Canadian Institute for Jewish Research /
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
INVITE YOU TO A SPECIAL PRESENTATION :
Ruben Salvadori, Photo journalist
1515 St. Catherine W., Room 6.735
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research /
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
INVITE YOU TO A SPECIAL PRESENTATION :
Ruben Salvadori, Photo journalist
Ada Rapoport-Albert, Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, 1666-1816.
Oxford, Portland, OR: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2011. xvi + 386 pp.
Any observer of trends in the field of Jewish studies will have noted that two areas in particular have seen much new research and publication activity of late: the study of women and Judaism, and kabbala. These two trends come together in Ada Rapoport-Albert’s book on women and the kabbalistically-based messianic movement of Sabbatai Zevi and its offshoots from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century.
Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi begins and ends with the author’s reflections on the position of women in the Hasidic movement, which sprang to life in eighteenth century Eastern Europe at a time when Jewish communities worldwide had been thoroughly traumatized by the Sabbatian movement. In contrast to scholars, like Shmuel Abba Horodetsky, at the beginning of the twentieth century, and Nehemia Polen, at its end, who claimed to have found in the Hasidic movement “something of a feminist revolution in Judaism” (p. 1), Rapoport-Albert will have none of it. Neither in the structure nor in the ethos of Hasidism does she find any meaningful access for women who, for example, were excluded from the rebbe’s table at which he delivered his Torah. Possible exceptions to her thesis are given short shrift.
In contrast, the author meticulously demonstrates that the Sabbatian movement, from its inception to its demise as an organized force, included women not merely as followers and enablers, but also as leaders, prophets, and even messianic figures, “personally and even prominently engaged in the fellowships’ activities alongside or together with the men”. (p. 107) From Gershom Scholem’s pioneering research on Sabbatianism and onward, scholars have been aware of this phenomenon, but no one prior to Rapoport-Albert has marshaled the available evidence to reveal a pervasive pattern with the same thoroughness. It is a pattern so remarkable that she can characterize it, in the title of one of her chapters, as an “egalitarian agenda”. Sabbatai Zevi himself gave voice to this impulse in a direct address to the Jewish women of Izmir (itself a transgressive act), in which he told them “I have come to redeem you from all your sufferings, to liberate you…” (p. 108) It continues in the writings of one of the greatest Sabbatian propagandists, Abraham Cardoso, and reaches its height in the world view of Jacob Frank and his movement, “culminating in the veneration in Frankist circles of Eva Frank as the female messiah and the living incarnation of the divine sefirah Malkhut”. (p. 321)
Whence comes this upending of the established patriarchal character of rabbinic Judaism? Rapoport-Albert traces its roots to two likely sources. The first is the religious culture of the conversos, those Jews forcibly converted to Christianity in Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth century and their descendents. Under conditions in which the “public” face of Judaism (e.g. synagogues and schools) dominated by males had ceased to exist, women, who had been historically experienced in how to maintain Jewishness in the private domain came into their own as leaders. When the conversos and their descendents “returned” to rabbinic Judaism in places like the Ottoman Empire or Amsterdam, Rapoport-Albert speculates that the influence of this experience remained powerful. (p. 112)
The second potent factor to be considered is the mythic world of sixteenth and seventeenth century kabbala. The Zohar, for instance, a prime source of the kabbalistic world view, imagines “diametrically opposed conditions in which women operate in [the] other world. In their heavenly palaces they are relieved of all their earthly duties and obligations…the righteous women devote all their time to spiritual ‘pleasures and luxuries’”. (pp. 126-127) Women prophets and diviners are taken seriously by such key figures as Rabbi Hayyim Vital.
All of these trends come together in a Sabbatian movement that proclaimed that the coming of the messiah had basically and fundamentally changed the way the cosmos operated. This change meant that the relationship of Jews to the existing structure of Torah law was now fundamentally altered as well, including those parts of Torah law regulating and restricting the role of women, and prominently including the Torah’s rules of sexual propriety.
Hasidism, a revolutionary movement in its own right, was accused by its early opponents of Sabbatian-like heresies. Rapoport-Albert, however, concludes that, with respect to women, Hasidism went in a completely different direction from the one taken by the Sabbatians. She speculates in her conclusion that the Hasidism did so as a reaction against the heretical group’s inclusion of women. As she states, there is a “probability that in erecting their own impermeable gender barriers, the Hasidic masters were not just conforming to a traditional gender norm, but rather they were recoiling with horror from the spectre of its breached boundaries.” (p. 277)
Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi is a book of importance for all those interested in gender issues related to Jews and Judaism, as well as for those engaged in the study of Jewish mysticism. It further challenges people engaged in the study of Jews and Judaism in the Early Modern period to pay careful attention to the ways in which the Sabbatian believers influenced historical developments both in direct and in dialectical ways.
Academic Fellow, CIJR
Department of Religion, Concordia University
DELEGITIMIZATION OF ISRAEL IS NEW ANTI-SEMITISM
Jerusalem Post, January 31, 2012
Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said during a warm address at the opening of the 12th-annual Herzliya Conference on Monday night. Ottawa stood with Israel because it was a Canadian tradition “to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is popular, convenient or expedient,” Baird said. The Canadian government supports Israel so strongly…because it embodies the values Canada holds dear…and because Israel is “a beacon of light in a region that craves freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
Slamming the “constant barrage of rhetorical demonization, double standards and delegitimization” of Israel, Baird characterized this as the new anti-Semitism. “Harnessing disparate anti-Semitic, anti-American and anti-Western ideologies, it targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, Israel, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world, and uses, perversely, the language of human rights to do so,” he said. “We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is.…”
BDS AND ACADEMIA
Asaf Romirowsky & John R. Cohn
Jerusalem Post, January 30, 2012
A self-proclaimed National Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Conference is set to take place at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy league institution in the heart of Philadelphia, during the weekend of February 4. Last held in 2009, according to the organizers, the BDS movement intends to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by demonizing Israel while propagating the Palestinian victimhood status in order to gain global sympathy. They believe that if universities, companies and even countries boycott, divest from and sanction Israel it will pressure the government to change its so-called “hard nosed” policies toward the Palestinians and in addition to give up land Israel supposedly “stole” from the Palestinians in 1948 and 1967.
A closer look at the BDS movement and its methodology shows not legitimate criticism but actually a racist and anti-Semitic program. In a world where refugees have been created and resettled by the tens of millions, including over 900,000 Jews that fled Arab states, BDS targets only Israel. Its stated goals vary but all include the “right” for descendants of Palestinian “refugees” to “return” to a country they have never seen, thus bringing about the end of Jewish Israel. The movement takes care to give the impression that ending specific Israeli policies such as the “occupation” or “apartheid” will also bring an end to efforts to ostracize Israel. Their maximalist demand—the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state—is carefully hidden but readily apparent to a careful examiner.
It is a matter of great concern that respected universities lend their space and name to such conferences in addition to the participation of their faculty and others from around the country. In North America, whatever goes on in a classroom is deemed protected by “academic freedom,” whether it is academic or not.… Gradually, campuses have become an “academic freedom” zone where protests and other activities now qualify as academic “speech.” This freedom to critique is, predictably, directed mostly at the twin Satans, Israel and America, although efforts to curtail speech that academics find unpleasant and unacceptable have been longstanding in the form of “speech codes” and restrictions on “hate speech.” Clearly academic freedom is a one-way street; only those having the correct opinions may claim it.…
[Accordingly], universities which should be bastions of critical thinking and opposition to fallacies of argument have become fertile ground for myth, fantasy and lies about history. North American college campuses have been suffering from a significant increase in anti-Israelism. This new situation has demonstrated the need for a clear and inclusive definition of anti-Semitism and an answer to the question of whether anti-Israelism constitutes anti-Semitism.
The apparent dilemma has been that anti-Israelism itself is not blatantly or even necessarily anti-Semitic but rather may appear merely critical of “Zionist policies,” thus distinguishing between Jews and Zionists. This well-worn distinction has enabled the anti-Israeli camp to pose as legitimate critics. What has actually emerged, in effect, is a new form of anti-Semitism, because the state of Israel acts as a proxy for Jews at large.…
In the US, politicized writing and teaching have often displaced scholarship, and academic freedom has been redefined as the liberty to dispense with academic standards. In response, hiring token Israeli Jews who subscribe to the anti-Israel narrative and support the BDS movement has become common practice on American campuses, thereby eliminating debate while providing the illusion of balance and using their Jewishness as a carte blanche to criticize Israel and question it existence.
Combating BDS has become complicated and confusing especially for those who want to believe that there is room for debating the “facts” presented by the BDS movement. What makes this battle so arduous for the pro-Israel community and so attractive for the antagonizers of Israel is the umbrella of academic freedom.…
On a positive note, the racist nature of the BDS movement has redrawn the lines of acceptable discourse. We are now seeing a sure but steady understanding of the real threats BDS and its sympathizers represent to not just the pro-Israel community but to honest academic discourse on the Middle East. The hope is that rejection of their hateful message will catch on.
THREE DAYS OF ANTI-ISRAEL VENOM AT U PENN
FrontPage, January 20, 2012
What do the administrators at the University of Pennsylvania know about the 2012 National Conference of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement about to take place at Penn and when did they know it?
“BDS,” as this virulent anti-Israeli hatefest is commonly called, is coming to the Penn campus on February 3-5, but university officials have hid from the implications of hosting such an event. They say that the university is on record as not supporting this movement, yet they let the event go forward, providing space and possibly funding, despite the fact that the sponsors may not meet school requirements as a recognized group and that their anti-Semitic message is deeply hostile to academic freedom and basic human decency. The university appears to be bending rules that would be rigidly enforced for sponsors of another cause.
U Penn’s willingness to enable the BDS conference is particularly inexplicable given the fact that this growing movement to boycott Israel and Israeli-produced goods, force divestment from any companies that do business with Israel, and establish sanctions against Israel due to its supposed violations of human rights, was created by nations and groups seeking to delegitimize and destabilize Israel such as the terrorist-sponsoring nation of Iran and the terrorist groups Hezbollah, and Hamas. As Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz has noted, the BDS movement abets terrorism: “People who advocate boycotts and divestiture will literally have blood on their hands,” he said. “They encourage terrorism and discourage the laying down of arms.…”
Among the scheduled speakers at the upcoming conference is Anna Baltzer, a “Jewish American Palestinian human rights activist,” who summarizes the line of attack on Israel when she bluntly states that its polices of “ethnic cleansing and apartheid must be stopped.” These terms are not arguments; they are knowing lies designed to weaken the Jewish State.… The insidious segregation of “apartheid” does not exist in Israel. Arabs are granted full civil rights under Israeli law.… Israeli Arab citizens vote in national elections, have representatives in the Israeli Parliament…and sit on the benches of Israeli courts (including the Israeli Supreme Court). They have more rights, and enjoy more freedom, education, and economic opportunity than the Arabs of any Arab state.
The BDS conference at Penn will feature, in addition to Baltzer, a cavalcade of anti-Israel speakers, including founder of the Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah, whose views are summed up when he says, “Israel is a society where virulent anti-Arab racism and Nakba denial are the norm although none of the European and American leaders who constantly lecture about Holocaust denial will dare to admonish [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu for his bald lies and omissions about Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.”
The BDS National Conference at U Penn is by no means a stand-alone event. In fact the BDS movement shares radical political DNA (and personnel) with the international “Israel Apartheid Weeks” and “Palestine Awareness Weeks” scheduled to take place on campuses around the country this spring. The goal of these events, designed by the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations Muslim Students Association (MSA) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), is to garner support for the Palestinian Authority and Hamas who seek to “push the Jews into the sea” and annihilate the Jewish state. These “weeks” have regularly sought to intimidate Jewish students, occasionally through acts of physical violence, and have become frequent occurrences at campuses like the University of California, Irvine.…
Despite the intention of the BDS conference to preach three days of systematic ethnic hatred against Jews that the university would not countenance if it were directed, say, at Muslims, U Penn officials have turned a blind eye (and a deaf ear) to the growing public outcry about the conference, claiming that it is solely a student matter and that, to stretch credulity, the university literally has no information regarding the conference, its funding, its sponsors, or its arrangements to use university facilities.
As a concerned Jewish-American citizen…I made several calls to university officials to see if I could uncover the truth about Penn’s sponsorship or funding of or cooperation with the BDS conference. I first spoke with Executive Director Karu Kozuma at the Office of Student Affairs and hit a brick wall. Kozuma claimed that all funding decisions are handled by students themselves and he did not have any information on whether PennBDS receives student funds either in general or for the upcoming conference.… A week after my initial call Kozuma responded by email to clarify that PennBDS had only recently become a recognized student organization and as such was not eligible to receive student activities funds..…
Many observers and critics of the PennBDS conference and movement note that it appears to have sprung up overnight out of thin air. Yet Penn does have rules and regulations governing how long a student organization must be in existence before it may be officially recognized by the University and thereby be eligible to use university facilities free-of-charge. The Student Activities Council (SAC) website notes that…“All groups seeking SAC recognition must have been in existence for at least one year.… The group must also demonstrate an appeal to a reasonable portion of the Penn Community.”
I once again emailed Kozuma to inquire whether PennBDS had met these criteria—in particular, whether the group had existed for a full year prior to its recognition by the Student Activities Council. My inquiries met with no response, raising questions about whether the Student Activities Council and the administrators who oversee it may have bent the rules for PennBDS. Attempts to contact PennBDS directly to ask these questions were also ignored.…
This unconcern and lack of transparency on the part of Penn…is disturbing. The BDS movement is steeped in hatred and anti-Semitism, yet Penn has taken the stance that it has no authority to forbid such hatred access to its property or even to oversee basic details regarding the organization’s use of university facilities and resources. Would Penn take the same line if the conference was being sponsored not by BDS but by the Aryan Brotherhood or the KKK?…
THE ZIONIST IMPERATIVE
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, January 27, 2012
European and American perfidy in dealing with Iran’s nuclear weapons program apparently has no end. This week we were subject to banner headlines announcing that the EU has decided to place an oil embargo on Iran. It was only when we got past the bombast that we discovered that the embargo is only set to come into force on July 1. Following its European colleagues, the Obama administration announced it is also ratcheting up its sanctions against Iran—in two months. Sometime in late March, the US will begin sanctioning Iran’s third largest bank.
At the same time as the Europeans and the Americans announced their phony sanctions, they reportedly dispatched their Turkish colleagues to Tehran to set up a new round of nuclear talks with the ayatollahs. If the past is any guide, we can expect for the Iranians to agree to sit down and talk just before the oil embargo is scheduled to be enforced. And the Europeans—with US support—will use the existence of talks to postpone indefinitely the implementation of the embargo. There is nothing new in this game of fake sanctions. And what it shows more than anything is that the Europeans and the Americans are more concerned with pressuring Israel not to attack Iran’s nuclear installations than they are in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
Obama has a second target audience—American Jews. He is using his fake sanctions as a means of convincing American Jews that he is a pro-Israel president and that in the current election season, not only should they cast their votes in his favor, they should sign their checks for his campaign.… As to American Jewry, the jury is still out.
In truth, American Jewry’s diffidence towards taking a stand on Iran, or recognizing Obama’s dishonesty on this issue specifically and his dishonesty regarding his position on US-Israel ties generally is not rooted primarily in American Jews’ devotion to Obama. It isn’t even specifically related to American Jewry’s devotion to the political Left. Rather it has to do with American Jewish ambivalence to Israel.… As the US and the EU have given Iran at least another six months to a year to develop its nuclear bombs unchecked, it is worth considering the nature and influence of this ambivalence.
Today’s principal form of Jew-hatred is anti-Zionism.… The problem that anti-Zionism poses for American Jewry is that it forces them to pay a price for supporting Israel. This is problematic because Zionism has never been fully embraced by American Jewry.… Unlike every other Diaspora Jewish community, the American Jewish community has always perceived itself as a permanent community rather than an exilic community. American Jews have always viewed the United States as the new Promised Land.…
In a recent op-ed in Haaretz, Hebrew University political science professor Shlomo Avineri contrasted world Jewry’s massive mobilization on behalf of Soviet Jewry in the 1970s and 1980s and their relative silence today in the face of Iran’s Holocaust denial and open calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state. Avineri is apparently confounded by the disparity between Western Jewry’s behavior in the two cases. But the cause of the disparity is clear.
Supporting the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate was easy. Unlike Israel, Soviet Jews were powerless. As such, they were pure victims and supporting them cost Diaspora Jews nothing in terms of their position in their societies. Just as important, the cause of freedom for Soviet Jewry was perfectly aligned with the West’s Cold War policies against the Soviet Union.… In contrast, supporting Israel, and the cause of Jewish freedom and self-determination embodied by Zionism, is not cost-free for Diaspora Jews. At root, to support Israel and Zionism involves accepting that Jews have inherent rights as Jews. To be a Zionist Jew in the Diaspora means that you embrace and defend the notion that the Jews have the right to their own interests and that those interests may be distinct from other nations’ interests. That is, to be a Zionist involves…embracing the fact that Jews require national independence and power to guarantee our survival. And this can be unpleasant.
Pro-Israel American Jews have historically tried to tie their support for Israel to larger, more universal themes, in order to extricate themselves from the need to admit that as Jews and supporters of Israel they have a right and a duty to support Jewish freedom even if it isn’t always pretty. Again, for Israel’s first several decades, it was about helping poor Jews and refugees. In recent years, the predominant defense has been that Israel deserves support because it is a democracy.
Certainly, these are both reasonable reasons for supporting Israel. But neither support for Israel because it was poor nor support for Israel because it is free is a specifically Zionist reason for supporting Israel. You don’t have to be a Zionist to support poor Jewish refugees and you don’t have to be a Zionist to support democracy. You do have to be a Zionist however, to defend the Jews in Israel and throughout the world in a coherent manner when the predominant form of Jew-hatred is anti-Zionism.
You have to be willing to accept and defend the right of the Jewish people to freedom and self-determination in our national homeland against those who deny that right.… And you have to be a Zionist to realize that since Jewish survival is dependent on Jewish power, and anti-Zionists reject the right of Jews to have power, that anti-Zionists seek to bring about a situation where Jewish survival is imperilled.…
Since 2007, the US government has effectively ruled out the use of force against Iran’s nuclear weapons program and embraced a policy of pursuing negotiations with ayatollahs while enacting impotent sanctions to quell congressional pressure.… [Therefore], to oppose Iran’s nuclear program effectively, American Jews are required to oppose these strongly supported US policies. And at some point, this may require them to announce they support Israel’s right to survive and thrive even if that paramount right conflicts with how the US government perceives US national interests.…
In a speech this week at the Knesset, [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu…embraced Zionism’s core principle: “With regard to threats to our very existence, we cannot abandon our future to the hands of others. With regard to our fate, our duty is to rely on ourselves alone.” We must hope that world Jewry will recognize today that the fate of the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world is indivisible and rally to Israel’s side whatever the social cost of doing so. But even if they do not recognize this basic truth, the imperatives of Zionism, of the Jewish people, remain in place.
Barbara Kay discusses "Israel and Delegitimation."
The Persian Shiite Regime operates by its own sense of ethics and morality, and chooses which laws and international customs it cares to follow. An unmitigated hatred of the USA and Israel, a brazen support of terrorism against its perceived enemies, and an extraordinary determination to acquire nuclear weapons are hallmarks of the Regime.
It has taken a while to see clearly the Regime’s dreams and ambitions. Like a puffed up peacock, acting under the illusion that it is a superpower, the Regime’s rulers parade across the globe collecting or buying sycophants who share the Regime’s hatred of the USA. In addition to its Syrian, Hezbollah, and Hamas puppets, the Regime has quietly expanded its network in Latin and South America and is currently trying to do the same in Africa. The only rational goal of this policy is to allow the Regime to evade UN sanctions and free it to continue to develop nuclear weapons.
The Regime seems to be following in the footsteps of the defunct USSR in trying to construct a global network to bring down the capitalistic West. Like the USSR, the country the Regime has created is attractive to no one—except for oil, the Regime produces nothing the world wants or needs, it has no respect for individual liberty or freedom, and it routinely hangs its own citizens in public for cockamamie religious or whimsical transgressions.
In the last staged Iranian election, the hard-liners in the Regime were so insecure that they stuffed the ballot boxes to insure that the soft-liners in the Regime lost; so now the Revolution is beginning to feed on itself, a sure sign that the Regime is losing the support of its own people.
In recent weeks, the grand strategy of the Regime to bring the West to its knees has finally come into clear view. For years, the Persian Shiite Regime has lobbied hard in OPEC to raise the price of oil by decreasing production. By and large, the Regime’s strategy failed because Saudi Arabia refused to go along with it. Saudi Arabia does not regard itself as a mortal enemy of the USA—as the Regime obviously does—and, on the contrary, understands that the USA and Saudi Arabia are co-dependent. A Persian Shiite Regime armed with nuclear weapons, however, will be able, one way or another, to arbitrarily set the price of all oil leaving the Persian Gulf.
On December 26, 2011, the Regime’s Vice President Mohammed Reza Rahimi threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off all oil shipments, if the West imposes sanctions on Iran’s oil shipments. This week, to put teeth behind the threat, the Regime’s navy started practicing doing precisely that. If the Regime gets away with this threat, as it has with all of its previous ones, then here is the next threat we will shortly face: “The Persian Shiite Regime will block all oil from leaving the straits if the West does not end its sanctions against Iran”. Once the Regime gets nuclear weapons, we can expect a threat like this: “To get any oil out of the Persian Gulf, the West will have to pay $200 a barrel, stop all support for any country in the Middle East, and withdraw all of its forces there, including its aircraft carriers”. The West will finally lose all control of its independence and be bled dry.
So what are we to do? Since the Regime routinely lies to the rest of the world whenever it is cornered, none of their promises can be believed. They will lie, stall, and con everyone in order to buy the time needed to develop nuclear weapons. Thus, as quickly as possible and with a minimum loss of innocent life, it is time to militarily destroy the Regime’s nuclear weapons installations. As we prepare for this job, we must honestly face what kept us from doing this for so many years.
One of the West’s greatest fears, that has paralyzed it from taking military action against the Regime, has been the belief that such an attack would be viewed by the Arab world as an attack against Islam itself. Today, nothing could be further from the truth. The support for the Regime among Arab populations has unexpectedly precipitously dropped over the last decade according to the latest polling by Dr. James Zogby of the Arab American Institute. In 2006 Iran’s positive rating in the mind of the Arab public stood at 68-82%, but by December, 2011 the rating declined to only 6% in Saudi Arabia, 14% in Morocco, 22% in the United Arab Emirates, 23% in Jordan, and 37% in Egypt. Expectedly, the rating remained high in Lebanon at 63%.
In Zogby’s opinion, the plummeting Arab support for the Regime can be traced to Tehran’s meddling in sectarian politics in Arab states and to the Persian Shiites Regime’s opposition to peace in the Middle East.
Sunni Arabs no longer identify with the Regime and do not view it as the leader of the Islamic world. Equally important, Zogby found that, except for Lebanon, the great majority of Arabs wanted to keep nuclear weapons out of the Middle East. Clearly, then, the bid by the Regime to ascend to the leadership of the Arab world by adopting Nasser’s belligerent policies towards Israel has failed. The Regime stands alone, with very few genuine allies in the world, and from a military point of view, none of them count.
Certain historical truths are essential to keep in mind as we move to knock out one of the most important props keeping the Persian Shiite Regime in power.
A country that could not defeat Saddam Hussein’s armies after almost eight years of war is not a military threat to the West. But a Persian Shiite Regime armed with nuclear weapons is another matter. Did you ever wonder why the Regime finally decided to end its stalemated war with Iraq? In the last year of this war (1988), the Persian Shiite Regime tried four times to end the stalemate and finally defeat Saddam Hussein’s armies. However, backed-up with poison gas, Saddam Hussein’s armies skillfully defeated all four of the Regime’s attempts at victory. These defeats must have been bitter for the Regime to face since it threw everything it had at the Iraqis, including the martyrdom of unarmed Iranian children sent through Iraqi mine fields.
At the end of the fourth of these defeats, the Regime caved and signed a peace treaty with Saddam Hussein that the Regime meticulously kept. Years later, the humiliated Regime watched as the armies of the Great Satan defeated the armies of Saddam Hussein in only 23 days! The moral of this story is that the Regime has a big mouth and is good at making blood-curling threats, but its military power is no match for ours. Whatever casualties we suffer by attacking now would pale compared to what they would be if we were forced to do this after the Regime acquires nuclear weapons. Backed-up by the military experience gained in Iraq, the US—as the regional superpower and leader of the West—is the natural country to organize the assault: Israel should stay out of it unless attacked. This would maximize support for the operation in the Arab world. Although it pains me to say this (I am a physicist myself), the obliteration of the Regime’s nuclear weapons facilities should take place at 11 a.m. on an Iranian workday to maximize the losses of the technical personnel now working hard to produce bomb-grade uranium-235.
How will the Regime respond to the attack, beyond the usual verbal threats?
Soon after it seized control of the 1979 revolution that toppled the Shah of Iran, the Khomeini Shiite clique took control over the American embassy in Tehran and kept 51 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, in conditions that included beatings, torture, solitary confinement, and mock executions. Operating without any fear of retaliation, the Shiite Regime could not care less about the rules of diplomatic immunity and civilized treatment of defenseless diplomats. The inability of the U.S. President at that time, Jimmy Carter, to settle the dispute peacefully through diplomatic means cost Carter his re-election. It mattered not to the Regime that Carter, a great believer in civil rights, helped bring down Shah Pahlavi thereby paving the way for Ayatollah Khomeini to seize power in the first place.
Khomeini waited until the last day of the Carter Administration to sign the Algiers Accords ending the crisis, and released the hostages only the next day, minutes after Ronald Reagan, who had sworn to settle the crisis by any means necessary, was inaugurated as the new American President. Khomeini was not willing to test Reagan’s promise to the American people to use force if necessary to free the diplomats.
In 2006, Hezbollah, the Regime’s puppet in Lebanon, provoked a war with Israel that the terrorist organization lived to regret. In response, Israel conquered Hezbollah territory and destroyed much of its military and civilian infrastructure. For the 34 days that the war lasted, the Regime shouted bombastic threats against Israel, but militarily did absolutely nothing. Interestingly, although Hezbollah has repeatedly threatened to attack Israel if Israel attacked Iran, Iran does not apparently see the need to return Hezbollah’s favor! Why didn’t the Regime open up a second front in this war by attacking Israel? If it really wanted to “wipe Israel off the map”, here was its chance—why didn’t it do it? Answer: Israel would have obliterated the Regime, and the Regime knew it.
Interestingly, the same thing happened in 2008 when Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israeli cities finally provoked Israel to retaliate by invading the Gaza strip. During this three-week war both Hezbollah and the Regime, allies of Hamas, did absolutely nothing to help Hamas. [This constitutes the proof that Israel defeated Hezbollah in the 2006 war, and not the other way around, as Hezbollah continues to claim.] Of course, both Regimes shouted their usual threats at Israel, but militarily they knew better than intervene.
So here we have the bottom-line truth about the Persian Shiite Regime. It fearlessly hangs unrepentant members of the Baha’i religion from public gallows, including teen-age girls (children!) along with their parents, but when the opportunity arises to put their money where their mouth is regarding Israel, we see cowardice instead. The Regime’s current threat to close down all oil shipments from the Persian Gulf must be viewed as a bluff, just like its threat to attack Israel if the USA bombed the Regime’s nuclear weapons facilities.
What happens when this Regime of fakers gets nuclear weapons is impossible to know. However, we cannot afford to wait to find out whether the Regime’s threats really represent its true dreams. It is better to be safe than sorry: it is time to act, and in doing so, to make not only the Middle East, but the world, a safer place.
(Ivan Kramer is an Associate Professor of Physics
at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.)
THE ‘ARAB SPRING’ AS WINTER DESCENDS
Mitchell A. Belfer
National Review, January 18, 2012
Honest reflection on the past twelve months of discontent, as manifested in various forms of revolutionary zeal, rhetoric, and violence, exposes a solitary thread weaving through all the demonstrations and “rebel” and “opposition” movements that cycloned through the Middle East and North Africa: In each case, local issues were the engines of public mobilization. Whether discussing Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia, the tribal swaggering in Yemen, or demonstrators’ exploitation of opportunity (and Iranian money) in Bahrain, it is clear that the “Arab Spring” is a haphazard series of disconnected local events, united in time but varying greatly in motivation.
This idea contrasts with the all-too-frequent invocation of a loose web of universal values to explain these political outbursts. The Arab Spring is a set of rebellions against current rulers, but it has never been about a regional application of new systems of governance, mechanisms of accountability, or even sources of legitimacy. While some of the more thoughtful political movements have heralded democratization as a rallying siren, their sentiments were neither widely endorsed nor convincingly pursued.
Instead, democracy is rhetorically invoked to reinforce anti-democratic ideologies. Libya’s National Transitional Council has, according to Amnesty International, committed terrible atrocities against civilians. Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party (the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood) pledges to construct and maintain Egyptian democracy while referring to women as “wives, mothers, and makers of men” and promising to help women in those roles. Similarly, the Al-Wefaq party in Bahrain demands democracy and, upon attaining that goal, boycotts elections while physically intimidating candidates.…
However loud the rhythmic chant of democracy may be, the transformation of any society cannot be achieved through balloting alone. Such political renovations require long and arduous processes to build public trust, institutionalize legal arbitration, and stabilize the national economy. While regular elections may be an important yardstick of a country’s democratic credentials, they are not infallible and, as events in the Middle East suggest, are likely to lead to a “tyranny of the majority” where the winner takes all.…
Violence has turned the Arab Spring into an “Arab Winter,” a bleak period defined by mass migrations of Egyptians, Libyans, and Tunisians to Europe; by sporadic violence-as-temper-tantrum by the leaders and followers of a dozen anti-establishment groups in Bahrain; and by low-intensity tribal warfare in Yemen and high-intensity civil war in Syria, all as silence falls over the international community.
The cynicism brought by such seasonal change is made more acute by events in Iran, which is reaching for regional hegemony through internal repression and external doublespeak. Iran supports Syria’s crackdown against demonstrators; it raves for democracy abroad while executing some 500 people—mostly political prisoners—per year; it supports the Arab Spring but crushed the “Persian Summer” in 2009; and, most recently, it facilitated the storming of the U.K. embassy as revenge for Britain’s criticism of the Iranian regime.…
This reinforces the truth that there is no homogeneous region called the Arab world, filled with homogeneous Arab people making homogeneous demands on homogeneous governments. Instead, each country carries its own cultural baggage, historical experience, political approach, strategic orientation, and local perspective. Only by understanding and accepting the unique conditions existing within each state can progress be made in the Middle East as a whole. Instead of relying on rash, quick-fix democracy, emphasis needs to be placed on fostering national dialogue within each state, or else we will risk a swinging pendulum that will knock the Arab countries backwards.…
AMERICA AND THE ARAB SPRING
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, January 23, 2012
A year ago this week, on January 25, 2011, the ground began to crumble under then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s feet. One year later, Mubarak and his sons are in prison, and standing trial. [Last] week, the final vote tally from Egypt’s parliamentary elections was published. The Islamist parties have won 72 percent of the seats in the lower house.
The photogenic, Western-looking youth from Tahrir Square the Western media were thrilled to dub the “Facebook revolutionaries” were disgraced at the polls and exposed as an insignificant social and political force. As for the military junta, it has made its peace with the Muslim Brotherhood. The generals and the jihadists are negotiating a power-sharing agreement. According to details of the agreement that have made their way to the media, the generals will remain the West’s go-to guys for foreign affairs. The Muslim Brotherhood (and its fellow jihadists in the Salafist al-Nour party) will control Egypt’s internal affairs.
This is bad news for women and for non-Muslims. Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been under continuous attack by Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist supporters since Mubarak was deposed. Their churches, homes and businesses have been burned, looted and destroyed. Their wives and daughters have been raped. The military massacred them when they dared to protest their persecution. As for women, their main claim to fame since Mubarak’s overthrow has been their sexual victimization at the hands of soldiers who stripped female protesters and performed “virginity tests” on them. Out of nearly five hundred seats in parliament, only 10 will be filled by women.
The Western media are centering their attention on what the next Egyptian constitution will look like and whether it will guarantee rights for women and minorities. What they fail to recognize is that the Islamic fundamentalists now in charge of Egypt don’t need a constitution to implement their tyranny. All they require is what they already have—a public awareness of their political power and their partnership with the military.
The same literalist approach that has prevented Western observers from reading the writing on the walls in terms of the Islamists’ domestic empowerment has blinded them to the impact of Egypt’s political transformation on the country’s foreign policy posture. US officials forcefully proclaim that they will not abide by an Egyptian move to formally abrogate its peace treaty with Israel. What they fail to recognize is that whether or not the treaty is formally abrogated is irrelevant. The situation on the ground in which the new regime allows Sinai to be used as a launching ground for attacks against Israel, and as a highway for weapons and terror personnel to flow freely into Gaza, are clear signs that the peace with Israel is already dead—treaty or no treaty.
Egypt’s transformation is not an isolated event. The disgraced former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived in the US [last] week [to seek medical attention]. Yemen is supposed to elect his successor next month. The deteriorating security situation in that strategically vital land which borders the Arabian and Red Seas has decreased the likelihood that the election will take place as planned.
Yemen is falling apart at the seams. Al-Qaida forces have been advancing in the south. Last spring they took over Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province. In recent weeks they captured Radda, a city 160 km. south of the capital of Sana. Radda’s capture underscored American fears that the political upheaval in Yemen will provide al-Qaida with a foothold near shipping routes through the Red Sea and so enable the group to spread its influence to neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Al-Qaida forces were also prominent in the NATO-backed Libyan opposition forces that with NATO’s help overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in October. Although the situation on the ground is far from clear, it appears that radical Islamic political forces are intimidating their way into power in post-Gaddafi Libya.…
In Bahrain, the Iranian-supported Shi’ite majority continues to mount political protests against the Sunni monarchy. Security forces killed two young Shi’ite protesters over the past week and a half, and opened fired at Shi’ites who sought to hold a protest march after attending the funeral of one of them. As supporters of Bahrain’s Shi’ites have maintained since the unrest spread to the kingdom last year, Bahrain’s Shi’ites are not Iranian proxies. But then, until the US pulled its troops out of Iraq last month, neither were Iraq’s Shi’ites. What happened immediately after the US pullout is another story completely.
Extolling Iraq’s swift deterioration into an Iranian satrapy, last Wednesday, Brig.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Jerusalem Brigade, bragged, “In reality, in south Lebanon and Iraq, the people are under the effect of the Islamic Republic’s way of practice and thinking.” While Suleimani probably exaggerated the situation, there is no doubt that Iran’s increased influence in Iraq is being felt around the region. Iraq has come to the aid of Iran’s Syrian client Bashar Assad who is now embroiled in a civil war. The rise of Iran in Iraq holds dire implications for the Hashemite regime in Jordan which is currently hanging on by a thread, challenged from within and without by the rising force of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Much has been written since the fall of Mubarak about the impact on Israel of the misnamed Arab Spring. Events like September’s mob assault on Israel’s embassy in Cairo and the murderous cross-border attack on motorists traveling on the road to Eilat by terrorists operating out of Sinai give force to the assessment that Israel is more imperiled than ever by the revolutionary events engulfing the region. But the truth is that while on balance Israel’s regional posture has taken a hit, particularly from the overthrow of Mubarak and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists in Egypt, Israel is not the primary loser in the so-called Arab Spring.…
To understand the depth and breadth of America’s losses, consider that on January 25, 2011, most Arab states were US allies to a greater or lesser degree. Mubarak was a strategic ally. Saleh was willing to collaborate with the US in combating al-Qaida and other jihadist forces in his country. Gaddafi was a neutered former enemy who had posed no threat to the US since 2004. Iraq was a protectorate. Jordan and Morocco were stable US clients. One year later, the elements of the US’s alliance structure have either been destroyed or seriously weakened.…
Perhaps the most amazing aspect to the US’s spectacular loss of influence and power in the Arab world is that most of its strategic collapse has been due to its own actions. In Egypt and Libya the US intervened prominently to bring down a US ally and a dictator who constituted no threat to its interests. Indeed, it went to war to bring Gaddafi down. Moreover, the US acted to bring about their fall at the same time it knew that they would be replaced by forces inimical to American national security interests. In Egypt, it was clear that the Muslim Brotherhood would emerge as the strongest political force in the country. In Libya, it was clear at the outset of the NATO campaign against Gaddafi that al-Qaida was prominently represented in the antiregime coalition. And just as the Islamists won the Egyptian election, shortly after Gaddafi was overthrown, al-Qaida forces raised their flag over Benghazi’s courthouse. US actions from Yemen to Bahrain and beyond have followed a similar pattern.
In sharp contrast to his active interventionism against US-allied regimes, President Barack Obama has prominently refused to intervene in Syria, where the fate of a US foe hangs in the balance. Obama has sat back as Turkey has fashioned a Syrian opposition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Arab League has intervened in a manner that increases the prospect that Syria will descend into chaos in the event that the Assad regime is overthrown.
Obama continues to speak grandly about his vision for the Middle East and his dedication to America’s regional allies.… [But] Obama’s behavior since last January 25 has made clear to US friend and foe alike that under Obama, the US is more likely to attack you if you display weakness towards it than if you adopt a confrontational posture against it. As Assad survives to kill another day; as Iran expands its spheres of influence and gallops towards the nuclear bomb; as al-Qaida and its allies rise from the Gulf of Aden to the Suez Canal; and as Mubarak continues to be wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher, the US’s rapid fall from regional power is everywhere in evidence.
A TERRORIST’S TRIUMPHANT TOUR
P. David Hornik
FrontPage, January 10, 2012
The new star of Middle Eastern diplomacy is Gaza-based Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh. Most recently visiting Tunisia, he’s also been in Egypt, Sudan, and Turkey, and the itinerary will also include Qatar and Bahrain.
It’s Haniyeh’s first tour of the region since Hamas seized all power in Gaza in 2007. The timing is no coincidence. As Haniyeh himself told a rally in Tunis: “Israel no longer has allies in Egypt and in Tunisia, we are saying to the Zionist enemies that times have changed and that the time of the Arab Spring, the time of the revolution, of dignity and of pride has arrived.”
A crowd of 5000 men, women, and children in a stadium (another report puts the number much higher), waving PLO, Tunisian, and Hamas flags, responded with chants of “Death to Israel,” “The Tunisian revolution supports Palestine,” and “The army of Muhammad is back.…” The rally was organized by Haniyeh’s hosts, the recently elected, ruling Ennahda Party. Ritually called “moderate Islamist” in Western media, its longtime leader Rachid Ghannouchi said in 1994: “We must wage unceasing war against the Americans until they leave the land of Islam, or we will burn and destroy all their interests across the entire Islamic world.…”
At the time the “Arab Spring” broke out a year ago, Israeli warnings were at best ignored if not derided. Now, with Islamists prevailing in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, probably Libya, and possibly Syria, it makes perfect sense for a group like Hamas to feel a tailwind and a surge of confidence.
Hamas’s visions, however, go beyond stepped-up warfare against Israel with possible Egyptian and other Islamist support. The group, as revealed in a major new report by Jonathan D. Halevi, also has political ambitions of gaining Western recognition.… “For Hamas, the central lesson from the Arab Spring is the U.S. administration’s and the European Union’s abandonment of the pro-Western regimes and their readiness, even haste, to support the popular revolutions and recognize the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate political actor.” Encouraged, Hamas has been in intensive negotiations with the West Bank Palestinian leadership—now at an advanced stage—on joining the PLO. If that goes according to plan, Hamas believes it “will be internationally recognized and replace Fatah in representing the Palestinian people.…”
For now, the U.S. and the EU define Hamas as a terrorist organization and officially shun it.… That has not stopped a bevy of notable Westerners—Tony Blair, Javier Solana, Jimmy Carter, George Soros, James Baker, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft, are some—from portraying the movement as essential to peace.…
Back in the real world, at Hamas’s twenty-fourth anniversary rally in Gaza on December 14, Haniyeh bellowed to a throng of 350,000 intermittently chanting onlookers that: “The armed resistance and the armed struggle are the path and the strategic choice for liberating the Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and for the expulsion of the invaders and usurpers [Israel] from the blessed land of Palestine.…”
THE UNVARNISHED REALITY
OF CONTEMPORARY U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONS
Rubin Reports, January 23, 2012
Do not speak of it in public. Do not expect any Israeli official to admit it. But Israel is facing an issue unlike anything it has had to deal with during the past 50 years: It cannot depend on the United States.
True, the relationship in terms of weapons’ supply remains good. Old programs continue to provide advanced arms to Israel. Nor is the problem the one most people think of first: on Israel-Palestinian, “peace process” issues. President Barack Obama’s Administration has seen that no real progress is possible on that front. It tends to blame Israel in public and Obama intensely dislikes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but those problems have little material effect. If that personal matter were the only issue involved Israel could muddle through as it has with other presidents. The difficulty with Obama is that his entire strategy in the Middle East is contrary to Israeli interests.…
The greatest threat to Israel today is the rise of radical Islamist regimes.… [And] here is where the problem with the United States comes in. Obama does not really view this trend as a threat. He spent the first half of his term engaging with Iran and its ally Syria. Obama and his administration regards the Islamists as people who are either already moderate or are likely to become so by governing. This is, of course, the opposite of the Israeli assessment.… To put it bluntly, the U.S. government does not even recognize the existence of the number-one threat to Israel.
And to make matters worse, the government that Obama looks to for advice, guidance, and interpretation of the region is not Israel but the Islamist regime in Turkey. That government’s sharp turn to a highly emotional anti-Israel policy has not cost it anything at all in terms of its relations with the White House, something that would have been unthinkable under any previous president.
That is why Israel, as well as the Middle East generally, is going to be an important issue in this year’s presidential election. To preserve relations with the United States, Israeli leaders will neither do nor say anything about that contest. Yet nothing could be more obvious than that Obama’s reelection would be extremely damaging for Israel’s security.
ISRAËL ENQUÊTE SUR L’INCITATION AU MEURTRE DES JUIFS
DE LA PART DU GRAND MUFTI DE JÉRUSALEM
JSSNews.com, 24 Janvier 2012
Pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, le Grand Mufti de Jérusalem était le plus fidèle allié d’Adolf Hitler. Des documents historiques montrent les deux hommes partageant leurs conseils et expériences sur la meilleure façon de tuer les juifs. 1939 – 2012: rien n’a changé! Le grand Mufti de Jérusalem, bien que ce ne soit plus le même, parle encore de la meilleure façon d’exterminer les juifs.
Le Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahu, a ordonné dimanche l’ouverture d’une enquête contre le Grand Mufti de Jérusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, qui a appelé ouvertement à l’assassinat des Juifs lors d’une émission de télévision. Le Premier ministre, qui a demandé au procureur général Yehuda Weinstein de superviser l’enquête, a déclaré lors de la réunion hebdomadaire du Cabinet que les remarques faites par le Grand Mufti, un représentant de l’Autorité palestinienne, devraient être condamnées par toutes les nations du monde.
Le ministre de la diplomatie publique et de la diaspora Yuli Edelstein a lui aussi été choqué: «si ce n’est pas de l’antisémitisme, qu’est-ce donc?» Uzi Landeau, ministre des infrastructures lui a emboité le pas: «ce chef musulman est un extrémiste qui puise son inspiration dans l’Allemagne nazie.» Son collègue ministre des Affaires Étrangères Avigdor Lieberman a ordonné aux ambassadeurs de l’État Juif à travers le monde de faire savoir à leur pays hôte la teneur des propos tenus par le plus haut leader religieux palestinien.
De son côté, acculé de toutes parts, le Mufti affirme qu’il n’a «pas encouragé au meurtre des juifs». Il a seulement «cité un passage d’un texte sacré.»
La semaine dernière, l’ONG Palestinian Media Watch diffusait la vidéo de l’appel au meurtre avec des sous-titres en anglais. Dans la vidéo diffusée sur internet, on voit Muhammad Ahmad Hussein dans une longue tirade: «Cela fait quarante-sept ans que la révolution a commencé. Quelle révolution? La révolution moderne de l’histoire du peuple palestinien. En fait, la Palestine dans son intégralité est une révolution, puisque le calife Omar est venu [à la conquête de Jérusalem en 637], et cette révolution continue aujourd’hui et continuera jusqu’à la fin des temps. Le Hadith en question déclare «L’Heure [de la Résurrection] ne viendra pas jusqu’à ce que vous ne combattiez les Juifs. Le Juif se cachera derrière les pierres ou les arbres. Puis les pierres ou les arbres appelleront: Ô Musulman, serviteur d’Allah, il y a un Juif derrière moi, viens le tuer.» Sauf l’arbre Gharqad [qui gardera le silence]». Par conséquent, il n’est pas étonnant que vous voyez Gharqad [arbre] entourant les implantations [israéliennes]».
Le discours se poursuit ensuite avec des phrases clefs du type «les juifs sont les descendants des singes et des porcs.» En 2006, Hussein déclarait déjà que les attentats suicides étaient «une arme légitime» dans la «lutte pour l’indépendance.» Le fait que ce soit Mahmoud Abbas qui ait nommé cet homme Grand Mufti de Jérusalem est-il une pure coïncidence ou est-ce lié à une affinité cérébrale particulière?
POURQUOI «INVENTER» LES PALESTINIENS?
Robert R. Reilly
Israel-flash.com, 22 Janvier 2012
N’exacerbons pas les passions et voyons les choses concrètement! Ce mois-ci, à Amman, en Jordanie, les négociateurs israéliens et palestiniens se sont réunis pour leur première fois en 15 mois pour tenter de relancer le processus de paix. Dans le même temps, le Hamas, a répété sa conception du processus de paix «La bataille pour la libération de Jérusalem est plus proche que jamais et, si D. le veut, nous gagnerons».
Alors la paix ou la Guerre ?
Peut-être que cette question devrait être considérée dans le récent contexte et le chahut provoqué par Gingrich en Décembre lorsqu’il a déclaré: «Souvenez-vous, il n’y jamais eu de Palestine comme un État. Elle faisait partie de l’Empire ottoman. Nous avons inventé le peuple palestinien, qui sont, en fait, des Arabes et font historiquement partie de la population arabe…» Tout le spectre politique en a pris ombrage. Par exemple, une critique d’Elliott Abrams, ancien vice-conseiller de Bush à la sécurité nationale, a dit:
«Il n’y avait pas de Jordanie ou de Syrie ou d’Irak, nous pourrions également dire alors que tous ces peuples ont aussi été inventé, et n’ont pas non plus droit à un État. Le nationalisme palestinien a augmenté depuis 1948, et que cela nous plaise ou non, il existe.» Cette critique semble confondre deux choses.
La Palestine, bien sûr, n’a jamais été un État. En 1920, le territoire de la Palestine a été taillé par les Britanniques, contre la volonté des Arabes qui vivaient là-bas et se considéraient comme les habitants de la Grande Syrie. Quand elle était en leur pouvoir, les Arabes n’ont jamais pensé à créer un pays de Palestine, ni les Ottomans d’ailleurs. Si elle devait devenir un État, elle devrait être «inventée», tout comme l’ont été tous les autres États, la Jordanie, la Syrie ou l’Irak, qui sont tous des créations du 20ème siècle. À cet égard, l’évaluation d’Abrams est correcte.
Cependant, les États sont des constructions humaines; les peuples ne le sont pas. Les peuples existent selon des distinctions ethniques et linguistiques. Par exemple, les Kurdes sont un peuple distinct, comme le sont les Berbères. Ainsi les Arabes le sont aussi. Ils n’ont pas été «inventé», Leur existence, cependant, ne se traduit pas automatiquement en un droit à un état kurde, berbère ou arabe.
N’ayant jamais possédé un état, les Palestiniens néanmoins existent-ils en tant que peuple? Sont-ils distincts linguistiquement ou ethniquement de la masse d’Arabes parmi lesquels ils vivent? La réponse est non. L’allégation de Gingrich est donc juste.
Il n’y a jamais eu un peuple palestinien et à parler d’eux en tant que tel est bien une «invention». La vraie question qu’il faut se poser est pourquoi ont-ils été «inventés»?
N’exacerbons pas les passions et voyons les choses concrètement!
Immédiatement après la Seconde Guerre mondiale, les Alliés victorieux ont déplacé les frontières de l’Allemagne vaincue, donnant de gros morceaux de l’Allemagne à la Pologne et à la Russie. Dans le processus, ce qui constituait la Prusse a disparu. Les gens dans les parties orientales de l’Allemagne ont tout simplement été déplacés. Immédiatement après la guerre, des personnes âgées, femmes et enfants ont été forcés de marcher vers l’ouest avec tout ce qu’ils pouvaient transporter. Cette relocalisation forcée est estimée à environ 10 millions de personnes, et environ 1 million de personnes ont péri dans des conditions difficiles. Ce ne fut pas les plus belles heures des Alliés.
Maintenant, supposons que la nouvelle Allemagne d’après-guerre ait entassé les survivants dans des camps de réfugiés, leur refusant la citoyenneté, leur refusant même le droit de se marier à d’autres Allemands, ait entretenu leurs doléances, à savoir leur rappeler constamment que leur seul objectif doit être de retrouver la Prusse pour la grandeur du peuple allemand, et la paix permanente ne serait pas possible avec la Pologne ou la Russie jusqu’à ce que ces réfugiés aient obtenu un «droit au retour» en Prusse. Une telle politique aurait clairement signifié que l’Allemagne n’aurait pas accepté la légitimité du règlement de l’après-guerre. Le fait de maintenir des réfugiés dans des camps, cultiver en eux un vif sentiment de rancœur et les utiliser enfin comme un outil politique pour regagner un territoire perdu, si l’Allemagne avait fait cela avec ses 10 millions de réfugiés en 1946, le nombre de personnes dans ces camps 60 ans plus tard serait plus proche des 40 millions.
Génération après génération, ces réfugiés auraient appris que leur vraie maison était située dans un territoire au sein de la Pologne ou la Russie. S’il y avait à l’heure actuelle 40 millions de personnes «lésées» vivant en plein cœur de l’Europe dans des camps de réfugiés, aurions-nous aujourd’hui une Europe réunifiée et libre? La réponse est clairement non.
S’il avait existé un imaginaire «droit au retour» pour les Prussiens, cela aurait été politiquement impossible. L’Europe est maintenant libre et entière parce que l’Allemagne a accepté sa défaite, après deux guerres mondiales et assimilé sa population de réfugiés. Pourquoi les Arabes ont-ils fait cela? Ou pourquoi ne l’ont-ils pas fait?
Par trois fois les pays arabes ont tenté d’anéantir Israël depuis sa fondation en 1948, (moment à partir duquel Abrams date la croissance du nationalisme palestinien). Chacune de ces tentatives a échoué et s’est soldée par une défaite. Comme conséquence, des terres arabes ont été perdues. La plupart des pays arabes n’ont pas accepté ces défaites, et insiste pour ne supporter aucune conséquence de leur défaite. Ils exigent que la situation soit rétablie au statu quo ante – comme si les Arabes n’avaient pas précipité ces guerres et n’avaient pas été vaincus.
En outre, les gens de ces territoires perdus ont été gardés dans des camps de réfugiés en Syrie, au Liban, en Jordanie, à Gaza et en Judée-Samarie pour certains plus de 60 ans, sans droit de citoyenneté dans les nations arabes voisines (à une exception près), et ont été entretenus dans un sentiment impérissable de rancœur celui d’avoir été injustement dépossédés de leurs terres et, par conséquent, estiment avoir un «droit au retour.» Ils représentent ainsi une arme inventée contre Israël.
S’ils avaient été assimilés dans les pays arabes voisins, ils seraient devenus politiquement inutiles. Leurs «droits» sont un alibi pour les garder dans des camps de réfugiés, la persistance du refus arabe d’accepter la légitimité d’un ordre d’après-guerre, et finalement le témoignage arabe du refus de la légitimité d’Israël lui-même (seule la Jordanie et l’Égypte ont reconnu diplomatiquement son existence). Même si cela peut aider à expliquer pourquoi les Palestiniens ont été «inventé», cela n’élucide pas entièrement l’origine de l’intransigeance arabe, en refusant de parvenir à un arrangement avec Israël depuis sa courte existence et tout ce que les arabes ont perdu dans leurs tentatives répétées de le détruire.
Quiconque est familier avec Al Manar – télévision arabe de propagande générale contre Israël au Moyen-Orient – pourrait raisonnablement se demander s’il y a des conditions dans lesquelles le monde arabe permettrait à Israël de continuer à exister, autrement que par la force de ses propres armes. Des organisations comme le Hamas, citée ci-dessus, ou le Hezbollah ont à plusieurs reprises clairement déclaré que le véritable problème est l’existence même d’Israël. Mais pourquoi est-ce un problème, est-ce sa nature politique ou religieuse et théologique?
Si c’est le premier cas, un règlement négocié peut être possible. Si c’est le dernier cas, cela est hautement improbable, voire impossible. Les réponses à ces questions doit être recherchées dans le cœur de la révélation islamique – le Coran. L’Islam ne dit rien sur les États. Il parle en revanche des peuples qu’il définit à travers la religion.
Comment l’islam considère-t-il le judaïsme? Dans la sourate 5, Allah dit qu’Il a établi une alliance avec les Juifs et leur a donné sa révélation. Les Juifs possédaient la Terre Sainte en vertu de ce Pacte. Le Coran cite l’infraction par laquelle les Juifs ont été maudits à jamais: «Les Juifs ont changé les paroles de D.; ils ont changé sa révélation, ils ont changé mes mots.» Avec cette compréhension du Coran, l’énormité de la soit disant infraction juive devient claire, cette infraction leur a fait perdre leur droit à la Terre Sainte.
Par conséquent, la revendication juive, et l’exercice de la souveraineté sur la Terre Sainte et, de fait, la souveraineté sur certains musulmans là-bas, sur la base de la sourate 5, est une infraction incalculable et, pour beaucoup de musulmans, tout simplement inacceptable. C’est ce qui motive l’animosité contre l’existence même d’Israël.
Jusqu’à ce que quelqu’un arrive avec une nouvelle interprétation de la sourate 5, qui est largement acceptée dans le monde musulman, il est difficile d’avoir beaucoup d’espoir pour l’établissement de la paix au Moyen-Orient comme celle que nous voyons en Europe. Si la souveraineté juive en Israël est incompatible avec le Coran, le reste devient clair. Puis on voit pourquoi, lorsque la bande de Gaza a été donnée comme une chance pour l’autonomie, elle n’a pas été utilisée pour afficher les capacités palestiniennes du désir d’un État de droit et démocratique avec un gouvernement constitutionnel, mais a été transformée en une plate-forme d’armes contre Israël.
C’est pourquoi, lors du sommet de Camp David en 2000, le dirigeant palestinien Yasser Arafat a refusé l’offre du Premier ministre israélien Ehud Barak (plus de 95% de la Judée-Samarie, Gaza, avec une capitale à Jérusalem-est,) sans même prendre la peine de faire une contre-offre. En cédant des concessions importantes pour un État palestinien, Israël était intéressé a parvenir à la fin de ce conflit. Arafat était intéressé à utiliser le conflit pour mettre fin à Israël. Peu de choses ont changé depuis, notamment la récente tentative palestinienne de déclarer un état unilatéralement. Cette situation existe, comme Abrams le dit, «que cela nous plaise ou non.» Mais le moins qu’on puisse faire est de voir les choses telles qu’elles sont.
Il s’agit notamment de faire comprendre aux gens pourquoi les Palestiniens sont un peuple "inventé" et faire comprendre les raisons pour lesquelles l’invention a été faite.
STOP BLURRING HOLOCAUST MEMORY
Jerusalem Post, January 25, 2012
[Friday, January 27th] marks the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army in the waning days of World War II. That epic event provided the world with a glimpse into the potential darkness of the human soul, as stunned Soviet soldiers came face to face with the irrefutable depravity of the German genocide against the Jewish people.
The troops found over 7,000 ill and emaciated inmates struggling to hang on to life, as well as stark evidence of the extent of the Nazis’ crimes. Hundreds of thousands of men’s and women’s garments, and over 14,000 pounds of human hair, all bore witness to the mass murder that had taken place there. In all of modern history, the German assault on the Jews stood out for its systematic cruelty and barbaric ruthlessness.
Nearly seven decades later, the memory of that horror is increasingly in jeopardy. More and more people seek to use the Holocaust in ways that dilute its ultimate meaning. Indeed, the calamity suffered by the Jewish people, who lost one-third of their ranks in the flames of Hitler’s hatred, is increasingly being pushed aside to make room for a broader-based, more “universalist” message. This cannot be allowed to happen. However well-intentioned the effort might be, we must not permit the lessons of the Holocaust to become garbled for the sake of promoting any particular agenda.
Sadly, a prime example of this approach is to be found in many of the commemorations that are being held this week as part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated January 27 to serve as an annual day of memorial for the victims of the Nazis. Each year, events and ceremonies are held around the world with the support and participation of governments and civic groups. Many of these gatherings rightly stress the unique suffering that was inflicted on the Jewish people. But others seem to veer off course, virtually snubbing the victims in their eagerness to battle various forms of modern-day bigotry.
Take, for instance, Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain, which is being held this year under the motto of “Speak up, Speak out.” It is organized by a group called the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT), which the British government set up and funds. Incredibly, on the HMDT homepage, there is no mention of the word “Jew” in reference to the Holocaust. It requires a bit of patience, and several acts of mouse-clicking, just to find materials that explain what the Jewish people endured. The site encourages people to sign a pledge toward “ending the language of hatred” which references the Holocaust alongside “genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur,” as though it were just one of many. The result, of course, is that those who are not well-versed in history might very well come away thinking that there was nothing exceptional about Jewish suffering.
Similarly, the United Nations has also fallen prey to this kind of approach. Recently, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited a synagogue in New York, where he said, “The United Nations attaches great importance not only to this single day of remembrance, but to our work throughout the year to educate the world about the universal lessons of the Holocaust.” “The Holocaust,” he said, “affected so many different groups, and so many professions, that it is vital to reach new audiences with this history.”
To be sure, the “universal lessons” of the Holocaust are worth disseminating. But what about the distinctive lessons as well? The Holocaust was first and foremost an attempt by Germany and its collaborators to annihilate the Jewish people. It highlighted the vulnerability of Jewish life in exile and the danger that rampant anti-Semitism poses when it infects the masses. This simple truth cannot be allowed to become muddied, minimized or overlooked.…
CAN THERE BE A SECOND HOLOCAUST?
Robert S. Wistrich
Jerusalem Post, January 26, 2012
In recent years, the Holocaust has been subject to an increasingly sickening blend of ruthless politicization, deliberate distortion, crass commercialization and an often abject sentimentalism. More ominously, it has also become a weapon of choice for many of Israel’s worst enemies and for a resurgent anti-Semitism which brands the entire enterprise of Holocaust memory as nothing but a “Zionist plot.”
In contemporary Europe, Holocaust guilt is used more often than not to promote the Palestinian cause rather than to recognize the necessity of having a Jewish state. Arab and Islamist propaganda, aided and abetted by many liberals and leftists (including some vocal Jewish anti- Zionists), hammers away at the grotesque libel that Israeli policies towards the Palestinians are worse than those of the Nazis. Many Europeans believe these fables. In Israel itself, there are even academics who trumpet such absurdities which have become all-too-commonplace on certain campuses abroad, especially in Britain, North America and Scandinavia.
This systematic degradation of the Holocaust has many causes as well as consequences that must give us pause. It has been accompanied by an ignominious competition for the mantle of ultimate victim-hood that exudes a perverse resentment at the fact that Jews have allegedly “monopolized” the martyr’s crown of suffering and pain. Efforts to elevate the Palestinian Nakba to equal status with the Shoah are only the latest in a long line of such gross distortions.
Some years ago, the Hungarian Nobel Prize Laureate Imre Kertész analyzed the negative reactions to any reminder of Jewish sufferings. In 1998, he caustically observed that “the anti-Semite of our age no longer loathes Jews; he wants Auschwitz.”
This fact has not, however, prevented some…intellectuals from…demanding that we abandon any engagement with Holocaust memory or universalize it out of existence.… There has been a notable shift over the past 20 years to searching for almost any light at the end of the Holocaust tunnel, some kind of a happy ending or emotionally uplifting stories about human brotherhood, altruistic rescuers and easily digestible universal moral lessons to be drawn from this tragic history. This trend may be humanly all-too-understandable but it ultimately involves a dangerously naïve level of escapism with regard to the bi-millennial Christian European Jew-hatred that made the Holocaust possible in the first place.
Worse still, it diverts us away from the nightmarish but not inconceivable possibility that nearly six million Israeli Jews (as well as many Muslim Arabs) could be destroyed by a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of Iran or one of its proxies. In other words, there could indeed be a second Holocaust.…
In [the Iranians’] bizarre perspective, obtaining nuclear weapons may well accelerate the coming of the Mahdi (the Islamic Messiah). This is the dark cloud that hangs over International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2012, and it is not likely to go away.
(Robert Wistrich is the director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center
for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.)
Aaron D. Rubinger
Jerusalem Magazine, January 22, 2012
The term déjà vu brings to mind the English expression, been there, done that. The odd sensation of reliving something for the second time unnerves us precisely because it’s so convincingly familiar.
Over the course of 2 months, I visited Jewish communities in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium and the UK and interviewed dozens of Jewish leaders as well as “laymen”—both Jews and non-Jews. While attempting to determine the seriousness of contemporary European Anti-Semitism, I experienced what I would term “déjà Jew”—the peculiar sense that we, the members of Jewish people, are reliving an experience from the past.…
From the mid-1930s to early 1940s, Jews who recognized that they were no longer safe in Europe anxiously sought refuge abroad. Sylvain Zenouda, the co-founder and current vice president of the Bureau National de Vigilance Contre l’Antisèmitism—an organization which monitors and documents anti-Semitism in France—told me that educated young Jews in France with the financial means to do so have either fled the country or are making plans to flee.
Eighty years ago, our people were being verbally abused and brutally assaulted in public places. And now it seems to be happening all over again. Viviane Teitelbaum, a minister in the Brussels Regional Parliament, related an incident that occurred this past November involving a 13-year old Jewish girl in Brussels. The girl was brutally assaulted at her school, resulting in her hospitalization for multiple injuries including a concussion. The attackers were not members of the Third Reich’s SS, but a group of female Muslim students at the same school. The ringleader pronounced her to be a “filthy Jew.” Apparently, in the weeks prior to the attack, the girl’s father had approached the authorities and the school with complaints that there had been threats made by fellow classmates against his daughter. Upon hearing that his concerns were simply brushed aside, I immediately thought of Yogi Berra’s famous gaff: “This is like déjà vu all over again!…”
In an interview conducted in November, a Parisian mother related how the fear of being physically attacked by Muslim extremists means that it is “not rare at all today” for French Jewish students to attempt to pass themselves off as Muslim—with some even going as far as to fast on Ramadan. One case in point was a Jewish girl of North African descent who for years was successful in this deception, until finally she was “exposed” when Muslim girls caught her eating matzah in the bathroom during Pesah. After her classmates beat her viciously, they invited their male Muslim friends to their school to participate in a gang rape.… Didn’t this happen to us already?
In a perverse twist, historically, such horrific violence against Jews has often been blamed on the alleged “crimes” of the victims themselves. This was particularly true of the pre- and post-Holocaust era. Yet the remarks of the current US Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, seems to indicate that not much has changed in that regard. Gutman explains away the irrational hatred of Jews by Muslims in Europe as an outcome of Israeli policies towards Palestinians.…
Gutman’s remarks did not stem so much from malice as naïveté. Like the administration he represents, Gutman sadly suffers from another disorder, not déjà vu this time, but its opposite—jamais vu, or the illusion of the familiar being encountered for the first time. It is when that which should be familiar—in this case long standing Muslim hostility towards Jews and a Jewish State—is thought to be a novel development created only after June 1967. Such memory impairment and historical “misfacts”—especially when applied to areas like foreign policy—constitutes an extremely dangerous disorder that can have dire repercussions.
In the precursory period to the Holocaust, no one knew how bad things might get; the eternal hope was that things couldn’t possibly get worse. While enabling some with the strength to endure, such wishful yearnings ultimately proved tragically fatal. Likewise, in Europe today, to borrow Al Jolson’s words, we just “ain’t seen nothing yet.” In another interview with the president of France-Israel Association, Gilles-William Goldnadel asserted that if there will be a new provocation by the Arabs against Israel, with Israel subsequently defending itself, not only will huge demonstrations in Paris and other European capitals be inevitable, they will also likely be accompanied by en masse “organized physical violence.”
Joël Rubinfeld, the well-liked former-president of the Comité de Coordination des Organisations Juives de Belgique, echoes the above sentiment and suspects that in Belgium too “there is definitely a potential of physical violence coming against Jews.” He recalls an anti-Israel demonstration in Antwerp in April 2002 that was organized by the European-Arab League in which the throngs were shouting “Death to the Jews.…”
Yet, just as there existed righteous gentiles during the Nazi era whose courage and moral decency led them to risk their lives in the battle against anti-Semitism, so too do there exist equally brave non-Jewish individuals today. One such person is Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris who, when asked on a televised debate to publicly acknowledge the reality of a “Palestinian Holocaust,” responded by saying: “It is surely the strangest holocaust in human history when, during the so-called period of ‘genocide,’ the population of a people so dramatically increases.” As a result of his steadfast defense of Israel, Millière is perpetually the recipient of death threats.…
Anti-Semitism in the world is as real now as it was in the 30s and 40s; the lust for Jewish blood by our enemies is as ravenous today as it has ever been; even “passive” Europeans are, once again, the silent collaborators. However, today we thankfully have a State of Israel in which Jews from the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Sweden, the UK and elsewhere will always be welcomed. Perhaps then, it’s time to say goodbye to “déjà-Jew.”
THE HEROINES OF AUSCHWITZ
Bernie M. Farber
National Post, January 27, 2012
On Jan. 27, 1945, 67 years ago today, the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz. From 1942 to late 1944, the concentration camp became the center of the wholesale murder of European Jewry. There were others—Treblinka, Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec, Majdanek, to name just a few. But it was Auschwitz that was to become the archetype of genocide. The gas chambers of Auschwitz took the lives of an estimated 1.1 million people, almost a million of them Jews.
Yet within Auschwitz’s horror there were unique acts of bravery from which we must always take heart. The courage of Anna (Wajcblum) Heilman and the women of the Auschwitz munitions factory is one such story.
Anna was born to an assimilated middle-class Jewish family in Warsaw, Poland on Dec. 1, 1928. Her childhood ended in September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The Nazis established the Warsaw ghetto, where overcrowding, starvation and disease killed many awaiting deportation to the death camps. In 1943, the remnants of Jews trapped in the ghetto fought back to no avail; amongst them were 14-year old Anna and her older sister Ester.…
Anna, Ester and their parents originally were sent to the camp of Majdanek, where Anna’s parents were gassed upon arrival. Anna and Ester then were transported to Auschwitz to work as slave laborers at a munitions factory.
By mid 1944, the inmates knew that Germany was losing the war. Believing they would die anyway, Anna and her friends wanted to find a way to fight back, to give their deaths meaning. Ester, Anna, and a few other female prisoners began to smuggle gunpowder from the factory, a tiny amount at a time, hidden in their kerchiefs or sleeves. Being caught meant instant execution.
The young women gave the smuggled gunpowder to a young Polish Jew named Rosa Robota, who in turn passed it on to the Sonderkommando, a detail of Jewish male slave crematoria workers.… On Oct. 7, 1944, the Sonderkommando revolted, attacking the SS with stones, axes and homemade grenades produced from the smuggled gunpowder. Several SS were killed. One of the four crematoria was severely damaged by the improvised explosives. It was never used again, saving many lives. The Sonderkommando were all killed.
The SS traced the gunpowder back to the munitions plant. Anna’s sister Ester and three other young women, Ala Gertner, Rosa Robota and Regina Safirstajn, were tortured for months by the SS. But they gave up only the names of the Sonderkommando, who were already dead. They did not betray Anna or the others involved.
The four young women were hanged as saboteurs in January 1945, less than two weeks before the Nazis evacuated Auschwitz. In a smuggled note she wrote shortly before her execution, Ester asked her friend Marta Bindiger to look after Anna. Marta kept Anna going on the 700 km westward death march to the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany. Prisoners who faltered or fell were immediately shot.
Anna and Marta were liberated by the Soviet army in May, 1945. Emigrating to Israel a short time later, Anna married another survivor, Josh Heilman, and eventually moved to Ottawa, where Anna became a social worker with the Children’s Aid Society.… Encouraged by Marta, Anna worked hard to get recognition for the sacrifice and heroism of her sister and the three other young women. In 1991, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, dedicated a monument to the “Four Martyred Heroines of Auschwitz.” Working with her son-in-law, Anna developed her diary into a book titled Never Far Away. It won the 2002 City of Ottawa Book Award.
Anna Heilman…returned with groups of young students to Auschwitz several times through a Holocaust-education program called “The March of the Living.…” This heroine of Auschwitz died on May 1, 2011, aged 82. On this day above all others, her story is worth remembering—a rare and uplifting tale of survival from the very heart of the Nazis’ kingdom of death.
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT: ANSWERING SPIELBERG’S ‘MUNICH’
David Suissa & Mitch and Elliot Julis
Jerusalem Post, January 21, 2012
There is a scene at the end of Steven Spielberg’s controversial 2005 film, Munich, that disappointed a lot of Israel’s supporters. Spielberg’s camera caresses the dramatic Manhattan skyline, pans over the East River and ends hauntingly at the Twin Towers, which were still standing at the time of the film’s events. The reason many of us were disappointed with that ending was the strong implication that Israel’s relentless drive to avenge the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre had something to do with the subsequent 9/11 terrorist attacks.
What is fascinating about that downbeat Hollywood ending is that, many years later, close to where those Twin Towers once stood, reality wrote a much happier ending. That ending—or, more accurately, that beginning—was written last month when it was announced that Technion-Israel Institute of Technology had won a global competition to partner with Cornell University and New York City to create an international hi-tech learning center, to be called the Technion-Cornell Institute of Innovation (TCII).
The multibillion-dollar project will attract top scientific minds from around the world and tackle the planet’s toughest problems. It will be located on Roosevelt Island in the East River, the same river over which Spielberg’s camera panned before stopping at that haunting shot of the Twin Towers. It will ultimately encompass 2.1 million square feet, with space for 2,500 students and 280 professors.… Little did Spielberg know that a few years after shooting Munich, which focused on Israel as the brutal avenger, the world would see such a dramatic depiction of another Israel—the tiny Israel of big ideas that can change the world. This is the cruel paradox of the Israel story: A country that is forced to use its wits to defend itself but would much prefer using its wits to save the world.
Spielberg himself tried to capture that paradox in his film. Mossad agents struggle with conflicting loyalties to their country, their own families and their self-image. How high a price are they willing to pay to avenge the blood of their compatriots? The erosion of their soul? The loss of family connection? The loss of humanity? This painful and ongoing Israeli dilemma can easily get lost in the round-the-clock media coverage of targeted bombings and terrorist checkpoints. The inner yearning to create is never as visible as the outer imperative to fight your enemies. Bombs falling make for great television.
That is why this new center of innovation is so noteworthy. It will be visible. As visible as those Patriot missiles that Israel deploys to catch incoming terrorist missiles. As visible as tank formations that enter Gaza or Lebanon. This new center won’t be just a book in Barnes & Noble called Start-up Nation. It will be an enormous monument of human accomplishment, like the Statue of Liberty, with Israel’s name on it.
It will be the ultimate human response to an act of ultimate destruction. Near where the Twin Towers were destroyed, a “Silicon Island” of applied sciences will rise on Roosevelt Island that will aim even higher than those towers ever did. Here, humans won’t just trade, they will create. They won’t just build businesses, they will build solutions to better the world.…
THE ARAB LEAGUE’S FAILED SYRIA MISSION
National Interest, January 24, 2012
The Arab League observer mission to Syria—sent under an agreement with the Syrian government to withdraw forces from the cities, release all political prisoners and allow monitors and journalists free movement throughout the country—has utterly failed.…
After the initial one-month mandate for the mission expired, Arab foreign ministers met in Cairo [last] Sunday to discuss next steps. Surprisingly, the league—known in the past for its knee-jerk defense of Arab unity at the cost of its people’s rights—proposed a plan under which President Bashar al-Assad would transfer power to a deputy and start negotiations with opponents within two weeks. The proposal was predictably rejected outright by the Assad regime as “interference in its internal affairs.”
Unfortunately, the league also agreed…to extend the mandate for another month and beef up the number of monitors sent to the country. But in the first month of the mission, opposition figures reported that more than seven hundred people were killed at the hands of the government in continuing clashes throughout the country. Given its failure to halt the government crackdown, the league should have rejected any extension of the observer mission and vowed to bring the Syrian crisis before the United Nations Security Council.…
It seems increasingly clear that Assad allowed the monitoring mission merely as a means to buy time until he could figure out a way to crush the resistance. The mission has been woefully understaffed and overtly controlled by the Syrian regime since its inception on December 19, and the number of observers never climbed above 165, nowhere near the many hundreds needed to cover all the restive spots in the country. Moreover, the Syrian government did not allow international journalists to accompany the teams and dispatched security escorts to “monitor the monitors.” Given the credible reports of opposition figures being killed, beaten or detained while the league’s observers have been in country (including two Kuwaiti monitors who were attacked near Latakia), it is evident that the mission failed.…
It is now incumbent upon the Arab League to officially terminate the mission and refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council.… Any draft resolution introduced by the Arab League in the Security Council must, of course, attract the support of China and, most crucially, Russia. Moscow’s tacit or outright backing is key to creating an effective, united international front against Damascus. Without it, Syria is likelier to descend into full-blown civil war.…
It is past time for Russia, one of Syria’s closest allies and the main obstacle to even tougher measures imposed on the Assad government, to see the writing on the wall and join the international effort to isolate and punish the regime.… A hard-hitting UN Security Council resolution calling for further sanctions and an arms embargo is the next obvious step.…
BASHAR’S RUSSIAN PALS
Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2012
Bashar Assad is feeling lonely, though not yet lonely enough. First the Turks, Americans and Europeans de-friended him. Now formerly fraternal leaders at the Arab League want him deposed. The Syrian strongman’s forces have killed more than 5,400 people in 10 months and turned a peaceful protest movement into a virtual civil war. But he still has a few friends in low places.
The Iranians aren’t giving up on him, and in Moscow Vladimir Putin won’t abandon the son of the Soviet Union’s favorite Arab tyrant, Hafez Assad. Far from it. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week rejected any talk of new U.N. sanctions or arms embargo on Syria. He even defended Moscow’s right to arm Mr. Assad as he kills more civilians.
The business daily Kommersant reported [this week] that Russia has signed a $550 million contract to sell Syria 36 combat jets. Two weeks ago, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov called at the Syrian port of Tartus and, according to reports, dropped off a few tons of ammunitions.
The Russians have a stronger stomach for the Syrian’s brutality than does the Arab League. A month ago, the group sent an observer mission to Syria to monitor the regime’s non-implementation of a plan to withdraw security forces from cities and residential areas. During their stay in Syria, the rate of killing rose. The Saudis, who won’t win any Amnesty International contests, pulled out of the mission.… Qatar has…called for Arab forces to deploy and “stop the killing,” in the words of its emir.…
The Kremlin’s support makes it harder to ease Mr. Assad out peacefully in Damascus. But perhaps Mr. Putin’s loyalty can be explained by the fact that he faces his own growing opposition. His ruling party cheated in December’s parliamentary elections and he has announced plans to stay in power for as long as another 12 years, after he runs for president again in March.…
SYRIA: THE LOST BEQUEST OF HAFEZ ASSAD
Daily Beast, January 23, 2012
Bashar, son of Hafez Assad, has a son by the name of Hafez. But as the defiance and bloodletting in Syria would seem to suggest, Bashar needn’t worry about training his son for future rulership. The house that Hafez Assad built, some four decades ago, is not destined to last.
Dynasties are, of course, made, not born.… The great North African historian Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), perhaps the world’s first sociologist, left behind some firm notions about dynasties: they rise, they beget kingdoms, then they decay, like all “created things.” Ibn Khaldun was rather specific: glory and prestige are gained and lost within four successive generations. The “builder of a family’s glory knows what it cost him to do the work, and he keeps the qualities that created his glory and made it last.” The son who inherits his mantle had contact with his father and will have learned some lessons from him. “However, he is inferior to him in this respect, inasmuch as a person who learns things through study is inferior to a person who knows them from practical application.” The third generation imitates the ancestors. The fourth loses it all, as its members begin to think that this glory is their due.…
Arabs are firm believers in nasab, inherited merit passed on from father to son, a nobility of the blood. No wonder that Hafez Assad was ambivalent about his beginnings. In 1980, before a gathering of learned notables, the ruler, then a decade in power, recounted the adversity of his childhood. He recalled that at one point in his boyhood he had to quit school temporarily because his father couldn’t scrape together the modest tuition. “But we are not commoners. On the contrary, my father was a half aga.” The title “aga,” a modest one in Ottoman parlance, signified a chief, a man of some standing or means. On another occasion, in the same year, speaking to a peasant syndicate, Hafez Assad would tell them he was in truth one of them. “I am first and last a peasant and the son of a peasant. To lie amid the spikes of grain on the threshing floor is, in my eyes, worth all the palaces in this world.”
He had pined to leave that poverty; he had come down from his mountain village to the port town of Latakia, on the Mediterranean, to get a secondary-school education; he had made it to the military academy, and the uniform had given him all that was now his. But he was then in the midst of a vicious sectarian war against the Muslim Brotherhood, with their power in the souks and the mosques of Hama and Aleppo and Damascus. For the Sunni artisans in the warrens of these old cities, the presidency of a peasant—and an Alawite peasant at that, hailing from an esoteric mountain sect beyond the pale of Islam—was a violation of the natural order of things. Syria took pride in its place in Islam.… In the telling, the Prophet Muhammad favored this realm. He had seen Damascus from the hills above it, and the fabled Ghouta, the gardens and orchards that once circled this city. The prophet, bewitched by his view of Damascus, it is proudly recounted by the Damascenes, had refused to enter the city; it was paradise, he said, and he feared he would be denied paradise in the afterlife were he to enter it in his lifetime.
The Ottomans had conquered the territories of Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria would be the closest rendering of this geography) in the early years of the 16th century—lands that stretched from the borders of Anatolia to Egypt, from the Iraqi desert to the Mediterranean. They divided it into three provinces: Beirut, Aleppo, and Damascus. Imperial power ebbed and flowed, and the cities were ruled by notables—political and religious elites, landholders who lived in urban surroundings and dominated the lives of the peasants and sharecroppers. Feudalism was the word that described that order. The countryside was neglected—and despised.… The thought of a peasant from the mountains ruling Damascus, the gathering point of the pilgrimage to the Holy Cities, would have been heresy at the time.
France would acquire a mandate over the territories of Syria (and Lebanon) in the aftermath of the Great War. The French ruled a turbulent, unhappy country for a quarter century. Urban/Sunni Syria never really took to the French…but for all its brevity, this French interlude helped shape post-independence Syria and indirectly gave rise to the rule of Hafez Assad. France recruited heavily among the minorities—the Druze, the Alawis, the Ismailis—for its colonial levies, the Troupes Spéciales du Levant. The Sunni townsmen disdained and avoided military service, thought it the work of lessers. For the Alawis in their secluded, impoverished mountains, the Jabal Ansariya, in the northwest, military service was salvation. Born in 1930, Hafez Assad took that route out of poverty.… He would graduate from the military academy in 1955—a decade after independence and a time of intense turbulence in Syrian politics.
The country’s first coup d’état had come in 1949, a mere three years after independence, and the conspiracies would not cease in the years to come. The old order was coming apart; those feudal families of ease and pedigree and property had squabbled among themselves, and had given parliamentary politics a bad name. Ideology was battering the world of the notables. Communists, believers in Greater Syrian nationalism, Muslim Brotherhood adherents, peasant jacqueries, had made certain that the old order would be overwhelmed.
One political party outdid the others: the Baath. It had been conceived in the interwar years in Paris’s Latin Quarter by two talented young men from Damascus: the Greek Orthodox Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Sunni Muslim. They had come back to their country loaded with readings and ambition. They became schoolteachers, and the fuse they lit up, the young students they drew into the net, would determine the political course of Syria—and of neighboring Iraq, for that matter. This was the party that widened the horizons of Hafez Assad, gave him the political language and the ideology that carried him to the summit of political power. (It didn’t work out so well for the two founders. Aflaq was expelled from his own party in 1966; Bitar was struck down in Paris by the security forces of the Syrian regime in 1980.)
In this republic of conspirators and coup makers, Hafez Assad was to emerge as the supreme practitioner of the art. There were three Baathist coups—in 1963, 1966, and 1970. He was a minor player in the first, a partner in the second, and the victor in the third against his own erstwhile allies.…
Violence was at the ready in Hafez Assad’s republic. But he was not a sadist (that trait characterized his younger brother and chief enforcer, Rifaat). His violence was selective and methodical. There was always his cunning—a trait that came from his minoritarian background. There was stealth and steel in him. Interlocutors were often left guessing as to his intentions and commitments. Henry Kissinger, who parried with (and studied) the most accomplished in statecraft, negotiated with Assad in the aftermath of the October War of 1973. He came back with high praise for the man’s intellect and tenacity.…
Syrians who feared his tyranny credited Hafez Assad with giving the country stability and a place among the nations. In the highest of praise, they said he had changed Syria from a plaything in the region to a player. He could never surmount the blame that the Golan Heights were lost to Israel in the Six-Day War on his watch, when he was defense minister. Unable to recover the Golan, he did the next best thing: he all but came into possession of Lebanon, practically erasing the border between the two countries.…
His name would forever be sullied by a barbarism in Hama, an intensely religious town in the central plains, with an Alawite hinterland. Hama was the stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood. It had had earlier troubles with the secular Baathists, and opposed their agrarian “reforms” and the powers the Baath gave to hitherto quiescent peasants. In February 1982, those earlier skirmishes between Hama and the security forces would be overwhelmed by a cruelty the country had not seen before. A good deal of the Old City was reduced to rubble; thousands were killed. The grim work was done by the ruler’s brother, Rifaat, who took the Stalinist purges as a model to emulate. No one is sure how many perished in Hama—the low estimates are 10,000, and there are claims that the numbers could be four times these estimates.…
[Assad] took his people out of the political world. He offered them what he saw as a reasonable bargain: they could have safety and be left alone so long as they led apolitical lives. He once gave away the crux of his worldview to a Baath Party functionary. People have “primarily economic demands,” Assad said—they aspire to a plot of land, a car, a house. Those demands could be satisfied “in one way or another.” But there was a small minority, 200 individuals at most, who seriously engaged in politics and would oppose him no matter what. “It is for them that the Mezzeh prison [outside Damascus] was originally intended.…”
Hafez Assad was visited by personal tragedy in 1994: the death in a car accident of his oldest son, Bassel. He had been grooming him for succession. He never recovered from the grief. In the years left to him, he settled on his son Bashar, the eye doctor, as his successor.… [Hafez] died in 2000, and his hapless son, 34 years of age, was anointed as his successor. Syrians hoped for the best, thought that perhaps this gangly youth, with a stint in London behind him, would grant them the freedoms his father had denied them. There was a Damascus Spring in the offing, it was said. The new ruler permitted the importation of Western cigarettes; jazz clubs and art galleries made their appearance. Bashar offered his people an olive branch: he married well, a London-born upper-bourgeois young woman from a Sunni family of Homs, Asma al-Akhras. The young couple presented themselves well. But the Damascus Spring was snuffed out. The civic forums were shut down, dissidents were rounded up and dispatched to prisons. The young inheritor was his father’s son.
A year ago, when the political hurricane known as the Arab Spring hit the region, Bashar al-Assad proclaimed his country’s immunity to the troubles.… Then a group of boys in mid-March, in the forlorn southern town of Daraa, went out and scribbled anti-regime graffiti on the walls. They were picked up and tortured. It was as though the custodians of this dictatorship knew that their order hung by a thread. The system rested on fear, and that barrier was crossed. He put his medical training to use. He described the protesters as germs. Four decades of a drab tyranny had not robbed the Syrians of their humor. The Syrian germs require a new doctor, one banner proclaimed. Bashar had squandered his father’s bequest.
(Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University
and co-chair of Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.)
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Haaretz, January 24, 2012
For a change, here is good news from Beirut.… “I am deeply concerned about the military capacity of Hezbollah and the lack of progress in disarmament,” [UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon] told a news conference in Beirut after meeting Lebanese leaders. “All these arms outside of the authorized state authority, it’s not acceptable,” he declared. It’s about time somebody made things clear to the Lebanese.
The response of Hezbollah’s leader Hasan Nassrallah could have been predicted. “We are pleased by your concern,” he said, addressing the UN secretary general. “We want you, the U.S. and Israel to be concerned.… Hezbollah will not relinquish its weapons.” Nassrallah should know that we are all really concerned, and what’s more we intend to do something about it.
The weapons in question are tens of thousands of ballistic missiles in addition to all sorts of additional modern weaponry that have been supplied to Hezbollah over the years by Iran and shipped to Lebanon via Syria, and are not under the authority of the Lebanese government. They are deployed all over Lebanon and [are] aimed at Israel. The range of the ballistic missiles in the Hezbollah inventory is sufficient to cover all of Israel and rain destruction on Israel’s civilian population. They are terror weapons in the hands of a terrorist organization.… They will be launched against Israel whenever Nassrallah so decides, or the order is given in Tehran. They are a protective shield for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Like the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962 that brought about the Cuban missile crisis and the removal of these missiles, the Hezbollah missiles will have to be removed. When the time comes for Israel to neutralize this missile threat—and that time will come sooner or later if the missiles are not dismantled—there is bound to result wholesale destruction all over Lebanon. Hezbollah’s missiles are a suicidal invitation to the destruction of Lebanon.…
Of course, it is preferable that the removal of the Hezbollah missiles in Lebanon be accomplished by diplomatic action rather than by military measures. The Lebanese government should be encouraged to insist on demonstrating its sovereign rights in all of Lebanon and order Hezbollah to remove the missiles. Any assistance that it would require should be provided. The international community should make it clear that the deployment of these missiles…constitutes a danger to peace in the region.
For too long has there been a conspiracy of silence about the deployment of these missiles.… The issue should be taken up at the UN Security Council, and the necessary diplomatic action should be taken by the U.S. and the countries of Europe and Asia.… Ban Ki-moon has finally sounded the alarm. Better late than never.