Friday, June 19, 2009

Israel's rare opportunity.

 

by Caroline B. Glick

Why the Jewish State must assert itself in Iran's affairs

Israel today finds itself in unfamiliar territory. The revolutionary atmosphere building in Iran presents Israel with a prospect it has rarely confronted: a safe bet. With the Obama administration refusing to back the anti-regime protesters, and the European Union similarly hemming and hawing, millions of Iranians who are on the streets, risking their lives to protest a stolen election and a tyrannical regime have been cast adrift by those they thought would support them. To date, Israel has joined the US and Europe in rejecting the protesters. This should change.

In refusing to stick their necks out — and so effectively siding with the mullahs against the pro-democracy activists in the streets — US President Barack Obama like Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Mossad chief Meir Dagan have all rightly pointed out the Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Iran's former prime minister and the titular head of the protest movement is just as radical and extreme as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whom he seeks to unseat.

Moreover, Western officials and analysts point out that Mousavi's primary backers from within the regime — former presidents Muhammad Khatami and Rafsanjani — are themselves anything but anti-regime revolutionaries. What apparently motivates these men is the sense that through Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's heavy handed attacks against the revolution's "old guard," the presidential incumbent has shunted them aside. They feel slighted. And they are doubly humiliated by the fact that Ahmadinejad has acted with the open support of Iran's real dictator — so-called "Supreme Leader" Ali Khamenei. The likes of Mousavi, Khatami and Rafsanjani don't want to overthrow the regime whose aims they share. They just want to restore their power within the regime.

It is these twin assessments of Mousavi and his backers that stand at the center of Western leaders' decision to give a wide berth both to the presidential race and the protests that have arisen in its aftermath.

For Israel, the arguments for staying clear of events in Iran align with those informing much of the rest of the Western world. Israel's primary concern is Iran's foreign policy and specifically its nuclear weapons program and its support for anti-Israel terror groups. There is no reason for Israel to believe that a Mousavi government will be more inclined to end Iran's race to the bomb or diminish its support for terror groups like Hizbullah and Hamas than Ahmadinejad's government is. As Iranian prime minister in the 1980s, Mousavi was a major instigator of Iran's nuclear program and he oversaw the establishment of Hizbullah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Beyond that, there is the fact that Israel — like the US — is the regime's bogeyman. If Israel is identified with the protesters, the likes of Khamenei will use this connection to justify their brutal repression.

Finally, there is the distinct possibility, indeed the likelihood that these protests will go nowhere. They will be brutally repressed or fizzle out of their own accord. So would Israel gain by sticking its neck out?

While reasonable on their face, these arguments for doing nothing all ignore the significance of recent developments. Consequently they fail to grasp the new opportunities that have arisen — opportunities which left untouched will likely disappear in short order.

The fact of the matter is that with each passing day, Mousavi's personal views and interests are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Whether he realized it or not, Mousavi was transformed last Friday night. When Khamenei embraced the obviously falsified official election results as a "divine victory" for Ahmadinejad, Mousavi was widely expected by Western observers to accept the dictator's verdict. When instead Mousavi sided with his own supporters who took to the streets to oppose their disenfranchisement, Mousavi became a revolutionary. Whether he had planned to do so or not, a week ago Mousavi became an enemy of the regime.

The significance of Mousavi's decision could not be more profound. As Michael Ledeen from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote, last Friday night Mousavi tied his personal survival to the success of the protesters — and pitted his life against Khamenei's. In Ledeen's words, "Both Khamenei and Mousavi — the two opposed icons of the moment, at least — know that they will either win or die."

For their part, by the end of this week, the protesters themselves had been transformed. If last week they were simply angry that they had been ignored, by Thursday they had become a revolutionary force apparently dedicated to the overthrow of the regime. This was made clear by a list of demands circulating among the protesters on Wednesday. As Pepe Escobar reported in Thursday's Asia Times, the protesters demands include Khamenei's removal from power, the dissolution of the secret police, the reform of the constitution under anti-regime Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri who has been living under house arrest for the past twelve years, and the installation of Mousavi as president. These demands make clear where the protesters are leading. They are leading to the overthrow of one of the most heinous regimes on the face of the earth and its replacement by a liberal democracy.

As far as Israel is concerned, this is a win-win situation. If the protesters successfully overthrow the regime, they will have neutralized the greatest security threat facing the Jewish state. And if they fail, Israel will still probably be better off than it is today. For if the mullahs violently repress the pro-democracy dissidents, the Obama administration will be hard-pressed to legitimize their blood bath by embracing them as negotiating partners.

Were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to publicly announce Israel's support for the protesters, Israel would stand to gain politically in a number of ways. First and foremost, it would be doing the right thing morally and so would earn the respect of millions of people throughout the world who are dismayed at their own governments' silence in the face of the brave Iranian protesters risking their lives for freedom.

Moreover, by acting as the loudest and first democratic champion of the protesters, Israel would catapult itself to the forefront of the campaign for democracy in the Muslim world. Doing so would make it far easier for Israel's representatives throughout the world to defend against false accusations by self-described human rights organizations that Israel is a human rights abuser.

Beyond that, Israel would be building an important alliance with the Iranian people themselves. Contrary to what the mullahs would have us believe, Iranians by and large do not share the widespread hatred of Israel and the Jews that their regime promotes and the Arab world embraces. Over the years, Iranian regime opponents — from the students to the trade unionists to women's rights activists to minority Kurds, Azeris, Ahwaz Arabs and Baluchis — have all appealed to Israel for support. Israel Radio in Farsi, which broadcasts into Iran daily, has more than a million regular listeners.

Were Netanyahu to explain that the same mullahs who seek to disenfranchise and repress the Iranian people seek to destroy Israel with nuclear bombs; were he to call for Iran to stop financing Hamas and Hizbullah terrorists who are reportedly now deployed in Iran to brutalize the protesters, and instead invest in the Iranian economy for the benefit of Iran's people, he would be giving a message that already resonates with the people of Iran.

Finally, Israeli outreach to the Iranian people now struggling to overthrow the regime would expose the Obama administration's effective support for the mullahs against their people in all its absurdity and moral blindness. What's more, the administration would be unable to launch a counterattack. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama would be in no position to attack Israel for supporting Iranian dissidents demanding freedom. And their stammering reaction would make their attacks against Jewish building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria look ever more ridiculous.

Although Israel is far away from Iran, it has significant capacity to help the demonstrators. It could use its communication satellites to break through the communications blackout the regime has attempted to enforce. Its internet capabilities can be offered to the protesters to reopen closed networks. Israel could temporarily expand its radio broadcasts into the country and allow its airwaves to be used to broadcast events on the ground in real time so that protesters won't have to rely on word of mouth to know what is happening or where things are leading.

Again, it is more than possible that Khamenei will move to crush the dissidents or successfully buy enough of them off to subvert them. But in the meantime, Israel has a clear interest in keeping the Iranian cauldron boiling. The mullahs can only concentrate on so much at once. If they are preoccupied with domestic dissent, they will have less time to devote to Hamas and Hizbullah. If they are busy quelling armed insurrections by Kurds or Azeris or Baluchis, they will have less time to devote to negotiating the purchase of the S-300 anti-aircraft system with Russia, or keeping tabs on their nuclear scientists. Strategically, Israel stands only to gain — either marginally or massively - from the ayatollahs' discomfort.

In an interview this week with National Review Online, Iranian expatriate Amir Taheri explained that Iran suffers from a divided psyche. On the one hand, the mullahs view Iran as a revolutionary vanguard of Islam. They do not see Iran as a nation-state. For them, the normal things that make up a life — economic stability, public safety and the hope that one's children will do better — are of little use as they march forward under the flag of jihad. Israel and the US are necessary enemies.

On the other hand, the vast majority of Iran's people wish to live in a normal and free nation-state. For them, the revolution means nothing but privation, suffering, repression and death. They do not hate America and they do not hate Israel. They do not seek nuclear weapons and they do not support the likes of Hamas and Hizbullah.

As Taheri put it, "When we consider Iran as a nation-state, we see Israel as its natural ally. The reason is that Israel, like Iran, is opposed to an exclusively Arab Middle East. Both want a pluralist Middle East in which there is room for diversity; a Middle East where one finds Iranians, Turks, Kurds, Christians, and Jews, as well as Arabs."

If Israel extends a hand in friendship to these Iranian patriots, the worst that can happen is that they fail to overthrow the mullahs and we are left to acknowledge that we wished them well. There is no shame in that.

Indeed, if they fail to overthrow the regime, and Israel is compelled to attack their country's nuclear installations, it is hard to imagine that they will take it personally. Rather, recalling that it was Israel that stood with them first, they would no doubt understand why we were forced to act, and perhaps be inspired to try again to free themselves from the shackles of their hideous regime.

 

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Time for a new ally?

 

by Leon De Winter

 

The writer is one of Holland's most renowned writers and political columnists. He has published 15 books, most of them best-selling novels, which have been translated into a dozen languages. He received the prestigious Die Welt Literature Prize in 2002 and in

2006 he received the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal for Jewish-Christian Dialogue. He is an adjunct-fellow at the Hudson Institute.

 

US President Barack Obama's Cairo speech was a historic event in many aspects. First of all it was remarkable that a Western leader felt legitimized to talk about Islamic truths, as if he were a Muslim theologian. Secondly, he approached the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even-handedly, as if the Jewish right to Israel and the Arab resistance to it have the same moral weight.

 

"For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security."

 

Within this historic speech, Obama couldn't find words to describe the attack by various Arab armies on Israel the day it was created.

He couldn't describe the terrorist attacks that followed the 1949 armistice. He omitted the growing anti-Semitism in the Arab media, the Arab schoolbooks, Arab radio and TV, in the preaching in the mosques. Twice Obama mentioned the anti-Semitic and anti-Christian Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas: "Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities.

To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist."

 

Obama didn't mention the core message of Hamas: the worldwide destruction of the Jews. Ayatollah Khomeini, the instigator of the present Islamist revolution, defined world history, the course of human events, as follows: "From the beginning, the Islamic movement has been obstructed by the Jews. They were the first who developed anti-Islamic propaganda and conspiracies. And this is still the case."

 

In other words, opposing Israel, the nation of the Jews, is the driving force of the Islamist revolution, both Sunni and Shi'ite. It is its core. It cannot exist if it would give up its ambition to erase Israel. The destruction of Israel is its ultimate goal, its fuel, its body, its nature, its direction and its destination. Only through the destruction of the cunning, conspiring, obstructing Jews the Islamist revolution can reach its goal: the resurrection of the caliphate.

 

OBAMA EXPLICITLY decided to ignore this threat, and decided to leave Israel in the cold, or better in the heat of a nuclear explosion.

This is what he said: "No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons." The president meant: Israel, a single nation, doesn't have the right to deny Iran nuclear armament. Iran, an existential threat to Israel, cannot be stopped by Israel on its own - this should be matter of the international community, according to the president.

 

Through his Cairo address Obama made an end to America's alliance with Israel that has lasted over 40 years. Israel's strategic early allies were Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and especially France, which delivered its famous delta-winged Mirage jets that gave Israel its 1967 victory in the Six Day War. In that year, America, although with a public that was sympathetic to Israel, replaced the tanks Jordan lost. The French refused to deliver new Mirage jets and America hesitated for some time to sell F-4 Phantoms to Israel.

 

AMERICA WILL now act as even-handedly to Israel as the European Union. This approach hasn't created any progress in the years since the 1993 Oslo Accords. Corrupt Palestinian leaders have transferred billions to their Swiss bank accounts and the international community wishes to look the other way. Gaza could have been a better place by now if Hamas had tried to peacefully build civil institutions. Hamas did not. Without any necessity it fired thousands of rockets at Israel. The problem is - it is Hamas's core business to oppose the Jews.

 

The EU wishes to ignore all these events and clings to the idea of a "viable Palestinian state," which is an oxymoron. The Palestinians have tribal communities and only fake having a modern civil society.

No civil institutions have been built because they are not in the interest of the leading Palestinian families.

 

The famous Jewish lobby has not been able to prevent Obama's change of direction. The truth is the lobby has always been a myth, and American Jewry, which is in majority an affluent, liberal, assimilated and only vaguely religious group, has been distancing itself more and more from Israel, which it considers right-wing, militaristic, chauvinistic, belligerent.

 

For liberal American Jews, Israel is a confusing phenomenon. They feel connected to Israel through the remembrance and legacy of the Holocaust, but they are highly politically correct and feel solidly at home on the campuses where generations of students have been brainwashed by the works written by the holy spirit of Arab studies, Edward Said. American Jewry was aware of the president's spiritual mentor in Chicago, Jeremiah Wright, a black racist and anti-Semite, and of his friendship with Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian intellectual and anti-Zionist with whom he had a strong personal relation. The Jews preferred to side with him instead of worrying about his opinions about Israel.

 

And now, after the Cairo address, they will keep standing by him and distance themselves from an Israel that produces awful pictures of bombed buildings and mutilated bodies of women and children - American Jews, at cocktail parties in the Village or the Upper West Side, prefer Israel to act proportionately and to behave as decent, civilized, upper-class Jews, not as Middle Eastern warriors. Since the 1982 massacres in Sabra and Shatila, committed by Lebanese Maronites but attributed to Israel and Ariel Sharon, liberal American Jewry went on a long journey and arrived at a historic point: just like Obama, it gave up on Israel.

 

A SMALL NATION like Israel, a single and lonely modern democracy in a part of the world in which autocracies and tyrannies are the norm, cannot survive without a strategic partnership with a major international power that is forced, by the sheer size of its interests, to play the complex fields of the Middle East. It is too soon to create a lasting bond with India, a natural ally for Israel.

India will emerge during this century as a major international power, both militarily as economically and scientifically, but it cannot give Israel yet the diplomatic and military backup it needs.

 

But there is another strategic player in the field who would welcome a partnership with Israel, especially with its cutting-edge electronic industries. Of Israel's 5.7 million Jews, more than 1 million have Russian roots. Despite the old anti-Semitism in Russia, there has been a strong melancholic bond between the two populations.

In Russia, Jews have excelled in sciences and the arts.

 

Because of its continuous counterbalancing act with America, Russia has been maintaining ties to Iran and Syria, but it needs to diversify and update its economy and reduce its dependence on oil and natural gas income. It could use scientific and commercial ingenuity, qualities Iran and Syria are not able to deliver - Israel is. And Israel could use Russia's vast resources and the determination of its leader Vladimir Putin, a smart and ruthless leader who understands the cruel rules of the international power game.

 

Obama's loyalties, and those of the majority of liberal American Jewry, don't lie with Israel. So Israel needs to shop for another ally. In his offices in the Kremlin, Putin will receive its leaders with open arms, dark bread, marinated herring and some bottles of Stoli.

 

 

Leon De Winter is one of Holland's most renowned writers and political columnists. He has published 15 books, most of them best-selling novels, which have been translated into a dozen languages. He received the prestigious Die Welt Literature Prize in 2002 and in 2006 he received the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal for Jewish-Christian Dialogue. He is an adjunct-fellow at the Hudson Institute.

 

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Sometimes it is more essential to define the nature of evil than good.

 

by Jonathan Rosenblum

Upon his first visit to one of the liberated death camps, Allied Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "There are those who ask what are we fighting for. Let them come here and see what we are fighting against." Eisenhower's remark contains an important insight: Sometimes it is more essential that one define the nature of evil than that one define what is good. About the latter, there will inevitably be many opinions. But they need not prevent a consensus from coalescing around the definition of evil.


I was reminded of that point last week as I watched
The Third Jihad, the third in a trilogy of documentaries on the threat of radical Islam produced by Raphael Shore and Wayne Kopping. Towards the end of the documentary one of the experts interviewed, former CIA intelligence officer Clare Lopez declared, "The real war is between the values of freedom and barbarism. If we are not willing to recognize the battle as one for our civilization, we might as well give up right now."


The last time the West faced such a civilizational threat, many refused to recognize the nature of the conflict. In Troublesome Young Me, Lynne Olsen offers a gripping account of the group of youthful Conservative backbenchers, who eventually ousted British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain from power and brought in Winston Churchill in his place, nearly a year after the outbreak of World War II.


England entered that war totally unprepared, and lagging far behind Germany in every respect, apart from its navy. Even after Britain proclaimed war, following the Nazi invasion of Poland, Chamberlain pursued it half-heartedly and dreamed of an imminent peace. Britain and France bombed only German military targets most narrowly defined. Meanwhile Luftwaffe pilots in Poland followed orders to "close [their] hearts to pity," happily machine-gunning women and girls picking potatoes, bombing churches and hospitals, and strafing toddlers being herded to safety.


The parallels between today and the earlier period are eerie. Chamberlain, like President Obama today, enjoyed an overwhelming majority in Parliament. His party whips enforced party discipline with an iron hand — think Rahm Emanuel — and backbenchers who stepped out of line put their political futures on the line.


In another interesting parallel, Chamberlain enjoyed almost across the board fawning support from the press and the BBC. That included self-imposed censorship on the information reaching the British public. After the Anschluss, British papers carried no pictures of the hundreds shot in the first days after the Nazi takeover, of the tens of thousands arrested and sent to concentration camps, or of Nazi soldiers forcing Jewish doctors, lawyers and professors to scrub the streets and clean toilets on their hands and knees. When reporters asked Chamberlain about such matters, he snapped at them for believing "Jewish-Communist propaganda," and that was the end of the matter.


The British press ignored both the massive German arms build-up prior to the War, and the pitiful state of British preparedness. Both before and after the conflict started, it suppressed mention or quotations from Hitler's speeches that would have conveyed a much different impression of his goals. As a British TV character tartly observed forty years later, "It is hard to censor the press when it wants to be free, but easy if it gives up its freedom voluntarily."

Chamberlain never read Mein Kampf, in which Hitler laid out in startling fashion both his future plans for the Jews and for German conquest. Far from viewing Hitler as an evil man, Chamberlain believed him to be a "gentleman," with whom he could do business. He was more than once shocked to find that Hitler had lied to him, even though that too was foreshadowed in Mein Kampf, Said future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, "He didn't believe people existed [who would] say one thing and do another. …It was pathetic, really."


Chamberlain, according to Olsen, ''could never bring himself to believe that [Hitler and Mussolini] wanted to go to war. Clinging to the security of his ignorance, he created a peace-loving image of them that defied reality." For a decade, the English and French did nothing in response to fascist aggression in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Austria, and Czechoslovakia, and precious little even in the wake of the German invasion of Poland.

France and England thereby encouraged Hitler to believe they were too weak to prevail, a judgment in which he was very nearly right. That should have taught us — but did not — that those who hope to avoid war via appeasement inevitably end up fighting later on worse terms.


At no point, did Chamberlain recognize that Hitler constituted a mortal threat to Western civilization. As a consequence, he displayed far more ruthlessness fighting those within his own party who dared challenge his policies than he did in fighting Hitler.


The inability to recognize Hitler as evil incarnate is the most frightening parallel to today. President Ronald Reagan was reviled by Western elites for calling the Soviet Union the Evil Empire, as was President George W. Bush for grouping Iran, North Korea, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq together as the Axis of Evil.


The West still remains incapable of acknowledging evil or giving credence to the pronouncements of evil men. Ayatollah Khomeini long ago made clear that he was prepared to see Iran go up "in flames," if the worldwide rule of Islam were thereby furthered. Mutual assured destruction, says Bernard Lewis, the greatest living authority on Islam, is for Ahmadinejad, "not a deterrent but an incentive." Surveying the scene in Beslan, where Chenyan Muslims killed nearly 300 Russian schoolchildren, one of the speakers on The Third Jihad puts the point succinctly: Why should those who don't hesitate to send out their own children to be killed hesitate to kill other peoples' children?


Yet the highest wisdom in the West today is to not take seriously the threats of Ahmadinejad or the speculations of the Iranian leadership about the mathematics of a nuclear exchange with Israel. They are not madmen, we are constantly told.


President Obama has no taste for confrontation with radical Islam (only with Israel). He cannot even admit that it exists. Evil, it seems, is one of the few words that does not come trippingly off his tongue.

 

Jonathan Rosenblum is founder of Jewish Media Resources and a widely-read columnist for the Jerusalem Post's domestic and international editions and for the Hebrew daily Maariv. He is also a respected commentator on Israeli politics, society, culture and the Israeli legal system, who speaks frequently on these topics in the United States, Europe, and Israel.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Good News

 

 

by Raphael Israeli

                                         

On this day of June, 2009, two little-noticed news items came to brighten the Israeli horizon and  raise a smile on the lips of many Israelis. The American State Department announced that Israel was ranked second worldwide in the battle against the trade with women; and Morgan Stanley Capital Index   has upgraded Israel’s economy from “emerging market” to “developed market”, thus admitting this tiny and  embattled country to the top league of developed nations, with a similar market weight to Denmark and Belgium, and preceding Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal and Greece.

 

These remarkable achievements, which add to the marvel of Israel  in its 61 years of existence, are all the more laudable when compared to the malaise which threatens Israel’s neighbors with backwardness, unrest, instability and poverty. Indeed, while Israel has been reaping Nobel Prizes  these past few years and developing its medical, microchip and nano-technologies, Saudi Arabia has been banning its children from their  “un-Islamic” teddy-bears, Egypt has ordered a slaughter  of its swine population to counter its swine-flu, Syria  spends its time educating for hatred and conspiring against others, the Palestinians accusing the entire world save themselves, and the Hamas and Hizbullah plotting their next terrorist act.

 

Israelis tend to be so absorbed with their  blessed self-criticism, and so preoccupied by their perennial concern for security’ in addition to the current economic crisis that they have no time to compare themselves with their neighbors, let alone with the advanced societies of the West. Those of us who travel have long ago come to the conclusion that very often even those civilized, free, advanced  and affluent societies, which we like to visit and admire, do not always compare favorably with us. Yes, there are more peaceful, like Holland or Denmark; more affluent, like the US and Canada, etc; but each one of those countries is also afflicted by enormous insoluble problems like crime, drugs, teen-age pregnancies, youth delinquency, social discrimination, poor medical coverage, cultural fatigue, socio-political exhaustion, the loss of vision and identity and of the will to fight, surrender to waves of immigrants and capitulation to multi-culturalism, and what have you.

 

We cannot find any cluster of 7 million people, anywhere in the world, which combines all the outstanding qualities which make living within the Jewish community of Israel a unique  experience. It is not only affluence, social security, personal  safety, excellent medical services, high tech,  a promising science, a good climate, dynamism and a permanent quest for improvement, freedom, democracy, cultural output, vibrant media, theater,  creative art, music, innovation, inventiveness and publishing; what distinguishes Israel from the lot, and permitted it to catapult itself to the forefront of nations within two generations, are two major attributes of the Jewish people: a sense of responsibility and an innate impulse for solidarity.

 

In the Jewish sources, far from throwing accusations on others following the disasters which were inflicted on Jews throughout history, the concept of “due to our sins we were exiled from our land” was elaborated one generation after another, impelling them to take responsibility and seek self-improvement. This is what permitted  Jews in nascent Israel to roll up their sleeves and labor, to absorb their destitute kin and advance them, to develop the land and make it flourish, and to attain so much in so little time. Palestinians, by contrast, resign themselves to their status of permanent refugees, refuse to leave the camps, cultivate delusions and day dreams, and heap all the accusations for their state on others.

 

The issue of solidarity is even more dramatic. In all nations, just like  the ancient Chinese, where a thin layer of literati created and perpetuated  Culture and provided the elites and leadership of that great empire,  a low percentage of the upper  classes is the carrier of culture, civilization, leadership, advancement and innovation, followed by the masses who share the fruits thereof. The Jews, as manifested in Israel today, as well as in their various diasporas, the numbers of concerned individuals, who care, improve themselves, share  responsibility, feel committed to the public good and  are prepared to sacrifice for their country, is unusually higher than elsewhere. All one has to do is to count the countless numbers of volunteering individuals and groups who donate money to the poor, bring solace and counsel to the sick and the elderly, collect food for the have-nots, invite the disadvantaged for holiday meals, absorb new immigrants and engage in all manner of social activities, both for Israelis and for the misfortunate in other disaster areas of the wolrd.

 

Where can one find the like of  Yad Sarah, that magnificent all-volunteer  society which provides medical implements to the sick; or the Zaka volunteer group, on call at all times, to collect the remnants of ripped apart victims of terrorism? Where else is an entire country mobilized behind its military in time of war,  the welfare of its soldiers and its prisoners and missing in combat? What other nation invests so much in rescuing its nationals who have incurred any mishap within the country and abroad? What other country provides such a shield of protective anxiety, care, concern and interest for victims of its wars, for bombarded populations or refugees from  areas touched by hostilities. Israeli citizens have given shelter to  Sudanese, Jordanian, Palestinian, Vietnamese and Bosnian refugees, whose countries have been  sometimes at war with Israel, and have generously collected funds and sent medical and physical assistance to areas destroyed by tsunamis, earthquakes, starvation and war.

 

For decades the few percentage points of kibbutz members  constituted the hardcore or Israeli pioneers, who settled desert  and border areas,  provided the command and elite of the military, and participated  as a model to emulate in the leadership of the country. Following its attrition under the weight of years and erosion, a mirror-image of that elite emerged  in the heart of Orthodox Judaism, which today fills all those positions of pioneering, settlements, military command, political and social leadership, vision and total commitment to see it implemented. Thus, in spite of the many difficulties Israeli presently experiences in the economic, social , political and security domains, we can still hold our heads raised and our hopes high, knowing that an enough number of us is engaged, committed and responsible to keep this boat afloat and to navigate it to safer shores.

 

 

Raphael Israeli is a professor of Islamic history at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem

 

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

The Scarecrow of "Occupation".

 

 

 

by Raphael Israeli

 

 

“Occupation” has become the key word in any discourse about the Middle East Conflict. Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims believe, or at least state, that all their grievances against Israel hinge on that concept, and in consequence all other nations, including those most friendly to Israel,  conclude that only the end to occupation could put an end to the dispute. Pending that result, which no one knows how to achieve, Israel has been sanctioned by everyone for “altering the status quo” in the “occupied lands” by building settlements or even maintaining the existing ones. By doing that,  Israel’s rivals are reinforced in their belief that they can oust Israel from those territories without incurring any cost themselves, and this illusion makes  a solution much more difficult to attain.

 

When things are stated in those simplistic terms, the uninformed observer would think that one day in June 1967, bored Israelis had nothing to do, and like Germans in World War II who invaded  Europe, simply marched into the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan and Sinai, to achieve their expansionist and aggressive designs. People ignore, or are ignorant of the circumstances which triggered that war which was of aggression all right, but by Egypt, Syria and Jordan, who vowed to strangulate Israel and wipe it out, and took the necessary measures and deployments of forces to bring that about. During all the previous 19 years since its independence, Israel has been on record as begging for recognition by its neighbors of the armistice borders, as the permanent  and final ones, but was utterly refused, pointing to the, in their minds, temporariness of Israel and certainly of its boundaries. The West Bank and Gaza were then under Jordanian and Egyptian rule, respectively; the Golan was undisputedly Syrian; and the Sinai Egyptian. No Israeli conquest had been made, and no territorial claim had been advanced by Israel.

 

However, the very existence of Israel was considered illegitimate by the Arabs, and it was always referred to as “Occupied Palestine”, or the “Government of Tel-Aviv”, or the “Zionist Entity”, or  So-called Israel”. These appellations are still preserved to this day by the Hamas, which won a clear majority among the Palestinians and has now taken control of all of Gaza; the Hizbullah, who has been encroaching, with Iranian backing, on the Lebanese fragile state structure; the Syrians , who insist on  a guaranteed withdrawal  of Israel from the Golan before they have even opened any negotiations; and any other Arab or Muslim monarch or tyrant, who themselves lack  legitimacy for their  dictatorial rule. All this means that “occupation” was never invoked when the West Bank was occupied by Jordan, or Gaza by the Egyptians, or various Arab and Muslim territories  by a variety of illegitimate rulers that no one chose. This also means, that “occupation” has been no more than a weapon of propaganda against Israel, and a whip in the hands of other nations to castigate Israel and pressure it to ply to their interest.

 

“Occupation” needs to be put between quotation marks, at least as regards the West Bank, because on that day of June 1967 it was Jordan who joined the Egyptians and Syrians and opened up with its artillery on its entire 700-mile border with Israel. In Jerusalem, which was divided between Israel and Jordan, King Hussein’s Arab Legion launched an infantry and armor attack on  Government House, the HQ of the UN in Jerusalem which lay in the Demilitarized zone between the parties. In reaction, Israel pleaded with the UN for the respect of the armistice, pledging that it had no design against Jordanian territory. When in answer Jordanian artillery intensified its cataract of shells along the entire West side of Jerusalem, including the Israeli Parliament, the order was sent to the IDF to neutralize that fire. It could only be done by moving into Arab territory and taking positions in it, to ensure that no hostile fire could  originate from there. What else could be done? After that war, and when  the Arab Khartum Conference in 1968 vowed that it would neither talk to Israel nor recognize it nor make peace with it, it sounded off a declaration of continued hostility, hence the necessity for Israel to maintain its domination of the territory until a permanent peaceful arrangement is found.

Since then, not much has changed. Those who made peace with Israel, like Egypt (1979), got their territory back to the last inch. Jordan, who also made peace (1994), had renounced it’s claim to the West Bank (1988), something which left Israel alone to deal  the Palestinians, who had no initial claim to that land since they had never maintained any sovereignty there. To this day, they have refused to assure Israel of their peaceful intents: in the Oslo Accords (1993) they pledged to put an end to terrorism, but they waged a more intense wave of terror against Israel  than ever before; in 2000, Arafat refused to sign the finality of the conflict with Israel even as Israel was prepared to evacuate 97% of the West Bank; in 2005 Israel unilaterally (and foolishly) evacuated the entire Gaza Strip, including its two-score settlements and 8,000 productive farmers, which the Palestinians turned into a wasteland and a base for their rocket and missile bombardment of Israel. “Moderate” Abu Mazan, who lost his grip in Gaza to the Hamas, and without Israeli protection would have similarly failed in the West Bank, is assuring Israel and his constituency that he will never recognize the Jewishness of Israel, nor would he abandon the “right of return” for his perennial refugees. This puts in doubt his peaceful intentions, totters the link between “occupation” and the lack of peace; and gives no incentive to the Israelis to relinquish their hold on the territories, even if it is dubbed “occupation” by others.

 

Yes, there is the issue of Israeli settlements in those territories. Had the Arabs agreed to make peace during the initial years after 1967, there would have been no Israeli settlements anywhere. But the negative reactions Israel got in those years on the one hand, and its demographic inability to maintain a large military presence on a permanent basis in those territories on the other, produced the necessity of applying there the long-tested model of military outposts, where young people settled and defended their new villages, eventually establishing family and becoming regular settlements. That had happened in Sinai and the Gaza Strip too, before the ideology of “settling the land of Israel” took over. Yet, if those areas had remained unsettled, what incentive would the Arabs have to deviate from the Khartum negativism, knowing that sooner or later Israel would withdraw? In both cases, it was the recognition by Sadat and Arafat  that if they waited much longer their territories would be lost for ever, which brought them to the negotiating table. But while Sadat followed the demarche through, Arafat stalled and his successors do not seem to do much better.

 

Thus, besides the legal question, which is still disputed, regarding the respective rights of the Palestinians and the Israelis on the West Bank (about Gaza it is now too late to haggle, except in a theoretical context); and the moral question of whether an aggressor (Jordanians  and Palestinians in 1967) should be rewarded by emerging unscathed from the war and the losses  it occasioned; if they should retrieve all their claimed  territory, the implications of an Israeli end to “occupation” should be put on the international agenda. The foremost lesson Israel has learned is that any territory it evacuated so far has became a base of terror against it;  secondly that the Palestinians are unable to govern themselves for now, therefore unable (even if willing) to gain legitimacy in a single elected government, to clean up bases of terror, to monopolize arms by one central government and to put an end to propaganda and education to hatred; and thirdly to accept to renounce their illusive “right of return” and recognize Israel as Jewish. All the rest is negotiable, but until there is an agreement, the claim of “occupation” remains redundant, irrelevant and counter productive. In Oslo II, Arafat himself recognized that situation when he agreed that area C would remain under  total Israeli control until a final status is  consented by the parties.

 

 

Raphael Israeli is a professor of Islamic history at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem

 

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

 

Is the Military Bulwark against Islamism Collapsing? Part I

 

by David Bukay

 

1st part of 2

 

The Military in Politics

In 1975, Freedom House ranked only 25 percent of the world's countries to be "politically free." Three decades later, the proportion had increased to 46 percent, with 122 electoral democracies.[1] Democracy may have taken root in Eastern Europe, East Asia, Latin America, and much of sub-Saharan Africa, but the Middle East has largely been left behind. Except for Israel, Middle Eastern countries have long histories of authoritarianism, influenced by both culture and religion. In modern years, this has manifested itself in the rise, if not of direct military rule, then of states supported by militaries focused more on inward threats than on external enemies. Middle Eastern militaries, whether in Algeria, Egypt, or Turkey, have served as the main bulwark against the spread or empowerment of Islamists. However, Western policymakers must prepare for the day that the regional militaries will switch sides, casting their lot with Islamists rather than more secular autocrats.

 

Background

Beginning in the 1960s, many academics analyzed how Asian and African states changed from traditional societies to modern, developed nation-states.[2] Other scholars focused on the nature of control and political survival in these new states.[3] In the Middle East, during this period, the military became the predominant power within emerging nation-states. First in Turkey, then in Iran and Egypt, and later in Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, military leaders seized power and established or abolished monarchies. Military leaders also retained predominant power in Syria, Algeria, and Tunisia. In Jordan and the Persian Gulf emirates, more traditional leaders survived only by forging close ties with the military and establishing vast security services.

In some countries, the military coexisted with traditional Islam and even Islamists. During the Cold War, in Saudi Arabia and Iran, Islam was seen as a force resistant to communism. Indeed, while demands for U.S. apologies for the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq are now a staple of the Islamic Republic, the irony is that Iranian Islamists and the Central Intelligence Agency found themselves sharing opposition to the populist premier because of his closeness to the Iranian communist party. So long as extremists—the Muslim Brotherhood or Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's followers, for example—were contained, Islam was a positive, non-threatening force. With time, however, Islam grew to threaten military stability and rule. The ramifications of this shift in power politics are great.

After World War I, Arab leaders created nation states alongside British and French mandates. This process was gradual and came at the expense of the pan-Islamic alternative. Pan-Arabism grew to become the dominant ideology even as Arab leaders divided Arab-speaking areas into separate countries. Almost a century later, pan-Arabism is on life-support, paid lip service to only at Arab League meetings and among some intellectuals and artists. A similar rise in Islamist sentiment has come at the expense of ethnic identity in Turkey, Pakistan, and Somalia. For the masses, Islamism is simply more attractive. In Algeria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, Islamist movements continue to threaten regime survival as these states rely increasingly on the military or, in Somalia's case, militias, to prevent an Islamist takeover.

 

Political Development in the Middle East

In Arab countries today, the "street" has little political significance. Whereas the nation-state was alien to Middle Eastern political culture, authoritarian regimes and patrimonial leadership have long been part of the regional heritage, in which religion demanded submission to God and the leaders who claimed to be his representatives on earth; culture demanded similar submission to tribal and political leaders.

Patrimonialism makes authoritarian regimes resistant to democratic reform.[4] Many political leaders today thrive on personality cults. In most Arab countries, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Iran, ordinary citizens feel compelled to display portraits of national leaders in schools, offices, and sometimes even private homes. In Turkey, the same phenomenon occurs with the Atatürk cult. As they developed, Arab states became marked by political corruption, a high level of army involvement in shaping and managing policy, weak political institutions, a lack of democratization, and an absence of formal decision-making institutions. Together, these led to arbitrary, centralized government leadership and a maximization of the role of the military in politics that placed them almost in hierarchical command.[5]

There may be constitutions, political parties, and parliaments, but these are insignificant and often lack influence. In Tunisia, for example, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali defeated two opponents in October 2004 elections with 94.5 percent of the votes cast. Likewise, in the September 2005 Egyptian elections, Hosni Mubarak defeated his two main opponents, Al-Ghad party leader Ayman Nour and New Wafd party leader, Nu'man Guma'a, winning 88.6 percent of the vote.

 

The Rise of the Military

Throughout Islamic history, prominent heroes have come from the military. Squares, buildings, and universities are still named after the twelfth-century Kurdish warrior Salah ad-din al-Ayyubi (Saladin). Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser may have been a dictator, but he did enjoy popular appeal. So, too, did Syrian president Hafiz al-Assad and Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Today, however, the heroes of the masses are often Islamic leaders. Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini captured the imagination of the Third World. After the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, polls suggested that Hezbollah secretary-general Hasan Nasrallah was among the most admired Arab political leaders.[6] If, through most of the twentieth century, the dominant political trend in the Middle East involved the waning of the traditional tribal elite and their replacement by the military, in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the defining trend appears to be the replacement of authoritarian military leaders like Egyptian president Mubarak by Muslim movements.

In many countries, the military provides a bulwark against unconstrained Islamism. Indonesian president Muhammad Suharto used the military and an iron fist to constrain Islamist movements in the world's most populous Muslim country.[7] In Turkey, the military has long served as the guarantor of the constitutional separation of mosque and state, stepping in most recently in 1997, suspicious of the agenda of Islamist prime minister Necmettin Erbakan. In Syria, the military protects a relatively secular and minority 'Alawi regime against a majority Sunni population susceptible to Islamist populism. When the Muslim Brotherhood grew too vocal and active in Syria, President Hafiz al-Assad ordered his army to raze its stronghold in Hama, killing perhaps 20,000 civilians. After Islamists won the 1991 elections in Algeria and, as is often forgotten, promised to change the constitution to prevent future polls, the Algerian army intervened. H. Osman Bencherif, the Algerian ambassador to the United States later explained, "It was the lesser of two evils: Democratic principles would be violated by cancelling the second round just as they would be seriously threatened by a theocratic, authoritarian, Islamist takeover. The army took a difficult step, but one that saved Algeria from an even worse fate."[8] A new study by Steven Cook confirms the connection between the military establishment and the stability of the regime.[9] Conversely in Lebanon, where the military is weak, Hezbollah has constrained political development as it tries to impose Shi'i norms and a radical foreign policy onto Lebanese society.

 

What If Middle Eastern Militaries Switch Sides?

Islamism seeks to replace the modern mechanisms of state with an Islamic social and cultural framework. In some cases, the military either declares its neutrality or joins with the Islamists to topple the secular order. This happened most clearly in Iran where the army's declaration of neutrality enabled the triumphal return of Khomeini in February 1979, and also in Sudan when, in June 1989, Hasan 'Abdullah at-Turabi's National Islamic Front cooperated with the military to take over the regime. After the Egyptian army defeated the active Islamic insurgency in the late 1990s, the Egyptian government moved to co-opt many of the Muslim Brotherhood's potential recruits by Islamizing education and society.[10] While many commentators persist in describing the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Fatah as secular, especially in juxtaposition to Hamas, the fact is that the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat Islamized Fatah through the 1990s.[11]

Since the 1960s, the Pakistani military has allied itself with Islamists. Pakistan was founded nominally on the basis of religion, but the country's founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was more secular than religious in orientation. Pakistan is an ethnically diverse country, and first Pushtun nationalism—manifested in the Pushtunistan struggle of the 1950s and 1960s—and then Bangladesh's secession in 1971 spurred the Pakistani leadership to promote Islam as an antidote to ethnic nationalism. Indeed, this was the major motivation behind Islamabad's support for the Taliban.[12] In recent years, the Pakistani government has struck deals with the Taliban in both North Waziristan and Swat.[13]

While the Syrian government defeated an Islamist insurgency in the 1980s, and the Egyptian and Algerian governments defeated Islamist insurgencies in the 1990s, the chance for a secular regime to emerge victorious today is not as certain.

Turkey provides a troubling example. The Turkish military long served as the defender both of Turkish secularism and democracy.[14] But, as part of the European Union accession process, Turkey's Grand National Assembly passed a reform package that loosened the power of the military in the domestic political sphere by, for example, placing the country's powerful National Security Council under civilian control.[15] With the military no longer in a position to protect secularism, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has moved to consolidate Islamist control, not only in political circles, but over ministry bureaucracies, the educational system, and the media.[16] Should the Turkish government decide to abandon the European Union accession process—and its commitment appears to be wavering—then it will already have succeeded in marginalizing the one force that would prevent it from casting aside Kemalism for an Islamist state.

David Bukay

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

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