Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why Are Egypt's 'Liberals' Anti-Semitic?


by Amr Bargisi and Samuel Tadros

As recently as the 1930s, Jews held ministerial posts in the country.

Cairo

Today Egypt will play host to the 56th Congress of Liberal International (LI), which bills itself as the world federation of liberal and progressive democratic parties. Among the nearly 70 parties represented by LI are Britain's Liberal Democrats, Germany's Free Democrats and the Liberal Party of Canada. In the U.S., LI's Web site cites the National Democratic Institute as a cooperating organization since 1986.

In Cairo, the visiting delegates will be hosted by the Al-Gabha, or Democratic Front Party (DFP). Western liberals (in the old-fashioned sense of that word) are always delighted to discover like-minded people in the Third World, and perhaps nowhere more so than in Arab countries. Yet, at least in Egypt, there's a dirty little secret about these self-described liberal parties: They are, for the most part, virulently anti-Semitic.

Consider the case of Sekina Fouad, a well-known journalist who also serves as the DFP's vice president. In an article published earlier this year, Ms. Fouad dismisses any distinction between Jews and Israelis, the reason for which is "the extremity of the doctrine of arrogance, distinctiveness and condescension [the Jews] set out from and seek to achieve by all means, and on top of which blood, killing, terrorizing and frightening."

She corroborates this argument with an alleged statement by "President" Benjamin Franklin, asking Americans to expel Jews since they are "like locusts, never to get on a green land without leaving it deserted and barren." Needless to say, Franklin never made any such statement.

Nor is Ms. Fouad some kind of outlier. Take Ayman Nour, who contested the 2005 presidential election under the banner of his own party and was subsequently jailed for nearly four years.

Immediately after his release earlier this year, he attended a celebration organized by opposition groups—including the Muslim Brotherhood—in the northern city of Port Said, commemorating "the first battalion of volunteers from the Egyptian People setting off to fight the Jews in 1948." The word "Jews" was stressed in bolded black lettering on the otherwise blue and red banner hanging above the conference panel. Yet far from trying to distance himself from that message, Mr. Nour got into the spirit of the conference, talking about "the value of standing up to this enemy, behind which lies all evils, conspiracies and threats that are spawned against Egypt."

Then there is the case of Egypt's oldest "liberal" party, Al-Wafd, whose eponymous daily newspaper is one of Egypt's most active platforms for anti-Semitism. Following President Obama's conciliatory Cairo speech to the Muslim world, columnist Ahmed Ezz El-Arab faulted Mr. Obama for insisting that the Holocaust was an actual historical event.

These examples are, sadly, just the tip of an iceberg. What makes them all the more remarkable is that, contrary to stereotype, they do not have particularly ancient roots in Egypt. Until Egypt's Jews were expelled by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and '60s, Egypt had a millennia-old, thriving Jewish community. As late as the 1930s, Jewish politicians occupied ministerial posts in Egyptian governments and participated in nationalist politics.

But all that changed with the rise of totalitarian and fascist movements in Europe, which found more than their share of imitators in the Arab world. When Egypt's monarchy was overthrown in 1952 by a military coup, anti-Semitism became an ideological pillar of the new totalitarian dispensation.

Since then, Egypt has evolved, coming to terms (of a sort) with Israel and adopting some market-based economic principles. But anti-Semitism remains the glue holding Egypt's disparate political forces together. This is especially true of the so-called liberals, who think they can traffic on their anti-Semitism to gain favor in quarters where they would otherwise be suspect.

Westerners, who tend to treat Arabs with a condescension masked as "understanding," may be quick to dismiss all this as a function of anger at Israeli policies and therefore irrelevant to the development of liberal politics in the Arab world. Yet a liberal movement that winds up espousing the kind of anti-Semitism that would have done the Nazis proud is, quite simply, not liberal.


Messrs. Bargisi and Tadros are senior partners with the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth.

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

 

Friday, October 30, 2009

Amid slumping popularity, Hamas boycott call over elections suggests Israeli Gaza policy may be working.


by Robin Shepherd

Cast your mind back to January of this year. Remember all those slogans and banners saying: "We are all Hamas now"? Remember all those BBC reports whose subtext was always that Operation Cast Lead could only succeed in stirring up the hornets' nest? It's the familiar narrative, of course: radicalisation is the product of oppression and occupation; the siege can only produce a siege mentality; Hamas can only benefit from Israel's attempts to root them out. Talks not bombs are the solution.

 

Well, it doesn't seem to have quite panned out that way. Hamas announced yesterday that it would forbid the people of Gaza from participating in elections announced for January in the Palestinian territories by Mahmoud Abbas. It seems that popular support for the Islamist terror group has collapsed since Cast Lead to the extent that Hamas would face a rout if elections were held any time soon. That doesn't quite fit with the narrative, does it?

In reality, opinion polls (barely reported in the western media of course) have been showing for some time that ordinary Palestinians in the Gaza strip are somewhat less forgiving of Hamas than many of its western apologists.

As far back as February, a poll from the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion showed that support for Hamas in Gaza had fallen to 28 percent from 52 percent the previous November.

A poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center this month put support for Hamas at just 18.7 percent in the West Bank and Gaza compared with 40 percent for Fatah. Polling for Gaza alone put support for Hamas at 24 percent as against 43 percent for Fatah (see link below).

If the polls are accurate and if Hamas is as frightened of facing its electorate as it appears to be, this represents a pretty devastating blow to the critics of Israel's Gaza policies.

Of course, no one but a fool would suggest that this all means Hamas is on the way out. It is quite capable of ruling without popular consent, and there is always the danger that it could trigger a new wave of attacks on Israel to deflect attention from its failings.

The point is, however, that we now have pretty convincing evidence that the Gaza campaign (and the ongoing sanctions regime) did not constitute the exercise in futility that western critics have been so quick to characterise it as.

 

The war against terror is a long war. There may be no such thing as a total victory. But sustained pressure can yield results.

I really wonder whether this interpretation is one you are likely to be hearing as you turn to the mainstream media for news and analysis in the weeks and months ahead. Care to place any bets?

To see the full breakdown of Palestinian opinion on a range of issues, see the second of the above mentioned polls here:

http://www.jmcc.org/publicpoll/results/2009/69_oct_english.pdf

 

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

 

Hezbollah and the new regional reality.


by Firas Maksad and Anthony Elghossain

The bombing of the Marine barracks at Beirut Airport some 26 years ago by a suicide truck bomber killed 241 US servicemen and led to an American withdrawal from Lebanon, where it had sent soldiers to establish some sort of peace, eight years into the country's complicated civil war. While the bombing forced an eventual American withdrawal and once again changed the course of the conflict, it can be argued that it was also the opening salvo in Iran's fight for hegemony in the Middle East, a battle that is very much raging today.

In ushering in a new era of war against the United States, the bombing, for which the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has long been blamed, helped cultivate the notion that state-supported militant groups could harass the United States into retreating from a robust tradition of foreign policy adventures in the region. Over the past quarter-century, the Islamic Republic has built a forward operating base in Lebanon (through its local proxy, Hezbollah), an alliance with Syria, and considerable influence in Iraq to complement its domineering presence in the Persian Gulf.

Iran's current nuclear program must be understood as part of this broader challenge to the United States and the existing order in the Middle East. From the ashes of the Marine barracks, Iran and Syria have nurtured Hezbollah from a rag-tag militia into a formidable army-cum-pseudo-state. It is Hezbollah's entrenchment that has altered the region's strategic calculus and which best reflects how Iran perceives the conflict.


A new regional reality

First, Hezbollah will ultimately serve as Iran's advance guard in a regional confrontation. The Party of God already demonstrated its military capacity in 2006 by fighting Israel to a standstill and retains a network of operatives in Latin America, West Africa, and the United States itself.

Second, at a deeper level, Hezbollah is a manifestation of Iranian ideology and a franchise of the Iranian Revolution. The concept of Hezbollah as a disciplined, determined and zealous organization has electrified the region and has helped Iran create an arc of influence from the Persian Gulf to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Iranian largesse and Syrian facilitation have allowed Hezbollah to build schools, hospitals and utilities as well as rebuild neighborhoods destroyed by Israel. In the same vein, Iranian military support and ideological guidance have helped Hezbollah defy Israel and irritate Sunni or moderate (read pro-western) regimes in the region.

Thus, while the authoritarian regimes in Tehran and Damascus have failed to provide their people with the level of prosperity and freedom they would have liked, Hezbollah has, by and large, made a decent stab at providing for its constituents both through its social services and its largesse. Thus the Party of God is far more than a tactical nuisance - it strives to be an existential alternative for the people of the Middle East.


What to do

And so today, it can be argued that Iran is winning right where the battle began 26 years ago on the Beirut airport road. The United States must respond at every level, doing for the Lebanese state and its other allies what Iran has done for Hezbollah and Hamas.

For starters, the United States must maintain its post-Cedar Revolution economic and diplomatic support for Lebanon, such as the $67.5 million allocated by USAID's 2009 budget for Lebanon. Similarly, the US should support Lebanon's pending accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and provide assistance to related reform efforts as well as military aid to bolster Lebanon's woefully feeble army. The latter will go a long way in convincing those Lebanese who support Hezbollah's armed presence as long as the national army is weak that statehood can only come with genuine state institutions.

Yet, while America should continue its support for Lebanon, it cannot end there. To protect progress, Washington must adopt a firm stance against rejectionists in Tehran and Damascus. The problem is the regimes themselves; engagement, sanctions, or war will not change their world-view overnight.

The U.S. must pursue a policy of active containment to exhaust such regimes in the long term and prevent them from violating clear and enforceable "red lines" in the short term. When engagement stalls, targeted financial and economic sanctions should follow. Congress must legislate, and presidents must implement, sanctions to discourage Syria and Iran from milking new administrations for concessions while the clock ticks out every four years.

At the same time the U.S. should make clear that it will intensify sanctions and diplomatically isolate the Assad regime if Syria continues to support insurgents in Iraq and militias in Lebanon. Washington should also, subject to reliable intelligence and the advice of the military command, establish a time horizon beyond which it would adopt a more robust policy, including a military option, if Iran refuses to cease its nuclear program and submit to IAEA inspections.

There is no need to stir the pot now. Engagement may bear fruit. Nevertheless, the Marine barracks bombing on October 23, 1983 should serve as a lesson in vigilance. All too often, to paraphrase a Marine who survived the attack, the United States is "caught with its pants down." Best it not happen again.


Firas Maksad is a Middle East analyst. Anthony Elghossain is a former journalist for Lebanon's The Daily Star and a J.D. candidate at The George Washington University Law School.

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

 

The Heritage of Article VIII of the Armistice Agreement of 1949 , on Current Israelo-Palestinian Affairs.

 

by Raphael Israeli

 

There something unseemly in comparing religious attitudes  between two political entities which are not equal. Israel is a state and democracy, with a code of laws protecting religions and religious freedom, with a strong and independent judiciary which can enforce its verdict in the respect of law; while the Palestinians are still struggling for a state, are divided between Hamas and the PLO in two separate entities: The West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They are fighting each other violently, have no respect for each other’s laws, and both have a poor record of law-abiding, both internally and externally. Depending on which of them will eventually emerge as the sovereign, we can expect a vast difference in the attitudes towards religion and religious freedoms, and certainly in their respective conduct towards others’ religious believes and practices.

 

            These matters are not totally novel and they preceded the Palestinian national  awakening which was championed and brought to its climax by Chairman Yasser Arafat in the 1960s until his death in the 2000s. In fact, when the 1948 War raged, one of its focal points was Jerusalem, which was already then celebrated for its holy places, that were sure to be contended by the parties. For King Abdallah I of Jordan , it was a question of  prestige to rule the Muslim holy places of Jerusalem, after his father had been expelled by the Saudi House from the HIjaz where the foremost Islamic shrines are located. For the Jews, TheTemple Mount, the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, and other sites,  could not just be renounced  in accordance with the cease-fire lines which left most of them in Jordanian-controlled territory.

 

Therefore, in the Armistice Agreement signed in Rhodes, in April 1949, between Israel and Jordan at the end of that war, a special clause (Article VIII) was introduced, which gave the right in principle to Israel to access its holy and humanitarian institutions left in East Jerusalem (like Hebrew University and the Hadassah Hospital), but the practical arrangements were left to the Armistice Commission to work out. After long debates in the Commission, in which this author took part, the Jordanians came to the conclusion that apart from the bi-weekly convoys to Mt-Scopus, to ensure the maintenance of Israeli institutions there, no access for Israel could be worked out, nor could those institutions continue to operate, even though they were open to Arab users too. The Jordanians simply refused to implement that clause, the UN and the Powers were impotent to redress the situation, and Israel which was too exhausted from war, was not inclined to launched a new war to enforce the agreement.

 

In one stroke the situation was reversed in 1967, when as a result of a Jordanian  attack along its entire border with Israel, in the hope of conquering the rest of Jerusalem, when assured by Nasser that he was winning the War, Israel counter-attacked, and within days broke the siege of the Jewish holy places, cancelled the armistice regime which was not applied anyway, and  rebuilt its institutions in east Jerusalem which were reopened for use. Nevertheless, out of a foolish and naïve believe in fair sharing of the holy places which were sanctified by both religions, it left the Temple Mount  to the control of the Muslim Waqf, while Jews were permitted to access to the Wailing Wall and its plaza. Israel also passed a law which guaranteed free access to all religions in Jerusalem to their holy places and guaranteed the freedom of worship therein.

 

But reality began to knock at the doors and undo the good intentions. The Palestinians, to this very day, continue to deny any historical link and religious attitude between the Jews and Temple Mount, where there twice destroyed Temple had stood millennia ago. They still claim exclusivity to the site and recognize no right to the Jews to access there. They have even been destroying Jewish relics on the site, to preempt any archaeological findings which might prove Israel’s claims. Had Israel instituted there, like in Hebron, a sharing in time and space of the use of those shrines, things may have been settled and the parties made to yield to the new realities. But since Israel yielded unilaterally, the Arabs saw that as a confirmation of their exclusivist approach, and continued to claim their sole right to the place. And so it ended up that the Israelis, who tried to be fair and civilized by advocating sharing, were excluded, and the Arabs who claimed exclusivity and refused to recognize the rights of others, are affirming their hold on the place, as if they were right by possession.

 

Other Palestinian practices are not any more encouraging. In the Oslo Accords, Israel consented to withdraw from some territories and submit them to PLO rules. The Jewish holy places relinquished on that occasion, were supposed to be freely accessed by the Israelis and protected by the Palestinian Authority with weapons handed to them by the, once again foolish, and naïve Israelis. The lessons of VIII were not learned. Indeed, when the Intifada broke out, in 1987 and then again in 2000, the Jewish sites under Palestinian rule were the first to be sacked and burned : Rachel’s Tomb on the road to Bethlehem, Joseph’s  Tomb in Nablus, and the Jewish synagogue in Jericho. And the weapons given to the Palestinian police were turned against Israel and caused it casualties. No equivalent ravage were carried out anywhere against Palestinian sights, which continued to be guarded by Israeli police. Only Israeli worshippers were banned from Temple Mount where there was a fear of tensions, never Muslim worshippers. Certainly, certain groups of Muslims were also banned on those occasions, and that is in itself a violation of the freedom of worship, but when a severe  breakdown of public order was threatened, with the attending loss of lives, limitations (not ban) of certain trouble makers on the Muslim side were thought preferable to a total closure of the place. For the Israeli side, total ban was more often adopted, because it was more easily enforceable and supervised by the Israeli court system.

 

So, after those two dismal failures of counting on signed agreements, the specter of that unfortunate Article VIII is still hovering over our heads. In any future agreement with the Palestinians, they cannot be entrusted to ensure any freedom of religion, neither in principle (due to their denial of others’ rights), nor certainly in practice, after the ravages of the Intifada’s against Jewish holy sites. It is to be hoped that next time around, Jewish holy places are left to exclusive Israeli supervision. Under Israel, freedom of worship (with some limitations for public order) is much more likely to be preserved than under any Palestinians, even if it is the “moderate” PLO, and much more so under a Hamas regime, which evinces intolerance towards its own people.

 

 

Raphael Israeli teaches Middle East at Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

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

 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Containment of a Nuclear Iran: Sounds good but it's a risky and possibly losing strategy.


by Barry Rubin

It is truly disconcerting (a fancy word for scary) to see that those charged with the protection of the West, democracy, and the world are so resolutely barking up the wrong tree. In this case, this involves the U.S. strategy toward Iran nuclear weapons.

The short-term goal—whether it is being implemented well enough is another matter entirely—is to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. If this fails, however, the United States discards any military response and goes to containment.

Containment means that the United States would strengthen missile defenses in Europe, which is nice but will have no actual effect on any real-world situation. The second and more important policy would be to strengthen relations with Gulf states, notably Saudi Arabia, threatened by Iran's possession of nuclear weapons.

A typical defense of containment comes from General John Abizaid who commanded U.S. forces in the Middle East between 2003 and 2007. Iran, he explained, would make rational judgments. "The historical evidence would suggest that Iran is not a suicide state. So it's my military belief that Iran can be deterred."

There are three problems with this overall strategy.

First, for containment of Iran to work, the United States must have credibility with both allies and enemies. That means the Iranian regime has to believe that any use of nuclear weapons or aggression will bring a full-scale American military response including even the use of nuclear weapons. Does a government led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believe that about a government led by President Barack Obama given everything it has done or said? The answer seems closer to "no" than to "yes."

Equally important, the Gulf Arab states must believe—and believe it very very firmly—that the United States is going to be reliable as a protector. Can the Saudis and the others hold that view of Obama's administration? Remember that it doesn't matter how many speeches Obama makes about how he loves Arabs, Islam is great, and he cares a lot about the Palestinians. They don't want to know that he will apologize; they want to know he will fight.

Which is why one Arab from a Gulf state remarked privately: We don't want Obama to act like an Arab. We want him to act like an American.

Faced with the choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, Gulf Arabs are going to hedge their bets and hedge them heavily with appeasement. They will reduce cooperation with America while simultaneously demanding it will protect them. They won't do anything to offend Iran, including any real steps toward peace with Israel.

The second problem related directly to Abizaid's statement. Yes, on balance it seems more likely than not that Iran is not a suicide state, but would you bet your life on it? The statement is equally true that the Iranian regime will be by far the closest thing to a non-rational state of any major power during the last 60 years. If any country in the world today is a suicide state it's Iran—though Libya and North Korea are in contention.

What Abizaid expresses is at best a greater likelihood and most likely a hope rather than a firmly established proposition. And of course the Tehran regime may think it has found a way around the "suicide" problem, say by providing weapons of mass destruction to a terrorist group. In addition, given the highly factional nature of Iran's regime, a specific group within the overall structure might be ready to take greater risks.

Remember that the nuclear weapons will be controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the most fanatical of the fanatical and those responsible for maintaining liaison with terrorist groups. And who is the top man? The Iranian minister of defense, that's who, and he also happens to be a wanted terrorist in his own right.

So this arrangement is far less secure than U.S. policymakers are pretending. You can literally see the inner workings of their brains: Iran is rational; balance of terror will work; American credibility is great. Hey, no problem! Wrong.

Third, and perhaps ultimately most important, Iran's increased power in having nuclear weapons will not consist merely of firing them off. The mere possession of such weapons will bring Arab and European appeasement to hitherto unprecedented heights.

Moreover, the picture of Iran as a great power before which the rest of the non-Muslim world trembles will be a massive recruiting incentive for Islamists, both pro- and anti-Iran ones throughout the Middle East and Europe. The level of internal instability in each Arab state will rise, while terrorism would probably go up in Europe as well. Iran would be seen as the wave of the future by hundreds of thousands of Muslims, a bandwagon onto which they would want to jump.

To pretend then that Iran's possession of nuclear weapons will be neutralized by U.S. guarantees to Gulf Arab states is a fantasy.

After all, this line of reasoning would have you believe as follows: Iran never intends to use nuclear weapons any way but U.S. containment would prevent them from using these weapons. But the Iranian regime knows all of this already, so why is it spending huge amounts of money, stupendous political capital, and at the greatest costs. Why?

It's true that part of the rationale is defensive, to ensure that the United States (which has no intention of doing so any way) doesn't attack. Yet a large part of the reasoning to make such a risky choice is the idea that having nuclear weapons will make Iran a far more powerful player in the region, able to project its influence better. That's the main aspect and will take effect even if there is an effort at containment.

In addition, perhaps extremist fanaticism, or pure miscalculation, or a small crazed faction would lead to nuclear war in the Middle East and massive deaths. If anyone is capable of getting into a nuclear war by such means, it's Iran's government.

That's why it is so important to stop Iran from ever obtaining nuclear weapons. If this does happen, as appears likely, the entire regional picture will change and it will require a lot more than assurances to Gulf Arab states to keep the situation from eroding further.

 

 

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

 

The Unfinished War.


by Jonathan Spyer

The explosion in the south Lebanese village of Tayr Felseir offers the latest evidence of the way in which Hizbullah is rebuilding its infrastructure following the Second Lebanon War in 2006. In the pre-2006 period, Hizbullah maintained its military infrastructure in open countryside areas often declared off-limits to all but the movement's personnel. The rebuilt infrastructure, by contrast, has been constructed within the fabric of civilian life in south Lebanon. This process has taken place largely undisturbed by the Lebanese and UN military personnel conspicuously deployed throughout the south.

Just over a year ago, The Jerusalem Post described some of the methods used by Hizbullah in building its new infrastructure. Fortifications were being constructed in private homes whose owners had left the south for the Beirut area. The owners were offered friendly advice not to inquire too closely regarding the alterations. Evidence suggests that this and similar practices have continued apace.

Hizbullah's decision to make use of populated areas is primarily a result of the increased presence of UNIFIL and LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces) personnel in the area south of the Litani River, a presence which was enforced under the terms of UN Resolution 1701. Of course, the movement has made use of civilian-populated areas in the past. During the 2006 war, Hizbullah often launched Katyushas from villages (generally non-Shi'ite ones). But the placing of arms caches and permanent positions within residential areas has served to render the renewed military infrastructure largely off-limits to international inspection. Past experience indicates that the embarrassing publicity deriving from the Tayr Felsair explosion is unlikely to alter this picture.

This week's explosion was not the first time in recent months that Hizbullah ordnance has accidentally detonated in south Lebanon. On July 14, a series of large explosions took place in the village of Khirbet Silm. The events that followed and the UNIFIL investigation into the explosions show the extent to which both the international forces and the Lebanese Army are adopting a "live and let live" attitude to Hizbullah's preparations for the next war.

At the time, Hizbullah actions in Khirbet Silm followed a similar pattern to those observed on Monday in Tayr Felsair. First, Hizbullah agents removed the evidence. As this was being done, a number of "outraged residents" from the area held demonstrations to prevent UNIFIL troops from inspecting the scene. Peacekeepers eventually conducted their investigation, and concluded that the site at Khirbet Silm contained large quantities of 107 mm.

Katyusha rockets, heavy machine gun rounds and mortar tubes of a type used by Hizbullah.

Investigators from the international force also discovered that the site had been permanently guarded by Hizbullah personnel. They recorded that all this constituted a "serious violation" of Resolution 1701.

Beyond this declaration, the investigation has had no discernible result. No one was ever named, much less held accountable. Nor did UNIFIL's modus operandi change to take into account the likelihood that if there was an arms depot in Khirbet Silm it probably wasn't the only one.

UNIFIL REMAINS deployed mainly in unpopulated areas. It enters Shi'ite villages only with an escort of Lebanese army personnel. Its vehicle and air patrols, taking place along recognized patrol paths and in rural areas, have produced some tangible results in terms of discovering unused bunkers and old munitions. But the international force, which maintains no independent checkpoints, does its best to stay out of the way of Hizbullah and the civilian population.

Except for cases where there are obvious signs pointing to the presence of ordnance - such as when a large explosion occurs - UNIFIL simply prefers not to act on the evidence. And there is no indication that the latest explosion at Tayr Falseir will change this situation. Rather, it is more likely that UNIFIL's investigation will be rapidly forgotten and the results quietly filed away as the media moves on.

Even more problematic is the role being played by the LAF. The Lebanese army and UNIFIL were prevented from entering the house in Tayr Falseir immediately following the explosion. Once LAF representatives were permitted to enter, they swiftly endorsed Hizbullah's version of events.

The Lebanese army, which is much more visible on the ground than UNIFIL, undoubtedly has a far better sense of what is really going on. The problem with the LAF becoming an obstacle to Hizbullah rearming and reorganizing itself in south Lebanon is that the army is a deeply divided organization. Many of its members are sympathetic to the "resistance." Thirty percent of the LAF officer corps, and a majority of its rank and file, are Shi'ite, like Hizbullah. More fundamentally, the official position of the LAF is one of "endorsement" of Hizbullah's "right to resist." The LAF defines Israel as its "primary antagonist and enemy." So neither UNIFIL, nor the LAF, nor their respective employers - the United Nations and the government of Lebanon - are going to be standing in the way of Hizbullah's program of rearming in populated areas any time soon.

Ultimately, the situation in southern Lebanon is a facet of a larger problem, namely, the existence of a Hizbullah state within a state, which is answerable to no one but the movement's leadership and its Iranian patrons. Since the mini-civil war of May 2008, it has been clearer than ever that there is no force in the country able to challenge Hizbullah's independent foreign and "defense" policies. The movement maintains a parallel army, parallel security services, a parallel communications network and also, of course, independent educational and social structures.

The winners of last June's elections in Lebanon do not like the current situation, but they are helpless to prevent it, as they have not even succeeded in forming a government since their victory. The extent to which the Hizbullah state within a state is subservient to Iran or maintains its own agenda remains debated by analysts. But there is no debate that it is entirely free of any control or supervision from the official Lebanese state.

Preparations for the next round of fighting are going on daily, undisturbed, in the heart of the populated areas south of the Litani River, and the occasional "work accident" is the only reminder the world receives that it is happening. UNIFIL conducts its patrols and doesn't get in the way, and the LAF plays an even more ambiguous role. Anyone who thought that the war between Hizbullah and Israel ended on August 14, 2006 was surely mistaken.


Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel

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

 

Have We Lost Sight of Rabin's Vision?


by Eli E. Hertz

Today, fifteen years after signing the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty and 14 years after his tragic death, Yitzhak Rabin was lauded by President Barack Obama as a man of peace and courage, who "demonstrated that a commitment to communication, cooperation, and genuine reconciliation can help change the course of history."

The following excerpts from Rabin's last public speech to the Knesset just days before he was murdered reveal Rabin's true realistic vision:

The Knesset (Parliament) October 5, 1995

"Here, in the land of Israel, we returned and built a nation. Here, in the land of Israel, we established a state. The land of the prophets, which bequeathed to the world the values of morality, law and justice, was, after two thousand years, restored to its lawful owners - the members of the Jewish people. On its land, we have built an exceptional national home and state.

"We view the permanent solution in the framework of [the] State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

"We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

"First and foremost, united Jerusalem ... as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty.

"The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley ... The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.

"We had to choose between the whole of the land of Israel ... and a state with less territory, but which would be a Jewish state. We chose to be a Jewish state.

"We ... committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.

"We are aware of the fact that the Palestinian Authority has not - up until now - [E.H., and never thereafter] honored its commitment to change the Palestinian Covenant, and that all of the promises on this matter have not been kept. I would like to bring it to the attention of the members of the house that I view these changes as a supreme test of the Palestinian Authority's willingness and ability, and the changes required will be an important and serious touchstone vis-a'-vis the continued implementation of the agreement as a whole."

Rabin's vision essentially incorporated the principles of Israel as both a Jewish state, and as a state living in "Peace within secure and recognized boundaries" as stated in UN Security Council Resolution 242.

 

Eli E. Hertz

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

 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mitchell's Mission Impossible.


by Efraim Inbar

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Senator George Mitchell, US Special Envoy to the Middle East, has an impossible task. American clout in the region has waned over the years, and Mitchell faces a situation where a US president advocates a quick end to the conflict, an Israeli prime minister insists on negotiations without preconditions, and a Palestinian society lacks a united leadership – fragmented by Abbas' rule in the West Bank and Hamas' rule in Gaza. Mitchell, and with him a large part of the international community, fail to understand that the ethnic conflict being waged in the Holy Land will end only when the parties tire. So far, Israelis and Palestinians still have energy to fight for what is important to them.

The appointment of Senator George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East in January 2009 elicited great expectations for progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track, particularly since the new American president, Barack Obama, eloquently communicated his intent to renew peace negotiations and end them successfully within his first term in office. After nine months and many trips to the Middle East, a plethora of meetings with the leaders in the region and even an Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas summit in New York last month, Senator Mitchell seems unable to report success to his boss.

There are several reasons for this outcome, some conjectural and some structural. First, Obama's behavior has not been helpful. He has insisted on a comprehensive settlement freeze, which the Palestinians turned into a precondition for sitting at the negotiating table. So far it has backfired, indicating Washington's limitations in imposing its will on Jerusalem, as well as the diplomatic acumen of Netanyahu's government. Moreover, the arm-twisting to persuade Abbas to come to the New York summit further undermined the position of the weak Palestinian leader. On top of this, Washington rightly demanded that the Palestinian Authority defer the presentation of the infamous Goldstone report to UN forums. Yet Abbas' acquiescence in the American demand exposed him to the criticism of Hamas, the main competitor in Palestinian politics. All this hampered the PA's flexibility toward Israel and hindered the return to negotiations.

Second, in Israel, the Netanyahu government advocated a return to negotiations without preconditions – prima facie, a very reasonable position. Moreover, following Netanyahu's May 2009 diplomatic address at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, over 70 percent of Israelis, a very high figure, endorsed his policies on the Palestinian issue. This political feat made Israel less vulnerable to outside pressure. Furthermore, Israel gained American promises to secure Arab gestures as a quid pro quo for its concessions. Washington was unable to deliver, indicating again the limits of American clout in the region.

Poor Mitchell was sent into diplomatic battle when most of the region was quite impressed with Obama's rhetoric but was not convinced that words would be followed by deeds. Unfortunately, the heyday of American power and influence in the Middle East is over. When American diplomacy is not backed by "hard" power, the "soft" power extolled nowadays by Washington carries only little weight with the realpolitik-oriented Middle Eastern elites. Most capitals of the region regard Obama as weak. This does not augur well for Mitchell, as even the weak Palestinians are able to say "no."

The truth is that even a much stronger America cannot impose peace agreements. In 1991, the tough Secretary of State James Baker was successful in convening the Madrid conference, but the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo agreement and the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty were the result of bilateral interactions with no American input. Similarly, Anwar Sadat decided to go to Jerusalem in 1977 when President Carter wanted him to fly to Geneva instead for an international peace conference. Outsiders have limited ability to induce change in how Middle Easterners conduct their business, as recent American experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan indicate.

American diplomacy can hardly make a dent in the schism within Palestinian society that is the main stumbling block for progress in peace-making. As long as Islamist Hamas has a powerful grip on the Palestinian ethos and Palestinian aspirations, and as long as its ruthless rule over Gaza continues, Palestinian politics are hostage to the extremists and are unable to move toward an historic compromise with the Jewish-Zionist national movement. Mitchell cannot even prevent a draft of a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation document that does not conform to Quartet demands (renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect past agreements).

The final obstacle for Mitchell is the nature of his mandate – the pursuit of an outdated paradigm, the two-state solution. Unfortunately, the desired outcome of the Oslo process, partition of the Land of Israel into two states –Jewish and Palestinian – was not achieved and this predicament is unlikely to change any time soon. The Palestinians failed the main test of statehood: monopoly over the use of force. They allowed armed militias to erode law and order in the areas under their control. This culminated in the bloody Hamas takeover of Gaza. Even Hamas in Gaza failed to acquire a monopoly over the use of force: witness the existence of the armed groups Islamic Jihad, elements of al-Qaeda and certain clans. As noted, Palestinian society, be it in the West Bank or Gaza, is not entertaining reconciliation with the Jews. The "shaheed" (martyr) is still the role model in the Palestinian media and education system.

Mitchell, and with him a large part of the international community, fail to understand that the ethnic conflict being waged in the Holy Land will end only when the parties tire. So far, Israelis and Palestinians still have energy to fight for what is important to them.

Therefore, what is needed is a new policy paradigm. It is high-time to consider a return to the status quo ante of pre-1967. Jordan and Egypt are responsible states at peace with Israel that successfully ruled over the Palestinians. They should be induced to share responsibility for regional stability. The Palestinian potential for regional mischief is not only Israel's problem.

Efraim Inbar is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.

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

 

White House on Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing--Can't Remember Who Murdered 241 Americans.


by Barry Rubin

The White House has just released a very routine but still quite disturbing declaration by President Barack Obama. And it goes like this:

"On the anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, we remember today the 241 American Marines, soldiers, and sailors who lost their lives 26 years ago as the result of a horrific terrorist attack that destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The military personnel serving in Beirut were there to bring peace and stability to Lebanon after years of internal strife and conflict. The murder of our soldiers, sailors, and Marines on this day on 1983 remains a senseless tragedy....In remembering this terrible day of loss, we are at the same time hopeful that a new government in Lebanon will soon be formed. We look forward to working with a Lebanese government that works actively to promote stability in the region and prosperity for its people."

The problem is not so much the wording of the declaration but the context in which it's issued. After all, the president of the United States has access to U.S. intelligence. And U.S. intelligence knows:

--That the bombing was carried out by cadre of Hizballah under the guidance of Syria and Iran.

--Today, attacks are being carried out against U.S. military personnel in Iraq under the guidance of Syria and Iran, and

--Iran is trying to stage such attacks in Afghanistan.

--The current and previous Iranian defense minister were involved in the attack: Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar (defense minister, 2005-2009) was head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps force in Lebanon and in charge of carrying out the attack while his successor, General Ahmad Vahidi, was involved in planning the attack.

--Hizballah was involved in other attacks on U.S. citizens and servicemen in Lebanon.

--It is also the anniversary of the killing of three U.S. security agents by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who the Palestinian Authority never punished and Hamas is now protecting. There is no apparent effort by the U.S. government to bring these killers to justice or to press the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to cooperate in doing so or to punish them for not doing so.

All of these forces, however, are left anonymous. No one is named for involvement in that "horrific terrorist attack." And, of course the attack was not "senseless" but part of an Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah campaign to take over Lebanon and drive U.S. influence out of the region. In fact, it was counted as a great victory for these forces since it showed America's vulnerability to being hit by terrorism--an inspiration for September 11?--and did succeed in paralyzing the U.S. effort in Lebanon. Ultimately, this led to the withdrawal of the peace-keeping forces altogether, paving the way for Syria's turning Lebanon into a satellite state for two decades at a great financial and strategic profit. .

None of these attacks were perpetrated by al-Qaida, the only group that remains a target of this administration's version of a war on terrorism, a phrase which is no longer used.

It is bad enough the administration doesn't say any of this. Is it aware of these factors at all?

Indeed, the president's advisor on terrorism is on record as saying that Hizballah is no longer a terrorist group, which opens the door for U.S. contacts in future.

This raises the question of the declaration's final sentence. Let's repeat it:

"We look forward to working with a Lebanese government that works actively to promote stability in the region and prosperity for its people."

While negotiations are complex and ongoing, the government being discussed for Lebanon would include a large contingent of Hizballah cabinet ministers and would give Hizballah veto power over government decisions.

Now it could be argued that this would not constitute, in U.S. eyes, a goverment promoting stability and prosperity. But who knows? Without even naming Hizballah as an adversary, however, the implication is that the United States does not oppose a government including Hizballah, which is one more step toward having such a government.

Consider just one such additional case. Colonel William Richard Higgins, kidnapped by Hizballah men while serving with UN peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon in 1988, horribly tortured, turned over to the Iranians and murdered. Does the White House remember him?

So 241 U.S. servicemen died 26 years ago. Who killed them? Will the murders be punished in any way or will the groups and states that stood behind the attack be rewarded? On this, the declaration is silent.

 

 

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

 

Losing Israel.

 

by Bill Warner

 

When America entered the war in Vietnam, Ho Chi Min said that it would be a long war and that the communists would win by using propaganda in the media and the universities. He was correct.

 

It is time to take stock in the war between Israelis and the Palestinians and deal with some forbidden subjects. Israel is losing the propaganda war, hasbarah, and for a very good reason.

 

Israel is not in the hasbarah game, unless one counts belated responses to the Palestinians' propaganda offensives. Pierre Rehov, a Moroccan French Jew, is a documentary filmmaker. He claims that the Palestinians have made over 50 propaganda movies, while Israel has done only 8. Of those eight, Mr. Rehov made six.

 

Why don't Jews and Israel want to deal with propaganda? Simple. It would mean talking about Islam. Jews and Israel must face the facts that the Koran and the Sunna (the actions and words of Mohammed) are filled with invectives against the Jews. At first the words were complimentary, but when the Jews of Medina rejected Mohammed as a prophet they were all enslaved, exiled, murdered and robbed -- all acts of jihad. These were not historical acts, but perfect examples of Islamic action towards Jews -- models prescribed for Muslims to follow up to the present time. To illustrate the severity of this predicament, statistically speaking, in the Koran of Medina 10.6% of the text is devoted to Jew hatred, whereas, only 6.8% of Mein Kampf is devoted to Jew hatred.

 

The language and actions of Palestinians and all Muslims in general are directly approved by Islamic political theological doctrine. Not only the language, but also policy is set by the Islamic political doctrine. To repeat: political doctrine -- a political theological doctrine of jihad against all kafirs.

 

Yet, it seems until now that both Jews and Israel choose annihilation over talking about Islam. It is simply not an acceptable subject matter. Political correctness prevails over survival. Unfortunately, these are suicidal choices. It is obvious that the ADL and the Jewish Federations for example, are only two Jewish organizations that have corporate polices of not discussing Islamic political ideology.

 

The ADL will admit that there are a "few" radical Muslims, and would gladly argue in public that except for a few Muslim extremists, Islam is not the problem. ADL is the first to argue that Jews and Christians have their share of crazies and they are no different from the Muslims. This is the ultimate multiculturalist view, which may well lead to a disaster for Israel and aid in the demise of Western civilization.

 

Since a propaganda war is about the use of intelligence, one would think that the Israelis would be the world's best and the Muslims would be the worst. Look at Nobel prizes, especially in the sciences. Israelis win them by the handful compared to the Arab world. But in the hasbarah, public relations, the Israelis are lazy fools and the Palestinians are industrious geniuses.

 

Israeli government officials who will comment off the record say that as a government, Israel cannot launch a propaganda war over Islam.

 

And, if Israel were to launch an ideological war, who would be the target audience? The ultimate target would be the secular and liberal Jews of America and Israel, who are the near enemy. If you can launch a hasbarah campaign that would open their eyes, enough of the world would tag along.

 

Otherwise, if the Israelis continue to think that they can keep scoring military victories and by that win this ideological war, they are fools and worse. America won the Tet offensive on the battlefield, but lost the propaganda war in the media and the universities, exactly as Ho Chi Min predicted.

 

As a brilliant example of ideological war, revisit Netanyahu's UN speech on September 24, 2009. He laid out the civilizational differences between Holocaust deniers and Israel. The same arguments about civilization should apply to the war between the Palestinians and Jews in Israel. This is because the Israel/Palestinian conflict is no different than the jihad in Kashmir, India, the Philippines, or in dozens of fronts in Africa.

 

After the Mumbai terror attack, the Jewish community in Nashville, TN had a rally at a synagogue. They prayed for peace in Israel.  The same day, Christian supporters of Israel held a rally, and they prayed for Israel's victory.

 

Now, which one of the two maintains a stronger position -- peace or victory? Today Israel desires peace and the Palestinians insist on victory. Guess who wins? Peace is for losers. Regrettably, Israelis and American Jews are choosing to be the losers. The consequences however are too dire; ultimately, Israel may get their peace, but it may be the peace after jihad's victory.

 

Ironically, Israelis and Jews abroad are not the only ones in a state of denial about Islamic politics; they just happen to be at the frontline. President Bush demonstrated after 9/11 that he too had no clue how to fight this Islamic ideological war. Instead of using military force against our enemies, he and his successor- President Obama should have declared ideological war against our true enemy-political Islam.

 

They seem to lose their war and so will Israel unless some tough questions are faced and actions are taken.

 

 

Bill Warner is Director, Center for the Study of Political Islam

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

 

 

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