Month: May 2014

YOM YERUSHALAYIM, 47TH ANNIVERSARY OF UNIFICATION; SAVING DANISH JEWS FROM SHOAH; O’S WEST POINT RETREAT

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

The Dangerous Divided Jerusalem Fantasy: Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, May 28, 2014—  On this date in the Hebrew calendar 47 years ago, Israeli forces ended the division of Jerusalem.

One Country Saved Its Jews. Were They Just Better People?: Michael Ignatieff, New Republic, Dec 12, 2013— This magnificent book states its central argument in its title. Danish Jews survived Hitler’s rule in World War II, when other European Jews did not, because Danes regarded their Jewish neighbors as countrymen.

Obama’s Ad Hoc Foreign Policy: Charles Krauthammer, National Review, May 29, 2014— It is fitting that the day before President Obama gives his grand West Point address defending the wisdom and prudence of his foreign policy, his government should be urging Americans to evacuate Libya.

Letters from Our Readers

 

On Topic Links

 

Yom Yerushalayim: Reunification of a People and a Past: Israel Forever Foundation, Jewish Press, May 28, 2014

Jerusalem Day: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, May 28, 2014

The Holocaust's Foremost Unsung Hero: Emily Amrousi, Israel Hayom, Apr. 27, 2014

At West Point, President Obama Binds America’s Hands on Foreign Affairs: Washington Post, May 28, 2014

Cadets Not Excited With Obama Speech; Media United Against President: Joseph R. Carducci, Downtrend, May 29, 2014

 

THE DANGEROUS DIVIDED JERUSALEM FANTASY           

Jonathan S. Tobin                                                                                                           Commentary, May 28, 2014

                         

On this date in the Hebrew calendar 47 years ago, Israeli forces ended the division of Jerusalem. The city had been split during the Arab siege of the capital in 1948 and it remained cut in half by an ugly wall as well as by dangerous no-man’s-land zones. The victory in the Six-Day War ended an illegal occupation of the eastern portion of the city as well as the walled Old City by Jordan that had lasted for 19 years but was not recognized by the world. In breaking down the barriers, the Israelis not only reunited the city but opened access to its religious shrines—including the Western Wall and the Temple Mount—which had been off limits for Jews during the Jordanian occupation. But as Israelis celebrated what is known as “Jerusalem Day” today, support for the push to reinstate the division of the city in the international community has grown. Every Middle East peace plan proposed in the last 15 years, including the three Israeli offers of statehood that the Palestinians turned down, included a new partition of Jerusalem even though both sides remain murky about how that could be accomplished without reinstating the warlike atmosphere that prevailed before June 1967.

 

But for those who believe that such a partition is essential to peace, the process by which a city that has grown exponentially in the last five decades, with Jews and Arabs no longer neatly divided by a wall, could be split is merely a matter of details. To fill in the blanks for its readers, Ha’aretz published a Jerusalem Day feature that provided the answer to the question. Highlighting a complicated scheme put forward by a Jerusalem architectural firm, the paper asserted that most Jerusalemites wouldn’t even notice the difference if their city was re-partitioned. On the surface the plan, which has been funded by a variety of left-wing sources, seems practical if complicated and expensive. But it is not only completely unrealistic; it is based on a fantasy that the real problem in Jerusalem is primarily one of engineering, aesthetics, and logistics. Like every other element of other utopian peace plans that are sold to both the Israeli and Western publics as the solution that “everybody knows” must eventually happen, this vision of Jerusalem ignores the fundamental problem of peace: the fact that the Palestinians don’t want it.

 

The conceit of the divided Jerusalem scheme is that the old “green line” that once cut through the city as well as the West Bank is alive and well. Since the second intifada, Jews largely avoid Arab sectors of the city and Arabs do the same in Jewish sections. The only problem then is how to “soften” the appearance of a division so as to codify the reality of a divided city without actually reinstating the ugly and perilous military fortifications that served as the front lines for the Arab-Israeli wars from 1949 to 1967. There is some truth to the notion that Jerusalem is currently divided in this manner. But it is a fallacy to assert that it is anything as absolute as the authors of the plan and their media cheerleaders claim. Contrary to the notion popularized by the terminology used by the media, there is no real east or west Jerusalem. The city is built on hills with much of the “eastern” section actually in the north and south where Jewish neighborhoods on the other side of the green line have existed for over 40 years. The idea that this can all be easily sorted out by handing out the Jewish sections to Israel and the Arab ones to “Palestine” won’t work.

 

It is a falsehood to assert that 40 percent of Jerusalemites can’t vote in municipal elections. Residents of Arab neighborhoods could vote but don’t. If they did participate they would hold real power, but for nationalist reasons they choose to boycott the democratic process and the result is that they have been shortchanged. While current Mayor Nir Barkat opposes division of the city, he has rightly argued that Israel has to do better in serving Arab neighborhoods because with sovereignty comes responsibility. But what the plan’s authors also leave out of the equation is that a division would deprive many of these same Arabs of their employment and health coverage since a great number work on the Israeli side or get their medical treatment there. Will they give that up for Palestine? Just as when the security barrier was erected, many Arabs will clamor to stay on the Israeli side of any divide for obvious reasons.

 

Left unsaid in the piece is the fact that there are actually a number of interlocked Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. Nor does it explain how the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus (which was isolated as a Jewish enclave during the Jordanian occupation) could be reached from what they propose to be Israeli Jerusalem or how Jerusalemites could access the scenic Sherover/Haas promenade in the city. And those are just a few of the anomalies that go unsolved or unanswered in a scheme that treats transportation patterns and border security as if they were mere blots on the map rather than avoidable facts. There’s also no mention here about how security in this intricately divided city could be administered. Would Israelis really be prepared to cede the security of their capital to foreign forces? Could peace monitors be relied upon to respect Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish neighborhoods if they become, after peace, the object of a new intifada whose purpose would be to chip away at the rump of the Jewish state?…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                               

                                               

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ONE COUNTRY SAVED ITS JEWS.

WERE THEY JUST BETTER PEOPLE?

Michael Ignatieff                                                

New Republic, Dec. 14, 2014

 

This magnificent book states its central argument in its title. Danish Jews survived Hitler’s rule in World War II, when other European Jews did not, because Danes regarded their Jewish neighbors as countrymen. There was no “us” and “them;” there was just us. When, in October 1943, the Gestapo came to round up the 7,500 Jews of Copenhagen, the Danish police did not help them to smash down the doors. The churches read letters of protest to their congregations. Neighbors helped families to flee to villages on the Baltic coast, where local people gave them shelter in churches, basements, and holiday houses and local fishermen loaded up their boats and landed them safely in neutral Sweden. Bo Lidegaard, the editor of the leading Danish newspaper Politiken, has retold this story using astonishingly vivid unpublished material from families who escaped, and the testimony of contemporary eyewitnesses, senior Danish leaders (including the king himself), and even the Germans who ordered the roundups. The result is an intensely human account of one episode in the persecution of European Jews that ended in survival.

 

The story may have ended well, but it is a complex tale. The central ambiguity is that the Germans warned the Jews and let most of them escape. Lidegaard claims this was because the Danes refused to help the Germans, but the causation might also have worked in the other direction. It was when the Danes realized that the Germans were letting some Jews go that they found the courage to help the rest of their Jewish community escape. Countrymen is a fascinating study in the ambiguity of virtue. The Danes knew long before the war that their army could not resist a German invasion. Instead of overtly criticizing Hitler, the Social Democratic governments of the 1930s sought to inoculate their populations against the racist ideology next door. It was in those ominous years that the shared identity of all Danes as democratic citizens was drummed into the political culture, just in time to render most Danes deeply resistant to the Nazi claim that there existed a “Jewish problem” in Denmark. Lidegaard’s central insight is that human solidarity in crisis depended on the prior consolidation of a decent politics, on the creation of a shared political imagination. Some Danes did harbor anti-Semitic feelings, but even they understood the Jews to be members of a political community, and so any attack on them was an attack on the Danish nation as such.

 

The nation in question was imagined in civic terms rather than ethnic terms. What mattered was a shared commitment to democracy and law, not a common race or religion. We can see this in the fact that Danish citizens did not defend several hundred communists who were interned and deported by the Danish government for denouncing the Danish monarchy and supporting the Hitler-Stalin pact. The Danes did nothing to defend their own communists, but they did stand up for the Jews.

 

The Danish response to the Nazis illuminates a crucial fact about the Holocaust: the Germans did not always force the issue of extermination where they faced determined resistance from occupied populations. In Bulgaria, as Tzvetan Todorov has shown in his aptly titled book The Fragility of Goodness, the Jews were saved because the king of Bulgaria, the Orthodox Church, and a few key Bulgarian politicians refused to assist the German occupiers. Why did a similar civic sense of solidarity not take root in other countries? In Holland, why did 80 percent of Dutch Jews perish? And what about France: why did liberty, equality, and fraternity not apply to the citizens driven from their homes by French police and sent to deportation and death? These questions become harder to answer in the light of the Danish and Bulgarian counterexamples. One possible explanation is that the German occupation’s presence in Denmark was lighter than in either France or Holland. The Danes, like the Bulgarians, kept their king and maintained their own government throughout the occupation. Self-government gave them a capacity to defend Jews that was never possible in the occupied zones of France or Holland.

 

Both the Danish king and the Danish government decided that their best hope of maintaining Denmark’s sovereignty lay in cooperating but not collaborating with the German occupiers. This “cooperation” profited some Danes but shamed many others. The Danish population harbored ancestral hostility to the Germans, and the occupation reinforced these feelings. The Germans, for their part, put up with this frigid relationship: they needed Danish food, and Danish cooperation freed up German military resources for battle on the Eastern Front, and the Nazis wanted to be liked. They wanted their “cooperative” relationship with Denmark to serve as a model for a future European community under Hitler’s domination. From very early on in this ambiguous relationship, the Danes, from the king on down, made it clear that harming the Jews would bring cooperation to an end and force the Germans to occupy the country altogether. The king famously told his prime minister, in private, that if the Germans forced the Danish Jews to wear a yellow star, then he would wear one too. Word of the royal position went public and even led to a myth that the king had actually ridden through the streets of Copenhagen on horseback wearing a yellow star on his uniform. The king never did wear a star. He didn’t have to wear one, because, thanks to his opposition, the Germans never imposed such a regulation in Denmark.

 

Then, in late summer in 1943, the order came down from Eichmann to the local German authorities in Copenhagen that they had to rid the city of its Jews, these authorities faced a dilemma. They knew that the Danish politicians, police, and media—that Danish society as a whole—would resist and that, once the cooperation of the Danes had been lost, the Germans would have to run the country themselves. The Germans in Copenhagen were also beginning to have second thoughts about the war itself. By then the German armies had been defeated at Stalingrad. While the Gestapo in Poland and Eastern Europe faced the prospect of defeat by accelerating the infernal rhythm of extermination in the death camps, the Gestapo in Denmark began to look for a way out. The local Gauleiter, a conniving opportunist named Werner Best, did launch the roundup of the Jews, but only after letting the Jewish community find out in advance what was coming, giving them time to escape. He did get his hands on some people in an old-age home and dispatch them to Theresienstadt, but all but 1 percent of the Jewish community escaped his clutches. It is an astonishing number.

 

When Adolf Eichmann came to Copenhagen in 1943 to find out why so many Jews had escaped, he did not cashier the local Gestapo. Instead he backed down and called off the deportations of Danes who were half-Jewish or married to Jews. Lidegaard’s explanation for Eichmann’s volte face is simply that the institutions of Danish society all refused to go along. And without their cooperation, a Final Solution in Denmark became impossible. Totalitarianism, not to mention ethnic cleansing and ethnic extermination, always requires a great deal of collaboration. When they got wind of German plans in September 1943, the Danish government resigned, and no politician agreed to serve in a collaborationist government with the Germans thereafter. After the roundups of Jews were announced, leading Danish politicians of different parties issued a joint statement declaring, “The Danish Jews are an integral part of the people, and therefore all the people are deeply affected by the measures taken, which are seen as a violation of the Danish sense of justice.” This is the political culture of “countrymen” with which Lidegaard explains the extraordinary determination—and success—of the Danes in protecting their Jewish population…

 

When the Germans arrived to begin the deportations, Jews had already been warned—in their synagogues—and they simply vanished into the countryside, heading for the coast to seek a crossing to neutral Sweden. There was little or no Jewish communal organization and no Danish underground to help them. What ensued was a chaotic family-by-family flight, made possible simply because ordinary members of Danish society feigned ignorance when Germans questioned them, while sheltering families in seaside villages, hotels, and country cottages. Danish police on the coast warned hiding families when the Gestapo came to call, and signaled all-clear so that boats bearing Danish Jews could slip away to Sweden. The fishermen who took the Danish Jews across the Baltic demanded huge sums for the crossing, but managed to get their frightened fellow citizens to safety. When the Gestapo did seize Jewish families hiding in the church of the small fishing village of Gilleleje, the people were so outraged that they banded together to assist others to flee. One villager even confronted the local Gestapo officer, shining a flashlight in his face and exclaiming: “The poor Jews!” When the German replied, “It is written in the Bible that this shall be their fate,” the villager unforgettably replied: “But it is not written that it has to happen in Gilleleje.”

 

Why did the Danes behave so differently from most other societies and populations in occupied Europe? For a start, they were the only nation where escape to a safe neutral country lay across a narrow strait of water. Moreover, they were not subject to exterminatory pressure themselves. They were not directly occupied, and their leadership structures from the monarch down to the local mayors were not ripped apart. The newspapers in Copenhagen were free enough to report the deportations and thus to assist any Jews still not in the know to flee. The relatively free circulation of information also made it impossible for non-Jewish Danes to claim, as so many Germans did, that “of this we had no knowledge.” Most of all, Denmark was a small, homogeneous society, with a stable democracy, a monarchy that commanded respect, and a shared national hostility to the Germans. Denmark offers some confirmation of Rousseau’s observation that virtue is most easily fostered in small republics…

 

Countrymen is a story about a little country that did the right thing for complicated reasons, and got away with it for equally complicated reasons. It is a story that reinforces an old truth: solidarity and decency depend on a dense tissue of connection among people, on long-formed habits of the heart, on resilient cultures of common citizenship, and on leaders who marshal these virtues by their example. In Denmark, this dense tissue bound human beings together and indirect rule made it impossible for the Germans to rip it apart. Elsewhere in Europe, by contrast, it was destroyed in stages, first by ghettoizing and isolating the Jewish people and then by insulating bystanders from the full horror of Nazi intentions. Once Jews had been stripped of citizenship, property, rights, and social existence—once they could appeal only to the common humanity of persecutors and bystanders alike—it was too late.

 

There is a sobering message in Lidegaard’s tale for the human rights era that came after these abominations. If a people come to rely for their protection on human rights alone, on the mutual recognition of common humanity, they are already in serious danger. The Danish story seems to tell us that it is not the universal human chain that binds peoples together in extremity, but more local and granular ties: the particular consciousness of time, place, and heritage that led a Danish villager to stand up to the Gestapo and say no, it will not happen here, not in our village. This extraordinary story of one small country has resonance beyond its Danish context. Countrymen should be read by anyone seeking to understand what precise set of shared social and political understandings can make possible, in times of terrible darkness, acts of civil courage and uncommon decency.

 

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OBAMA’S AD HOC FOREIGN POLICY                                    

Charles Krauthammer                                                                                      

National Review, May 29, 2014

 

It is fitting that the day before President Obama gives his grand West Point address defending the wisdom and prudence of his foreign policy, his government should be urging Americans to evacuate Libya. Libya, of course, was once the model Obama intervention — the exquisitely calibrated military engagement wrapped in the rhetorical extravagance of a nationally televised address proclaiming his newest foreign-policy doctrine (they change to fit the latest ad hoc decision): the responsibility to protect, or R2P. You don’t hear R2P bandied about much anymore. Not with more than 50,000 civilians having been slaughtered in Syria’s civil war, unprotected in any way by the United States. Nor for that matter do you hear much about Libya, now so dangerously chaotic and jihadi-infested that the State Department is telling Americans to get out. And you didn’t hear much of anything in the West Point speech. It was a somber parade of straw men, as the president applauded himself for steering the nation on a nervy middle course between extreme isolationism and madcap interventionism. It was the rhetorical equivalent of that classic national-security joke in which the presidential aide, devoted to policy option X, submits the following decision memo: Option 1. All-out nuclear war…Option 2. Unilateral surrender…Option 3. Policy X.

 

The isolationism of Obama’s telling is a species not to be found anywhere. Not even Rand Paul would withdraw from everywhere. And even members of Congress’s dovish Left have called for sending drones to Nigeria, for God’s sake. As for Obama’s interventionists, they are grotesquely described as people “who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak” while Obama courageously refuses to believe that “every problem has a military solution.” Name one person who does.

 

“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force?” Obama recently and plaintively asked about Ukraine. In reality, nobody is. What actual earthlings are eager for is sending military assistance to Ukraine’s woefully equipped forces. That’s what the interim prime minister asked for when he visited here in March — and was denied. Two months later, military assistance was the first thing Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s newly elected president, said he wanted from the United States. Note: not boots on the ground.

Same for Syria. It was Obama, not his critics, who went to the brink of a military strike over the use of chemical weapons. From which he then flinched. Critics have been begging Obama to help train and equip the outmanned and outgunned rebels — a policy to which he now intimates he might finally be coming around. Three years late. Qusair, Homs, and major suburbs of Damascus have already been retaken by the government. The battle has by now so decisively tilted toward Assad — backed by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, while Obama dithered — that Assad is holding triumphal presidential elections next week.

 

Amid all this, Obama seems unaware of how far his country has fallen. He attributes claims of American decline to either misreading history or partisan politics. Problem is: Most of the complaints are coming from abroad, from U.S. allies with no stake whatsoever in U.S. partisan politics. Their concern is their own security as they watch this president undertake multiple abdications from Warsaw to Kabul. What is the world to think when Obama makes the case for a residual force in Afghanistan – “after all the sacrifices we’ve made, we want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win” — and then announces a drawdown of American forces to 10,000, followed by total liquidation within two years on a fixed timetable regardless of circumstances?

 

The policy contradicts the premise. If you want not to forfeit our terribly hard-earned gains — as we forfeited all our gains in Iraq with the 2011 withdrawal — why not let conditions dictate the post-2014 drawdowns? Why go to zero — precisely by 2016? For the same reason, perhaps, that the Afghan surge was ended precisely in 2012, in the middle of the fighting season — but before the November election. A 2016 Afghan end date might help Democrats electorally and, occurring with Obama still in office, provide a shiny new line to his résumé. Is this how a great nation decides matters of war and peace — to help one party and polish the reputation of one man? As with the West Point speech itself, as with the president’s entire foreign policy of retreat, one can only marvel at the smallness of it all.

 

 

LETTERS FROM OUR READERS

 

“Dear Fred…I had a high opinion of Barry Rubin, and was sorry to hear of his death at a relatively early age. I also liked and approve of your obituary essay. You presented a case that I would like to see given proper attention by Gentiles as well as Jews, conservatives and liberals. Power to your arm. Best Wishes,   

—Neil (Feb. 8, 2014)

 

“In general I am a supporter of CIJR and consider it an excellent and valuable organization. I have, however, had reservations about some of your positions. For example, you appear to often paint United States president Obama as anti-Israel and pro-Arab. I contend there is little or no evidence for this. He is rather, a weak and ineffictive leader, especially in foreign matters. As well, there is an understandable, but often wrong tarring of left wingers as Israel bashers. Perhaps this last was what you had in mind in reprinting the rather sick and slightly dated article by Steven Plaut called "On the Tikkun Olam Fetish" in today's Daily Briefing. In my view it was nothing more than a puny defence of Orthodoxy and an attack on more liberal strains of Judaism. This does no service to your cause and mine, the defence of Israel, and represents one of Israel's great failings. It was in no way useful, nor appreciated.”

—Ken (Mar. 10, 2014)

 

“The Purimspiel Daily Briefing was lovely and very entertaining. I am wondering where is all the material from and if either of you wrote up one of these funny ones. Happy Purim”

—Jack (Mar. 16, 2014)

 

“As someone who consumes a vast amount of research daily on the Arab-Israeli conflict, I can think of no other pro-Israeli think tank that has  attained the reach, scope, effectiveness, and impeccable credentials as CIJR in its unparalleled original research and analysis: From  the Middle East and international  radical Islam to  internal developments within Canada affecting the Jewish community  and its overpowering intellectual analysis of what is going in Israel, the Muslim World and the reverberations in Canada and north America. CIJR is not just a think tank. It is an intellectual leader and unrelenting activist institution  in protecting the security of the State of Israel and of Canada itself from the unspeakable ravages of international radical Islamic movements, as they have established centers from gravity from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, south America, Western Europe and North America…So on the occasion of the CIJR’s 26th Annual Gala Dinner, let me raise a toast to the incredibly hard working and truly assiduous workers behind this miraculously effective  institute and wish it another 26 years of unparalleled  success.  This is one organization that has truly made a difference in our lives and in improving the security of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. It deserves all of our support. “

—Steven Emerson, Executive Director, The Investigative Project on Terrorism (May 14, 2014)

 

CIJR wishes all its friends and supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

Yom Yerushalayim: Reunification of a People and a Past: Israel Forever Foundation, Jewish Press, May 28, 2014—There has been a continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem, and our connection to and passion for the city has been preserved as a memory by Jewish people around the world.

Jerusalem Day: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, May 28, 2014—In the spirit of Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, I would like to share with you a remarkable sermon I have just come across, which was delivered by my late father-in- law, Rabbi Israel Porush, at the Great Synagogue in Sydney one year after the Six Day War.

The Holocaust's Foremost Unsung Hero: Emily Amrousi, Israel Hayom, Apr. 27, 2014—In 1986, a 78-year-old man named Moshe Kraus died in Jerusalem. You probably don't recognize the name. He was never commemorated in any way.

At West Point, President Obama Binds America’s Hands on Foreign Affairs: Washington Post, May 28, 2014 —President Obama has retrenched U.S. global engagement in a way that has shaken the confidence of many U.S. allies and encouraged some adversaries.

Cadets Not Excited With Obama Speech; Media United Against President: Joseph R. Carducci, Downtrend, May 29, 2014

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Manfred Gerstenfeld: Anti-Zionism in the Post-War USSR and Today’s Russia

“Anti-Zionism became a significant element of the Soviet Union’s foreign policy toward the end of the 1940s. The Soviet leadership had supported Israel’s creation at the United Nations General Assembly in November 1947. They believed that Israel could become an ally in the Middle East. It rapidly turned out that this would not be the case.

 

“The initial anti-Zionism of the Soviet Union was also based on other considerations. The undesirable popularity of Israel among many Jews there became obvious in their enthusiastic welcome to the first Israeli Ambassador to Russia, Golda Meir in 1948. Furthermore, from an ideological point of view communism was against every form of nationalism including Jewish versions, Zionist or not.”

 

Historian André W.M. Gerrits is Professor of Russian and International Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. One of his books is titled The Myth of Jewish Communism: A Historical Interpretation.

 

“Communists have always seen Zionism as a petty bourgeois deviant, as well as a expression of Jewish nationalism. The emphasis anti-Zionism received in the Soviet Union and other communist countries during various periods depended mainly on international developments. Anti-Zionism played a role in the communist leadership struggles at the end of the 1940s and early 1950s in Czechoslovakia, as well as at the end of the 1960s in Poland.

 

“The communist leaders in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia would not use openly anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic arguments. Anti-Zionism however, fit in well with Stalin’s foreign policy. It also seemed that Stalin and his Czechoslovak followers thought that accusing people only of Trotskyism and Titoism would have less resonance in the party than anti-Zionism.

 

"This was yet another example of the communist manipulation of anti-Zionism as an instrument of political goals – in this case the affirmation of full political control over the Czechoslovak communist party.

 

“Anti-Zionism was also a factor in the Soviet Union’s relations with the United States and its efforts to strengthen relations with Arab countries and Iran. Only late in the 1980s, when Gorbachev changed the overall direction of foreign policy, did anti-Zionism largely stop being a Soviet political propaganda tool.

 

“One might say that anti-Zionism is a traditional ideological motif which has been mainly used and manipulated as an international political instrument. Anti-Zionism has deep roots in the socialist movement, and it  should not be confused with anti-Semitism. Early Jewish socialists were also opposed to Zionism.

 

“There has been much speculation among historians about Stalin’s plans toward the end of his life to deport Soviet Jews. There is no consensus among historians about this. I have never seen proof though that Stalin had concrete plans to send all Jews to Siberia. He most probably was not interested in initiating pogroms, if only in view of his obsessive inclination to fully control Soviet society.

 

“Shortly before Stalin died in 1953, he accused nine doctors – six of whom were Jews – of a plot to poison the Soviet leadership. This infamous Doctors’ Plot was an extreme manifestation of Stalin’s mistrust of all ethnic groups which had a ‘link’ with other countries, particularly of his suspicion of the Jews. It is often asked whether Stalin was an anti-Semite. We don’t really know. Stalin allowed very few Jews into his direct environment, but his political suspicions were far from limited to Jews only.

Add the increased number of Russians living in Israel, and you have the major reasons why relations between Russia and Israel have intensified and improved considerably.
“Stalin’s successors dropped whatever anti-Jewish plans there were in the Kremlin. They realized the absurdity of the accusations of the Doctors’ Plot and did not wish to confront pogroms or deportations.

 

“To the best of my knowledge, among later Soviet leaders, relations with Israel and the Arab world never led to serious disagreements. The geopolitical environment in the Middle East and the East-West conflict did not leave the Soviet Union much choice as from the 1960s, Israel was firmly in the Western camp.

 

“Anti-Zionist publications were subject to censorship by the state body Glalvit like anything else which was printed. Several anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic books were published in the Soviet Union, until the early 1980s. Trofim Kitchko’s  Judaism Unembellished, sponsored by the Academy of Sciences, was just one notorious example. One may assume that in view of the importance of this subject, the author had received publishing permission from high levels within the communist party.

 

As to the Soviet Union pushing the “Zionism is racism” resolution which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1975, Gerrits remarks: “I have no doubt that the major reason must have been to strengthen the Soviet Union’s global position, especially among non-Western powers. ‘Zionism is racism’ was a popular slogan among many ‘Third World’ nations”, especially of course in the Arab world.

 

He concludes: “Under the conditions of post-Cold War and post-communism, Russia has more room to maneuver. Add the increased number of Russians living in Israel, and you have the major reasons why relations between Russia and Israel have intensified and improved considerably. And this is of great importance to Russia. The country does not have many reliable and trustworthy allies or even relationships — neither in Europe, where the Ukrainian crisis has further isolated Russia — nor in the Middle East.”

DECLINE OF THE ACADEMY: ILLIBERAL VALUES & MINDLESS “P.C.” SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS SPELL DEEPENING CRISIS OF UNIVERSITY “HIGHER” EDUCATION

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

Bonfire of the Humanities: Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2014— It's been a long time coming, but America's colleges and universities have finally descended into lunacy.

To the Class of 2014: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2014— Dear Class of 2014: Allow me to be the first to offend you, baldly and unapologetically.

The Closing of the Academic Mind: William Kristol, Weekly Standard, May 5, 2014 — From Brandeis on the Atlantic to Azusa on the Pacific, an iron curtain has descended across academia.

The Villainization of Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Robert Fulford, National Post, May 17, 2014— In the early stages of the controversy over Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s cancelled honorary degree from Brandeis University, she looked like the victim.

 

On Topic Links

 

Check Your Bigotry: Rex Murphy, National Post, May 17, 2014

Obama Unleashes the Left: Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2014

White Privilege: Sarah Boesveld, National Post, May 6, 2014

What 'Hard Work U' Can Teach Elite Schools: Stephen Moore, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2014

At Princeton, Privilege Is: (a) Commonplace, (b) Misunderstood or (c) Frowned Upon: Marc Santora & Gabriel Fisher, New York Times, May 2, 2014

 

 

BONFIRE OF THE HUMANITIES        

Daniel Henninger                                                                                               

Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2014

                         

It's been a long time coming, but America's colleges and universities have finally descended into lunacy. Last month, Brandeis University banned Somali-born feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali as its commencement speaker, purporting that "Ms. Hirsi Ali's record of anti-Islam statements" violates Brandeis's "core values." This week higher education's ritualistic burning of college-commencement heretics spread to Smith College and Haverford College. On Monday, Smith announced the withdrawal of Christine Lagarde, the French head of the International Monetary Fund. And what might the problem be with Madame Lagarde, considered one of the world's most accomplished women? An online petition signed by some 480 offended Smithies said the IMF is associated with "imperialistic and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide." With unmistakable French irony, Ms. Lagarde withdrew "to preserve the celebratory spirit" of Smith's commencement.

 

On Tuesday, Haverford College's graduating intellectuals forced commencement speaker Robert J. Birgeneau to withdraw. Get this: Mr. Birgeneau is the former chancellor of UC Berkeley, the big bang of political correctness. It gets better. Berkeley's Mr. Birgeneau is famous as an ardent defender of minority students, the LGBT community and undocumented illegal immigrants. What could possibly be wrong with this guy speaking at Haverford??? Haverfordians were upset that in 2011 the Berkeley police used "force" against Occupy protesters in Sproul Plaza. They said Mr. Birgeneau could speak at Haverford if he agreed to nine conditions, including his support for reparations for the victims of Berkeley's violence. In a letter, Mr. Birgeneau replied, "As a longtime civil rights activist and firm supporter of nonviolence, I do not respond to untruthful, violent verbal attacks."

 

Smith president Kathleen McCartney felt obliged to assert that she is "committed to leading a college where differing views can be heard and debated with respect." And Haverford's president, Daniel Weiss, wrote to the students that their demands "read more like a jury issuing a verdict than as an invitation to a discussion or a request for shared learning." Mr. Birgeneau, Ms. McCartney, Mr. Weiss and indeed many others in American academe must wonder what is happening to their world this chilled spring. Here's the short explanation: You're all conservatives now. Years ago, when the academic left began to ostracize professors identified as "conservative," university administrators stood aside or were complicit. The academic left adopted a notion espoused back then by a "New Left" German philosopher—who taught at Brandeis, not coincidentally—that many conservative ideas were immoral and deserved to be suppressed. And so they were. This shunning and isolation of "conservative" teachers by their left-wing colleagues (with many liberals silent in acquiescence) weakened the foundational ideas of American universities—freedom of inquiry and the speech rights in the First Amendment.

 

No matter. University presidents, deans, department heads and boards of trustees watched or approved the erosion of their original intellectual framework. The ability of aggrieved professors and their students to concoct behavior, ideas and words that violated political correctness got so loopy that the phrase itself became satirical—though not so funny to profs denied tenure on suspicion of incorrectness. Offensive books were banned and history texts rewritten to conform. No one could possibly count the compromises of intellectual honesty made on American campuses to reach this point. It is fantastic that the liberal former head of Berkeley should have to sign a Maoist self-criticism to be able to speak at Haverford. Meet America's Red Guards. These students at Brandeis, Smith, Haverford and hundreds of other U.S. colleges didn't discover illiberal intolerance on their own. It is fed to them three times a week by professors of mental conformity. After Brandeis banned Ms. Hirsi Ali, the Harvard Crimson's editors wrote a rationalizing editorial, "A Rightful Revocation." The legendary liberal Louis Brandeis (Harvard Law, First Amendment icon) must be spinning in his grave.

 

Years ago, today's middle-aged liberals embraced in good faith ideas such as that the Western canon in literature or history should be expanded to include Africa, Asia, Native Americans and such. Fair enough. The activist academic left then grabbed the liberals' good faith and wrecked it, allowing the nuttiest professors to dumb down courses and even whole disciplines into tendentious gibberish. The slow disintegration of the humanities into what is virtually agitprop on many campuses is no secret. Professors of economics and the hard sciences roll their eyes in embarrassment at what has happened to once respectable liberal-arts departments at their institutions. Like some Gresham's Law for Ph.D.s, the bad professors drove out many good, untenured professors, and that includes smart young liberals. Most conservatives were wiped out long ago.

 

One might conclude: Who cares? Parents are beginning to see that this is a $65,000-a-year scam that won't get their kids a job in an economy that wants quantification skills. Parents and students increasingly will flee the politicized nut-houses for apolitical MOOCs—massive open online courses. Still, it's a tragedy. The loonies are becoming the public face of some once-revered repositories of the humanities. Sic transit whatever.

 

Contents

 

                            

TO THE CLASS OF 2014                                                                                          

Bret Stephens                                                                                                         

Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2014

 

Dear Class of 2014: Allow me to be the first to offend you, baldly and unapologetically. Here you are, 22 or so years on planet Earth, and your entire lives have been one long episode of offense-avoidance. This spotless record has now culminated in your refusals to listen to commencement speakers whose mature convictions and experiences might offend your convictions and experiences, or what passes for them.

Modern education has done its work well: In you, Class of 2014, the coward soul has filled the void left by the blank mind.

 

When I last delivered a commencement address via column to the Class of 2012, I complained about the dismaying inverse relationship between that class's self-regard and its command of basic facts. This led to one cascade of angry letters, blog posts and college newspaper columns from the under-25 set—and another cascade of appreciative letters from their parents, professors and employers. Of the former, my favorite came from a 2012 graduate of an elite Virginia college, who wrote me to say that "America has a hefty appetite for BS, and I'm ready and willing to deliver on that demand." I gave him points for boldness and cheekily wrote back asking if we might consider his letter for publication. The bravado vanished; he demurred.

 

Well, Class of 2012, I did you a (small) injustice. At least the pretense of knowledgeability was important to you. For the Class of 2014, it seems that inviolable ignorance is the only true bliss. It's not just the burgeoning list of rescinded invitations to potentially offensive commencement speakers: Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis, Condi Rice at Rutgers, Christine Lagarde at Smith and Robert Birgeneau at Haverford. In February, students at Dartmouth issued a list of 72 demands for "transformative justice." Among them: "mandate sensitivity training"; "organize continuous external reviews of the College's structural racism, classism, ableism, sexism and heterosexism"; and "create a policy banning the Indian mascot." When the demands weren't automatically met, the students seized an administration building.

 

At Brown, a Facebook page is devoted to the subject of "Micro/Aggressions," a growth area in the grievance industry. Example of a micro-aggression: "As a dark-skinned Black person, I feel alienated from social justice spaces or conversations about institutional racism here at Brown when non-Black people of color say things like 'let's move away from the White-Black binary.' " And then there are "trigger warnings." In Saturday's New York Times, Jennifer Medina reports that students and like-minded faculty are demanding warnings on study material that trigger "symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder." Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" was cited by one faculty document at Oberlin as a novel that could "trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more."

 

Similar Tipper Gore -type efforts are under way at UC Santa Barbara, George Washington University and other second- and third-tier schools. Did I just offend some readers by saying that? Sorry, but it's true. Any student who demands—and gets—emotional pampering from his university needs to pay a commensurate price in intellectual derision. College was once about preparing boys and girls to become men and women, not least through a process of desensitization to discomfiting ideas. Now it's just a $240,000 extension of kindergarten. Maybe Oberlin can start offering courses in Sharing Is Caring. Students can read "The Gruffalo" with trigger warnings that it potentially stigmatizes people with hairy backs.

 

This is the bind you find yourselves in, Class of 2014: No society, not even one that cossets the young as much as ours does, can treat you as children forever. A central teaching of Genesis is that knowledge is purchased at the expense of innocence. A core teaching of the ancients is that personal dignity is obtained through habituation to virtue. And at least one basic teaching of true liberalism is that the essential right of free people is the right to offend, and an essential responsibility of free people is to learn how to cope with being offended.

 

I'll grant you this: It's not all your fault. The semi- and post-literates who overran the humanities departments at most universities long before I ever set foot in college are the main culprits here. Then again, it shouldn't be that hard to figure out what it takes to live in a free country. The ideological brainwashing that takes place on campus isn't (yet) coercive. Mainly, it's just onanistic. There's good news in that. You can still take charge of your education, and of your lives. The cocoon years are over; the micro-aggressions are about to pour down. Deal with it. Revel in it. No consequential idea ever failed to offend someone; no consequential person was ever spared great offense. Those of you who want to lead meaningful lives need to begin unlearning most of what you've been taught, starting right now.

 

Contents
 

THE CLOSING OF THE ACADEMIC MIND                                                         

William Kristol                                                                                                     

Weekly Standard, May 5, 2014

 

From Brandeis on the Atlantic to Azusa on the Pacific, an iron curtain has descended across academia. Behind that line lie all the classrooms of the ancient schools of America. Wesleyan, Brown, Princeton, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Berkeley, Bowdoin, and Stanford, all these famous colleges and the populations within them lie in what we must call the Liberal sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from the commissars of Liberal Orthodoxy. .  .  .

 

How can one resist the chance to echo Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech? Okay, it’s not a precise analogy. It’s true that liberalism isn’t communism. It’s true that today’s liberals deploy the wet blanket of conformity rather than the clenched fist of suppression. It’s true that communism crushed minds, while today’s liberalism is merely engaged in closing them. And it’s true that most of the denizens of our universities, unlike the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, embrace their commissars. But commissars they are.

 

On April 8, the admirable human rights campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali had an honorary degree from Brandeis University revoked because some of her criticisms of Islamism—and yes, even (God forbid!) of Islam itself—were judged by that university’s president “inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.” Apparently two of Brandeis’s core values are cowardice in the face of Islamists and timidity in the face of intolerance. Less than two weeks later, on April 21, an appearance by the formidable social scientist Charles Murray at Azusa Pacific University was canceled by its president, two days before Murray was to have appeared. The administration was afraid Murray’s presence on campus might hurt the feelings of some Asuza students and faculty. The same day, at Eastern Connecticut State University, a professor told his creative writing class that Republicans are “racist, misogynist, money-grubbing people” who “want things to go back—not to 1955, but to 1855,” and that “colleges will start closing up” if the GOP takes control of the Senate this November. If only!

 

What’s striking about all three episodes isn’t so much the illiberal complaints of professors and students. It is the pathetic behavior of the university administrators. Thus, a spokesperson for Eastern Connecticut State University explained, “Our faculty has academic freedom to conduct their classes in whatever way they choose, this is not a university matter.” So what a professor says in the classroom “is not a university matter”? Apparently not. On the other hand, it turns out that the administrators of a Jewish university in Boston, a Christian school in California, and a state college in Connecticut are in agreement about what is a “university matter”: protecting the “university community” from discomforting thoughts. In an open letter to the students of Asuza Pacific University, Charles Murray wrote, “Asuza Pacific’s administration wants to protect you from earnest and nerdy old guys who have opinions that some of your faculty do not share. Ask if this is why you’re getting a college education.” The question is worth asking. Students and their parents should ask it. But the honest answer from the groves of academe would be: Well, now that you ask .  .  . yes.

 

In her statement on Brandeis’s withdrawal of its honorary degree, Ayaan Hirsi Ali noted, “What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The ‘spirit of free expression’ referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here.” But the founding principles of Brandeis are no longer its governing principles. The spirit of free expression is not the spirit of Liberal Orthodoxy. And it is the illiberal spirit of Liberal Orthodoxy that dominates, that governs, that controls our colleges and universities.

 

But there is an alternative to Liberal Orthodoxy. It is liberal education. Liberal education can be pursued today, as it has been for most of history, outside the official “educational” institutions of the society. Those institutions have embraced their closed-mindedness. But that doesn’t mean the American mind has to close. There is a great country out there beyond academe. In it, free speech can be defended and real education can be supported. Liberal education can be fostered even if the academy has become illiberal. The fact that our colleges and universities have betrayed the cause of liberal education means the rest of us have the grave responsibility—but also the golden opportunity and the distinct honor—to defend and advance it.

 

Contents
 

THE VILLAINIZATION OF AYAAN HIRSI ALI                                  

Robert Fulford                                                                 

National Post, May 17, 2014

 

In the early stages of the controversy over Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s cancelled honorary degree from Brandeis University, she looked like the victim. A survivor of Muslim oppression in her native Somalia, she’s an angry, influential critic of Islam. When Brandeis announced plans to honour her, students and Muslim organizations objected so passionately that the university cancelled her invitation. Much of the commentary treated this decision as unfair, a case of a frightened university surrendering to political correctness. As Ruth Wisse, a distinguished Harvard professor, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “In Nigeria, Islamists think nothing of seizing hundreds of schoolgirls for the crime of aspiring to an education. Here in the United States, the educated class thinks nothing of denying an honorary degree to a fearless Muslim woman who at peril of her life, and in the name of liberal democracy, has insisted on exposing such outrages to the light.”

 

But lately, much of the discussion has turned against Hirsi Ali. She now stands accused of a crime against multiculturalism: She has failed to be moderate. She has overstated her case, possibly even made a mistake or two. She once called Islam “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.” She believes democracy and Islam are at war. No doubt about it, she’s not afraid to be harsh. As a result, journalistic opinion has transformed her from victim to villain. The New Republic has said that her various statements are so extreme they make her unworthy of honour. Salon magazine argued that her view of Islam is the same as the bigotry that informs U.S. foreign policy. The Economist stated what it considers a rule: “Wholesale condemnations of existing religions just aren’t done in American politics.” Apparently they violate some sort of national code of ethics.

 

Many in North America have come to believe that any criticism of Islam is inherently evil. But surely it is a sacred principle of the West that freedom of speech includes the freedom to discuss with frankness any religious authority or dogma. Democracy could not have developed beyond the medieval era without such criticism. Journalists now take it for granted that they can condemn the Roman Catholic Church for everything from tolerating child-abusing priests to denying the organized demands of nuns. Artists in the West routinely scrutinize the history of Christianity and Judaism. Hilary Mantel has been justly acclaimed for Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, two great historical novels about the blood-stained, deeply hypocritical creation of the Church of England under Henry VIII in the 16th century. It would be absurd for Anglicans to mount an attack on these books; but one could easily imagine that parallel discussions of Islamic history would be condemned as Islamophobic.

 

Much of the academic world seems to believe that anything said in criticism of Islam must be the result of ignorance or malice or both. A clear idea of the atmosphere in elite American universities comes through in a recent book, Do Muslim Women Need Saving?. The author, Lila Abu-Lughod, an anthropologist, has a PhD from Harvard and an appointment at Columbia as Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science. Harvard University Press published her book. Despite her credentials, she gives a highly anecdotal and dubiously grounded answer to the question in her title: No, they don’t need to be saved. Their situation satisfies many of them. She quotes a woman who tells her that “You need a man who knows how to rule.” She explains that in many cases parents alone do not choose a girl’s husband; sometimes the girl is also consulted. She scorns the poignant stories of women who left Islam, calling them sordid and pornographic. She says Hirsi Ali’s own story, told in Infidel, follows the usual pattern.

 

And why, Abu-Lughod wants to know, are we so worried about human rights? She implies that emancipation, equality and rights are particular interests of the West, not so significant elsewhere. “The values of consent and choice” may be fetishes. She also thinks we write too much about honour killing. She believes that the West doesn’t understand communities that have a “commitment to honour.” She doesn’t think the veil oppresses women any more than “the tyranny of fashion” in the West. Her book is worth noting as an example of an academic mentality that deadens and trivializes honest controversy. Immersion in the work of teachers such as Abu-Lughod warns students against defending the principles of their own society. It may explain why so few educated feminists show any interest in support for Muslim women.           

         

Check Your Bigotry: Rex Murphy, National Post, May 17, 2014

Obama Unleashes the Left: Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2014

White Privilege: Sarah Boesveld, National Post, May 6, 2014

What 'Hard Work U' Can Teach Elite Schools: Stephen Moore, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2014

At Princeton, Privilege Is: (a) Commonplace, (b) Misunderstood or (c) Frowned Upon: Marc Santora & Gabriel Fisher, New York Times, May 2, 2014

 

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ELECTION DAY: EGYPT & EU MAJOR VICTORY FOR “EUROSKEPTICS”—SISI EXPECTED TO TAKE PRESIDENCY—U.S. MEMORIAL DAY OVERSHADOWED BY VA SCANDAL

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

BREAKING NEWS: ESTABLISHED PARTIES ROCKED BY ANTI-EUROPE VOTE (London) — Members of the European political elite expressed alarm on Monday over the strong showing in European Parliament elections by nationalist and anti-immigrant parties skeptical about European integration, a development described by the French prime minister as an “earthquake.” In France, Britain and elsewhere, anti-immigrant parties opposed to the influence of the European Union emerged in the lead. In France, the National Front won 26 percent of the vote to defeat both the governing Socialists and the Union for a Popular Movement, the center-right party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy. In Britain, the triumph of the U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, which won 28 percent of the vote, represented the first time since 1910 that a nationwide vote had not been won by either the Conservatives or Labour. Official results released overnight showed that populist parties strongly opposed to the European Union also trounced establishment forces in Denmark and Greece and did well in Austria and Sweden. The results, a stark challenge to champions of greater European integration, left mainstream political leaders stunned. The radical left-wing Syriza coalition in Greece beat the party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, while Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi outfit that the Greek authorities have tried in vain to outlaw, also picked up seats, bringing Holocaust-deniers and belligerent xenophobes into the European Parliament. (New York Times, May 26, 2014)

 

BREAKING NEWS: SISI POISED TO WIN PRESIDENCY AS EGYPTIANS VOTE (Cairo) —Egyptians voted on Monday in an election expected to install former army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as president, with supporters brushing aside concerns about political freedom and hailing him as the strong leader the country needs. Three years after the historic uprising against Hosni Mubarak, the vote is set to restore a pattern of rule by men from the military after Sisi toppled Egypt's first freely elected leader, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi faces only one challenger in the two-day vote: the leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi. Widely regarded as Egypt's de facto leader since he toppled Morsi after mass protests, Sisi, 59, faces manifold challenges including an economy in crisis and a campaign of Islamist violence that has spiraled since he overthrew Morsi. To the Islamists, he is the mastermind of a bloody coup that led to a crackdown that has killed hundreds of Morsi supporters and landed thousands more in jail. Secular dissidents who led the 2011 uprising against Mubarak have also been imprisoned. At the same time, several hundred members of the security forces have been killed in a campaign of violence by radical Islamists since last July. The last year has been the bloodiest period of internal strife in Egypt's modern history. The Brotherhood and its allies, which had declared it "the election of the presidency of blood", issued a statement saying their call for a boycott had been widely observed. However, the interior minister said turnout was good. (Jerusalem Post, May 26, 2014)

 

Contents:

 

European Earthquake: John Fund, National Review, May 26, 2014— How big was the “Euroskeptic” uprising in the elections for the European Parliament on Sunday?

Leading Egypt to a Better Future?: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2014 —Three years of revolutions and turmoil have taken their toll on Egyptians, who are now pinning their hopes on former defense minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The Scandal That Shadows Memorial Day: John McCain, Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2014— Memorial Day is a sacred observance in America's democracy—the day that the nation honors and thanks those who have worn the uniform of the United States and have served and sacrificed in its defense.

 

On Topic Links

 

France's National Front Scores Historic Win in European Election: Stacy Meichtry, Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2014

Britain’s Discontent Lifts Populist Party to Even Stronger Vote Tally Than Expected: Steven Erlanger & Stephen Castle, New York Times, May 23, 2014

Can Islamists Move From Totalitarianism to Democracy?: Daniel Pipes, Algemeiner, May 22, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About the VA — and the Scandals Engulfing It: Katie Zezima, Washington Post, May 21, 2014

 

   

                                                                       

Contents
                                 
           

EUROPEAN EARTHQUAKE                 

John Fund                                                                                                                          National Review, May 26, 2014

                         

How big was the “Euroskeptic” uprising in the elections for the European Parliament on Sunday? Martin Schulz of Germany, who is the left-wing candidate to become the next president of the European Commission, admitted that the results across the 28 member countries showed voters’ “total loss of trust” in pro-Europe parties. Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister who heads a centrist bloc of deputies in the Parliament, told a reporter that he, too, is now a Euroskeptic who wants reform in Brussels. But the reality is that most committed supporters of an ever more powerful European Union will be tempted to ignore Sunday’s results, hoping that public dissatisfaction with bailouts and bureaucrats will abate. But the public might not play along. The best economic estimates are that Europe is facing another “lost decade” of economic growth — stagnant economies will do nothing to reduce sky-high unemployment among young people, and the need for more Eurocrisis bailouts will keep taxes high.

 

In Britain, the political earthquake was huge as the United Kingdom Independence Party, an avowedly Euroskeptic party, won 29 percent of the vote and became the first party other than the Conservatives and Labor to place first in a nationwide election in 108 years. Graham Watson, a defeated Liberal Democratic member of the European Parliament from Cornwall, told the BBC, “Britain is now more anti-European-integration than at any time since Napoleon.” Daniel Hannan, a National Review contributor and Conservative member of the European Parliament, told me last month that “the elites who promised us that greater centralization of power in Brussels would lead to peace have instead delivered what I warned against: animosity between nations and the rise of extremists.”

 

In bemoaning the bureaucratization, Hannan mentioned the remarkable showing of France’s National Front, which came in first in Sunday’s vote with 25 percent. (It won only 6 percent of the vote in the 2009 European Parliament elections.) While the party has moderated its xenophobic message since founder Jean-Marie Le Pen retired as its leader, the Front still harbors enough sketchy characters to make UKIP leader Nigel Farage promise that he will not formally cooperate with them in the European Parliament.

 

All across Europe, voters have lost faith in traditional parties in direct proportion to the collapse of economic growth. In countries with free-market growth policies — such as the Baltic states — ruling parties actually gained votes in Sunday’s vote. But in Spain, France, Greece, and other countries, the traditional major parties of the Left and Right won less than half the vote. Even in Germany, the large nation most clearly committed to European integration, an openly Euroskeptic party pulled in 7 percent of the vote and will enter the European Parliament for the first time.

 

The reason for all this ferment is clearly economic dissatisfaction. In France, where growth is zero, two-thirds of voters recently told pollsters for the Financial Times that the economy is worse now than it was a year ago. In Italy, too, most voters said the economy is weaker than it was a year ago. Asked if they felt more secure in their jobs, 58 percent of Italians answered: “No, not at all.” In the five largest European countries, more than half of voters in the FT poll agreed with the statement that their country had “too many immigrants from the EU.”

 

Sadly, European Union leaders have in the past demonstrated a bullheaded refusal to listen to voters who are skeptical of European centralization. The bureaucrats at the helm ignore referendums that go against the wishes of Brussels, dismiss protests against economic bailouts, and give only lip service to addressing the public’s desire for greater accountability and transparency. Hannan says that despite such a record, there is still time for Europe to preserve the best of the postwar progress it’s made in bringing nations together — the free movement of goods, services, capital, and tourists — while avoiding the mistakes of misbegotten political union. “The voters are making their views clear,” he told me. “The question now is whether any of the political elites will finally pay attention and engage in real reform.”

 

Contents
 

LEADING EGYPT TO A BETTER FUTURE?                                     

Zvi Mazel                                                                                       

Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2014

 

Three years of revolutions and turmoil have taken their toll on Egyptians, who are now pinning their hopes on former defense minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He is widely expected to handily win the presidential election, scheduled for May 26-27. Sisi enjoys unprecedented popularity; his picture is everywhere, from huge street posters to T-shirts and gaudy chocolate wrappers. He has been endorsed by the main political parties, and by leading papers. Egypt wants a strong man, someone to restore stability, deal with the economy and let the country assume anew its traditional role as a regional power.

 

The country has already gone through socialism, with Gamal Abdel Nasser after the Free Officers coup in 1952; capitalism under Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak; and more recently the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood – yet none of these regimes brought democracy or prosperity. Egypt has become poorer and poorer, disillusioned with everything. But the people have nonetheless kept their faith in the army; they see in Sisi their last hope. Though there is another candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi of the popular Nasserist movement, he has very limited support.

 

So what kind of president would Sisi be? When former president Mohamed Morsi in 2012 picked Sisi to be the army new chief of staff and defense minister – after getting rid of field marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi – he was head of army intelligence, and one of the spokesmen of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ruled the country after the fall of Mubarak. He had the reputation of being a devout Muslim, which may have led Morsi to believe he would bring the army under the thumb of the Brotherhood and help it set up an Islamic dictatorship. Sisi revealed in a televised interview on May 18 that the Brotherhood had offered the army money and prestigious posts in exchange for withdrawing its support for the June 2013 mass demonstrations that resulted in Morsi’s downfall.

 

Sisi has chosen to use the written press and the media for his campaign, and gives many interviews.

 

He seems to avoid large electoral rallies, knowing very well that the Brotherhood and other jihadist groups are intent on eliminating him. Should he disappear from the scene at this crucial time, the country would be plunged into chaos. Though he has no political experience, he is savvy enough not to make empty promises and strives to give ambiguous answers to the questions thrown at him. However, he emphasizes the fact that extraordinary efforts will be needed to extricate Egypt from its catastrophic economic situation. Though there are no miracle solutions, he says, he will do his best to bring in foreign technology and investments to develop the country’s infrastructure and promote modern industries.

 

Yet it will take time for change to be felt, and the next two years will be difficult; Egyptians will have to make sacrifices and work hard. Sisi insists there is no other way to move ahead. This is a far cry from the bombastic declarations of Morsi, promising to cure most of the country’s ills – from personal security, an unlimited supply of gas and cleaning up Cairo to ushering in prosperity – all within 100 days. Disillusion set in fast, and was a major contributor to the ouster of the Brotherhood.

 

Some 85 million people live in Egypt today; another million are born every six months. Due to the high birth rate of past decades, every year some 800,000 youngsters need to find work. Official unemployment is 15 percent, but the real number is far higher – and jobs are scarcer than ever. Traditional sectors such as energy and tourism have been hit hard. The energy sector has been neglected for years, since the Mubarak era. Egypt has important reserves of natural gas, yet no effort has been made to develop infrastructure needed to enlarge production, and today the country is unable to supply gas for home consumption, let alone export. The two international companies which 10 years ago set up terminals for the export of liquefied natural gas have been unable to honor their contracts in Europe and Asia, due to lack of supply. They are now negotiating with Nobel Energy, with a view toward purchasing gas from Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan fields. At stake are billions of dollars over a period of 20 to 40 years. The Egyptian government has yet to agree to the deals, and it is not clear if gas imported from Israel would be solely for export, or would reach Egyptian consumers. Egypt, which is losing billions of dollars because it has not developed its own resources, must also subsidize oil and natural gas supplied to its citizens to the tune of $20b. a year – a major drain on the budget and economy. The new president will have to reduce subsidies by making them available only to the poor, but it will not be easy.

 

And energy is just one of the many issues he will have to tackle. Stabilizing the security situation is a necessary step to improve the economy. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood and jihadist groups are stepping up their terror operations. In recent meetings held in Turkey, Qatar and Europe, they launched the so-called 10-point Brussels program, intended to derail the upcoming presidential elections. Success is unlikely, but these militant groups are also threatening to kill Sisi; moreover, their attacks are hampering efforts to restore stability and deal with the economy. Sisi emphasizes on all occasions that the country’s powerful security forces are doing a great job, and that a special rapid intervention unit has been set up to respond quickly wherever it is needed. The problem is that even a low level of terror can hinder economic progress and deter tourists.

 

Sisi does not hesitate to express his bitterness toward the US and the EU, which have frozen the delivery of weapons and equipment needed to fight terror. Time and again, he has called upon them to reconsider and help him defeat their common enemy, radical Islam. He is not alone in wondering why US President Barack Obama so stubbornly refuses to budge on that issue. At the same time, Sisi expresses his thanks to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States – with the exception of Qatar – and compares their help to the famed Marshall Plan, which set Europe on the path to recovery after World War II.

 

What, if anything, is known about his position on democracy and on Islam? The two are closely linked in a Muslim country. The second article of the new Egyptian constitution stipulates that Shari’a Law is the main source of legislation. Sisi has made it clear on several occasions that he believes the current religious discourse in the Muslim world has deprived Islam of its humanity. Extremism must be discarded, he states, adding that Egyptians do not want to go back to radical Islam after the brief reign of the Brotherhood. He speaks of the need to educate the coming generations on new developments in science and technology, and would like to see the West welcome thousands of Egyptian students, who would return to their home country upon the completion of their studies to contribute to its renewal. He does not believe the Western type of democracy can be transplanted in Muslim countries, but pledges that human rights and basic liberties will be upheld by law.

 

So far, he has been remarkably moderate in his references to Israel and the peace treaty. Here is what he told Reuters on May 15: “Our relationship with Israel and the peace treaty had been stable for more than 30 years, and has faced a lot of challenges – yet it remained stable. We respected it, and we will respect it. The Israeli people know it…We need to move on peace [with the Palestinians], which has been frozen for many years. We are ready to play any role that will achieve peace and security in the region.”

 

Not all applaud Sisi, however. The former general is accused of planning to set up a new military dictatorship, and for some he is a representative of the old elites of the Mubarak era. Yet for most he is the man of the hour, uniquely qualified to steer Egypt through the harsh reforms necessary for its economic recovery. But there is still a major hurdle to clear, since the Brotherhood and their jihadist allies will do everything in their power to disrupt the upcoming elections. This will be the real test of the security forces, and of the man who wants to lead his country towards a better future.

 

Contents
                                  

THE SCANDAL THAT SHADOWS MEMORIAL DAY                                 

John McCain                                                                                            

Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2014

 

Memorial Day is a sacred observance in America's democracy—the day that the nation honors and thanks those who have worn the uniform of the United States and have served and sacrificed in its defense. We all love our country and the values it embodies. But there is no greater demonstration of that love in a democracy than those who freely bear arms and head into harm's way, willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their fellow citizens. For the citizens on whose behalf this sacrifice is made, there is no greater responsibility than to care for those who have returned from the fight, to help them bind up their wounds and carry on.

 

It is therefore the height of shame and tragedy that on this Memorial Day the nation is seized with the unfolding scandal of the government's failure to meet its highest responsibility to veterans and wounded warriors. At least 26 Department of Veterans Affairs health-care facilities are under investigation for chronic mismanagement, deceitful and self-serving behavior, and inadequate provision of care. Whistleblowers allege that these and other failures at VA facilities may have led to the deaths of some 40 veterans. Simply put, America's veterans are losing confidence in the one government agency that exists solely to care for them. This is more than a government failure. It is a violation of a solemn vow. And the buck stops with the president of the United States.

 

Unfortunately, as this scandal at the VA escalated for nearly two months, President Obama was nowhere to be seen. There were expressions of anger through presidential proxies, but nothing from the commander in chief himself. And when the president finally did speak about the crisis on Wednesday, there was only a recitation of talking points, expressions of confidence in the system, without a real sense of emotion and urgency. A VA official resigned shortly before his planned retirement, and a White House staffer with no relevant VA or military experience was tapped to look into the crisis. But no meaningful action has been taken.

 

The sad fact is that the same charges then-Sen. Obama levied against his predecessor's stewardship of the VA in 2008—that it was "an outrage," "a betrayal," that "we are all dishonored"—are no less true today, just as Mr. Obama's vaunted campaign promises to reform the VA system had few results. The VA is arguably in worse shape more than five years into his presidency than when Mr. Obama took office. Yet even today, the president seems to be treating this as a political problem to be managed, not a national crisis to be solved.

 

The VA undoubtedly has many committed, talented employees who do valuable, lifesaving work every day. But it is also undeniable that the VA has many serious, long-standing problems. On behalf of Arizona veterans, as well as whistleblowing doctors and nurses, my office has handled some 2,000 cases since January 2013 alone, helping veterans to navigate the sometimes soul-crushing Veterans Affairs bureaucracy. But the allegations being discussed today, some of which were reportedly known to administration officials for many years, go well beyond what we have seen in the past.

 

What is needed now is real action and systemic reform of the VA. As a first step, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki —a career soldier, a Vietnam combat veteran and a man whose career of service I have long admired—needs to carefully consider whether the best thing he can do now to help restore the nation's confidence in the agency he leads is to stand down from his post. More broadly, Sens. Richard Burr, Tom Coburn and I are working on legislation that would strengthen the ability of VA administrators to hire and fire those charged with providing care and, most important, give far greater flexibility to veterans to get the care they need and deserve, where and when they want it, whether in the VA system or not.

 

Veterans have earned the right to choose where and when they get their medical care, and it is our responsibility to afford them this option. Continuing to require that they rely on a system riddled with dysfunction, while waiting for broader reform, is patently unacceptable. As Americans gather this weekend for Memorial Day picnics and parades, in cemeteries all across the country a bugler will sound "Taps" to remind us of the sacrifices that the holiday is intended to commemorate. As we do, let us all remember Abraham Lincoln's challenge to the country, an axiom that describes the VA's solemn obligation today, "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan." Today, the president, our nation and government, are failing that test. We must all do better tomorrow—much better.

 

                            

France's National Front Scores Historic Win in European Election: Stacy Meichtry, Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2014— France's far-right National Front scored a historic victory in the European Parliament elections on Sunday as voters delivered a strong rebuke to mainstream parties many blame for leaving the country's economy in the doldrums while propping up the European Union's unpopular technocracy.

Britain’s Discontent Lifts Populist Party to Even Stronger Vote Tally Than Expected: Steven Erlanger & Stephen Castle, New York Times, May 23, 2014—Voters in Britain sent a forceful message of discontent to established political parties on Friday, as returns from local elections showed an even stronger following than expected for the anti-European Union, anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party.

Can Islamists Move From Totalitarianism to Democracy?: Daniel Pipes, Algemeiner, May 22, 2014— Until now, Islamist rule has implied violence and dictatorship. Can it evolve into something decent?

Everything You Need to Know About the VA — and the Scandals Engulfing It: Katie Zezima, Washington Post, May 21, 2014 —President Obama addressed allegations of long wait times and false record-keeping at the VA for the first time Wednesday, ordering deputies to complete a review of the system within a month and saying that he "will not stand for" veterans receiving substandard care.

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

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Daniel Pipes: Can Islamists Move From Totalitarianism to Democracy?

Until now, Islamist rule has implied violence and dictatorship. Can it evolve into something decent? Put differently: If the brutality of Ruhollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden marked them as yesterday’s men, and the autocracy of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mohammed Morsi make them today’s men, can tomorrow’s Islamists — Muslims seeking a consistent and global application of Islamic law under the rule of a caliph — become democratic and humane?

 

Islamism has significantly evolved over the past 13 years. As recently as 2001, its adherents were synonymous with criminals, terrorists and revolutionaries. In this spirit, I wrote three days after Sept. 11, 2001 that many Islamists “are peaceable in appearance, but they all must be considered potential killers.”

 

These words ring archaic now, at a time when Islamists find the ballot box a more effective means to power than the gun. Terrorism and coercion remain widely in use, to be sure, implemented by barbaric groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria and Boko Haram. Yet some reforms of Islam are already underway.

 

The cutting edge issue now concerns form of government: Can Islamists transit not just from terrorism to politics, but also progress from dictatorship to democracy? Can they eliminate their own seemingly inherent supremacism, bellicosity, immorality, misogyny and anti-Semitism? Examples suggesting changes include the following:

 

In Turkey, a few key Islamists — notably Fethullah Gulen, leader of the country’s most influential Islamist organization, and President Abdullah Gul — seem to be evolving away from aggressive dictatorship. For example, Mr. Gulen criticized the Turkish government’s role in the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident against Israel. Mr. Gul’s willingness to treat the Gezi Park protests sympathetically contrasted with Prime MinisterErdogan’s ferocious response.

Mr. Gul’s wife Hayrunnisa (who covers her head) visited London in 2010 and when asked about her thoughts on elementary schoolgirls wearing hijabs, replied, “A girl cannot decide on her own to wear the headscarf at such a young age. She should decide for herself when she is old enough.” With Mr. Gul in charge, could Turkey’s AK Party actually become the socially conservative movement of teetotalers, modestly dressed women, Ottoman sentimentalists, and capitalists it now only pretends to be? Or would he become as aggressive as Mr. Erdogan?

 

In Iran, Hassan Rouhani’s promise of a less rigorous Islamism touched a chord in an electorate longing for normality. Symptomatic of this, hijabs in Iran have evolved away from the stark and frumpy coveralls of yesteryear. Led by designer Farnaz Abdoli and her Poosh line of clothing, Iranian women now enjoy fashion choices inconceivable a generation ago.

In Jordan, the Zamzam Initiative has broken away from the Muslim Brotherhood, arguing against its “monopoly on Islamic discourse” and calling for Islam to be “a cultural framework that encompasses the nation while emphasizing religious, sectarian, political and racial pluralism.”

 

In Egypt, many younger activists repudiate Mr. Morsi’s power grab. Spokesman Hamza Zoba’a accused the Muslim Brotherhood of having “committed errors” and of falling “into the trap of ruling alone.” Ali Khafagy, a leader in Giza, held that “The time will come to hold our leaders accountable and demand change. And there must be changes. We need people who are more open, more willing to work with everyone.” One observer, Tarek Osman, sees the brotherhood succeeding by tamping its dictatorial urges and evolving “almost beyond recognition.”

 

In Tunisia, as the ruling Ennahda party faces crises, Vice President Abdelfattah Mourou has shown an uncharacteristic openness to compromise with non-Islamists while the party itself works with its leftist rival, Nidaa Tounes.

 

I have argued for decades that Islamism, like fascism and communism, is by nature dictatorial, for all three share a radical utopian mentality, a glorification of the state, and a drive for global hegemony. I disdainfully compared a moderate Islamist to moderate Nazi, noting that while Mr. Erdogan and the followers of Osama bin Laden deploy different tactics, they both aspire to apply the same medieval law code.

 

Communism suggests two possible paths of evolution. In the Prague Spring of 1968, Alexander Dubcek sought to build “socialism with a human face,” meaning a communist order with multiparty politics, abundant consumer goods, and freedoms of speech and movement. The Communist Party of China has overseen a radically un-Marxist capitalist boom.

 

The deeply anti-modern and authoritarian nature of Islamism leaves me highly dubious that something civilized and worthy can emerge from this ideology; most likely, recent positive developments are merely tactical and temporary. Still, I can no longer reject with certainty the possibility of Islamism evolving and somewhat improving.

 

Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum
and a CIJR Academic Fellow

JEWISH WORLD POPE FRANCIS VISITS ISRAEL (AN “OASIS” OF STABILITY FOR CHRISTIANS); AWARD-WINNING POET RECOGNIZED IN ISRAEL; READING BAMIDBAR

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

Welcoming Pope Francis: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014— This entire newspaper would not suffice to recap the anti-Jewish doctrines promulgated by Church Fathers which guided Catholic theology and practice down to the middle of the last century.

In Israel, Pope Francis to Witness Oasis of Stability in Chaotic Region for Christians: Sean Savage, Algemeiner, May 21, 2014—  Following in the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors, Pope Francis will embark upon a historic visit to Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank from May 24-26.

Tuvia Ruebner Never Stops Mourning the Lost: Toby Perl Freilich, Tablet, May 12, 2014 — Although long recognized for his lyric poetry in Europe, Tuvia Ruebner has spent most of his creative life in Israel laboring in relative obscurity, cast into the shadows of Yehuda Amichai and other modernist poets who enjoyed top billing among the “Statehood Generation.”

The Link Between Bamidbar And Shavuot: Rabbi Avi Weiss, Jewish Press, May 21, 2014— This week’s parshah, Bamidbar, is read prior to the Shavuot holiday.

 

On Topic Links

 

What Pope Francis Can do for Mideast Peace: Einat Wilf, New York Post, May 22, 2014

Middle Eastern Christians: Battered, Violated, and Abused, Do They Have Any Chance of Survival?

: Justus Reid Weiner, Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014

On Middle East Visit, Pope Will Find a Diminished Christian Population: Nicholas Casey, Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2014

When Pope Francis Makes His Visit to Israel, This Rabbi Will Be His Guide: Meredith Hoffman, Tablet, May 12, 2014

 

WELCOMING POPE FRANCIS                                                  

David M. Weinberg                                                                                             Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014

 

This entire newspaper would not suffice to recap the anti-Jewish doctrines promulgated by Church Fathers which guided Catholic theology and practice down to the middle of the last century. For centuries, Jews were rejecters of Christ, “perfidious” objects of contempt to be isolated and humiliated until they “saw the light,” a non-people shorn of their covenantal heritage including the right to the Land of Israel. Inquisition, blood libel, pogrom, burning the Talmud and burning Jews at the stake, ghettoization and Holocaust – these were the fruits of 2,000 years of vicious Christian anti-Semitism. In our generation, one pope was complicity silent throughout the Holocaust. Another pope warmly embraced Yasser Arafat way back when (in 1982) no one else would go near the terrorist chieftain. It took until 1993 for the Vatican to accord diplomatic recognition to the State of Israel.

But this is not the whole story, and it is wrong not to appreciate the vast strides forward of recent years in Christian-Jewish relations and Vatican- Israel ties. The ancient Christian anti-Semitism that fueled the Nazi movement has since been roundly repudiated by the Church, beginning with Nostra Aetate in 1965 and expanded upon by Pope John Paul II. John Paul II significantly changed the way in which Christians view, and teach about, Jews. He affirmed that God’s covenant with the Jewish people retains eternal validity; termed anti-Semitism a “sin against God” and called on the faithful to do tshuva for misdeeds against the Jews (using the Hebrew word for repentance); respectfully attended synagogue services and spoke of Jews as “elder brothers”; acknowledged Israel’s right to exist and its right to security; and established diplomatic relations with the state that embodies Jewish continuity. John Paul II’s millennial pilgrimage to Israel in 2000 was indeed an historic voyage.

Pope Francis, who arrives in Israel on Sunday, has deep friendships with the Jewish community of his homeland, and a track record of teaching respect for the Jewish People. He has spoken of Christianity and Judaism as partners, not adversaries, in the modern world; a world where a global struggle is under way against moral relativism on the one hand, and radical religious (mainly Islamic) extremism on the other.
Consequently, Francis should be warmly welcomed in Israel, to build on the bridges of understanding and cooperation that have been established. This is all the more true when we broaden the lens beyond Catholicism, to the Christian evangelical world that has become Israel’s best friend in global affairs. Israeli and Jews everywhere need to be cognizant of and grateful for the moral, spiritual, financial and political support of these believing Christians. They pray and lobby for Israel every day.

And yet, many in the Israeli religious community, in particular, still channel fear and resentment towards Christianity in general, and the Vatican in particular. They scaremonger about purported Vatican takeovers of Jewish sites (like King David’s tomb on Mount Zion), and relate with disdain to well-meaning Christian clergy and even to interfaith cooperation among lay leaders. I have seen angry Jewish religious treatises and newsletters which dismiss the Vatican’s warmer touch as Catholic lip-service, a tactical change in tone forced upon the Church by political realities. They assert that the Church’s goal remains the “theoretical, spiritual and practical destruction of the eternality of Israel,” and the “collapsing of the State of Israel by supporting anti-Israel terrorist organizations, under the cover of concern for justice and humanity.” Such militant talk provides ideological cover for misguided, fringe youth who have taken to occasionally vandalizing Church property.

I say that such radical unfriendliness towards Christians and the pope is wrong – morally, tactically and educationally. Morally, the Jewish People and the State of Israel ought to amicably adjust to favorable change in Christian attitudes where such exists, and it does. Tactically, we need not alienate millions of fair-minded Christians around the world. We have no need to make enemies out of friends and to spurn goodwill where it is proffered. Educationally, contempt for the Church is, I feel, somewhat passé. As a proud people restored to its homeland, we no longer need to scorn. We have the strength to accept the reformed Church and work with its leaders, to mutual benefit. In accepting the Vatican’s outstretched hand, I don’t mean to erase the memory of our galut years; of the Jewish People’s sad sojourn in the Diaspora as a people despised by the Church. Even the friendliest current voices cannot drown out Church history. It’s not humanly possible. We certainly have the right to stand aloof from the past attitudes and conduct of the Church.

Furthermore, distinguishing between today’s pro- and anti-Israel Christians is not always easy for Jews.
The lines blur between Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s rotten Anglican-missionary- colonized heart, pro-BDS Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches in the US, and the diabolically anti-Israel Church of Scotland, on the one hand; and the newly Israel-friendly Vatican and even friendlier evangelical churches around the world, on the other. But we have an obligation to discern and appreciate these differences, and to respond maturely to each in kind…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –Ed.]

 

                                                                       

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IN ISRAEL, POPE FRANCIS TO WITNESS OASIS

OF STABILITY IN CHAOTIC REGION FOR CHRISTIANS             

Sean Savage                                                                                                          Algemeiner, May 21, 2014

                         

Following in the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors, Pope Francis will embark upon a historic visit to Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank from May 24-26. Throughout his career, Francis has shown a deep appreciation for the Jewish people and has made Jewish-Catholic relations a top priority. Yet this month, Francis will arrive in a Mideast region beset by uprisings, sectarian violence, and religious extremism, where Christians are routinely being driven from their homes and persecuted by Islamic fundamentalists.

 

As one of the few areas of stability and prosperity in the region, Israel has become an important ally for Christians. As such, on his trip the pope will face the dual challenge of confronting extremism, while also promoting reconciliation between the region’s Christians, Jews, and Muslim. “The Vatican is hoping this trip promotes unity among Christians, encourages Christians in the Middle East to remain committed, [while also] improving relations with Jews and Muslims,” John Allen, an associate editor for the Boston Globe who has covered the Catholic Church for nearly two decades, told JNS.org.

 

A major challenge Pope Francis and Vatican officials face, however, is walking the fine diplomatic line between support for Israel and staying on friendly terms with Arab-Muslim-majority countries, which are home to many Christians and important holy sites for the religion. “The Vatican tries to take a neutral position on many of the political controversies in the region,” Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn, the Jerusalem-based director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC), told JNS.org. The Vatican, said Korn, “is enormously fearful of Christians who are being persecuted and are fleeing Muslim countries in the region,” and doesn’t want to provoke more violence against them by taking sides.

 

Nonetheless, privately, Vatican officials are often vocal in their support for Israel and grateful for the basic protections it provides to Christians and their holy sites. “The reality is that most Vatican diplomats are inclined to be supportive of Israel because they know whatever problems Christians in Israel face, pale in comparison to the problems they have in the rest of the Middle East,” Allen explained. “Many native Arab Christians in Israel do complain about being second-class citizens, facing travel problems and discrimination,” he said. “But they are not getting shot like they are in Syria, Egypt or Iraq. There is a great deal of sympathy for what they see as basic security, rights and rule of law in Israel.”

 

Israel has one of the few Christian communities left in the Middle East that is still growing.  According to 2013 figures released by Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, there are roughly 161,000 Christians living in Israel, up from 158,000 in 2012. At the same time, Christian populations elsewhere in the region are rapidly declining. According to the Pew Research Center, just 0.6 percent of the world’s 2.2 billion Christians now live in the Middle East and North Africa. Christians make up only 4 percent of the region’s total inhabitants, drastically down from 20 percent a century ago. In Israel, the Christian community largely thrives, regularly outperforming Jews and Muslims in education. But that is not the case in Palestinian-controlled areas. In Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, Christians have declined from about 70 percent of the population a few decades ago to only 15 percent today. “Being Catholic and living in Israel and in the Holy Land is without a doubt a grace and a privilege for many reasons; it means being close to the Holy Places, to local Christians, especially those belonging to the Eastern Churches, and to the Jewish people,” Father Francesco Voltaggio—rector of the Galilee Seminary, a Catholic-Jewish dialogue center founded by Pope John Paul II—told JNS.org. Voltaggio, who will meet Pope Francis during his visit, feels that the trip will cement Catholic-Jewish relations while also being an important opportunity to open dialogue with Muslims. “I expect a step forward in the renewed relationship between Christians and Jews, as well as an opening of hope in the dialogue with Islam, a dialogue that is often marked by wounds, yet is necessary today more than ever, so as not to prevent tragedies, like the violence caused by fundamentalism,” Voltaggio said.

 

While most of Pope Francis’s itinerary in Israel will take him to the usual spots visited by heads of state—such as Yad Vashem and the Western Wall—as well as to meetings with to Israeli leaders, the most remarkable aspect of the trip may be the trend it is setting. “This is the third consecutive pope who has visited Israel,” Korn said. “This is going to establish an informal policy for popes in the future.” “It really strengthens the Vatican policy of coming to Israel and paying homage to the Jewish people,” he said.

 

But despite the goodwill developed between the Vatican and Israel, several obstacles remain. One of the largest is that the “Fundamental Accord” signed by Israel and the Vatican in 1993, which established relations between the two states, has not been finalized—leaving Church properties in Israel in a state of limbo when it comes to taxation or other administrative areas. “You can find fault on both sides [for not finishing the agreement]. But the fact that this has been dragged out for so long has become a source of irritation in the Vatican,” Allen said. One of the points of contention related to this area has been the status of the Cenacle—the traditional site of the Jesus’s Last Supper on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Jews also revere the building containing the Cenacle, as the tomb of King David. Hundreds of religious Jews recently held a protest against the building’s rumored transfer to the Vatican during the pope’s visit. Lior Haiat, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official who is handling public diplomacy for the papal visit, said rumors surrounding the impeding transfer of sovereignty over the Last Supper room, as part of finalizing the 1993 agreement with the Vatican, are “untrue.” Nevertheless, he said Israel has been in discussions with the Vatican over the status of Christian holy sites…               

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –Ed.]

 

Contents

TUVIA RUEBNER NEVER STOPS MOURNING THE LOST                                Toby Perl Freilich

Tablet, May 12, 2014

 

Although long recognized for his lyric poetry in Europe, Tuvia Ruebner has spent most of his creative life in Israel laboring in relative obscurity, cast into the shadows of Yehuda Amichai and other modernist poets who enjoyed top billing among the “Statehood Generation.” Though of their generation Ruebner, now 90, was always an outlier—both literally, since he lived on a northern kibbutz far from the cafés of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and creatively. His work focused on loss and destruction, topics out of favor with the generation of newly smelted Israelis. But these days, Ruebner is enjoying a new buzz in Israel. In the past decade, the accolades have been stacking up—the Anne Frank Prize, the Jerusalem Prize, the Israel Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature (twice), and finally, in 2008, the coveted Israel Prize.

 

Since 1957 he has published 15 poetry collections, most recently in 2013, and two new books of his poems in English translation are poised to come out: In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems of Tuvia Ruebner, translated and introduced by Rachel Tzvia Back—who accompanied me on a recent visit to Ruebner—and Late Beauty, a book of Ruebner poems translated by Lisa Katz and Shahar Bram. Ruebner is old enough to both appreciate the newfound fame and realize that it changes nothing; he is still haunted by the past and grateful for the present. For a man whose life and work have been overshadowed by loss—of his parents, his beloved little sister, a young wife, and an adult son—Ruebner has a remarkably bright presence. Hard of hearing, he listens intently and has a sense of humor and playfulness that belie his age. In his poem, “Postcard from Pressburg-Bratislava,” Ruebner writes:

 

    I was born in Pressburg. I had a mother, a father, a sister.

    I had, I believe, a small and happy childhood in Pressburg.

 

All the sadness and displacement expressed in his poetry seem to rest on something solid, secure, even joyous.

 

Outside the Ruebner home on Kibbutz Merhavia, I was greeted by Galila, Tuvia’s wife, and was immediately struck by how starkly beauty can express itself in an 82-year-old woman. Galila, a former concert pianist, led me inside where her husband was seated at the computer, wearing a long brown jalabiya and a colorfully embroidered Nepalese cap. Ruebner likens the seduction of territorial expansion to that of a mythological siren

 

The living room is tiny, on the scale of most old kibbutz apartments, its walls almost entirely obscured by works of modern art, shelves of books, family photographs, and Ruebner’s own body of photographic work. In January 1924, when Ruebner was born to a prosperous Jewish family, Pressburg—or Bratislava, as its Slovakian speakers knew it—was home to German, Hungarian, and Slovakian-speaking communities. Picturesquely situated along the Danube, it was sandwiched between Austria and Hungary and passed to Slovakian control just before Ruebner was born. He grew up in a traditional but largely secular household (“We were a little more observant than Kafka,” he noted wryly), where he and his father would sneak their bacon off paper plates in the hallway. He attended the Neolog synagogue with his parents on the High Holidays and his grandparents on Passover and was educated in a Protestant Evangelical school until fifth grade. The principal was a Masonic brother of Ruebner’s father at the local lodge. For religion lessons, a rabbi was enlisted to instruct the Jewish students in Bible stories and religious rituals.

 

Though he’d compose the occasional poem for a family event, it was prose that captured Ruebner’s imagination as a boy. In grade school, his teacher sent a short story of his to the renowned Prager Tagblatt. It was about a mountaineer who, upon cresting the top, catches the sunrise and promptly tumbles down the mountain. The paper declined the submission, claiming, “This can’t be the story of a 10-year-old.” Ruebner’s formal schooling ended after only a year of high school, when anti-Semitic laws banned public education to Jews. A counselor at his Hashomer Hatzair youth movement group arranged for him to join a Hachshara to train for life in Palestine, where he wrote stories for the publicly posted newspaper. One of his counselors, partial to poetry, suggested that Ruebner begin to write “expressionistically.” Pressed for an explanation, the counselor replied, “A corn leaf is a comma,” and advised Ruebner to read Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus. It ignited in him a love of Rilke and a lifelong passion for poetry.

 

Because of his membership in a Zionist youth group, Ruebner’s family was able to buy him an exit visa, and in 1941, when he was 17, Ruebner bade a halting farewell to his family and made his way to Palestine. Sent to Kibbutz Merhavia, he enjoyed the work outdoors but found the flat, parched terrain ugly, and longed for the lush and gently rolling landscape of his childhood. The yearning for home was compounded by the harsh welcome the new arrivals received. In explaining why he continued to write poems in German for 12 years after his arrival, Ruebner erupts in a torrent of painful memories, “We arrived during the war, Rommel was at Alexandria; we weren’t wanted. They took all our possessions and divided them among the kibbutz members. My separation from home had been a difficult one. I was a stranger; I felt I didn’t belong here. I didn’t want to change my name, I didn’t want to become a sabra.”

 

In 1944, he found out why, two years earlier, he had stopped receiving replies to his allotted 24-word, Red Cross postcards home: In June of that year his parents and his 12-year-old sister, Alice (Litzi), had perished at Auschwitz. In his grief he sought the solace of another Slovakian émigrée: a woman named Ada Klein, whom he married. They had a daughter in 1949, but within months the young parents were in a bus accident that killed Ada and left Ruebner seriously wounded with burns covering much of his body. While in the hospital he was visited by Lea Goldberg, already a renowned poet and a close friend…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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THE LINK BETWEEN BAMIDBAR AND SHAVUOT

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Jewish Press, May 21, 2014

 

This week’s parshah, Bamidbar, is read prior to the Shavuot holiday. Rabbi Isaiah Halevy Horowitz suggests that this Torah reading teaches us important lessons about the holiday. Bamidbar presents the names and leaders of each of the tribes of Israel. It can be suggested that the delineation of the leaders of each tribe is linked to Shavuot as it promotes the idea that the heads of the community should be paragons or teachers of Torah. The parshah also describes the way the Jews encamped around the Tabernacle. Rav Umberto Cassuto echoes the similarity to Shavuot as he calls the Tabernacle a “mini-Sinai.” We simulated Sinai as we wandered through the desert, constantly reliving the experience of revelation.

Bamidbar begins by telling us that God spoke to Moshe in the Sinai desert. Rabbi Nachman Cohen in A Time for All Things maintains that the confluence of Bamidbar and Shavuot is “to underscore the great significance of the Torah having been given in the desert – no man’s land.” Rabbi Cohen points out that the location of the vast expanse of the wilderness is significant for it teaches us that the Torah is not “the exclusive property of given individuals.” Living a desert existence makes us feel vulnerable. The fact that the Torah was given in the desert also teaches that “Torah can only be acquired if a person humbles himself.”

 

My colleague Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky inspired another idea. Perhaps the key relationship between Bamidbar and Shavuot is “counting.” Not only does our portion deal with the census – the counting – of the Jewish people, but the Torah, when mentioning Shavuot, stresses the counting of days between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot. In the words of the Torah, “seven weeks shall you count” (Leviticus, 23:15). This teaches that as important as the holiday of Shavuot may be, equally important is the count toward the holiday. An important lesson emerges. Whenever we are engaged in a particular project, whether working toward a professional goal or striving to achieve in our personal lives, it is important to reflect and to evaluate how much time has already been spent on the endeavor and how much is still required to achieve its realization. Evaluating forces us to consider the gift of every moment we have. Rabbi Joseph Lookstein points out that we must not only realize what the years have done to us but what we have done with our years.

 

Hence the confluence of Bamidbar and Shavuot. In the words of the Psalmist, “Teach us to number our days” (Psalms, 90:12). Bamidbar teaches the significance of each person and Shavuot teaches the importance of every moment for the individual.

 

CIJR wishes all its friends and supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

What Pope Francis Can do for Mideast Peace: Einat Wilf, New York Post, May 22, 2014 —As Pope Francis sets off for his visit to Israel, Jordan and Palestine, his aims are clearly humanitarian, but he risks falling into the pitfalls of the political.

Middle Eastern Christians: Battered, Violated, and Abused, Do They Have Any Chance of Survival?: Justus Reid Weiner, Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014—Throughout the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, Christians are facing pervasive and systematic persecution that is steadily increasing in its intensity and scope.

On Middle East Visit, Pope Will Find a Diminished Christian Population: Nicholas Casey, Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2014—At the Church of the Nativity, triumphal banners with biblical stories hang in Manger Square, where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass this weekend.

When Pope Francis Makes His Visit to Israel, This Rabbi Will Be His Guide: Meredith Hoffman, Tablet, May 12, 2014—The day before her wedding, Florence Ofer, a blonde 27-year-old accountant, strolled out of the Shabbat service at Benei Tikva, a synagogue in Buenos Aires, praising the shul’s rabbi, Abraham Skorka, who was going to conduct her wedding.

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Manfred Gerstenfeld: Why Israel should monitor the Ukraine conflict closely

The Russian-Ukranian conflict and resulting Russian-Western tensions may widen further for a long time to come. If so, this is likely to lead to substantial geopolitical changes. It is far too early to predict their impact on Israel, yet several important issues – besides what happens to Ukraine’s Jews – already require detailed monitoring by Israel.

 

The first concerns Western guarantees. In the 1994 Budapest Memorandums on Security Assurances, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom guaranteed the Ukraine’s borders. These guarantees were shown to be worthless when Russia annexed Crimea. They are likely to be tested further when several other Ukrainian territories with a majority of Russian speakers declare independence, or want to join Russia.

 

Western guarantees have frequently been mentioned as a feasible component of a future peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. The failure of such guarantees concerning Crimea should be a major lesson for those Israelis who have still not understood that after a peace agreement – which is unlikely at present – Israel must be able to rely on itself.

 

The second issue is developments concerning international law. The West has accused Russia of breaking international law by annexing Crimea. This implies that the US and the European Union respect international law – an argument greatly weakened by Gerhard Schroeder, the former German Socialist chancellor and a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 

He stated that he himself was one of many Western leaders who broke international law concerning Kosovo. Schroeder compared the referendum put on by the government of Crimea to Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia. Schroeder also considers the EU association policy as the root cause of the Ukraine conflict. The EU has consistently claimed that Israel’s settlement policy in the territories – which historically were not part of any sovereign state – is against international law. This argument has been contested by many prominent legal scholars.

 

Schroeder’s statements undermine the EU position even further. If the EU actually behaved much worse than it falsely condemns Israel for, that argument should be used by Israel in response to the EU’s ongoing verbal aggression directed at it.

 

The third issue to monitor concerns claims that Russia is NATO’s “adversary.” This expression was used by NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow. Hillary Clinton compared Putin’s tactics to those of Hitler. After receiving criticism, she partly retracted the statement.

 

However, in the Ukrainian conflict so far not a single citizen of a NATO country has been killed or wounded by either Russians or pro-Russian separatists. Palestinians, for example, have killed and wounded a number of such citizens.

 

It would be surprising if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his habitual glorification of Palestinian murderers of civilians has not included praise for some terrorists who killed Westerners.

 

The West, though, supports the PA financially. Hamas resembles Hitler far more than Putin does, as demonstrated in its charter, tactics and statements by senior Hamas officials. Clinton has never commented on this, however.

 

International tensions concerning Ukraine started with a popular uprising against President Victor Yanukovych by a mix of democrats and neo-fascists, in unknown proportions.

There are Westerners who suggest that this conflict echoes the Cold War. This is another potential source of trouble that Israel should be monitoring closely.

 

A generation has already grown up which does not remember that the Cold War was a power struggle between two opposing global ideologies, namely communism and democracy. This battle was also behind many wars and conflicts, sometimes fought entirely or in part by proxies. A few examples among many are the Greek civil war, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War.

 

Putin is a Russian nationalist. It would be absurd to claim that he aims for a global ideological conquest.The Soviet Union had potential fifth columns among Western communists. Westerners who currently oppose European policies or even support Putin’s political positions do so for many reasons, but not because they share any ideological affinity with him.

 

Comparing the Ukrainian conflict to the Cold War is dangerous. Turning this controversy into an ideological one would have extremely perilous consequences. It distracts from the one genuine global ideology confronting democracy: large segments of Islam, which strive to impose their religion on the entire world through jihadist terror or proselytizing.

The EU and member states have made several huge mistakes in the past. One was allowing non-selective mass immigration from Muslim countries with radically different cultures. Segments of these immigrants were extreme racists, anti-Semites, anti-democrats and/or proselytizers.

 

A second major misstep was the poorly executed creation of the Euro. The resulting crisis came close to endangering the global economy.It is also becoming increasingly clear that the reduction of Europe’s defense expenditure and military forces was yet another major wrong decision. This is even more evident as public opinion in the US calls for a reduction in its nation’s military involvement in international affairs.

 

Europeans may be playing a dangerous role – with or without the US’s problematic positions – through their share in exacerbating the Ukrainian conflict. At the same time, they continue to cause political problems for Israel. The EU should be confronted by Israel’s leadership far more than it has been in the past, about its double standards and mistakes, which may cloud the world’s future.

 

Dr. Manfred Gerstanfeld is the emeritus chairman (2000-2012)

of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a CIJR Academic Fellow.

ISLAM AT WAR: ASSAD POISED TO WIN ELECTION; U.S. BACKS DOWN ON “RED-LINES”; KURDS CLASH WITH ISIS: IS ISLAMIST IDENTITY TO BLAME FOR SYRIA’S TROUBLES?

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

The Remapping of Syria: Amotz Asa-El, Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2014— US campaign advisers Arthur Finkelstein and James Carville have not been hired, but Bashar Assad will still win next month’s election, and proceed to a third seven-year term as president of Syria.

Mr. Obama is Choosing Not To Act on Syria: Washington Post, May 15, 2014—  The principal achievement the Obama administration might claim in an otherwise tragically failed response to Syria’s civil war is eroding.

Wars Within Wars: Jonathan Spyer, Weekly Standard, May 26, 2014 — With Syrian presidential elections scheduled for June, the incumbent and shoo-in for reelection, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, is campaigning on the promise that 2014 will be the year in which military operations in Syria end.

Islam is What Happens When Civilization Loses: Daniel Greenfield, Sultan Knish, Apr. 8, 2014— Saudi Arabia and Qatar aren't talking to each other. Syria and Turkey are shooting at each other.

 

On Topic Links

 

Syrian al-Qaida Reach Foothills of Golan Heights: Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014

U.S.-Armed Syrian Rebel Group Seeks ‘All Syrian Land Occupied by Israel’: Adam Kredo, Washington Free Press Beacon, May 19, 2014

Syrian Fighting Gives Hezbollah New but Diffuse Purpose: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, May 20, 2014

Radical Islamists Take Hammer to Syrian Artifacts: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, May 22, 2014

Syrian War Takes Heavy Toll at a Crossroad of Cultures: Anne Barnard, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2014

 

THE REMAPPING OF SYRIA

Amotz Asa-El                                                        

Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2014

 

US campaign advisers Arthur Finkelstein and James Carville have not been hired, but Bashar Assad will still win next month’s election, and proceed to a third seven-year term as president of Syria. Coupled with Egypt’s election – to be held one week earlier, with Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s victory also predestined – and the world may be resigned to the conclusion that three-and-a-half years of upheaval have landed the Arab world back at square one. This impression may be right in Egypt, but it is unfounded in Syria, whose future will be markedly different from its past. The feeling of déjà vu is justified in Egypt, where Sisi is indeed a product of the previous establishment, and where the country has survived its upheaval intact, if bruised. Syria’s situation is entirely different. Though Assad has indeed defied early assessments that his political days are numbered, and despite gains on the battlefield, the process of Syria’s breakup is under way – and irreversible.

 

Impressions that Syria is also returning to square one were enhanced this week, with the resignation of Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special envoy who has spent nearly two years trying to get Assad and his enemies to agree to a cease-fire. Brahimi, a seasoned Algerian diplomat who had been an effective negotiator in Afghanistan and Iraq, gave up after two unfruitful rounds of talks in Geneva were followed by Assad’s announcement that he would hold the election as planned. That move has rendered Brahimi’s efforts obsolete, because the splintered Syrian opposition’s most common denominator, and most consistent demand, has been that Assad depart.

 

Assad’s diplomatic success has been more than defensive. Not only has he managed to stem the momentum that might have unseated him, he also cultivated alliances with two superpowers, Russia and China, and with one regional power, Iran, all of which keeps arms supplies and cash flowing in, if insufficiently. This configuration has so far proved far more solid and efficient than the much more reluctant and loosely connected counter-alliance behind Assad’s enemies. With the US failing to deliver on its vow to attack Syria’s chemical weapons installations, Assad saw the rest of the coalition he faced, including Turkey, France, Saudi Arabia and the Arab League, all fail to unseat him, or even seriously equip and train the rebels. At the same time, Assad’s cause has been consistently backed by Moscow and Beijing, so much so that UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon this week decried the Security Council’s failure to bring an end to the bloodshed – which has cost over the past three years some 150,000 fatalities, and displaced an estimated 6.5 million Syrians.

 

Assad’s diplomatic success has been compounded by gains in the battlefield. After having consolidated his grip on Damascus, Assad has just registered a significant breakthrough in Homs, just outside Lebanon’s northeastern tip. The town that now looks as devastated as Stalingrad the morning of its liberation, last week saw its last 1,000 rebels leave through a negotiated corridor. The triumphant return of Assad’s troops to the city where three years ago thousands filled the streets demanding his regime’s end, understandably enhanced the impression that he is in the process of fully offsetting the effort to topple his regime and reinvent his land. North of there, in Aleppo, Assad’s air force has been dropping so-called barrel bombs on neighborhoods where the rebels have also been pushed to the defensive, this while, according to France, the Syrian president launched multiple gas attacks – even after signing the deal to dismantle his chemical weapons.

 

Chances are Assad’s troops will in upcoming months be marching into Aleppo, prewar Syria’s commercial heart, thus consolidating the impression that his victory is nearly complete. Assad the son, many will rush to conclude, has done in 2014 what his father did in 1982 when he leveled the town of Hama. It may not have been as swift, conventional wisdom will go, but like his father, the son will lord over Syria for many more years, having bled its dissenters white. Well, he won’t. Back when he inherited his father’s estate, many wondered whether Bashar Assad, a soft-spoken ophthalmologist, was built to deploy the kind of brutality that animated his father’s 30-year reign. That question has since been answered, as the son has already killed more than his father, and is apparently not done. However, while the individuals at play may not be significantly different, times have changed. Assad the father could surround a city with artillery batteries and pound it with its inhabitants inside, knowing the world would take months to learn what he did. Assad the son has to contend with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, all of which empower the masses in ways the father would doubtfully manage to address any more efficiently than the son. That is why the formula on which Syria ran in recent decades, which imposed the Alawite minority over the Sunni majority, will not be fully restored. Assad has lost most Syrians’ respect, even to the minimal extent necessary for dictatorial rule, and the people have learned how to stand up to authority, even the Syrian leadership’s. There are accumulating indications – geographic, ethnic and social – that this assumption is shared by many on all sides of the civil war.

 

Geographically, Assad’s offensive is limited to the west. That is why Homs, which sits between Damascus and Aleppo, not far from the coast and also on Lebanon’s edge, is so vital to him. That is also why Assad’s army has been fighting hard to defend Quneitra, which borders Israel on the Golan Heights, and is on the southern end of the western realm that he seems out to carve. Indeed, even here Assad’s grip is shaky, as local rebel groups this week seemed to be closing in on Quneitra while Assad was unable to send them sufficient reinforcements…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –Ed.]

 

Contents
                                               
             

MR. OBAMA IS CHOOSING NOT TO ACT ON SYRIA           

Washington Post, May 15, 2014

                         

The principal achievement the Obama administration might claim in an otherwise tragically failed response to Syria’s civil war is eroding. Last September President Obama brokered an agreement with Russia under which the regime of Bashar al-Assad was to give up its stockpile of chemical weapons and join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits production or use of those horrific arms. Yet months after the expiration of the February deadline for removing all chemical stocks from Syria’s territory, the regime not only retains a substantial stockpile but also has returned to assaulting civilian areas with chemicals. The Obama administration’s response is all too familiar: It is trying to avoid acknowledging those facts.

 

Administration spokesmen boast that 92.5 percent of Syria’s chemical weapons and precursors have been removed from the country for destruction by the end of June. But Damascus is dragging its feet on delivering the last 27 tons of chemicals used to make deadly sarin gas. According to The Post’s Ernesto Londoño and Greg Miller, U.S. officials believe the Assad regime is using the stocks as leverage to retain a network of tunnels and buildings that could be used as storage or production facilities, which the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons wants destroyed. Meanwhile, British, French and U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that Syria is probably hiding part of its arsenal that it failed to declare, including stocks of sarin and mustard gas, according to news reports . State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed last week that the United States has been skeptical about whether Assad has revealed the extent of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

 

Finally, evidence is piling up that Assad’s forces have been dropping bombs filled with chlorine on opposition-held areas. France’s foreign minister told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that there had been at least 14 such attacks since October. Laurent Fabius, who said “things would have been different” had Mr. Obama not backed away from using force in response to a chemical weapons attack last August, said the “regime is still capable of producing chemical weapons and is determined to use them.” Ms. Psaki said April 21 that the United States had “indications” of the use of chlorine, which is not one of the chemicals Syria was obliged to surrender. But the Obama administration has taken the position that it must await an investigation by the OPCW before reaching a definite conclusion. Meanwhile, the chlorine attacks have continued. An unnamed senior U.S. official offered Mr. Londoño and Mr. Miller a frank explanation of this filibuster: “There’s reluctance to call attention to it because there’s not much we can do about it.”

 

There are, of course, many actions Mr. Obama could take to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons and to prevent their further deployment. He could begin by granting the opposition’s request for antiaircraft missiles to use against the helicopters that are dropping chlorine bombs. He could revive his plan to launch U.S. military strikes against Syrian infrastructure that supports those attacks. In reality, Mr. Assad is being allowed to disregard his chemical weapons commitment with impunity not because there’s nothing the United States can do but because Mr. Obama chooses to do nothing.                                                                                               

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WARS WITHIN WARS                                                                                              Jonathan Spyer                                                                                                    

Weekly Standard, May 26, 2014

 

With Syrian presidential elections scheduled for June, the incumbent and shoo-in for reelection, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, is campaigning on the promise that 2014 will be the year in which military operations in Syria end. However, the situation in northern Syria, exemplified by the conflict in the canton of Kobani, an area stretching from the Turkish border to south of Kobani city, and from Tell Abyad in the east to Jarabulus in the west, casts doubt on Assad’s optimism.

 

Kobani is under Kurdish control, but cuts into a larger section of territory controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a jihadist organization. ISIS aims to hold a clear, contiguous area stretching from Syria’s border with Turkey into western Iraq, where it controls territory in the provinces of Ninewah and Anbar. The existence of the Kurdish canton of Kobani interferes with this plan, and since March ISIS has launched daily attacks against positions held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) at the edges of the enclave. The Kobani situation offers a window into the Syrian conflict, a fragmented reality where in large parts of the country the regime is little more than a memory, and well-organized rival militias representing starkly different political projects are clashing. Last month, I traveled to the Kobani enclave, entering from the Turkish border with Kurdish smugglers. The road was short but perilous—a sprint toward the border fence in the dark and a rapid, fumbling climb over it.

 

Kobani was the first of three cantons established by the Kurdish Democratic Union party (PYD) since the Assad regime withdrew from much of northern Syria in the summer of 2012. There are two other such enclaves: the much larger Jazeera canton to the east, which stretches from the town of Ras al-Ain to the border with Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, and the smaller area around the city of Afrin further west. In all three of these areas, the PYD has set up a Kurdish-dominated autonomous administration. The intention of the Kurds is to consolidate their independent government and eventually to unite the three cantons. In the meantime, however, the stark reality of siege conditions in the Kobani canton was immediately apparent to me. The main electricity supply had been cut off, with only intermittent power from hastily rigged-up generators. The water supply, too, had been interrupted, and the local Kurdish authorities were busy digging wells in the hope of reaching natural springs located deep underground. Yet for all this, life in the city functions in a way closely resembling normality. The two hospitals in the city lack medical equipment and medicines, but they are open. “We are improvising, we are innovating, and we are not dying,” a doctor told me at Ayn al-Arab hospital in Kobani city. The school system is functioning, too, and in northern Syria at present these are no small achievements.

 

The Kurdish enclaves are almost certainly the most peaceful and best-governed areas in Syria. However, the Kurds are aware of the precariousness of their achievement. Ali, a member of the Kurdish Asayish paramilitary police, told me that “Assad doesn’t want to open another front now. But if he finishes with the radical groups, then he’ll come for us, inevitably.” In the meantime, as one PYD official said, “We take a third line, neither with the regime nor with the Free Syrian Army. We hope in the future to unite all the cantons. We accept a role for the Arabs, so we don’t see a problem with this. And right now, we have one goal—keeping out ISIS.” The PYD’s “democratic autonomy” project in northern Syria put it on a collision course with ISIS, which is trying to lay the basis for an Islamic state run according to its own floridly brutal interpretation of sharia law. The resulting conflict then is not simply about territory, or who will rule northern Syria; it is also about how this land will be ruled. Mahmoud Musa, a Syrian political analyst and a refugee from the town of Jisr al-Shughur, told me that “there are three serious and well-organized forces in Syria today—the Assad regime, ISIS, and the Kurds.” The last two regard themselves as at war with the regime. In reality, the rival mini-states they have carved out of a fragmented Syria are mainly in conflict with each other.

 

 ISIS has emerged as one of the strangest and cruelest of the many political-military movements now active in Syria. I spoke with a young Kurdish man named Perwer who had spent a week in ISIS captivity. He was arrested at the Jarabulus border crossing, while returning to Syria from Istanbul. First detained by members of another Islamist unit, the Tawhid Brigade, he was then handed over to ISIS and kept for five days in one of the movement’s jails in Jarabulus town, just west of the Kobani enclave. Perwer related that a Kurdish man who had been caught raising the YPG flag in a village near the border with the Kurdish enclave was tortured to death. He also noted that among his fellow prisoners were Arab residents of Jarabulus held for drinking wine. They too were tortured. The Kurdish prisoners were regularly insulted and called apostates by the ISIS guards, who came from a variety of countries. Copies of the Koran were handed out to the Kurdish detainees, and the days in their crowded cell were broken up by prayer sessions, in which ISIS would seek to instruct their Muslim captives in what they regard as the correct method of Muslim prayer.

 

ISIS’s mini-state reaches from the edges of Kobani to deep inside western Iraq. I visited the frontlines on the eastern edge of the Kobani enclave, where the positions of the YPG and ISIS push up against each other. In Tell Abyad, the two sides are camped in abandoned villages, where the ruined landscape has a slightly lunar quality. Eyewitnesses told me that ISIS forced the villagers to leave when the fighting began. Young fighters of the YPG moved carefully around their positions in the abandoned village, ever mindful of the presence of ISIS snipers. In places, the two sides are less than 500 meters apart. ISIS favors mortar fire by night and sniping by day. This has taken a toll on the male and female fighters of the YPG. Around 80 of them have died since the fighting erupted in March. Many more ISIS men, however, have been killed in their wild and uncoordinated attacks.

 

In Jarabulus on the western side, the frontline villages are still inhabited. Some of the local Arab clans are backing ISIS. A sort of de facto mini-transfer of populations has taken place in the area, largely, though not solely, along ethnic lines. I met a couple of Sunni Arabs among the ranks of the YPG fighters. There are also Kurdish volunteers among the ISIS men, including some commanders. They hail mainly from the villages of Iraqi Kurdistan, in particular from the Halabja area. Yet these details aside, it is clear the main dynamic of the conflict in this area is ethnic and sectarian, with Kurds faced off against Sunni Arab Islamists. The attitude of the YPG fighters to their ISIS enemies combines a certain contempt for their military prowess, with a sort of fascinated horror at their savage practices. “They outnumber us, often. But they lack tactics,” said Surkhwi, a female fighter and the commander of the Kurdish fighters in the village of Abduqli. “We think many of them take drugs before entering combat, and they attack randomly, haphazardly. They desecrate bodies of our fighters, cutting off heads, cutting off hands. They don’t respect the laws of war,” Surkhwi told me. “We also know that ISIS look at us women fighters as something not serious, because of their Islamic ideology. They think that if they are killed by a woman, they won’t go to paradise.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –Ed.]

 

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ISLAM IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CIVILIZATION LOSES                     

Daniel Greenfield

Sultan Knish, Apr. 8, 2014

 

Saudi Arabia and Qatar aren't talking to each other. Syria and Turkey are shooting at each other. Not only are the Shiites and Sunnis killing each other in Syria, but the Sunni groups have been killing each other for some time now. There are even two or three Al Qaedas fighting each other over which of them is the real Al Qaeda while, occasionally, denying that they are the real Al Qaeda. There's something about Syria that splits down everything and everyone. Even Hamas had to split between its political and military wings when choosing between Iran's weapons and Qatar's money. Doing the logical thing, the military wing took the weapons and the political wing took the money so that the military wing of Hamas supported Assad and its political wing supported the Sunni opposition.

 

It's not however money and weapons that splits Muslims over Syria. Money and weapons are only the symbols. What they represent is Islam. And what Islam represents is the intersection between identity and power. A modern state derives its power from its identity. That is nationalism. The Japanese and the Russians were willing to die in large numbers for their homeland during WW2. Both countries had undergone rapid de-feudalization turning peasants into citizens with varying degrees of success. Japan and Russia however had historic identities to draw on. The rapid de-feudalization in the Arab world had much messier results because countries such as Jordan and Syria were Frankenstein's monsters made out of bits and pieces of assembled parts of history stuck together with crazy glue.

 

The Middle East is full of flags, but most are minor variations on the same red, green, black and white theme. The difference between the Palestinian flag and the Jordanian flag is a tiny asterisk on the chevron representing the unity of the Arab peoples. The Iraqi, Syria and Egyptian flags differ in that the Egyptian flag has an eagle sitting on its white strip and the Iraqi flag had three green stars (now it only has Allahu Akbar) while the Syrian flag has two green stars. The Iraqi flag was originally the same as the Jordanian and Palestinian flags. So are most of the flags in the region which are based on the Arab Revolt flag which was in turn based on the colors of the Caliphates. Every time you see the Al Qaeda "black flag" of Jihad, it's already represented in the black stripes on the flags of every Arab nation. What Al Qaeda has done is strip out the other colors representing the various succeeding caliphates and gone back all the way to the black of Mohammed's war flag…

 

Syria is split, roughly speaking, between the Kurds, who want their own country, Greater Kurdistan, to be assembled out of pieces of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, the Sunnis, many of whom want to form it into a Greater Syria, to be made out of pieces of Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and the Neo-Shiite Alawites. Greater Syria was the original agenda of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It's still the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. And Al Qaeda in Iraq has become the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and is fighting for its own version of a Greater Syria tying together Iraq and Syria. What is Syria? The civil war answered that question. Like the USSR, it's a prison of nations. It exists only by virtue of men pointing guns at other men. As long as all the men with the guns agreed on what Syria was, the country existed. Once they no longer did, there was no longer a Syria. The same is true of much of the Middle East.

 

There are questions that you can resolve with democracy within a functioning country, but when your country has less of an existence than the conflicting religious and ethnic identities of its people, democracy only makes the problem worse. Democracy in Iraq means Shiites voting to be Shiite, Sunnis voting to be Sunni and Kurds voting to be Kurds. Democracy in Syria would mean the same thing. And that way lies a federation and then secession and civil war all over again. The problem in the Middle East isn't a lack of democracy. It's the lack of anything to be democratic about. Everyone in the Middle East (who isn't a Jew, Christian, Kurd, Bahai, Zoroastrian, Armenian, Circassian, Druze, etc.. ) agrees on the importance of Arab and Islamic unity and that their specific flavor of it, their clan, their tribe and their Islamic interpretation should be supreme.

 

It's not surprising that the Middle East is constantly at war. It's only a wonder that the fighting ever stops. Arab nationalism is the ideology that Arab elites used to complete the de-feudalization of their population from peasants into citizens. But what worked in Japan and Russia fell flat in the Middle East where tribe and religion are still supreme. The peasants didn't become Egyptians or Syrians. They remained Ougaidat or Tarabin. After that, they were Muslim. Their national identity came a distant third. What the Arab Spring truly showed is how little national identity mattered as democracy and the fall of governments demonstrated that there was no national consensus, only the narrower one of class, tribe and institution. It's not something that Americans should be too smug about. The left's efforts are reducing the United States to the same balkanized state in which there is a black vote and a white vote, a rich vote and a poor vote, but no national identity that transcends them. We too are becoming ‘Sunnis’ and ’Shiites’. It's no wonder that Islam finds the post-American United States and the disintegrating territories of the European Union fertile ground for its work. It's the same reason why Islam is rising in the Middle East. The rise of Islam is a striving for an era before nations and before whatever remnants of civilization accreted to the Mohammedan conquerors over the years. It's a desire for pre-civilization, for the raid, the noble savage and the twilight of morality. It's a heroic myth dressed up as a religion cloaking the naked savagery of it all…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –Ed.]

 

Syrian al-Qaida Reach Foothills of Golan Heights: Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014— Atop the hill of Tel Ahmar just a few kilometers from Israeli forces on the Golan Heights, Syrian Islamist fighters hoist the al-Qaida flag and praise their mentor Osama bin Laden.

U.S.-Armed Syrian Rebel Group Seeks ‘All Syrian Land Occupied by Israel’: Adam Kredo, Washington Free Press Beacon, May 19, 2014—One of the militant Syrian rebel groups provided access to advanced U.S. missiles said that it is seeking “the return of all Syrian land occupied by Israel,” a stance that could potentially complicate U.S. military support to the armed rebel group.

Syrian Fighting Gives Hezbollah New but Diffuse Purpose: Ben Hubbard, New York Times, May 20, 2014 —For many months, Shiite communities across Lebanon lived in fear as car bombs tore through their neighborhoods, punishing Hezbollah and its supporters for sending fighters to aid President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Radical Islamists Take Hammer to Syrian Artifacts: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, May 22, 2014—Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a radical militia that controls a large swath of eastern Syria, confiscated and destroyed illegally excavated antiquities from an ancient Mesopotamian site.

Syrian War Takes Heavy Toll at a Crossroad of Cultures: Anne Barnard, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2014—The imposing stone colonnades still stand, below stark hills dotted with tombs. They still glow peach-pink in the afternoon sun, impassive, as if unimpressed by what is, after all, not their first war.

 

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

Wednesday’s “News in Review” Round-Up

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

 

Contents:  Weekly Quotes |  Short Takes On Topic Links

 

 


Download a pdf version of today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf
 

On Topic Links

 

Canadians More Likely to be Anti-Semitic Than Americans, Poll Finds: Katrina Clarke, National Post, May. 13, 2014

Boko Haram and the Future of Nigeria: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, May 15, 2014

To the Class of 2014: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2014

Grading Obama’s Foreign Policy: Ross Douthat, New York Times, May 17, 2014

 

Media-ocrity of the week: “And so, in order to succeed, [former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] rejected her old mentors, Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell, and went along with the preposterous pre-emption plan of the old hawks who had far less respect for her: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. She knew that W. — eager to show he was not a wimp, the word Newsweek had once hung around his father’s neck — was leaning toward kicking some Arabs around. So she ignored the red flags raised publicly by Scowcroft and privately by Powell and made her Faustian deal to sell a fake war. We’ll never know if she could have stopped W. from ruining his presidency and destroying so many lives when there was no national security stake. We only know that when you sell your soul, it’s not like a pawnshop. Condi thought she could reclaim it after she was secretary of state and bring W. back to the light of diplomacy and common sense. But, as Russell Baker once noted, she was trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, spinning her wheels in the second term trying to undo the disasters of the first.” — op-ed by Maureen Dowd (New York Times, May 17, 2014)


WEEKLY QUOTES

 

"Those who see the establishment of the state of Israel as a disaster, do not want peace,"—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu said that the prevalence of antisemitism in the West Bank, as noted in the ADL's global survey of the phenomenon released last week, is "the result of non-stop antisemitic incitement by the Palestinian Authority, which distorts the image of Israel and the Jewish people." The ADL determined that the most antisemitic regions in the world were found to be the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian antisemitism is “pervasive throughout society,” with 93% of respondents affirming anti-Jewish stereotypes. (Jerusalem Post, May 18, 2014)

 

“The reluctance of police to investigate incidents as hate crimes, the refusal of the Attorney Generals to lay hate crime charges where appropriate, and the antisemitism on campus disguised as anti-Israel rhetoric, excused in the name of ‘academic freedom,’ have all taken their toll on Canadian tolerance”—Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, in a meeting with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. B’nai Brith called on the Canadian government to confront the growing scourge of antisemitism, as evidenced by a recent ADL survey of global antisemitism showing that up to four million Canadians harbour antisemitic views. Dimant added: “We call on the Government to work together with B’nai Brith Canada to combat the forces of racism, antisemitism and bigotry. As Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Minister Baird has seen first-hand the rising tide of antisemitism in Europe and that is why we look to him, as a senior member of this Government, to help counter this direct threat to the well-being of the Jewish community." (B’nai Brith, May 20, 2014)

 

“As a trusted friend of Israel, we are in a position to offer both words of encouragement and words of advice,” —Foreign Affairs Minister Baird, to the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum last week. In his speech, Baird attacked a UN human rights advocate for criticizing Israel and he described the country as a “truly special nation.” Citing Prime Minister Harper’s address this year to the Knesset, he called Israel a “great example to the world” where the “response to suffering has been to move beyond resentment and build a most extraordinary society.” Baird criticized the Palestinian Authority for applying in April to join 15 international treaties in its attempt to assert statehood. “It was a deeply troubling event in the peace process, and ultimately utterly unhelpful to (U.S.) Secretary Kerry’s efforts to shape an enduring peace,” he said. Baird also said he was “deeply skeptical” over Iran’s intentions in  negotiations over its nuclear development. “A nuclear Iran is a threat to Canada, it is a threat to Israel and our allies, and it would unwind decades of work on preventing nuclear proliferation around the world,” he said. Baird claimed antisemitism is on the rise around the world and launched a particularly virulent attack against Richard Falk, who recently finished his six-year term as the former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights. Referring to Falk as a “threat” to Israel with his “barbed words and thinly disguised prejudices,” Baird added, “This is a man who used this one-sided role to consistently make openly antisemitic and misinformed comments about Israel.” (Canada.com, May 15, 2014)

 

“We are here to witness what we are talking about when we claim about the unshakable bond between the U.S., as the greatest democracy all over the world, and the state of Israel, the only democracy in our tough neighborhood,”—Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, to Israeli and U.S. soldiers in Tel Aviv for U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to Israel. Referring to the threat of missiles and rockets from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, Ya’alon added: “We’ve got a challenge, but we can cope with it.” In the first senior U.S. visit here since the collapse of American-brokered peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, there was an unspoken, but unmistakable, return to the status quo. There were only cursory mentions of the moribund peace talks, which fizzled late last month; the dominant theme was the enduring and growing U.S. commitment to shield Israel from an ever-expanding array of threats. “You have already made clear that the security of Israel is a top priority for you,” Ya’alon told Hagel, adding: “I’m particularly glad that this policy continues the tradition of close relations between our governments and ministries.” (Washington Post, May 16, 2014)

 

“The United States is the leader of the free world. You have to lead. If someone crosses a red line, he is to be prosecuted for this in all ways.” Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, acting Ukrainian prime minister. As for American military support against a Russian threat in Eastern Ukraine, he said, “I never ask in case I don’t get it,” adding that he would of course be “happy to have Patriot missiles on Ukrainian soil.” (New York Times, May 19, 2014)

 

 “When he saw people heckling him, he moved on them, which is the worst thing to do,” —Ozcan, a hotel worker in Soma, Turkey. Ozcan was referring to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reaction facing angry demonstrators in the town where hundreds of miners died after an explosion. He added that “They are angry, they are frustrated, they are sad. If the prime minister is coming to town, he should bear in mind that if he even stepped out of his car, he would face some kind of protest.” Instead of accepting the criticism, Mr. Erdogan dared his hecklers to come closer. “It outraged people,” Ozcan said. (New York Times, May 16, 2014)

 

“He clearly did not think about how to talk about this in public,”— Ziya Meral, a Turkish researcher and lecturer at the Foreign Policy Center in London. Meral added, “Prime Minister Erdogan has clearly failed to communicate a personal and government message of condolence and national unity.” With the death toll expected to rise above 300, this industrial disaster, the worst in Turkey’s modern history, has quickly metastasized from a local tragedy into a new political crisis for the Islamist prime minister Erdogan. (New York Times, May 16, 2014)

 

“…John McCain has it exactly right…He told CNN that as soon as the U.S. learned that hundreds of children had been kidnapped and stolen away by a rabid band of terrorists in Nigeria, we should have used "every asset that we have—satellite, drones, any capabilities that we had to go after them." He told the Daily Beast: "I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country." He added, as only Sen. McCain would: "I wouldn't be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan. " That's Nigeria's hapless president. Mr. McCain said that if he were president he would have moved already, and that is not to be doubted.”—Peggy Noonan, referring to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram last month. (Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2014)

 

“…The appropriate step for someone blessed with white privilege is to “check” it, as in “check your privilege.” That is, before doing anything or sharing an opinion, white persons are supposed to do something of a confessional inventory of all they owe to being white, and all the harm they or their ancestors have done to every other skin colour on the human spectrum. It has a very Maoist tang, this “check your privilege,” encouraging self-abasement and self-humiliation before the cadres of politically correct betters, and anti-racism squads… It is bitterly ironic that the anti-racist message has been reduced to this: You have all that you have only because you have white skin. It is the cheapest from of racism, no subtlety at all … and it finds fullest expression in those academic institutions most attuned to any whiff of prejudice. Only in the very best universities would you ever be able to find so stupid a thought being given such frantic attention. And Orwell’s famous taunt about some ideas being so stupid only an intellectual would support them is sadly truer now, by far, than when he wrote them.” —Rex Murphy, on the “anti-racism movement” of modern-day, North American university campus’. (National Post, May 17, 2014)

 

"It's an honour to join in your memories, to recall and to reflect, but above all to reaffirm the true spirit of 9/11 — love, compassion, sacrifice — and to enshrine it forever in the heart of our nation," —U.S. President Barack Obama, to an audience of victims' relatives, survivors, and rescuers at the ground zero museum's dedication ceremony. "Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today, nothing can ever break us. Nothing can change who we are as Americans." Obama praised the new Sept. 11 museum as "a sacred place of healing and of hope" that captures both the story and the spirit of heroism and helping others that followed the attacks. (CBC, May 15, 2014)

 

“To all of you at the opening of the new Holocaust Cellar in my home in my little town of Sighet in the Carpathian Mountains: I so wish that I could be there with you today," —Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel. Wiesel was speaking, via a live video feed, at the opening of the first public Holocaust education center in Romania, which opened Sunday in his pre-war childhood home in Sighet. "The house I was raised in is now a museum but to me it will always be uniquely special, eliciting the warmest of memories until the darkness of the kingdom of night befell us," Weisel added. This is the first in a series of events that will mark 70 years since the expulsion of the last Jews of Northern Transylvania to Auschwitz. Among the events in Sighet this past weekend was a concert memorializing Holocaust victims on Saturday night, after Shabbat. (Arutz Sheva, May 20, 2014)  

 

Contents

 

SHORT TAKES

 

GERMANY IDENTIFIES 20 FORMER MAJDANEK GUARDS (Berlin) —Around 20 former guards at the Majdanek death camp could face charges in Germany, following a widespread probe of the Nazi SS men and women who served there during World War II, war crimes investigators said Tuesday. Lead investigator Thomas Will told The Associated Press that about 30 suspects were identified and located, but around ten had already died. The remaining 20 men and women all live in Germany. Some 220 others are still being investigated for possible charges but have not been located. (New York Times, May 20, 2014)

 

AUSTRIA FACES CRITICISM OVER HOLOCAUST APOLOGIST ESSAY INCLUDED IN HIGH SCHOOL TEST (Vienna) —Two senior Austrian educators will step down over a scandal in which a test administered to students featured an essay by a Nazi apologist. The German test included a 1947 text by German author Manfred Hausmann, who had worked for Nazi propaganda magazine Das Reich. Students were asked to reflect on how "The Snail" – in which a gardener decides the pest has to die to protect his plants – dealt with questions about nature and life. The test omitted to mention the broader context of the author's Nazi past. The case has caused embarrassment and anger in Austria, which was annexed by Nazi Germany into the Third Reich in 1938 and has been struggling for decades to escape a reputation for brushing its history under the carpet. (Huffington Post, May 15, 2014) 

 

CAR BOMBS RAISE FEARS OF BOKO HARAM EXPANSION (Abuja) —At least 118 people have been killed and dozens wounded in two bomb blasts that caused buildings to collapse in a crowded market area of the Nigerian city of Jos. The massive car bombs on Tuesday, just a few minutes apart, were the latest in a deadly wave of bombings across Nigeria over the past few weeks, raising fears that the Islamist group Boko Haram has become powerful enough to expand its terrorist operations far outside its traditional strongholds and into new regions of the country. Boko Haram normally operates in northeastern Nigeria, where it abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok last month. But the latest bombings are hundreds of kilometres to the south and west, suggesting that Boko Haram is now ranging widely across the country. (Globe & Mail, May 20, 2014)

 

LIBYA DEPLOYS ISLAMIST MILITIAS AGAINST ROGUE GENERAL (Tripoli) — Libya's army chief ordered the deployment of Islamist-led militias to the capital Tripoli on Monday in response to the storming of parliament by forces loyal to a renegade general, paving the way for a possible showdown between rival militia fighters. The revolt by Gen. Khalifa Hifter threatens to detonate the long volatile divisions among the multiple militias that dominate Libya amid the weakness of the central government and military. Hifter says he aims to crush Islamists he accuses of seizing control of the country and he appears to have the support of some militias from the eastern half of the country and the western Zintan region. In the other camp, parliament chief Nouri Abu Sahmein–an Islamist-leaning politician–ordered a powerful umbrella group of mainly Islamist militias known as "Libya's Central Shield" to mobilize on Monday to defend against Hifter's forces. (Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2014)

 

KENYA POLICE HUNT BOMBERS AS NAIROBI BLASTS LEAVE 12 DEAD (Nairobi) —Kenyan police hunted for suspects a day after twin explosions at an open-air market in the capital, Nairobi, left at least 12 people dead and injured 99 more. The blasts at the Gikomba market, about 2 kilometers (1.4 miles) east of the city center, were the second series of bombings in the city in two weeks. Kenya has faced a growing number of attacks since sending troops to fight Islamist militants in neighboring Somalia in October 2011. In September, an assault on Nairobi’s Westgate mall killed at least 67 people. Al-Shabaab, a Somali militia affiliated with al-Qaeda, took responsibility for the raid, saying it was in revenge for Kenya’s troop deployment. (Bloomberg, May 17, 2014)

 

EGYPT COURT CONVICTS MUBARAK OF EMBEZZLEMENT (Cairo) —A Cairo court on Wednesday convicted ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of embezzlement, sentencing him to three years in prison. The graft case against the 86-year-old Mubarak, who is kept in custody at a military hospital, is one of two against the former president who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011 after nearly three decades in power. He is being retried over the killings of hundreds of protesters during the uprising. Mubarak's two sons, one-time heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa, were also convicted Wednesday of graft and sentenced to four years in prison each in the same case. The three Mubaraks were convicted of charges that they embezzled millions of dollars' worth of state funds over a decade toward the end of Hosni Mubarak's rule. (Fox News, May 21, 2014)

 

NUCLEAR TALKS WITH IRAN FAIL TO YIELD PACT, OFFICIALS SAY (Vienna) —The latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers ended on Friday in Vienna, with Iranian and American officials saying that progress was slow and difficult, with serious gaps between the two sides on basic issues like the size of any nuclear enrichment capability Iran would be permitted to retain. Iranian officials have spoken of their desire to expand their enrichment capacity to 50,000 centrifuges of the most modern type, compared with the 19,000 currently installed, some of them outmoded, of which 10,000 are operating. Washington has said that an enrichment capacity “greater than a few thousand first-generation centrifuges would give Iran an unacceptably rapid breakout capability,” according to Robert Einhorn, a former United States negotiator. Iran’s desire for 50,000 modern centrifuges, he wrote, “is a showstopper, and Iran must know that.” Breakout capability means the ability to quickly and quietly produce a bomb. (New York Times, May 16, 2014)

 

IRANIANS ARRESTED FOR DANCING IN 'HAPPY' PHARRELL VIDEO (Tehran) —Six young men and women were arrested and detained in Tehran for making a video in which they danced to Pharrell Williams’ hit song Happy, which they posted on the Internet. The video showed the three men and three unveiled women singing and dancing to the song in the streets and rooftops of Tehran. It was viewed more than 165,000 times on YouTube before it attracted the attention of the police who swiftly arrested the dancers. Iran has strict laws about what can be broadcast online and on TV, with dancing among a number of banned activities. The young people were paraded on state TV on May 20 and where forced to express remorse for their behaviour. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the young people were released Wednesday, but the director of the video remains in custody. (Telegraph, May 21, 2014)

 

IRAQI PREMIER LEADS VOTE, FACES STALEMATE (Baghdad) —A coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won the most seats in the country's first parliamentary elections since U.S. troops left in 2011, setting the stage for a lengthy period of political wrangling amid the worst violence since the civil war. Mr. Maliki's State of Law coalition won 92 out of 328 parliamentary seats in the elections held in late April, three more seats than it won in 2010, the Iraqi High Election Commission said Monday, putting the Iraqi leader in a strong position to secure a third term. The result left many Iraqis wondering whether another four years under Mr. Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, would deepen the sectarian rancor and extend a political stalemate that has left the government adrift. Western diplomats and analysts say that further instability would also add to the region's political maelstrom. (Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2014)

 

TEEN KILLS MAN ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY IN PAKISTAN POLICE STATION (Lahore) —A teenager walked into a police station and shot dead a 65-year-old man from a minority sect accused of blasphemy, the second murder involving Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws in as many weeks. Rights activists said the attack, and a spike in the number of blasphemy cases, was evidence of rising intolerance in the mainly Sunni Muslim South Asian state of 180 million people. Victim Khalil Ahmad was a member of the minority Ahmadi community, a sect who say they are Muslim but whose religion is rejected by the Pakistani state.  Ahmadis have been arrested in Pakistan for reading the Koran, holding religious celebrations and having Koranic verses on rings or wedding cards. Some mullahs promise that killing Ahmadis earns a place in heaven and give out leaflets listing their home addresses. The Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim but believe in a prophet who came after Mohammed. A 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims, which makes them particularly vulnerable to the country's blasphemy law. (Reuters, May 16, 2014)

 

NYU. APOLOGIZES TO ANY WORKERS MISTREATED ON ITS ABU DHABI CAMPUS (New York) —New York University issued an apology to any workers on its newly completed Abu Dhabi campus who were “not treated in line with the standards we set,” after The New York Times reported widespread abuses among a labor force that numbered about 6,000 at its peak. The article described workers being arrested, beaten and deported to their home countries after striking over pay. Recruitment fees, of approximately a year’s wages, were all but required. Not one of the dozens of workers interviewed had his own passport. Some were living in filthy, crowded apartments. In a statement to the N.Y.U. community, its president, John Sexton, called the workers’ treatment, “…troubling and unacceptable.” (New York Times, May 19, 2014)

IN TAKING CRIMEA, PUTIN GAINS A SEA OF FUEL RESERVES (Sevastopol) —When Russia seized Crimea in March, it acquired a maritime zone more than three times its size with the rights to underwater resources potentially worth trillions of dollars. Russia portrayed the takeover as reclamation of its rightful territory, drawing no attention to the oil and gas rush that had recently been heating up in the Black Sea. But the move also extended Russia’s maritime boundaries, quietly giving Russia dominion over vast oil and gas reserves while dealing a crippling blow to Ukraine’s hopes for energy independence. The global hunt for fossil fuels has increasingly gone offshore, to places like the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and the South China Sea. Hundreds of oil rigs dot the Caspian, a few hundred miles east of the Black Sea. (New York Times, May 17, 2014)

 

CRASH-AVOIDANCE CAR FIRM MOBILEYE REPORTEDLY EYES $1B IPO (Jerusalem) —The Israeli automobile collision-avoidance technology firm Mobileye is planning on raising as much as $1 billion on the Nasdaq exchange in an initial public offering of shares. It is expected that the IPO will go forward in the last quarter of 2014, based on a valuation of $3.5 billion to $5 billion for the company as a whole. If it comes to fruition, such an IPO would be among the largest ever floated by an Israeli high-tech company on Nasdaq. The company’s technology is built around a single camera that is installed between the vehicle’s rear-view mirror and the windshield. The device contains a processor that is capable of identifying other vehicles as well as pedestrians and cyclists, and it provides drivers with a warning when it detects the risk of collision. (Ha’aretz, May 17, 2014)

 

ISRAEL, CHINA TO OPEN $300 MILLION RESEARCH CENTER (Tel Aviv) —Tel Aviv University announced on Monday a partnership with Beijing’s Tsinghua University to invest $300 million to establish the XIN Research Center, intended to research early-stage and mature technologies in biotech, solar energy, water and environmental technologies. TAU officials say they hope the center will cement ties between the two countries and create opportunities for tech advancement in both countries. The talks are part of what some in the tech industry have been calling “China Week” in Israel. No fewer than 400 Chinese government and business officials landed in Israel Sunday, preparing to participate in a series of business forums and seminars. (Times of Israel, May 19, 2014)

 

On Topic Links

 

Canadians More Likely to be Anti-Semitic Than Americans, Poll Finds: Katrina Clarke, National Post, May. 13, 2013—A new global poll reveals Canadians are more likely to be anti-Semitic than Americans.

Boko Haram and the Future of Nigeria: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, May 15, 2014—Events in Nigeria have captured the attention of the Western democracies.

To the Class of 2014: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2014—Dear Class of 2014: Allow me to be the first to offend you, baldly and unapologetically.

Grading Obama’s Foreign Policy: Ross Douthat, New York Times, May 17, 2014—Second terms are often a time when presidents, balked by domestic opposition, turn to the world stage to secure their legacy — opening doors to China, closing out the Cold War, chasing Middle Eastern peace.

 

Rob Coles, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research/L'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme,   www.isranet.org Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284. mailto:ber@isranet.org

 

 

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine (current issue: “Israel’s Levy Report”:  ISRAZINE.

 

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by fax and e-mail.
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OBAMA: FOREIGN POLICY–WHILE AN INCREASINGLY ASSERTIVE RUSSIA REINVENTS WARFARE, OBAMA OPTS FOR FECKLESS APPROACH—ARE WE MOVING TOWARD A “POST-AMERICAN” WORLD?

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

The Media is Turning on President Obama: Michael Goodwin, New York Post, Apr. 27, 2014— With multiple crises spiraling out of control around the world, stories about the Obama presidency are taking on the air of postmortems.

How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare: Peter Pomerantsev, Foreign Policy, May 5, 2014—  The Kremlin, according to Barack Obama, is stuck in the "old ways," trapped in Cold War or even 19th century mindsets.

Russia’s Weimar Syndrome: Roger Cohen, New York Times, May 1, 2014 — Sergei Karaganov, a prominent Russian foreign policy expert at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, recently provided a useful summation of his vast country’s sense of humiliation and encirclement.

A Foreign Policy Flirting With Chaos: Richard N. Haass, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 29, 2014— American foreign policy is in troubling disarray.

 

On Topic Links

 

A Moscow-Cairo-Jerusalem Axis?: Neville Teller, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 21, 2014

China and Russia Are Getting Closer: Nikolas K. Gvosdev, National Interest, May 20, 2014

Kerry Keeps Swinging For the Fences — and Missing: Benny Avni, New York Post, May 1, 2014

Can the West Find the Energy to Deter Russia?: Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, May 1, 2014

 

THE MEDIA IS TURNING ON PRESIDENT OBAMA

Michael Goodwin

New York Post, Apr. 27, 2014

 

With multiple crises spiraling out of control around the world, stories about the Obama presidency are taking on the air of postmortems. What went wrong, who’s to blame, what next — even The New York Times is starting to recognize that Dear Leader is a global flop. “Obama Suffers Setbacks in Japan and the Mideast,” the paper declared on Friday’s front page. The double whammy of failure pushed the growing Russian menace in ­Europe to inside pages, but even they were chock-full of reports about utopia gone wrong. One story detailed how the White House was facing the “consequences of underestimating” North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Others recounted the continuing Syrian slaughter and the murder of three Americans in Afghanistan.

 

The accounts and others like them amount to an autopsy of a failed presidency, but the process won’t be complete unless it is completely honest. To meet that test, the Times, other liberal news organizations and leading Democrats, in and out of office, must come to grips with their own failures, as well. Obama had a free hand to make a mess because they gave it to him. They cheered him on, supporting him with unprecedented gobs of money and near-unanimous votes. They said “aye” to any cockamamie concept he came up with, echoed his demonization of critics and helped steamroll unpopular and unworkable ideas into reality. Some of his backers knew better, and said so privately, but publicly they were all in. Whether it was ObamaCare, his anti-Israel position or the soft-shoe shuffle around the Iranian nuke crisis, they lacked the courage to object. They said nothing as Obama went on foreign apology tours and stood silent as our allies warned of disastrous consequences. Even now, despite protests from a succession of Pentagon leaders, former Democratic defense hawks are helping Obama hollow out our military as Russia and China expand theirs and al Qaeda extends its footprint.

 

A king is no king without a court, and Obama has not lacked for lackeys. The system of checks and balances is written into the Constitution, but it is the everyday behavior of Americans of good will that makes the system work. That system broke down under Obama, and the blame starts with the media. By giving the president the benefit of the doubt at every turn, by making excuses to explain away fiascos, by ignoring corruption, by buying the White House line that his critics were motivated by pure politics or racism, the Times and other organizations played the role of bartender to a man on a bender. Even worse, they joined the party, forgetting the lessons of history as well as their own responsibilities to put a check on power. A purpose of a free press is to hold government accountable, but there is no fallback when the watchdog voluntarily chooses to be a lapdog.

 

The sycophancy was not lost on other politicians and private citizens. Taking their cue from the media, they, too, bit their tongues and went along as the president led the nation astray and misread foreign threats. From the start, support for Obama often had a cult-like atmosphere. He sensed it, began to believe it and became comfortable demanding total agreement as the price for the favor of his leadership. That he is now the imperial president he used to bemoan is no long­er in dispute. The milking of perks, from golf trips to Florida to European vacations for the first lady, is shockingly vulgar, but not a peep of protest comes from his supporters. The IRS becomes a political enforcer, but that, too, is accepted because nobody will risk their access by telling Obama no. You are either with him or you are his enemy.

 

The evidence is everywhere that his ideas are flawed, that his view of economics, diplomacy, the military, history, science and religion are warped by his own narcissism. He doesn’t even talk a good game anymore.

Yet it remains a fool’s errand to hope he will correct his ways. He is not capable; he looks in the mirror and sees only a savior. It is equally clear that those who shielded him from facts and their own best judgment did him no ­favors. Out of fear and favor, they abdicated their duty to the nation, and they must share the burden of history’s verdict. After all, America’s decline happened on their watch, too.

 

 

Contents
             

HOW PUTIN IS REINVENTING WARFARE         

Peter Pomerantsev                                                                      

Foreign Policy, May 5, 2014

                         

The Kremlin, according to Barack Obama, is stuck in the "old ways," trapped in Cold War or even 19th century mindsets. But look closer at the Kremlin's actions during the crisis in Ukraine and you begin to see a very 21st century mentality, manipulating transnational financial interconnections, spinning global media, and reconfiguring geo-political alliances. Could it be that the West is the one caught up in the "old ways," while the Kremlin is the geopolitical avant-garde, informed by a dark, subversive reading of globalization?

 

The Kremlin's approach might be called "non-linear war," a term used in a short story written by one of Putin's closest political advisors, Vladislav Surkov, which was published under his pseudonym, Nathan Dubovitsky, just a few days before the annexation of Crimea. Surkov is credited with inventing the system of "managed democracy" that has dominated Russia in the 21st century, and his new portfolio focuses on foreign policy. This time, he sets his new story in a dystopian future, after the "fifth world war." Surkov writes: "It was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for just two sides to fight. Two countries, two blocks of allies. Now four coalitions collided. Not two against two, or three against one. All against all."

 

This is a world where the old geo-political paradigms no longer hold. As the Kremlin faces down the West, it is indeed gambling that old alliances like the EU and NATO mean less in the 21st century than the new commercial ties it has established with nominally "Western" companies, such as BP, Exxon, Mercedes, and BASF. Meanwhile, many Western countries welcome corrupt financial flows from the post-Soviet space; it is part of their economic models, and not one many want disturbed. So far, the Kremlin's gamble seems to be paying off, with financial considerations helping to curb sanctions. Part of the rationale for fast-tracking Russia's inclusion into the global economy was that interconnection would be a check on aggression. But the Kremlin has figured out that this can be flipped: "A few provinces would join one side," Surkov continues, "a few others a different one. One town or generation or gender would join yet another. Then they could switch sides, sometimes mid-battle. Their aims were quite different. Most understood the war to be part of a process. Not necessarily its most important part."

 

We can see a similar thinking informing the Kremlin as it toys with Eastern Ukraine, using indirect intervention through local gangs, with a thorough understanding of the interests of such local power brokers such as Donetsk billionaire Rinat Akhmetov (Ukraine's richest man) or Mikhail Dobkin, the former head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration and now presidential candidate. Though these local magnates make occasional public pronouncements supporting Ukraine's territorial integrity, their previous support of Yanukovych makes them wary of the new government in Kiev. Just the right degree of separatism could help guarantee their security while ensuring that their vast financial global interests are not harmed. "Think global, act local" is a favorite cliché of corporations — it could almost be the Kremlin's motto in the Donbass.

 

And the Kremlin's "non-linear" sensibility is evident as it manipulates Western media and policy discourse. If in the 20th century the Kremlin could only lobby through Soviet sympathizers on the left, it now uses a contradictory kaleidoscope of messages to build alliances with quite different groups. European right-nationalists such as Hungary's Jobbik or France's Front National are seduced by the anti-EU message; the far-left are brought in by tales of fighting U.S. hegemony; U.S. religious conservatives are convinced by the Kremlin's stance against homosexuality. The result is an array of voices, all working away at Western audiences from different angles, producing a cumulative echo chamber of Kremlin support. Influencers often appear in Western media and policy circles without reference to their Kremlin connections: whether it's PR company Ketchum placing pro-Kremlin op-eds in the Huffington Post; anti-Maidan articles by British historian John Laughland in the Spectator that make no mention of how the think tank he was director of was set up in association with Kremlin-allied figures; or media appearances by influential German political consultant Alexander Rahr that fail to note his paid position as an advisor for the German energy company Wintershall, a partner of Gazprom, Moscow's massive natural gas company (Rahr denies a conflict of interest).

 

Combatting non-linear war requires non-linear measures. International networks of anti-corruption NGOs could help squeeze corrupt flows from Russia. At the moment, this sector is underdeveloped, underfunded, and poorly internationally coordinated: In the U.K., for example, NGOs such as Global Witness or Tax Justice rarely engage with Russian counterparts. Anti-corruption NGOs need to have the backing to put painful pressure on corrupt networks on a daily basis, naming and shaming corrupt networks and pressuring western governments to shut them down and enact their own money laundering laws. This would squeeze the Kremlin's model even in the absence of further sanctions, ultimately playing a role as important as human rights organizations did in the 70s and 80s, when groups like Amnesty and the Helsinki Committee helped change the Cold War by supporting dissidents in the Communist block and shaming their governments…

 

…It's also important to appreciate that the Kremlin is throwing down the gauntlet to the Western-inspired vision of globalization, to the kitsch "global village" vision on the covers of World Bank annual reports and in Microsoft advertisements. It is better to understand the Kremlin's view of globalization as a kind of "corporate raiding" — namely, the ultra-violent, post-Soviet version of corporate takeovers. "Raiding" involves buying a minority share in a company, and then using any means at your disposal (false arrests, mafia threats, kidnapping, disinformation, blackmail) to acquire control. Russian elites sometimes refer to the country as a "minority shareholder in globalization," which, given Russia's experience with capitalism, implies it is the world's great "corporate raider." Non-linear war is the means through which a geo-political raider can leverage his relative weakness. And this vision appeals to a very broad constituency across the world, to those full of resentment for the West and infused by the sense that the "global village" model is a priori rigged. For all the talk of Russia's isolation, the BRIC economies have actually been subdued in their criticism of the annexation of Crimea, with the Kremlin thanking both China and India for being understanding.

 

Perhaps, despite what Obama says, there is a battle of ideas going on. Not between communism and capitalism, or even conservatives and progressives, but between competing visions of globalization, between the "global village" — which feels at once nice, naff, and unreal — and "non-linear war."

It is naïve to assume the West will win with this new battle with the same formula it used in the Cold War. Back then, the West united free market economics, popular culture, and democratic politics into one package: Parliaments, investment banks, and pop music fused to defeat the politburo, planned economics, and social realism. But the new Russia (and the new China) has torn that formula apart: Russian popular culture is Westernised, and people drive BMWs, play the stock market, and listen to Taylor Swift all while cheering anti-Western rhetoric and celebrating American downfall. "The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock," said Surkov when he was one of the first Russian officials to be put on the U.S. sanctions list as "punishment" for Russia's actions in Crimea. "I don't need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing." We live in a truly non-linear age. And the future might just belong to the raiders.                                                                                                      

Contents

RUSSIA’S WEIMAR SYNDROME

Roger Cohen

New York Times, May 1, 2014

 

Sergei Karaganov, a prominent Russian foreign policy expert at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, recently provided a useful summation of his vast country’s sense of humiliation and encirclement. Because explosions of nationalist fervor like the one fostered by Vladimir Putin are dangerous and slow to abate, it is worth quoting this analysis at some length. “The rupture is due to the West’s refusal to end the Cold War de facto or de jure in the quarter-century since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Karaganov wrote in the daily Izvestia. “In that time, the West has consistently sought to expand its zone of military, economic and political influence through NATO and the E.U. Russian interests and objections were flatly ignored. Russia was treated like a defeated power, though we did not see ourselves as defeated. A softer version of the Treaty of Versailles was imposed on the country. There was no outright annexation of territory or formal reparations like Germany faced after World War I, but Russia was told in no uncertain terms that it would play a modest role in the world. This policy was bound to engender a form of Weimar syndrome in a great nation whose dignity and interests had been trampled.”

 

The country being discussed here, it should be recalled, is the world’s largest, a Eurasian power whose Communist empire extended as far west as Berlin for more than four decades after World War II, subjecting peoples to the mind-numbing, soul-poisoning oppression of totalitarian rule under regimes that coerced and confined. The Gulag-littered Soviet imperium was a crushing universe, a “conspiracy of silence,” in the poet Czeslaw Milosz’s words, where “one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” Russia is also a nation that, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was ushered by the West into the group of leading industrialized countries known as the G-8 (before its recent Crimea-related exclusion). It has been the object of outreach from Washington and NATO since 1991, including initiatives that resulted in Russia joining the Partnership for Peace program and the NATO-Russia council. (NATO-Russian cooperation has been suspended since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea; yes, there was cooperation to suspend.)

 

What the United States and Europe were not prepared to do, however, was to eviscerate the Atlantic alliance in the name of some dreamy “Union of Europe” — Karaganov’s phrase — that would bring about “the merger of European soft power and technology with Russia’s resources, political will and hard power.” If this for Moscow was what was meant by the end of the Cold War, it was a nonstarter and still is. Nor, rightly, was the West prepared to turn its back on the desire of former Soviet vassal states from Poland to Estonia to secure the guarantee against renewed subjugation and the prospects of new prosperity that, in their eyes, only membership in the European Union and NATO afforded. Abuse breeds caution. These nations, long blotted out, wanted their security, freedom and the rule of law underwritten in steel.

 

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing rampage in eastern Ukraine by the Russian fifth columnists of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” demonstrate the wisdom of their choice. The expansion through NATO and the E.U. of a free Europe was the greatest American and Western diplomatic achievement since 1989. What now? A sense of national humiliation, whether based in fact or not, is a tremendous catalyst for violence. It was in Weimar Germany, where the reparations and concessions stipulated by the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 created an explosive mood. It was in Serbia at the time of the break-up in 1991 of Yugoslavia, a country Belgrade always regarded as a Serbian extension of itself. The blinding fever drummed up by Slobodan Milosevic was based in a supposed need to reassert Serbian greatness; the means then was the ravages of his fifth columnists in Bosnia. That delirium took a decade to dim. It is unlikely that the Russian version will take less. Putin’s nationalist upsurge is the mask for all sorts of problems — demographic decline, corruption, a coopted judiciary, a cowed press, an oligarchic resource-based economy that has failed to diversify — but no less virulent for that.

 

In the face of this assertive Russia, nothing would be more dangerous than American weakness. So when President Obama, in response to a recent question about whether his declaration that the United States would protect the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea risked drawing another “red line,” gave an evasive answer including the hypothesis that America might not want to “engage militarily,” he did something profoundly dangerous. In Asia, as in the Baltic, the Article 5 commitment to a joint military response to any attack on an ally is critical. The U.S. treaties must be words of truth that sound “like a pistol shot,” or violent mayhem could spread well beyond East Ukraine.

 

Contents

A FOREIGN POLICY FLIRTING WITH CHAOS

Richard N. Haass

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 29, 2014

 

American foreign policy is in troubling disarray. The result is unwelcome news for the world, which largely depends upon the United States to promote order in the absence of any other country able and willing to do so. And it is bad for the U.S., which cannot insulate itself from the world. The concept that should inform American foreign policy is one that the Obama administration proposed in its first term: the pivot or rebalancing toward Asia, with decreasing emphasis on the Middle East. What has been missing is the commitment and discipline to implement this change in policy. President Obama's four-country Asian tour in recent days was a start, but it hardly made up for years of paying little heed to his own professed foreign-policy goals.

 

This judgment may appear odd—at first glance the Obama administration does seem to have been moving away from the Middle East. U.S. combat forces are no longer in Iraq, and the number of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan (now below 40,000) will soon be 10,000 or fewer. Yet the administration continues to articulate ambitious political goals in the region. The default U.S. policy option in the Middle East seems to be regime change, consisting of repeated calls for authoritarian leaders to leave power. First it was Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, then Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, followed by Bashar Assad in Syria. Yet history shows that ousting leaders can be difficult, and even when it is not, it can be extremely hard to bring about a stable, alternative authority that is better for American preferences. The result is that the U.S. often finds itself with an uncomfortable choice: Either it must back off its declared goals, which makes America look weak and encourages widespread defiance, or it has to make good on its aims, which requires enormous investments in blood, treasure and time.

 

The Obama administration has largely opted for the former, i.e., feckless approach. The most egregious case is Syria, where the president and others declared that "Assad must go" only to do little to bring about his departure. Military support of opposition elements judged to be acceptable has been minimal. Worse, President Obama avoided using force in the wake of clear chemical-weapons use by the Syrian government, a decision that raised doubts far and wide about American dependability and damaged what little confidence and potential the non-jihadist opposition possessed. It is only a matter of time before the U.S. will likely have to swallow the bitter pill of tolerating Assad while supporting acceptable opposition elements against the jihadists. Meanwhile, large areas of Libya are increasingly out of government control and under the authority of militias and terrorists. Egypt is polarized and characterized by mounting violence. Much the same is true in Iraq, now the second-most-turbulent country in the region, where the U.S. finds itself with little influence despite a costly decade of occupation. Terrorists now have more of a foothold in the region than ever before…

 

None of this should be read as a call for the U.S. to do more to oust regimes, much less occupy countries in the name of nation-building. There is a good deal of evidence, including Chile, Mexico, the Philippines and South Korea, that gradual and peaceful reform of authoritarian systems is less expensive by every measure and more likely to result in an open society, as well as less likely to result in disruption and death. The Obama administration's extraordinary commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also difficult to justify. Even before the recent breakdown in talks, the dispute didn't appear ripe for resolution. And it must be acknowledged that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute no longer occupies center stage in the Middle East. The emergence of a separate Palestinian state wouldn't affect the troubling events in Syria, Egypt or Iraq…

 

The U.S. must also increase its involvement with Europe. American inattention, combined with Ukraine's own political dysfunction and the European Union's bungling, set the stage for Russian expansion into Crimea. Shaping Russian behavior will require targeted sanctions, greater allocation of economic resources to Ukraine, a willingness to export meaningful amounts of oil and natural gas, and a renewed commitment to NATO's military readiness. The administration also needs to focus on the strength and resilience of the U.S. economy and society. This is not an alternative to national security but a central part of it…The challenge for the Obama administration is not just to ensure American strength and continued internationalism in the face of growing isolationist sentiment. It is also a case of sending the right message to others. We are witnessing an accelerated movement toward a post-American world where governments make decisions and take actions with reduced regard for U.S. preferences. Such a world promises to be even messier, and less palatable for U.S. interests, than it is today.

 

A Moscow-Cairo-Jerusalem Axis?: Neville Teller, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 21, 2014 —Being played out on the world stage, in this early part of 2014, is what might superficially be taken as a repeat of the communism versus capitalism Cold War of the 20th century.

China and Russia Are Getting Closer: Nikolas K. Gvosdev, National Interest, May 20, 2014—Whenever Russian president Vladimir Putin meets with his Chinese counterparts, there is always dramatic talk about the intensifying special relationship between the two countries and the enunciation of bold goals to double trade and further expand security, political and diplomatic ties.

Kerry Keeps Swinging For the Fences — and Missing: Benny Avni, New York Post, May 1, 2014—President Obama used a baseball metaphor this week to explain his foreign-policy doctrine: “It avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles. Every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run.”

Can the West Find the Energy to Deter Russia?: Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, May 1, 2014—Seven Russians were added this week to the U.S. sanctions list , along with 17 Russian companies.

 

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

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CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org