Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Publishers' Continued Cold Feet over Islam


by David J. Rusin


Norwegian journalist Halvor Tjønn, who recently finished a biography of Muhammad for Oslo publisher Kagge, is the latest to experience a phenomenon that spans more than two decades: the sudden and mysterious cancellation of Islam-related books. Rita Karlsen has his story:

According to Aftenposten the author and publisher signed a contract for the book in January 2009. Shortly afterward, he handed in his completed manuscript, which he had been working on since the spring of 2007. Last summer the publisher asked him to add footnotes and references to his source materials, a labor that took several months. The book was also included in Kagge's 2009 fall catalog. But in July of this year came the news: it was "best that another publisher take the book."

"It's an internal matter," said Kagge's director, denying that any threats had been received. Tjønn remarked, "If the publisher had objections to the book's quality, that would have come up much earlier in the process, and not after a year and a half"; he declined to get more specific. Naturally the tight lips bolster suspicion of fear-based self-censorship at work yet again. This case certainly fits the history of books about Islam disappearing as anxiety over violence grows:

Equally maddening, of course, is censorship of what actually does make it to print, such as Yale University Press removing all images of Muhammad from a text on the Danish cartoons.

It is time to "throw the book" at publishers that embolden radicals by pussyfooting around Islam — or even giving the impression of doing so. Readers may begin with Kagge (post@kagge.no).

David J. Rusin

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Internet Freedom Under Siege


by Aaron Eitan Meyer

Lawfare, the abuse of the law and legal system to achieve strategic political and military goals, has taken many forms in the decade since Major General Charles Dunlap first defined the term as "the use of law as a weapon of war." On May 19, 2009, my colleague Brooke Goldstein and I warned "the next phase of Islamist lawfare may well center directly upon the internet itself." Our concern lay in the expiration of a contract between the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the U.S. Commerce Department, which had been in place since November 25, 1998.

ICANN was established as a non-profit corporation based in California in 1998, and is the entity responsible for assigning domain names on the Internet. ICANN works "in particular to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet's unique identifier systems." As part of this mission, ICANN approves Domain Name Registrars, which are organizations that register specific domain names, and assigns IP addresses, the numerical codes by which computers actually connect to each other via the Internet.

Unfortunately, the concerns we raised over about how ICANN's new multilateral system of governance could be hijacked by lawfare aimed at restricting free speech are now being realized. On September 27, journalist Kevin Murphy of DomainIncite.com reported that ICANN's board of directors removed a reference to "terrorism" from the most recent version of its Draft Applicant Guidebook (DAG). While the term "terrorism" was included without any conceivably objectionable modifiers such as "Islamist," the Chairman of the Pan Arab Multilingual Internet Group Khaled Fattal declared that the term "terrorism" itself was objectionable because "it will be seen by millions of Muslims and Arabs as racist, prejudicial and profiling." Fattal requested not only its removal, but an apology from ICANN. Similarly, Abdulaziz H. Al-Zoman of SaudiNIT claimed "the international community is extensibly [sic] divided on who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter" as reason to remove the term.

By removing any reference to "terrorism" from the DAG, ICANN cannot perform a background check to verify that domain name registrars are not affiliated with terrorist organizations or otherwise used to facilitate acts of international and national terrorism. By removing any reference to terrorism in its Guidebook, ICANN is failing to perform its essential mandate -- to ensure Internet stability.

Shortly thereafter, on October 1, ICANN published a letter it had received from Amre Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, which stated that ICANN's practice of creating geographical regions "comes into conflict with the operational precedent of many UN agencies that specifically recognize the Arab region" and asked ICANN to "take the necessary action in this regard." As Kevin Murphy explained, "If ICANN were to add these states to the five geographic regions it already recognizes in its bylaws, it would grant the Arab nations a seat on its board of directors, among other rights." Unlike every geographic area currently recognized by ICANN, the "Arab region" would be an ethnically homogenous entity, which would represent a fundamental change in its structure and provide uniquely preferential treatment for the Arab League.

The Secretary General's reference to "operational precedent of many UN agencies" is particularly troubling, given the fact that too many UN agencies have failed to fulfill their purposes as a result of politicization. The Arab League, moreover, has long been active in the process of turning international mechanisms to serve its political ends, since it forms the core of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the same dominant 57-member voting bloc at the UN General Assembly that systematically ignores human rights abuses when those abuses are committed by its member states. For example, the Arab League emphatically rejected the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, while the OIC expressed its solidarity with al-Bashir and the Sudanese government. The Republic of Sudan has been an OIC member since 1969.

Even more troubling is the fact that the OIC is spearheading a lawfare campaign at the United Nations to exclude the targeting of both American and Israeli civilians; that is civilians of what they deem an "occupying force," from any international definition of the crime of terrorism. There is no valid reason why state sponsors of terrorism should be permitted to define the term in their best interests, nor is there a valid justification for allowing the Arab League to dictate what can and can not be registered as an Internet domain name.

Although many might take domain names for granted, control over domain names, as well as their registrars, carries with it considerable ramifications. Reports are now emerging that Libya is removing sites using the .ly domain name that conflict with its Shari'a-derived law, claiming that the content of these sites is "obscene, offensive and immoral." Whether and how this reported practice will extend to those who use the extremely popular site www.bit.ly to shorten web addresses when posting on Twitter remains to be seen, but is troubling regardless.

ICANN's vacillation regarding terrorism, which necessarily extends to terror finance, and pressure being exerted to make it ever more susceptible to politicization, poses a grave risk not only to the state of global free expression, but to national security as well. In 1996, a specially constituted panel of federal judges in the case ACLU v. Reno declared the Internet to be a free speech zone, with Judge Stewart Dalzell stating that the Internet is "the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed." If ICANN is co-opted, Libya's actions could be replicated on a global scale, and transition the world from the Information Age to one of disinformation.

Aaron Eitan Meyer

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Nobel Peace Prize Update


by John C. Wohlstetter


Last year Wall Street Journal pundit Bret Stephens played contrarian against the flood of negative comment about the Nobel Committee awarding its 2009 Peace Prize to President Obama, after less than a year in office and with nothing to show for his labors. Stephens made a case for the award going to America's tyro President: Looking at the Nobel Peace Prize's 108-year roster of winners, President Obama does in fact richly deserve his award, wrote Stephens. The President is "a perfect pick" in light of a long record -- and not just in recent decades -- of Nobel awards going to peaceniks, terrorists, blowhards, and others who fit what Oriana Fallaci called "Goodists" -- do-gooders who do little good and carp at those who actually do good. No peace prize went to the likes of FDR, Churchill, Truman, nor to Ronald Reagan (Gorbachev got one). Diplomats Frank Kellogg and Aristide Briand won, the former for the 1928 eponymous Kellogg-Briand pact that outlawed war as an instrument of national policy. The Japanese signed that pact two years before invading Manchuria.

While some notably deserving people -- think Mother Teresa, Lech Walesa -- have won, Stephens offers abundant evidence that 44 should mostly rue the company he keeps. My favorite awardee is the 1910 winner: an outfit called the Permanent International Peace Bureau -- victorious just four years before Germany unleashed World War I. Read the Nobel Committee's narrative on the Bureau and savor: It notes that World War I "hindered" the Bureau's work and that "for technical and ideological reasons" World War II halted its work. Funny how getting millions of people killed will do that.

Prior Presidential winners were Teddy Roosevelt (1906) for brokering the Treaty of Portsmouth that ended the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War (Russia got creamed); Woodrow Wilson (1919) for brokering the ruinous Versailles Treaty that set the stage for the rise of Adolf Hitler and, later, World War II; and Jimmy Carter (2002), ostensibly for having brokered the Camp David Accord (1979) between Egypt and Israel, but actually as a slap in the face to President George W. Bush (a motive clearly present in Obama's win as well).

TR richly deserved his honor; his prize helped make America a top player on the international stage. As for Wilson, one is reduced to Joe E. Brown's tagline to Jack Lemmon at the end of Some Like It Hot (1959): "Nobody's perfect!" As for Jimmy Earl, his prime accomplishment during his four years was arguably not Camp David, which was made possible by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's 1977 visit to Jerusalem, hastily arranged to pre-empt the Carter idea of convening everyone, including radicals and terrorists, at Geneva for diplomatic palaver. Rather, it was Carter's irresolution in the face of Soviet adventurism that convinced Moscow to invade Afghanistan in December 1979, leaving Jimmy Earl sputtering that Soviet boss Leonid Brezhnev had lied to him (imagine that!). Another notable laureate was Sir Norman Angell in 1933, for having predicted in his book The Great Illusion (1910) that a world war was impossible due to interlocked economies of the great nations. The Nobel Committee honored him 19 years after Angell's prediction was blown sky high, literally, and 15 years after "The War to End All Wars" decimated the "Lost Generation" of Europe's young.

Which brings us to The One's report card since his December 2009 Nobel address. Let's tally things up: First, Obama's mindless obsession with Israeli settlements has scuttled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, by getting the Palestinians to insist that settlements be halted before talks can proceed. Prior to Obama's ascendancy the Palestinians had never insisted on this, but after Obama did -- as did Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell, who seems unable to see any differences between the Irish and the Palestinians -- how could the Palestinians ask for less? (Simple test, George: Ask a Palestinian to sing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"….)

Second, President Obama stood aside as Hamid Karzai stole the 2009 Afghan Presidential election, enraging Afghans and undermining NATO's counter-insurgency. Karzai repaid this kindness by playing both sides in the war.

Third, there is President Obama's inattention to internecine governmental squabbling in Iraq, as if he were indifferent to what kind of government emerges, after all the blood and treasure America spent in that country.

And finally, there is President Obama's feckless pursuit of negotiations plus tepid Russia- and China-limited UN sanctions against Iran, as Iran marches merrily on toward joining the nuclear club. Perhaps the administration did unleash the recent "Stuxnet worm" that gummed up computers at key Iranian nuclear sites for a time; if so, this is great foreign policy but not the kind of thing that the Nobel nabobs value, albeit it does far more for peace than diplomatic jabber. A nuclear Iran would be the jewel in the crown of Obama's Prize, very possibly unleashing a conflagration that would kill more millions in less time than any calamity in the history of humankind. Such would be, to borrow a phrase from Homeland Insecurity Secretary Janet Napolitano, the ultimate "man-caused disaster."

In 2010 the award has gone to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Anyone with the courage to face down Beijing's brutalitarian regime has my admiration. But come to think of it, why didn't the Nobel folks give a second award -- celebrating an exact centennial since the first one -- to the Permanent International Peace Bureau, which has performed flawlessly since then (save when major wars intervened)? President Obama will have to ignite a nuclear war, if he wants to top the PIPB's first peace century.

John C. Wohlstetter is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

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$900 Million for What?


by Ken Blackwell


Israeli media watchdog Itamar Marcus makes a career of following the Palestinian press. His website provides timely and accurate translations of the Arabic language broadcasts and publications that are watched and read by the Palestinian public on the West Bank of the Jordan River and in the Gaza Strip. It's well worth our while as Americans to pay more attention to what the so-called Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is doing. That's because we American taxpayers are footing the bill for much of it. President Obama and Sec. Hillary Clinton have promised $900 million in U.S. funds to the PLO, our supposed "peace partners" in the latest round of Mideast peace talks.

One story is typical of the PLO approach to peace. Late last year, a 45-year-old rabbi, father of seven, was ambushed in his car by four members of the Palestinian Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) located three of the killers and killed them.

Here's what our peace partner, the PLO's Mahmoud Abbas, did then:

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared the killers "Shahids" (holy Martyrs) and sent his personal emissary to visit the families:

Secretary General of the President's Office, Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim, conveyed condolences on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas to the residents of Nablus and to the families of the three Shahids [Martyrs] for the Martyrdom of their sons, who were assassinated by Israeli occupation forces yesterday morning. He conveyed to the fighting families letters of condolences from the President [Abbas] and updated them as to [Abbas's] decision to declare them as Shahids [Martyrs] of the Palestinian revolution..."

Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim: "Without doubt, what the [Israeli] occupation authorities have carried out is a wild and barbaric act and a deliberate, malicious assassination in cold blood.

Our tax dollars at work. Mahmoud Abbas and Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim are part of the notoriously corrupt organization that runs the West Bank. It's called the Palestinian Authority, but it remains to be seen how much authority it actually has. Abbas has declined to hold scheduled elections, fearing that Hamas, which won overwhelmingly in Gaza, would win on the West Bank, too. So, with U.S. financial and diplomatic support, Abbas clings to power.

He's a regular and honored visitor to the Obama White House. This is a man whose entire career was made as faithful lieutenant to Yasser Arafat. Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize for his famed "handshake" with Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in a deal brokered by then-President Bill Clinton. Arafat is the one who invented airline hijacking for terror purposes. Soon after shaking hands with Rabin, Arafat was up to his old tricks.

He instigated yet another of his intifadas -- uprisings -- sparked by Arab teenagers throwing stones, with deadly accuracy, at Israeli soldiers. If the Arab boys are shot and killed by the IDF soldiers defending themselves -- so much the better. Abbas has more "martyrs" to celebrate and the PLO gets some favorable TV coverage in the credulous Western media.

The United States has been pursuing a phantom for more than twenty years. We have bought into the fiction that the Arafat-Abbas clique -- this so-called Palestinian Authority-- is something other than what it is: a murderous and corrupt gang of thugs.

The errors in U.S. foreign policy in this region are bipartisan. It was the first Bush administration that sought to extend an olive branch and an open hand of friendship to the Arafat-Abbas gang in 1989. We were told then that if the PLO would just give up its campaign of terrorism against the Israelis, acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, then the United States would help the impoverished Palestinian people with development funds and sponsor their path to statehood.

The PLO never gave up its plans. To this day, the destruction of Israel remains a goal of the PLO. The PLO "leaders" can readily tell us they renounce terrorism because they don't consider the murder of Israeli citizens -- in pizza parlors, in schools, in hospitals -- to be terrorism. They call it resistance and they call those who are killed on these strikes shahids -- martyrs.

It's time for Americans to take a cold look at what twenty years of takkiya -- the Arabic word for deception -- have gotten us. President Reagan left office in 1989. He spoke about our dealings with the then-Soviet Union. He hoped for peace, and he said, "Trust, but verify." He said one more thing we need to apply to our role in the Mideast: "Don't be afraid to see what you see."

I look at the latest round of bogus peace talks and I see a discredited PLO boss sitting down to make promises to the Israelis he has no intention of keeping. If he actually did keep those promises, he would be murdered by his own cutthroat followers.

I see American honor stained, American power diminished, and American money wasted.

What do you see?

Ken Blackwell is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.

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Netanyahu's Jewish-State Gambit


by P. David Hornik


In May 2009 the Obama administration called on Israel to stop all settlement activity in the West Bank, including "natural growth." President Obama assumed that this settlement activity was the basic obstacle to peace with the Palestinians -- even though since 1992 there had been both on-and-off Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and West Bank settlement, and the Palestinians had never made the former conditional on a stoppage of the latter.

In November 2009, with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas boycotting talks with Israel since the Obama administration had made its demand about settlements, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed an unprecedented ten-month moratorium on Israeli construction in the West Bank.

Yet Abbas continued to boycott talks. He only, finally, consented to join them a few weeks before the ten-month freeze expired -- and said he was making his further participation conditional on an extension of the freeze. This took no little chutzpah. For about nine months, the freeze had apparently made no difference to him; now he was saying he couldn't do without it.

Seemingly, since getting him to remain in the peace talks, or participate in them at all, was so difficult, the logical conclusion was that the talks, and the "peace" they were supposed to conduce to, weren't all that important to him.

Obama, however, reached no such conclusion. On September 26 Israel's freeze expired and construction in existing settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) -- the Jewish heartland and of great security significance to Israel -- continued. So, however, did frenetic U.S. efforts to get the talks restarted, consisting mainly of relentless pressure on Netanyahu to do Abbas's bidding and extend the freeze.

On Monday night, with speculations flying as to where things were headed, Netanyahu made a speech to the Knesset that surprised most observers. He offered a deal: "If the Palestinian leadership will unequivocally say to its people that it recognizes Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, I will be ready to convene my government and ask for another suspension of construction for a fixed period."

Netanyahu went on to say that this demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state was "the root of the conflict and therefore a central foundation for resolving it. For 100 years, the Palestinians have taught entire generations to believe that there is no Jewish people, that this land is their homeland alone."

A couple of observations are in order. First, Netanyahu was offering a serious, tangible concession in return for words. For Israel to stop West Bank construction while Palestinian construction there continues apace implies that the Palestinians have a superior claim to the territory. Such an implication, however, is both unjustified and dangerous to Israel -- unjustified because its claim to the West Bank is at least as strong as the Palestinians' claim, dangerous because retaining at least considerable parts of the West Bank is indispensable to Israel's defensibility against both terrorism and military invasion.

No doubt, if, hypothetically, Abbas were to make such a speech to his people as Netanyahu suggested, it would be a novel event and would mark a change for Abbas personally. It would be greeted in the West as having near-messianic significance. But most of Palestinian society in the West Bank, Gaza, and the surrounding countries would greet it with outrage; and, most important, such hypothetical words from Abbas would have no binding validity for the Palestinians in the future.

In any case, the Palestinian response to Netanyahu's proposal was not long in coming. Just after his Monday-night speech, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat stated that the Palestinian Authority "forcefully rejects all these Israeli games. The racist demands of Netanyahu cannot be tied to the request to cease building in the settlements for the purpose of establishing a state."

The demand for recognition as a Jewish state, then, was somehow "racist" and a total nonstarter.

By Tuesday Netanyahu was reportedly continuing to work on other ideas for overcoming the freeze-extension impasse. One Israeli observer has cogently argued that Netanyahu "has needed to convince the U.S. administration that he is not the factor obstructing its efforts to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track…." Once again, Washington's tepid reaction on Tuesday to this latest proposal of his shows that -- regarding the administration and many others for whom the Palestinian-state idea has an apparently indestructible power -- it's a Sisyphean task.

As Moshe Yaalon, Israel's minister for strategic affairs, remarked on Tuesday, in reality there is

no chance of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians in the near future. In [their] eyes… the occupation began in '48 [when Israel was created] and not in '67 [when it captured the West Bank and other territories in the Six Day War]. Not only Hamas thinks this -- Abu Mazen [Abbas] does too. Their refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state shows they have no interest in having Israel as a state beside theirs.

Yaalon thus became -- along with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman -- the second member of Netanyahu's inner cabinet of seven ministers to speak the truth publicly of late. If Washington could grasp this truth, it could stop pressuring Israel to surrender strategic territory and instead concentrate on strengthening it against imminent threats from Iran and its allies.

Netanyahu, too, could concentrate on Israel's real issues and not have to put so much time and energy into proving that it is not Israel that prevents peace.

P. David Hornik is a writer and translator in Beersheva, Israel.

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Introduction to a Farce: The Current State of Israel-PA Negotiations


by Barry Rubin


What, you might ask is the current state of Israel-Palestinian negotiations. Well, something like this:

After almost two years with no direct talks, the two sides had a couple of meetings.

Then the Palestinian Authority demanded an unconditional extension of the freeze on construction of buildings on West Bank Jewish settlements.

Israel said that it would do so if the PA first recognized Israel as a Jewish state.

The PA came back by saying that it would never ever do that. But if Israel defined it's final boundaries before negotiations, the PA would return to the talks. Israel won't do that, of course, but the U.S. government termed the Palestinian statement a step forward.

So at the end of 2010, victory is defined as getting Israel and the PA to hold a meeting every two weeks. If this were to be achieved there would be cheers as to the great success! And even this minimal step forward (bringing us to the level of around 1991 or so) is unlikely.

Oh, by the way, the president of the United States gave the opinion in his UN speech that he would solve the issue within one year.

That is what diplomacy is reduced to on this issue. How can anyone seriously argue this is a problem ripe for solution?

Barry Rubin

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Geert Wilders, Close to Exoneration


by Daniel Pipes


There has always been one reason to expect that the criminal case would fail against Geert Wilders, the influential Dutch politician accused of "hate speech" due to his negative views on Islam. That's because the prosecutors tasked with bringing charges against him never wanted to do so.

Already in 2008, the prosecution service turned down requests that it indict Wilders. Appeals court judges in 2009 insisted that he stand trial, forcing the prosecution to indict him. With the case underway in an Amsterdam district court, Public Prosecutor Birgit van Roessel has just asked for the dismissal of all five charges against Wilders. "Criticism [of religion] is allowed. Wilders makes his utterances as a politician. We believe the fact that he made his statements within the context of public debate removes any punishable element." Even if Wilders' anti-Islamic statements hurt Muslim sensibilities, she added, "the wounding of … religious feelings" has no legal standing.

This robust assertion of a core Western principle gives hope that the Rushdie Rules will not be applied to Wilders and that the Dutch can defy Islamic laws. Wilders proclaimed himself "very happy" and Radio Netherlands deems the trial "as good as over." But the case, in fact, is actually not over until the "lunatic judges" (as Andy McCarthy calls them) do accept the prosecutors' recommendation. Their verdict is expected on Nov. 5. (October 16, 2010)

Daniel Pipes

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Pulling Teeth at the State Department


by Rick Richman


Having kept a running count of the number of times the Obama administration has refused to answer if it is bound by the 2004 Bush letter (22 times so far), it is a pleasure to report that it took only six attempts yesterday to get the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, to answer whether the U.S. recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

Crowley’s first response tried to throw reporters off the track with the tantalizing suggestion that George Mitchell just might go — it would be logical — back to the region at some point. Asked a second time, Crowley responded that we “recognize [Israel’s] aspiration.” On the reporters’ third through fifth tries, Crowley proved hard of hearing. On the sixth attempt, after a 14-word preface, he finally responded: “yes.”

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. [Blah, blah, blah.]

QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize the aspiration of the people of Israel. It has — it’s a democracy. In that democracy, there’s a guarantee of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens. But as the Secretary has said, we understand that — the special character of the state of Israel.

QUESTION: Is that a yes or no?

QUESTION: P.J., it’s — do you want to answer his question or –

QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Michel’s question was a yes or no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or no.

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Israel is a – as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.

The original question had a second part to it: “ … and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?” After a reporter repeated the question, it took Crowley 162 halting words to respond:

QUESTION: … Does the U.S. want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, I will be happy to go back over and offer some — I’m trying — I’m not making any news here. We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well. But this is the aspiration of the — what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence, the — a core demand of the Israeli Government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration and the prime minister was talking yesterday about the fact that just as they aspire to a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.

Why is it so hard to get the Obama administration to reiterate basic commitments the U.S. has made — in writing — to Israel? The Bush letter stated that the U.S. is “strongly committed to … [Israel] as a Jewish state.” This administration has to be prodded six times to answer whether it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and — after an affirmative response is extracted — cannot give a one-word answer on whether it wants the Palestinians to recognize one as well.

Rick Richman

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Muslim anti-Semitism: A hate reaching back 1,400 years


by Jonathan Kay


When Israeli planes smashed Egyptian airfields in the opening hours of the Six-Day War, announcers on Radio Cairo took to the airwaves, calling on Arabs in neighbouring countries to attack any Jews they could find. In the Libyan capital of Tripoli, then home to about 5,000 Jews, rioters responded with an orgy of murder, arson and looting that lasted three days. Even after the survivors had fled to Israel and the West, leaving Libya effectively judenrein, the anti-Semitic bloodlust remained unquenched. It was “the unavoidable duty of the city councils,” opined one Libyan newspaper, “to remove [Jewish] cemeteries immediately, and throw the bodies of the dead, which even in their eternal rest soil our country, into the depths of the sea … Only then can the hatred of the Libyan people toward the Jews be satiated.”

Shocking words. Yet they do not come as a shock when one comes upon them in Martin Gilbert’s newly published history of Jews in Muslim lands, recently excerpted on these pages. By that point in the chronology, I had become so numbed by the author’s relentless catalogue of pogroms, executions, expulsions, forced conversions and the generalized terrorizing of Jews that the atrocities had lost their power to appall. It is not that Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill and author of books too numerous to count on Jewish and Israeli themes, is an unimaginative storyteller; this simply is the grim, unchanging nature of the epic hatred he has taken as his subject.

The Koran contains several very specific curses against Jews. And as modern terrorists often like to remind their YouTube audiences, Muhammad himself was a prolific Jew-killer. This passage from In Ishmael’s House, for instance, describes events that took place after the Prophet’s soldiers captured members of the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe in the year 627: “[All] 700 Jewish men were taken to the market at Medina. Trenches were dug in the market square and the men, tied together in groups, were beheaded. Their headless bodies were then buried in the trenches while Mohammed watched … All Jewish males who had not reached puberty, and all the remaining women and girls, were sold into slavery.” This mass slaughter came to be described in Muslim religious literature as the product of divine revelation. To this day, it is cited as clear proof that Allah permits the most hideous forms of punishment to be meted out against nonbelievers.

In the decades following Mohammed’s death, the rapid expansion of Islam across the Levant, North Africa, Iran, Central Asia and parts of Europe swallowed up a great multitude of ancient Jewish communities. In some cases, Jews initially welcomed, and even joined, Muslim armies, expecting deliverance from the bigotry and cruelty they suffered under Christian and other pre-Islamic regimes. And in many Muslim lands, Jewish religious and commercial life was permitted to continue.

But even in the best of circumstances, Jews were not treated as anything near equals. The eighth Umayyad caliph, Omar Abd-al-Aziz, commonly is credited with enumerating the rights of Jews and Christians — “People of the book” — under his codified rules for dhimmi communities. Yet his rules (whose spirit survives in many modern Islamic societies to this day) also declared that dhimmis could not ride horses, only donkeys; had to wear special clothing and shoes; could not serve as a witness in a case involving a Muslim; could enter bathhouses only when wearing a special sign around their neck; could not inherit property from a Muslim, or even bequeath their own property to their children.

The prospect of a Muslim being in any way subservient to a Jew was seen as especially obscene. In this regard, Gilbert describes a telling 19th-century episode from the Moroccan town of Entifa, where a 65-year-old Jewish man took in an impoverished Muslim woman as a servant during a period of extreme famine. When the town’s governor caught wind of the arrangement, he thundered, “Can a Jew have a Moorish woman serve him? He deserved to be burnt!” The man was nailed to the ground and beaten to death.

Gilbert avoids broad generalizations. As his narrative moves forward from century to century, he shows snapshots from different Muslim lands — emphasizing scattered instances, such as in Cordoba and, later, the Ottoman Empire, where truly humane and enlightened Muslim leaders took pains to protect Jewish subjects. In the courts of such leaders, Jews often rose to positions of wealth and power — typically as doctors, linguists and commercial liaisons. Yet these successes didn’t help Jews win acceptance but rather the opposite: Muslims saw Jews’ good fortune as an insult to the revealed order of the universe. In this climate of poisonous jealousy, it took only a single isolated violent spark for an entire Jewish community to be engulfed in an inferno of murder, rape and looting. In 1066, for instance, the murder by a single Jewish vizier in Muslim Spain was followed by pogroms that killed 5,000 Jews.

Centuries later, the appointment of a Jewish vizier by the Mongol emperor Arghun Khan led to similar massacres of Jews in Persia and Babylonia.

It goes without saying that Muslim civilization has no monopoly on violent and systematic anti-Semitism: Spasms of murderous Jew-hatred were common all across Christendom during the 14 centuries of Islam’s existence. But in recent generations, Western societies at least have tried to come to terms with their history in a morally serious way. Gilbert’s book makes clear that this self-critical approach to history remains foreign to Muslim societies, especially where Jews are concerned. While Israelis have wrung their hands for three generations over the relatively minor (by historical standards) bloodshed incurred in their nation’s creation and the wars that have unfolded since, no equivalent soul-searching has accompanied the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Muslim lands in the middle of the 20th century or the persecution and pillaging of countless Jewish communities throughout the entire history of the Islamic faith.

To this day, in fact, bloody episodes from early Muslim history involving the killings of Jews are often cited casually in Arab propaganda against Israel. No effort is made to interpret these stories in any sort of allegorical sense; instead, they are celebrated at face value as victories that validate the foundational Muslim narrative of conquest and submission.

The historical pattern Gilbert describes should inform the current debate over Muslim enmity toward Israel, and the exterminationist rhetoric and deeds that flow out of it. In the dream world of foreign-policy pop-punditry, it often is taken for granted that Jews and Muslims will get along like North and South Dakotans once Israel agrees to become an even smaller country than it already is. Yet this argument — reflecting Western leaders’ Asperger’s-like fixation on international law and lines drawn on maps — finds absolutely no support in the region’s history. In the unending account of violence Gilbert has compiled, it is hard to find a single episode that centres mainly on real estate: The issue was always the fact of Judaism itself rubbing up against Muslims‚ pride and conceits.

The creation of the Zionist movement radically changed the Western understanding of the Muslim-Jewish conflict — sweeping up generations of campus intellectuals who have projected upon it all their own obsessions with colonialism and class struggle. But in the Muslim world, Gilbert’s narrative shows us, Israel’s creation actually didn’t change the Muslim-Jewish dynamic as much as is commonly imagined. The rhetoric and barbarism hurled against Israeli Jews after the Zionist project began were not new but simply the old, more diffuse rhetoric and barbarism being redirected, as by a lens, toward a particular pinprick on a map. This is tied up with the reason that many Muslims refuse even to say the word “Israel,” preferring terms such as “the Zionist entity”: Deep down, they regard Israel not as a country in the proper sense but rather as a sort of soil-and-concrete stand-in for the stubborn, maddeningly ineradicable Jewish presence in Middle Eastern life since the age of Muhammad.

Aside from its value as a purely historical exposition, In Ishmael’s House is a splash of cold water for all those supporters of Israel who imagine that the world can be brought around to their side if it can just be made to appreciate how successful and advanced the Jewish state has become. As the author shows us, the continued vibrancy and economic success of Jewish civilization — so close to Islam’s very heartland — is precisely what has fed Muslim rage and jealousy for 14 centuries. The obscure, hardscrabble Jewish holy cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias attracted little attention from Muslims when they were poor. It was only once the desert started to bloom during the Zionist period that Muslims became obsessed with a holy city that doesn’t warrant even a single explicit mention in the Koran and that Muhammad seems never to have visited. (Indeed, it is one of the great ironies of Middle Eastern history that the ancestors of many of the Palestinians now described as “refugees” originally migrated to the area from neighbouring Arab countries only in order to profit from the regional economic boom created by the well-educated European Jews who arrived in the early part of the 20th century.)

In past eras, spiteful Muslim leaders and mobs gave expression to their ugliest sentiments by unleashing violence against defenceless Jewish communities. Until Iran gets the bomb, the closest they can come to replicating this in our own era is by way of occasional bouts of suicide terrorism and missile volleys — which is why those acts are encouraged and fetishized in such a lurid manner and why so few Middle Eastern Muslims regard them as a disgraceful or even regrettable part of their culture. However self-destructive such acts may seem to our eyes, they faithfully reflect a hateful pathology rooted in 14 centuries of Muslim history.

Jonathan Kay

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

Israeli Assessments of Obama Are Far More Pessimistic Than You Know


by Barry Rubin


While I have my own point of view (which I will come to in a few paragraphs) I also think you should know what sophisticated analysts are saying in Israel about the current U.S. government when they aren't speaking in public. They are extremely concerned over what will happen in 2011.

According to these analyses, Obama is so determined to "solve" the Israel-Palestinian conflict--due to his ideology--and is so full of the belief that he can do so--due to his excessive self-confidence plus inexperience--that he will make this virtually the highest foreign policy priority during his term's remaining two years. This will be done by pressuring Israel, by backing a unilateral Palestinian independence declaration (without a deal with Israel), or perhaps by trying to impose a plan of his own.

This approach is focused on readings of Obama's personality and world view, assuming he will be little affected by countervailing factors. Factors that would inhibit such an obsessive pursuit of a "solution" at any cost include:

The desire for a second term; congressional pressure against such a policy; strong opposition by public opinion; the advice of his aides; evidence that such a strategy would be a disaster; lack of cooperation by the Palestinians; and the presence of other pressing issues, perhaps major crises. In other words, this would be a single-minded, Captain Ahab (Moby Dick reference) obsession disregarding any other consideration.

I find this rather hard to believe and would suggest that there is already evidence such an outcome is unlikely. For example, the administration discovered that its focus on settlements backfired and that both the Palestinians as well as Arab states are very uncooperative. Failures have made the administration look silly on several occasions. Losses in the November elections would increase the strong desire within the Democratic Party to avoiding actions that would increase its electoral problems. Pursuing such a course is perhaps the foreign policy move most likely to cost Obama the 2012 election--which will of course be determined mainly by domestic issues--not only because of Jewish but also due to the views of many non-Jewish voters. I could go on at length.

The question comes down to whether Obama--who, let's face it, is still more of a mystery than any previous U.S. president--is in any way a normal politician. Is he capable of learning from experience or is he so ideological and wrapped up in himself as to be pretty impervious to advice or the external world. It's pretty horrifying to realize that we cannot assume the answers to these queries.

I would suggest that this administration is less responsive to reality and less willing to learn from experience than most of its predecessors. Yet is this government--with all the advisors, appointed officials, members of Congress, and party bureaucrats--really so lacking in a sense of self-preservation?

One thing's for sure, we're going to find out. And if the evidence is going against my view I won't hesitate to change my opinion and say so in the loudest and clearest way.

And read this companion article I've written very carefully, then click on the link and read what the Qatari author wrote. You may think that Israel and the Arab states have totally opposed views. That's not true. Drop out Syria and Libya, and you'll find that Arab fears are equally great regarding whether the U.S. government will defend them against the Iran-Syria-Hizballah-Hamas axis and the other revolutionary Islamist movements.

The more moderate Arabic-speaking governments are also pushing for a more realistic U.S. policy. I think in the end all of these forces will succeed, albeit to a far lesser extent than should happen.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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

News Analysis: Where Is Israel Now?


by Arlene Kushner


With regard to the possibility of face-to-face talks, it's all been a bit nonsensical. Because even if there were talks held, there would be no meeting of the minds. But at this point the situation has [de]generated to something akin to ludicrous.

I wrote two days ago about the fact that Netanyahu offered to consider a limited extension of the freeze if the PA would recognize Israel as a Jewish state. That was rejected out of hand, of course -- something I believe Netanyahu anticipated would happen. He was out to expose the Palestinian Arab position and intransigence.

But, following this, Nabil Sha'ath made another demand on behalf of the PA: No temporary freezes any more, he said. "What is needed is a full cessation of settlement activities. How can settlement continue on the lands that were supposed to be traded for peace?" And, this freeze should include Jerusalem. There will be no coming to the table unless Israel agrees on these points.

That's when it became perfectly clear that the PA was opting out.

Today's JPost carried a front page story -- written by three journalists, including Khaled Abu Toameh -- that cited a Fatah official who said the peace process based on a two state solution was over. Mahmoud Aloul, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said that, "The Palestinian Authority made every effort to avoid reaching this conclusion, but the Israeli racist policies led to the failure of the peace process."

Opting out, indeed. And missing no opportunity to sling mud at the same time. They, who have made it clear they wouldn't want a single Jew in their state, call us "racist."

Now it has come down to the point of mockery. Said PA senior official Yasser Abed Rabbo today, the PA might ("in accordance with international law," whatever that means) consider recognizing Israel as the Jewish state, if Israel withdraws to the pre '67 lines, which he, erroneously, calls borders: "We officially demand that the U.S. administration and the Israeli government provide a map of the borders of the state of Israel which they want us to recognize...If this map is based on the 1967 borders and provides for the end of the Israeli occupation over all Palestinian lands..."

He is not serious. Mark Regev, Netanyahu's spokesman, referred to this as the “Palestinian Authority running away from the issue [of establishing borders through negotiations]."

The US is playing a nonsensical game of looking for a way out of this impasse. (It reminds me of: "Children, now, now. Let's work this out. Be nice.") But it's not a serious-minded impasse with both sides really wanting to sit down, yet stuck on some point that makes it difficult. From the beginning Abbas wanted no part of this business and made that clear by putting up roadblocks. (I will not address here what Netanyahu truly did or did not want, no matter what he said.)

I would say -- although I must qualify this, as one can never be sure of anything in this part of the world -- that the notion of Israel negotiating with the PA is likely finished for now.

I feel relief, if this is so. Because I have feared what we might have been squeezed into conceding at that table. It would be a dangerous business with statements made even tentatively coming back to haunt us.

But there is no way to say that we're home free. As if we are ever "home free."

In fact, I want to look at what seems to me the reason why Abbas and company stiffened their demands in just the last couple of days, making it clear that they weren't interested in considering compromises to make it possible for them to come to the table.

I wrote in my last posting about the two visiting foreign ministers from France and Spain, Kouchner and Moratinos, respectively. And how they were interested in "helping" in the "peace process." If you remember, Kouchner gave an interview to a PA paper, in which he said the "Security Council option" could not be ruled out.

Well, a third dignitary also showed up here yesterday: Finland's president, Tarja Halonen.

I know that Abbas met this week with Kouchner and Moratinos in Amman, and I believe Halonen was part of that meeting. Her itinerary included stops in both Jordan and PA territory. But if she wasn't at that meeting, then Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb certainly was.

In fact,The Jordan Times, in discussing this meeting between Europeans and PA officials reports that the representatives of the PA said they have six options as to how to proceed (six?), "including unilateral declaration of an independent Palestinian state without an agreement with Israel..." Of the six, only this was specified.

And what do you think these European trouble mak... excuse me, I mean diplomats said to Abbas? It is not likely that they encouraged him to lower his demands regarding the freeze and sit at the table and hammer things out. What is most likely the case is that they stiffened his back, either jointly or one at a time, giving him a sense of increased strength about the possibility of going it alone, via a unilateral declaration. I believe he has been encouraged, even if only subtly, in his plans. I believe he has heard how eager Europe is to see the formation of a Palestinian state, without delay.

So, unless Obama pulls a rabbit out of a hat, and speedily, we'll soon be able to stop thinking about the freeze and all the rest. And breathe a sigh of relief on that score.

Nor need I offer any pretense with regard to my pleasure that what Obama tried to push artificially, for political purposes of his own, but with great disregard for our rights and security needs, will likely fail. If even the prospect of direct talks disappears before the elections (something he has been trying mightily to forestall), he will be greatly chagrinned.

Of course, he has only himself to blame. For excessively raising hopes, for setting unreasonable time tables, and for himself originally demanding that we freeze construction, making it difficult for Abbas to do less.

What I ponder -- although it's unlikely we'll ever know -- is what Obama thinks of European statements and behavior now. And how angry he is at Abbas, though he'll be loathe to admit any anger at all.

But then, after we find we can breathe that sigh of relief, it will be time for the best diplomats and lawyers and international strategists that our nation has to apply themselves to what is likely to be coming down the road within the next ten months or so. It is roughly in August of 2011 that PA Prime Minister Fayyad has said he would be ready to unilaterally declare a state. Petitioning of the Security Council, if that is the way he would opt to go, would proceed next. Or, alternately, seeking the backing of Europe and possibly the US.

This will be a time when American supporters of Israel will need to act to maximum effectiveness.

Arlene Kushner, Senior Research Policy Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research

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

Iran-Syria Bloc Consolidates Alliance With Turkish Regime and Hold Over Lebanon



by Barry Rubin


Here's one more in a whole series of Iranian and Syrian statements that Turkey--which means the current Islamist-oriented regime in Ankara--is now a strategic ally of these two radical states.

Question: Can you be simultaneously an ally of the United States and an ally of Iran? Sounds hard to pull off, doesn't it?

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad added Lebanon, which is now close to being an Iran-Syria satellite, and--perhaps based on wishful thinking--Jordan to that list. The statement came during meetings he held with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan during the latter's visit to Damascus and the first meeting of the Syrian-Turkish High Level Strategic Cooperation Council during which 51 agreements for cooperation were signed.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Lebanon As he visits the Lebanon-Israel border, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making a statement that he is the leader of the Arab world. After all, Ahmadinejad has to overcome two problems: one is that he’s Persian; the other is that he’s a Shia Muslim. Iran has been making a lot of progress on these fronts though it still faces powerful limits to exerting influence in the Arabic-speaking world.

In effect, Ahmadinejad is saying: I insult America! I am leader of the Palestinian struggle1 I'm going to get nuclear weapons! I’ve got it all!

Fortunately, while he’s playing to the mob he’s also enraging all the leaders he seeks to displace. And the Iranians in general aren’t too thrilled either as the economic situation there continues to decline since sanctions are biting.

Now, if there was only some Western leadership to organize the other side there might be more hope of defeating the Iranian and Islamist forces.

Speaking about Iran, it is becoming fashionable now for some to claim that Iran is merely a paper tiger. Yes, it is true that in a direct battle with the United States the Iranian military would certainly lose. Yes, it is equally true that Iran is not about to invade other countries the way North Korea did South Korea in 1950 or Iraq did to Kuwait in 1990. Iran might even be successfully deterred from firing nuclear-tipped missiles at Israel.

But that is not the nature of this long struggle. Remember that during the Cold War--a period of almost 45 years--the Soviet Union, which was far stronger than Iran of course--never directly engaged in battle with the United States, nor did either side fire missiles at the other. The struggle was conducted covertly, through proxies, by way of ideological recruiting, in a competition to gain allies or to install allied (or puppet) regimes.

That is the nature of this struggle. And on these terms Iran is winning. It has made gains in Lebanon, Gaza, to a lesser extent in Iraq, and to a small extent in Afghanistan. Tehran has won as allies the regimes in Syria and Turkey.

What gains has the United States made against the Iran-Syria-Hizballah-Hamas axis in the last two years? Quite the contrary, according to a remarkable column in the Qatari newspaper al-Arab that has been translated by MEMRI. It is so remarkable--and reflects what a lot of influential Arabs are saying privately--that I can't resist quoting a chunk of it:

"Reviewing the Arab reality, we find that president [Bush's policies] corresponded to those of the moderate [Arab] camp on most strategic issues... Bush portrayed some of the [Arab] countries [mainly Syria: BR] as traitor states belonging to the Axis of Evil. This position was an anchor that the moderate states relied on in addressing regional issues, a position that strengthened them vis-à-vis Iran, Syria and their proxies – Hizbullah and Hamas. President Bush's positions helped to [increase] the influence of the moderate camp in the Middle East, and to isolate Syria for a few years. They created a new situation in Lebanon, and to a certain extent forced Hamas to negotiate with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. Bush was serious in settling scores with Syria, and he understood the Shi'ite threat, which the leaders of the [moderate] Arab countries have long been concerned about. He did not hesitate to put the resistance [radical: BR] movements on the West's list of terrorist [organizations].

"[Looking at] Obama, on the other hand, we find that he has mishandled the affairs of the Middle East in two ways. His first [mistake] is his openness towards Iran and Syria, which Americans view as exonerating evil [regimes] that have not stopped supporting terrorism and threatening America's interests in the Middle East. The moderate Arabs view this step as ingratitude towards them after all they have done for the U.S., which should have strengthened them in the region vis-à-vis their rivals [instead of reaching out to the latter]. The second [mistake] of the new America president is that, unlike his predecessor, he does not issue clear instructions to the leaders of the Middle East countries–which has caused some, even among his allies, to rebel against him, as it were. [For example,] Fatah's threats to withdraw from the U.S.-sponsored negotiations [with Israel] have become a commonplace phenomenon... Israel [too] sees Obama as a weak president who cannot fulfill [the needs] of the Hebrew state, even though he has promised to protect it from any danger..."

If you were a fly on the wall at a meeting of Saudi, Egyptian, Jordanian, moderate Lebanese, and lots of other Arabic-speaking leaders, this is precisely what you'd be hearing.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Welcome Ahmadinejad!


by Tariq Alhomayed


Contrary to everything that is being said today about the Iranian president's visit to Lebanon, I believe that this is an important visit that will contribute to raising awareness – which is absent – in Lebanon and the region to the reality of Hezbollah and its subservience to Tehran, and the danger of following Iranian slogans.

Hezbollah is today welcoming a man that is opposed by half the people of Iran, and criticized by the Iranian conservatives more than the reformists due to the deteriorating economic conditions in his country, and the clear collapse of Iranian diplomacy, whether this is regionally or at an international level. Nasrallah – a man who is trying with all of his strength to squash the investigation into Rafik Hariri's death and who has excelled at corrupting the entire political process in Lebanon – is welcoming Ahmadinejad – a man who shares similar tendencies with him which is something that can be seen by looking at Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, or even Iran – to Lebanon today. He is welcoming a guest that shares his hostility towards almost all Arab countries and the international community. Therefore, the best description that I have heard of this meeting between Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad is what a Lebanese figure told me, describing this meeting as being "the meeting of the men wanted for justice" and these two figures are indeed both wanted for justice; whether this is the justice of the international community, or internally, whether this is Iran or Lebanon.

It is true that some believe that Ahmadinejad's visit will only serve to intensify the sectarian crisis in Lebanon and the region at large, however as "every cloud has a silver lining" this visit will also help to divide the lines, and show which side Hezbollah stands on, as well as where Iran and it's Wilayat al-Faqih [Guardianship of the Jurists] stands. Many among us – in Lebanon, and the region at large – were deceived by Hezbollah and Iran, and this was due to false slogans utilized by a misleading propaganda machine, Arab states with narrow vision, and opportunistic – Islamist and non-Islamist – parties; therefore Ahmadinejad's visit will help to distinguish positions clearly.

When we say that some of the people among us were deceived, this is true, and the proof of this can be seen in the shock that shook the Arab world, and particularly Lebanon, on the day that Hezbollah occupied some Sunni districts in Beirut, as well as the shock when Nasrallah came out to attack Egypt, or when he boasted that he was a follower of the "Wilayat al-Faqih party." I remember that on that day, a former Iranian official who remains influential till this day was visiting my office, and pointing to the headline "Hassan Nasrallah: I am Proud to be a Member of the Party of Wilayat al-Faqih" in that day's (23 May 2008) edition of Asharq Al-Awsat, he told me "you have lured him into a trap…this is a mistake of a lifetime for Nasrallah!"

Therefore, many in the region, both countries and individuals, occasionally need to be shocked in order to see what is being plotted against them, and Ahmadinejad's visit is one such beneficial shock. For this will help the Lebanese and Arabs to clear their vision and see the danger that Hezbollah's subservience to Iran represents to Lebanon; this visit will also help the Lebanese, and particularly the Shiite intellectuals, to begin debating the danger of Lebanon being abducted by Iran.

In summary, Ahmadinejad's visit to Lebanon has resulted in everybody showing their cards, and this is good and beneficial!

Tariq Alhomayed

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

J'lem: Ahmadinejad in Lebanon is like a ‘landlord's visit'


by Herb Keinon and Yaakov Lappin

The IDF’s eyes are wide open, Barak asserts. “This visit shows Hizbullah’s growing dependence on Iran.”

Not wanting to detract from significant opposition inside Lebanon to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit there on Wednesday, Israel took a low official profile on a trip it deems highly provocative, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not publicly addressing it.

Netanyahu’s silence, however, should not be interpreted as a lack of concern in Jerusalem regarding the symbolism of the trip, or what it presages for Lebanon and – by extension – for Israel.

Ahmadinejad in Lebanon is “like a landlord coming to inspect his domain,” Foreign Minister spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

“He is bringing a message of violence and extremism, and his presence makes it even clearer that Hizbullah, at the order of the Iranians, has built a state within a state,” he said. “This is far removed from Lebanese interests.”

Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said that “Iran’s domination of Lebanon, through its proxy Hizbullah, has prevented Lebanon from being a partner in peace and turned Lebanon into an Iranian satellite and a hub of regional terror and instability.”

One of Israel’s main concerns is that the Iranian president’s visit will embolden the extremists inside Lebanon, something that could trigger another round of internal violence there that could easily spread across the border. If there was hope in the past that Lebanon was in the moderate Arab camp, this visit – according to sources in Jerusalem – shows that it is an Iranian satellite on Israel’s northern border.

“Anyone concerned with Lebanon’s real interests wants to keep the border with Israel quiet,” the official said. Iran, with its extreme ideology, has an agenda divorced from Lebanon’s interests, spurring concern in Jerusalem that Teheran may be more ready to heat up the border with Israel, because it has little real concern about the price Lebanon would have to pay, the official added.

Sources in Jerusalem said the visit demonstrates that Lebanon – thanks to Hizbullah – has turned into an Iranian client state firmly in the axis of extreme countries that support terrorism and are opposed to peace.

The US administration slammed Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon on Wednesday, suggesting it threatens the stability of the small, religiously fragmented country.

“We reject any efforts to destabilize or inflame tensions within Lebanon,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in response to a journalist’s question posed while she was in the Balkans.

“We would hope that no visitor would do anything or say anything that would give cause to greater tension or instability in that country,” she said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the visit, which includes a trip near the border with Israel, a continuation of Ahmadinejad’s “provocative ways.”

Gibbs also touched on a sensitive point in Lebanon – whether Hizbullah is more committed to the sovereignty of Lebanon or is a means of giving neighboring countries control in the country when he said, “I think that it also suggests that Hizbullah values its allegiance to Iran over its allegiance to Lebanon.”

Clinton emphasized that the US supports “the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon.”

She added that while her words might not “have any influence,” the message that the world opposes those who would destabilize Lebanon is one “the world needs to convey to the Iranians.”

The security establishment sent a business-as-usual message, but behind the scenes, Israel is closely monitoring the visit.

“This visit shows Hizbullah’s growing dependence on Iran,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. “The IDF’s eyes are wide open.”

The defense minister was touring the Golan Heights where he met with soldiers and inspected tanks.

“Lebanon could cease being an independent country, and we must follow what is taking place from the intelligence and military perspectives,” he added.

The security services are expected to keep close tabs on Ahmadinejad’s tour of southern Lebanon and Hizbullah strongholds like Bint Jbail, just a few kilometers from the border with Israel, and the scene of intense clashes between the Golani Brigade and Hizbullah terrorists during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

The Iranians have deliberately created a fog around Ahmadinejad’s exact travel plans for Thursday, and it remains unclear whether he will appear right at the border at the Fatma Gate (the Good Fence Crossing), where he had previously vowed to throw a stone at Israel, according to reports.

MK Arye Eldad (National Union) said on Wednesday that the IDF should kill Ahmadinejad if he visits the border with Israel.

“The history of mankind would be different if in 1939 somehow, a Jewish soldier had succeeded to kill Hitler,” Eldad said.

He continued, “If even for one moment, Ahmadinejad is in the IDF’s sights on the day that he comes to throw stones at us, he cannot be allowed to return home alive.

“The State of Israel was established so that the Jewish people can be responsible for their own destiny,” Eldad said.

“He is a media creature; this is what he is looking for,” said Amir Melzer, deputy head of the Metulla Regional Council, which is the northernmost town in Israel, situated 30 meters from Lebanon. “Every minute he appears in the media just makes him bigger and he is laughing at us,” Melzer, who is an attorney, added.

“His visit to Lebanon doesn’t interest me. We know this is an arch-terrorist, and the source of evil ideology, weapons proliferation, and most worrying, funds for global terrorism. What does concern me is the stage this sick man receives at the United Nations after he calls for the destruction of the Jewish nation, and after he violates the UN Charter by calling for the destruction of a member-state,” Melzer said.

“This man threatens world peace. His own people do not want him. The Iranian people are an enlightened nation with a great culture, and they are controlled by a few men in robes stained with their own people’s blood,” he said.


Herb Keinon and Yaakov Lappin

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

Hizbullah Chief Echoes Iran's Call for Israel to Disappear


by Mohamad Ali Harissi


Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah echoed Iran’s call on Wednesday for Israel to disappear, speaking during a mass rally in Beirut organised in honour of visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“President Ahmadinejad is right when he says Israel is illegitimate and should cease to exist,” Nasrallah told an ecstatic crowd of tens of thousands via video link.

Ahmadinejad, who has called Israel a “tumour,” has denied the Holocaust and repeatedly said the Jewish state is “doomed to be wiped off the map.”

As recently as last month, he said the people of the Middle East are “capable of removing the Zionist regime” from the world scene.

Chanting “death to America” and “death to Israel,” Hezbollah supporters turned out en masse in the southern suburb of Beirut they control to welcome Ahmadinejad, whose country is a major financial, military and ideological supporter of their militant Shiite group.

A beaming Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Lebanon Wednesday morning on a two-day visit, waved at the crowd before taking a seat next to Hezbollah number two Naim Qassem.

The rally was held at an outdoor stadium where Iranian flags and photos of Ahmadinejad were hoisted alongside two life-sized pictures of overturned Israeli Merkava tanks.

A photo of a crying Israeli soldier bearing the message “Israel has fallen” was also on display as video footage of the 2006 war aired on a giant screen.

“Iran is the heartbeat of the resistance,” said Hussein Khawi, 50, who was at the rally. “Israel won’t dare come near south Lebanon anymore.”

Added Hajj Hussein, a 65-year-old Lebanese who resides in Canada: “I came to thank Ahmadinejad for what he offered us.

“Iran stands by us and that means victory is ours.”

Ahmadinejad’s trip is seen as a major boost for Hezbollah but has drawn criticism from members of Lebanon’s pro-Western parliamentary majority who see it as a bid to portray the country as “an Iranian base on the Mediterranean.”

But Nasrallah shot down fears that Iran, which wields considerable political clout in Lebanon through its Shiite proxy, had plans for an Islamic revolution in the tiny Mediterranean country.

“There are those ... who speak of an Iranian project for Palestine, for Lebanon, for the Arab region ... and work to strike fear into governments and peoples,” Nasrallah said.

“What Iran wants for Lebanon is what the Lebanese want. What Iran wants in Palestine is what the Palestinians want. That is the Iranian project.”

The highlight of Ahmadinejad’s trip comes on Thursday when he will be just a few kilometres (miles) away from the Israeli border as he tours southern villages destroyed during the devastating 2006 war between Hezbollah and the Jewish state.

Iran has been a major donor in the reconstruction of southern Lebanon following the month-long war, and Ahmadinejad is set to receive a hero’s welcome in the area.

But Ahmadinejad’s visit, his first since he was elected in 2005, comes at a sensitive time in politically turbulent Lebanon.

Hezbollah is locked in a standoff with Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri over unconfirmed reports that a UN-backed tribunal is set to indict members of the Shiite militant group over the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

Tensions over the tribunal have grown steadily in recent weeks, raising fears of renewed sectarian violence and the collapse of Lebanon’s hard-fought national unity government.

Mohamad Ali Harissi

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

Wilders Acquitted of 'Group Insult' Charge


by Andrew G. Bostom


Geert Wilders Kafka-esque Amsterdam trial took an initial positive turn as relayed by Ned May (in Dutch to English translation, from Elsevier) at The Gates of Vienna:

by Maartje Willems, Arne Hankel

[Tuesday, October 12, 2010] Geert Wilders must be acquitted of insulting Muslims and immigrants as a group. The Public Prosecutor (OM) said this Tuesday in court in Amsterdam.

The PVV leader is on trial for group-insult because he compared the Quran to Mein Kampf. The prosecutors Birgit van Roessel and Paul Velleman find that Wilders must be acquitted of group-insult because the statements were related to the Islam and the Quran, and not to Muslims.

Aside from group-insult, the OM retains charges against the politician of incitement to hatred and discrimination. These facts will be discussed on Friday, when the prosecutors complete their story and make their case known.

The OM also said earlier today that none of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Geert Wilders should receive a compensation. According to the OM, it has not been proven that the complainants have been directly harmed by the expressions of the PVV leader.

At the beginning of the session there was disagreement about providing a copy of the indictment. The OM wanted to hand the clerk of the court a copy of the argumentation, of which Wilders' lawyer, Bram Moszkowicz, also wanted a copy. This was refused by the OM, because the defense could then read in advance. After a brief deliberation, the court decided that the clerk would return the copy.
This was agreed to by all parties.

Andrew G. Bostom

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Style and substance in Netanyahu’s governance


by Yitzhak Klein

The country is going to need a new policy to deal with the Palestinians, based on the assumption that no peace agreement is likely any time soon.

Since the formal expiration of the building freeze in Judea and Samaria on September 26, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has tried to negotiate a formula that will allow direct talks with the Palestinians to go forward. The Americans and Palestinians have been pressing him to extend the freeze, and while it lasts to reach a deal regarding borders – an issue Netanyahu insists must be deferred until the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and until its security requirements are met.

US President Barack Obama’s offer of American support in return for a freeze extension made it clear that the White House’s idea of security requirements are very different from Israel’s. In effect Netanyahu was being pressured to capitulate on the freeze in order to capitulate again in the actual negotiations.

For two weeks, the prime minister maintained silent regarding his intentions. The silence ended with his opening speech to the Knesset on Monday, when he revealed his position and offered a deal: a limited freeze extension in return for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state. The offer, as anticipated, was quickly rejected in Ramallah.

Netanyahu’s proposal was directed at four different audiences.

1. The White House. The statement was a declaration of independence. Obama’s thumb has been pressing heavily on the scales, tilting America’s position in favor of the Palestinians. The Americans continue to demand that Israel comply with a precondition for talks, freezing building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s position hitherto has been that negotiations should be conducted without preconditions. In his Knesset speech he rejected the White House’s tilt and said, in effect, that if Israel had to meet preconditions, the Palestinians have to as well.

Netanyahu chose his political ground carefully. Nothing is likely to generate sympathy for Israel’s position on Capitol Hill and within the American Jewish community as insistence that the Palestinians simply acknowledge that Israel is the Jewish state. Their refusal to do so will seem incomprehensible to most Americans.

2. The Arab League. Netanyahu’s statement was a challenge to let the Palestinian issue slide, and no longer allow it to interfere with the quiet alliance between Israel and moderate Arab states now shaping up over Iran. Formally, the Arab League backed the Palestinian position on a freeze, but was notoriously reluctant to back their alternative strategy – a unilateral declaration of independence. The league’s position can be interpreted as not caring whether or not the Palestinian issue is on the road to resolution. This, of course, undermines what is supposed to be one of the Obama administration’s rationales in pressing the Palestinian issue – making up to the Arab world.

3. The Labor Party. Labor’s policy is increasingly vulnerable to ideological purists insisting that the “peace process” continue at all costs. Labor is threatening to leave Netanyahu’s coalition if negotiations break down. Netanyahu’s chosen political ground is even more potent within Israel than on Capitol Hill. If Labor – and Kadima – want to fight an election on the grounds that Israel should not insist on recognition as the Jewish state, they’re welcome to try their luck.

4. Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu said, in effect, “Be damned.” Netanyahu is not generally a confrontational politician. Like most prime ministers, he has to spend an inordinate percentage of his time keeping his coalition together. He bends over backward to find negotiated solutions. To ensure maximum wiggle room, he keeps his mouth shut and plays his cards close to his chest. Someone is always accusing him of lacking courage or principles.

THE BIG difference between Netanyahu today and the Netanyahu who was elected in 1996 is that he seems to have developed an intuition for when he has no choice but to turn around and fight back. One such moment was when Obama manufactured a crisis over building in Jerusalem and dissed Netanyahu in the Oval Office. As he left the White House that day, Netanyahu appeared to have understood instinctively that he couldn’t let himself be cowed. Another such moment appears to have come this week.

Chances are about even that the Labor Party will pull out of Netanyahu’s coalition – probably around December (budget time), when it can obfuscate the diplomatic issue on which Netanyahu and the Likud can craft an electoral victory. Netanyahu can maintain a narrow coalition by adding the National Union, but it’s far from clear that that’s his best option. Perhaps his next step is to learn to anticipate a crisis he cannot avoid and precipitate it – on his own terms and in his own time. If the country is going to elections, the best time for the prime minister is ASAP.

The country is going to need a new policy to deal with the Palestinians, based on the assumption that no peace agreement is likely any time soon.

Yitzhak Klein heads the Israel Policy Center, whose mission includes reinforcing Israel’s character as a Jewish, democratic state.

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Franco Still Dead — and PA Still Not Talking Peace


by Jennifer Rubin


Every once in a while, someone connected to the non-direct, non-peace talks pipes up with a true statement. Here’s a particularly refreshing dose of reality:

Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday that he saw “no chance of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians in the near future.”

“In the eyes of Palestinians, the occupation began in ‘48 and not in ‘67,” Ya’alon told Army Radio. “Not only Hamas thinks this – Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] does too.”

“Their refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state shows they have no interest in having Israel as a state beside theirs,” he added.

Now, aside from George Mitchell and Obama, doesn’t just about every one recognize that Ya’alon is right? When given the choice between recognizing the Jewish state and continuation of a settlement freeze, the PA chooses the latter. But that will end the talks! Well, yes, don’t we think that was the point? Obama put the parties in a box, with no face-saver available to either. Bibi can’t continue the freeze absent someone huge breakthrough (e.g., recognition of the Jewish state), and the PA can’t go without a settlement freeze, which the Obama team has elevated to the top of the agenda. So both parties now focus on shaping the best possible posture for the end of talks.

The parties last spoke on Sept. 26. The longer the non-talks don’t go on, the less anyone will notice or care.

Jennifer Rubin

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