Thursday, May 03, 2007

Defiant Infidel

From May 2, 2007, by Bill Steigerwald, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's associate editor ...

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was born and raised as a Muslim in Somalia and is now the New York Times best-selling author of “Infidel” (Free Press), is an outspoken defender of women's rights in Islamic societies. A former member of the Dutch Parliament who speaks six languages, she's a freedom-fighter whose criticism of conservative Islamic cultures and their traditional mistreatment of women and children have made her internationally famous and brought her death threats. Hirsi Ali, who calls herself a “classic liberal” who desires the state to be limited to guarantee as much individual freedom as possible, is currently a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. She says "Infidel" -- the name she found herself being called when she would suggest some oppressive or backward aspect of Islam should be changed or reformed -- is her account of her transformation from "the world of faith to the world of reason."

....Q: Who did you write the book for? Who is the audience?
A: Two audiences. One are those who have inherited the Western system of human rights and freedom and the institutions (that protect them) but who do not understand what it is not to have freedom -- in short, those who take freedom for granted. The other audience are those who share my Muslim background and who reject freedom on the basis of religious dogma or tradition, such as those who say, “I don’t care to send my children to school” or “I’m going to circumcise my daughters because this is what we always used to do.”

Q: What is the significance of the title “Infidel”?
A: That as someone who was born into Islam and brought up with Islam, every call for for change meets with the accusation “You are an infidel.” After the 11th of September, Western leaders started to persuade Muslims all over the world to stand up and say, “This is not done in my religion.” I started to download what bin Laden had said. Pretty much the message of bin Laden is that every Muslim should stand up and fight the enemies of Islam. I started to download his speeches and he quotes abundantly from the Koran and the Hadith (written traditions of the Prophet Muhammad). Bin Laden’s message is consistent. What he says, is in the Koran. What he says that the prophet did, it is true the prophet did. My reaction to that was, let’s not turn away from that but let’s acknowledge that our religion has very violent principles and by acknowledging those deviances, we can correct it. And that’s when I was met with the accusation “You’ve become an infidel.” Then in Holland, I started to point out the position of Muslim women in Holland and in Muslim countries. I said it is inferior and that inferiority and the violence against women and the subjugation against them is justified in the name of Islam. I said “Let’s acknowledge that this deformity is within the religion and reform it.” And the answer to that was always, “Oh, but you are an infidel if you say that.” I said “Let’s correct what the prophet Muhammad said” – “No. The prophet was perfect, he was infallible. You don’t correct what he said. If you do that you are an infidel.”

Q: Is Islam inherently anti-western, anti-individual, or anti woman or has it has been perverted by its leaders?
A: The religion is the problem. The religion is anti-individual. And the notion of equality between men and women...Islam as a doctrine, as a religion, is opposed to all of that. There are leaders who want to change that and move forward, and they are the ones who are accused of being infidels. From really the time the religion was founded until now, they have either been exiled or killed or silenced in some way.

Q: Is there anywhere where Islam is practiced today that you would say is a model situation?
A: Not where sharia – the law of Islam -- is implemented. Anywhere where sharia is implemented, you see incredible inhumanity. People’s hands are cut off. Women are confined to their homes and are stoned. Peopled are hanged. Homosexuals are hanged or must hide. That is Iran, Saudi Arabia … Afghanistan under the Taliban. Parts of Somalia are now under sharia rule. Anywhere there is sharia rule, there is violation of human rights.

Q: What do you want Americans to learn or to understand after reading "Infidel"?
A: Become aware that you have these freedoms. Don’t take them for granted. Protect them against predators with totalitarian ideologies, such as Islam.

Q: Do you feel that people are getting the message you want them to get from your book?
A: I feel that conservatives are getting the message -- and had gotten it before I even started coming to the U.S. I’m having difficulty getting the message to liberals and that has to do with people who are opposed to the Bush administration but at the same time don’t realize that Islam is a doctrine. And that for the agents of Islam, those who want to create a caliphate, it really doesn’t matter whether you are a Democrat or a conservative. You are an infidel all the same.


From JCPA, Jewish Political Studies Review 19, Nos. 1 & 2, Spring 5767/2007 by Joel S. Fishman (very brief exerpts only, from a lengthy, excellent academic essay - follow the link to read it in full)...

From the 1960s, inversion of truth and reality has been one the most favored propaganda methods of Israel's adversaries. One of its most frequent expressions has been the accusation that the Jewish people, victims of the Nazis, have now become the new Nazis, aggressors and oppressors of the Palestinian Arabs.

Contemporary observers have identified this method and described it as an "inversion of reality," an "intellectual confidence trick," "reversing moral responsibility," or "twisted logic." Because Israel's enemies have, for nearly half a century, repeated such libels without being challenged, they have gradually gained credence. Since inversion of reality constitutes the basic principle of current anti-Israeli propaganda, it is important to understand what it is and how it works.

This propaganda method is a product of Nazi Germany. It is totalitarian both in its methods, particularly the use of the paranoiac myth, and in the absolute solution it advocates. It denies all of Israel's claims completely and leaves no room for introspection and compromise.

....One of the tactical tools of ideological warfare is propaganda....In the twentieth century, propaganda served primarily as a weapon of war, and its effects could be devastating. Indeed, certain totalitarian ideologies, when brought to their logical conclusion, have been genocidal.

...If sheer repetition, in public and private contexts, can be taken as proof of belief, then it appears that Hitler, Goebbels, Dietrich [Director of the Reich Press Office], their staffs, and an undetermined percentage of German listeners and readers believed that an international Jewish conspiracy was the driving force behind the anti-Hitler coalition in World War II…. They certainly acted as if the Final Solution was Nazi Germany's punishment of the Jews, whom the Nazis found guilty of starting and prolonging World War II.

...a chilling example of the link between propaganda and genocide, namely, Hitler's annual speech to the Reichstag of 30 January1939 ...presented "what became the core Nazi narrative of the coming conflict": "I want today to be a prophet again: if international finance Jewry inside and outside of Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth and thereby the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"

In addition...Hitler's New Year's address to the nation on 1 January 1940...contained the "imputation of genocidal war aims to Nazi Germany's enemies, especially the Jews": "'The Jewish-capitalist world enemy that confronts us has only one goal: to exterminate Germany and the German people.…"

... the ultimate aim of Nazi propaganda was "the imposition of a paranoiac pattern on world events" in the form of a "paranoiac myth." ...

...This is the final horror of the myth. It becomes self-confirming. Once you are entrapped in this illusionary universe, it will become reality for you, for if you fight everybody, everybody will fight you, and the less mercy you show, the more you commit your side to a fight to the finish. When you have been caught in this truly vicious circle there is really no escape. Compared with this effect, the principle of advertising and mass suggestion in war propaganda may almost be called marginal.

Inversion of reality as a tool of media war, with its paranoiac state of mind, has persisted to the present. describe the post-1967 outlook of the Palestinians. ....for them, "Zionism, then, is a new 'Nazism' threatening to dominate and destroy the whole human species…. Thus, in a context where Western elites never tire of calling for the avoidance of 'Islamophobic' utterances, the head of the Islamic Center in Geneva, Hani Ramadan, coolly denounced 'the genocide being organized against the Muslims.'"

It is noteworthy that Ramadan's story line is nearly identical to that of Nazi propagandists. Both presented themselves as targets of a Jewish conspiracy, and the potential outcome of their "logical process"-to use Hannah Arendt's expression-was genocide. Although both have inverted the truth, their assertions contain an additional feature which is disturbing and dangerous: an inversion of morality which leads to criminal behavior and violence without constraint.

....Leo McKinstry, a Belfast-born author and journalist who writes regularly for the Daily Mail, Daily Express, and Sunday Telegraph...identified the inversion of reality in British public discourse with regard to Israel and called it by its real name:
"In a remarkable inversion of reality, Israel has become a pariah state because of its determination to defend itself. A grotesque double standard now operates, where murderous Arab terrorists are hailed as "freedom fighters" yet Israeli security forces are treated as fascistic thugs. No nation has been more demonized than Israel. One recent survey across Europe revealed that Israel is now regarded as "the greatest threat" to world peace, an utter absurdity given that Israel is actually the only democratic, free society in the Middle East. But such a finding reflects the strength of the hysterical anti-Israeli propaganda that fills the airwaves of Europe. No matter how much this anti-Israeli feeling is dressed up as support for Palestine, it is in fact profoundly antisemitic…."

....After the defeat of Germany, the propaganda methods of inversion of reality and the Big Lie fell into temporary disuse. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union and its allies in the Arab world reintroduced them during the 1960s, particularly after the Israeli victory in the Six Day War in 1967. That outcome represented a humiliation and posed an internal danger because it shook the foundations of authority. It heartened the minorities in the Soviet Union, not least the Jews.
Having suffered a major reverse, the Soviet Union and the Arab countries decided to use political anti-Semitism to shift world attention from their own failures. They sought to delegitimize Israel, bringing about its isolation and destruction. Some elements of the new propaganda campaign were:
  • The accusation that Israel was the aggressor in the Six Day War and denial of its right to self-defense.
  • The passing of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, "Zionism is racism," on 10 November 1975 which conferred the standing of international law on a proposition totally based on the inversion of reality. This resolution transformed Zionism, the Jewish national movement, into the embodiment of evil by equating it with the depravity of Nazi Germany.
  • The drafting of the PLO Covenant in its various versions of 1964, 1968, and 1974. This document claimed that justice was totally on the Palestinian side and that Israel had no standing at all.
  • The Hamas Charter of 1988.
  • The unprecedented assault on Israel which took place at the UN Conference in Durban at the end of August and beginning of September 2001.

Both the Arab world and the Soviet Union used inversion of reality as a method and drew on the idiom of Nazi propaganda. The transfer of this expertise cannot be traced in detail because the information is incomplete. It is known, however, that many Nazis found refuge in the Arab world. From 1953, Egypt absorbed some two thousand of them. Some worked in Nasser's secret service. Some administered concentration camps. Others were involved in the design and construction of rockets. Among this population were specialists in anti-Semitic propaganda. From Egypt, they disseminated anti-Semitism in the Arab world as well as the doctrine of Holocaust denial.

...For his part, the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini in his conversation with Hitler of 21 November 1941 and his radio broadcasts contended that Jews were the common enemy of Islam and Nazi Germany. The ex-Mufti frequently went on tour to encourage the Balkan SS Muslim units, and the Axis radio stations faithfully covered these visits. During his broadcast of 21 January 1944, he proclaimed:
"The Reich is fighting against the same enemies who robbed the Moslems of their countries and suppressed their faith in Asia, Africa and Europe…. National Socialist Germany is fighting against world Jewry. The Koran says, "You will find that the Jews are the worst enemies of the Moslems." There are considerable similarities between Islamic principles and those of National Socialism, namely in the affirmation of struggle and fellowship, in the stress of the leadership idea, in the ideal of order. All this brings our ideologies close together and facilitates cooperation. I am happy to see in this division a visible and practical expression of both ideologies."

...If today's Arab anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish propaganda strongly resembles that of the Third Reich, there is a good reason.

...On September 6, 1968, Dr. Simon Wiesenthal held a press conference in Vienna where he accused the German Democratic Republic for its use of language identical to the Nazi era in its condemnation of Israel. The title of the publication which he distributed on this occasion was, The Same Language: first for Hitler - now for Ulbricht. In this well documented publication Wiesenthal and his staff identified thirty-nine Nazis with excellent credentials in the Third Reich who found their way into the service of the G.D.R. Some were extremely well placed. Not surprisingly, one of the tools of propaganda which they used was inversion of reality, accusing Israel of being the aggressor. This information may explain how the East Bloc co-opted Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda themes. J. H. Brinks, in his essay "Political Anti-Fascism in the German Democratic Republic," explained that there was no ideological impediment to prevent the cooperation between Communist party members and National Socialists, as they had once been allies. That is, until Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.

....It should be added that with France's change in diplomatic orientation in favor of the Arab cause, and as a consequence of its great influence in Europe, anti-Israeli information steadily gained currency on the Continent. Historian Bat Ye'or remarked that the Second International Conference in Support of the Arab Peoples, held in Cairo in 1969, was a turning point for Europe. Its chief objective was to "demonstrate hostility to Zionism and solidarity with the Arab population of Palestine." ....

....It did not take long for the cold winds to blow. At the end of 1968, Bertrand Russell published an open letter to Wladyslaw Gomulka, first secretary of the Polish Communist Party, protesting the outbreak of state-sponsored anti-Semitism in Poland. Russell bluntly likened this new anti-Semitism to that of Nazi Germany. He used the term "twisted logic" to describe the method of inverting reality:
"Over the past eighteen months in Poland, the Press, the secret police and the Government have instigated anti-Semitism quite deliberately. By some twisted logic, all Jews are now Zionists, Zionists are fascists, fascists are Nazis, and Jews, therefore, are to be identified with the very criminals who only recently sought to eliminate Polish Jewry…."

The Soviet Union spread several other fictions in its new propaganda war against Israel. One of these was the accusation that Israel was the aggressor in the Six Day War. ....Soviet propaganda has managed to make the main issue appear Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the course of the war. Thus, a matter which should be part of the final settlement of the conflict becomes a precondition of negotiations leading to a settlement. Whatever one's feelings about the substance of the Israeli-Egyptian dispute, one cannot but admire the adroit use of an intellectual confidence trick to turn the tables on an opponent and shift the burden of recalcitrance from oneself to the other party....

....When discussing the developments of this era, one must include the PLO Covenant in its different versions from 1964 onward. It provided a codified ideological statement which embodied Palestinian myths and claims. At first it did not have much impact, but later, particularly after 1973, it became the PLO credo.....Prof. Yehoshafat Harkabi was probably the first to recognize the importance of this document and carefully analyzed its content and language. In the introduction to his publication of the text of the Palestinian Covenant with his commentary, Harkabi stated that the absoluteness of the Palestinian inversion of reality was inherently totalitarian:
"The Palestinian movement claims absoluteness and "totality"-there is absolute justice in the Palestinian stand in contrast to the absolute injustice of Israel;…right is on the Palestinian side only; only they are worthy of self-determination; the Israelis are barely human creatures who at most may be tolerated in the Palestinian state as individuals or as a religious community…; the historical link of the Jews with the land of Israel is deceit; the spiritual link as expressed in the centrality of the land of Israel in Judaism is a fraud; international decisions such as the Mandate granted by the League of Nations and the United Nations Partition Resolution are all consigned to nothingness in a cavalier manner."

The PLO Covenant is central to our understanding of today's Palestinian Authority. The fact that Yasser Arafat refused to amend this document, even though he pretended to do so in the presence of President Clinton on 14 December 1998, is the best indication of his real intentions. Of related interest is the Hamas Charter of 1988, the text of which may be found on the Internet.....its distinctive inversion of reality [is traced ] to Nazi sources:
"The renewed impact of Nazi-style conspiracy theories becomes particularly obvious if we take a look at the Charter of the Muslim Brotherhood of Palestine, otherwise known as Hamas. Created in 1988, the Charter pointedly makes use of the antisemitic rhetoric of the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem which he had adopted from the Nazis. According to this Charter, "the Jews were behind the French Revolution as well as the Communist revolutions." They were "behind World War I so as to wipe out the Islamic Caliphate…and also behind World War II, where they collected immense benefits from trading in war materials and prepared for the establishment of their state." They "inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council…in order to rule the world through their intermediaries. There was no war anywhere without their [the Jews'] fingerprints on them." The original text of the Charter is clearly stated in Article 32, in which it states that the intentions of the Zionists "[have] been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present conduct is the best proof of what is said there.""

The importance of these charters has not been sufficiently appreciated. Nevertheless, the myths which they embody have become part of the fictional and paranoiac worldview which Palestinian propaganda has imposed on reality.

On 10 November 1975, the Soviet Union and its supporters passed UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, "Zionism is racism," which transformed an anti-Semitic slogan into an internationally accepted "truth." Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman explained that "the term 'racism' was coined in 1936 to rally scientific and political opinion against Nazi doctrines of 'Aryan superiority' over Jews and other alleged untermenschen." According to the original meaning of the term, then, "racism" denotes one of the great abuses of Nazism. Thus, to equate Zionism with racism represents a serious accusation and inversion of reality.

Although Resolution 3379 was finally rescinded on 16 December 1991, and the Soviet Union passed into history shortly thereafter (26 December 1991), the damage to Israel's cause was considerable. By reducing a complicated issue to a slogan, this libel, which inverted reality, prevented rational discussion of the real problems of the Middle East. In an era of mass media when the study of the past has gone out of fashion, slogans such as "Zionism is racism" have taken the place of facts. They have penetrated the popular mainstream idiom and the consciousness of uncritical mass audiences.

Israel's enemies made many accusations during the years after Resolution 3379, but for a time they spared Israel another massive assault on its legitimacy. That changed with the UN World Conference against Racism which took place in Durban, South Africa, from 28 August-8 September 2001. Durban was the scene of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli speeches and agitation of an intensity unknown since the 1930s.

Some of the main players who joined this effort were the UN high commissioner for human rights and secretary-general of the conference, Mary Robinson; Arafat, Hanan Ashrawi, and Farouk Kaddoumi for the Palestinian Authority; Ahmed Maher and the Arab Lawyers' Union for Egypt; Farouk al-Shara for Syria; and the Iranian delegate. Others included the representatives of the NGOs, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Cuba, China, Sudan, Iraq, Chile, Jamaica, Finland, and South Africa.

Squarely in the tradition of "Zionism is racism," the Durban Conference made ample use of the inversion of reality. Indeed, the NGOs called "for the reinstatement of the UN resolution equating Zionism with Racism" and "the complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state," and condemned "Israeli crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide."

...The significance of Durban is yet to be fully appreciated, particularly because the malicious intentions of its sponsors-Egypt, which is supposedly at peace with Israel, while those of the Palestinian Authority and Iran-have not been fully acknowledged....

....For more than half a century, inversion of reality has been the essential characteristic of a media war against Israel and has caused considerable harm. This propaganda method is a product of Nazi Germany. It is totalitarian both in it methods, particularly the use of the paranoiac myth, and in the total solution it advocates. It denies all of Israel's claims completely and leaves no room for introspection and compromise. Following the same strategy which the international community applied against South Africa, the long-term strategic objective of Israel's enemies is to destroy the Jewish state, even if it takes years. Its use proclaims the true intent of those who resort to it.

For its part, Israel has a strategic need to defend itself on the battlefield, but in order to exercise this sovereign right, it must effectively defend its legitimacy in the forum of public opinion. Accordingly, Israel must first recognize the type of war in which it is engaged and then formulate an appropriate strategy based on solid information.

.... There is, therefore, an urgent need to expose the lies which have become part of the media war and to discredit those who spread them.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Iran and Sudan

From » Opinion » Editorials » Apr. 20, 2007

In his speech on Wednesday at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, President George W. Bush illustrated the purpose of remembering the Holocaust: to use the past to combat genocide in the present and prevent it in the future.

"Why have a museum dedicated to such a dark subject?" Bush asked. "The men and women who built this museum will tell you: Because evil is not just a chapter in history - it is a reality in the human heart. So this museum serves as a living reminder of what happens when good and decent people avert their eyes from hatred and murder. ... And it reminds us that the words 'never again' do not refer to the past - they refer to the future."

Bush continued, "You who are survivors know why the Holocaust must be taught to every generation. ... You who bear the tattoos of death camps hear the leader of Iran declare that the Holocaust is a 'myth.' You who have found refuge in a Jewish homeland know that tyrants and terrorists have vowed to wipe it from the map. And you who have survived evil know that the only way to defeat it is to look it in the face, and not back down."

Yet the speech's focus was not Iran, which was mentioned only once, but Sudan. Bush reviewed, in some detail, the "staggering" human toll in Sudan. He praised the museum for "making it impossible for the world to turn a blind eye" to this genocide. And he laid out specific sanctions that will be imposed on Sudan's government if it blocks 3,000 UN troops to supplement the insufficient African Union force.

"The time for promises is over - [Sudanese] President Bashir must act," Bush said.

It is no coincidence that Bush chose the Holocaust Museum as the venue for his speech. Jewish groups have been at the forefront of the Sudan issue. "As Jews, we have a particular moral responsibility to speak out and take action against ethnic cleansing and genocide," states the Jewish Coalition for Sudan Relief on its Web site. The Committee of Conscience of the US Holocaust Memorial Council played a critical role in mobilizing the Jewish community when it declared the Darfur situation a "genocide emergency" in 2004.

The Jewish people should be proud of its role in sounding the alarm regarding a major humanitarian crisis. Jews, indeed, have an obligation not to remain silent, and have not been.

Yet there was an anomaly in the Bush's speech, which matched an anomaly in Jewish activism: the lack of focus on the genocidal threat from Iran.

There is no doubt that the Jewish world is concerned about Iran. "Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons has emerged as the community's top priority, and our objective is clear," said Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the American Jewish community action umbrella group. "We view this as an existential threat not just to Israel but to the entire civilized world," he said at the JCPA's annual conference in February.

But is this how American Jews are acting? At that conference, the main speeches were about the Iranian threat, but the resolutions focused on Sudan and other issues. It was decided to set up a task force on Iran and, on March 27, the JCPA board adopted a resolution vaguely urging "targeted divestment" from Iran.

Why, however, has there been no community-wide effort to convince major US states to divest the billions of dollars their pension funds have invested in companies working in Iran?

How is it that Iranian officials can still travel the world without meeting protests at every turn, as Soviet officials experienced during the campaign to free Soviet Jewry?

Why has the USHMC's Committee of Conscience not called for indicting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for inciting genocide, a crime under the Genocide Convention?

The Jewish world should not trim its activism on Sudan one iota, but its campaign on Iran should be even more insistent, urgent, visible and concrete.

Roundup of opinion in the wake of Winograd

From » Opinion » May. 2, 2007 1, by CAMERON BROWN, deputy director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center of the IDC in Herzliya ...

We knew the Winograd Report investigating the failures during last summer's war with Hizbullah would be critical of the political and military leadership. But no one expected a political earthquake of this magnitude.

In his brief presentation on Monday committee chair, retired Judge Eliahu Winograd, was lethal in his remarks....

....the atmosphere in the country following the report has become electrified. ...our disgust derives not only from the actions of Olmert and Peretz; it lies in a deeper revulsion against our present political establishment. With the president accused of sexual assault, the finance minister accused of embezzlement, other politicians still under investigation in previous corruption scandals (and even soccer players being accused of throwing games), it is clear that, as Shakespeare put it, "something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

YET FOR ALL these scandals, none of the country's politicians has had the basic decency or dignity to resign. Even Halutz did not exactly resign of his own free will; he simply had the foresight to see that his end was nigh. This dogged determination to hold onto the reigns of power - regardless of the will of the people or the damage it causes the country - must make us wonder what exactly our politicians are doing in politics in the first place. What is clear is that, as a whole, they lack the genuine dedication to serving the public good that has defined the generations that led this country since its foundation....

From the JPost Editorial, 2/5/07 ....

Apart from essential personnel changes at the national helm, as all but explicitly mandated by the Winograd Report, a no less critical transformation is one of mind-set and organization in the upper echelons, both military and political.

Alongside the failures of leadership, the report makes plain that glaring conceptual and organizational dysfunction contributed crucially to what went wrong in the Second Lebanon War. These flaws appear to be endemic to the IDF and the civilian defense establishment.

..... even after this prime minister and defense minister have gone, an organizational overhaul is imperative to prevent future breakdowns.

The Winograd Committee exposed the IDF top command as running with the pack, regardless of any skepticism members of the General Staff might have had about their chief's judgment. Land forces commanders didn't challenge Dan Halutz's contention that the air force alone could take care of the Hizbullah rocket threat. The same is true of the government, where post factum there were dissenting murmurs about misguided tactics, but not in real time, not when it mattered. The ministers preferred to follow the prime minister's lead, and he followed Halutz.

This docility is at least partly rooted in the systemic absurdity that sees the government, any government, denied effective tools to evaluate whatever the IDF top brass advocates..... it would make a major difference if the premier employed professional staffers to help make sense of what's happening, to explore options, to assess alternatives. This is vital not only when conflict appears imminent, but on a continuing basis. By the time a crisis looms, it may be too late.

In Israel's threatened reality, ministers cannot serve the public effectively without educating themselves. The current ministers' failure in this regard is highlighted by Winograd. They, too, share culpability for the war's grave failings, because, in their ignorance and/or temerity, they did not fulfill their responsibilities when it came to the fateful decisions.

Among the many consequences of too little proper discussion within the political and military hierarchies, and between them, was that IDF units that had trained precisely to take out Hizbullah Katyusha batteries by conquering the territory from which they barraged Israeli civilians were not deployed. Blueprints drawn up specifically to handle contingencies such as the abductions that triggered hostilities were not employed. And often, underdrilled reservists were sent in and out of locales like Bint Jbail and Maroun-a-Ras, seemingly without rhyme or reason, paying a bloody toll each time.....

From Haaretz, 2/5/07, by Ze'ev Segal...

It's not just personal

... The main thrust of the Winograd report is the necessity of formulating suitable ways of making decisions, at least on issues of existential importance, so that what happened last summer will not happen again - namely, so that the state of Israel will not go to war again without, as the report said, a contingency plan or even an orderly discussion that included examining existing plans and considering their advantages and disadvantages.

The Winograd report devoted considerable space to the government, which decided to go to war after a discussion that lasted for about an hour and a half - during which cabinet ministers were presented with brief and concise surveys devoid of details that might have indicated the complexity of the picture. The government, said the report, made its decision unanimously, with no abstentions, acting as a political body expressing support for the prime minister. It "did not explore and seek adequate response for various reservations that were raised" by ministers who had considerable diplomatic and security experience.

...The commission's observations about the government and its responsibilities are an important element of the report, which deals at considerable length with the key and disturbing question of decision-making processes.....

.... it is no longer possible to leave the commission's demand - for urgent action to create the background conditions that would enable meaningful discussions in the cabinet and other governmental bodies, at least on issues of war and peace - without a serious response.

... The committee recommended establishing a procedure for presenting the government and other official bodies with background material and recommendations that would include situation assessments, aims and alternatives. It proposed "improving the knowledge base of all members of the government on core issues of Israel's challenges" by means of workshops, symposia and in-depth discussions.

... it underscored the need to establish clear lines of responsibility and a clear timetable, as well as a procedure to monitor implementation in order "to change and improve matters which are essential for the security and the flourishing of state and society in Israel." Such a decision needs to be made now, as a lesson from the past for the sake of the future - both immediate and distant.

MK allegedly gave the enemy targets, classified info

From THE JERUSALEM POST May. 2, 2007, by Yaakov Katz...

Former Balad chairman Azmi Bishara is suspected of spying for Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War and providing the group with targets and classified military information, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Wednesday.

The investigation, carried out by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police over the past few years, revealed a long list of grievous espionage-related crimes and activity against the state of Israel.

According to the suspicions against Bishara, the former MK transferred to Hizbullah information, predictions, assessments and recommendations about the political echelon, the IDF and the Israeli public during the Second Lebanon War.

'We're the original owners of this land'
The suspicions revealed to the press on Wednesday were only a fraction of the material against Bishara that the Shin Bet and the police have collected as part of their investigation over the past few years.

In addition to supplying information to a Hizbullah intelligence officer, Bishara was also - according to the Shin Bet - in contact with additional intelligence officials from other countries. Based on these suspicions, the Supreme Court permitted the police and the Shin Bet to tap Bishara's telephone conversations, a tactic that can only be employed with the court's approval.

Bishara, the Shin Bet said, also received detailed missions from Hizbullah.

The investigation was conducted in conjunction with the attorney-general and the State Attorney's Office. Bishara is suspected of the following crimes: Assisting the enemy at a time of war; maintaining contact with a foreign agent; passing information to an enemy; money laundering and terror financing.

Bishara was questioned by the Israel Police's International Serious Crimes Unit on March 22 and 23 in Petah Tikva.

During the interrogation, Bishara informed his interrogator that he planned to travel abroad for several days. Due to his parliamentary immunity, authorities were unable to prevent him from leaving the country.

Should Bishara now attempt to return to Israel, he will be arrested immediately. According to Israel Radio, the state prosecution was also weighing whether or not to issue an international arrest warrant for Bishara.

During the war, Bishara reportedly gave advice to Hizbullah on how to "deepen their strikes against Israel." He also gave advice concerning the effects of Hizbullah's use of long-range missiles south of Haifa, and Israel's response to the attacks.

He also transferred military information to Hizbullah that, according to the Shin Bet, he knew was classified by the IDF censor. Bishara also informed Hizbullah of what he called "Israel's intention to target Hizbullah leader Shiek Hassan Nasrallah." The Shin Bet said that his relationship with Hizbullah had begun even before the war.

Several days after Bishara gave the advice to Hizbullah, rockets fell south of Haifa.

"Bishara caused severe harm to the security of the state of Israel," a high-ranking Shin Bet official said Wednesday. "He maintained secret contact by secret lines of communication with Hizbullah…he walked around the Knesset where decisions were being made by the prime minister, ministers and government officials."

Bisahara is also accused of receiving at least hundreds of thousands of dollars illegally. The money, the Shin Bet said, was transferred from a money-exchange office in Jordan to a money-exchange office in east Jerusalem in envelopes, and from there to his home in Beit Hanina. Bishara, in some cases received the funds in dollars, and in other cases in shekels. Each sum was equivalent to $50,000.

The Shin Bet said however, that the money did not originate in Jordan, but came from a third country which officials said they were unable to name due to the censorship. During his interrogation, Bishara failed to provide explanation for the suspicious money transfers.

Lt.-Cdr. Amichai Shai, head of the Israel Police International Serious Crimes Unit, said that the police were considering requesting a judicial inquiry in Jordan to proceed with the investigation. Shai said that it would be the first time that the state of Israel had ask to conduct an investigation in Jordan.

On April 26, after his resignation went into effect, police raided and searched Bishara's home in Beit Hanina and in Haifa, as well as his office in the Knesset and in Nazareth.

"Azmi Bishara is wanted for questioning by the Israel Police" Shai said, adding that while the former MK was no longer in Israel, police and the Shin Bet planned to continue with the investigation. The high-ranking Shin Bet official dismissed Bishara's accusations of discrimination and said that the severe suspicions spoke for themselves, "we will not be deterred from investigating anyone, even public officials or Knesset members that need to be investigated," the official said.

The Shin Bet official added that Bishara, who has a doctorate in philosophy and is a "very intelligent person," was highly regarded by Hizbullah as an intellectual who had insight into the dynamics of the Middle East, including those of the state of Israel and the Jewish population.

Saudi Columnist: 'The Right of Return Is an Illusion'

From MEMRI, Special Dispatch Series - No. 1540, April 12, 2007 ...

In two recent articles in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, Saudi columnist Yousef Nasser Al-Sweidan argued that the Palestinian refugees' right of return is an idea that cannot be implemented, and that the only solution is for the refugees to be naturalized in the countries where they currently reside.

The following are excerpts from the articles:

The Right of Return - An Idea that Cannot Be Implemented
In the first article, published March 5, 2007 and titled "On the Impossible [Idea] of the Right of Return," Al-Sweidan wrote: "...The slogan 'right of return'... which is brandished by Palestinian organizations, is perceived as one of the greatest difficulties and as the main obstacle to renewing and advancing the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians based on the Road Map and a two-state solution.

"It is patently obvious that uprooting the descendents of the refugees from their current homes in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and other countries, and returning them to Israel, to the West Bank, and to Gaza is a utopian ideal and [a recipe for] anarchy. More than that - it is an idea that cannot be implemented, not only because it will upset the demographic [balance] in a dangerous and destructive manner, and will have [far-reaching] political, economic and social ramifications in such a small and constrained geographical area, but [mainly] because the return [of the refugees] stands in blatant contradiction to Israel's right as a sovereign [state], while the Palestinian Authority lacks the infrastructure to absorb such a large number of immigrants as long as the peace process... is not at its peak..."

The Refugee Problem is the Result of Mistakes By the Host Countries
"Clearly, the refugee problem is mainly the result of cumulative mistakes made by the countries where [the refugees] live... such as Syria and Lebanon, which have isolated the refugees in poor and shabby camps lacking the most basic conditions for a dignified human existence. Instead of helping them to become fully integrated in their new society, they let them become victims of isolation and suffering... Later, the worst of all happened when Arab intelligence agencies used the Palestinian organizations as a tool for settling scores in internal Arab conflicts that probably have nothing to do with the Palestinians...

"The Israelis, on the other hand, were civilized and humane in their treatment of the thousands of Jewish refugees who had lost their property, homes and businesses in the Arab countries, and who were forced to emigrate to Israel after the 1948 war. The Israeli government received them, helped them, and provided them with all the conditions [they needed] to become integrated in their new society...

"The lies of the Syrian Ba'th regime, and its trading in slogans like 'right of return,' 'steadfastness,' 'resistance,' 'national struggle,' and all the other ridiculous [slogans], are evident from the fact that, to this day, dozens of Palestinian families [remain] stranded in the desert on the Syrian-Iraqi border, because the Syrian regime refuses to let them enter its horrifying Ba'th republic and return to the Yarmouk [refugee] camp.

"The Arab countries where the Palestinians live in refugee camps must pass the laws necessary to integrate the inhabitants of these camps into society. [In addition, they must] provide them with education and health services, and allow them freedom of occupation and movement and the right to own real estate, instead of [continuing] their policy of excluding [the refugees] and leaving the responsibility [of caring for them] to others, while marketing the impossible illusion of return [to Palestine]..."

The Refugees Don't Need Another 60 Years of Misery
In the second article, published March 16, 2007 and titled "Naturalization is the Solution," Al-Sweidan wrote:

"There is no doubt that the Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon - who have for many long years been fed by their Arab hosts on impossible dreams and on shiny promises that were soon broken - do not need another 60 years of misery, wretchedness and suffering... in order to figure out for the thousandth time that all the talk about the 'bridge of return' is [nothing but] nonsense and deceit - a fairytale that exists only in the old, worn-out demagogy of the Arab propaganda...

"In reality, there is no 'bridge [of return]'... except for the bridge that we now must pass... called the peace process and normalization of relations between the Arabs and Israel. Undoubtedly, the Arabs cannot continue to avoid the implementation [of the peace process], which brooks no further delay. [Any delay] will have a heavy price for the Arab societies in the present and in the future, considering the sharp strategic changes [occurring] in the Middle East. [These changes] demand an immediate and final solution to the Arab-Israeli conflicts, and [require] the two sides to direct their joint energies and efforts towards confronting the Iranian nuclear threat which imperils us all."

The Inevitable Solution is to Naturalize the Refugees in the Host Countries
"As the Middle East peace process gains momentum, and as the regional and international forces remain committed to the need to resolve this [conflict]... there is a growing necessity for a realistic, unavoidable and bold decision that will provide a just solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees by naturalizing them in the host countries, such as Syria, Lebanon, and other countries.

"Even though this is a humanitarian [project], it requires intensive efforts on the legislative, economic, logistic, and administrative levels, in order to integrate the Palestinians organically into the social, economic and political fabric of the Arab societies...

"By every conceivable and accepted criterion, naturalizing the refugees [in the Arab countries] is the inevitable solution to [this] chronic humanitarian problem. The fact that [this solution] constitutes an important part of the overall peace process and of the historic reconciliation between the Arabs and the Israelis will help to reinforce [the naturalization process] and to perpetuate it."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Failed leadership

From THE JERUSALEM POST Editorial, Apr. 30, 2007 [emphasis added - SL]...

With all due respect to the prime minister, and notwithstanding the personal focus of much of the reporting surrounding today's Winograd Committee interim report, the political career of Ehud Olmert is not the most pressing issue on the national agenda. What is most critical, rather, is that this country be governed by men and women with the ability to protect it and to keep its people safe.

...The failure of the subsequent, belatedly named Second Lebanon War to defang the Hizbullah threat and reassert Israel's vital deterrent capability can by no means be laid solely at the then-new prime minister's door, as the Winograd interim report has made clear.

A good part of it stems from miscalculations and errors in the years preceding the outbreak of the conflict, and must be ascribed to military officers and politicians who no longer hold central positions of power.

....In Olmert's case, the Winograd panel, which in this report focuses only on the years preceding the war and on its first five days, highlights a string of failures: "He made up his mind hastily" and in the absence of systematic consultation. He "is responsible for the fact that the goals of the campaign were not set out clearly and carefully" and "made a personal contribution to the fact that the declared goals were over-ambitious and not feasible." And he did not adapt his plans when it was plain that they were not working.

"All of these," in the devastating conclusions of the committee, "add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence." These conclusions have already been drawn by much of the public, as evidenced in the prime minister's low popularity levels.

The panel's final report will likely be more devastating yet, charting as it does the full 34 days of conflict, in which thousands of Katyusha rockets rained down unanswered as Israel's military strategy, demonstrably unsuccessful, nonetheless remained unchanged. By noting that it is considering issuing "personal recommendations" in its final report, the committee is intimating that it may well call for Olmert's resignation when that report is submitted in the summer, if he has not gone by then.

Having earlier stressed that he took full responsibility for the events last summer, the prime minister is now indicating that he will not resign. This is a mistake, and he must think again. He cannot go on. A conscientious, thorough inquiry has catalogued his failure, and its consequences. His tenure from hereon will be a losing rearguard action, a prime ministership on borrowed time. He has said in interviews, including to this newspaper, that he believes he can yet rebuild the public's trust in him. This is even more unlikely, given the relentless swirl of corruption allegations surrounding him and his government.

It is a stance that also hinders the unfolding of a process of reform parallel to that now gathering pace in the IDF - an urgent remaking of the government decision-making process and the institution of more effective procedures to ensure that correct strategies are formulated and followed.

Again, what is critical here is that Israel - with Hizbullah and Palestinian extremists a constant threat, and their inspiration, Iran, marching toward nuclear capability - be governed by a leadership of competence. In that context, today's Winograd report casts the current leadership - and that extends to the entire government, which "failed in its political function" - in a dismal light.

The parliamentary process can force through the necessary change, and individual politicians must look to the national interest. If they do not do so of their own volition, the public should seek to force their hand. And if the public fails to do so, it has no one to blame but itself.

Palestinians disillusioned with unity gov't

From Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST, Apr. 29, 2007 ...

Palestinians are increasingly disillusioned with political parties and their new unity government and feel more threatened by growing lawlessness, according to a poll released Sunday.

The survey was conducted by the independent polling company Neareast Consulting among 800 respondents and had an error margin of 3.45 percentage points.

More than half, or 53 percent, said they don't expect the new Hamas-Fatah coalition, set up in March, to be able to lift international sanctions on the Palestinian Authority..... Forty-seven percent said they expected the sanctions to be lifted.

Half the respondents said they feel less secure than in the past, while nearly 14 percent said they feel more secure. The rule of militias and vigilante gunmen, particularly in Gaza, has been one of the byproducts of the second Intifada which began in 2000.

Pollster Jamil Rabah said Palestinians are increasingly pessimistic.

....Palestinians are also becoming increasingly disillusioned with political parties, the poll suggested. Some 41 percent said they trust none of the parties, up from 35 percent in December.

Support for Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was 31 percent, the same as in December, while backing for Hamas dropped from nearly 27 percent to 22 percent, the poll said.....

Monday, April 30, 2007

A fundamental strategic reappraisal is needed

From the conclusion of the Winograd Interim report (into the Second Lebanon War), published by Haaretz, 30/4/07 [my emphasis added - SL]....

...19. The IDF was not ready for this war.... Some of the political and military elites in Israel have reached the conclusion that Israel is beyond the era of wars. It had enough military might and superiority to deter others from declaring war against her... the conclusion was that the main challenge facing the land forces would be low intensity asymmetrical conflicts.

20. Given these assumptions, the IDF did not need to be prepared for 'real' war. There was also no urgent need to update in a systematic and sophisticated way Israel's overall security strategy and to consider how to mobilize and combine all its resources and sources of strength - political, economic, social, military, spiritual. cultural and scientific - to address the totality of the challenges it faces.

21. We believe that - beyond the important need to examine the failures of conducting the war and the preparation for it, beyond the need to identify the weaknesses (and strengths) in the decisions made in the war - these are the main questions raised by the Second Lebanon war. ... they are the questions that stand at the center of our existence here as a Jewish and democratic state. It would be a grave mistake to concentrate only on the flaws revealed in the war and not to address these basic issues. We hope that our findings and conclusions in the interim report and in the final report will not only impel taking care of the serious governmental flaws and failures we examine and expose, but will also lead towards a renewed process in which Israeli society, and its political and spiritual leaders will take up and explore Israel's long-term aspirations and the ways to advance them.

Winograd interim report released

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Apr. 30, 2007, by Herb Keinon, Gil Hoffman, Mark Weiss, and jpost staff ...

After months of waiting and speculation, the Winograd Committee's interim report harshly criticizing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and former IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz over their actions during the first five days of the Second Lebanon War was released to the public Sunday afternoon.

"The decision to respond with an immediate, intensive military strike was not based on a detailed, comprehensive and authorized military plan, based on careful study of the complex characteristics of the Lebanon arena," Judge Eliyahu Winograd, the committee's head, said.
The prime minister bore supreme and comprehensive responsibility for the decisions of 'his' government and the operations of the IDF, according to the report.

Olmert made up his mind hastily, the report said, without asking for a detailed military plan and without consulting military experts. According to the findings, Olmert made a personal contribution to the fact that the war's goals were "overambitious and unfeasible."
Turning to Peretz, the committee found that he did not have knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters. "Despite these serious gaps," the report said, [Peretz] made his decisions during this period without systemic consultations with experienced political and professional experts."

The report also said that Peretz had not asked for or examined the IDF's operational plans.
Therefore, his serving as defense minister during the war impaired Israel's ability to respond well to its challenges, the committee found.

Halutz, meanwhile, had failed to alert the political echelon to the serious shortcomings in the preparedness and the fitness of the armed forces for an extensive ground operation. The committee also faulted Halutz for not responding quickly enough to the July 12 kidnapping of reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in a cross-border raid by Hizbullah terrorists.
According to the Winograd Committee, Halutz did not provide alternative plans of actions when some officials raised questions about his plans, and had kept the IDF's internal debates about the goals and modes of action from the government.

Aside from Olmert, Peretz, and Halutz, the report also said that the government as a whole was responsible for what happened in the war, citing a lack of "high-level staff work" and a failure to "take full responsibility for its decisions."

Follow this link to Haaretz for the complete text of the Interim report

Winograd interim report due for release in a few hours

From Haaretz, 30/4/07, by Yossi Verter, Mazal Mualem and Nir Hasson....

....At 4 P.M. Monday [Israel time], the Winograd Committee will present Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz with a draft report of its investigation into last summer's war and about an hour later, it will be released to the public at a special press conference.

The report is expected to be highly critical of the conduct of Olmert, Peretz and former chief of staff Dan Halutz. Olmert will be criticized for the decision-making process during the first days of the war, for blindly following the army's plans, and for not demanding alternative plans to the ones presented to him.

The prime minister will also be attacked for not specifying precise goals for the fighting.

The Winograd report will also blame Olmert for not properly evaluating the Israel Defense Forces' preparedness, and for not asking questions concerning this matter before deciding to embark on a war.

The defense minister will be criticized for taking on the defense portfolio in spite of having insufficient experience in this area, and also for failing to seek assistance from professionals in the defense establishment. He will also be blamed for not following an orderly process of decision making.

The most severe barbs will be directed at Dan Halutz. He will be blamed for leading the government to war without allowing the ministers the possibility of making a choice. Halutz is also expected to be criticized for preventing officers with dissenting opinions from expressing them to decision makers, and for not taking seriously the threat posed by the Katyushas and the damage they could wreak on northern communities.

General criticism will also be directed at the entire cabinet for accepting the military's plans without evaluating them in detail and without requesting alternatives. The vast majority of the draft report will focus on the decision-making process that led to the war.

The committee has limited itself in this report to analyzing the five first days of the war - from the Hezbollah attack and the abduction of the two reservists on July 12, 2006, to July 17 and the prime minister's speech before the Knesset plenum.

Most of the events of the war - the failed military operations, the diplomatic moves, the defense of the home front, the decision to carry out a massive ground offensive in the two final days, etc. - will not be discussed in the interim report being publicized Monday.

Similarly, with the exception of Halutz, there will be no severe criticism of senior individual officers in the report. It is possible, however, that Brigadier Gal Hirsch, the former commander of Division 91 (in whose area of control the abduction occurred), will be blamed for his conduct prior to the kidnapping.

Another significant portion of the report will deal with the period between the IDF's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 and the outbreak of the war. During this period Israel was attacked on a number of occasions by Hezbollah, but prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, backed by senior IDF officers, adopted a policy of restraint and Israel's response was thus limited. The Winograd panel is expected to criticize the decision makers during these six years.

The committee is also expected to issue a number of recommendations in its report.

Gaza incursion inevitable

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Apr. 29, 2007, by Herb Keinon...

... chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi indicated at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that there may be no choice but to put IDF boots on the ground to stop attacks from Gaza.

After telling the cabinet that the military buildup of Hamas was continuing, and that Hamas had also begun active involvement in attacks against Israel, Ashkenazi said that if this situation continued "there would be no choice but to stop it, as the prime minister has said."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert...said at the opening of the meeting that while Israel was not interested in an escalation with the Palestinians, "we will not in any way be prevented from taking the necessary steps to stop those who are trying to harm Israeli citizens in the South."
During the meeting, Olmert said that one question that needed to be asked regarding a possible incursion into Gaza was what would happen the minute the IDF pulled out. He said that Israel needed to work intensively with the international community and Egypt in an effort to stop Hamas's military buildup before taking military action.

... Ashkenazi said a permanent presence in Gaza - with IDF outposts and pillboxes - was not the answer, since these would then only become targets. He reminded the ministers that there were frequent attacks on Israel from Gaza even when the IDF was well ensconced inside the Gaza Strip.

Ashkenazi said that it was difficult to call the situation that had existed in Gaza over the last five months a truce, as Hamas called it, since there have been some 250 firings of rockets and mortars on Israel, and in addition there have been numerous attempts to infiltrate into Israel, fire on soldiers and set roadside bombs.

He said that on Independence Day last week the Palestinians fired 35 mortars and seven Kassam rockets. Up until about five weeks ago Islamic Jihad was behind most of the attacks, but since then Hamas had taken an active and public role as well, he said. Two Kassam rockets were fired from Gaza Sunday night and fell inside Israel, but caused no damage....