Friday, January 7, 2011

Obama's Moment of Truth at the UN

by Steven J. Rosen

President Obama has affirmed repeatedly that, under his leadership, America's bond with Israel is absolute, unshakeable, and rock solid. But the Israeli public is not convinced. A Jerusalem Post poll in March 2010 found that just 9 percent of Jewish Israelis think his administration is pro-Israel, against 48 percent who think it is pro-Palestinian. J Street's pollster, Jim Gerstein, looked for a different result, but even his survey found that 55 percent of Israelis do not believe that Obama supports Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also is not convinced that Obama is necessarily in Israel's camp. Abbas sees rich opportunities to drive a wedge between Israel and its "most reliable" partner, particularly on what the Arabs consider settlements in Jerusalem. Abbas witnessed, from Obama's first day, this administration's fixation on the most divisive and vexatious issue in the U.S.-Israel relationship. He sees that Obama does not regard the Jewish presence in the parts of Jerusalem that Jordan held before 1967 to be legitimate. (One wonders: Is Obama aware that more than half the Jews in Jerusalem live in this forbidden eastern half of the capital?)

Few blame Abbas for exploiting the opening that Obama created. Obama very kindly pointed a finger to his own soft underbelly, and Abbas merely accepted the invitation to target the sweet spot the president so generously exposed. Abbas told Obama that he cannot have the peace talks the president so desperately craves until Obama imposes on Israel the freeze in Jerusalem that the president promised.

Secretary of State Clinton admits that the Palestinian leader's demand for a settlement freeze as a precondition for talks is unprecedented. For 17 years, Abbas did negotiate with seven Israeli prime ministers without setting a precondition for a settlements freeze. But now he says a freeze is an absolute and non-negotiable requirement before talks even can begin. Abbas says, "At first, President Obama stated ... that Israel must stop all construction activities in the settlements. Could we demand less than that?" Subtly, and without any audible objection from Obama, Abbas has abandoned the Oslo policy of negotiating with Israel and reverted to the pre-Oslo strategy that it is America's job to impose a solution. Abbas remonstrated to Obama, "You said in the United Nations ... 'A Palestinian state is in the vital national security interest of the United States' ... This is a promise and a debt around your neck."

This is the first time since Oslo that the Palestinian leadership is flatly refusing to sit and negotiate with a prime minister of Israel. The peace process began with a pledge from Arafat that the "PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process ... and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations." Abbas repeated this pledge just three years ago at the Annapolis Conference in front of 47 foreign ministers, where he declared that "We agree to immediately launch good-faith, bilateral ... vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations." Now Abbas is putting all that aside, to pressure the U.S. to pressure Israel.

This month, Abbas is taking his campaign to the UN Security Council, where the Palestinians are circulating a draft resolution that would declare Israeli "settlements" in Jerusalem to be "illegal." The draft demands a halt to all construction in the eastern half of Israel's capital city. It's openly a maneuver to hoist Obama on his own petard. "We drafted it using the same words that Secretary Clinton is using and so we don't see why the U.S. would veto it," Abbas said.

Successive administrations have deplored settlement activity as an obstacle to peace, but no American president since Jimmy Carter has taken the view that building Jewish homes in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem is "illegal." Carter said in April 1980: "We do not think they are legal,” because, his secretary of state explained, "Article 49, paragraph 6, of the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the territories.” (This paragraph says, "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.") But defenders of Israel respond that obligations under the Geneva Convention apply to territory occupied by one state but legally recognized as the property of another state. The West Bank and East Jerusalem are not such a case, because they were not legally recognized as the sovereign territory of any state prior to their capture by Israel in 1967. They are, therefore, "disputed" rather than "occupied" territories, and the Convention does not apply.

President Ronald Reagan rejected Carter's position and said the settlements were “ill-advised” and “unnecessarily provocative” but “not illegal." All American presidents since Reagan have taken this view, and none has repeated Carter's formulation that settlements are "illegal." Obama said that settlements "undermine efforts to achieve peace," but he, too, has not said that they are "illegal."

The Carter administration was also the first and only U.S. government to vote in favor of a UN Security Council Resolution declaring Israeli settlements to be "illegal": Resolution 465 on March 1, 1980. (Carter subsequently disavowed his ambassador's vote for this resolution, saying that his instruction had not been properly communicated and that the U.S. should have abstained. An abstention still would shave permitted the resolution to pass.)

Resolution 465 said that "the Fourth Geneva Convention ... is applicable to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem." It said that "all measures taken by Israel to change the ... demographic composition ... or status of the ... territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem ... have no legal validity and that Israel's policy and practices of settling parts of its population ... in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention." In addition to voting for Resolution 465, Carter abstained on (and thereby permitted to pass) two other resolutions against Israeli settlements containing similar language: Resolutions 446 on March 22, 1979, and 452 on July 20, 1979.

No president since Carter has permitted anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolutions on settlements to pass. Ronald Reagan vetoed two: a draft vetoed August 2, 1983 (while Menachem Begin was Israeli prime minister) and a draft vetoed January 30, 1986 (during Shimon Peres's term). And Bill Clinton vetoed three draft resolutions condemning Israeli settlements, one while Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister, draft Resolution S/1995/394 vetoed on May 17, 1995; and two while Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister the first time, draft Resolution S/1997/199 vetoed on March 7, 1997 (even though it was sponsored by the United Kingdom and France), and draft Resolution S/1997/241 vetoed on March 21, 1997.

In addition to these five vetoes, successive U.S. administrations since Carter have defeated by "silent veto" many other anti-settlement initiatives at the Security Council that did not reach the voting stage because fervent American opposition dissuaded their proponents from pressing the issue.

Every American president since Nixon has used the veto to block resolutions hostile to Israel. Richard Nixon vetoed two such draft Security Council resolutions, Gerald Ford four, Ronald Reagan 18 (!), George H.W. Bush four, Bill Clinton three, and George W. Bush nine. Even Jimmy Carter mustered the courage to veto one, on April 30, 1980, because it was inimical to the Camp David Accords he had brokered. In all, seven American presidents have recorded 41 vetoes in Israel's defense at the UN Security Council.

Lack of balance in the 41 draft resolutions vetoed was the reason stated or implied most frequently to explain the need for a veto. Resolutions deploring Israel's use of force or Israeli security measures have been vetoed for failing to acknowledge and equally criticize actions on the Arab side, especially terrorist acts, that gave rise to the Israeli measures for self-defense. Resolutions proposing international conferences and other diplomatic initiatives favored by the Arabs have been vetoed because they would conflict with U.S. peace initiatives and direct negotiations among the parties. Several draft resolutions were vetoed because they were deemed inconsistent with Resolutions 242 and 338 or with signed peace agreements. At least two draft resolutions were vetoed because they blamed the government of Israel for extreme acts that were committed by a few Israeli citizens who were being investigated and prosecuted by the Israeli authorities. In about half the 41 veto statements, the American representative acknowledged that the United States shared concerns about a given Israeli action but objected to the wording of the resolution or with the appropriateness of bringing the issue to the Security Council.

The Obama administration has declined up to now to say whether it would veto a draft resolution declaring Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem to be illegal, because, said State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner on December 29, "It’s a hypothetical at this point." But Toner did signal unhappiness with the Palestinian draft resolution: "Direct negotiations are the only path through which the parties will ultimately reach ... our mutual goal. And final status issues can only be resolved through negotiations between the parties and not by recourse to the UN Security Council, so we’ve consistently opposed any attempt to take these kinds of issues to the Council."

Members of Congress are less reticent about the necessity to veto. On June 21, 2010, a bipartisan letter to Obama from 87 senators said, "We ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any ... biased or one-sided resolutions from passing."

A tactic sometimes used at the Security Council by administrations in the past is to offer a substitute resolution with softer language or added content to make it less one-sided. A substitute could omit the assertion that settlements are a violation of the Geneva Convention and therefore are "illegal." Special Mideast Envoy George Mitchell said on January 6, 2010, "There are disputed legal issues [in East Jerusalem]. ...We could spend the next 14 years arguing over disputed legal issues or we can try to get a negotiation to resolve them in a manner that meets the aspirations of both societies."

A bolder approach would be a more balanced substitute resolution that not only removed the dubious legal claim but that also declared the Palestinian policy of setting unprecedented preconditions for peace talks to be unacceptable. George Mitchell said on September 22, 2009, "We do not believe in preconditions. We do not impose them. And we urge others not to impose preconditions." A resolution should demand that the Palestinian Authority sit down with Israel to negotiate, the central imperative of the Oslo Accords. The substitute resolution could refer to the Quartet Statement of March 19, 2010, which called for "the resumption without preconditions of direct bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues, as previously agreed by the parties."

A one-sided resolution not balanced in this way would violate the injunction that Secretary Clinton laid down on December 10, to "stop trying to assign blame for ... failure, and focus instead on what [the parties] need to do to make these efforts succeed." As a presidential candidate, Obama called on the Bush administration to veto resolutions that blame only Israel. But now that he is president, Obama is not going to have any leverage to prevent one-sided resolutions unless he overcomes the veto reticence he has shown until now and finds the courage to threaten his first veto there. Blocking this Palestinian maneuver against Israel at the UN Security Council could also help persuade the Israeli public that Obama's commitment to Israel is more than rhetoric.

Original URL:

Steven J. Rosen served for 23 years as foreign policy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and was a defendant in the recently dismissed AIPAC case. He is now director of the Washington Project at the Middle East Forum.

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

Obama's Southern Sudan Policy

by Rachel Ehrenfeld

Southern Sudan's mostly Christian population has been under genocidal attack from the Islamist-dominated North. WikiLeaks has shed new light on the Obama administration's diplomatic activities on this crisis.

According to WikiLeaks cables, in December 2009, the U.S. warned Sudan to stop transshipments of Iranian arms to Hamas in Gaza for use against Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The cables, however, did not discuss that Sudan was also transferring Iranian arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill American and coalition forces.

Other Sudan-related WikiLeaks-released cables from the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, reported that in 2009, the Obama administration threatened Kenya with "sweeping sanctions" if it delivered the shipload of weapons, including 32 tanks recovered from Somali pirates, to their rightful owner, the Southern Sudanese government. The tanks remained in Kenya. This new policy contravened the Bush administration's 2008 plan to convert the Southern Sudanese People's Liberation Army from a guerrilla outfit to a small conventional army capable of defending Juba, the capital of the South.

Nonetheless, the Obama administration continued the efforts to make Southern Sudan a viable state. On December 20, the White House declared that it had "intense interest in having a successful referendum." The decision to stop the arms shipment and the tanks from reaching the Southern Sudanese so they could defend themselves from the heavily armed Northern Sudanese army raises the question: who in Washington sets the U.S. policy towards Sudan?

Southern Sudan, a mostly Christian region, could soon gain its independence from the U.S.-designated terrorist Islamic Republic of Sudan and its ruler, the internationally indicted and wanted war criminal, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

The Obama administration's concessions to Bashir made possible the independence referendum scheduled on January 9 that would lead to Southern Sudan's independence in July 2011. Publicly, the concessions include the removal of Sudan from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring states, ending the sanctions against the country, and allowing negotiations for economic assistance, including debt relief. The administration first announced this development in June 2010.

It is unclear what guarantees were given to Bashir, who in July 2008 was charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague and has two international arrest warrants against him. Moreover, according to a WikiLeaks-released State Department cable, in March 2009, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo informed the U.S. that Bashir stashed "possibly $9 billion" in banks outside Sudan.

If the past is any indication, reading the New York Times (NYT) will give the impression that Bashir will likely be celebrated as a reformer by the Obama administration. On July 13, 2010, The NYT updated its "people" information with the following: "Mr. Bashir has been vilified ... [and] suspected of war crimes ... [and] often perceived as a villain in the West" (emphasis added). But Mr. Bashir, according to the NYT, enjoys "strong support from voters in northern Sudan" because under his leadership, Sudan's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) "has nearly tripled." However, The NYT did not mention that the Northern Sudanese "voters" are Muslims cowed by the military dictatorship and that the new Sudanese wealth comes from oil exports, from which Bashir has pocketed some $9 billion.

Bashir will not be the first murderer and thief to benefit by promising peace to an American administration. Yasser Arafat, an internationally wanted terrorist for decades who ordered the killing of American diplomats and who incredibly stashed away more than $10 billion (part of which was international aid money to the Palestinian refugees), received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 just because he promised "peace." Is Bashir next?

Last week, in its end-of-the year report, Israel's Security Agency detailed Sudan's ongoing facilitation of transshipment of Iranian weapons to Hamas. Clearly, the 2009 U.S. warning failed to deter the Sudanese government. Days before the referendum, there are two unknowns: will Bashir accept the results, and judging by the Obama administration's shifting policies regarding Sudan, how will the U.S. react if Bashir rejects the results? Stay tuned.

Original URL:

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld director of the NY-based American Center for Democracy and author of Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed - and How to Stop It.

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

Engaging Assad

by Ryan Mauro

President Obama is sending Ambassador Robert Ford to Syria in a recess appointment, avoiding a political fight in Congress over his confirmation. This effort to “engage” the Baathist regime is likely to make Bashar Assad laugh as the U.S. pursues a futile effort to draw Syria away from Iran.

A U.S.-based democratic opposition group called the Reform Party of Syria is criticizing the move, especially due to its timing. The appointment comes only days after Bashar Assad met with a brutal terrorist named Samir Kuntar in his Presidential Palace. Kuntar used to be a member of the Palestine Liberation Front and has been convicted of killing innocent Israelis, including murdering a four-year old girl by smashing her skull with a rock. In November 2008, Assad presented Kuntar with Syria’s highest award after he was released from an Israeli prison as part of a prisoner exchange deal with Hezbollah.

The engagement comes as Syria continues to host Baathist insurgents and elements of Al-Qaeda responsible for carrying out countless attacks in Iraq and sponsors Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. In March, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned a member of Al-Qaeda living in Syria named Muthanna Harith al-Dari who was funding the training of Al-Qaeda members in Syria. The Assad regime’s collusion with these terrorists is so deep that in fall 2009, Iraq tried to have a U.N. tribunal established to prosecute Syrian officials and terrorists on Syrian soil, but failed to gain the support of the Obama Administration.

Syria refuses to allow the International Atomic Energy Organization to inspect three suspected nuclear sites and the agency says it has been uncooperative since June 2008. The Assad regime still will not answer questions about the nuclear reactor it was building with North Korean assistance that was destroyed by the Israelis in September 2007. It has, however, admitted to carrying out uranium conversion activities in 2004 that it previously did not disclose.

The Obama Administration previously backtracked on its plans to send an ambassador in September 2009 because of concerns that Syria using “security blackmail” against the U.S. “Assad fires a rocket here or there [in south Lebanon] and expects us to run to him,” one official said. So far, no one in the administration has publicly explained what has changed between now and then to justify sending the ambassador, though it is probable that it is related to the impending indictment of Hezbollah for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri by a U.N. tribunal.

Farid Ghadry, an Executive Member of the Reform Party of Syria, told FrontPage that the U.S. is also trying to win over the Assad regime so it does not complicate the removal of forces from Iraq.

“Assad has been using threats to get the U.S. to normalize relations with his regime, while offering no concessions, such as by warning the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq could be made very difficult,” Ghadry said.

“So, Obama is using Ambassador Robert Ford to comply with the demands of an extortionist. In my opinion, a U.S. President should never allow a third-rate terrorist dictator like Assad to impose his will on our great nation. That’s not the change Americans voted for.”

It has long been argued that Syria, as an Arab country with a secular government, can be given enough incentives to betray its alliance with Iran. There is absolutely no indication that the regime is open to this and Bashar Assad has openly made jokes about it when its been talked about in the Western press. In October, Iranian President Ahmadinejad gave Assad his country’s highest medal and Assad said, “We have stood beside Iran in a brotherly way from the very beginning of the [1979 Islamic] revolution.”

The timing and manner of this outreach to Syria is discouraging U.S. allies. During the second term of the Bush Administration, Lebanese opposition leaders that once bravely stood against Hezbollah and Syria caved and began embracing the Assad regime when it became clear they would not be given U.S. support. An anonymous Jordanian official has said, “No matter what the Syrians do, how they declare all the time they are allied with Iran, the U.S. is trying harder and harder to attract Syria and offer them more.” Another Egyptian official said, “Only if you’re tough with America and adopt an anti-U.S. stance will the U.S. have a more flexible attitude and pay you.”

The sending of the ambassador will give strength to an Assad regime at a time when it should be worrying. Its Iranian allies are suffering from the sanctions and popular discontent. Hezbollah is clearly fearful as it waits for the U.N. to issue indictments against some of its top officials and Iran has cut back funding to the terrorist group by 40 percent. The Syrian people are angry at the corruption in their government, their poor economic situation, and their lack of political and economic freedom. As Ghadry pointed out in June, Syria spends 35 percent of its GDP on defense but its average tank is nearly as old as the state of Israel.

The Assad regime is not strong and it has many weaknesses that should be exploited to force it to change its behavior. Instead, the Obama Administration is pursuing a fantasy that Syria can be persuaded to abandon its alliance with Iran and stop supporting terrorism. The only way to get Syria to change is to exert enormous pressure that destabilizes the regime or to change the regime.

Original URL:

Ryan Mauro

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

Israel: Losing the Battle of Psychological Warfare

by Melanie Phillips

As we all know by now, Israel has lost the battle for public opinion in the West. Even the Israel government is now acknowledging this fact. Israel and its defenders have been outclassed and outmaneuvered in a war of the mind being waged on a battleground it never even acknowledged it was on.

Calls for more and better hasbara, however, are meaningless if the message or narrative promoted by Israel and its defenders misses the point of the attack being waged upon it. And it does miss that point, by a mile.

You cannot resist or overcome a threat unless you first understand its nature.

The first thing to say is that this phenomenon is characteristic not just of the media animosity or economic or academic boycotts. It goes across the intelligentsia and political class, spreading well beyond the normal suspects on the left into the mainstream middle-classes.

In Britain, the universities, the established church, the theatrical and publishing worlds, the voluntary sector, significant elements within the Foreign Office, members of Parliament across the political spectrum, as well as the media have overwhelmingly signed up to the demonetization and legitimization of Israel.

The scale of this phenomenon is nothing short of a multi-layered civilizational crisis.

The West is experiencing a total inversion of truth evidence and reason. A society’s thinking class has overwhelmingly subscribed to an immoral, patently false and in many cases demonstrably absurd account of the Middle East, past and present, which it has uncritically absorbed and assumes to be true.

In routine, everyday discourse history is turned on its head; logic is suspended; and an entirely false narrative of the conflict is now widely accepted as unchallengeable fact, from which fundamental error has been spun a global web of potentially catastrophic false conclusions.

This has led to a kind of dialogue of the demented in which rational discussion is simply not possible because there is no shared understanding of the meaning of language. So victim and victimizer, truth and lies, justice and injustice turn into their precise opposite.

This madness is being promulgated through a global alliance between state and non-state actors and diplomats and journalists, politicians and NGOs and websites. Many of these are waging war not just against Israel but against the West.

There are two preconditions for an effective fightback. First is to form effective structures of resistance. Those structures, however, depend in turn on a correct understanding of the nature and scale of what we are up against.

So far, the structures are not in place, and more important still, what Israel is up against is grossly — and fatally — underestimated and misunderstood.

The problem is that we are dealing with a pathology — to which we nevertheless respond as if it were rational behaviour.

What happened is a pattern of thinking in the West which turns reality upside down. Remarkably, this in turn echoes a very similar inversion of reality within the Islamic world, where such inversion has a theological base.

Because Islam is considered perfect, its adherents can never do wrong. All their aggression is therefore represented as self-defense, while western/Israeli self-defense is said to be aggression.

So in this Orwellian universe the enslavement of Muslim women is said to represent their liberation; democracy is a means of enslavement from which the West must be freed; and the murder of Israelis is the purest form of justice.

Furthermore, this is overlaid by the phenomenon of psychological projection in which the Islamic world not only denies its own misdeeds but ascribes them instead to its victims.

So while Muslims deny the Holocaust, they claim that Israel is carrying out a holocaust in Gaza. Antisemitism is central to Jewish experience in Europe; Muslims claim that “Islamophobia” is rife throughout Europe.

Israel gives all Jews the “right of return” to Israel on account of the unique reality of global Jewish persecution; the Muslims claim a “right of return” not to their own putative state of Palestine, but to Israel. They even claim that the Palestinians are the world’s “new Jews”.

These and many other examples are used within the Islamic world to negate Jewish experience and appropriate it for itself to obtain what Muslims want in terms of status, power and conquest.

What is remarkable is that instead of treating this as a pathological deformity of thinking, the western progressive intelligentsia has largely embraced it as rational and true. And to a large extent this is because that same western intelligentsia has itself supplanted rationality by ideology or the dogma of a particular idea.

Objectivity, evidence and truth have been ditched for ideologies such as moral and cultural relativism, multiculturalism, feminism, environmentalism, anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism, transnationalism, anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism.

Across a wide range of such issues, it’s no longer possible to have a rational discussion with the progressive intelligentsia, as on each issue there’s only one story for them which brooks no dissent.

This is because, rather than arriving at a conclusion from the evidence, ideology inescapably wrenches the evidence to fit a prior idea. So ideology of any kind is fundamentally anti-reason and truth. And if there’s no truth, there can be no lies either; truth and lies become merely “alternative narratives”.

Moral and cultural relativism holds the belief that subjective experience trumps moral authority and any notion of objectivity or truth has turned right and wrong on their heads.

Because of the dominant belief in multiculturalism, victim culture and minority rights, self-designated victim groups — those without power — can never do wrong while majority groups can never do right. And Jews are not considered a minority because in the hateful discourse of today’s culture, Jews are held to be all-powerful as they “control” the media, Wall Street and America.

So the Muslim world cannot be held responsible for blowing people up as they are the third world victims of the West; so any atrocities they commit must be the fault of their victims; and so the US had it coming to it on 9/11. And in similar fashion, Israel can never be the victim of the Arab world; the murder of Israelis by the Arab world must be Israel’s own fault.

So the way has been opened for mass credulity towards propaganda and fabrication. The custodians of reason have thus turned into destroyers of reason, centered in the crucible of reason, the university.

All these different ideologies are utopian; in their different ways, they all posit the creation of the perfect society. That is why they are considered “progressive,” and people on the progressive wing of politics sign up to them. That helps explain the distressing fact that so many Jews on the left also sign up to Israel-hatred, since they too sign up to such utopian ideologies.

But when utopias fail, as they always do, their adherents invariably select scapegoats on whom they turn to express their rage over the thwarting of the establishment of that perfect society. And since utopia is all about realizing the perfect society, these scapegoats become enemies of humanity.

For Greens, such enemies of humanity are capitalists; for anti-imperialists, America; for militant atheists, religious believers. Anti-Zionists turn on Israel for thwarting the end to the “Jewish question”: the redemption of western guilt for the persecution of the Jews — a guilt which can never be redeemed as long as the wretched Jews continue to make themselves the targets of attack.

In short, therefore, the West cannot defend itself against the Islamic jihad because it can’t itself even think straight any more.

But this lethal muddle in the minds of the intelligentsia must be viewed in turn in the context of a global diplomatic process which itself embodies upside-down thinking, which fans the flames of bigotry and defeatism and in which Israel itself has been tragically, and suicidally, complicit.

It cannot be stressed enough that the reason why those promoting genocidal bigotry are winning is that the western world has not sought to defeat them but instead has appeased them from the very start.

In Palestine under the British Mandate, when the Arabs used terrorist violence to frustrate the will of the League of Nations in restoring the Jewish home, Britain rewarded them by offering them part of the Jews’ legal and moral entitlement. When the Arabs started hijacking planes, the West’s response was to invite them to the UN to plead their cause.

And despite the Arabs’ repeated refusal to accept the two state solution, offered in the 1930s, in 2000 and under Ehud Olmert, and their current refusal to negotiate at all, America punishes Israel for not making enough concessions to them — while giving a free pass to those who still refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist.

It is astonishing that the West expects Israel to make any concessions to such attackers at all. After all, forcing a country which has endured more than six decades of existential siege to give any ground to its attackers amounts to forcing such a victim to surrender. This is expected by the civilized world of no other country.

Yet we are repeatedly told even by certain supporters of Israel that the Palestinians have a right to a state. Why? In any other conflict, such aggression forfeits any rights at all.

I am not saying that Israel should retain all the disputed territories; it may well be in its own interests to give some of them up. But the point is that Israel has made all the concessions over the years while the Arabs have made none, yet it is Israel, not the Arabs, that is under pressure from the West.

This is diplomacy as scripted by Franz Kafka.

The single greatest reason for the endless continuation of the Middle East impasse is that Britain, Europe and America have continuously rewarded the aggressor and either attacked the victim or left it twisting in the wind.

That’s what needs to be said by Israel and its defenders. But Israel and its defenders themselves have been crippled or cowed by the false analysis of the enemy’s narrative.

Even many of Israel’s friends spout the demonstrably absurd proposition that a Palestine state would solve the problem, that the impediment to a Palestine state is the settlers, but that Israel is not taking action to remove the settlers — and so therefore they too inescapably agree that Israel is the problem.

Israel and its defenders have been fighting on the wrong battleground: the one that has been chosen by its enemies. The Arabs brilliantly reconfigured the Arab war of extermination against Israel as the oppression by Israel of the Palestinians.

That has transformed Israel from victim to aggressor — the reversal of reality which lies at the very heart of the western obsession with the settlements and the territories.

Yet since Oslo, Israel has meekly gone along with this mad pressure. It has never said it is totally unconscionable. It has never put the all-important argument from justice on its own account. So it has allowed its enemies to appropriate this argument mendaciously as their own. But if Israel doesn’t make the case properly on its own behalf, how can anyone else do so?

To which Israel says realpolitik dictates it has to go along with the diplomatic game being played. But diplomatic realpolitik is what brought us all to this position — the brink of a terrible war with Iran which is treated by America with kid gloves while Israel is put under the cosh.

For the West to suck up to its enemies while bashing its friends like this is the diplomatic version of auto-immune disease. And eventually this disease will kill it.

What Israel has failed to recognize is that the battleground on which it is being forced to fight is not just military. It is also a battleground of the mind, and the strategy being used against it and to which it needs to respond in kind — is psychological warfare.

The Arab and Muslim world long ago realized if it set the narrative in its own image, it would recruit millions of fanatics to its cause and also confuse and demoralize its victims. In this it has wildly succeeded.

There is therefore an overwhelming need for Israel to alter its strategy. Indeed, it needs to have a strategy.

And this brings us to perhaps the most difficult challenge in all of the: the fact that the role played by the Israel government is of critical importance. Unless it adopts the correct strategy, its defenders will remain crippled.

Yet any promising initiatives seem to fall victim to Israel’s chaotic political structure, which appears to prevent the Prime Minister from being master in his own house. Good ideas are habitually destroyed by rampaging egos and turf wars between Israeli Cabinet ministers.

This is no way to run a chip shop, let alone a country under existential siege.

The fact remains that both Israel and diaspora Jews have to rethink. They have to realize they must start fighting on the battleground where the attack is actually being mounted against them. And the goal has to be to seize and retake the moral high ground.

This strategy requires two different tactics: one for those who are capable of rational thought, and another for those who are not.

The first group comprises those who are not irrational but merely desperately ignorant. Much of the obsession with Israel’s behaviour is due to the widespread belief that its very existence is an aberration which, although understandable at the time it came into being, was a historic mistake.

People believe that Israel was created as a way of redeeming Holocaust guilt. Accordingly, they believe that European Jews with no previous connection to Palestine — which they believe was the historic homeland of Palestinian Muslims who had lived there since time immemorial — were transplanted there as foreign invaders, from where they drove out the indigenous Arabs into the West Bank and Gaza. These are territories which Israel is now occupying illegally oppressing the Palestinians and frustrating the creation of a state of Palestine which would end the conflict.

Of course every one of those assumptions is false. But from those false assumptions proceeds the understandable belief not just that Israel’s behaviour is unjust, illegal and oppressive but that it is unjust and oppressive by virtue of its very existence.

For these people there is an urgent need for a proactive educational approach. No-one has ever told them that these beliefs are false and when they are told, the effect is often transformative.

There is a desperate and urgent need to educate such people in Jewish and Middle East history; to enlighten them about the shameful role played by Britain in Palestine in tearing up its treaty obligations; to tell them that under international law Israel is entitled to the disputed territories and land within which Britain undertook to settle the Jews ‘from the river to the sea’ because of their historic and unique rights to that land.

That’s all necessary for those who are still rational. For bigots, however, there is no point arguing with them. They are, by definition, beyond all reason. Their influence simply has to be destroyed. They have to be held to account for their lies and bigotry which should be forensically exposed.

So Israel and its defenders should be demanding of the world why it expects Israel alone to make compromises with people who have tried for nine decades to wipe out the Jewish presence in the land and are still firing rockets at it.

They should expose the pretense of Britain or European countries which claim to have Israel’s security needs at heart but forbid it from using military means to defend itself; and which as did the British Government recently — turn Israeli self-defense against the jihadi lynch-mob on board the Turkish terror ship Mavi Marmara into an attack to be condemned, or demand the opening of the border with Gaza which would allow in arms to kill more Israelis.

Israel and its defenders should be asking why so-called friends in the west want a Palestine state, since once the IDF depart the disputed territories they will become in short order yet another Iranian-backed Islamic terrorist entity which will pose a further threat not just to Israel but to the west.

They should be asking why the EU is continuing to fund the genocidal incitement against Jews promoted by the Palestine Authority.

They should be asking so-called “progressives” including Jewish “progressives” — why they support the racist ethnic cleansing of every Jew from a future state of Palestine.

They should be asking them why they are not marching against Hamas on account of its tyrannical oppression of Palestinians in Gaza. Why they are ignoring Arab and Muslim persecution of women and homosexuals.

Why they are not mounting a boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Mahmoud Abbas’s PA and Hamas, on account of Abbas’s Holocaust denial and the clear evidence of continuation of Nazi Jew-hatred in a direct line of descent from predecessors who were Hitler’s supporters in Palestine.

As for western Israel-bashers, Israel and its defenders should accuse them not of Jew-hating motives that cannot be proved but of absurdities and contradictions and untruths they cannot deny. They should ridicule them, humiliate them, destroy their reputations; boycott them, not invite them to social gatherings, show them disapproval and contempt. Treat them as pariahs. Turn their own weapons against them.

They should be telling the Jews’ own story of refugees and ethnic cleansing, the 800,000 Jews driven out of Arab lands after 1948, and who now make up more than half of Israel’ population. It’s good to see that at last Israel is beginning to bring this to the world’s attention. In Britain virtually no-one knows about it. At a stroke it takes the ground from under the feet of those demanding the “right of return” for Arabs.

They should be holding Arab and Islamic democracy weeks on campus, to expose the oppression and persecution within that world against women, homosexuals and others.

They should be singling out the Anglican church and the revival of ancient theological Jew-hatred being spread within the Anglican world by the Palestinian Christians of the Sabeel center.

At the same time, they should be focusing on their true friends within the Christian world, not just in America but also in Africa and Asia where there is an enormous reservoir of goodwill towards Israel which could be mobilized into a global fighting force.

They should be campaigning against the UN and the hijacking of international law and human rights by anti-western, anti-Jewish and anti-Christian ideologues.

They should be confronting head-on the false claim that bigotry is confined to the right. They should be pointing the finger at the “progressive” left to show how it is actually supporting the mortal enemies not just of Israel but the west.

And they should be making this case to Israelis themselves, to counter the delegitimization and ignorance in Israeli universities and to educate the Israeli young in their own national history.

In other words, both Israel and diaspora Jews have to stop playing defense and go onto the offense. Israel has nothing to be defensive about or for which it needs to apologize. It is the enemies of Israel who are promoting injustice and the denial of international law and human rights. Playing defense intrinsically cedes ground to the enemy.

It is time for Israel and its defenders to stop conniving with that smokescreen for the war of annihilation being waged against Israel — the claim that the Middle East impasse would be solved by establishing a state of Palestine to which the settlements, and thus by extension Israel, are the obstacle. It is time for them to stop agreeing that the Jews are to blame for their own predicament.

Israel and its defenders need to make the argument from justice and reclaim that moral high ground from the enemies of Israel and the west, both at home — including within Israel — and abroad. It is those enemies who deny truth, justice and human rights. It is those enemies who should be in the dock. It is time to take the gloves off and put them there.

In short, Israel and its defenders must understand that the tsunami of bigotry against Israel sweeping the west is intimately related to Israel’s seriously flawed diplomatic strategy.

For years, Israel has been playing a defensive diplomatic game, which suggests inescapably that it has a case to answer. Such diplomatic cringing has badly undermined it and hugely strengthened its enemies, who are taking advantage of such weakness over and over again.

It’s time for Israel to realize that military campaigns against its enemies are not enough. It has to call time on its false friends too, and start fighting both these and its more obvious enemies on the battleground of the mind.

[For a full analysis of the problem described above, see Melanie Phillips' latest bookThe World Turned Upside Down: the Global Battle over God, Truth and Powerpublished by Encounter.]

Original URL:

Melanie Phillips

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

The Impact of the Hariri Murder Inquiry on the Middle East

by Josef Olmert

Rafiq Hariri, Lebanon's prime minister for much of the time between 1992 and 2005, has become even more important since his murder on February 14, 2005. Hariri now is a focal point in middle east politics, proving again that what happens in Lebanon does not stay in Lebanon.

So far, the Obama Administration has made it clear that it supports both the inquiry and the Lebanese government - a position which draws inevitable Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah condemnations.What is still not clear, however, is what the U.S. administration will do if and when Hizballah tries to take over Lebanon by force.

What is needed is a clear statement that the U.S. insists on the publication of the report, and will not allow the terrorists to bring down the democratically-elected government of Lebanon -- a statement amounting to an American guarantee for the independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon, as well as for the preservation of its legal government.

When Hariri, and over twenty other innocent Lebanese, were murdered, it seemed clear that the culprits could be found in Damascus and Shi'ite-dominated south Beirut -- another Syrian-Hizballah co-production. The likes of which had first occurred in 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon, when the American embassy and the marine headquarters were bombed, causing nearly 300 American fatalities.

If the perpetrators of the Hariri murder were convinced that removing their rival from the Lebanese scene would pave the way for a smooth political takeover of that country, they were wrong. Throngs of Lebanese, representing a criss-cross of the communal mosaic of that traditionally fragmented country, took to the streets in what became known as the cedar revolution. This protest triggered a chain of events, leading to the withdrawal from Lebanon of the Syrian army of occupation, and dealing a major blow to the Assad regime in Damascus as well as its main Lebanese ally, the Hizballah terror organization. In death, Hariri achieved his first great political victory, further highlighted by the election of his son, Sa'ad Hariri, as Lebanon's new prime minister.

This development became possible not only thanks to the strong will of many Lebanese, but also to the effective support of their protest from outside forces.

When the Saudis, who all along patronised Hariri, mobilized the Arab League to demand a Syrian withdrawal, the Bush Administration also lent its support to the Lebanese opposition, as did other western powers, notably France.

In 2005, when the U.S. presence in Iraq still seemed a threat to Syria's president Assad, he apparently felt he had no option but to withdraw from Lebanon.

His and Hizballah's troubles, however, did not end with that decision. The U.N. heeded a Lebanese demand to commission an international inquiry to find and bring to justice those responsible for the murder -- another victory for the dead Hariri.

Now, after years of inquiry, delayed by political pressures from Syria and Hizballah, the last chapter of the drama is about to unfold. Judging by the volume of rhetoric and diplomatic activity, this chapter may very well be bloody, with repercussions spreading beyond Lebanon's borders. As the stability of middle east might be endangered, the stakes could not be higher.

Hizballah leaders have made it clear that if the inquiry blames them, as seems to be the situation, they would initiate a total takeover of Lebanon; and pro-Hariri forces, mainly Sunni-Muslim and Christian factions, have started arming themselves, preparing for another round of civil war.

Syria and Iran back Hizballah, their Lebanese surrogate; President Ahmadinejad's recent visit in Lebanon can be viewed against this backdrop.

The regional lines are drawn: terrorists, enemies of peace and their backers on one side -- but who is on the other?

Not, unfortunately, the Saudis, who seem to have abandoned not only the Hariri family, but, more importantly and contrary to their traditional policy, the Sunni community.

All indications point to their having pressured the young Hariri not to support the impending U.N. report, and thereby yield to the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah demand not to seek justice for the murder of his father.

The Israelis, while advised to maintain a low profile, are also playing a role. They recently announced their readiness to withdraw from the northern part of the disputed village Ghajar, making it plain that by so doing, they are trying to prop up the Hariri government. At the same time, they have made it clear that the Israel Defense Force is on the alert in case Lebanon explodes.

The U.N. is maintaining its resolve to publish the report and issue international arrest warrants against the designated Hizballah members. Judging by past performance, however, one wonders what the U.N. will actually do when the moment of truth arrives.

These efforts, even if they happen, may not prevent the mayhem that Hizballah and its backers are planning for Lebanon, and possibly for the wider middle east.

It is certain, however, that if the U.S. does not do what is necessary, the result will be disastrous for Lebanon, as well as for the cause of peace in the entire middle east. The U.S. cannot afford to let this take place.

Original URL:

Josef Olmert

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

Muslim Christmas in Europe

by Soeren Kern

Europe's Christmas and New Year holidays this year were overshadowed by widespread Islam-related controversies in nearly every European country -- conflicts that reflected the growing influence of Islam thanks to mass immigration from Muslim countries, and an ominous sign of things to come, considering that Europe's Muslim population is expected to double by the end of the decade that began this week.

Some of the most heated multicultural dust-ups during the December 2010 holidays took place in Britain, where a Muslim group launched a nationwide poster campaign denouncing Christmas as evil. Organizers posted across Britain thousands of placards claiming the season of goodwill is responsible for rape, teenage pregnancies, abortion, promiscuity, crime and paedophilia. They said they hoped that the campaign would help to "destroy Christmas" in Britain, and instead lead to Britons converting to Islam.

The placards featured a festive scene with an image of the Star of Bethlehem over a Christmas tree. But under a banner announcing "the evils of Christmas," the posters mocked the traditional English Christmas carol, The 12 Days of Christmas. The posters read: "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me an STD [sexually transmitted disease]. On the second day, debt; on the third, rape; the fourth, teenage pregnancies, and then there was abortion." According to the posters, Christmas is also responsible for paganism, domestic violence, homelessness, vandalism, alcohol and drugs. Another offense of Christmas is "claiming God has a son."

The bottom of the poster declares: "In Islam we are protected from all of these evils. We have marriage, family, honour, dignity, security, rights for man, woman and child." The campaign's organizer, 27-year-old Abu Rumaysah, wants Islamic Sharia Law imposed in Britain and says he is not concerned about offending Christians. He says "Christmas is a lie, and as Muslims it is our duty to attack it."

The British Red Cross seems to agree. For nearly a decade, it has banned Christmas from its more than 400 fund-raising shops; British newspapers reported that workers were ordered to take down Christmas trees and nativity scenes and to remove any other signs of the Christian festival because they could offend Muslims.

The Red Cross dismissed the accusations as old news, but in an official statement essentially confirmed its veracity. "It's true that you won't find explicitly religious items or displays, relating to any faith, in any of our shops, at Christmas or any other time. … The point is that the Red Cross is not a political or religious organisation. … We can't let people in need down by compromising our neutrality. … A nativity scene in a shop in Kent might seem like it has nothing to do with our sensitive, precarious work in a war zone in Africa or the Middle East. But in a world where information travels quickly and pervasively … we have to make sure we act consistently across the board with regard to our neutrality."

Also in Britain, anti-terror police on December 20 arrested nine Islamists, aged between 19 and 28, during a series of dawn raids in London, Cardiff and Stoke-on-Trent. The suspects are accused of planning a Christmas terror blitz on London's busiest landmarks, including the mayor's office and the American embassy.

Elsewhere in Britain, a Roman Catholic grade school faces being taken over by a mosque after it was revealed, on December 28, that 95% of its pupils are Muslim. Church leaders say it is no longer "appropriate" for them to run Sacred Heart Primary School, which has only six Christian pupils. Just 10 years ago more than 90% of their pupils were Roman Catholic, but now most are of Asian origin, do not speak English as their first language, and follow Islam.

The school in Blackburn, Lancashire, could be handed to the nearby Masjid-e-Tauheedul mosque, inaugurated in July 2010 by Sheik Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, an imam employed by the Saudi government and head cleric of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Sheik Al-Sudais has been banned from entering the United States. In a 2002 sermon he called Jews "the scum of humanity, the rats of the world, the killers of prophets and the grandsons of monkeys and pigs." He has also called on Muslims to "kill Jews and American worshippers of the cross."

In Cyprus, meanwhile, the interior ministry began issuing new biometric passports that contain a watermark sketch of a naked Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of Love. The image is modelled on a famous statue in the Cyprus Museum in the capital, Nicosia. The ancient goddess is widely accepted as the symbol of the eastern Mediterranean holiday island, and is used by its tourism organization on its "Love Cyprus" advertising campaign abroad. Local legend says that Aphrodite (also known as Venus to the ancient Romans) emerged from the sea on a crest of foam just off the coast of Cyprus.

But some politically correct Cypriot diplomats say the depiction of a nude Aphrodite might offend Muslims. "They are worried that civilians and diplomats could get into trouble, especially when travelling to very conservative Islamic countries," according to local newspapers (here in English), where the issue was a major topic of discussion over the Christmas holidays. So far, Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis has stood firm, saying he has no plans to cover Aphrodite with an Islamic-style burqa.

In Denmark, police thwarted an Islamist terrorist attack in Copenhagen just hours before it was to take place on December 29. Authorities arrested five Muslims who were planning to shoot as many people as possible in a Copenhagen office building that houses the newsroom of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that published controversial cartoons of Mohammed in 2005.

Four suspects were arrested in the suburbs of Copenhagen, including a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old man from Lebanon and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum-seeker. A fifth suspect, a 37-year-old Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin, was arrested in Sweden. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service said it seized a submachine gun, a silencer and ammunition.

In Finland, the 60,000-strong Muslim community chose the Christmas holidays to complain that there are not enough mosques in the country. Muslim activists say the existing premises of the Islamic Society of Finland in downtown Helsinki are too small for the country's rapidly expanding Muslim population.

In France, police announced an innovative new approach to dealing with the annual ritual of car torchings by Muslim youths on New Year's Eve. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said that this year his agency would not immediately publish the number of cars torched overnight, but rather will release the data "later in the month" in a bid to stop the "unhealthy competition" that encourages Muslim youths to raise the number of torchings year after year.

Car torchings have become somewhat of a tradition in multicultural France. Every New Year's Eve, hundreds of cars are set alight by Muslim revellers, and the announcement of the tally of destruction has become a media obsession.

Also in France, in the Paris suburb of Grigny, Christian Le Bras, a municipal councillor with the Green Party, caused a stir after posting posters wishing a Happy New Year to the residents on behalf of his party: "Europe Ecologie Grigny's best wishes for this new year 1432-2011." The Muslim Year 1432 began on December 6. According to local media reports, some members of the party want to sue Le Bras for fraudulent use of the party name. The posters have since been removed.

Elsewhere in France, Jean-Pierre Cattenoz, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Avignon, said in an interview with Famille Chrétienne, a Christian magazine: "We are at a turning point in the religious history of our country. Gallic families, traditionally Christian, have on average two children. Muslims families living in France, have most often four, five six children. From this we can see that France will have a Muslim majority in twenty, thirty years."

In Germany, the incoming head of the main airport lobby group, ADV, caused a stir on December 27 by demanding that the country's transit authorities use racial profiling to weed out terrorists at security checks. Christophe Blume, currently the head of Düsseldorf Airport, told the daily newspaper Rheinische Post that passengers should be divided into different risk categories, meaning subject to varying degrees of scrutiny by airport security.

"That way, the security system could become more effective to everyone's benefit," said Blume, who will take the helm of ADV later this month. He said that profiling passengers according to characteristics such as race, religion and country of origin would allow German airports to avert a further tightening of security. Not surprisingly, the leftwing guardians of German political correctness are fuming.

Over at the European Commission in Brussels, unelected bureaucrats have decided to abolish Christmas altogether. The European Commission, which is the executive body of the 27-member state European Union, produced more than three million copies of a 2011 daily planner for secondary schools that contains no reference to Christmas, but does mention Hindu, Sikh and Muslim holidays. The calendar also notes "Europe Day" and other key dates of the European Union.

The calendar page for December 25 is empty and at the bottom is the following message: "A true friend is someone who shares your worries and your joy." A spokesperson for the European Commission said the omission of Christmas was a "blunder," but then went on to confirm that it really was not one when he said and that Christmas would not appear in future editions of this planner, either, "to avoid any controversy."

In Holland, police on December 24 arrested 12 Somalis in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack during Christmas.

Also in Holland, Radio Netherlands reported on December 22 that a Muslim fundamentalist group calling itself Sharia4Holland (not to be confused with Sharia4Belgium) has started operating openly in the country. The group wants Muslims to fight for the establishment of a Dutch Islamic state, so that the "flag of Sharia will blow over the Dutch Royal Palace in The Hague."

In Spain, the city of Barcelona decided that Christmas would be a good time to announce the construction of an official mega-mosque with a capacity for thousands of Muslim worshipers. The new structure would rival the massive Islamic Cultural Center in Madrid, one of the biggest mosques in Europe. An official in the office of the Mayor of Barcelona said the objective is to "increase the visibility of Muslims in Spain," as well as to promote the "common values between Islam and Europe."

In Sweden, a botched terrorist attack in central Stockholm on December 11 highlighted signs of growing Islamic extremism across Scandinavia. In the first-ever suicide bombing in Sweden, a 29-year-old Iraqi-born sports therapist named Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, intent on mass murder just before Christmas, blew up both his car and himself on a busy shopping street.. Abdulwahab's widow said her husband appeared to be a "normal Muslim."

Also in Sweden, a Coptic Christian church in the town of Agnesberg near Gothenburg was forced to close down on December 24 after receiving threats from Islamic extremists. The church will remain closed for up to two weeks; it remains unclear whether worshipers will be able to use the building on January 6, the day Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas. (Coptic Christians in Germany have also received threats of attack by radical Muslims and have asked for police protection, according to the German tabloid Bild.)

Back in Spain, Noureddine Ziani, a Barcelona-based Moroccan imam, who recently organized a week-long conference titled "Muslims and European Values," said it is absolutely necessary to accept Islamic values as European values. He also said that from now on, Europeans should replace the term "Judeo-Christian" with term "Islamo-Christian" when describing Western Civilization. If Christmas in 2010 is any guide, Europe is already far along the path in that direction.

Original URL:

Soeren Kern

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

Assassination Generates More Threats in Pakistan

by IPT News

Worries over Pakistan's future deepened dramatically after Tuesday's assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer by one of his own bodyguards. The guard says he did it because of Taseer's opposition to blasphemy laws which allow executions for people who insult Islam.

While some mourn the loss of "a voice of tolerance in society," an Islamist group considered moderate used the murder and Wednesday's funeral to issue a threat against Taseer's allies. The Jamaat-e-Ahl-Sunnat, which opposes the Taliban, issued a statement saying 500 of its scholars "have advised Muslims not to offer the funeral prayers" for Taseer. "Also, there should be no expression of grief or sympathy on the death of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy."

Taseer was shot 14 times as he got out of his car in Islamabad. Most of the bullets struck him in the chest and head. Some reports indicate his other body guards stood by as the shooting erupted. He had spoken on behalf of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of insulting the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. Islamist groups have called for her execution, but others are concerned the accusations are baseless.

The Jamaat-e-Ahl-Sunnat praised Taseer's confessed killer, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, as a hero. "Salman Taseer is a blasphemer and this is the punishment for a blasphemer," Qadri told Pakistani television.

The Jamaat-e-Islami, a leading Islamist political party, issued a statement saying "there wouldn't have been the need for someone to shoot him," had Taseer simply been removed from office.

In a column published by the Daily Beast, Newsweek Pakistan editor Fasih Ahmed mourned the loss of a friend and former colleague, and what it means for Pakistan. "Taseer's death closes the door on any discussion of the [blasphemy] laws," he wrote. "The mullahs and their sympathizers have probably succeeded in scaring reason and rationale into retreat."

Original URL:

IPT News

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

Goldberg: Media Overlook Islamist Slaughter of Christians

by IPT News

Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic, criticizes the "lackadaisical" media coverage of the December 31 suicide bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt which killed 21 people and wounded 79. Jihadists are suspected in the attack, which occurred following numerous threats against Copts and other Middle East Christians by Al-Qaida linked groups.

"The Salafist war on Christians in the Middle East is intensifying fairly rapidly, with profound consequences not only for Christians…but for the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities in the greater Middle East," Goldberg writes, "but this attack seems like a watershed moment."

The Middle East is "a place historically intolerant of the rights of non-Arab Muslims. The black of Sudan, who are trying to break free of Khartoum's hold; the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, Christians in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq; and the Jews of Israel," he adds. "In Saudi Arabia, of course, it is illegal to even build a church, and I'm afraid it will soon be illegal to build one in Iraq."

And where do Middle East Christians go to seek refuge from Islamists? Goldberg observes that in the wake of the October 31 attack by al-Qaida on a Baghdad Church which resulted in the deaths of 58 people, Iraqi Christians have "run for the protective embrace of another Middle East minority" (Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq), he adds, just as thousands of Sudanese Christians have fled to Israel.

Original URL:

IPT News

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

Thursday, January 6, 2011

High Morals

by Lee Smith

It is a peculiar fact that the region that produced so many of the doctrines that govern our moral life—from the Code of Hammurabi to the Hebrew Bible to the teachings of Christ to the Quran—should cause so many of us to founder morally. But such is the case with the Middle East.

Look around the region: Every bloody government and non-state actor has attracted a cohort of Western fans who feed off of the brand of gore in which those institutions specialize. Some people, like former British intelligence official Alastair Crooke, praise Hamas and Hezbollah as proud resistance organizations. As Michael Young, the Lebanese journalist and author of The Ghosts of Martyr Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggle, says, “To many Westerners it represents an Arab authenticity, in contrast to the pro-democracy March 14 movement whose members too much resemble Westerners like themselves.” An entire Beltway industry, including former and current U.S. policymakers, diplomats, and intelligence officials, is devoted to rapprochement with Syria’s vicious and kleptocratic regime, the importance of which to U.S. regional policy they wildly overstate lest anyone scrutinize too closely how Damascus targets U.S. citizens and U.S. allies. Then there are the cheerleaders for the Islamic Republic of Iran, for whom the country’s leaders and security services are incapable of any rape or murder so vile that would lose it the support even of fans like Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett.

And let’s not forget the many hundreds of professional and amateur Middle East analysts who have argued since 2003 that Iraq was better under Saddam Hussein. They knew that the Baathist regime prosecuted sectarian wars against Iraqi Kurds and Shia, massacred its neighbors in Iran and Kuwait, used terrorism as an instrument of its regional and international strategy while pursuing a policy of rape, torture, and murder at home.

The more prestigious the forum, the more this kind of moral blindness to the suffering of others and the norms of justice is presented as proof of sophistication. Roger Cohen of the New York Times recently suggested that Hezbollah should be rewarded for killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. With indictments expected soon in the U.N.-sponsored Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating Hariri’s assassination, Hezbollah has, as usual, threatened violence in the event any of its foot soldiers are named—meaning, in Cohen’s view, that “It’s time to drop either-or diplomacy to address a many-shaded reality.”

Yet there can be no real stability where the rule of law is subsidiary to the rule of the jungle—a fact no less true in Lebanon than in the United States. The entire point of the special tribunal is that the international community seeks to hold assassins as accountable for their crimes in the Middle East as they would be anywhere else. So, why does Cohen believe that Hezbollah should be granted impunity for political murder and the Lebanese should forget about justice? Because like many other Western observers of the Middle East, he uses the region as a kind of virtual reality screen on which to project a self-congratulatory vision of a world in which superior beings like himself can naturally expect to live under the sign of law, civility, and morality while lesser beings in other parts of the world are quite naturally ruled by violence. “The sort of justice that Westerners demand as their due seems faintly inauthentic to them when it comes to Middle East. There’s a distaste for people who make these demands,” says Young, the Lebanese journalist. “In this view, there is a double standard; justice is variable; if it creates problems, let’s not go all the way, this is the Middle East after all. But if this were the U.S. or Europe, justice would be much more straightforward.”

Hezbollah presents an interesting problem for the Roger Cohens of the world. The organization he wants to excuse for killing a Lebanese politician is also responsible for the deaths of American civilians, diplomats, and military personnel. “According to reports, members of the special operations unit of Hezbollah will be indicted in the Hariri murder,” says Andrew Tabler, a Lebanon and Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The U.S. government believes that the late leader of this group, Imad Mughniyyah, was the mastermind behind the kidnapping and killing of U.S. educators, officials, and journalists in Beirut in the ’80s and the bombing of the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks. In the 1990s we were told this group no longer existed, or was never really part of Hezbollah. But their tune has changed since Imad Mughniyeh’s 2008 assassination in Damascus. Now Hezbollah repeatedly holds him up as a key member of their organization. If for no other reason, the administration is right to support the tribunal because letting these Hezbollah members off the hook would amount to an enormous victory for a group that killed Americans.”

What are the origins of a worldview that would hand over the world to murderers? “For many intellectuals there is a sense of weakness toward the pre-modern,” says Hazem Saghieh, a Lebanese journalist with the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Hayat. “There is a political nostalgia in looking to the past. This manifests itself as a progressive tendency, but it is in fact very reactionary.”

The paradox is that while it is man’s ability to tell good from bad that makes him most human, certain Western intellectuals take the unwillingness, or inability, to do so as a sign of the genius to rise above the small-minded morality of the masses. Excusing Hezbollah may seem like the rational decision-making of a thoughtful intellectual who is observing a society ostensibly different from his own, but in reality the moral universe of the Middle East is no different from in the rest of the world.

It is the parasitic nature of the relationship between Middle Eastern reality and the narcissism of the Western intelligentsia that helps explain the other half of the Middle East’s moral equation: While the murders by Hezbollah, Saddam, and Iran are justified, even celebrated, Israel is censured for actions for which even the United States is normally excused as a matter of course. People like Roger Cohen have no hesitation in holding Israeli soldiers and civilians to a higher standard than he holds the United States. But logical or moral consistency is rarely the point. In the end, the pleasure of holding other people to a higher standard is perversely the same as arguing that they should be held to no standards at all. Both postures elevate the person making such judgments to a godlike place above the antlike creatures whose daily sufferings and misfortunes have meaning only according to the author’s personal whims.

Consider, for instance, Tony Judt, the late historian of modern Europe, who argued that it would be a good thing for the Jewish state to disappear and for millions of other human beings to forfeit their political rights because he was personally frustrated by Israel’s post-1967 political direction. Because the reality of Israel did not fulfill his psychological needs, others were to pay for his disappointments.

In their own minds, Westerners like Cohen and Judt have risen above the facile judgments of their peers in order to understand deeper truths. They are the supermen who rose in place of the idols. However, their problem is that even if the gods did perish, moral judgment was not in their power to take away since is was not them who gave it to us in the first place. These intellectuals who feed their egos with the suffering of others are not gods. They are simply people who are lucky enough to live in the West, where the consequences of their moral blindness are visited on other people, who live far away.

Original URL:

Lee Smith

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

Why Isn't Obama Pressuring the Palestinians?

by Steven J. Rosen

For the first time since the Oslo peace process started 18 years ago, Palestinian leaders are openly refusing to negotiate with the government of Israel, and U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is doing very little about it. As Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, explained the policy on Dec. 9, "We will not agree to negotiate as long as settlement building continues." The Arab League is backing Abbas in this refusal, says League chief Amr Moussa, because "the direction of talks has become ineffective and it has decided against the resumption of negotiations."

But Abbas himself negotiated with seven previous Israeli prime ministers without such preconditions. For 17 years -- from the Madrid conference of October 1991 through Abbas's negotiations with then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, which ended in 2008 -- negotiations moved forward while Jerusalem construction continued. Madrid, Oslo I, Oslo II, the Hebron Protocol, the Wye River Memorandum, Camp David, Taba, the disengagement from Gaza, and Olmert's offer to Abbas -- all these events over the course of two decades were made possible by a continuing agreement to disagree about Israeli construction of Jewish homes in Jewish neighborhoods outside the pre-1967 line in East Jerusalem. But now, peace talks cannot even begin. Why the change?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledges that the Palestinians are creating a new precondition for talks to begin. Settlements, she says, have "always been an issue within the negotiations.… There's never been a precondition." But Clinton has not stated any public objection to Abbas making this a new excuse not to negotiate.

Abbas himself blames Obama. As he said in November, "At first, President Obama stated in Cairo that Israel must stop all construction activities in the settlements. Could we demand less than that?" Some in the West are sympathetic to Abbas's maneuver, which they see as a form of protest against an Israeli policy to which the United States and the rest of the Middle East quartet, the four international players that steer peace efforts, also object. But when the Palestinians spurn negotiations, they are blocking the sole path to a solution of the settlement issue, which can only be a negotiated agreement over borders. As the State Department spokesman's said on Aug. 2, "Absent a direct negotiation, there will be no end to the conflict, there will be no peace agreement, and there will be no Palestinian state. That's a fact."

There is also the question of whether Abbas's motive here is actually about the settlement issue, or rather to drive a wedge between Obama and Israel and induce the United States to impose a solution in lieu of negotiations. Isn't this a reversion to the pre-Oslo strategy of rejecting contact with Israel and demanding instead that the great powers impose Arab terms on the Jewish state?

In refusing to meet with Israel, Abbas is violating one of the most important commitments his predecessor Yasir Arafat made at the start of the Oslo process, which included this pledge to then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Sept. 9, 1993: "The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides, and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations." It is also a direct violation of the pledge that Abbas himself made barely three years ago at the Annapolis conference. As witnessed by foreign ministers of 47 countries on Nov. 27, 2007: "We agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements. We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations."

Abbas is also rejecting the imperative laid down by the Middle East "Quartet" in March 2010, demanding "the resumption, without preconditions, of direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues as previously agreed by the parties." It is a repudiation of Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who said, "We do not believe in preconditions. We do not impose them. And we urge others not to impose preconditions." It is a dismissal of an objective considered vital by the Obama administration, to "re-launch negotiations as soon as possible and without preconditions, which is in the interests of everyone in the region." Abbas is spurning all appeals from Clinton, who says that "negotiations between the parties is the only means by which all of the outstanding claims arising out of the conflict can be resolved."

But the Obama administration is raising no public objection to the Palestinians' stance. It has not expressed one word of criticism of Abbas, nor used anything resembling the pressure tactics Obama has so freely used against the Israeli side. In fact, Obama did quite the opposite on Oct. 7, when he issued a special waiver of Section 7040(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act to transfer additional funds directly to the Palestinian Authority, just as it was announcing its refusal to negotiate.

Members of Congress are starting to take notice of the administration's reticence to confront Palestinian intransigence. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the incoming House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman, said on Dec. 23 of Palestinian leaders: "They know they don't have to do a darn thing; with this administration they will get a blank check, and they will always get helped out.… Try examining where they're using their money and where our U.S. dollars are going." Her Democratic counterpart, California's Howard Berman, the outgoing chairman of the committee, said a few days earlier, referring to Abbas's unilateral drive to seek early recognition of Palestinian statehood, "If they try to circumvent negotiations, they'll lose the support of a lot of people like me, and it will jeopardize their foreign aid as well."

As it happens, a statute is already in place, requiring sanctions against such violations of the solemn commitments the Palestinians made. The Middle East Peace Commitments Act of 2002 notes that "Resolution of all outstanding issues in the conflict between the two sides through negotiations" is one of the core commitments to which the Palestinian Authority has obligated itself, and it requires the president to notify Congress of such violations and impose penalties, which may include a "prohibition on United States assistance to the West Bank and Gaza." When it returns to Washington this month, the new Congress may not share Obama's reluctance to criticize Abbas. With the support of Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the new House in particular may be willing to do something about it.

Original URL:

Steven J. Rosen served for 23 years as foreign policy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He is now director of the Washington Project at the Middle East Forum.

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

NY Times journalism -- the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by Leo Rennert

On New Year's Eve, a weekly protest at a West Bank Palestinian village against Israel's security barrier turned violent. The barrier was breached in three places and demonstrators hurled stones at Israeli security forces. Israeli troops responded by firing tear gas to disperse the crowd. The next day, Palestinian officials announced that a Palestinian woman was sickened by the tear gas during the demonstration. taken to hospital and died on New Year's Day. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas immediately blamed Israel for a "crime" against the Palestinian people." And the dead woman was turned into a "martyr" for the Palestinian cause.

The New York Times published a dispatch by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner on Jan. 2, which flatly declared that Israel's use of tear gas had killed the woman. Kershner relied entirely on Palestinian accounts and failed to inform readers that the IDF has asked to be included in a joint investigation with Palestinian medical personnel into the woman's death -- an offer immediately rejected by the Palestinian side.

In the ensuing couple or three days, Israeli military officials raised a series of questions about the circumstances of the woman's death -- whether she had other ailments requiring strong medications that might have been contributing factors. After all, there were about a thousand protesters at this weekly demonstration and nobody else seemed to have been seriously harmed or dealt a lethal blow from the tear gas. Israeli officials also pointed to inconsistencies in medical records released by Palestinian doctors, lack of an autopsy and a hurried process to get her quickly buried.

All these questions received prompt attention from Israeli media. But the Times, like most Western media, kept silent. Until three news cycles later, on Jan. 5, when the paper published a follow-up dispatch by Kershner under a headline that reads : "Israeli Military Officials Challenge Account of Palestinian Woman's Death."

To a Times reader, the headline seems at first blush a welcome initiative by the Times to make up for its exclusive reliance on Palestinian sources in the original Kershner piece and finally to present what Israel had to say. Better late than never.

Except that Kershner's story unfortunately does not comport with the straightforward headline about Israel challenging the Palestinian account of the woman's death.

Instead, Kershner makes it clear that, in sum, she's more than willing to believe what the Palestinians tell her and to disbelieve what the Israelis tell her.

So, she puts great weight on the fact that the Israeli account is based on unidentified sources -- something that otherwise doesn't bother Times correspondents very much -- and that Palestinian medical records about the woman's death are unassailably true.

Here's Kershner's lead paragraph:

"BILIN, West Bank -- Clashing narratives over the case of a 36-year-old Palestinian woman who died on Saturday is [sic] fast making her a new symbol of the enduring conflict here, with the Israeli military anonymously casting doubt on Palestinian accounts -- backed by medical documents -- that she died from inhaling tear gas."

Quite a clumsny [sic], convoluted lead -- but it tells us where Kershner is headed. Note Kershner's emphasis on the anonymity of Israeli sources and the presumed reliability of Palestinian "medical documents."

In fact, a few paragraphs farther down, Kershner peremptorily dismisses Israel's skepticism about the Palestinian account of events as based on "anonymous conjectures."

When Israeli officials question whether the woman had pre-existing medical conditions that might have contributed to her death or whether there had been medical negligence in the treatment she received from Palestinian doctors, Kershner will have none of it.

"Dr. Mohammed Aideh," she writes, "said her death was caused by 'unknown gas inhalation after an 'attack by Israeli soldiers as the family said.'''

Here's a Palestinian doctor filling a death certificate and he finds it obligatory to stress that everything happened "as the family said." The official Palestinian narrative already was in full sway and this doctor felt obliged to fall in line. Yet, it doesn't register with Kershner that the doctor might have been coached in what he was supposed to say and write. After all, what reputable medical examiner would go out of his way to signal that his conclusions were based on what "the family said"? Kershner, however, swallows this Palestinian doctor's report hook, line and sinker.

Kershner also would have Times readers believe that there were only two "narratives" about the woman's death -- a credible Palestinian one and a conjectural Israeli one. Actually, there are three "narratives" in her piece. Not just what the Palestinians said and what the Israelis said, but Kershner's own special narrative that tilts heavily toward the Palestinian side and is thoroughly dismissive of questions raised by IDF officials.

I was not in Bilin when this incident occurred. Neither was Kershner. Short of exhuming the woman's body for a thorough post-mortem, there can be no certainty about this event. Under these circumstances, when faced with conflicting versions, it behooves a news reporter to dispassionately lay out what one side claims and what the other side claims. But this is not Kershner's modus operandi. She's determined to ram her "truth" down readers' throats.

When it comes to Palestinian veracity, there's also no awareness on her part that, while Israeli officials may occasionally fall a bit short, that's nothing compared to the shameless lies that are part of the Palestinians' stock in trade. After all, the doctor who signed the death certificate works for a regime that, as part of its official creed, proclaims that Jews have no historical or religious ties to Jerusalem and that Jesus was a Palestinian.

With that kind of a record, one would think that any professional journalist would take with a grain of salt self-serving Palestinian assertions when reporting second-hand about a disputed, murky event. But not Kershner, who vouches for Palestinian veracity without batting an eye.

Bottom line: The only part of this Times report that qualifies as good journalism is the headline. The bad part is Kershner's determination to steer readers to believe the Palestinian version and dismiss as "anonymous conjectures" important points and questions raised by Israel. The ugly part is that Kershner and the Times peddle such blatant editorializing as fair, balanced, accurate and objective news reporting.

Original URL:

Leo Rennert

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

Share It