells me. First, the Nour Party plans to fix the problems of economic disparity in the country, to reduce the factors behind such crimes, then, yes, it will move on to punishment.…
It seems that a popular uprising started in large part by young, liberal, Facebook-savvy activists has brought new opportunities for Egypt’s ultraconservatives.
CAIRO’S CONSPIRACY PASTIME
Jerusalem Report, July 22, 2011
“We know the Israelis have spies here,” says Ahmad Sleiman as he carefully places his oranges in crates outside his fruit stand in the impoverished Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba. “So it’s logical to believe that Ilan Grapel was working for the Mossad,” he continues, as several of his customers nod in approval.
Across town in the equally rundown Shobra district, Muhammad Mustafa, a 51- year-old clothing retailer, echoes their fears. “The foreigners know we are weak now and the chance for destabilizing the country is high,” he says. “So we need to be extra careful these days after the revolution.…”
[Ilan] Grapel, 27, immigrated to Israel from the US in 2005 and was arrested at his hotel in Egypt on June 8, accused of inciting sectarian strife and gathering intelligence. The Emory University law school student came to Egypt to work with a non-governmental organization focused on helping African refugees, arriving before the February revolution that deposed Mubarak. He attended many of the rallies in Tahrir Square.…
Photos plucked from Grapel’s Facebook page show him dressed in olive fatigues, and were prominently featured on the front page of many Egyptian dailies, along with articles detailing his military service as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces’ 101st Battalion and his participation in the 2006 war in Lebanon against Hizballah. The media has listed the charges against Grapel, including claims that his mission was to deliberately foment tension between the protesters and the military during the 18-day revolution.
Al-Ahram, the leading daily under the Mubarak regime, alleged in an article that “Grapel is an integral part of the Mossad. He has experience and advanced training in the Mossad.…” Grapel’s family has denied the charges against him, with his mother Irene calling them “complete fabrications,” according to media reports. Despite the lack of substantive evidence, many in Egypt were quick to declare Grapel guilty. “The Israelis are always trying to pick up information in Egypt,” says Muhammad Asfour, a 42-year-old state employee. “Being a student provides a perfect cover to learn about the country.…”
The Grapel affair illustrates that Egypt’s transition to democracy is unlikely to reduce hostility toward Israel or to dispel beliefs that the Jewish state is responsible for many of Egypt’s woes. Furthermore, with an unbridled press publishing sensational accounts and new publications competing for readers, episodes such as the Grapel affair are likely to proliferate.
“Egyptians have been taught that Israel is the enemy. That won’t change,” explains a local journalist. “With no censor to moderate views, the media can say whatever they want. And that means writing the most outrageous things against Israel.”
Media-ocrity of the Week
“Charges of anti-Semitism are not new to Richard Falk. A former Princeton University professor of international law, Falk has been publishing intermittently on Palestinian self-determination and what he considers Israeli military misdeeds for the past four decades.… To call Falk a ‘self-hating Jew,’ however, would imply that Falk harbors a deep discomfort with his Jewish identity, and that this anguish manifests itself as anti-Semitism in his personal life and academic work. In reality, Falk told the Forward, his criticism of Israel is less a reflection of his Jewish identity than his posture as an American leftist, perennially dedicated to history’s underdogs—in his eyes, the Palestinians.… In 2008, Falk was elected by the U.N. Human Rights Council…to be the special rapporteur to the Palestinian territories. The council itself has been roundly criticized by the United States, among others, as a biased body that focuses disproportionately on Israel.… Several [critics] pointed to [Faulk’s] essay on the ‘Palestinian Holocaust’…as evidence that he could not be an impartial observer in the West Bank and Gaza. ‘Comparison between the Holocaust and Israel is simply beyond the pale of reasoned discourse. It belongs to that genre of hate speech that includes claims that blacks are racially inferior, that women enjoy being raped and that all gays are pedophiles,” wrote…Alan Dershowitz in a December 2008 article.… ‘No one who holds such views should ever be appointed to a position of trust and responsibility that requires fair judgment and an ability to distinguish truth from falsity.…”—Excerpts from a Forward article written by Naomi Zeveloff, entitled “U.N. Official Answers Questions About Fierce Criticism of Israel,” which attempts to explain Richard Falk’s disgraceful anti-Israelism, which recently led the UN special rapporteur to “Palestine” to post a cartoon on his blog depicting “a [yarmulke- and Star of David-clad] dog chewing on a pile of human bones while lifting his leg to relieve himself on Lady Justice.” (Forward, July 21.)
“Long after the political tussles of this year’s federal election have been forgotten, Jack Layton’s courage and grace in leading his party when he was suffering from cancer will be recalled, and will inspire.… In his obvious love of politics, Mr. Layton is a match for any other leader. It comes across as an expression of love of life, which is why, perhaps, Canadians feel they know Mr. Layton in a way they may not know other political leaders. And it is why his illness is a reminder that, in a democracy, what unites us is much more important than disagreements over policies.… When he said on Monday he will step aside until September, to focus on his fight [against cancer], he was like one of those hockey players, one of the very grittiest, who is knocked down and is struggling to rise, and the announcer says, ‘If he’s down, you know he’s hurting real bad.’ All Canadians stand behind him in hoping he is back in September, or at some later date, to lead his party again.…”—Excerpts from a Globe & Mail editorial, entitled “The Personification of Courage and Grace,” describing NDP Party leader Jack Layton’s courageous battle against cancer [Layton’s New Democratic Party displaced the Liberals as the formal Parliamentary opposition in Canada’s recent federal election].The Canadian Institute for Jewish Research wishes Mr. Layton a full and speedy recovery. (Globe & Mail, July 26.)
“Khaled Mouammar, President of the Canadian Arab Federation, has always had some fairly unhinged attitudes toward Israel. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that he is now distributing an article with the subject line “Possible Israeli Connection to Oslo Attacks.” The article—which appeared on the anti-Semitic (and occasionally Holocaust-denying) web site www.veteranstoday.com—concludes as follows: ‘Increasingly, it looks like [the] Mossad’s fingerprints are all over [the Norway killings].… Massive car bombs are one of their specialties. They’re experts at these type operations, using convenient stooges for plausible deniability, usually without their knowledge. Spread the word, and keep the pressure on Israel and its Washington paymaster/partner, masters of mass murder crimes.”—Excerpts from a Jonathan Kay article, entitled “President of Canadian Arab Federation spreads conspiracy theory that Norway attack was Israel’s handiwork,” describing an article written and distributed by Khaled Mouammar, president of the Canadian Arab Federation.(National Post, July 26.)
“We are going to the United Nations because we are forced to, it is not a unilateral action. We have not been able to return to negotiations.… Our first, second and third choice is to return to negotiations.”—Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki, at a gathering attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, blaming the current “peace process” impasse on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “refusal to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 borders and to stop settlement [construction];” this despite the fact that Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly called for “direct negotiations without preconditions” and stopped “settlements” for ten months. As recently as last week, in an interview with Al-Arabiya, Netanyahu affirmed: “I’m prepared to negotiate with [Palestinian Authority] President Abbas directly for peace between our two peoples right now. We can do it here in my home in Jerusalem, we can do it in Ramallah, we can do it anywhere.” (Independent Media Review and Analysis, July 21.)
“Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is upping the ante in the spat he precipitated with Israel about the Mavi Marmara last year. On Saturday, Erdogan issued an ultimatum that should the Israeli government not apologize by Wednesday for stopping the Turkish ship…Turkey will implement its ‘Plan B’ that might include an Erdogan state visit to Hamas-controlled Gaza.… Let’s hope Jerusalem does not buckle to Ankara’s threats. First, Erdogan’s demand that Israel apologize to Turkey is analogous to a burglar demanding compensation for being cut by broken glass during a break-in. Second, Israel’s willingness to consider concessions simply encourages the [U.S.] State Department and the European Union to demand further concessions.… Enhancing the irony of the current situation is Turkey’s willingness to engage uncritically with Hamas while at the same time loading its dialogue with Israel and, for that matter, many American Jews with demands. According to two separate sources in Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, the Turkish embassy in Washington maintains a blacklist of certain Jews with whom not to engage. The implication Erdogan and Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan make: Hamas terrorists are okay no matter how violent, but for Turkey, Jews are verboten.”—Excerpts from a Michael Rubin article, entitled “Turkey Threatens Israel,” describing Turkey’s hypocrisy in demanding that Israel apologize for last year’s Mavi Maramara incident prior to normalizing bilateral relations with the Jewish state. (Contentions, July 25.)
“It’s a done deal for us.”—Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon, Wu Zexian, in a statement following a meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, reiterating China’s recognition of a Palestinian state, first expressed when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was stationed in Tunis. China was among the first countries to recognize “Palestine” and immediately assigned an ambassador to the “state” when the PLO moved to the West Bank. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, July 25.)
“Flotilla Folk want to be human rights heroes without really putting themselves in harm’s way. So they don’t go to help the victims of the brutal regimes in Syria, Iran, the Congo or Darfur. Instead, they choose to fight Israel because they know it strictly follows Western humanitarian standards and the rule of law. They get to pretend they are brave warriors, when in fact, they are only play-acting on a safe stage.… Flotilla Folk share a basic philosophy: They believe that the way to bring peace to the Middle East is through acts of civil disobedience that will get media attention, not through encouraging negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. They aren’t like ordinary people. They think it is okay to ignore terrorism against Israelis, to overlook the 8,000 rockets Hamas has fired from Gaza into Israeli communities over the past five years, turning everyday life into a lethal game of Russian roulette. They think it is okay to ignore the fact that Hamas is an Iranian proxy, and that Hamas’s founding document calls for the murder of Jews, the “obliteration” of Israel and its replacement with a fundamentalist theocracy that opposes all the freedoms and social justice values for which the Flotilla Folk claim to stand.… And they act as though it is okay to ignore the hate-filled incitement that saturates Palestinian society.… Fortunately, international leaders…in Greece exposed the hypocrisy of the Flotilla Folk and their false pretenses, and stopped them.…”—Excerpts from an article co-written by Roth Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, entitled “What do ‘Flotilla Folk’ do?”, exposing the double standards of flotilla “activists,” who condemn democratic Israel while ignoring the crimes against humanity committed by the Hamas and other terrorist organizations. (Jerusalem Post, July 25.)
“The main, immediate beneficiaries of what is known as the ‘Arab spring’ are Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. The riots in Egypt and the removal of Mubarak and his associates from power prompted two developments: First, the Muslim Brotherhood is no longer an underground movement and has become an important, influential political element. The group’s influence prompted Egypt’s government to… virtually suspended its battle against smuggling from Rafah to the Strip. Simultaneously, Egyptian security forces preoccupied with domestic developments completely lost their hold on the Sinai Peninsula. Some 300,000 Bedouins belonging to four or five large tribes are now the Sinai’s true rulers. These tribes’ main income is based on smuggling…and they quickly exploited the security vacuum in the peninsula in the wake of the revolution. As result of these developments, arms shipments to the Strip have been surging in recent months.… Hamas and Islamic Jihad hold thousands of mid-range Grad rockets, and a few heavy Fajr rockets that have a range of some 65 kilometers (roughly 40 miles) and can reach the outskirts of Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv.…”—Excerpts from a Ynet News editorial, entitled “Growing Threat in Gaza,” describing the massive build-up of arms in the Gaza Strip by jihadist terrorist organizations following the ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. (Ynet News, July 21.)
“This is a very terrible development. It was usual to hear this from the Mubarak regime because the elections were always fraudulent. [This] raises serious questions about the credibility of the coming election.”—Bahey El Din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, responding to the decision taken by Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military junta presently ruling the country, to ban international observers for the first elections of the post-Mubarak era. Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Shahin, the council’s legislative adviser, said the ban was implemented on the grounds of national sovereignty.(Christian Science Monitor, July 21.)
“During the 2008 campaign and throughout the subsequent debate over his health care legislation, President Obama used his mother’s experience as a cancer patient fighting to get coverage to pay for treatment for what her insurer said was a pre-existing condition as an emotional argument to sway skeptics. However, a new book by New York Times reporter Janny Scott has revealed this story appears to be a fabrication. The Times reports (in a story buried on page 14 rather than on the front page) that during the course of researching her book, ‘A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,’ Scott uncovered correspondence showing ‘the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument.’ In response to inquiries, ‘a White House spokesman chose not to dispute either Ms. Scott’s account or Mr. Obama’s memory, while arguing that Mr. Obama’s broader point remained salient.’”—Excerpts from a Jonathan S. Tobin article, entitled “Obama Lied About Mother’s Health Insurance Problem,” describing the U.S. president’s express willingness to lie about his mother’s fight against cancer to achieve political gains. (Contentions, July 14.)
“I had the privilege of serving in the IDF as an officer and a fighter, but I am not a hero. I never stopped a tank with a Molotov cocktail, and I did not fight empty-handed in alleys and the sewage pipes.… Those with the courage to fight the evil Nazi empire are the real heroes. From the time of the State of Israel’s establishment, our fighters have been inspired by those who dared to rebel in the heart of the Nazi empire at the height of its power.”—Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, at a ceremony honoring the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, praising the courage and heroism of those who rose up against the Nazis, in a “rebellion [that] put fear in the hearts of SS soldiers, who hesitated to walk the streets of Warsaw.” (Jerusalem Post, July 27.)
INTEL REPORT SAYS IRANIAN PRESIDENT WANTS TO DEVELOP NUCLEAR ARMS OPENLY—(Vienna) According to a recent U.S. intelligence assessment, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to forge ahead openly with developing nuclear weapons, but is opposed by Supreme Leader Khomenei, who is concerned about international reaction to such a move. Fueling the speculation is a comment made by Ahmadinejad last month: “If we want to make a bomb, we are not afraid of anybody.” According to the security report, Ahmadinejad is pushing “to shake free of the restraints Iran has imposed upon itself, and openly push forward to create a nuclear bomb.” However Khamenei, who has the final word on nuclear and other issues, “wants to progress using secret channels, due to concern about a severe response from the West.” (Washington Post, July 22.)
AHMADINEJAD THREATENS TO SEND US, ISRAEL ‘TO THE MORGUE’—(Tehran) Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened to destroy the United States and Israel if put on the defensive. “Resistance will continue until Iran sends its enemies to the morgue,” he said on his website, making a reference to the US and Israel who he said are “on the verge of collapse and gasping for their last breathes.”Ahmadinejad was reacting to news from Iranian state media that Islamic Republic illegally brought down a U.S. “spy drone” flying near its Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in Qom province.Iran, Ahmadinejad said, “is the region’s greatest military power.” (AKI, July 20.)
US REPORT WARNS OF AL-QAIDA TERROR THREAT TO UTILITY PLANTS—(Jerusalem) According to a recently released U.S. intelligence report, al-Qaida is planning a massive attack on a major U.S. utility facility. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report warns that violent extremists have obtained insider positions and are planning physical and cyber attacks at a major facility, including a chemical or oil refinery. Although the US State Department says no specific threat exists, materials recovered during the operation that killed Osama bin Laden in May suggest that al-Qaida seeks to carry out an attack on or around the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. (Jerusalem Post, July 21.)
US PAYING SALARIES FOR JAILED PALESTINIAN TERRORISTS—(Jerusalem) According to a Palestinian Media Watch report presented to the US congress in Washington this week, the Palestinian Authority allocates more than $5 million a month in US government funds to pay terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons. The report says the average monthly salary for terrorist prisoners is NIS 3,129 a month, more than the average monthly wage for a PA civil servant. According to the study, such payments contravene US law that prohibits funding of any person who “engages in, or has engaged in terrorist activity.” The US provided some $600 million to the PA in 2010. (Jerusalem Post, July 26.)
REPORT FINDS VAST WASTE IN U.S. WAR CONTRACTS—(Washington) According to a draft report by a bipartisan congressional panel, the U.S. has wasted or misspent $34 billion contracting for services in Iraq and Afghanistan. The three-year investigation comes from the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was established by Congress in 2008. Its final report lays out in detail the failure of federal agencies to properly manage and oversee grants and contracts set to exceed a total of $206 billion by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The report warns that the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops and assistance poses the risk of “massive new wastes of money,” because both the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan may be poorly prepared to manage projects funded with U.S. taxpayer funds. The U.S. government’s controversial reliance on private security contractors is another focus of the commission; the report says the inappropriate use of contract security has at times inadvertently undermined the aims of U.S. foreign policy. (Wall Street Journal, July 23.)
PA SUMMER CAMP SPONSORED BY FAYYAD NAMES CHILDREN’S GROUPS AFTER TERRORISTS—(Jerusalem) A Palestinian Authority summer camp for children has divided its campers into three groups named after the terrorists Dalal Mughrabi, Salah Khalaf and Abu Ali Mustafa. Dalal Mughrabi in 1978 led the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history, in which 37 civilians were killed, 12 of them children. Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) was the head of the Black September terror group, which perpetrated many terror attacks including the murder of two American diplomats, as well as the murder of 11 Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympics in 1972. Abu Ali Mustafa, who was the General Secretary of the terror organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), planned numerous terror attacks against Israeli civilians during the Intifada. The summer camp is being held under the auspices of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who recently visited the camp. (Palestinian Media Watch, July 21.)
HAMAS EXECUTES TWO GAZANS AS SPIES FOR ISRAEL—(Gaza) Gaza’s Hamas government has executed a Palestinian father and son convicted of spying for Israel in defiance of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who by law has final say in implementing such rulings. Hamas officials said the men had confessed to providing the IDF with intelligence that helped them track down Palestinians, including Hamas chief Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, who was killed in a 2004 air strike on his car. Human rights groups have criticized Hamas executions, which are permitted under Palestinian law but require Abbas’s approval. (Reuters, July 26.)
JUNE 2011 REPORT ON HUMANITARIAN AND CIVILIAN ACTIVITIES IN GAZA—(Jerusalem) The Israeli government, in conjunction with the IDF, coordinated in June the delivery of 4,795 trucks of humanitarian aid and development assistance to the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, containing 118,651 tons of food, fuel and other products such as construction materials, agricultural products, textiles, cooking gas, and vehicles. Furthermore, 3,894 permits were issued last month to Palestinians allowing them to pass through the Erez border crossing into Israel; 1,634 permits were issued for medical cases enabling Palestinians to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals. As well, thirty-three new development projects in Gaza were approved in June, including the construction of new schools, housing units and road projects. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, July 12.)
REBEL CHIEF SAYS GADHAFI, FAMILY CAN STAY IN LIBYA—(Zintan, Libya) Libyan chairman of the rebels’ Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, has affirmed that Col. Moammar Gadhafi and his family can remain in Libya as part of a political solution to the five-month-old conflict, provided Gadhafi gives up power and leaders of the opposition can determine where in Libya and under what conditions he resides. Mr. Jalil’s offer appears to be a significant reversal for the leader, and echoes comments made by U.S., Italian and French officials in recent days to the same effect. The softening of Mr. Jalil’s position toward Col. Gadhafi and his family comes as rebels step up military preparations for a resumed push on Gadhafi’s forces along multiple fronts and the NATO powers are clearly tiring of the ongoing stalemate. (Wall Street Journal, July 25.)
DAMASCUS TO ALLOW ORGANIZED OPPOSITION—(Damascus) Syria’s cabinet has endorsed a draft law allowing new political parties to operate, reversing a decades-old ban on organized political opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s ruling Baath party. However, analysts in Damascus say the law is undermined by various restrictions and the continued constitutional provision that stipulates the Baath party is the leading party in “state and society.” Endorsement of the draft law holds the potential to open up Syria’s political system, but the violence against antigovernment protests for more than four months has elevated protesters’ demands for change. Protests are expected to intensify in the Muslim month of Ramadan, which is due to start next Monday. (Wall Street Journal, July 26.)
ASHKENAZI JEWS RANK SMARTEST IN WORLD—(Jerusalem) According to a study performed by Cambridge University, entitled “From Chance to Choice: Genetic and Justice,” Ashkenazi Jews, with a median IQ of 117, are the most intelligent cohort in the world, ranking 10 points higher than the second-ranked group from Northeast Asia, and 20% higher than the global average.According to USA Today, “Ashkenazi Jews comprise 2.2% of the U.S. population, but represent 30% of faculty at elite colleges, 21% of Ivy League students, 25% of the Turing Award winners, 23% of the wealthiest Americans, and 38% of the Oscar-winning film directors.” Furthermore, the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies estimates that “Since 1950, 29% of the Oslo awards [Nobel Prizes] have gone to Ashkenazim, even though they represent only 0.25% of humanity. Ashkenazi achievement in this arena is 117 times greater than their population.” (Ynet News, July 23.)
“It is nearly two days since Norway was hit by the worst atrocity it has seen since the Second World War. On Utoeya, and in Oslo.
It seems like an eternity.
These have been hours, days and nights filled with shock, despair, anger and weeping. Today is a day for mourning. Today, we will allow ourselves to pause. Remember the dead.… 92 lives have been lost.… Every single death is a tragedy. Together they add up to a national tragedy.…
Amidst all this tragedy, I am proud to live in a country that has managed to hold its head up high at a critical time. I have been impressed by the dignity, compassion and resolve I have met. We are a small country, but a proud people.…
I would like to say to the families all over the country who have lost one of their loved ones: You have my and the whole of Norway’s deepest sympathy for your loss. Not only that. The whole world shares your sorrow.…”—Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, consoling the people of his country following the horrific terrorist attack that took the lives of at least 92 people. (Office of the Prime Minister of Norway, July 24.)
FROM NORWAY TO HELL
Walter Russell Mead
American Interest, July 25, 2011
The ghastly, shocking news from Norway has stunned the whole world. Empathy for the young victims and their families, horror at the cold blooded and deliberate evil behind this act, and fearful wonder at the depths of madness it reveals are all joined together.… To respond to events of this kind is a challenge. The tragedy is so great that anything but silence seems to cheapen the suffering, but it also demand some kind of response.
There are some trying to draw some political conclusion about left and right from the massacre; I would like to go deeper. This tragedy doesn’t just speak to the state of cultural politics in our time, or remind us (as it surely does) that evil has a home in every human culture and human heart; it challenges some of our deepest beliefs about where the world is headed.
The tragedy in Norway is among many other things an important reminder that much of we want to believe about history is plain wrong. In particular, it reminds us that the most cherished American illusion, the form of historically determinist optimism often called “whig history,” is a delusion and a snare.
There is no principle so deeply engrained in American social science as the idea that moral and economic progress go hand in hand. “Democratic peace theory”, the species of quackery that posits that democracies don’t go to war with each other, is one form of this. So is the idea that the achievement of a certain level of affluence constitutes a “democratic threshold” and that once societies pass this point they quickly evolve into stable and peaceful societies. “McDonald’s peace theory”, the (factually wrong) claim that two countries with golden arches won’t fight is based on the synthesis of these two ideas: if you are rich enough to support hamburger joints you are so rich that democracy is certain. And with democracy comes, inevitably, peace.…
Both the existence of Anders Breivik and the amount of havoc he was able to wreak strongly indicate that all this is a crock. Norway has had McDonald’s for a long time. It is one of the most peaceful, most affluent and most democratic places on earth. It has reindeer; it has the midnight sun. It has fjords. It has oil and gas. It is so rich it can afford to stay out of the European Union.
Yet even in Norway the dark old hatreds and fears are at work. Even in Norway the culture of hatred can throw up mass murder. Even in Norway the fruits of affluence and democracy (which I like very much) do not exorcise the demonic forces that are present in the human heart. And even in Norway, modern technology endows a single individual…with unprecedented power to destroy.
Details are still coming out, but it appears that Breivik acted alone. Certainly there is no mass political party that shares his views. There has always been a nasty strain of hatred in Norway; not only does the name ‘quisling’ come from the enthusiastic puppet ruler of Norway during the German occupation, but Norway’s Nobel prize-winning novelist Knut Hamsun was a pig of a Nazi as well. (After Hitler’s death a grief-stricken Hamsun eulogized him as “a prophet of the gospel of justice for all nations.”) Twenty years ago I spent several weeks driving through Norway and heard a lot of fear (and in some cases hatred) directed towards Muslim immigrants. Nevertheless, there is no substantial neo-Nazi party in Norway and by and large it remains one of the world’s more tolerant and outward looking countries. Breivik doesn’t herald an era of fascism in Norway, but he demonstrates the persistence of the dark forces that modernization (democracy plus affluence) was supposed to cure.…
Modernization is not just more golden arches and more bloggers. It is also about accelerating social change. Capitalism drives technological change and technological change feeds on itself the more of it we have, the more we get.… But here’s a catch: that technological change also drives social change. Factories move to China. Immigrants move to Norway bringing strange ideas. The social welfare states of western Europe creak under the strain.
This accelerating, unpredictable and destabilizing change can cause individuals and social groups to become unhinged: to lose their way in the confusion and mystery of modern life. Blue collar factory workers lose their jobs by the millions; some adapt, some endure, a few go postal. The upper middle class feels the earth shake beneath its feet as old certainties are challenged and old ways of making a living cease to work. Most go about their business; some, like Ted Kaczynski, flip out to the Dark Side.
When a whole society is stressed by more change than it knows what to do with, the Dark Side gets crowded. People flip out in sects and groups rather than one by one. We see that in many Muslim countries today where the appeal of terrorists is strengthened by a pervasive sense of social frustration. Sometimes whole countries and whole nationalities flip. We saw it in the Bolshevik madness in Russia, the Fascist epidemic that swept Europe in the 1920s and 1930s; we saw it in Iran in 1979. The Serbs and the Hutus went over the edge in the 1990s.…
The inescapable reality is that the very forces creating our affluent, modern and democratic world also generate violent antagonism. Breivik, like Al-Qaeda and like Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber, is the shadow of progress. When conditions are right, the lone psychopath becomes a cult leader; in a perfect storm when everything breaks his way, the psychopath becomes Fuehrer.
That would be bad enough, but there’s one more turn of the screw. The same technological progress that helps create violent alienation and rage also empowers individuals and groups. 200 years ago a Breivik could not have done so much damage. 100 years ago Al-Qaeda could not have hijacked a plane. Modern society is more vulnerable than ever before to acts of terror, and developments in weaponry place ever greater power in the hands of ever smaller numbers of people.…
We can be reasonably confident that an increasingly chaotic and stressful 21st century will generate more bitter nutjobs and place more destructive power in their hands. Democracy and affluence won’t cure it; the same forces that raise those golden arches build bombs to knock them down.
To say all this is not to buy into the case for gloom. Armageddon is no more inevitable in the next century than utopia at least as far as human beings can discern. The extraordinary scientific and technological flowering of the last few hundred years could lead us to either destination, to neither, or to some kind of intermediate zone marked by elements of both.… The only conclusion that makes sense is that human beings are stuck in a condition of radical uncertainty. Something big and earth shaking is going on around us, but the information we have does not allow us to predict where it all goes.…
INSIDE THE MIND OF THE OSLO MURDERER
Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2011
When bombs exploded [last] Friday in a compound of government office buildings in the heart of Oslo, I assumed, as did pretty much everyone, that the perpetrators were Islamic terrorists. But over the course of the day—as the bombings were overshadowed by the gunning down of dozens of young people at a Labor Party youth camp on a nearby island, Utoeya—it emerged that these atrocities were not the work of an international jihadist organization. Instead, the perpetrator was a 32-year-old Oslo native named Anders Behring Breivik. He was motivated by a hostility to multicultural policies that, in his view, are leading his country down the path to Islamization. His response was a murderous rampage that has taken the lives of at least 92 people.
It came as stunning news that Norway had been attacked by a blond, blue-eyed, anti-Islamic terrorist. It should not have been: Several of us who have written about the rise of Islam in Europe have warned that the failure of mainstream political leaders to responsibly address the attendant challenges would result in the emergence of extremists like Breivik.…
On Saturday came news of a 1,500-page manifesto, entitled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” that Breivik had recently written and posted online. The first half, in which he indicts the European cultural elite for permitting Islam to take root in Europe, makes it clear that he is both highly intelligent and very well read in European history and the history of modern ideas. In the second half he describes himself as having revived the Knights Templar. He also outlines in extreme detail how he and his fellow anti-jihadists can acquire weapons, ammunition and body armor and thereupon proceed to use “terror as a method for waking up the masses” to the danger posed by Islam. This makes it clear he is completely insane.…
During the hours when I thought that Oslo had been attacked by jihadists, I wept for the city that has been my home for many years. And I hoped Norwegian leaders would respond to this act of violence by taking a more responsible approach to the problems they face in connection with Islam. When it emerged that these acts of terror were the work of a native Norwegian who thought he was striking a blow against jihadism and its enablers, it was immediately clear to me that his violence will deal a heavy blow to an urgent cause.
Norway, like the rest of Europe, is in serious trouble. Millions of European Muslims live in rigidly patriarchal families in rapidly growing enclaves where women are second-class citizens, and where non-Muslims dare not venture. Surveys show that an unsettling percentage of Muslims in Europe reject Western values, despise the countries they live in, support the execution of homosexuals, and want to replace democracy with Shariah law. (According to a poll conducted by the Telegraph, 40% of British Muslims want Shariah implemented in predominantly Muslim parts of the United Kingdom.)
Muslim gay-bashing is driving gays out of Amsterdam. Muslim Jew-bashing is driving Jews out of Gothenburg, Sweden. And let’s not forget about the shameful trials of politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and historian Lars Hedegaard in Denmark, which demonstrate how the fear of Muslim wrath is squelching the freedom of speech of those who dare to criticize Islam.
There is reason to be deeply concerned about all these things, and to want to see them addressed forcefully by government leaders who care about the preservation of individual liberty and human rights. But this cause has been seriously damaged by Anders Behring Breivik.
In Norway, to speak negatively about any aspect of the Muslim faith has always been a touchy matter, inviting charges of “Islamophobia” and racism. It will, I fear, be a great deal more difficult to broach these issues now that this murderous madman has become the poster boy for the criticism of Islam.
UNDERSTANDING THE NORWAY MASSACRE
John R. Guardiano
American Spectator, July 25, 2011
Is 32-year-old Norwegian murder suspect Aders Behring Breivik a “Christian extremist”? The New York Times thinks so. “As Horrors Emerge, Norway Charges Christian Extremist,” declared the Times in its Sunday print edition. The online version of the Times, likewise, asserted (on Saturday), “Christian Extremist Is Charged in Norway.”
The Times has since changed its online headline to read: “Right-Wing Extremist Is Charged in Norway.” That’s better, but still not quite right. The problem is this: There is no “Christian extremist” movement in the way that there is an Islamist or “Islamic extremist” movement. There are bad Christians, to be sure; but they have no modern-day intellectual and political movement that supports and sustains them—modern-day Islamists, or Islamic extremists, do.
Osama bin Laden, after all, founded al-Qaeda for the express purpose of waging war against the West—and not only the West: As we learned in Iraq, al-Qaeda militants also target and kill other Muslims who dare to dissent from its extreme and intolerant views. Hamas and Hezbollah perform a similar role in Gaza and Lebanon, respectively. And a deep-seated hostility toward Christians and Jews is inculcated in many Islamic Madrasahs worldwide.
There is today no Christian counterpart to al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. Despite whatever historical failings you might attribute to Christianity, there is no active “Christian extremist” movement that preaches violence against non-Christians.… Moreover, there is no reason to think that Breivik acted out of religious conviction or deep theological belief. What church did he belong to? Insofar as I can tell, we don’t even know if he belonged to a church, let alone that he attended church.
“A Facebook page and Twitter account,” reports the Times, “were set up under his name days before the rampage, suggesting a conscious effort to construct a public persona and leave a legacy for others. The Facebook page cites philosophers like Machiavelli, Kant and John Stuart Mill. His lone Twitter post, while not calling for violence, paraphrased Mill and suggested what he saw as his will to act: ‘One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.’”
Given the apparent influence of Mill, the Times could just as easily have written—and with far more justification, it seems to me—since Breivik specifically referenced Mill—“Classical Liberal Extremist is Charged in Norway.” But of course that would be ludicrous and nonsensical. Breivik’s murder spree did not result from classical liberal influences any more than it resulted from Christian influences: It resulted from his own evil and twisted mind.
In fact, it would be wrong…to impugn any religion and any political ideology because of Breivik’s crimes.… Although Breivik describes himself as the “Justiciar Knight Commander for [the] Knights Templar Europe,” he has no apparent ties to the “Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE)” movement. “He has never been in contact with us and he has never given us any advice,” SIOE founder Anders Gravers told Reuters.… Breivik, [also] references numerous nationalist, anti-immigration parties as potential allies in his struggle to “defeat Islamisation [and] halt/reverse the Islamic colonization of Western Europe.” But all of these parties seem to him to be insufficiently bold and courageous.…
So while Breivik clearly believes himself to be at the vanguard of a worldwide Christian (and Jewish) movement to stop Islamic “demographic warfare (indirect genocide),” he is, in truth, a politically isolated sociopath. There is no religious, intellectual and political movement that supports and sustains him.
The same thing cannot be said, unfortunately, of modern-day Islamists, who, in clear contradistinction to “Christian” and “right-wing” extremists, do have an extensive network of radical Imams, Madrasahs and extremist teachings to guide and inspire them.… Yes, Breivik harbors extreme anti-Islam political views; but none of his apparent political and philosophical influences—and certainly not Machiavelli, Kant and John Stuart Mill (!)—provide him with a justification or rationalization to commit mass murder.…
If only we could say the same about al Qaeda and other Islamists: The world, then, would be a much better, safer and far more peaceful place.
Daniel Greenfield Blog, July 23, 2011
The tragic events in Norway should be a wake up call to the authorities, not to the dangers of so-called “Right-Wing Extremism”, but to the very real dangers of marginalizing a political opposition and a point of view to the extent that they have nowhere to go but underground.
The response to the attacks by the Norwegian press and the incitement against the right of center dooms the repetition of this same cycle of violence in which views are driven underground, where they simmer into real extremism and then explode. The easy and simple way to diffuse this cycle…is to reach out and create safe spaces for freedom of speech even for the most disagreeable views.
European liberals often boast of keeping a tighter lid on extremism than America, with tighter curbs on free speech, but the current tragedy is yet another reminder that this lid is counterproductive. Suppressing a legitimate opposition only leads to the rise of an illegitimate opposition. Shutting down ideas you don’t like brings back those same ideas, only heavily armed.
Democracy only works as a stabilizer when it is actually democratic. But the European left often uses the word to distinguish legitimate views from illegitimate ones. This is a misuse and perversion of what a democratic society is. It is not a place where only your views are freely represented, but where all views are represented. An open society is a safety valve. It keeps people from turning to violence because they have peaceful alternatives.…
The outbursts of political violence in Norway and Sweden—countries which have become notorious for suppressing right of center free speech—should be a sign that change is necessary. The authorities may be tempted to once again reach for the club, but they might consider trying the bullhorn of free speech instead. Police powers are tempting when you have them at your disposal, but when it comes to dealing with political dissent, they only exacerbate the problem. And if the opposition ever comes to power, it leaves the club in their hands.
The American, European and Israeli left all tend to respond to political violence with verbal violence, campaigns of hate and incitement that blanket everyone to the right of them as extremists. And there is no surer way to create a self-fulfilling prophecy than to broadcast over and over again the message that anyone who disagrees with you is liable to turn to violence. Especially when such a hate campaign is aimed at silencing that opposition.…
The very act of suppressing ideas is extremist. And it leads to oppositional extremism.… If the Norwegian authorities really wish to work for a safer society, they will reach out to create an environment where political activism and speech is protected. But unfortunately all signs are that they remain committed to the same disastrous state of affairs. And the tragedy that occurred can be laid at the feet of this obstinate clinging to the tools of power, while avoiding the means of engagement.…
The best memorial for a tragedy is to understand why it happened and how to prevent it in the future. Domestic political unrest arises not from external factors, as is the case with Islamic terrorism, but from internal ones. Healing a country begins with healing its fractures. And the only way to begin the healing is to open a dialogue on freedom of speech.
THE ANTI-ISRAEL AGENDA PREVAILS
Jerusalem Post, June 20, 2011
On Friday at 6 p.m. the Obama administration promise to fix the disreputable UN Human Rights Council by becoming a member died a predictable death at the UN General Assembly. Knowing they were headed for certain defeat, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, Esther Brimmer, spoke to a Washington institute touting the President’s “reform” accomplishments from inside the UN’s top human rights body. And her whitewash was supplemented at the end of the week by a barrage of statements and press releases from the State Department. None of it passes House Speaker John Boehner’s “straight-face test” for Obama’s foreign policy.
While the GA was nailing the coffin shut on council reform in New York, the council itself was wrapping up its latest session in Geneva with its usual systematic efforts to demonize the State of Israel. Though Brimmer’s speech included a disingenuous declaration that US membership in the council was especially beneficial for Israel, Friday’s events will solidify the growing perception of the president’s dangerous disinterest in Israel’s welfare.
The council was the “reformed” version of the UN Human Rights Commission, which once flaunted a Libyan chair.…
From the day it began, the [current] council has proved to be even worse than its predecessor. Sitting in judgment on human rights violations worldwide are such luminaries as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. Member Libya had no difficulty being elected, and its suspension didn’t occur until March of this year, when the numbers of dead finally proved too embarrassing. But throwing women in jail for driving, outlawing freedom of religion, rendering homosexuality a capital offense and periodically cutting off heads haven’t made a dent in Saudi membership.…
Council members [following the most recent HRC election have] adopted a fixed agenda of only a few items to govern their proceedings. One item is devoted to Israel alone and one to all other 191 UN member states. The Human Rights Commission spent 40 years adopting country-specific criticisms, a third of which condemned Israel. Fifty percent of the “reformed” council’s country-specific resolutions and decisions are devoted to Israel-bashing. There have been 12 special sessions in the last five years, and half of them have been on Israel alone. There has been only one “urgent debate” on a country—Israel. There have been more human rights reports commissioned on Israel than on any other state. And only one country is not allowed even to attend the lobbying and information-sharing regional meetings associated with the council sessions—Israel—while “Palestine” is invited to all of them.
Rather than discredit a body that calls itself a human rights authority but reeks of discrimination, and is tasked with promoting tolerance but provides a global platform for hate-mongering, Obama decided to give it American credibility and taxpayer dollars. His No. 1 excuse was the promise to reform it from the inside.…
On Friday, those promises were shown to be utterly fraudulent. Every major recommendation that American negotiators made over a process spanning many months, including instituting membership criteria and changing the discriminatory anti-Israel agenda, was rejected. Only four states voted in the GA against the outcome of the non-reform reform: Israel, the United States, Canada and Palau.…
The council majority is held by a combination of two regional groups—African and Asian—and OIC members are the majority on both of these groups, thus giving them the balance of power.
The consequences of this political landscape were reinforced by Friday’s events at the council session in Geneva. The council wrapped up its latest session by adopting one more resolution on Israel—this time about the eight Turkish extremists killed a year ago trying to ram a legal blockade of terrorist-run Gaza. There was no resolution on Syria—further condemnation by the council was put off until next session, three months away. And nothing from the council on Yemen, on account of insufficient data.…
According to the Obama administration, however, the current US approach to the UN is supposedly good for Israel. In Brimmer’s words, the council has “improved as the result of direct US engagement. If we cede ground, if our engagement in the UN system is restricted—these bodies likely would be dominated by our adversaries. A scenario…not good for the United States and certainly not for Israel.”
The Obama line about knowing what is in Israel’s best interests is beginning to wear very thin. The council’s vote on the flotilla resolution was 36 for, eight abstentions and one against—the United States. US membership has made no difference to the outcomes on Israel. But it has given those outcomes a credibility that they don’t deserve.
After Friday’s GA vote, Obama diplomat John Sammis labeled the council’s “effectiveness and legitimacy” as “compromised,” called its agenda “unfair and unbalanced,” and said its membership policy “discredits, dishonors and diminishes” the body. Talk is cheap. The decent thing for the US to do after finally coming to such a conclusion would be to announce its departure or at least allow its term to expire next year.
But Obama has done nothing of the kind. Ensuring the American team had no bargaining power, the administration declared in March—three months before the end of negotiations and a whopping 18 months in advance of the next election—that the US would run for a second term.…
(Anne Byefsky is the director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust
and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.)
Alan W. Dowd
FrontPage, July 13, 2011
Perhaps the most amazing attribute of the United Nations is its boundless capacity to discredit itself. Whether through inaction or action, it never ceases to show the world what a farce looks like. The latest example is North Korea’s accession to the presidency of the UN Conference on Disarmament. This is the same North Korea that has been caught shipping illicit weaponry overseas, testing long-range missilery and detonating nukes—all in violation of UN resolutions.…
Given that the disarmament panel focuses on “cessation of the nuclear arms race…nuclear disarmament…and prevention of an arms race in outer space,” it’s ironic but typical of the UN that joining North Korea on the disarmament panel are China, Pakistan and Iran.
China, it pays to recall, has singlehandedly restarted the arms race in space. Its unannounced test of anti-satellite weapons in 2007 and 2010 set other space-faring nations on edge and obliged the United States to refocus on the U.S. military’s role in space. Pakistan helped both North Korea and Iran with their outlaw nuclear programs. North Korea has tested nukes during the Bush and Obama administrations, and is intent on deploying long-range rockets. And Iran is enriching uranium, building underground missile silos and racing to join the nuclear-weapons club.
“It gets even better,” as French president Nicolas Sarkozy sarcastically observed during a blistering critique of the UN’s record in North Korea and Iran. For example, the UN Human Rights Council, charged with “promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all,” includes China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The People’s Republic of China simply does not believe its subjects have any human rights. What else could be said of a place where religious activity is dictated by government bureaus, the state determines how many children a family can have, freedom of speech and assembly are nonexistent, and people are sentenced to slave labor for their political or religious views?
Likewise, in Cuba, there is no freedom of speech. The state imprisons individuals for their political views. And there is no economic freedom. The Russian government silences dissent and smothers the press with intimidation, ginned-up mobs and “random” gangland-style killings. It targets non-Russian ethnic groups with harassment campaigns and worse. As for Saudi Arabia, it allows virtually no freedom to half its citizens—women. Religious freedom does not exist. And freedom of the press and freedom of speech are severely circumscribed.
Yet these regimes sit on a body that sits in judgment of the human-rights records of every country on earth. This is the bizzaro world of the UN, where those pursuing the noble if naive goal of disarmament sit alongside the world’s most notorious weapons proliferators, where the worst abusers of human rights are chosen to protect and promote human rights, where North Korea’s deadly attack on a South Korean ship is condemned but the attacker is not, where it takes eight weeks to agree on a resolution requiring Iraq to comply with existing resolutions, where those who vote for such resolutions refuse to enforce them, where Srebrenica can be called a “safe haven,” where Rwanda and Bosnia turn for help and receive only Pilate-like excuses.
This is not an argument for the U.S. to withdraw from the UN…but it is an argument for ending the charade that President Obama and too many other policymakers play. The UN does not, to use Obama’s words, have the “capability to keep the peace, resolve disputes, monitor disarmament and support good governance around the world.” And it never will.
At its best, the UN is a place where the U.S. and its closest allies can go to get international cover for genuine efforts to keep the peace—not approval or legitimacy, but cover. At its worst, it’s a joke, “a sham…a frothing of words,” to borrow a phrase from Churchill, who feared in 1946 that the UN would become what it is today.
IRAN: WORLD VICTIM OF TERRORISM
FrontPage, June 29, 2011
Has the United Nations no shame? Apparently not, as it continues to legitimize some of the world’s worst tyrants and human rights abusers.
The most recent example is the UN leadership’s endorsement of the so-called “World Without Terrorism Conference” hosted by the Iranian regime in Tehran on June 25-26, 2011. The “distinguished” roster of attendees included the indicted international criminal Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, the corrupter-in-chief Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and the hear-no-bin Laden, see-no-bin Laden Pakistani president Asif ‘Ali Zardari.
The conference website set the tone with an anti-Semitic cartoon depicting a hooked-nose Israeli soldier looking like the devil with horns and another cartoon displaying the Statue of Liberty holding a stick of dynamite in her hand.
Kicking off the conference were the Iranian terrorist-sponsoring leaders, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Each of them tried to outdo the other in branding the United States and Israel as the world’s leading terrorist states.
Khamenei, who fancies himself as the 12th Imam’s deputy on Earth, lamented the “satanic world powers which use terrorism in their policies and in their planning to achieve their illegitimate goals.” Of course, he wasn’t talking about his own government or the genocidal Al-Bashir, as he should have been doing. He was referring to the “Zionist regime” and to the U.S., the United Kingdom, and other Western governments that have a “black record of terrorist behaviors.”
Ayatollah Khamenei also pointed to “noble teachings of Islam” as the solution to ending the global terrorist threat. He just happened to leave out the “noble teachings of Islam” which teach about jihad against all unbelievers to establish Islam’s Sharia law worldwide.…
For his part, Ahmadinejad claimed that Iran was one of the chief victims of terrorism. He also revived his 9/11 truther claims: “Some believe that the motive behind the September 11 attacks was to ensure the safety of [the] Zionist regime, to foment insecurity in regional countries, to distract U.S. public opinion from the chaotic economic situation in the country, and to [line] the pockets of uncivilized, belligerent capitalists.… But the real truth has been kept from the Americans and the world[.]”
Khamenei and Ahmadinejad wouldn’t let their conference go by without making sure they got together for a tête-à-tête with Sudanese president Al-Bashir…[whose] Islamist Arab regime presses on with its relentless massacre of the defenseless black African population inhabiting central Sudan’s Nuba Mountains located in an area known as South Kordofan.
Did the United Nations condemn the travesty of this supposed conference against terrorism hosted by terrorist-sponsoring Iran and attended by the international criminal Al-Bashir? Did it call for the immediate arrest of the Sudanese president on the warrant issued by the International Criminal Court? Not a chance. To the contrary, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon actually praised Iran for its initiative in hosting the conference.…
Sadly, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon let another opportunity go by without calling out the Iranian government’s evil when he sees it and exposing its blatant hypocrisy. Instead, he allowed the United Nations to legitimize yet another Iranian exercise in anti-Western, anti-Semitic propaganda.
UNMASKING THE ‘INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY’
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, July 1, 2011
For many years, the Left in Israel and throughout the world has upheld the so-called “international community” as the arbiter of all things. From Israel’s right to exist to climate change, from American world leadership to genetically modified crops, the Left has maintained that the “international community” is the only body qualified to judge the truth, lawfulness, goodness and justice of all things.
Most of those who uphold this view see the United Nations as the embodiment of the “international community.” US President Barack Obama has repeatedly made clear that his chief litmus test for the viability or desirability of a foreign policy is the support it garners in UN institutions.…
Given the totemic stature of the UN in the minds of the American president and the international Left, it is worth considering its nature.
A glance at UN affairs in recent days is revealing.
Last week UN members elected Qatar President of the General Assembly and Iran one of the body’s vice presidents. Both countries’ representatives will use their platform to advance their regimes’ anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Western agendas.
As Prof. Anne Bayefsky noted in The Weekly Standard last week, their first order of business will be leading the Durban III conference that will take place in New York on the sidelines of September’s General Assembly meeting.… In addition to their anti-Jewish conference, the Qatari and Iranian leaders of the General Assembly will reliably advance a General Assembly resolution embracing Palestinian statehood and condemning Jewish statehood.
Perhaps anticipating its new leadership role in the “international community,” last weekend Iran hosted its first “World Without Terrorism Conference.” Speaking at the conference, Iran’s supreme dictator Ali Khamenei called Israel and the US the greatest terrorists in the world. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the US was behind the September 11 attacks and the Holocaust and has used both to force the Palestinians to submit to invading Jews.…
According to Iran’s Fars news agency, “In a written message… read by UN Envoy to Teheran Mohammad Rafi Al-Din Shah, [Ban] Kimoon [commended] the Islamic Republic of Iran for holding this very important conference.…”
So as far as the UN’s highest official is concerned, when it comes to terrorism there is no qualitative difference between Iran on the one hand and the US and Israel on the other. Here it is worth noting that among the other invitees, Iran’s “counterterror” conference prominently featured Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges for the genocide he has perpetrated in Darfur.
The new General Assembly vice president is not merely the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. It is also a nuclear proliferator. This no doubt is why Iran’s UN representative expressed glee when earlier this month his nation’s fellow nuclear proliferator North Korea was appointed the head of the UN’s Conference on Disarmament.…
The international institution considered the repository of the will of the “international community” is wholly and completely corrupt. It is morally bankrupt. It is controlled by the most repressive regimes in the world and it uses its US- and Western-funded institutions to attack Israel, the US, the West and forces of liberty and liberalism throughout the world.
Given the utter depravity of the UN and the international system it oversees, what can explain the international Left’s kneejerk obeisance to it? From San Francisco to Chicago to Boston; from Stockholm to Paris to London, members of the international Left claim they support the victims of tyranny. They claim they stand for liberal values of freedom and tolerance and human rights. But like the UN, the truth about the international Left shows that its members are the opposite of what they claim to be.…
The extraordinary intolerance of the Left for Israel is on full display among the participants in the so-called “flotilla.” The purpose of the flotilla is to break international law by providing aid and comfort to Hamas-controlled Gaza and to weaken with the intention of ending Israel’s lawful maritime blockade of Gaza’s Hamas-controlled coastline.
As Ehud Rosen exposed Thursday in a report for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, this year’s flotilla is organized by Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood with the active participation of leftist anti-Israel groups. In their public statements, participants in the Hamas flotilla profess bottomless tolerance for Hamas and its genocidal agenda. And they profess no tolerance whatsoever for Israel or its right to exist.…
While emptily mouthing slogans of tolerance, all these adherents to the rule of the “international community” embrace the agenda of the most violent, intolerant, totalitarian forces in the world. Not only do they embrace them, they serve them. It doesn’t take much to tear off their flimsy mask of sweetness and light. Pity so few can be bothered to do it.
THE FAILINGS OF RICHARD FALK
National Post, July 8, 2011
On June 29th, Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s expert on Israel, wrote an article for his blog. The essay itself is unimportant. The six pictures Falk included are what make the article stand out—two copies of the ICC’s logo, a photo of its headquarters, a picture of President Bush Photoshopped to put him behind bars, a photo of an ICC lawyer and a cartoon.
Falk must have thought the cartoon was highly amusing, because it bore little relation to his article. It depicts Lady Justice, with robes and scales, holding a dog by a leash. The dog is eating a dead body and urinating on Justice. On closer examination, the dog is wearing a coat that says “U.S.A.,” as well as a skullcap decorated with the Star of David, the emblem the Jewish people.
Surely, the UN-appointed investigator of human rights in Israel wouldn’t laugh at—let alone disseminate—a vile, anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Jewish cartoon. After all, he works for the UN. He’s supposed to be impartial.
What is even more disturbing was Falk’s reaction when confronted over the cartoon. On July 6, UN Watch, a human rights organization that monitors the UN’s Human Rights activities, submitted a complaint to Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for Human Rights and Falk’s boss. The same morning, Falk then wrote on his blog: “It is a complete lie. I know nothing about such a cartoon, and would never publish such a thing, ever.”
After a reader sent Falk a link showing the cartoon on his own website, Falk wrote: “Maybe I do not understand the cartoon, and if it offends in this way I have removed it from the blog. It may be in bad taste to an extent I had not earlier appreciated, but I certainly didn’t realize that it could be viewed as anti-semitic [sic], and still do not realize.”
What a heart-stirring apology. In under twenty minutes, Falk went from denying not only having posted the cartoon, but that he knew it existed, to denying that he thought it was offensive, to denying that it is offensive, while being polite enough to remove it so as not to offend a delicate reader.
Three hours later Falk wrote that “since it offends people I have removed it without understanding why.…”
This was Richard Falk, a UN expert charged with investigating serious allegations of human-rights abuses in the Middle East. How could someone who failed to find offense in such a slanderous cartoon be expected to deal with the subtleties of the conflicts in Israel? How could he possibly be able to perceive the implications of a Hamas TV show that features Mickey Mouse teaching children how to be suicide bombers? Or comprehend the not-so-subtle discrepancies between what Hamas leaders say in Arabic, and what they say they said in English?
Perhaps I’m giving Mr. Falk too much credit. After all, as a lawyer he argued that a terrorist who bombed a university and killed a man was morally justified because he was protesting the Vietnam War. As a pundit he gave Ayatollah Khomeini a glowing recommendation, predicting that he “might yet provide us with a desperately needed model of humane governance for a Third World country.” And as a writer, Falk has lent support to 9/11 conspiracy theories, stating that the “American elites” have “something to hide and much to explain”.
On Israel, Falk’s bias is evident. He wrote an article comparing the country to Nazi Germany, entitled “Slouching towards a Palestinian Holocaust,” and has repeatedly accused Israel of ethnic cleansing. Simultaneously, Falk says that he is “impressed” by Hamas’ efforts to negotiate with Israel, and that the terrorist organization should be treated as a political actor. He described Hamas as the “helpless protectors” of the Palestinians.…
Falk’s behaviour presents his employers at the UN with a dilemma. If they believe his half-hearted apologies, they are forced to face the fact that an expert in their employ lacks the perceptiveness and basic intelligence required for the job, and he must be fired. On the other hand, if they see through his excuses, and decide that he knew exactly what he was doing, then they must deal with the fact that they have an employee who is too hateful, vicious and biased to perform impartially in his job, and he must be fired.…
(Gabriel Latner is a Canadian law student at the University of Cambridge.
He previously worked at UN Watch in Geneva.)
THE HATE THAT DARES NOT SPEAK ITS NAME
Walter Russell Mead
American Interest, July 18, 2011
This time of year it is worth remembering Mein Kampf, the turgid and unreadable Bible of the Nazi movement that was published back in July of 1925. The last time I looked, you could still buy it at the international airport newstand in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur—along with other classics of anti-Semitism like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the collected rants of Henry Ford in the Dearborn Independent. Jeffrey Goldberg tells me that he recently saw Hitler’s masterwork on the bestseller shelf of the Borders book store at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.
When Hitler wrote, it was still socially OK to be an anti-Semite. In some circles it was mandatory. As a consequence of Hitler’s life’s work, it is now as unfashionable to be an anti-Semite as it is to name your child Adolf.
The truth is that anti-Semitism is alive and well and not even particularly rare; it’s just that many of today’s anti-Semites like to think of themselves as enlightened, modern people and get all huffy and hissy if anyone accuses them of prejudice in any form. Many who in past times would have been open and honest about their anti-Semitism, now try to hide the truth even from themselves.
But anti-Semitism involves belief in any or all of the following ideas:
–Jews are more clannish than other people and act in concert to support a specifically Jewish agenda.
–Jews deploy extraordinary wealth with almost superhuman cunning in support of the Jewish agenda.
–As a religious and national minority, Jews cannot flourish without attacking the traditional values of their host society. In every country Jews seek to weaken national culture, religion, values and cohesion.
–Jews are not a national group or a people in the way that others are; they do not have the same right to establish a nation state that other peoples do.
–Where Jewish interests are concerned, the appearance of open debate in our society and many others is a carefully constructed illusion. In reality, Jews work together to block open debate on issues they care about and those who resist the Jewish agenda are marginalized in public discussion.…
Hitler added a sixth pillar of anti-Semitism that the only way to successfully oppose the Jewish agenda was to kill all the Jews.
Since Hitler’s death, the world has defined anti-Semitism down. Nurturing ancient fantasies of secret Jewish cabals that control the media and play politicians like puppets on a string, and making political judgments based on these fantasies isn’t sort of or almost anti-Semitic. To believe that Jews control public discourse and the media and bend the gentile masses to their sinister agenda is the essence of old fashioned anti-Semite. In some countries these beliefs are so common that they are no longer recognized as an aggressive and communicable mental disease. These ideas have become so widely accepted that they are seldom questioned or examined; when that happens, a whole society is poisoned and distorted.
On the anniversary of Mein Kampf’s publication people of good will everywhere should remember the need to fight one of the most vicious forms of prejudice that the world has ever known.… In Nazi Germany people were imprisoned and even killed for trying to fight anti-Semitism. In America we are free to fight it, but too many of us choose to ignore this hate that dares not speak its name. Anti-Semitism is real, it is murderous, and it is very much with us today. Speak the truth and shame the devil. Whatever your religion, your politics, your views about Israeli policy, fighting anti-Semitism is part of what it means to be a decent human being.
We must all do our part to keep this filthy hatred in the ignominious pit where it belongs.
WHAT EXPLAINS FASHIONABLE HOSTILITY TOWARD ISRAEL?
New Republic, July 20, 2011
We live in a world in which the contagion of anti-Semitism is spreading once again. Indeed, the profusion of hostility to Israel is the proof that hatred of Jews is now quite alright, thank you. But, whatever individual and isolated wrongs Israel commits, there are comparisons to be drawn. And the comparisons are to the Arab states and to Palestinian Arab society, in which oppression has flourished since the early years of the last century. And has not stopped flourishing yet.
There must be a certain frisson that attaches to the loathing of Jews and of Israel by the chic folk who express it and cotton to it, like those who carried around Mao’s “Little Red Book” in a previous generation or wore a Che Guevara sweatshirt long after everyone knew he was a murderer. In the last few months and around the Cannes movie festival season, the world was treated to notable outbursts of malignance targeting the Jewish people and its polity. From the first generation of the new cinema to its most recent fashionable eminence came declarations of revulsion against the nation designated for hate: the first from Jean-Luc Godard and the last from Lars von Trier. At just about the same time, the idolized Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis pronounced his wisdom: “Everything that happens in the world today has to do with the Zionists,” including the Greek financial catastrophe. And, of course, John Galliano, poor John Galliano who worked in the schmata trade. This is actually something of an epidemic. In Europe, the epidemic has also infected both the political and journalistic congregations—although in somewhat, but only somewhat, less hateful language. Western Europe does not especially like Jews or Israelis, but it also doesn’t want Arabs or Muslims as neighbors.
America is not alone in the world in its friendship for Israel or in its historical hospitality to Jews. Already, in the days of the early Jewish migration to the United States, the new arrivals grasped that this was di goldene medinah, the golden country. The American people are allies of the state of Israel, however much its prime minister irritates Barack Obama. More to the point: The relationship between America and Israel is about historic and strategic ties, not about whether Obama is offended by Bibi’s rhetorical style. But why is he so offended? Is he as offended by President Chavez of Venezuela?
Right-wing anti-Semitism in the country is now fundamentally a bad memory. Yes, of course, Pat Buchanan! And who else? But left-wing anti-Semitism is now an advancing reality, one that traces its past to the scheissjuden of Karl Marx. Still, essential anti-Semitism is hard to express except in jokes about the garish Jewish rich, which itself is an expiring phenomenon. The timorous Jew no longer exists: He has been replaced by the skilled and defiant Israeli soldier. Perhaps because of this soldier, Israel has become the vehicle for anti-Semitism as well as its target. Some feel this soldier is more than a bit uppity, reversing the sacred cerebral role of the Jew in history. (You can tell that to the Jewish Nobelists and to the scientists and scientific entrepreneurs who have made Israel the most fertile intellectual soil in the world, maybe excluding California.)
Not everyone on the left who is bothered by this is an anti-Semite. Many are simply Jews who cannot reconcile themselves to the notion of a strong Israel. Consider Roger Cohen, the International Herald Tribune columnist, who told us about the happy state of the Jews of Iran and who virtually non-stop tells us about the sins of the Jewish state, almost like I do about its virtues. He has also told us, poor man, that he was called a “Yid” at Westminster, “one of Britain’s top private schools, an inspiring place hard by Westminster Abbey,” and suffered other minor indignities that American Jews ordinarily do not. Anyway, he now fits in quite comfily, and, when he writes about Israel, he follows the model ofThe Guardian, which is known to, well, sort of improvise. He doesn’t much appear in The New York Times, the IHT’s blood relative. But this is hardly because the Times editors don’t like his opinions, like the ones they turned down when Richard Goldstone wrote about the colossal errors of his own report. The judge’s confession was subsequently published by The Washington Post.
In the same category, are some of the writers at The New Yorker. Frankly, I don’t usually read the magazine (although it has come to me gratis for years), which sometimes makes me sit dumb-faced at Cambridge dinner parties where its opinions are the last word. And I’ve completely sworn off some of its writers. I don’t believe a single word Seymour Hersh writes: His last report, I’m told, informed his readers that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear device and is not close to having one, and he was informed of this by a man wearing a raincoat on a bench in Dupont Circle.… The New Yorker…is now moving to the World Trade Center site perhaps because it wants to be close to the mosque that may or may not be built.…
The thick-with-ads, oh-so gracefully written weekly is a model of fashionable views on Israel. David Remnick, its editor, whose work on Russia I do really greatly admire, recently published a spate of his own articles about Israel, which I read. My judgment is that he knows squat about Israel, maybe because the only reportage he seems to read about the Jewish state is from Ha’aretz, which is to Israel what PM used to be for the United States. Well, you don’t know what PM was? All I can say is that it was not quite the Daily Worker. But let me confess: Ha’aretz is my home page. I am a masochist, and I like to see how far journalists can stray from the facts. Very far. Every day, actually.
Then, there is Rick Hertzberg, who was my student at Harvard.… We are friends—I would even say loving friends—but with a deep undercurrent of testy ideological distrust. His hero is Mahatma Gandhi. Mine is George Washington. Maybe there’s the difference in a nutshell, one a nutcase and a pretentious nutcase at that, the other a hard nut.…
[Rick wrote a recent] “Talk of the Town” piece titled “O’Bama vs. Netanyahoo.” Maybe the placement and the headline are a tip-off that this is not serious. But Rick’s frivolity—he is congenitally but congenially frivolous—doesn’t disguise the fact that he is writing about deadly serious matters. One by one, he ticks off the rhetorical contentions between Israel and the Palestinians about which, he basically says, the Palestinians win hands down. I am afraid that the way he examines the first contention is so simple-minded that I’ll have to repeat myself or send Rick back to school.
He quotes Netanyahu as saying in his speech to Congress that, in any agreement, “Israel will be ‘required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.’” So Rick responds on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, “Yes, but the Palestinians have already been required to give up parts of an ancestral Arab homeland.” Actually, the greatest part of Palestine is Jordan, where most Palestinians live. So, in a very real sense, they already have a country, except that it is ruled by an authoritarian monarchy that was imposed on them by the British. That the Arabs of eastern Palestine don’t live under democratic rule is the fault of neither David Ben-Gurion nor Netanyahu. It is a result of a deeply ingrained, political and social structure that, across the huge swath of land from Morocco to Iraq, has been imposed, without a single exception, by dictators. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want Israel to operate or control or, for heaven’s sake, absorb the West Bank. Let the Arabs on the east and west banks of the Jordan River team up and see what they can make of their soon-to-be one country. I don’t think it will be pretty. You do? Good luck.
I also don’t believe that the Arabs of Palestine want to retire this conflict and certainly not in a reasonable way. A reasonable way means no right of return, and it also means that Israel needs, for its own elementary security, for its densest population strip to be wider than ten miles. So it demands with the insistent backing of the citizenry—except some (and only some) of the local Arabs and Remnick’s coterie of friends at Ha’aretz—that border adjustments in its favor be made. Please do remember that Israel also won two wars to turn back invasions of its tiny turf, which many, most Palestinians would deny it. With the Arab world in tumultuous flux, and the tumult now spreading and intensifying in Jordan, it is possible, even likely that the kingdom will be no longer. And then, you will have perhaps 75 percent to 80 percent of historic Palestine under Palestinian control. A civil society it will not be.…
Hertzberg accuses Netanyahu of having, in his speech, “laid down maximal demands.” This first of these is a precondition: “recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.” This goes back to November 29, 1947, when the General Assembly passed the Partition Plan for Palestine for a “Jewish state” and an “Arab state.” The Jewish Agency, which was the democratically elected proto-government of Zionism in Palestine, accepted partition, even though the territory allotted to the new state was tiny and not contiguous. (By the way, Obama promised the Palestinians contiguity. Nifty. So how, then, will Israel remain contiguous? Oh, so finicky and so careless, Mr. President. During the campaign, I testified in Florida day after day to Obama’s savvy about and commitment to Israel’s security. I no longer think he cares much. And contiguity would only deepen the ongoing civil war between Fatah and Hamas, with which the administration will surely soon begin talks, like the drawn-out talks with Syria of which doubtless the president is proud and unrepentant. Oops! As of last week, the president and Hillary Clinton no longer think Assad possesses legitimacy.)
Each for their own geographical interests, five Arab states began a war on May 14, 1948, the morrow of Jewish independence. And the Palestinians? Some few of them joined up with the certified Nazi, Haj Amin al-Husseini who, from Cairo, called for resistance. Most of the fighters (and they weren’t legion) teamed up with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, which had their own categorical territorial designs, none of which translated into an independent Palestine. The Palestinian Arab fighters were not fighting for an Arab Palestine. In the end, what they won was the West Bank for Jordan and the Gaza Strip for Egypt. This is a national history of which to be proud, is it not?
“Nearly as appalling as Netanyahu’s intransigence was the mindlessness of the senators and representatives, Republican and Democratic, who rewarded him with ovation after ovation.” Rick attributes this response to “certain Jewish and evangelical constituencies.” Of course, why didn’t I think of this? After all, the Jewish population of the United States ranges from 1.4 percent to 2.5 percent, depending on who does the counting. But all Jews are rich. So that balances out their small numbers. And they are also covert and crafty. Besides, given their cunning, they’ve teamed up with evangelicals who are certainly not covert and crafty but frank and folksy. It’s an unbeatable combination, these two ends of the social structure. One thing Rick knows from his own experience is that the widespread, but much exaggerated, ownership of the media by Jews does not explain America’s support for Israel. Take his own magazine, owned by the Newhouse family. Hardly a kind word has been printed about Israel since 1963, when Hannah Arendt assailed the Jewish state for putting Adolf Eichmann on trial. And what about The New York Times? Nuf said. Anyway, it’s now owned by its creditors.
Let me go back to those senators and congressmen who so offended Hertzberg. And how dare they so offend Obama! One conclusion I draw is that J-Street is a flop, a complete flop. It has spent millions of dollars—much of it George Soros’s, I presume—and can’t get more than a handful of politicians to sit on their hands as all of their other colleagues rise to enthusiasm and applause.
But there is this persistent coterie, influential among the elites, and especially the smart-ass Jewish elites, who do not rise and are not enthusiastic. And so, despite all the true evil in the world, the designated target of the chic progressives, including alienated Jews, is the Jewish state. There are many predecessors of the type in history.
(Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic.)
IN THE HEART OF ISRAEL, JEW HATRED IS ON FULL DISPLAY
Pajamas Media, July 5, 2011
Entering the bookshop at the American Colony Hotel recently, I noted a prominently placed display of four books directly facing the entrance. The books were the first thing seen by any visitor to the shop. They were evidently intended to give a representative sample of the kind of fare available there. They succeeded in this, and in something more.
The American Colony is one of the best hotels in the city, a favored place for European diplomats, journalists, peace processors, and others in the colorful array that the city attracts. While sometimes described as “neutral ground,” it may more accurately be seen as the main stronghold of the international pro-Palestinian presence and sentiment in Jerusalem. It is therefore as good a place as any for assessing that sector of opinion.
The choice of books displayed at the bookshop’s entrance sums up elegantly the main components of the disturbing ethos among supporters of the Palestinians in the West.
The books on display were The Founding Myths of Modern Israel, by Roger Garaudy; Married to another Man: Israel’s dilemma in Palestine, by Ghada Karmi; I Shall Not Hate, by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish; and The Palestine Papers—the end of the Road?, by Clayton Swisher. Come with me on a brief tour through them. And let’s speak plainly, as the time requires.
Roger Garaudy is a veteran French Communist who later converted to Islam. His book combines Holocaust denial with calls for the destruction of Israel. He marshals the “evidence” assembled by Holocaust deniers over the years to dispute the existence of gas chambers in Nazi death camps. The Holocaust, Garaudy thinks, was a myth intended to create sympathy for the theft of Palestine by the Jews. Hitler’s main enemies were Communists, says Garaudy, and he had no plan for the destruction of the Jews. Garaudy’s book is a straightforward example of Jew hatred of the most vitriolic and extreme type.
Ghada Karmi’s book seeks to refute the idea of Jewish peoplehood. She repeats a number of myths recently revived by anti-Zionist propagandists in the current battle to delegitimize Israel. The claim that Ashkenazi Jews are descended in the main from Turkic “Khazars” is re-aired. This claim, a favorite of anti-Israel propaganda recently restated by Professor Shlomo Sand, is intended to disprove the notion that Ashkenazi Jews descend from Jewish communities originating in ancient Israel. Karmi blithely dismisses as “open to question” recent evidence deriving from thousands of DNA studies that refute these claims. She believes, as she has stated elsewhere, that the Israelis and Palestinians are heading for an apocalyptic “cataclysm,” out of which a Palestinian Arab state will emerge.
Clayton Swisher’s contribution is to argue that there is no basis for a peace process that includes accepting the continued existence of any Jewish state. He argues that recent leaks from the offices of PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat mark the final demise of the “two state solution.” Swisher argues that it is all Israel’s fault, despite the fact that the leaks show many examples of the opposite. For example, the leaks showed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressing willingness for concessions including the redivision of Jerusalem and the ceding of 98.7% of the West Bank. Swisher, as he has said elsewhere, favors those Arabs “committed to liberating all of historic Palestine.”
Dr. Abuelaish’s book is a work by a Gaza physician whose three daughters were tragically killed during Operation Cast Lead. They died as IDF troops battled Hamas snipers and mortar teams in the area of Beit Lahiya. There is no reason to believe that Abuelaish shares any of the opinions contained in the other three volumes. But given the overall display, it is reasonable to assume that the store’s goal is to stress Israel as committing war crimes rather than Abuelaish favoring conciliation. Certainly, and unsurprisingly, one would search in vain for any volumes discussing similar losses of civilian life among Israeli Jews.
Here, then, is the display that greets European diplomats, salaried peace processors, and elegant locals meeting in the courtyard and coffee shop, passing or entering the bookshop of the beautiful and peaceful American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.…
This is the ideology behind the flotillas, boycotts, and furious demonstrations against Israel in the year 2011, decades after the Palestinians supposedly accepted Israel’s existence and turned toward seeking a two-state solution. This is the idea behind which Islamists and “progressives” can happily unite. This is the channel through which the familiar and foul substance of antisemitism is going to flow right back into the Western mainstream. Unless it is prevented from doing so.
Slate, July 1, 2011
Some welcome news: After enduring several weeks of criticisms, both fair and foul, Yale University has launched a new program for the study of anti-Semitism that replaces the center it shuttered. The new director, Maurice Samuels, a professor of French literature (whose scholarship has examined attitudes toward Jews in 19th-century France), is someone I know and admire as a scholar and a person. Samuels has said to me and in his public statements that the reconstituted program won’t shrink from uncomfortable aspects of anti-Semitism in the world today. There is every reason to take him at his word.
Why Yale closed the institute in the first place remains hard to discern. Universities, for all their talk of openness, can be as secretive and byzantine as intelligence agencies, and any reporting about academia, especially on politically fraught topics, has to be read cautiously. Depending on whom you believe, a faculty review board killed off the original institute either because it buckled to the forces of political correctness or because the institute’s director, Charles Small, who had no other connection to the university, used his platform too frequently to air conservative, stridently pro-Israel journalistic advocacy. These accounts aren’t mutually exclusive.…
The flap about [the Institute’s] closure still raises important historical questions: How did a concern with anti-Semitism, whether scholarly or political, come to be seen as the province of the right? How did liberalism—historically the philosophy of toleration and equal rights—come to be so squeamish about confronting Jew-hatred in its contemporary forms? Though little asked or discussed, these questions form a troubling undercurrent to the debate.…
My fellow liberals are especially muted when anti-Semitism takes the form of anti-Zionism. Yes, yes: Criticism of Israel isn’t necessarily anti-Semitic. Everyone agrees about that. What liberals seem to have a hard time admitting these days is that criticisms of Israel can ever be anti-Semitic. Common sense and social science both tell us there’s a correlation.…
The small number of liberal intellectuals who regularly address anti-Semitism—people like Paul Berman, Jeff Goldberg, Alan Dershowitz, and Ron Rosenbaum—get labeled, or libeled, as neocons or Likudniks. Those epithets reveal just how much the right has come, at least in American journalistic discourse, to own the terrain of supporting Israel and calling out anti-Semitism.
The historical reasons for this shift are complex. Although the reasons predate 9/11, the terrorist attacks and the events they set in motion have a lot to do with the rapidity of the change in the last decade. For many liberals, especially Jews, September 11 had the effect of awakening them to the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism in the world, after having long treated anxieties about Jew-hatred as an atavistic obsession of their parents.
For others, however, the attacks triggered what might be called a double backlash. Liberals (and many conservatives), anticipating an outbreak of nationalistic anti-Islamic feeling in an angry and wounded country, admirably took pains to fight negative depictions of Islam. But those laudable demonstrations of toleration sometimes became muddled, leading some liberals, as Leon Wieseltier put it, to start “granting Muslims a reprieve from the rigors of liberalism.…”
A watershed was reached in 2006 with the publication of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s tract The Israel Lobby. The book trafficked in age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes to conjure up the demon of a cabal of Jews and their allies who led America to war in Iraq against its national interest and were trying to do so again in Iran. Although soberly refuted from many angles, the book uncorked a bottled-up resentment against Israel’s American backers, allowing extremist arguments to migrate from the fringes into the mainstream. Coming at the high point of dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, it amplified and encouraged conspiratorial explanations that blamed the decision for war on second-tier neoconservative Jewish officials, like Paul Wolfowitz, more than on top-tier, gentile, not-particularly-neo conservatives like George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld.
As these developments opened the door to the frank expression and reflexive rationalization of anti-Semitic views, another, longer-term trend was eroding the cultural taboos against that expression: the vanishing memory of the Holocaust. The murder of 6 million moved the world’s conscience enough to finally bless the formation of a Jewish state in 1948. More than six decades later, the generation that liberated the death camps is dying off; so are the survivors. It’s becoming easier to treat the Holocaust as part of a dusty history—important to study, like the French Revolution or the fall of Rome, but no more pertinent to today’s politics than those long-ago events.
Stanley Fish, the New York Times’ most consistently stimulating op-ed columnist and an occasional commentator on matters Jewish, wrote with self-awareness some time ago about his sensitivity to anti-Zionism. It was magnified, he said, by two factors: the time he spends on campuses, “where anti-Israel sentiment flourishes and is regarded more or less as a default position,” and his age (now 73). Unlike friends just 10 years younger, Fish remembered World War II—as do his peers everywhere. For decades those memories chilled anti-Semitism and extended the world’s concern and protection to the Jewish people. Now they are fading.
In the face of this sad, historical inevitability, what is likely to recommit liberals in America (and the West generally) to a concern with anti-Semitism? It is a question worthy of dispassionate study.
While the Arab awakening or Arab Spring, as it’s been dubbed, has focused world attention on Egypt, Libya and Syria, a potentially explosive drama is unfolding elsewhere in the region, in Bahrain. The jury is still out as to how the conflicts in Libya and Syria will resolve themselves, or if this awakening will, indeed, be instrumental in heralding democratic reforms in Egypt and elsewhere. While their consequences for Israel remain unclear, what is certain is that these upheavals have worsened the historically tense relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran, one immediate consequence of which has been the triple-digit spike in oil prices
On March 14th, at the request of Bahrain’s ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa family, Saudi Arabia, leading a special contingent under the aegis of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a league of Sunni-led Gulf states, rolled in its troops into Bahrain. The force violently quelled protests instigated by Bahrain’s Shiite majority that were supposedly centered on demands for political and economic reforms. What the Kingdoms of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia saw as the basis of these demonstrations, was yet another attempt by Iran to assert its influence in its quest for Gulf hegemony. According to Bill Spindle and Margaret Coker in their article entitled: The New Cold War, March 14th represented a turning point in the escalation of the regional cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Since March 14th, the rhetoric between Saudi Arabia and Iran has escalated. Riyadh is further heating matters up by increasing the size of its military and National Guard and by proclaiming its intention to go nuclear should Iran not be halted in its nuclear aspirations.
As for the U.S., Saudi Arabia, which views itself as pro-Western, saw America’s outright support for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster as a betrayal of what Spindle and Coker term a key bulwark in what Riyadh perceives as a great Sunni wall standing against an expansionist Iran. Indeed, for the Saudis this was one of a series of betrayals which included America’s refusal to push the Saudi’s Israel-Palestinian peace initiative, which Riyadh is convinced would go far to undermine Iranian influence that breeds on traditional Arab grievances. As a result, Saudi sentiment combined with Bahrain’s strategic importance, — it being the home to America’s Fifth Fleet, with one-fifth of the world’s oil passing through the Gulf region—has, Spindle and Coker argue, forced America to pull back on its blanket support for democratic reform in the region, undermining, in turn, healthy democratic movements, especially in Bahrain and Yemen.
Jacques Neriah sees the Iranian threat to U.S. national security and economic interests in Bahrain as being exceedingly high. He argues in Could the Kingdom of Bahrain Become an Iranian Pearl Harbour? that, given Iran’s proclivity for asymmetric warfare, it needn’t attack the U.S. naval facility to do away with the U.S. military presence. All it needs to do is topple the pro-American regime of the Al-Khalifa family and replace it with a new Bahraini regime backed by the Shi’a majority which seeks the immediate withdrawal of the fleet.
That Iran has had its eye on acquiring Bahrain is clear. In 2009, Neriah points out, Ali Akbar Nateq, an advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called Bahrain Iran’s fourteenth province. Even though relations between Bahrain and Iran have remained formally cordial, Bahrain has sided with the U.S. in condemning Iran’s nuclear program and are, as well, partnering with the CIA in the acquisition of counter-terrorism intelligence. The U.S., Neriah argues, has every reason to be concerned, and not only by what happens in Bahrain, but by its potential for inciting Shi’a uprisings in neighbouring oil-rich Al-Ahsaa, situated in eastern Saudi Arabia. Should the U.S., as it did in Egypt, fail to support its allies in Bahrain, Tehran would, he maintains, seize this opportunity to deepen its subversive activities in both Bahrain and Eastern Saudi Arabia.
There is no question that Iran has capitalized on the instabilities emerging out of the Middle East. Whatever Arab feelings towards Iran might be, Stratfor’s George Friedman notes in his Iraq, Iran and the Next Move, Iran is perceived, especially in Iraq, as being a rising power. Subsequently, he argues, given Iraq’s fragmented coalition and Iran’s increased regional influence, Iraq may be forced to negotiate an accommodation with Tehran. This possibility is further strengthened by the immanent withdrawal of American troops.
At present, Saudi influence, in the form of funds funneled to Sunni groups in Iraq, offers the only immediate counter to growing Iranian hegemony. Still, with its military now involved in Bahrain and on the alert in Yemen, it is no match for Iran. The critical issue for the Saudis, Friedman writes, is America’s long-term commitment to the regime. But, given America’s equivocal support for Saudi Arabia in Bahrain and its inability to stabilize matters in Yemen, this commitment, the Saudis believe, is not assured. Indeed, should U.S. commitment not be forthcoming, a consequence of what Friedman sees as U.S. President Obama’s unwise policy of careful neglect, Saudi Arabia may be ultimately forced to institute its own accommodations with Iran. Given, as well, America’s current inability or desire to engage in the region, Friedman warns, it, too, may be placed in a situation where accommodation with Iran will be its only viable option.
Given this possible outcome, Saudi Arabia is not sitting still. In light of what it views as an unprecedented threat to regional security, it has become pro-active. For instance, attempts to project a unified response by the Sunni Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) that consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are being made under its leadership. As an example, it backed a no-fly zone in Libya. But, as Shadi Hamid points out in From the Arab Spring comes a More Unified GCC, there are intrinsic policy differences that prevent a fully cohesive response from emerging. Qatar, as an example, from which Al Jazeera emanates, has taken an independent stance on the uprisings that has favoured the rebels. While the other members of the GCC have placed themselves firmly in the pro-stability camp, Iran and its proxies are continuing to stir up the waters and take advantage of the turmoil. Meanwhile, Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia and Qatar have begun to emerge as a non-aligned axis – each pursuing its own direction. In this regard, Hamid writes, the Arab Cold War has not gone away, but has become considerably more complex.
Outside the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia has also started engaging Jordan and Morocco and rallying the Muslim nations of Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Central Asia to take a diplomatic and potentially military stand against Iran. But, as Mathew Rosenberg writes in Saudi Bid to Curb Iran Worries U.S. it is Pakistan’s involvement that is proving to be exceedingly worrisome to the U.S.
Despite flexing its muscles regionally, all is not well on Iran’s home front. Israzine would like to direct readers’ attention to Gary H. Johnson’s article The Purge of the Hajatieh Society, in Perspectives. It explores the current theological and political tensions existing between Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that centre on the belief held by Ahmadinejad and twenty-five members of his Iranian inner circle that the Hidden Imam orchestrated the Arab Spring and that his emergence is immanent. The recent arrest of these twenty-five individuals on the charge of sorcery, that carries a death sentence, has focused attention on what Dore Gold points out, is an enormous irrational factor that was added into the Iranian Nuclear equation and, as such, directly challenges Western belief that Iran can be rationally persuaded through economic sanctions to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
“The nation of Greece would like to express its deep love and friendship for another ancient people in this region, the nation of Israel.… We are united with your nation historically and culturally, and in our joint desire to advance security and peace. I hope that the new chapter recently opened in the ties between Greece and Israel will be a new beginning that will continue to develop and flourish long into the future.…”—Dr. Karolos Papoulias, president of Greece, during a two-day, mid-July official visit to Israel. (Jerusalem Post, July 14.)
ATHENS AND JERUSALEM
JerusalemPost, July 10, 2011
Athens and Jerusalem are ancient cultural rivals. While the Greeks of old viewed nature as inherently perfect, celebrated the body and embraced polytheism, the Jews sought tikkun olam, emphasized the spiritual over the physical and adhered to strict monotheism.
Even after the creation of the modern State of Israel, ties between the Greeks and the Jews of Zion were strained.… Greece was the only European democracy to have voted with the Arabs in 1947 against the UN General Assembly partition resolution, which endorsed the establishment of a Jewish state (and a Palestinian one).
Relations remained cold even after the ouster of Nazi collaborator George Papadopoulos’s military junta in 1974 and remained that way for over a decade. Shortly after being elected prime minister in 1981, Andreas Papandreou, father of the present Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, cultivated close ties with PLO chief Yasser Arafat as part of a larger policy of “Tritokosmikos” (Thirdworldism).
Papandreou the father had hoped that his pro-Palestinian policies would bring in Arab investments, protect oil interests and strengthen Greece’s standing with Muslims vis-a-vis secular Turkey. The gradual warming of relations with Israel began in 1990 under then-prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis’s “New Democracy” government, which ended a decade of tense relations with the US and, as an extension with Israel. In that year Greece became the last European Community member to form full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
In recent years there has been a dramatic upgrade in the ties between Israel and Greece. A month after Papandreou was voted in as prime minister, Greece abstained during the November 2009 UN vote on the Goldstone Report, a stance that once would have been unthinkable.
Papandreou visited Israel in July of last year, the first Greek premier to do so since Mitsotakis. Just three weeks later, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent a few days cruising the Greek islands with Papandreou. It was obvious that special chemistry had developed between the two prime ministers, both of whom speak flawless American English (Papandreou was born in St. Paul, Minnesota).
Since then there have been a number of high-level visits.
The Israel and Hellenic air forces have trained together and Israel has offered Greece military supply deals with generous financing terms. In February, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations held its annual meeting in Athens, and Israeli tourism to Greece has boomed.
Most recently, Athens was instrumental in preventing anti-Israel activists from setting sail from Greek ports to challenge the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, including the forced blocking of US ship The Audacity of Hope and the arrest of several activists.
The enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend-syndrome has something to do with the warming of relations. Even before last May’s Mavi Marmara debacle, Turkey’s public patronage of Hamas, an anti-Semitic terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel, and Ankara’s close ties with Syria and Iran, placed the Ankara in direct conflict with Jerusalem, opening the way for relations between Israel and Greece—which has been in conflict with Turkey since it gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century.
Greece’s severe financial crisis is another factor. Desperate for the international community’s financial support and perhaps slightly overestimating world Jewry’s power and influence, the Greeks are hoping that improved relations with Israel and the American Jewish community will further their economic interests.
Diaspora Jewry is viewed by the Greeks as being critically influential in international finance and potential investors in their foundering economy. The prospects of Israel turning in the coming decade into a major natural gas exporter, following the recent discovery of vast natural gas fields off the coast, is another attraction for Greece.
Warming relations between Israel and Greece, while hardly a substitute for Turkey’s crucial influence on regional stability, is nonetheless a positive development that should be pursued and nurtured. Greek President Karolos Papoulias’s two-day visit to Israel that [took place a week ago] is yet another positive sign that the historic tensions between Jerusalem and Athens are eminently bridgeable—and that doing so is mutually advantageous.
AND THE NEW DYNAMIC DIPLOMATIC RAPPROCHEMENT
Defence Viewpoints, July 21, 2011
Greeceand Israel’s rich and complicated histories and cultures have seen them associated with all the crucial historical developments in the eastern Mediterranean, Balkan and Middle East regions. The Jewish Zionist movement that was created in the late 19th century by Theodore Herzl had very similar characteristics to the Greek irredentist movement of the “Great Idea.” Both nations have triumphed as diaspora. Both ethnic groups have been occupied by the Ottomans yet still managed to influence the economy of the Ottoman Empire. Both countries are Western-style democracies, allied to the United States and located within a crucial geostrategic region.
From the formation of the state of Israel in 1948 until 1991, the Greek political and social establishments perceived Israel as a major antagonist in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Athens followed a more pro-Arab stance reflecting the strong dependence Greece had upon crude oil from Arab countries. In the 1970s these Arab states imposed an oil embargo on the United States and Western Europe in order to curtail their pro-Israeli stance.
Greek-Israeli diplomatic relations were stagnant for nearly forty-five years. The pro-Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou viewed Israel as an American pawn that suppressed the self-determination of the Palestinian people. Under Papandreou’s rule the PLO extensively acted on Greek territory.…
The first wind of significant change came in 1995, due to several significant factors. Firstly, Greece sought to increase its diplomatic deterrent power vis-a-vis Turkey. Another was the death of Papandreou in June 1996. The improvement and expansion in U.S.-Greek relations under the socialist Prime Minister Kostas Simitis encouraged a shift toward Israel. Developments in the Middle East peace process—such as Israeli-PLO dialogue—also assisted Greek rapprochement with Israel. In September 1998, the then Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai denied a request from Turkey that Israel assist Turkish Armed Forces in the event of conflict with Greece. Mordechai’s comments that “Turkish-Israeli cooperation is not against any other country” encouraged Greece to enhance its economic relations with Israel.
Improved relations between Greece and Israel resulted in a substantial increase in trade throughout the 1990s. By 2004, Israel was importing $242 million worth of products from Greece, with $142 million going in the opposite direction. Many Israelis chose to visit Greece for summer vacations. The then Israeli President Moshe Katzav declared Greece an important economic partner and a gateway to the Balkans. Improved relations also led to Israel recognizing the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Greece and Cyprus.
Currently, the Israeli navy is developing strategic plans to protect its own EEZ, home to two large gas fields. The Leviathan field is located eighty miles off Haifa and contains sixteen trillion cubic feet of gas. The other field—known as Tamar—is situated 30 miles north of Leviathan and contains eight and a half trillion cubic feet of gas. Both fields are located near the border of the Greek and Cypriot EEZs. Accordingly, the IDF is expanding the 7,000-person navy, the smallest of the country’s armed services. Priority has gone to acquiring three more Dolphin-class submarines from Germany.
Furthermore, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to improve relations with Greece in order to counterbalance the expansion of Turkey’s regional influence. On the Greek side Prime Minister George Papandreou aims to assist mediation in peace agreements between Israel and its neighbours to enhance his image as an assertive regional peace negotiator. In addition, Papandreou wants to attract Israeli investment to offset Athens’ severe economic problems.…
On military issues the IDF will have the opportunity to train the Greek armed forces in symmetrical and asymmetrical warfare tactics and various counterintelligence and counterterrorism methods. Military cooperation with Israel may also lead to tangible benefits for the Greek economy and civilian industries. By adopting Israeli defense tactics and purchasing materiel, the Greek Armed Forces may also enhance their status within NATO. For example, Greece will have the opportunity to buy various missile systems and homeland security capabilities. In addition, the Israeli defense industry can upgrade and modernise ageing Greek defence systems.
It should be also noted that decades of Greece diplomatically cold-shouldering Israel did not defeat the cultural affinity between Greeks and Israelis, a key factor that is consistently underestimated in discussions about Greek-Israeli bilateral relations. Without a doubt Greek-Israeli diplomatic relations are entering a new period. Domestic and international factors will influence the new era of understanding and friendship among these two old and proud nations.
(Vassilios Damiras is a counter terrorism analyst with experience in defence, intelligence and terrorism affairs. He has a PhD from Loyola University in Chicago.)
ISRAEL-GREECE TIES KEEPS FLOTILLA ANCHORED
Calev Ben-David & Paul Tugwell
Bloomberg, July 10, 2011
Greece’s move to prevent a flotilla from departing its ports and challenging Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip highlights the deepening ties between the once antagonistic countries.
After a previous attempt ended in violence last year, pro- Palestinian activists planned a second, bigger convoy this month to undermine the blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza by delivering aid without permission. The effort fizzled as Greece stopped seven ships from sailing.…
“The relationship with Israel is multidimensional; it’s economics, tourism, military exercises, and part of the equation is natural gas,” said Aristotle Tziampiris, associate professor of international relations at Greece’s University of Piraeus. “It was the deterioration of the relationship between Turkey and Israel that provided an opening.…”
Ties between Greek and Israel have been slow to develop. The relationship was especially acrimonious during the 1980s, when then-prime minister Andreas Papandreou was a strong supporter of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and a vocal critic of Israeli policies.
His son George Papandreou, the current Greek prime minister, has taken a different approach. In July 2010 he became the first Greek premier to visit Jerusalem in decades. The next month he hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on an unprecedented visit to Athens.
Netanyahu, 61, singled out “my friend” Papandreou, 59, in a July 1 speech praising U.S. and European leaders for opposing the flotilla.
The biggest potential for economic cooperation lies with Israel’s natural gas discoveries, especially the Leviathan field that lies close to Cyprus and holds an estimated 16 trillion cubic feet. Israel and Greece have discussed exporting the gas either through an undersea pipeline to the Greek mainland or via a liquefied natural gas conversion plant to be built in Cyprus.
“Greece could very much become a hub for Israeli gas exports from the Leviathan field to Europe at a time when Europe is seeking to diversify away from its reliance on Russian gas,” said John Sitilides, chairman of the board of advisers for the Southeast Europe Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington-based research institute. “This is a relationship that makes sense.…”
Greece…is providing Israel with airspace, land and sea territory to conduct large-scale military exercises, replacing what had formerly been Turkey’s role. Greece and Israel have conducted at least two joint military exercises in the past year, including a just-concluded two-week aerial drill.
Israeli officials also see an opportunity to increase trade. Shipments between the countries were $412.8 million last year. Trade so far this year was $179.1 million, up from $153.6 million in the January-May of 2010, according to the Israeli statistics bureau.…
Among the Israeli companies doing business in Greece are Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc., the world’s largest generic drugs company, and agrochemicals maker Makhteshim-Agan Industries Ltd. (MAIN)
One of the beneficiaries of Israeli business may be the Greek tourism industry, with the country increasingly popular as the preferred Aegean resort in place of Turkey. The number of Israeli tourists in Greece increased 139 percent in 2010 to 197,159, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority.
As ties with Greece strengthen, some of Israel’s links to Turkey are fraying. In the first five months of this year, the number of Israelis traveling to Turkey fell 60 percent, Hurriyet said last month.…
J’LEM, ATHENS PURSUE
A STRONG RELATIONSHIP IN ALL ASPECTS
Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2011
Greek President Karolos Papoulias [was recently in Israel] for a visit symbolizing the dramatic upgrade in Israeli-Greek ties.… Papoulias, who served two stints as foreign minister in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, when Greece was considered one of the least friendly countries in Europe to Israel, was a close associate of the late prime minister Andreas Papandreou, the father of the current prime minister, George Papandreou. The elder Papandreou was widely considered pro-Palestinian, and Papoulias was among those who built Greece’s strongly pro-Arab foreign policy at the time.
Now Papoulias is considered in Jerusalem as a supporter of Greece’s realignment of its policy toward Israel. Ahead of his arrival, The Jerusalem Post conducted an email interview with Papoulias, in which he answered eight of 16 questions posed to him.…
Why are good ties with Israel important for Greece?
Greeceand Israel have rich and diverse ties—shared history in the wider Mediterranean area; shared pain through the extermination of Greek Jews by the Nazis. We are now involved in an intensive process of cooperation. Our ministers and officials systematically consult and work together on all levels and in key areas: energy, defense and security, agriculture, tourism. We are also working together on international issues and matters of regional concern to both countries. We are pursuing a strong relationship—strong on trade, strong on investment, strong on political and security cooperation.
Why are close ties with Greece important for Israel?
I would say that this question would best be answered by Israeli officials.
Greeceand Cyprus offer a safe and secure route towards Europe and the West. It is safe because it is not based on the good political climate between our two countries alone. Relationships based on politics may change, as we are all aware of. Our relationship is built on the more solid foundations of our common culture. The Greek route offers a safe environment for Israeli tourists, possibilities of increased economic cooperation, trade development and two-way investment, political and military cooperation that can benefit both our countries.…
What are you most interested in? Strategic ties? Military ties? Economic ties?
I do not see relations with Israel as developing in piecemeal fashion. Relations between countries are not static.
For example, as I mentioned, the discovery of major reserves off the coast of Cyprus and Israel changes the geo-economic situation in the region. It opens up new opportunities for cooperation between Greece, Israel and Cyprus. That is why it is now strategically even more important that a viable solution be found to the Cyprus problem, and we are counting on the support of Israel to achieve this.…
Earlier this year, Greece hosted the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Why is it important for Greece to have ties with the Jewish Diaspora? In what way can the Jewish and Greek diasporas cooperate?
Both Greece and Israel have large and vital diasporas, which closely monitor and support their respective homelands on issues of national interest.
Improved ties between Greece and Israel have also brought Jewish and Greek communities in the diaspora closer. This rapprochement clearly provides them with an opportunity both for local cooperation and for enhancing the mutual support of our national interests.…
I understand that you will be traveling to Ramallah after coming to Jerusalem. What message will you be bringing to the Palestinians?
Greecehas always been present in the Middle East. Large Greek communities live here.
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem is here. We have an interest in a stable, secure and prosperous Middle East. The political deadlock in the peace process remains and affects the wider region. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict also deeply affects the people in the area. They are the ones to suffer. It is their future that is at stake.
In substance we support a two-state solution—a democratic Palestinian state alongside Israel within secure borders. As far as the process is concerned, I remain convinced that direct negotiations between the two sides are the only way to achieve a comprehensive and viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through its good relations with all countries in the wider area, Greece has contributed to the peace process and will continue to do so. Ultimately, of course, it is up to the parties involved to make the hard choices that will be necessary in order to achieve results.…