Friday, October 7, 2011

Free Syrian Army Rises to Take on Assad

by Ryan Mauro

The peaceful uprising in Syria is becoming a violent revolt as the Free Syria Army rises to defend the people against the Assad regime. Close to 3,000 civilians have been murdered, 20,000 are imprisoned and 7,500 are living in refugee camps in Turkey. Pleas for foreign intervention are growing, anti-regime militias are forming, and military defectors continue to join the ranks of the Free Syria Army. With every protester killed, civil war becomes more likely.

On September 23, the Free Officers Movement officially merged into the Free Syria Army, led by Colonel Riad al-Assad. The leader of the Free Officers Movement, Lt. Col. Hussein Harmoush, disappeared on August 27 after meeting with Turkish officials. He was later seen on Syrian state television parroting the regime’s propaganda. The Erdogan government has been accused of handing him over to Assad in exchange for nine members of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which Turkey denies. The Foreign Minister laughably claims, “He himself decided to go back.” At the same time, Turkey is threatening Assad over his brutal crackdowns and has hit him with an arms embargo.

“You cannot remove this regime except by force and bloodshed. But our losses will not be worse than we have right now, with the killings, the torture and the dumping of bodies,” Col. Riad al-Assad said. So far, the Free Syria Army has killed at least 80 of the regime’s soldiers and hired mercenaries. Another report put the number of casualties among the regime’s security forces since the uprising began at about 700.

The Free Syria Army’s strategy is to replicate the success of the Libyan rebels. For now, it wants to defend protesters as they come under attack and expand its ranks with defectors. It hopes to kick the regime’s forces out of an area in the northern part of the country, creating the Syrian equivalent of Libya’s Benghazi. From this safe haven, it hopes to win international support and ultimately bring Assad down. The rest of the opposition has yet to endorse taking up arms. The Local Coordination Committees in Syria are still opposed to violence.

The Free Syria Army and some other opposition groups are now asking for foreign help. The Syrian National Council rejects any intervention that “compromises Syria’s sovereignty” but is asking for a no-fly zone. The Syrian Revolution General Commission in Washington D.C. wants “limited Western intervention” that includes an arms embargo, a no-fly zone, economic pressure and a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians. Farid Ghadry of the Reform Party of Syria, another D.C.-based group, is calling on the West to directly support the Free Syria Army with arms and logistics.

The FSA is hoping that foreign allies will provide it with weapons, enact a naval blockade, and give it financing from the frozen assets of regime officials. It is also asking for a U.N. resolution expressing support for its fight and demanding that the regime release political prisoners and soldiers it imprisoned for refusing to fire on civilians. It also wants the U.N. to call on Assad to return his soldiers to their barracks. On October 4, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. resolution threatening the regime with sanctions. “The courageous people of Syria can now see clearly who supports their yearning for liberty and universal rights and who does not,” said U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice.

U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, implores both sides to forgo violence and is telling the opposition to not count on the U.S. military for backup. “One of the things we’ve told the opposition is that they should not think we are going to treat Syria the same way we treated Libya,” Ford said. He is warning the Free Syria Army that “you don’t have enough force to fight the Syrian army, you’re not even close. We have to be realistic.” He suggests that the opposition be patient as sanctions take their toll on the regime. At the same time, a State Department spokesman was careful not to condemn the Free Syria Army, saying it isn’t surprising that people have begun “to use violence against the military as an act of self-preservation.”

The Free Syria Army claims it has 10,000 soldiers, a number that is impossible to verify and some doubt, organized into 12 brigades, with the largest being the 2,000-strong Khalid Bin Walid Brigade in Homs. Despite its relatively low numbers, the Free Syria Army and its supporters are putting up a strong fight. It just took the regime’s forces several days and 3,000 arrests to seize the strategic city of Rastan in Homs Province, where about 1,000 defectors and residents fought the regime.

The FSA is ambushing vehicles transporting members of the regime’s vicious Allawite militia, called the Shabbiha. On October 1, it killed 5 militiamen near the Iraqi border. Nearly a dozen suspected regime informants have ended up dead in the city of Homs, such as the son of the Grand Mufti. The city is on the edge of civil war as rifles costing up to $2,000 each are being found. About 500 soldiers switched sides in and around Homs Province. At least three regime vehicles have been ambushed there, checkpoints are coming under fire, and a tank was struck with an RPG. There are clashes reported around the country at Deir al-Zour, the Mezzeh military airport near Damascus, Daraa, the northwestern province of Idlib, and Harasta, which lies on the outskirts of Damascus. There has also been fighting in the capital and dozens have defected in Hama and Latakia.

The FSA’s strength will grow as it shows its success and more defectors and civilians join it. On September 26, the regime arrested 7 soldiers and killed 4 when they tried to defect in Idlib near the Turkish border. A U.S. official estimates that there have been about 10,000 total defections. One defector said 4,000 soldiers are being held by the regime in Damascus alone for disobeying orders. An opposition site says over 22,000 troops have been jailed, including 7,000 officers. Armed groups allied with FSA are rising up near the borders with Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

The Free Syria Army has not joined any political party or opposition council and does not appear to have an Islamist orientation. A senior opposition leader in Homs says that the Syrian military is very secular, and so the defectors are not very religious. A journalist who interviewed members of the FSA said they “do not appear to consider themselves mujahedin or otherwise fit the stereotype of Islamic extremists. Accordingly, individuals…[say] Islam does provide them with inspiration and strength but they do not fight for Islam and their goals are generally secular.”

Since the uprising began, protesters have been peaceful as the tortured bodies of children are returned to families, demonstrators are mercilessly killed in the streets, and areas of unrest come under siege without access to food and medicine. The Bashar Assad regime is finally getting a taste of its own medicine.

Ryan Mauro


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

Teaching Journalists How to Report on Jihad

by Mark Tapson

Muslim-American advocacy groups with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), are on a mission to combat what they claim is the Western media’s habitually negative reporting on Islam. After all, it’s difficult to advance the Brotherhood’s agenda of “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within” when the media keep reporting on a steady stream of terror plots, honor killings, and encroachments by shariah on American soil. But if journalists take to heart the message of an online course from The Poynter News University, then their “skewed” perspective won’t be a problem anymore.

Covering Islam in America” is a free, self-directed course offered by the Poynter Institute,* which describes itself as “a school dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders.” It purports to give journalists a basic education in how “to humanize, analyze and put news about Islam and Muslim communities into context.” Check out the course and you will discover that what putting such news “in context” means is finding ways to deflect negative attention from jihad and shariah, and instead to give credence to Muslim “grievances” against the West, cast suspicion on politicians who speak out against shariah, and spotlight a right-wing network of “bigots” as the real threat.

The course asserts that “context is essential” and recommends, for example, that journalists report in ways that do not “amplify fears of jihad.” It notes that journalists “are far more likely to report on jihad-related incidents than other violence,” giving readers a “skewed impression of the prevalence of jihad” – as if the existence of other kinds of violence somehow renders violent jihad less egregious or less deserving of media attention. (The phrase “jihad-related incidents” itself is an almost Orwellian, innocuous euphemism for the murder and mayhem of terrorism – even blander than Homeland Security’s new terminology, “man-made disasters.”)

To correct what the course deems to be this misleading bias against Islam, journalists are told to get some perspective by comparing the mere 3,000 people killed on 9/11 by terrorists to the greater numbers of the overall murder rate and of other, leading causes of death like malaria, AIDS, and malnutrition. This illogical and offensive comparison, which suggests that violent jihad isn’t that serious, ignores the fact that we take those other causes of death – indeed, every cause of death, from plane crashes to breast cancer – very seriously and go to superhuman lengths to eradicate them. Should we not also undertake similar measures against Islamic terrorism? Should jihad become newsworthy only when the casualty threshold skyrockets? Moreover, terrorism has a broader significance and impact than simply a body count; while, say, murder is an undeniably heinous crime, terrorism is an act of war calculated to sap our political will and destroy our way of life. It’s fair to say that journalists are justified in giving “jihad-related incidents” their due.

Besides putting a more innocuous spin on jihad, the course reveals its leftist agenda by shifting into an attack on conservatives:

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a group of right-wing activists who view themselves as ‘anti-Jihadists’ have aggressively tried to tie American Muslims to terrorism overseas and in the United States.

The course steers journalists to reports funded by the Left to uncover more about these “right-wing activists” and their agenda. The recommended reports are the Center for American Progress’ insubstantial “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” the bias and smears of which have already been noted and discredited numerous times at FrontPage Magazine, and Bob Smietana’s “Anti-Muslim Crusaders Make Millions Spreading Fear,” from The Tennessean in Nashville, another discredited smear-fest that accuses conservatives of a financial motive behind their “hate-mongering.” The Center for American Progress is funded by the leftist multi-billionaire George Soros.

Actually, the anti-jihadists in question – such usual suspects as Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer, the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s Steven Emerson, and ACT! for America’s Brigitte Gabriel – have not “tried to tie American Muslims to terrorism” (the recently deceased al Awlaki did a pretty good job of that all by himself). They have merely exposed the American Muslims who have tied themselves to terrorism here and abroad. Somehow that “context” is never addressed in the Poynter Institute’s course.

In addition to suggesting that “bigoted” right-wing activists have over-inflated the threat of jihad, the course asks students to consider what “grievances” might “sources associated with ‘Political Islam’ hold against Western journalists.” This is a subtle use of the strategy that has worked so well for the Islamists and the Left as well: manipulating the West’s “colonialist” guilt and planting the blame for terrorism on the victims’ collective responsibility. The course also suggests that politicians’ stances toward Islamic issues stem more from base political motives than from their constituents’ legitimate concern about the creeping Islamization of America: “Politicians do not oppose or support proposed mosques and other Muslim-American projects without taking into account their own interests.”

Who’s behind “Covering Islam in America”? The Culture and Media Institute breaks down the incestuous Islamist support network connected to the course. The course is co-sponsored by the Social Science Research Council, partially funded through Soros’ Open Society Institute. The Poynter Institute, funded by The Knight Foundation, partnered with Soros’ Open Society Foundations to start the Investigative News Network. The Knight Foundation’s president and CEO, Alberto Ibarguen, is also on the board of yet another key Soros-backed group, the progressive investigative reporting start-up ProPublica.

The “core journalistic values underpinning the course,” the Poynter News University claims, “are truth, accuracy, independence, fairness, minimizing harm and context.” Truth, accuracy, and “independence” and “fairness” – by which they presumably mean objectivity – are certainly essential journalistic values (and in short supply in these times when advocacy journalism is the vogue). But “minimizing harm” and “context”? “Covering Islam in America,” under the guise of fairness and protecting Muslim-American communities from right-wing bigotry, is a propaganda tool for manipulating the media to whitewash concepts like jihad and shariah, and to turn criticism of the clear and present danger of Islamic fundamentalism back on its critics.

* A companion website, Islam on Main Street: A Crash Course for Domestic American Reporters, is offered through Washington State University’s Center for Distance Education.

Mark Tapson


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

Muslims in Spain Declare Jihad on Dogs

by Soeren Kern

Spanish authorities are investigating the recent deaths by poisoning of more than a dozen dogs in Lérida, a city in the northeastern region of Catalonia that has become ground zero in an intensifying debate over the role of Islam in Spain.

All of the dogs were poisoned in September (local media reports here, here, here, here and here) in Lérida's working class neighbourhoods of Cappont and La Bordeta, districts that are heavily populated by Muslim immigrants and where many dogs have been killed in recent years.

Local residents say Muslim immigrants killed the dogs because according to Islamic teaching dogs are "unclean" animals.

Over the past several months, residents taking their dogs for walks have been harassed by Muslim immigrants opposed to seeing the animals in public. Muslims have also launched a number of anti-dog campaigns on Islamic websites and blogs based in Spain.

In response to the "lack of sufficient police to protect the neighbourhood," 50 local residents have established alternating six-person citizen patrols to escort people walking their dogs.

In July, two Islamic groups based in Lérida asked city officials to regulate the presence of dogs in public spaces so they do not "offend Muslims." Muslims are demanding that dogs be banned from all forms of public transportation including all city buses as well as from all areas frequented by Muslim immigrants.

Muslims in Lérida say the presence of dogs violates their religious freedom and their right to live according to Islamic principles.

Dogs are not the only Islam-related controversy in Lérida, where 29,000 Muslims now make up around 20 percent of the city's total population.

In December 2010, Lérida became the first municipality in Spain to ban the burqa head covering in all public spaces. Women found violating the ban will be fined up to €600 ($750). One day before the ban took effect, the Catalonian Supreme Court turned down an appeal from the Watani Association for Freedom and Justice, a local Muslim group, which had argued that the ban constitutes religious discrimination.

In September 2010, Watani president Mourad El-Boudouhi submitted a letter to the Lérida city council in which he asked the mayor to provide him with free land so that he can build a mosque in downtown Lérida. The mosque would be financed by Morocco.

The Moroccan mosque would compete with another mosque project in Lérida that is being financed by Saudi Arabia. The imam at the Saudi mosque is Abdelwahab Houzi, a Salafi jihadist preacher who adheres to the radical Wahhabi sect of Islam.

Salafism is a branch of revivalist Islam that calls for restoring past Muslim glory by forcibly establishing a universal Islamic empire (Caliphate) across the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe such as Spain, which Salafists view as a Muslim state that must be re-conquered for Islam.

Much of Spain was ruled by Muslim conquerors from 711 and 1492; Salafists believe that the territories the Muslims lost during the Spanish Reconquista still belong to them, and that they have a right to return and establish their rule there – a belief based on the Islamic precept that territories once occupied by Muslims must forever remain under Muslim domination.

The Salafist Houzi has called on Muslims who are eligible to vote in Spain to support Catalan separatist parties as a means to firmly establish Islamism in Catalonia.

"Muslims should vote for pro-independence parties, as they need our votes. But what they do not know is that, when they allow us to vote, we will all vote for Islamic parties because we do not believe in left and right. This will make us win local councils and as we begin to accumulate power in the Catalan autonomous region, Islam will begin to be implemented," Houzi said.

The Catalan independence movement supports the independence of Catalonia from Spain. Catalan separatism is based on the idea that Catalonia is a nation with its own unique history, culture and language.

In an effort to promote the Catalan language, Catalonian pro-independence parties have traditionally favored immigration from non-Spanish-speaking countries, especially from Arabic-speaking Muslim countries, in the belief that these people would speak Catalan rather than Spanish.

The end result of this decades-old policy is that Catalonia is now home to a huge concentration of hard-line Islamist groups including Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami and the Salafists.

Salafi preachers in Catalonia do not believe in democracy and teach that Islamic Sharia law is above Spanish civil law. They also promote the establishment of a parallel Muslim society in Spain.

Salafi imams have set up Sharia tribunals in Catalonia to judge the conduct of both practicing and non-practicing Muslims in Spain. They also deploy Islamic "religious police" in Lérida and other Catalan municipalities to monitor and punish Muslims who do not comply.

In one case, nine Salafists kidnapped a woman in Reus, tried her for adultery based on Sharia law, and condemned her to death. The woman just barely escaped execution by fleeing to a local police station.

In another case, a Salafi imam in Tarragona was arrested for forcing a 31-year-old Moroccan woman to wear a hijab head covering. The imam had threatened to burn down the woman's house for being an "infidel" because she works outside the home, drives an automobile and has non-Muslim friends. In an effort to prevent "a social conflict," in August a local court absolved the imam of all wrongdoing.

The Salafi movement in Spain is based in the Catalonian city of Tarragona, but Salafi Islam also has a major presence in the Catalan municipalities of Badalona, Calafell, Cunit, El Vendrel, Girona, Lleida, Mataró, Reus, Roda de Bara, Rubí, Salt, Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Sant Boi, Torredembarra, Valls, and Vilanova, not to mention Barcelona, which hosts five Salafi mosques.

Meanwhile, the Catalan regional government says that during the first six months of 2011, it prevented 14 forced marriages and the genital mutilation of 24 Muslim girls.

Catalan police say they prevented forced marriages in metropolitan Barcelona (6), Girona (4), central Catalonia (2), the western Pyrenees (1) and Tarragona (1). The girls at risk from genital mutilation were in metropolitan Barcelona (19), Girona (4) and Lérida (1).

Not surprisingly, some Catalans are having second thoughts about Muslim immigration. The Catalan nationalist party Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC), which has some 70,000 active members, is opposed to any further Muslim immigration.

PxC is also leading opposition to the construction of a Salafi mega-mosque in the Catalan town of Salt. PxC spokeswoman María Osuna says the party does not want Salt to become "the new Mecca of the most radical Islamism."

For its part, the Catalan regional government has discovered that Muslim immigrants are not all that interested in learning the Catalan language. In an effort to promote Catalan, the Catalonian Bureau of Religious Affairs recently published a guidebook in Arabic and Catalan called "Salam al Català."

The guide aims to bring the Catalan culture to Muslims to "show the bonds that historically have existed between both realities, and bring the [Catalonian] language to the Arabic-speaking Muslim population."

Soeren Kern


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The Self-Defeating Statehood Gambit

by Asaf Romirowsky

Following the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas has attempted to convince the world and the international community that their quest for statehood is just. Moreover, he would like us to believe that this "state" is responsible and accountable and deserves to be part of the community of nations. Yet it is puzzling, to say the least, that simultaneously we are witnessing a significant escalation of violence under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority such as the latest attacks in the southern parts of Israel.

Moreover, the recent attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo which forced the Ambassador and his family to flee is a clear indicator that the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, especially Hamas, are successful in overturning everything that was achieved under Sadat and Mubarak, specifically the 32-year Egyptian-Israeli peace.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the towers, which cost the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans, it was understood that Israel's War on Terror was America's War and that Hamas and al-Qaeda are one and the same.With the passing of time this understanding has been lost somewhere in the shuffle of spreading democracy and creating states in the Middle East. Yet today, Islamism in all its various forms still rejects the global status quo and is deeply hostile to most of the values and interests that are important to the U.S. and Israel.

A closer look at the Palestinian scheme reveals a not-so-hidden agenda of Israel's destruction rather than co-existence. Abbas believes that declaring statehood at the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank by unilateralism, aka Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), will bring about the much-desired Palestinian state that all Palestinians have been taught to believe in. Consequently, this act will be welcomed by a voting majority, which includes all the dictatorships of the Muslim world and Africa.

Washington has been clear that it will veto any effort in the Security Council, and as such the Palestinians will turn to the General Assembly (GA). The GA cannot admit a new state to the UN but can elevate the Palestinians' current status to non-member observer state, which will afford the Palestinians a voice on the Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice—both bodies have been historically hostile to Israel and would be more so with PLO representation.

Full membership in the UN requires the sanction of the Security Council, where the U.S. has veto power. That will almost certainly be implemented should Abbas gets nine out of the 15 votes, even by the Obama administration. But for all practical purposes, the PLO has been a member for quite some time and has been behaving as a state. It has the ultimate hallmark of a state, for it conducts its own foreign policy, freely.

Geographically and demographically, the so-called Palestinian state, which includes Gaza and the West Bank, does not exist. It is divided between Fatah and Hamas, Gazans and West Bankers, so the dream of the contiguous Palestinian state is a farce.

Pragmatically, Palestinian statehood would force Palestinians to give up the victimhood status they have been carrying as a "badge of honor" for over 60 years. Then, world public opinion would be forced to judge them as a state and not as the "underdog."

It remains politically correct to call for a two-state solution, as the very concept sounds idyllic: Two states living side-by-side in peace and harmony with free trade and a free market of ideas. However, in the real world, we are talking about an environment where on the part of one side there is no recognition of the other's right to exist in the region, period. The majority of Palestinian society remains unwilling to accept Israel's right and today openly call for a one-state solution, a de facto final solution for the state of Israel.

In sum, for anyone interested in peace in the region and in a two-state outcome, first the two parties should be defined and second the Palestinian gambit should be opposed. The tactic is self-defeating and the sooner Palestinians and their sympathizers get the message, the more likely they are to reconsider.

Asaf Romirowsky is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum.


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David Letterman Gets it Exactly Right

by Adam Turner

Kudos to American television comedian David Letterman! On June 5, 2011, Letterman smiled and drew his finger across his own throat on his CBS program "Late Show with David Letterman" to celebrate the U.S. military's reported killing of Ilyas Kashmiri, an Islamist terrorist who apparently was the head of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami and a senior al-Qaeda leader. Kashmiri reportedly was one of the leading organizers of the deadly November 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, which killed 164 innocent people and wounded at least 308. He was also recently indicted in U.S. federal court for conspiring with other terrorists to plan a Mumbai-style attack in Denmark, directed at the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that had published the infamous Mohammed cartoons. For good measure, Letterman also insulted Osama bin Laden during the same broadcast.

Letterman's understandable sentiment provoked a serious reaction from a group of radical Islamists. These Islamists — who themselves frequently express their joy at the murder of Americans — took offense at Letterman celebrating the killings of two mass murderers. In a posting on the Islamist web forum Shumukh al-Islam, they called for Letterman's murder, and encouraged the killer to cut off Letterman's offending tongue. The posting also mistakenly labeled Letterman a "Jew," which to millions of Islamists is the ultimate insult.

To his immense credit, David Letterman did not back down. He and CBS tightened security at the Manhattan theater where they tape the "Late Show," and Letterman increased his own security. Then, rather than buckle under, he made light of the threat in a subsequent appearance on his show. Among other things, he thanked his audience, saying: "You people are more than an audience tonight. You're more like a human shield." He even drew up one of his famous "Top Ten" Lists for the occasion.

David Letterman should be saluted for his courage. He did everything exactly right. Even while taking prudent protective precautions, he refused to apologize for his free speech, or to censor himself. He even went a step further, by returning to the sensitive topic and actually making fun of those who would harm him. Considering how comically challenged Islamists can be, and how bloodthirsty, this took extraordinary courage.

Hopefully, this is the start of a new trend. The past is littered with examples of Westerners — including other comedians — who shied away from expressing their opinions, or apologized in the aftermath, out of fear of Islamist threats. Some of the most prominent examples are:

  • The Danish Mohammed cartoons — While Jyllands-Posten had the gumption to post the 12 cartoons of Mohammed in 2005, most other Western newspapers refused to follow the Danish newspaper's lead. They feared that publishing these cartoons would lead to protests and violence across the Muslim world — and in their own offices. Indeed, violent mobs did wreak havoc after the cartoons were published — at least in part at the instigation of one or more Arab governments — resulting in a total of more than 200 deaths throughout the world. Only a handful of American news outlets had the courage to print the cartoons.
  • Yale University — In August of 2009, Yale University Press published a scholarly book on the Danish cartoon controversy — "The Cartoons that Shook the World," by Brandeis University professor Jytte Klausen. But after consulting more than two-dozen experts on Islam, terrorism and diplomacy, Yale ordered the offending cartoons excised from the book, for fear they would incite further violence from Muslim extremists. In other words, in an act of cowardly censorship, Yale published a book on the carton controversy but omitted the cartoons themselves.
  • South Park — In 2006 and then again in 2010, the satiric television cartoon South Park, drawn by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, aired four episodes that simply depicted Mohammed. Both times, Islamists threatened the artists and Comedy Central personnel with death for "insulting" the religious leader. In response, Comedy Central censored the four "offending" episodes, first just by blocking out the Mohammed depiction, but later also by muting much of the speech. Ironically, the censored matter included criticism of censorship and a speech against intimidation, in addition to every use of the name "Mohammed." In 2011, Comedy Central also edited Mohammed out of the DVDs of South Park seasons, including a 2001 depiction that had never before drawn any controversy. To their credit, Parker and Stone opposed Comedy Central's self-censorship.
  • Molly Norris — In 2010, in response to Comedy Central's self-censorship of South Park, Molly Norris, a cartoonist for the Seattle Weekly, came up with an idea: "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." The point she wanted to make was that freedom implies the right to criticize and caricature, and that this freedom was now in jeopardy. Soon threatened with death by an al-Qaeda imam, Norris quickly retracted her proposal — but it was too late. On September 15, 2010, the Seattle Weekly informed its readers: "You may have noticed that Molly Norris' comic is not in the paper this week. That's because there is no more Molly. The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, "going ghost": moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity. She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program — except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab …"
  • Penn & Teller — Even the irreverent comedy team of "Penn & Teller" has deliberately decided not to subject Islam to the same ridicule they heap on other religions, especially Christianity, because they're afraid of being attacked. Penn Jillette openly admitted as much in an interview — when he also said that Islam is immune from their jokes because "we have families."

This is not how free speech is supposed to work in a democratic society. No other religion is protected from being challenged, or even from being verbally attacked.

David Letterman, who also has a family, stood up to Islamists threatening to kill him for his speech. We at the Legal Project recognize that Letterman has far more resources than most to try to protect himself and his family. But even their wealth can't fully protect them from terrorist reprisal. Yet Letterman did not allow fear to silence him. His example is important, not least because Letterman is so prominent, and this incident is so public. Let's hope he spurs others to follow in his footsteps, so that threats and intimidation do not silence free expression in this country on any topic.

Adam Turner serves as staff counsel to the Middle East Forum's Legal Project. He is a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee where he focused on national security law.


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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

An Authentic Document in Palestinian AuthorityIdeology

Are the Jewish Elders of Zion conspiring to subjugate the entire world under a Jewish world
government? It sounds too ridiculous to consider, let alone necessitate a denial. But if you
were a 10th-grade student in the Palestinian Authority (PA), that is precisely what you would
have been learning in your new history book. The schoolbook, published in 2004, by the
Palestinian Ministry of Education, teaches that among the foundations of Zionism, agreed
upon at the First Zionist Congress in 1897, “there is a group of confidential resolutions
adopted by the Congress and known by the name ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ the
goal of which was world domination.”1

It has been 100 years since the publication of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion
and nearly a century since Henry Ford published his apology for arguing that the Protocols
were authentic documentation of a Jewish conspiracy. It’s been decades since the
enlightened world has relegated the Protocols to the shelves of hate propaganda, along with
the blood libels and poisoned well accusations of the Middle Ages. Why, then, would the PA
resurrect this vicious libel in the 21st century and pass it off as authentic to its children?

The striking truth is that this depiction of Jews as conspiring against the world as a kind of
conspiracy theory never went out of favor and has been actively espoused in PA society,
whose political, religious and educational leaders have incorporated the Protocols – and the
hate ideology it represents – as basic components of their world view.

This is not merely one among the many PA libels against Jews. The Protocols libel is critical
for Palestinian society, especially while teaching children that it represents the First Zionist
Congress, because it backs up the global ideology of delegitimization of Jews, Israel and
especially of Zionism, which is the foundation of Palestinian Authority propaganda. Defining the Zionist movement as one aspect of a global Jewish plot towards world domination leads to three important conclusions:
  1. Zionism is inherently an illegitimate and sinister movement.
  2. Zionism is dangerous and threatening not merely to Arabs, but to the entire world.
  3. Fighting Zionism is for Arabs and the world an act of self-defense and a service to all humanity.
As such, references to the Protocols appear regularly in the PA media, presented as
authentic by academics, educators, political leaders and journalists.

A dominant preoccupation of PA academia is the repeated and varied denials of Israel’s
historical right to exist. These denials entail the erasure of Jewish history in the land, the
creation of a Palestinian Islamic history in the land, and finally a motivation for Zionism to be
established – other than its being an authentic national renaissance movement. Thus, a
history is invented in which the Land of Israel has always been Arab Islamic "Palestine" with
no Jewish roots, and Palestinian historians created reasons to explain Zionism's occurrence.
The essential narrative created by Arab and Palestinian educators teaches that Zionism in
Israel was a European idea with two goals:
  1. To set up a bridgehead for European imperialism to control the Middle East;
  2. Self defense for Christian Europe designed to be rid of the danger and burden of having Jews living among them.
The Protocols libel fits nicely into this, as can be seen in the following discussion by senior PA

Dr. Issam Sissalem, history lecturer at Islamic University and Educational TV host:
"The Jews lived in isolated areas, in ghettos in Poland and in Russia. They were the
remains of the Khazars ... with no connection to our land... At that time, Britain wanted
to plant a cancer [in the Middle East to control it]. It did not occur to them [the Jews]
that Palestine would be theirs. They wanted ... any Homeland. Our people wisely
sensed this, as they planted on the land and lived in peace and security, continuing a
twelve thousand year journey on this land…

Sissalem: “Britain wanted to plant here the Jews in order to protect the Suez Canal…
Britain decided to plant in this land a foreign secluded entity - a cancer - in order to
drive a wedge in the [Arab] nation…

Riad Al-Astal, history lecturer at Al-Azhar University in Gaza:
“There are two major elements for which Britain and the other European states were
striving: the first element was to get rid of the Jews, who were known as those who provoke civil wars, disturbances, and financial crises in Germany, in France and in other European states… second: the European plan, … to torpedo any hope for an Arab unity”.

"In these circumstances [of European nationalism] developed what is known as the Zionist Renaissance, and the seeds of what is called The Protocols of The Elders of Zion appeared at the end of the 18th century. They are the Protocols that were presented in the Basel Congress in Switzerland [the First Zionist Congress in 1897].”2

Once established as factual, the Protocols are cited by historians as textual proof of the
necessity of fighting Israel. One example:

Dr. Attallah Abu Al-Farah:
"Can there be, in practice, co-existence on Palestinian land between ourselves and the
Jews, in light of their mentality which stems from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?”

Dr. Issam Sissalem, history professor and host: “This question comes from ‘My Beloved Friend’. I say: Dr. Attallah, who is a learned expert…”3

This conversation was important for numerous reasons. The date was May 14, 1999, eve of
Israel's Independence Day, and the purpose of the program was to reject Israel's right to
exist. Citing the Protocols as authentic confirms the illegitimacy of Israel. Also note that this
was said in 1999 - before the PA terror war (also called "Intifada “) was launched. Some
suggest that the hatred expressed on PA TV was a result of the war but in fact the opposite is
true: The hate promotion is not a result of the war, but preceded it by many years, and was in
all likelihood a major cause of the war.

Finally, note the political implications expressed by the professor:
"Can there be co-existence on Palestinian land between ourselves and the Jews, in light of
their mentality which stems from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?"

The Protocols is being used as an excuse for fighting Israel, as there can be no peace with a
movement which is evil in essence.

Seeing the Protocols as a guide to understanding Jewish behavior encourages the PA to
demonize virtually every Israeli policy – even those that are manifestly positive. When Israel
released 400 Palestinian prisoners in 2004 in exchange for a kidnapped businessman and the
bodies of three Israeli soldiers, the PA found the following Protocols-spin to demonize the

1 History of the Modern and Contemporary World, Grade 10 p. 60-61. After world outcry, a later edition of the book removed this reference.
2 Palestinian Authority TV, December 28, 2003
3 Palestinian Authority TV, May 14, 1999

Read the Whole Article

Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch and Barbara Crook, associate director of PMW.


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

Pa: Us Funding Freeze Is "Blackmail," "Unjustified" And "Collective Punishment

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

Fatah: US aid is a Palestinian "right," since the US is "morally responsible" for Israel's creation

Throughout 2011, Palestinian Authority leaders have mocked and minimized the significance of US aid, and even dared the US to cut off its funding of the PA.
Now that the US has announced a freeze of $200 million dollars, PA leaders are criticizing the US, claiming the freeze is "blackmail." Fatah added that the US and other countries owe the Palestinians financial aid on moral grounds, calling US aid to the PA an "obligation" and a "political and moral right" because the US "aided in the establishment of the State of Israel."

Earlier this year, both PM Salam Fayyad and Chairman Mahmoud Abbas criticized the US for linking its financial support to the PA's political cooperation. Fayyad called US requests "extortion" and Mahmoud Abbas said: "The US is assisting us in the amount of $460 million annually. This does not mean that they dictate to us whatever they want." (See quotes and sources below.)

This week, the official PA daily reported:
"Fatah: We are opposed to blackmail by the American Congress; the aid is a political and moral right... The Fatah movement viewed the decision by Congress to withhold the transfer of aid funds to the PA as political blackmail and bias in favor of the Israeli occupation state."
Fatah spokesman Faiz Abu Aytah:
"There is a moral and human obligation which rests with some of the donor countries, including the American administration, since they are morally responsible for the human tragedy which has befallen the Palestinian people since the Nakba (i.e., "the Catastrophe," term used by Palestinians for the establishment of Israel) in 1948."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 3, 2011]
Saeb Erekat, PA chief negotiator:
"We appreciate US aid, but to be blackmailed and bargained with over our right to self-determination, on Jerusalem, and on our Arab and Islamic identity is unacceptable."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 3, 2011]
Ghassan Khatib, PA spokesperson, Director of PA Government Media Center, and former Minister of Planning and Minister of Labor:
"This [the US funding freeze] is not constructive at all. Such moves are unjustified. These are mainly humanitarian and development projects - it is another kind of collective punishment which is going to harm the needs of the public without making any positive contribution."
[The Independent (website), Oct. 1, 2011]
The Palestinian Authority's strong criticism of the US is not new. Throughout 2011, long before the current disagreement, PA leaders and their official media have been mocking US aid:

When PM Salam Fayyad minimized US aid to the PA, calling US financial support "extortion," he added:
"We are not interested in the first place in receiving assistance from any source that threatens to halt its aid for political reasons."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 21, 2011]
A day later, Fayyad mocked US aid in a speech broadcast on PA TV:
"We have never referred to this [US] aid as a replacement for our legitimate aspiration to achieve all our national rights. Absolutely [not]. Because our national rights are not for sale or trade for a handful of [American] dollars."
[PA TV (Fatah), Feb. 22, 2011]
Recently, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly stressed his refusal to compromise with the US regarding the Palestinian statehood request at the UN, even at the cost of losing financial aid from the US:
"Pressure is indeed being exerted so that we won't go [to the UN]... but ultimately there is a supreme Palestinian interest according to which we want to act. ... We have indeed been told that Congress will halt the aid, whether we go to the UN Security Council or to the UN General Assembly."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 29, 2011]
Abbas has also expressed pride in his personal refusal to give in to US political requests by citing two examples:
"The US is assisting us in the amount of $460 million annually. This does not mean that they dictate to us whatever they want. I recall that they [the US] said, 'Don't go to the Arab Summit in Damascus,' but we went. They demanded that we should not sign the Egyptian reconciliation document [between Fatah and Hamas], but we sent Azzam Al-Ahmed to sign it."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 24, 2011]
Following their leaders' example, Palestinians recently demonstrated against receiving support from USAID. Significantly, the official PA daily gave prominence to the demonstration and published a large picture:

An article in the official PA daily reported on the protest:
"...dozens of Palestinian youth from the Independent Youth Activity group gathered... for a sit-down strike opposite the El-Bireh municipality, protesting what they refer to as 'conditional external funding', which is conditional first and foremost on abandoning so-called 'terror'... They called upon Palestinian youth to internalize the extent of the plot which is being woven by the American institutions against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause... The Youth Activity [group] said that this funding is leading to perpetuation of backwardness, increased dependence, the consolidation of [American] hegemony and a weakening of the struggle, since it causes and seeks distortion of consciousness and perceptions, by creating a limbo which they [America] claim represents development, while in fact it is nothing but a bridge to normalization with the enemy (i.e., Israel)."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 11, 2011]

In February, 28 Palestinian municipalities decided to boycott the US and reject US financial assistance. Hatem Abd Al-Qader, who holds Fatah's Jerusalem portfolio, explained that they would not be "humiliated" by receiving what he dismissed as "a bit of aid":
"Hatem Abd Al-Qader, who holds Fatah's Jerusalem portfolio, announced a boycott of the American consulate, its diplomats, and the American institutions in Jerusalem... He added that this boycott 'will continue until the American administration changes its stance concerning the Palestinian cause, and especially concerning the issue of settlements, and apologizes to the Palestinian people and its president, Mahmoud Abbas.' Abd Al-Qader said that the American administration 'cannot extort the Palestinian people and humiliate it with a bit of aid.'"
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 24, 2011]
American money used for anti-American propaganda
The Palestinian Authority has succeeded in creating such broad anti-American sentiment that a Palestinian National Theater director bragged on PA TV that he inserted an anti-American message in his play, which was funded by American money. "I inserted a political statement against America with American money," he said.
[PA TV (Fatah), July 6 and Sept. 15, 2011]

The Palestinian National Theater used a grant from the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem to stage the American play, Passages of Martin Luther King, written by Stanford scholar Clayborne Carson.

The US Consulate had good intentions with its support of the play, as it wrote in its announcement about the play: "The Passages of Martin Luther King project is one of many programs sponsored by the U.S. Consulate General throughout the year. These programs engage Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and promote dialogue and mutual understanding between Palestinians and Americans." However, the theater director said that when the American Consul saw what the Palestinian theater had done with US money, "his face turned red."

The following is the interview with Palestinian National Theater artistic director, Kamal Al-Basha:

Kamal Al-Basha: I directed a play about Martin Luther King - Passages of Martin Luther King.
TV host: Funded by USAID?
Kamal Al-Basha: No, not by USAID, by the American Consulate, directly from the American government... I put in scenes that talk about the American-Palestinian relationship. I had one scene - when the American Consul watched the play his face turned red. This scene shows [Palestinian] refusal to have the American flag, refusal to have the American flag on stage because the Americans used their veto against the Palestinian people. I inserted a political statement against America with American money.
[PA TV (Fatah), July 6 and Sept. 15, 2011]
US funding
It should be noted that not only is the US under the Obama administration a major financial supporter of the PA, but since its establishment in 1993, the PA has received more financial aid from the United States than from any other country. Most of the Palestinian infrastructure has benefited from US aid, including schools, hospitals, universities, water systems, road development, sports and more. The "bit of aid" that the PA is rejecting totaled more than half a billion dollars in 2010 alone [Hillary Clinton speech, Nov. 10, 2010, US State Department website].

The following is the article in the official PA daily reporting on the Fatah spokesman's response to the US funding freeze:

Headline: "Fatah: We are opposed to blackmail by the American Congress; the aid is a political and moral right"
"The Fatah movement viewed the decision by Congress to withhold the transfer of aid funds to the PA as political blackmail and bias in favor of the Israeli occupation state. The movement's spokesman, Faiz Abu Aytah, said yesterday that the funds transferred by the donor countries in order to help the Palestinian people, including the money given by the US, are a political right, since it [the US] is the patron for the agreements signed between the PLO and the Israeli government, in order to allow the PA to build its state institutions. He added, 'There is a moral and human obligation which rests with some of the donor countries, including the American administration, since they are morally responsible for the human tragedy which has befallen the Palestinian people since the Nakba (i.e., "the Catastrophe," the term used by Palestinians for the establishment of Israel) in 1948.' He stated that most of these countries aided in the establishment of the State of Israel, at the expense of the state of Palestinian people."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 3, 2011]
The following is the article in the official PA daily reporting on Fayyad's response to the US veto of a UN resolution on the issue of Israeli building in Jerusalem and the West Bank:

"Yesterday Prime Minister Salam Fayyad attacked the US in an unprecedented manner. He emphasized his opposition to American 'extortion,' which is expressed in the threat to halt aid to the PA if it insists on appealing to the Security Council to denounce Israeli settlement. Fayyad said: 'We did not agree, and will not agree, to extortion, and our people will never agree to that. We are not interested in the first place in receiving assistance from any source that threatens to halt its aid for political reasons.' In an announcement to the press during his inauguration of a school in the village of Al-Jalameh in the Jenin district, he added: 'I emphasize that we do not view the assistance offered to us as an alternative to liberty for our people. Justice is on our side, and our rights are not for sale, barter, or trade for a handful of dollars.'"
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 21, 2011]
US statement on the freeze
This week, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee (and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) announced it was freezing the administration's request for $200 million in aid to the PA "until the Palestinian statehood issue is sorted out."

Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:
"There must be consequences for Palestinian and UN actions that undermine any hope for true and lasting peace."

Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik


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

Who Will Be the First Victims of Obama's Decision to Lead from Behind?

by Lauri B. Regan

With the news that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have stolen dozens of surface-to-air missiles from Libya and hidden them at bases in southern Sudan, one cannot help but wonder when and where the first commercial jetliner carrying hundreds of innocent civilians will be shot down. Or will it be a military plane patrolling the skies over Iraq or Afghanistan? One thing is clear: scenes reminiscent of Pan Am Flight 103 blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland 23 years ago and of the U.S. soldiers in the downed Blackhawk helicopters whose bodies were dragged through the streets in Mogadishu 18 years ago may very well become commonplace in a world where America leads from behind.

According to a Telegraph report, the IRG's Quds forces "took advantage of the chaos that engulfed Libya following the collapse of the regime of former dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to seize 'significant quantities' of advanced weaponry," including "sophisticated Russian-made SA-24 missiles[.]" These missiles are capable of shooting down an aircraft flying at 11,000 feet.

It is difficult not to question whether the theft of these weapons by the West's most dangerous enemy could have been prevented. I would venture a guess that had the United States military taken the lead in planning and executing the incursion in Libya under President Bush, securing Gaddafi's weapons would have been a high priority. Instead, The Wall Street Journal reported that Libya's massive weapons depot still remains unguarded and is being pillaged daily by anyone and everyone having an agenda for the future of the leaderless country.

Rebel forces began a war in Libya in which it was unclear what entities comprised the anti-Gaddafi forces, who would win, and whether a successor regime would become a Western ally. It remains uncertain whether Libya will break out into a full-blown civil war with various factions armed with sophisticated weaponry pilfered due to NATO and American incompetence. What was known, however, was that Gaddafi-owned sophisticated weaponry capable of causing grave damage in the wrong hands. A primary goal of the military operation should have been to secure those weapons immediately.

As John Bolton noted in an article entitled "The Innocents Abroad":

No foreign friend or adversary could miss the point that, once launched into the conflict in Libya, Obama subsequently ignored it until the last days. NATO's intervention will long be remembered as a strategic embarrassment for the West, one directly attributable to Obama.

So who will fall victim to Libya's sophisticated weaponry falling into the hands of rogue states and terrorist regimes? The obvious answer is Israel. Not only does the IRG have a number of training camps in southern Sudan at which they train Islamic terrorist groups, but according to Western intelligence, but some of these missiles may have also been smuggled into Egypt. From Egypt, it is a stone's throw to Gaza where Hamas' trove of weapons may soon grow more dangerous.

Furthermore, there are growing fears in Western intelligence circles that Gaddafi's abandoned and unguarded weapons may fall into the hands of al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups, this fear is further buoyed by recent information regarding Iran's ties to al-Qaeda. As noted in The Telegraph article:

"Iran is actively supporting a number of militant Islamist groups in Egypt, Gaza and southern Lebanon, so there is concern that these sophisticated weapons will fall into the hands of terror groups," said a senior intelligence officer. "If the SA-24 missiles fall into the wrong hands then no civilian aircraft in the region will be safe from attack."

In 2004, after an El Al flight came under attack just after takeoff in Kenya, the Israeli national airline undertook measures to equip all of its planes with anti-missile systems. Unfortunately, there are many other airlines that fly in and out of Israel's Ben Gurion airport that are open targets. Israel's entire tourist industry could be destroyed in one fell swoop if just one passenger airline was successfully targeted by Hamas.

Last week, the White House stated that it was sending personnel to Libya to help Libya's interim governing authority secure the storage sites -- too little, too late. What would be prudent would be for the president to take some of the trillions of dollars he has racked up in debt to spend on studying monkeys on cocaine, exotic ants in East Africa, and the effects of yoga on hot flashes, and put the money to good use by equipping all U.S. airlines with similar missile defense systems. If the spender-in-chief can take over General Motors and force everyone traveling through the U.S. to either be exposed to radiation or get molested by a TSA agent, he can certainly take on the job of commander-in-chief and ensure the safety of U.S. citizens traveling at home and abroad with practical, working solutions.

In encouraging Chris Christie to run for president, Bill Kristol recently wrote:

You don't have to 'feel deeply in [your] heart' that you're called to run for president. You have to think you're the right man for the job. And, if that's the case, you have a duty to your country to step forward.

It's not about you. It's about your country.

Barack Obama has a duty to his country to stop shirking his responsibilities to protect and defend the citizens of the United States[1]. He took on the duty of commander-in-chief and sold the electorate that he was the right man for the job. The majority of Americans ignored Hillary's ads questioning Obama's ability to handle the 3am wake-up call. And it is too late to change the results of the 2008 election.

But Americans have now learned that it was never about the country -- it was always about Obama. In what will hopefully be Obama's last year in office, "the innocents" both at home and abroad can only pray that he stops thinking about himself and recognizes that he will be responsible for every fatality from a Libyan surface-to-air missile stolen on his watch -- and that he needs to do something about that now.

[1] I will not address all of the praise received by Obama for his decision to kill Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki other than to say it was unwarranted. Obama is the commander-in-chief and as such he is expected to make military decisions which safeguard U.S. citizens. He did his job, initially took full credit for the success of those missions rather than give credit where it was due, and expects the American public to heap praise on him notwithstanding his other failures as commander-in-chief. Those failures include his administration making public the name of the highly secretive Navy SEAL unit that conducted the raid on bin Laden. That gaffe resulted in a retaliatory strike that killed 30 Americans including 25 Navy SEALs from the Team 6 unit.

Lauri B. Regan


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

The IAEA 2011 General Conference INSS Insight No. 285

by Stein, Shimon and Asculai, Ephraim

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference convened on September 19, 2011 in Vienna for its annual meeting. Common to these conferences is the injection of politics into the discussions, i.e., proposals by the Arab nations, headed by Egypt, concerning Israel’s nuclear capabilities. Egypt views the annual conference as a proper forum for advancing its efforts to dismantle these alleged capabilities.

In this sense, this year’s conference was no different from its predecessors. Two draft resolutions relating to Israel were proposed: “Israel’s Nuclear Capabilities,” and “Application of IAEA Safeguards in the Middle East.” Advance diplomatic activity by Arab states focused especially on obtaining support for the first resolution. In the last two years, this resolution has become the primary battleground between Israel and the Arab states and the yardstick for judging the success or failure of Israeli diplomacy. Behind this year's intensive diplomatic efforts conducted by both sides lay the Arab failure in last year’s vote on the proposal (51-46). Thus, the Arab effort focused on an attempt to generate a change in the balance of power, while the Israeli effort (with American/European assistance) aimed to repeat last year’s success. In the end, estimating that they would not be able to guarantee a majority in the conference plenum, the Arab nations decided to withdraw the draft resolution.

How can the fact that Israel and its allies scored a diplomatic coup in such a hostile arena for the second straight year be explained? Does this indicate a new trend whereby most members are no longer willing to support the Arabs singling out Israel for its nuclear activities? Hovering in the background of the General Conference discussions and the addresses by many of the Arab speakers were the IAEA Forum scheduled for November and the conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East scheduled for 2012, decided on at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Do the results of the IAEA General Conference impact on the two forthcoming gatherings, and if so, how?

Some would explain the Arab failure by the difficulty in agreeing on a uniform stance and inadequate inter-Arab coordination, apparently in light of the Arab spring, which deflected the attention of the Arab nations towards what they regarded as more urgent issues. In addition, Israel’s success may be attributed to an improved diplomatic campaign and better coordination with the United States and European Union member nations. The latter focused on the negative contribution that would be made by a resolution singling out Israel, given the effort to build an atmosphere of trust on the eve of the IAEA Forum Conference and the efforts to convene the 2012 conference. In this context, the EU was able to point to the success of the seminar it held this past July in Brussels. Thus unlike in 2010, once the Arab nations understood that they had no chance to win a vote, they decided to withdraw the resolution, thereby sparing themselves a second straight loss. They explained their decision not to bring the resolution to a vote as a goodwill gesture in the context of the IAEA Conference and the related events.

Despite the achievements of these two years, it is too early to evaluate whether this is indeed the start of a trend based on the recognition that singling Israel out for vilification on the nuclear question contributes nothing to establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Egypt and its Arab partners will likely not miss future opportunities to denounce Israel on the nuclear issue. The reason for Israel’s success this year should be seen as the success of the US and EU to convince the undecided of the damage to their efforts to convene the forthcoming conferences. The ability to recreate this success next year (assuming that the Arab nations launch a similar effort) will depend to a decisive extent on the ability of the US and EU to point to successes at the planned conferences.

The IAEA Forum is scheduled to discuss experience gained from nuclear weapons-free zones around the world and examine the relevance of this experience to the efforts to establish a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. In a certain sense, this heralds an IAEA success: in past years, the IAEA tried very hard to hold a discussion of such topics but failed.

The decision at the NPT Conference regarding the 2012 conference determined that the IAEA, together with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and other relevant international organizations, would assist in the preparations by submitting documents and discussing modalities relating to the establishment of a WMD-free zone. Thus, the IAEA is playing a secondary role here, though this was less evident in the many speeches that related to the planned 2012 conference. There is no doubt that the Arab “goodwill gesture” in withdrawing the resolution on Israel’s nuclear capabilities will increase the pressure on the three conveners (the US, Great Britain, and Russia) to advance the preparations for the 2012 conference – preparations that have progressed little since the decision was made in May 2010. The three, primarily the United States, will likely make every effort to prevent accusations of their having failed to convene the conference. Appointing a host nation and a coordinator are the first tasks for the sponsors. It seems that the three have an understanding whereby the coordinator will come from the host nation. The appointments process will start with consultations with the nations in the region, which will have to give their blessing to the proposed appointment. The recommendation of the three and the UN Secretary General for the person to be appointed will be formulated later. The anticipated difficulties until the conference is convened, in light of the differences of opinion among the relevant nations (especially in the Middle East), some of which will oppose the conference itself, will undoubtedly postpone its convening. Moreover, with all the importance that Egypt and some of the Arab nations attribute to holding the conference in 2012, to the United States and President Obama it is important to make sure that the conference is held before the next NPT Review Conference in 2015.

The appointment of a coordinator who will start consultations with the regional states will confront Israel with the dilemma whether or not to cooperate with him. In an announcement immediately after the close of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, Israel stated it could not participate in the implementation of the conference decisions. Is this statement still valid? What considerations might make Israel reexamine its position regarding the entering into a process of negotiations over the conditions that would allow Israel to participate?

In conclusion, Israel acted correctly in participating in the seminar held by the EU. Having expressed willingness in principle to participate in the IAEA Forum, Israel would be wise to participate and there present a clear position regarding the necessary conditions for establishing a WMD-free zone. And despite its stated opposition to the 2012 conference, Israel would be wise not to reject the advances of the coordinator once such a person is appointed. Following the earliest possible coordination with the United States (which also presented a list of conditions for the convening of the conference, conditions that have yet to be fulfilled), Israel will be able to present the coordinator with its conditions for participating in the conference. Chances are that should Israel turn the coordinator away and/or reject participation in the 2012 conference, it would help the negative approach of many other nations. On the other hand, more than a few nations in the region will likely refuse to sit down with Israel at a conference concerning all WMD (not just nuclear weapons) in the Middle East. It behooves Israel to take this consideration into account as well as it prepares to take a decision on the issue.

Stein, Shimon and Asculai, Ephraim


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

Arab Spring Over in Egypt; Ready for a Chilly Winter?

by Amr Bargisi

In Egypt, for the past seven months since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, from the conspicuous rise of the Islamists to the attack on the Israeli embassy, there is nothing but bad news. Beneath the surface, the situation looks even grimmer. Consider, for example, the economy: the stock market is at its lowest since the financial crisis, with its main index down 40% from where it was before January; the Egyptian Central Bank has not only spent one third of its foreign reserves, but according to official numbers, which are optimistic, Egypt has also scored an average of 2.2% negative growth in the last two quarters.

Aside from a military coup, the occurrence and outcome of which are unpredictable, Egypt is facing one of two scenarios: a) The Islamists, whether the Muslim Brotherhood [MB]or others, take over completely through a smashing victory in the upcoming parliamentary, and perhaps presidential, elections; or b) The Islamists win a less-than-absolute majority and proceed to govern as part of a larger coalition, or else sit opposition to a coalition of all other forces. The first scenario is both more likely and much better than the second.

The primary element of Islamist propaganda in Egypt is that all political ideologies have been tried, except Islamism – and this is combined with a promise that once Islam governs, a society of unparalleled justice and prosperity will be born!

Now, we all know that, considering the dire economic and social situation mixed with too-high expectations, ruling Egypt for the next few years is not going to be a picnic. If Islamism is tried now, it is going to fail. This is exactly the reason the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood decided not to run a candidate for the presidency, and to limit its parliamentary bid to 33% of the seats, perhaps rising to 49% under extreme pressure from its grass roots. To this end, the MB has joined the absurd "democratic coalition" with 27 other groups that have absolutely nothing in common except their lack of vision, and that keep compromising to accommodate the antics of much weaker parties such as Al-Wafd.

Most recently, as rumors spread in Egyptian press that Al-Wafd will expel the MB from the coalition, prominent leaders of Al-Wafd expressed their joy over the news, one of them even calling it "a cause for celebration," to which the MB leadership responded by affirming that, "The Coalition holds, before, during and after the elections."

If the Islamists do not take full responsibility for the government, however, they -- like Hezbollah in Lebanon -- would be able to push through, by means of popular pressure, all of their policies without ever having to take responsibility for them.

The non-Islamist parties, however, are no less frivolous than the MB when it comes to matters such as managing the economy or the Egyptian-Israeli relationship. Almost all political forces in Egypt, for example, are outspoken about scrapping the peace treaty with Israel -- a position considered elementary to any sort of political popularity. Whoever is in government, will either have to keep the treaty and lose popularity, or cancel the treaty and face the consequences. In both scenarios, the MB leadership would rather have someone else responsible, and be able to blame them in the next elections.

Further, the Egyptian Military still holds the keys to political power in Egypt; and as the MB will do anything to avoid a clash, it can work systematically from behind the scenes to weaken the military. The MB can, for instance, push legislation for all military officers who were forced to retire for political reasons to return to their ranks, and that way plant allies within the military leadership.

Most Islamists, however, lack the shrewdness of the MB leadership, and will waste no effort at gaining as many seats as they can. Further, the new redistricting law, proposed by the ruling Supreme Military Council, gives the Islamists a great advantage. Without getting too much into the details of the law, the basic idea is that the new districts are much larger than before, thus limiting the influence of familial and tribal connections. The candidate who can perform consistently everywhere – that is, the Islamist -- will be able to garner more votes than someone whose support and influence are confined to a specific area.

In addition, the upcoming elections are going to depart from the established rules of the game: there is no one planning who will run for election in each district after the collapse of Mubarak's National Democratic Party; and in times of economic uncertainty, the traditional candidates are unwilling to spend much money on constituencies they do not know, especially as it is unsure if the new MPs will enjoy as much authority as they used to. In other words, the non-Islamist vote would be divided among too many unenthusiastic and badly-funded candidates.

So what is to be done if the Islamists do take over government in Egypt?

First, they should receive a lukewarm treatment from the international community: no sanctions, no aid: their popularity will only feed on the former and their success on the latter.

Second, in a similar strategy to that of the MB leadership, a strong opposition should tackle the Islamists on every single policy. It is not going to be a walk in the park, but there is a historical chance now to show – case by case -- the limitations of Islamism. We should not rely too much on the existing political parties; our main focus should be on building a strong and independent civil society in think tanks, advocacy groups and media.

Third, and most importantly, the Egyptian Military should be pressured to maintain a sane Egyptian foreign policy on the one hand, and to act as a defender of democracy on the other. One major issue will be to urge the leaders of the military to ease up on their chauvinism, particularly regarding foreign aid -- either financial or logistical - to domestic groups. The military rulers of the country, and their lackeys in the media, have done little to hide their hostility to Western-backed organizations. They have not only accused many of pursuing "external" agendas; they have also been threatening legal measures to tighten the State's grip on establishing, operating and funding non-governmental organizations.

Of course, the situation in Egypt is too volatile for a final verdict, but it will probably not get any better than this. Fans of Egypt's "liberals" would disagree, and insist it is still possible for their heroes to win the next elections. Rather than trying to bring them to their senses, it might be wiser to leave it to the chilly winds of the Arab Winter's ballot box.

Amr Bargisi


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

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