Saturday, November 03, 2012

Sudan... what a Blast

From Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2012, by Nicholas Bariyo:
KAMPALA, Uganda—Iranian naval commanders met Tuesday with their counterparts in Sudan to discuss joint training exercises, in the wake of explosions at a weapons factory that Sudan blamed on Israeli jets.
New before-and-after satellite images that have emerged following the blast, meanwhile, indicate an attack there could have targeted a large shipment of arms, the images' provider said.
The Iranian commanders were part of a delegation from two Iranian warships that docked at Port Sudan on Monday. The visit and the training exercise were planned, Sudanese officials said, and the ships departed from Iran in September. But the meetings take on a new significance after Sudan alleged that Israeli aircraft bombed a weapons factory in its capital, Khartoum, on Oct. 24.
The explosions rocked the Yarmouk Military Complex, killing at least two people. Sudan initially blamed the fire on an internal explosion. Soon after, however, it said Israel was suspected of hitting the plant with four fighter jets using high-tech jamming devices. Israel hasn't commented on the incident.
Israel views Sudan, a longtime ally of Iran, as a conduit for arms through Egypt to the militant group Hamas in Gaza Strip, according to several international and regional analysts. Iran, meanwhile, remains a major supplier of weapons to Sudan, according to Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based publication.
Rabie Abdelaty, the spokesman for Sudan's information ministry, denied Tuesday that Sudan has any connection to the militants in Egypt or Gaza, accusing Israel of spreading "false propaganda" against Sudan.
In the past three years, Sudan has accused Israel of carrying out several airstrikes inside its territory, the most recent one being in May, in which an alleged arms dealer was killed as he drove through Port Sudan.
New satellite images showed 40 shipping containers stacked at the Yarmouk compound in the days before the attack, according to the U.S.-based Satellite Sentinel Project, a partnership between the Enough Project, a human-rights organization, and DigitalGlobe, provider of imagery products and services.
Afterward, images showed six large craters where the containers had been, the group said, adding that the site bore marks of a hit by air-delivered munitions. The group said it couldn't confirm that the containers had been on-site the night of the attack but that the satellite imagery is consistent with the presence of a "highly volatile cargo in the epicenter of the explosions."
Israeli intelligence believes that Yarmouk, one of two publicly known state-owned weapons factories in Khartoum, is the main source of missiles used by Hamas, according to security officials in Kenya and Uganda.
Gen. Sameh Seif Elyazal, a former Egyptian army general, said his understanding was that a strike was carried out against short-range missiles being assembled in the factory "under Iranian supervision," bound for Hamas as well as Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. The general told the Associated Press that his analysis was based on "private conversations with Israeli officials" conveyed to him through others. He didn't elaborate, the AP said.
On Monday, Sudan's Foreign Ministry denied that the bombed plant was being operated by Iran. The Sudanese government has said the Yarmouk plant produces "ordinary weapons."
The Iranian warships' visit will give Sudanese armed forces an opportunity to learn advanced naval warfare and air-defense technology in the wake of Israel's alleged attack, Sudanese spokesman Mr. Abdelaty said Tuesday. He declined to discuss details of the meetings between the Sudanese and Iranian naval officials.
"Sudan will confront the aggression started by Israel," Mr. Abdelaty said. Sudan has also called on the United Nations to condemn Israel over the attacks, he said.
The Iranian warships' arrival is within the framework of "friendly relations and goodwill of naval forces" and would support "strong political, security and diplomatic relations between the two states," Sudanese army spokesman Sawarmi Khalid Saad told Suna, Sudan's state news agency.
The ships arrived to "convey a message of peace and friendship" and "to provide safety at sea in light of increasing maritime terrorism," Iran's state-controlled news agency, IRNA, reported Monday. Iran has also deployed a navy fleet off the East African coast of Djibouti to fight piracy.
Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons with the intention of striking Israel's nuclear facilities. Iran, which remains on the receiving end of a U.S.-led international condemnation, denies the accusations.
Meanwhile, Iran's regular army began a two-day ground and air military exercise aimed at upgrading its combat readiness and increasing its deterrence against possible attacks, the AP reported.
Iranian state TV said the drills involve forces in a wide region in western Iran near the Iraqi border. It showed troops parachuting from helicopters near the towns of Sarpol-e Zahab and Qasr-e Shirin, about 700 kilometers west of Tehran.

Vote Obama? ... are you crazy?

Classic Martin Sherman* from JPost, 2 Nov 2012:
Can anyone with Obama’s perception of Islam be expected to take the measures necessary to contend with the danger this theo-tyrannical political doctrine presents?
...although Israel has largely been a bipartisan matter in the US, there is emerging evidence indicating that this is becoming an issue over which a deep divide is beginning to develop.
...A Pew Research Center poll conducted two weeks ago found that “[v]iews on US support for Israel are deeply divided along partisan lines.”
The differential in predilections is dramatic.
More than five times more Republicans than Democrats feel that the US should be more supportive of Israel.
According to the poll, “Nearly half (46 percent) of Republicans say the US is not supportive enough of Israel, compared with just 9% of Democrats.”
Conversely, the proportion of Democrats who feel that the US is too supportive of Israel (25%), is almost double that of Republicans (13%).
These findings seem to have found strong corroboration in the antagonistic sentiments displayed at the farcical spectacle witnessed at the recent Democratic National Convention (DNC), when the chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, attempted to reintroduce the party’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel into the Democratic platform, after its unexplained deletion.

Distaste and hostility
But if the removal of the long-standing recognition of the status of Jerusalem was a cause for concern among pro-Israel supporters, the ham-fisted attempt to re-institute it should be even more disturbing. Despite Villaraigosa’s frantic efforts to somehow create a show of support from the required two-thirds of the delegates needed to approve the amendment, the result was failure, farce and falsification.
For any remotely fair-minded observer it was clear that in the thrice-called voice vote the “ayes” were nowhere near the necessary two-thirds majority.
In fact, it seemed that the “nays” had, at least, equal – if not greater – support.
Eventually, an exasperated Villaraigosa announced: “In the opinion of the chair two-thirds have voted in the affirmative. The motion has been adopted.”
The clearly fallacious declaration was greeted with howls of protest, while the raucous booing clearly conveyed the naked distaste and hostility a large portion of the party faithful had for the pro-Israel gesture.
The angry dissent at the DNC recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – supposedly at the behest of Obama – seems to reflect the real policy of the administration far more than the artificial proclamations at the DNC.
After all, it is difficult to conceive of a greater disparity between the DNC’s professed recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the conduct of senior administration spokespeople.

A question of credibility
On separate occasions this year, both White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who are presumably apprised of the administration’s Jerusalem-policy, not only publicly refrained from recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, but appeared reluctant to commit themselves as to whether Israel has a capital at all.
The president himself has been no more credible on this issue. As I mentioned in last week’s column, his rousing pledge at the 2008 AIPAC conference that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided,” had a staggeringly short shelf life, enduring barely 24 hours before the back-pedaling began, and apologetic clarifications were issued that the word “undivided” was poorly chosen, leaving us to puzzle over what would have constituted a “judicious choice” of words. ‘Re-divided’?
The problems of credibility are even graver with regard to the vice president.
As a senator, Joe Biden sponsored/cosponsored numerous bills that called for the US government to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, extending Israeli sovereignty to the entire city, even mandating the transfer of the US Embassy to it. Yet despite this, Biden was the central protagonist in a carefully choreographed spat with the Israel government over a routine bureaucratic procedural matter involving an interim-stage approval of a future extension of a north Jerusalem neighborhood.
Significantly, the neighborhood – Ramat Shlomo – was not only excluded from the building freeze then in force, but its development was precisely in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Biden (co)sponsored Senate resolutions and the short-lived Obama declaration.

‘Worst crisis in 35 years’
The needless and ugly US-Israel friction that followed the manufactured incident brought the relations between the two countries – in the assessment of usually reserved Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, to a gathering of Israeli diplomats – to their lowest level in 35 years.
These two factors: (a) The shifting composition of the Democratic party’s rank and file, and hence the shifting preferences of its voter base, which cannot but impact the decisions and policies of the party leaders; and (b) The remarkably rapid repudiation of pledges by the most senior members of the administration; should constitute important caveats in assessing some pro-Obama apologiae, published recently by wellknown public figures such a former Mossad director Efraim Halevy, and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
One provided a highly debatable and dubious defense of the Obama-administration’s record; both in effect comprised electoral endorsements for affording it a second term. Neither can go unchallenged.

An ungrateful ally?
Halevy offers his New York Times piece, titled “Who Threw Israel Under the Bus?” as “food for thought” in advance of the coming elections.
In it, he enumerates several episodes, starting from the 1956 Suez campaign, in which a Republican administration treated Israel harshly, at times coercing it to adopt/accept measures it otherwise would not have – contrasting this with the allegedly more benign behavior of Democratic administrations.
Although Halevy is someone for whom I have considerable personal esteem, I am compelled to take issue with him on numerous points.
First, he seems to be highly selective in his choice of episode and emphasis. Most significantly is his omission of any mention the fact that it was Richard Nixon’s Republican administration that came to Israel’s aid in its most desperate hour, during the dark days at the start of the Yom Kippur War.
The massive and timely strategic airlift brought in more than 22,000 tons of sorely need military equipment – especially vital in light of the massive Soviet supplies to the Arabs. Conducted despite the refusal of all of America’s European allies – apart from Portugal – to allow US planes to land, and incurring a subsequent OPEC oil embargo – this operation (Operation Nickel Grass) was perhaps the most dramatic illustration by (a GOP administration), by actions not words, that “when the chips were down,” the US really did “have Israel’s back.”
Might omitting any reference to this not be considered by some as the epitome of being “an ungrateful ally?”

Accurate but irrelevant
Likewise, Halevy’s account of the Bush road map as a brutal GOP fiat is less than complete. Reading his rendition, one would never know that Israel responded that its acceptance was contingent on a list of 14 reservations which the Bush administration had promised to “fully and seriously address.”
The road map was envisaged as a staged process, with the implementation of each stage contingent on that of the preceding one.
Phase I comprised “End to Palestinian violence; Palestinian political reform; Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities and freeze on settlement expansion.”
As clearly there has been no “End to Palestinian violence,” all the subsequent phases were moot. So unless he is counting on the public’s ignorance/amnesia, it is difficult to know what point Halevy is trying to make – particularly since the only administration that coerced Israel to implement virtually the only obligation it has under the crucial Phase I (a freeze on settlement construction) was the current Democratic one.
But even if we admit that much of what Halevy wrote is (largely) accurate historically, it is totally irrelevant politically. The Democratic Party today is no longer that of senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
There have been tectonic shifts in the composition of its voter base, and hence in its political priorities, and hence in the political proclivities of its elected representatives.
That is perhaps why the current administration is the only one that ever advocated, as a matter of overt policy, “putting daylight” between Israel and the US; the only one that adopted public humiliation of senior Israeli leaders as a matter of course, the only one to sanctify the “1967 borders,” the only one that was willingly prepared to “throw Israel under a bus.”
The shrill wakeup call of the Democrats’ September 2011 defeat in New York’s Ninth Congressional District, and the realization of the electoral implications of a Jewish voter backlash, put this policy on a temporary hold. But in a second Obama term, with the “flexibility” afforded by having no reelections constraints? Risky, very risky!

Parallel universe?
Reading Alan Dershowitz’s “The case for Obama’s reelection” in today’s Jerusalem Post (page 24), one might be excused for wondering whether the eminent professor has taken up residence in a parallel universe for the duration of the campaign.
It would take at least an entire article to redress some of the extraordinary claims Dershowitz makes in endorsing Obama’s alleged accomplishments. Given the constraints of space, let me focus on one.
According to Dershowitz: “The case for Barack Obama also includes his approach to foreign policy, which has improved the standing of America around the world.”
See what I mean by a parallel universe? I am not sure what the favorability ratings are in Luxembourg or Andorra, but, “likability” aside, in most areas of significance Obama’s policy has been an unmitigated failure – from his famous Russian “reset,” through his Iranian “engagement,” to his Islamic “outreach.”
Indeed, with regard to the later, it would seem that the more effusive the outreach, the more contemptuous the reaction.
According to the findings of a 2011 Zogby poll on “Arab Attitudes”: “US favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted.
In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush administration.”
Similar dismal results appear in other polls such as the 2011 Pew poll on the standing of the US in the Muslim world.
When Dershowitz declares that “the Obama administration has worked closely with our allies to... help keep the Arab Spring from turning into an extremist Muslim winter,” it is difficult to restrain the urge to react with ridicule.
One wonders how Hosni Mubarak would react to any suggestion that “the Obama administration has worked closely with our allies.”
Indeed, as a piece titled “Tunisia, a Sad Year Later,” (in Wednesday’s New York Times) conveys, even the hitherto “poster child” of the Arab Spring seems to be teetering on the wintry brink of Islamic extremism.
So where, pray tell, is there any evidence of Obama preserving even a spark of the hope and change the “Spring” was purported to herald. In some parallel universe?

Primal political instincts
In a second term, a reelected president has considerably greater “flexibility” to give expression to the primal political instincts that he brought to the Oval Office. In the case of Obama, these are best judged by his actions at the start of his incumbency, before any reelection constraints began to impose restrictions on his preferences.
In this regard, his naked antipathy towards Israel and its government were painfully obvious – as has been amply documented by many.
Conversely, it is unlikely that even Obama would dispute my characterization of him as the most Islamo-philic president ever to occupy the White House. He is perhaps the first US president to declare that he sees Islam and America as compatible with each other, with overlapping “principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
And while he has conducted a highly kinetic campaign against al-Qaida, which he has no problem in perceiving as an enemy, there is little evidence to suggest that he perceives the far more strategically ominous Muslim Brotherhood as a geostrategic threat to the US. There much to suggest that he does not.

Food for thought
This is intensely pertinent for Israel and its supporters, for hugely menacing possibilities are beginning to emerge for the beleaguered Jewish state.
Muslim radicalism is in the ascendancy across the region and the question is: Can anyone with Obama’s benign perception of Islam be expected – never mind relied upon – to take the measures that are needed to contend with the danger that this theotyrannical political doctrine presents for the US and Israel – and for the citizens of both countries?
Iran is inching ever closer to nuclear capability and Obama adamantly refuses to set red lines to impede that process, insisting on sanctions that certainly harm Iranian citizens but have dubious capacity to deter the Iranian government from its ambitions. If Israel felt forced to launch a preemptive strike to disrupt the program, would Obama really “have Israel’s back”?
If Israel were compelled to take over tracts of Sinai to curtail terrorist activity originating there, what reaction could it expect from a second-term Obama?
If the Islamists prevail in Jordan, how would this affect – if at all – Obama’s policy on a Palestinian state, which too might have a radical leadership amenable to merger with a new regime in Amman – presenting Israel with the prospect of an Islamist neighbor stretching from the approaches of Tel Aviv to the Iraqi border?
To quote Efraim Halevy: “Food for thought” as the election approaches.

*Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Syria war puts the anti-American alliance in the Middle East on the defensive

BEIRUT - When the Hamas rulers of Gaza recently gave a hero's welcome to the ruler of Qatar, an arch foe of the Syrian regime, it sent a strong message reverberating across the capitals in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut.
The powerful, anti-American alliance of Iran, Syria and militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, once dubbed the "Axis of Resistance," is fraying.
Iran's economy is showing signs of distress from nuclear sanctions, Syria's president is fighting for his survival and Hezbollah in Lebanon is under fire by opponents who blame it for the assassination of an anti-Syrian intelligence official. Hamas — the Palestinian arm — has bolted.
"We're seeing basically the resistance axis becoming much more vulnerable and under duress. So even if it survives, it's really under tremendous pressure," said Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.
"The Hamas shift to the Saudi-Qatari-Turkish orbit represents a major nail in the coffin of the resistance axis," he said. "Now you are talking about Iran and Syria and to a lesser extent Iraq and this undermines the social element because Hamas added the very important Sunni dimension."
The axis is one of two powerful camps that divide the Middle East into spheres of competing influence. It faces off against the wealthy, powerful monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar allied loosely with most of the other Arab countries and neighbouring Turkey, which like Iran is Muslim but not Arab.
The fault line is sharply sectarian — Iran and Hezbollah are Shiite and Assad's regime is dominated by the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Hamas, which is Sunni, had been the exception before it strayed. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim-led Arab countries in the Gulf have been trying to stem the regional influence of Iran.
Also, the Sunni countries, along with Turkey, support the Sunni-dominated opposition waging the civil war against Assad's rule in Syria.
The axis had been gaining power over the decade before the Syrian uprising began in March 2011 and formed a powerful front against Israel and the key U.S. allies in the Middle East such as the oil-rich Gulf states. Iran has long supported Hezbollah and Hamas as proxies in its battle against Israel. And Tehran also troubled the west with its dogged pursuit of uranium enrichment, a program the U.S. and its allies suspect is aimed at producing nuclear weapons but which Iran says is for peaceful purposes.
Syria has long boasted about being one of the few protectors of militant groups fighting Israel. It is the main transit point of weapons brought from Iran to Hezbollah and a collapse of Assad's regime would make it difficult for arms to reach the militant group that has been exchanging threats with the Jewish state and fought a 2006 war with Israel.
The axis also spread its influence to Shiite majority Iraq, where the fall of Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated regime gave way to a government controlled by Shiites.
Only few years ago, the coalition was becoming so powerful that King Abdullah of Jordan warned of a "Shiite crescent," meaning countries from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
A new boldness was seen in 2010 when Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah emerged from hiding for a rare public trip to Damascus, where he attended a meeting with his powerful regional allies, Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The leaders smiled confidently and appeared relaxed in footage of their meetings, a show of force meant to deter and demonstrate the unshakable power of the "Axis of Resistance."
The uprising against Assad that erupted 19 months ago, amid tumultuous changes sweeping the Arab world, shook a major pillar of the alliance.
"The fate of the alliance rests on the future of the Assad regime. If Assad goes, Iran and Hezbollah will suffer and find it much more difficult to plan, co-ordinate, and communicate," said Bilal Saab, a Middle East expert at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
The brutal crackdown by Assad's regime on the Sunni-dominated uprising was an embarrassment to Hamas, the main Palestinian arm of the coalition. Hamas leaders in exile, who had been based in Damascus since the late 1990s, left for Egypt, Qatar and other countries.
Hamas officials said privately that they could not be seen supporting a regime that was brutally suppressing a popular rebellion, particularly since most of those rising up against Assad are fellow Sunni Muslims.
This about-turn also caused new tensions with the Palestinian movement's main financial backer, Iran. Tehran demanded that Hamas step up and support Assad publicly. Hamas refused to do so, but didn't break ties entirely with Tehran, for lack of an alternative source of funds.
However, another benefactor may now be stepping forward.
Last week, the emir of Qatar, a vociferous critic of Assad, became the first foreign leader to visit the Gaza Strip. In a way, it formally sealed the break by Hamas from the "Axis of Resistance."
The trip offering the internationally isolated Hamas leadership there an unprecedented stamp of approval and Qatar promised more than $400 million in development projects for the impoverished territory.
The Qatari leader's generosity will likely give him some leverage over Hamas' decision-making at a time of growing debate within the movement over whether to stay in the orbit of Iran and other radical groups or move closer to the more moderate Gulf Arab camp.
Syria's president has painted the uprising against him as a universal attack designed to destroy the entire "Axis of Resistance." Last month, Assad told Iran's visiting foreign minister that the fight against his government "targets resistance as a whole, not only Syria."
"There will have to be serious adjustments in the axis should Assad go and preparations in Tehran for the day after are, I assume, already underway," Saab said.
Hezbollah, which supported revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain, backed Assad in the crackdown. That support turned much of the Middle East's Sunni population against the group they once looked up to.
The group came under renewed pressure and criticism earlier this month when a car bomb in Beirut on Oct. 19 killed one of the country's top intelligence officials, an anti-Syrian figure. Hezbollah's opponents at home immediately pointed fingers at the group, calling for the resignation of the government Hezbollah now dominates.
Iran, the wealthiest and most powerful member of the alliance, has reportedly sent billions of dollars to Assad to help suppress the uprising, according to a recent report by Times of London. Tehran has given Hezbollah billions since the group was created in 1982.
But now Iran is struggling to cope with Western sanctions that have ravaged its economy. The sanctions aim at thwarting its nuclear program.
The distress was all too apparent in the freefall of Iran's currency the rial, which lost more than a third of its value in a week. The decline is widely tied to the effects of sanctions.
Israel has threatened to carry out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division, warned that Iran will target U.S. bases in the region in the event of war with Israel.
"The question is not whether it (the alliance) will survive or not. The question is will it have the capacity to act offensively," said Gerges. It is on the defensive."

Younger Israeli Arabs want engagement, not hostility

Yousef Juhja (Oren Kessler, Tablet)

...On reaching 18, some form of national service is mandatory for non-ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, but Arabs are exempt from the requirement. As a rule, members of the Druze and Bedoin communities voluntarily serve in the Israeli Defence Forces, however the vast majority of Israel's Arab population refuses even non-military national service.

[A man in the the Arab settlement of] Arara, however, was breaking the mould. He had sent his three sons to serve in the military, and had unfortunately lost one in combat. While mourning the loss of his son, he had discovered that there was no memorial place in Israel specifically dedicated to the Arab soldiers who had fought and died for their country -- so he determined to build one.

...his memorial still stands in Arara, unharmed. Whatever they may dislike about the rare sight of an Israeli flag in the middle of an Arab village, the people of Arara have shown it enough respect not to vandilise it or tear it down.

... [As Oren Kessler recently noted, inTablet]

... Six in 10 Israeli Arabs accept the country as a Jewish and democratic state, but an equivalent number described that situation as unfair. And while seven in 10 said the government treats them as second-class citizens, a similar proportion said they prefer to live in Israel over any other country.

... the current Arab-Israeli leadership is extremely antagonistic towards the Israeli state. The Arabs who serve in the Knesset take a very hostile line, vehemently opposing any efforts to integrate the Arab citizens of Israel into Israeli society and sometimes even supporting terrorism against Israeli civilians

...The tide, however, is turning. A new generation of Israeli Arabs are emerging, better educated and better integrated than their forebears. It is true that Arab citizens suffer from discrimination in Israel, however there have been growing initiatives over the past decade to seriously address those problems in order to promote a more cohesive Israeli society. In the last few years, Arab towns have been added to Israel's list of "priority" towns in need of social development; there have been outreach initiatives to encourage Arabs to do national service, and there is even a new campaign from the Knesset to encourage more Arabs to attend university.

...Ron Gerlitz and Batya Kallus -- two prominent activists for the rights of Arabs in Israel -- have defended these policies and, while noting that there is much left to do, condemned those who claim that there has been no progress:

... the bottom line is that the government of Israel through its professional staff in government ministries is closing the gaps in many fields. Yet, there are many voices in Arab society who deny this trend...

... More and more voices are emerging from Israel's Arab community, echoing the call of Gerlitz and Kallus for them to stop rejecting the state and helping to perpetuate their own misery, but to embrace the country in which they live and fight for equality in Israeli society.

In fact, one Israeli Arab, Aatef Karinaoui, has decided to address the disparity between this emerging body of Arab citizens and their political leadership by forming a new political party called El Amal Lat'gir ('Hope for Change') and running for Knesset himself. As he explains:

All the bad things [the current Arab leaders] say about Israel and its supposed ill-treatment of Arabs is a lie, a bald-faced lie. Arab members of Knesset are setting a fire. They feed off of the politics of division and don't represent the Arab public. The Arab Knesset members do nothing to educate them or advance their situation... But [at present] there is no alternative to the current leadership. ... "We don't need the Arab members of Knesset to obsess over marginal matters and foreign affairs as they've been doing. We have real, pressing concerns -- 15 people living in a single house, land issues, education problems. We have plenty to deal with. But [Arab MKs] distance us from the mainstream and don't want progress. Their leadership is the real failure.

For Juhja, while he recognises the discrimination that he faces, he also sees the solution as democratic participation and societal engagement, not fighting against Israel's existence.

[A cousin of Juhja's said that:] "I'm proud that I'm an Israeli citizen and that I live in the state of Israel, but I feel constant discrimination. There are huge gaps between the Jewish and Arab communities on every level."

"I go to Tel Aviv and hear ‘Death to the Arabs.' Then I go into the [Palestinian] territories, and I'm treated as if I'm half a Jew," he says. "If peace comes in another 10 or 15 years, and if I'm given my rights and made to feel like I belong, I'll be the first to send my sons to enlist."
Juhja, undeterred, dresses down his younger relative.

"You are a minority. Every minority in the world suffers to a certain extent-some more, others less. But you have to express your frustration in an organized, democratic way," he says. "For the past year and a half, young people in Tel Aviv have protested over the lack of housing. If you want to protest discrimination, do so within the framework of the law."

Lighting another smoke, Juhja turns to me and cuts to the heart of the matter. "I'm not a citizen of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, or even the Palestinian Authority," he says. "I'm a Muslim-Arab Israeli. I received Israeli citizenship the moment I was born."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stop Iran NOW!

An Obama unshackled by considerations of reelection is a serious concern

From JPost, 26 Oct 2012, by Martin Sherman:
The prospect of a White House incumbent with an inherent affinity for Israel’s adversaries and unshackled by considerations of reelection is one that must be considered with the utmost seriousness.
US President Obama at White House Rose Garden
Photo: Yuri Gripas / Reuters
Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided – Barack Obama to AIPAC, June 4, 2008

Well the issue of it being undivided... I said immediately after the speech that that word [“undivided”] was poorly chosen– Barack Obama on ABC, July 23, 2008

There should not be a shred of doubt by now... I have Israel’s back – Barack Obama to AIPAC, March 4, 2012

It [having Israel’s back] was not a military doctrine that we were laying out for any particular military action.... What it means is that, historically, we have always cooperated with Israel... just like we do with Great Britain, just like we do with Japan – Barack Obama, at the White House, March 4, 2012

By most accounts – mine included – Barack Obama gave a sterling performance on Monday in the third debate with Mitt Romney. Attempts by Republican pundits, like the usually perceptive Charles Krauthammer, to declare a Romney victory, were largely unconvincing...

Not about oratory skills
But the upcoming US elections are not – or at least, should not be – about which of the two candidates has the superior rhetorical skills.
...the November elections are pivotal for the US and its allies. Their results have ramifications that could irreversibly determine the fate of America for decades...
...It is this conceptual cleavage and a comprehension of its consequences, not the personal likability of the candidates or past party allegiances, that should determine voter-choice at the polls.

Freedom vs fairness
...The core differential between the two approaches is that while one prioritizes energetic wealth-creation, the other prioritizes equitable wealth-allocation.
The inevitable consequence of this is divergent perspectives regarding the ranking of societal values.
In the former approach, the dominant value would be “freedom” – even if that means creating some inequities; in the latter, the dominant value would be “fairness” – even if that means curtailing some liberties.
...On the one hand, we have
  • an approach that emphasizes the promotion of enterprise, on the other, one that emphasizes the provision of entitlements;
  • an attitude that fosters respect for success and achievement, as opposed to one that foments resentment toward them;
  • an outlook that incentivizes industry versus one that induces indolence;
  • a belief that encourages self-reliance and individual responsibility counter-posed against one that engenders dependency and societal scapegoating.
Men standing in buckets
Unsurprisingly, these divergent philosophies tend to generate divergent policy preferences – the one oriented toward the (re)generation of wealth; the other toward the (re)allocation thereof.
Of course, the principal means by which to effect reallocation of wealth is taxation, but it is hardly one likely to achieve its regeneration.
As Winston Churchill remarked wryly: “...for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”
Of course, some level of taxation is imperative to generate wealth-creating/ facilitating infrastructures, maintain national defense, preserve law and order, sustain a certain level of social welfare services and so on. But when raised above a certain level, taxation begins to drive off wealth-producing talents/resources to more fiscally benign locations, making tax increases on dwindling fiscal sources increasingly self-defeating.
Whether this level has been reached in the US is a matter of contention, but with 70 percent of federal taxes being paid by 10% of the income-earners, a compelling case could be made that it has. And while a seemingly plausible claim could be made that it would be “fair” to increase taxes on the wealthy, this would be far more likely to be “socially cosmetic” than substantially remedial in terms of deficit reduction.
After all, higher tax rates do not necessarily bring higher tax revenues. They may well achieve the opposite.
Success as a sin
How does all this relate to the question of foreign policy and Obama’s attitude to Israel? The same mindset that sanctifies egalitarianism in domestic affairs has its counterpart in international affairs. The same strains of resentment and envy, suspicion of others’ achievement, the belief that the success of some was necessarily the product of exploitation pervades much of the anti-colonial, anti-American – and yes, anti-Zionist – philosophy of many members of the Non-Aligned Movement....
Disturbing ‘political body language’
...[Obama] is undeniably the most Islamophilic president ever to occupy the White House, who somehow sees that a “[Constitution-compliant] America and a [Shari’a-compliant] Islam...overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings” (Cairo, 2009).
His strong pro-Islamic predilections have manifested themselves in a myriad of gestures – both symbolic and verbal – which collectively might be dubbed telltale “political body language.”
To name but a few, these include:
  • Obama’s highly “imaginative” and exaggerated portrayal of Islam’s role in US history: “I know...that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”
  • His insistence on allotting the Muslim Brotherhood seats of honor at his flagship outreach speech at Cairo University, to the chagrin of his hosts.
  • His deep – some would say obsequious – bow to the Saudi king, guardian of Mecca.
  • The “sanitizing” of FBI and Department of Homeland Security counter-terror manuals of any references to Islam-related terms in defining the nature of the threat facing the US and its citizens from the forces of radical Islam.
  • The seemingly cozy relationship with, and the frequent access to, the White House that associates of the Muslim Brotherhood have been afforded by the administration.
This is but a partial list of a long series of words and deeds that reflect an unprecedented affinity for Islam by a US president...
Backtracking and broken pledges
Against this backdrop of Islamophilic sentiment, the naked antipathy displayed by Obama and several of his senior administration officials toward Israel and its prime minister are all the more troubling. The numerous incidents of insults, humiliations and public reprimands have been well-documented by others and I will spare the reader their repetition here.
True, the Obama administration has acted assertively and forcefully to preserve and promote Israeli interests on a number of critical issues. These have included enhancing military aid for Israel’s anti-missile program; exercising US veto power to block a one-sided Security Council resolution condemning Israel on settlements; and strongly supporting Israel at the UN to block the Palestinian unilateral bid for statehood recognition. These steps are in no way trivial.
However, the more circumspect observer might suggest that this welcome conduct should not be ascribed to any underlying pro-Israel sentiment but to growing concern over the consequences of a Jewish voter backlash – particularly after the shock Democrat defeat, for the first time in almost a century – in last year’s elections in New York’s 9th Congressional District.
For a second-term incumbent, this would no longer be a consideration of any weight.
Likewise, recent professions of “unprecedented cooperation” by senior Israeli officials should be viewed cautiously through the lens of diplomatic protocol, political constraints and institutional inertia. Indeed, even if true, there is no guarantee of their permanence.
For US Jews who care about Israel, what should be a matter of deep concern is the unbearable ease and breathtaking speed with which the president has broken pledges and backtracked on promises on issues of crucial importance for Israel – as the introductory excerpts illustrate.
During Obama’s term in office, [radical] Islam[ism] has made massive gains.
  • The radical Shi’ite regime in Tehran is four crucial years closer to a nuclear capability, yet he steadfastly refuses to set out “red lines” to halt its progress, clinging to the forlorn hope that somehow sanctions will induce the savage theocracy to comply because of the suffering sanctions inflict on the general population.
  • Elsewhere, radical Sunnis are in ascendency across the region, seizing power in some countries and vying strongly for it in others. Soon Israel may find itself surrounded by Muslim Brotherhood-dominated regimes. Obama does not seem to consider this a major geo-political threat to US interests.
  • Sinai has become a virtually unencumbered launching pad for jihadi gangs.
Clearly a position of almost unprecedented peril is emerging for Israel. True, Obama promised to back Israel if it was attacked. But that pledge – even if honored – would be cold comfort if that attack were nuclear.
A president unmoored
There is a distinct possibility that Israel could face a second-term president who is fundamentally unmoored to America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, a heritage, which, despite occasional periods of tensions, was for decades the elemental underpinning of the relationship between the two countries.
The prospect of a White House incumbent with an inherent affinity for Israel’s adversaries and unshackled by considerations of reelection is one that must be considered with the utmost seriousness. It is one US Jews should weigh carefully before they cast their ballot.

Richard Falk: extreme, anti-Jewish Jew

Richard Falk is again in the headlines. ...the Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council on Occupied Palestinian Territories, has called for a boycott of companies that do business with Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
This is against the background of a 2010 report Falk authored, that carried such headings as
  • Continuing expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories
  • The de facto annexation of East Jerusalem
  • Expulsions from East Jerusalem as a means to annexation
  • West Bank roads and international complicity in perpetuating the occupation
  • Continuation of the Gaza blockade
  • Abuse of children by Israeli authorities in the occupied territories
There is nothing in the 2010 report, or Falk's most recent recommendations, about
  • Palestinian intransigence or
  • internal conflicts that stand in the way of settling the conflict, or
  • the tens of thousands of rockets and
  • other kinds of violence that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank continue to direct against Israeli civilians.
Falk thereby establishes himself in the long line of Jews who have taken extreme and one-sided positions against Israeli or Jewish interests.
Richard Goldstone and Noam Chomsky are in the same cluster, along with some lesser known Israeli academics who urge boycotts against their own country and universities. Currently among our squabbles is one concerned with political scientists at Ben Gurion University who have so turned their Department of Politics and Government into an anti-Zionist bastion as to bring the Council of Higher Education--with a reputation that is respectful of academic freedom--to order its closure.
Falk et al belong in the same encyclopedia article with medieval Jews who sought favor with Christian churchmen and princes by telling them of "anti-Christian" material in the Talmud. Thanks to them, Jews altered their sacred texts, and while some editions still note opinions about the proper relationship of Jews with "goyim," other editions fudge the issue by referring to "Egyptians," "Romans," or "pagans."
 Falk's reports are so extreme as to attract condemnation not only from Israel's representative to the United Nations, but also from those of the United States and other western governments. According to an official American statement (issued 18 months in advance of the 2012 election)
"The report’s conclusions and recommendations are seriously flawed. The Special Rapporteur fails to adequately address the responsibility of Hamas in the lead up to the Gaza conflict, and indeed, seeks to minimize that responsibility. Falk also fails to address the real and serious abuses and violations of international law by Hamas in Gaza as it seeks to promote its radical agenda and entrench itself in power, including everything from unlawful killings to harassing NGOs, limiting their ability to provide humanitarian assistance. The Special Rapporteur also deliberately misconstrues elements of U.S. efforts to advance a comprehensive Middle East peace. His call for further boycotts and divestments from Israel is highly inappropriate, and, if implemented, would only serve to heighten tensions in the region and move the parties further from peace...
From YouTube, 26 Oct 2012:

Canada joined the United States and Israel late Thursday night in calling for the resignation of a United Nations official charged with monitoring and reporting on human rights in the Palestinian territories.
That official, Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, called for a worldwide boycott earlier Thursday of companies tied to Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
That recommendation was immediately condemned by the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who called Falk's call to action "irresponsible and unacceptable," and said it would "poison the environment for peace."
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Rick Roth, said Falk's intervention was "offensive and unhelpful but not overly surprising."
In the past, Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, once compared the state of Israel to Nazi Germany, the Associated Press reported.
He also once wrote on his blog that there was "an apparent coverup" by the U.S. over the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He also once posted an anti-Semitic cartoon on his blog, though he later removed it.
"Richard Falk has a long history of making outrageous statements, and frankly, has only tarnished the reputation and integrity of the United Nations," Roth said.
Falk listed 13 companies that ought to be boycotted -- including Volvo, Caterpillar Hewlett Packard and Motorola -- in his report to the UN General Assembly
"Mr. Falk has not only done a disservice to the United Nations, but also to the Palestinian people," Roth said. "Canada calls on Mr. Falk to either withdraw this biased and disgraceful report - or resign from his position at the United Nations."
Caterpillar said in a statement that Falk's report was inaccurate and misleading, and "reflects his personal and negative opinions toward Israel." The company said it sells products to the U.S. government, which are then sent to Israel.
Hewlett Packard said Falk was "far from an independent and unbiased expert in this matter," and that the company has a strong human rights policy and complies with the highest standards in every market in which they operate.