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Saturday, October 27, 2007

It could be worse for Gaza Christians...

Rami Ayyad, owner of a Christian bookstore was kidnapped and murdered. This was the latest in a series of incidents since the Hamas took power in Gaza, yet the news agency stories keep repeating the litany that there is "no tension" between Muslims and Christians in Gaza. This refrain is apparently not warranted by the facts. For example, an earlier news item about Christians in Gaza stated:
Christians living in Gaza City on Monday appealed to the international community to protect them against increased attacks by Muslim extremists. Many Christians said they were prepared to leave the Gaza Strip as soon as the border crossings are reopened.

The appeal came following a series of attacks on a Christian school and church in Gaza City over the past few days.

Father Manuel Musalam, leader of the small Latin community in the Gaza Strip, said masked gunmen torched and looted the Rosary Sisters School and the Latin Church.

"The masked gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades to storm the main entrances of the school and church," he said. "Then they destroyed almost everything inside, including the Cross, the Holy Book, computers and other equipment."

According to the story, following the murder of Rami Ayyad, owner of a Christian book store:
Spared by the summer's fierce factional clashes in which the Islamist Hamas movement seized power by routing their secular Fatah party rivals, Christians began to worry they too might be driven from the volatile coastal strip.

What scares them is a new generation of shadowy extremist movements that have crept from the rubble of a seven-year uprising, months of internal bloodletting and decades of conflict with Israel.

"We are not afraid of Hamas because as a government they are responsible for protecting people," Ayyad's brother Ramzi says. "We are afraid of
those who are more extreme than Hamas."

Palestinian Christians number around 75,000 but there are only 2,500 -- most of them Greek Orthodox -- living in the Gaza Strip among nearly 1.5 million Muslims, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Gaza has no history of tensions between the two communities and Christians say they are bound to their Muslim neighbours by shared suffering.

But fears peaked on October 6 when Ayyad was kidnapped, tortured and shot dead, his body dumped in a field outside Gaza City. No one has claimed responsibility for the murder.

Ayyad ran a bookshop affiliated with the United Bible Societies, a worldwide organisation that tries to help people "receive the Word of God and see the true light in Jesus Christ", according to its website.

The shop -- the only Christian bookstore in Gaza -- was firebombed in April, and Ayyad's family members said he was threatened several times.

"Three months before Rami was killed a man came into the office," Ayyad's mother told AFP. "He said to Rami, 'What do think about converting to Islam?'"

"Rami said, 'If you convert to Christianity, I'll become a Muslim.' Then the man said, 'I know how to make you a Muslim'. It was a threat."

The Hamas-run government has vowed to find and punish Ayyad's killers, and senior Hamas leader Mahmud Zahar and former prime minister Ismail Haniya attended his wake, along with several of the family's Muslim neighbours.

But many Christians, frightened of the new extremist groups and desperate to escape the worsening economic situation in the Gaza Strip, are seeking to emigrate, sparking fears for the future of the community.

The beleaguered coastal strip has been largely cut off from the rest of the world since March 2006, when Hamas -- which Israel and the West consider a terrorist group -- emerged victorious in Palestinian parliamentary elections.


On a breezy Sunday morning around 50 people gathered in the Catholic Church of the Holy Family for a weekly mass.

In a rousing sermon, Musallam -- an ardent Palestinian nationalist from the West Bank who Israel has only allowed out of the Gaza Strip twice
since he assumed his post in 1995 -- called on his weary flock to remain strong.

"The Church has always been under threat, and it has always endured. Rami was not the first martyr and in the life of the Church he will not be the last," he said, his soaring baritone voice echoing off the stone walls.

"To those who are scared, to those who want to flee Gaza, we must open our hearts, our doors, and our pockets... And we must always remember the sacrifice of Christ on the cross."

Many Christians defend Gaza's record.

"I hate discrimination, and here there is no discrimination between Christians and Muslims," Musa Saba says as he sits in the quiet courtyard of the Gaza City Young Men's Christian Association, playing dominos with friends.

The spry 81-year-old Greek Orthodox was one of the founding members of the association in 1952, two years before the Egyptian government, which then controlled the Gaza Strip, granted the land on which it now stands.

Today the YMCA provides a rare recreational haven for the residents of Gaza City. In the 1980s and 1990s Hamas held party elections here, and the vast majority of the young people who play on the outdoor courts are Muslims.

"There are very few Christians in Gaza but they live right next to us on our streets. They live exactly as we do, with the same habits, the same customs," says Ban al-Hussein, a Muslim university student sitting nearby.

But if their small numbers have helped the Christians better blend in among their Muslim neighbours, it has also given rise to rivalries between different denominations.

Many in the Catholic and Orthodox communities believe Ayyad and his book store were targeted, not for being Christian, but because they were carrying out missionary activities aimed at Christians and Muslims alike.

"There are many different armed groups in the Gaza Strip, but they are not interested in fighting Christians. What happened (to Ayyad) was an exception, because of the silliness of the Baptists," Saba says.

But Hanna Massad, the pastor of Gaza City's main Baptist Church, insists the Bible Society in Gaza is primarily focused on charity, providing aid to Christians and Muslims, and offering free courses in computers and English.

"Here in Gaza, if someone wants to buy a Bible he can. If they ask for one we will provide it. But we don't force books on anyone and we don't try to convert people," Massad says.

Massad, like others, blames Ayyad's death on the rise of extremist groups bourne by the chaos in Gaza and the rest of the region in recent years.

"The extremist groups have started to appear in the last six years because of the political atmosphere in the Middle East and because of the economic blockade of our country," he says.

As the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, with Israel declaring it a "hostile entity" last month and hinting at launching a major
operation, Christians and Muslims are, together, preparing for the worst.

"After (Rami's murder) 70 percent of Christians want to leave Gaza, because they are very afraid," Ramzi says. "But we love Gaza, it's our country, we have roots here, homes here. We will not know anyone if we go somewhere else."

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Self-hating Jews

The pathological nature of certain self-hating Jews is difficult to fathom. Of all people, Jews seem to take the lead in inventing falsehoods about Israel and the Jewish people. It is fair to say that a lot of the most vitriolic propaganda and outrageous falsehoods about the Middle East have been produced by Jews who are against the existence of the state of Israel.  A review of Jewish Israel hate by Carlos is a bit dated, but covers the ground. It doesn't answer the question of "why?" but it details some of the lesser and greater problems. Some of the most egregious examples - Jewish Holocaust deniers for example, seem to be missing. .
Ami Isseroff

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Are these people Zionists??

I found this on the "American Zionists" email list. Next time these sort of people tell you they had nothing to do with the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, don't believe them. They are murdering more than Rabin.

The grotesque perversion of this sort of message is monstrous, and the feelings of disgust it generates are hard to describe. "Last night's hate-filled TV eulogies" were beautiful tributes to a hero of Israel. "Rabin never apologized" indeed. The Altalena people never apologized for trying to break the law. If they have their way these people will turn Israel into something like Gaza. People who incite against the heros of the Zionist movement, people who incite against the democratically elected government of Israel are not Zionists.


Here is the email of the blogger who wrote what is below: Tell her what you think.

Ami Isseroff
Catching Tails


Israeli politicians are like cats trying to catch their tails. They are the antithesis, the exact opposite of what true leaders really are.

Last night's hate-filled TV eulogies of Yitzchak Rabin revealed more of his underlying rationale for Oslo. Believe me, Olmert's not the first tired Israeli politician. Yitzchak Rabin was also tired. One of his confidants, sorry, but I forget who was talking, explained that during the Gulf War of US President Bush The First, Rabin was depressed by the sight of cars streaming out of Tel Aviv. He looked at those Israelis fleeing their homes and knew that they were his kind of people, the ones whose votes he wanted. That's why he liked the Oslo Accords. It suited Israelis who had no problem fleeing their homes. Even better, those Israelis got to keep their homes, while the patriotic Land of Israel loving Israelis would, G-d forbid, be exiled from theirs.

Yes, instead of offering leadership and encouragement to the Israeli citizens, Rabin packaged a plan based on the worst and weakest of the Israeli psyche.

True to form, Rabin never apologized for his violence against fellow Jews during the Israeli War of Independence. He was a dedicated follower of Ben Gurion who feared competition for leadership and ordered Menachem Begin to be killed when the Altalena tried to dock to deliver fighters and arms to free the Old City of Jerusalem. Yitzchak Rabin was the commander of the Palmach unit which attacked the Altalena and killed their fellow Jews, Hashem Yikom Damom, May G-d Avenge Their Deaths.

Labels: Altalena, Yitzchak Rabin


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Israel hits Hamas Terrorists

The question is - Can Hamas train new terrorists as fast as Israel can wipe them out?
Palestinians: Hamas operative killed in IAF missile strike
JPost staff and AP , THE JERUSALEM POST  Oct. 26, 2007
A missile fired by an IAF aircraft Friday morning killed a Hamas operative and seriously wounded another during an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said.
Hamas said the gunmen were attacked from the air near Gaza City.
The army said the gunmen were approaching IDF troops operating near the Gaza-Israel border when the aircraft opened fire.
Also Friday morning, a Kassam rocket fired from Gaza landed in the western Negev. No one was wounded and no damage was reported.
The IDF has been recently carrying out regular operations against Gaza terrorists in an effort to stop Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel.
Also Friday morning, the IDF reported that six Palestinians had been arrested in the Nablus area on suspicion of involvement in a shooting rampage in Samaria in which a soldier and a civilian were wounded.
The Palestinian Ma'an news agency said that among the detainees were three brothers, all Fatah operatives. Wednesday's attack began at the Ariel junction, where terrorists sprayed a hitchhiking post with bullets from 100 to 150 meters away before speeding down a busy road while firing at passing cars.
Overnight Thursday, the IDF killed three Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
In the northern part of the Strip, a force from the Golani Infantry Brigade spotted a group of gunmen. Two members of the group were killed in the exchange of fire.
Two IDF soldiers were lightly hurt in the violence, and were taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba for treatment.
In the southern part of the Gaza Strip, a unit of reserve troops shot and killed an Islamic Jihad gunman. There were no casualties among the reservists.
Meanwhile, two Kassam rockets were fired overnight Thursday; both landed in open fields, inflicting no injuries or damage.
Overall, IDF troops arrested 14 Palestinian terror suspects in the West Bank.
Nine of the suspects were nabbed in Nablus, the military said in a statement. The others were caught in Ramallah and in Jenin.

All the detainees were transferred for interrogation.

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Comedy for peace charity

Doing well by doing good...
nathan burstein , THE JERUSALEM POST  Oct. 25, 2007
Talk to God and her brother-in-law, and you'll hear very different appraisals of the kind of person Sarah Silverman is.
"You," the Almighty says in the first episode of Silverman's hit TV show, "are the most selfish, racist, manipulative, pompous human being alive today."
Her brother-in-law, meanwhile, calls her a "mensch."
The evidence appears to be on the side of her brother-in-law this fall, with the star of Comedy Central's The Sarah Silverman Program set to headline a fund-raiser next month for the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the ecological and coexistence center located at Kibbutz Ketura, near Eilat.
The fund-raiser, scheduled for November 29 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, will feature the entire cast of the comedienne's TV show - including her sister and co-star, Laura Silverman - as well as a stand-up routine by former sitcom actress Roseanne Barr.
Billed as "Comedy without Borders," the event is being organized by the US-based Friends of the Arava Institute, but was the brainchild of another of the comic's sisters, Rabbi Susan Silverman, who moved to Israel with her family last year.
The idea for including the show's cast, Rabbi Silverman wrote in an e-mail, came from Sarah Silverman, who will perform her own stand-up set as part of the fund-raiser. Though not officially affiliated with the Arava Institute, Rabbi Silverman is currently writing a book in its offices.
A regular film and TV presence since getting her start 14 years ago on NBC's Saturday Night Live, Sarah Silverman has shot to new levels of visibility and praise in recent years. Reviews of 2005's The Aristocrats widely credited the performer with besting comedy legends such as George Carlin and Phyllis Diller with her own, particularly filthy rendition of the vaudeville joke at the heart of the movie.
Silverman released her own stand-up film, Jesus is Magic, to critical acclaim later that year, and has further expanded her fan base in 2007 with her eponymous TV show, a politically incorrect farce that recently went on the air in Israel.
In addition to the verbal tongue lashing from God, the series's first episode features the actress vandalizing a convenience store, provoking a homeless man and admitting, only half-regretfully, "Totally, totally granted. I'm a terrible person."
That, however, appears to be the case only for the "Sarah Silverman" character presented on the TV show.
Besides the Arava Institute fund-raiser, the star's philanthropic work has included a contribution to I Am Jewish, the 2005 book in which figures ranging from a US Supreme Court justice to an Olympic gold medal winner share their thoughts on the final words of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter killed by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan in early 2002. Proceeds from the book go to support the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which promotes cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music and other projects.
The comedienne is "not sure of a time to visit" Israel, Rabbi Silverman wrote, adding that Laura Silverman and the family's fourth sister, Jody, would be "coming to visit in the next few months."
"We're just thrilled that Sarah Silverman and her cast from Comedy Central have been generous enough to donate their time to support the work that the Arava Institute does," said David Lehrer, the organization's executive director.

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Do we know what the Gaza sanctions are all about?

This Haaretz article claims that the real intent behind Israeli sanctions imposed on Gaza may not be what it seems. The Ha'aretz article doesn't quite say what the aims really are, but it gives some hints:
In practice, defense officials believe that the Palestinian militants will intensify their attacks in response to the sanctions
As such, the real aim of this effort is twofold: to attempt a new form of "escalation" as a response to aggression from Gaza, before Israel embarks on a major military operation there; and to prepare the ground for a more clear-cut isolation of the Gaza Strip - limiting to an absolute minimum Israel's obligation toward the Palestinians there.
Defense sources say the sanctions will lead the militants to intensify their attacks to show that they do not succumb to Israeli pressure. And because the sanctions will not be severe - so as not to create a humanitarian crisis - they will not be effective. It is actually expected that the gasoline shortage will have a greater effect than the disruptions in the electricity supply - which normally happens because of equipment breakdowns
The implication that some people would read into this, is that Israel is trying to get a strong response from the Palestinians - strong enough to justify an invasion of Gaza. That may or may not be what Ha'aretz is saying, but they didn't quite say it, as you will see below. What they did say:
Several weeks ago, Barak said Israel "is getting closer" to a major operation in the strip. Like Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Barak is not excited about this possibility. He knows that it will not be easy, and there are no guarantees for positive results. Many soldiers will be killed and so will many innocent Palestinians, because the IDF will employ a massive artillery bombardment before it sends infantry into the crowded built-up areas. This will be a "dirty war," very aggressive, that will have scenes of destruction similar to southern Lebanon in 2006. The sole exception: unlike in Lebanon, the population there has nowhere to run.

Moreover, Ashkenazi has told the cabinet that he will only support an offensive operation if it is long-lasting. If after several weeks of fighting, the IDF is allowed time to carry out arrests and gather intelligence, then the chief of staff sees a point for the operation.
Does this add up to saying that Israel is engineering a war? Or is there an alternative explanation: Within the defense establishment, there are those who favor the sanctions and those who are opposed. The "defense sources" quoted above are those who are opposed to the sanctions, and they stated their opinion that the sanctions will be ineffective. The full text is below, make of it what you will. Certainly, by publishing a story like this, to feed the rumor mills of the Middle East, Ha'aretz is undermining any future Israeli operation against Gaza, b implying that it was engineered. The flaw in the idea is that if Israel wants to increase the terror activity coming from Gaza, all it has to do is step up peace talks with Mahmoud Abbas. That is much more certain to increase terror than is the imposition of sanctions.  
Ami Isseroff 
ANALYSIS: Israel's real intention behind sanctions on Gaza Strip
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff , Haaretz Correspondents Last update -
06:26 26/10/2007

There is an enormous gap between the reasons Israel is giving for the decision to impose significant sanctions against Hamas rule in the Gaza
Strip, and the real intentions behind them. Defense Minister Ehud Barak authorized Thursday a plan for  disrupting electricity supply to the Gaza
Strip, as well as significantly shrinking fuel shipments. This is supposed to reduce the number of Qassam rocket attacks against Sderot and the other border communities. In practice, defense officials believe that the Palestinian militants will intensify their attacks in response to the sanctions.

As such, the real aim of this effort is twofold: to attempt a new form of "escalation" as a response to aggression from Gaza, before Israel embarks on a major military operation there; and to prepare the ground for a more clear-cut isolation of the Gaza Strip - limiting to an absolute minimum Israel's obligation toward the Palestinians there.

Several weeks ago, Barak said Israel "is getting closer" to a major operation in the strip. Like Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Barak is not excited about this possibility. He knows that it will not be easy, and there are no guarantees for positive results. Many soldiers will be killed and so will many innocent Palestinians, because the IDF will employ a massive artillery bombardment before it sends infantry  into the crowded built-up areas. This will be a "dirty war," very aggressive, that will have scenes of destruction similar to southern Lebanon in 2006. The sole exception: unlike in Lebanon, the population there has nowhere to run.

Moreover, Ashkenazi has told the cabinet that he will only support an offensive operation if it is long-lasting. If after several weeks of fighting, the IDF is allowed time to carry out arrests and gather intelligence, then the chief of staff sees a point for the operation.

Defense sources say the sanctions will lead the militants to intensify their attacks to show that they do not succumb to Israeli pressure. And because the sanctions will not be severe - so as not to create a humanitarian crisis - they will not be effective. It is actually expected that the gasoline shortage will have a greater effect than the disruptions in the electricity supply - which normally happens because of equipment breakdowns.

The decision on sanctions is also an attempt to give expression to the inclination to completely disengage from Gaza. In this way Israel is sending a message to the Palestinian leadership in the strip that it must seek alternatives, however minor, to goods and services coming from Israel. This touches on the day after the Annapolis summit. Failure at the summit may lead Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas into the arms of Hamas. In such a case, Israel is raising a big stop sign at the exit from Ramallah:
Passage to Gaza is closed.

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Another peace thug exposed

This little article about Mazin Qumsiyeh from CAMERA is actually pretty mild. Qumsiyeh is a professor of genetics at Yale university. He uses his academic standing for a variety of racist activities, including publishing a Hitlerite-type "genetic analysis" of the Jewish question. In the past, he also had pretensions to "dialogue." He is only interested in "dialog" with people who agree with him. Qumsiyeh is one of those who markets genocide under the guise of "peace and humanitarianism." The performance below is relatively mild.  
October 4, 2007 by Steven Stotsky
The following guest column was printed in the Brookline Tab on October 4, 2007.
Facts are the only path to peace.
The controversy over Palestinian activist Mazin Qumsiyeh's recent appearance at Brookline High School reinforces once more the importance of hewing to factual accuracy and avoiding propaganda in discussions about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Many in the community were outraged that the town offered the use of its facilities to Qumsiyeh so that he could present his erroneous account of the conflict. He has all too often resorted to false claims in order to cast Israel in the most vicious terms while absolving the Palestinians of any responsibility for their current circumstances. The facts matter in any worthwhile exchange of views and they do not support his many extreme contentions. As Alan Dershowitz has stated, "Peace can't be built on a foundation of lies."
People listening to Qumsiyeh should remember that there could have been a Palestinian state today about to celebrate its 60th anniversary. But in 1947, the Palestinians rejected a two-state solution proposed by the UN in which they would live side-by-side in peace with Israel. In 2000, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat again rejected Israel's offer to hand over 95 percent of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza to form a Palestinian state. Instead he unleashed the deadly second Intifada.
Regrettably, Palestinians have been taught such rejection of compromise by their schools, media, mosques and political leadership, which paint the Jewish people as interlopers in the region to be expelled. Nowhere has the Palestinian political leadership sought to convey to its constituency that the Jewish state is a legitimate nation with deep historical and religious roots in the region.
In characteristically loaded language, Qumsiyeh accuses Israel of "ethnically cleansing" the Palestinians to make room for Jews, but demographic realities reveal the absurdity of this charge. The Palestinian population growth rate has been among the highest in the world since Israel's founding. Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza have grown from 947,000 in 1967 when Israel took control to a current figure approaching four million.
One reason for the striking growth is the dramatic improvement in living standards since Israel began administering these territories. In 1967, few Palestinians had access to clean water. Today, 96 percent do. Since 1967, the average Palestinian life-span has increased from 48 to 72 years. According to the World Health Organization, Palestinians enjoy better health than their fellow Arabs in Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Infant and maternal mortality rates as well as childhood disease levels are among the lowest in the region. Literacy rates are the highest among Arab states.
Palestinians have repeatedly sacrificed positive economic developments in the battle against Israel, making choices that have brought hardship. This is evident in their resorting to violence in the second Intifada in September 2000. Just as the economy of the West Bank and Gaza appeared to be recovering once more from the effects of the second Intifada, in January 2006, Palestinians gave a plurality of votes to the Islamist terror group Hamas, again sacrificing prospects for improved living conditions to uncompromising ideological goals.
All too many Palestinians cling to absolutist demands that would place the survival of Israel in jeopardy. For instance, Qumsiyeh disingenuously insists that Israel shed Zionism and "become a country for people of all religions rather than a country for and by Jews." Yet, Israel allows all its citizens the most freedoms of any state in the region. Its Arab citizens are the only Arabs in the Middle East to participate in free elections unfettered by religious stipulations. He makes no similar demand on the 22 Arab nations, most of which elevate Islam above other religions and frequently discriminate against non-Muslims.
Qumsiyeh denies established historical facts. In an article published for the World Economic Forum in 2006, he claimed Israel "initiated the 1967 Six-Day War in order to acquire more land," a view at odds with the historical record of Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian belligerence. He also accuses Israel of building its security barrier to cut-off Palestinian towns. In reality most of the barrier lies close to the line dividing Israel and the West Bank where it has served to block terrorist infiltration, reducing the number of Israelis killed by terrorists from 452 in 2002 to 27 in 2006.
So deceptive was Qumsiyeh's article that the Forum's executive director Klaus Schwab felt compelled to publicly repudiate it, stating: "This article is totally in contradiction to my own and the Forum's mission and values."
Those who deplore offering public facilities to Mazin Qumsiyeh and others who promote misinformation and propaganda are not, as he claims, simply refusing to engage in dialogue or seeking to silence opposing viewpoints. Rather they recognize that dialogue is futile if one side relies on falsehoods to advance its arguments.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

More lies in Walt and Mearsheimer's Israel Lobby

Walr and Mearsheimer's Israel Lobby book seems to provide an inexhaustible resource for correction of gross errors and criticism of method. If the second edition omits all the erroneous claims, it will be a very thin book.
Ami Isseroff
 "Small lies, big lies, and the Israel lobby"
 by Amitai Etzioni   [The Huffington Post]

Posted October 4, 2007 | 03:17 PM (EST)

To those of us for whom the claim that the Israel lobby is all-powerful is neither a well established truism nor an ugly piece of anti-Semitism, the evidence presented in support of this claim matters a great deal. Surely Washington has more lobbies than a derelict dog has fleas. And, lobbying is a constitutionally protected activity, like the right to free speech and the right to vote. Hence, the pivotal question is whether the Israel lobby is significantly more powerful than others, andwhether it is able to check-mate the usually pro-Arab oil companies, the arms manufacturers, and the other relevant lobbies that affect our foreign policy.

There are quite a few who have taken for granted the veracity of claims that the Israel lobby is all-powerful on the grounds that a new book making this case has been written by two highly regarded scholars; John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt of the University of Chicago and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, respectively. In fact, the quantitative data they cite amount to (at best) a very thin reed on which to hang such a mighty claim. I will donate my house to anyone who can find a half respectable social science publication that would publish what these two present as evidence.

The authors write:

"In 1997, Fortune Magazine asked members of Congress and their
staffs to list the most powerful lobbies in Washington. AIPAC was ranked second behind the American Association of Retired People, but ahead of the AFL-CIO and the National Rifle Association. A National Journal study in March of 2005 reached a similar conclusion, placing AIPAC in second place (tied with AARP) in the Washington 'muscle ankings'."

In fact, the Fortune survey was not made of Congress members and their staffs, but of  2,165 "Washington insiders" (chosen by two panels whose membership has not been disclosed), a group that includes an unknown number of congressional members and staffers, among an unknown number of others. More importantly, in both surveys roughly six out of every seven persons asked, i.e.most of those asked, did not respond. The authors' claim that members of Congress and their staffs ranked the Israel lobby higher than many others is based on 15% of those who were surveyed. No respectable social scientist (and many unrespectable ones) would dare to suggest that they have a sense of what any given group holds on the basis of the responses from such a small minority.

Moreover, social science has numerous procedures to correct for such adeficit of responses. One can return to the same group and elicit more answers, draw another sample, or study the differences between those who did and did not respond--and adjust the conclusions accordingly. None of these methods were employed here.

The number of people who responded is so small that an additional vote or two, or a change of mind by one or two respondents, would have significantly altered the results of the survey. The total number of the National Journal responses--which did survey only law makers-- is 73. (Congress, the last time I checked, had 535 members and at least 17,000 staff members). The National Federation of Independent Business was ranked first and the National Rifle Association second -- with nine and eight votes, respectively !  In third place, ranked as the most powerful by seven members, was the US Chamber of Commerce. The AARP and AIPAC were each given the nod by five members. The oil companies and the arms manufacturers were not on the list of those to be ranked.  I wonder if any student at GWU could get away with a term paper that held that such small numbers support a generalization about any given population or the ranking of a set of groups.

Some will say that all of this is nothing other than typical social science hair splitting. But, these data go to the heart of the matter.Is the Israel lobby just one among a whole slew of lobbies, each pullingWashington its own way? Is it one of the more effective ones? Or can it trump all the others? What the data show is surprisingly little. The book stands much more on accusatory anecdotes than, as the authors' claim, on evidence.


Amitai Etzioni  is University Professor at The George Washington
University, and the author of Security First: For A Muscular, Moral
Foreign Policy (Yale University Press, 2007).

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New US Sanctions on IRAN

From the Jerusalm post...
The Bush administration slapped serious sanctions on Iran Thursday, designed to isolate it from the world economy, escalating the pressure to stop its nuclear defiance and on allies to comply with the US stance.
The new measures designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics proliferators of ballistic missile technology, and the Quds Force off-shoot of the IRGC a terrorist organization.
The classification means any US assets would be frozen and Americans would be barred from doing business with them. Most significantly, US officials said, foreign firms would be subject to American sanctions should they engage with the designated entities.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the new steps as ways "to increase the costs to Iran of its irresponsible behavior." She cited Iran's ongoing pursuit of nuclear technology, missile buildup, support for terrorist groups in Iraq and the Palestinian territories and calls to wipe Israel off the map in explaining the administration's decision.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry welcomed the US decision, saying it represented "an important contribution through international means to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear program."
A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said, "We totally and absolutely back and support it, and hope other countries will take similar steps."
The move comes at a time when international diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to stop enriching uranium have been stalled. It has been seven months since the passage of the last UN Security Council resolution, which imposed limited sanctions on Iran and the IRGC. Efforts at a third such resolution have been hindered by Russia and China. The Europeans have also been less supportive of broad punitive financial measures.
Rice expressed some frustration at the pace of those efforts during testimony before Congress Wednesday.
"I have preferred a voluntary effort rather than secondary sanctions on foreign companies," she said. "But I've also been very clear to our allies that this is not something that can go on endlessly, that there is urgency to this issue."
Diplomacy, she said needs "teeth" to cut Iran off from the financial system and make it "difficult for Iran to do its business."
A former US government official said frustration with the Security Council process "definitely" was a factor in the decision to impose unilateral sanctions. "Not a lot has happened in a while," he said. "You have to do a lot more to move the ball forward."
At the same time, he said except for the Quds Force the IRGC was spared a blanket designation as a terrorist group, instead being labeled as a weapons proliferator. That reflected that there was greater international consensus on the proliferation charge, he said. When it comes to terrorism, the EU has been reluctant to take steps such as designating the Iran proxy Hizbullah as a terrorist group.
The test of success for these measures would be how successful they were in gaining traction from other governments and financial institutions, the former official said.
One sign of unease among other nations to go along with such designations is the reports that suggested the IRGC designation - first reported over the summer - was postponed, after it was first raised as a possibility, due in part to the objections of some European and other allies, as well arguments from some quarters of the administration.
But since then, little diplomatic progress with Iran has been made, and Europe has indicated willingness to go along with further action on Iran with steps such as the Financial Action Task Force, which counts Europeans among its member states and issued a warning on the risk of doing business with Iran.
"It's likely to get a mixed reaction," with countries like the UK and France supportive but others less enthusiastic, according to Michael Jacobson, a senior fellow of the Stein Program on Terrorism, Intelligence, and Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Even if there are foreign governments that don't like it, you still hope the private sector, especially those companies that want to do business with the US, heeds it."
But Russia on Thursday already reacted negatively to the American announcement. Speaking in Lisbon, Portugal, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "Why worsen the situation by threatening sanctions and bring it to a dead end? It's not the best way to resolve the situation by running around like a madman with a razor blade in his hand."
In Teheran, the Guards' leader, General Muhammad Ali Jafari, shrugged off increased US pressure on the force.
"Today, the enemy has concentrated the sharp point of its attacks on the Guards," Jafari told a military ceremony in Mashhad, east of Teheran, according to the state news agency IRNA. "They have applied all their efforts to reduce the efficiency of this revolutionary body. Now as always, the corps is ready to defend the ideals of the revolution more than ever before."
Some in America have questioned the efficacy of the sanctions.
Anthony H. Cordesman, the chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies's Arleigh A. Burke, questioned the move, saying the Bush administration "has not provided any analysis to show how the new sanctions are justified, how they would actually work, or what effect they should have."
"There has been no mention of how they relate to US efforts to work with Britain, France and Germany, or in the context of the UN," he said. "There has been no explanation of why and how these sanctions would be enforced when in so many previous cases the US has taken no action or made empty threats."
US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, however, defended the move.
"It is plain and simple: reputable institutions do not want to be bankers to this dangerous regime," he said. "We will continue to work with our international partners to prevent Iran from abusing the international financial system and to advance its illicit conduct."
Paulson also warned: "In dealing with Iran, it is nearly impossible to know one's customer and be assured that one is not unwittingly facilitating the regime's reckless behavior and conduct."
The Revolutionary Guards organization, formed to safeguard Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, has pushed well beyond its military roots, and now owns car factories and construction firms and operates newspaper groups and oil fields.
Current and former members now hold a growing role across the country's government and economy, sometimes openly and other times in shadows. The guards have gained a particularly big role in the country's oil and gas industry in recent years.
The small Quds Force wing is thought to operate overseas, having helped to create Hizbullah in 1982 in Lebanon and to arm Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan wars.
Rice repeated earlier offers of the opportunity for negotiations with Iran should it comply with international demands regarding its nuclear program.
Other officials echoed that sentiment, maintaining the announcement was not a prelude to armed conflict with Iran despite concerns from some allies that the administration is building a case for war.
"In no way, shape or form does it anticipate the use of force," said Nicholas Burns, the State Department's No. 3 diplomat.
Herb Keinon and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Israeli advances in UAVs

A defence news story tells us that Israel is "improving" its UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) force, but budget constraints are forcing compromises. The problem is that UAV expenditures are made in Israel, because Israel has developed its own unique advanced UAV technology. These expenditures are therefore not funded by US aid, but are real money that must come at the expense of more urgent needs like funding Yeshiva students and new volvos for ministers.
TEL NOF AIR FORCE BASE, Israel - The Israel Air Force (IAF) wants to double the size of its UAV inventory, but budget realities are forcing new measures by which to calculate future force needs, the service's top acquisition official said.

Instead of focusing on a desired number of unmanned platforms, the IAF is designing its force according to capabilities that can be dedicated to specific operational theaters. Through acquisition of more reliable, longer-endurance, increasingly capable multi-role UAVs, the IAF expects to more than double its coverage of essential focal points - "mokdim" in Hebrew - without doubling its physical inventory.

"Under less restrictive budgetary conditions, we'd like to double the quantity of our force," the IAF general said. "But realistically, we need to work on multiple fronts and by innovative means to close capability gaps and enhance operational effectiveness."

His deputy who directs UAV programs for the IAF Air Staff said, "We truly believe in the force-multiplying effect. It's not that numbers don't count. They do. But continuous, persistent, increasingly capable multirole presence matters more."

By the next few years, the junior officer said, the IAF plans to field around-the-clock overlapping unmanned systems over several focal points
deemed critical by the military's three territorial commands.

Coverage will be provided by three distinct systems: the Hermes 450, which comprises the lowest layer and backbone of the IAF's UAV squadron; the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)-built Shoval, or Heron, medium altitude system; and Eitan, Israel's newest and largest high-altitude UAV, also by IAI.

Attempt at Openness

In an Oct. 8 seminar, the general officer and his branch chiefs exhibited some of the service's new technologies and outlined IAF modernization priorities provided for in the nation's recently approved five-year defense spending plan. They declined to discuss funding figures, delve too deeply into program specifics or even to be identified by name. The daylong event for defense reporters at this major IAF operations and logistics center
south of Tel Aviv was the first of its kind.

"The threats around us are very complex, and we're obviously restricted in how open we can be with respect to technical issues," the IAF general said. "But I think the nation deserves to know in general terms where we are and where we're headed."

He said acquisition of increasingly capable, multimission UAVs feature prominently among service priorities, along with up to six new C-130Js and upgrades of older-model Hercules airlifters, helicopter upgrades, anti-missile defenses, new information and strike systems, and initial purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

In the realm of training, he said, the IAF secured funding in its five-year plan to replace the near-obsolete Tzukit primary trainer. But the IAF and Israel's MoD have not yet decided whether to buy new aircraft or to lease flight-training services through private contractors.
Outfitting Eitan

A bulk of UAV modernization funding will be earmarked to produce and equip the IAI Eitan (Steadfast), defense and industry sources here say. The high-altitude, 4.5-ton Eitan, with a wingspan akin to a Boeing 737, is designed to carry a ton of specialized sensors and advanced electronic warfare and combat gear in its bulbous forward section, in its principal payload bay and on each tail of its twin boom.

Since its first flight in July 2006, the IAF and IAI technicians have tested "all kinds of payloads, in all kinds of configuration schemes," the service official said. By the middle of next year, the IAF plans to select its preferred configuration. Initial operational capability is planned in early 2009.

Defense and industry sources said earlier that Eitan is planned for targeting missions, signals intelligence, communications relay and possibly
aerial refueling of other UAVs. It is designed to remain airborne for nearly two days. One IAF officer said he expected this huge UAV - similar to the U.S. Predator B - to remain in service for "at least the next 20 years."

In the near future, the IAF plans to phase out IAI's Searcher-2, known here as White Star, and introduce additional IAI multimission Shovals in its stead. While White Star will soon depart IAF service, it will continue to provide imagery under an IAI-operated power-by-the-hour contract with MoD.

The IAF received the first Shovals in March, although the 1,200-kilogram vehicles saw action in the summer 2006 Lebanon War. In a March 7 release, IAI said that IAF-IAI teams successfully operated the Shoval, fomerly known as Mahatz-1, at altitudes of some 30,000 feet during the war against Hizbollah.

Each Shoval will carry a variety of electro-optic and specialty payloads - including an all-weather synthetic aperture radar by IAI subsidiary Elta -
and will perform maritime patrol missions for the Israel Navy and reconnaissance and targeting for the IAF. The acquisition official said the
Shovals are much more reliable and provide much closer coordination with the IAF's manned aircraft than the Searchers.

"Range is limited by communication, and in that regard, the Shoval is about double the range" of Searcher 2, he said.

One IAF deputy declined to say how many additional Shovals would be purchased over the next five years or whether follow-on buys would continue to be awarded sole-source to IAI. When asked about the Elbit Hermes 900 - a higher-flying, heavier-hauling follow-on to the Hermes 450 scheduled to begin flight tests early next year - he said it was "too early to tell. ... The Shoval is a mature system, with more than 10,000 flight hours, as opposed to the Hermes 900, which technically doesn't yet exist."

Nevertheless, one source said, the IAF will place Hermes 450 orders valued in tens of millions of dollars.
Coming of Age

The IAF's new accent on capabilities over quantity is possible, defense and industry sources here say, due to huge gains in the reliability and
cost-effectiveness of locally made systems. In the past five years, the IAF general said, costs per UAV flight hour have plummeted about 60 percent.

One industry source said that what the IAF used to do just a decade ago with nine UAVs and three ground stations can now be accomplished by two UAVs and one ground station.

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Rabin took responsibility for a failed mission

(Cross-posted from Israel: Like this, as if)

Israel's media are busy reminiscing about Yitzhak Rabin.

Today (Oct. 24) on our Hebrew lunar calendar is 12 Heshvan, the 12th anniversary of the assassinated Prime Minister's death. (On the Gregorian calendar, the assassination took place Nov. 4.)

One Rabin memory which stays with me is hearing the rumble of his deep voice in a television broadcast that echoed from open windows along the silent streets of Tel Aviv on Sabbath Eve, October 14, 1994.

Rabin had gone on the air to announce the failure of a rescue mission. A Sayeret Matcal commando force acting on precise intelligence had raided a house north of Jerusalem in an effort to free Nahshon Wachsman, a young Israeli soldier who was being held hostage by Hamas. The hostage died in the rescue attempt, which also took the life of the Israeli mission commander, Capt. Nir Poraz, 23.

Today in a radio interview one of his aides recalled that Rabin insisted that night on publicly taking responsibility for the failure of the mission. Ehud Barak, who was then the military chief of staff, was ready to go on the air with the announcement, the aide said, but Rabin emphasized, "I was responsible."

Rabin later said that approving this rescue operation was one of the most difficult decisions of his life.

Taking responsibility is a quality for which people remember Rabin. How many other heads of government can you recall going on national television to take responsibility for a mission that failed?

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv, October 24, 2007

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Christian hate group in Boston

Dexter Van Zile
Hate at the altar
By Dexter Van Zile  |  October 25, 2007
IF A church in Boston announced that it was renting space to a self-described peace group whose leader hung nooses from trees in former slave-holding states, the interfaith community would be outraged, the church would be condemned, and the wisdom of its pastor and governing council would be called into question, with good reason.
Any organization led by someone who would display an image with such a bloody and violent history would immediately be repudiated by people of good will. Virtually everyone knows that a noose hanging from a tree is a prelude to a lynching. Its display is a vile act intended to intimidate African-Americans and other minorities into submission. It is a vestige of the Old South that has been discarded by all but the irredeemably racist.
Sadly, Old South Church in downtown Boston is playing host to just such a group this weekend - with one slight difference. Instead of displaying a noose during a time of racial tension, the leader of the group in question - the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center - invoked the anti-Semitic trope of Jews as Christ-killers during the second intifada, when Palestinian suicide bombers were murdering citizens of Israel.
The portrayal of Jews as Christ-killers has contributed to untold violence and hostility toward the Jewish people, but for some reason, Old South Church is allowing Sabeel and Ateek, an Anglican priest from Jerusalem, the use of its worship space.
For the past three decades, Sabeel has billed itself as the voice of the beleaguered community of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Israel. Over the years, Sabeel has been successful in convincing well-meaning, but largely ignorant Christians in the United States and Europe that the Palestinian people are innocent sufferers and the Israeli government their brutal oppressors.
The centerpiece of this effort can be seen in the hostile rhetoric of Ateek. For example, his 2000 Christmas message portrayed Israeli officials as Herod, who, according to the Christian gospel, murdered all the infants of Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus. In his 2001 Easter message, Ateek wrote, "The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily" and that "Palestine has become the place of the skull." And in February 2001, Ateek compared the Israeli occupation to the stone blocking Christ's tomb.
With these three images, Ateek has figuratively blamed Israel for the attempted murder of the infant Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus the prophet, and for blocking the resurrection of Christ the Savior.
In the context of Christian-Jewish relations, language like this - which has preceded and justified the killing of Jews for nearly two millennia - is the equivalent of a noose hanging from a tree in the Old South. Its use during a time of violence can only serve to justify continued violence against Israeli civilians. Sadly, Ateek's defenders have said that he is merely using the "language of the cross" to describe Palestinian suffering, but in fact, he is describing Israeli behavior.
Taken to its logical end, language like this suggests that the only solution to Palestinian suffering is Israel's elimination, which Sabeel called for in a 2004 document that stated the organization's "vision for the future" is "one-state for two nations and three religions."
To make matters worse, Ateek has invoked the notion of the wandering, defenseless Jew as a good thing by writing that Jewish statehood contradicts the Jewish call to suffer. This type of language has been regarded as taboo by responsible Christians since the Holocaust, and its reemergence in Ateek's writing is as ominous as a noose hanging from a tree.
This is not peacemaking; it is demonization. Such language might have been tolerable in the Old South, but not today.
Not in Boston's Old South.
Dexter Van Zile is the Christian media analyst at CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.


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Palestinian narrative about Jerusalem

"There was never a Jewish temple on Al-Aksa [the mosque compound] and there is no proof that there was ever a temple," .. "Because Allah is fair, he would not agree to make Al-Aksa if there were a temple there for others beforehand."
This is the (official) Palestinian narrative about Jerusalem it seems. It is hardly the first time we have heard it, and Ikrema Sabri is not the only one who believes it, since Nadia abu el Hajj has the same idea, and Arafat said it on more than one occasion Sabri's narrative conflicts with the Muslim religion as far as I know, though they claim that Suleiman, who built the Beit el Maqdes (in Hebrew "Beit Hamiqdash" which means the temple house, was a Muslim.... We must accept all narratives as equal, right?

Ami  Isseroff

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Real liberals versus phonies

This article is much better than its title.

As the rise of Islamism challenges the old assumptions of left and right, new cultural fault lines are emerging. Take our quiz to see which side you are on
A glorious culture clash took place in Iran recently that made me laugh out loud. The children of Che Guevara, the revolutionary pin-up, had been invited to Tehran University to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their father's death and celebrate the growing solidarity between "the left and revolutionary Islam" at a conference partly paid for by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president.

There were fraternal greetings and smiles all round as America's "earth-devouring ambitions" were denounced. But then one of the speakers, Hajj Saeed Qassemi, the co-ordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom (who presumably remains selflessly alive for the cause), revealed that Che was a "truly religious man who believed in God and hated communism and the Soviet Union".

Che's daughter Aleida wondered if something might have been lost in translation. "My father never mentioned God," she said, to the consternation of the audience. "He never met God." During the commotion, Aleida and her brother were led swiftly out of the hall and escorted back to their hotel. "By the end of the day, the two Guevaras had become non-persons. The state-controlled media suddenly forgot their existence," the Iranian writer Amir Taheri noted.

After their departure, Qassemi went on to claim that Fidel Castro, the "supreme guide" of Guevara, was also a man of God. "The Soviet Union is gone," he affirmed. "The leadership of the downtrodden has passed to our Islamic republic. Those who wish to destroy America must understand the reality and not be clever with words."

Don't say you haven't been warned, comrade, when you flirt with "revolutionary Islam" as if it were a mild form of liberation theology. But it is time, too, for Che to lose his secular halo. If he were still living, the chances are he would be another dictator like Castro, who has ruled Cuba with an iron fist for half a century but gets a pass from liberals because he provides a modest health service.

There used to be a clear dividing line between conservatives and liberals. It defined the culture wars of the late 20th century, which pitted reactionary fuddy-duddies against tolerant, enlightened types, who believed in equal rights for women, minorities and gays. That fault line is becoming as dated as the flower power of the 1960s.

By the time Terry Eagleton, a Marxist professor of literature * how quaint and old-fashioned that sounds * is laying into Martin Amis, the Mr Cool of British fiction, for remarks on Islam that supposedly make the son as racist as his father, Kingsley, "an antisemitic boor, a drink-sodden, self-hating reviler of women, gays and liberals", it is obvious we are into a wholly different culture war, between phoney and real progressives.

Wasn't one of Amis fils's main complaints about Islamic militants that they were "antisemites, psychotic misogynists and homophobes"? Confused? You are not the only one.

My own test for spotting a phoney liberal is as follows. If you think Bush is a fascist and Castro is a progressive, you are not a democrat. If you think cultural traditions can trump women's rights, you are not a feminist. And if you think antisemitic rants are simply an expression of frustration with American and Israeli policy, you have learnt nothing from history.

It is no longer possible to tell at a glance which side people are on. My husband, a photographer, has long hair and wears T-shirts and cargo pants. We live in stuffy Washington, where almost everybody wears a suit and tie but secretly longs to be artistic and hip. On the school run, nice lawyers confide to him that they hate George Bush, despise the Iraq war and are not as reactionary as they look. They are completely thrown if he tells them he dislikes Islamo-fascism more than Bush, is glad to see the back of Saddam Hussein, supports Nato against the Taliban and thinks the Iranian mullahs should never be trusted with a nuclear bomb. He considers himself an antifascist who believes in the secular values of the Enlightenment and human rights. There is nothing radical about being tolerant of the intolerant, he says.

On the other side of the looking glass, jeans-clad leftists are horrified that one of their own could possibly have anything in common with the dreaded neocons. Christopher Hitchens is a rock star among atheists, most of whom oppose the Iraq war. Last weekend, he travelled to Wisconsin to receive an award from the Freedom from Religion conference for his book God Is Not Great.

"In my acceptance speech I upbraided the audience by saying I could easily have got the impression that they thought the only threat to our society came from the Christian Coalition and possibly the odd Israeli settler," he says. "You would not have known from anything on sale, any T-shirt, any peaked cap, any book or pamphlet, that there was such a thing as Islamic fundamentalism."

They didn't like it. "I got the usual lame and bleating replies that, to the extent that if there was such a thing, it's been created by us," Hitchens says. One of the most indulgent forms of western narcissism is that everything is "all about me" * or, in this case, the West. Myopic liberals find it impossible to believe that radical Islam may have a dynamic of its own that threatens their values. "You cannot stand for multiculturalism if you represent a group that wants to kill all the Jews and Hindus. Shouldn't that be obvious?" Hitchens asks. "Martin [Amis] was saying, 'Look, there's a real problem here', and good for him.

"The name of the problem is religion, and there is only one religion that threatens us with this kind of thing . . . There is a reason people look askance at a mosque in their neighbourhood, and they are not mad or cruel or stupid or selfish or bigoted to worry about it."

Nick Cohen, whose book What's Left? has just been published in paperback, identifies progressives as antitotalitarian internationalists who subscribe to "some kind of universal values", as he puts it.

"The left are like old-style Tory imperialists, who believe rights are all very well for western Europe but not for Johnny Foreigner, and that the liberation of women is essentially for white-skinned women, not brown-skinned women," Cohen says.

A case in point is the treatment of  Ayaan Hirsi Ali,  the Somalia-born author of Infidel, who has received an astounding lack of support from liberals and the left. An article in Newsweek described her as a "bomb-thrower", when it is Hirsi Ali who faces death threats from real bomb-throwers merely for speaking her mind and has had to rush back to the Netherlands because its government will no longer pay for her bodyguards while she is abroad.

Natasha Walter, reviewing her book in The Guardian, wrote blithely: "What sticks in the throats of many of her readers is not her feminism, but her antiIslamism" - as if the two could be separated. It was Hirsi Ali's culture that led her to be genitally mutilated as a girl, and it was her Muslim former co-religionists who murdered her friend Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film-maker. Why should she remain quiet?

Irshad Manji, the Canadian Muslim feminist, is about to become Director of the new Moral Courage Project at New York University. "It's about developing leaders who speak truth to power within their own community," she says. "Ultimately it is about defeating self-censorship.

"Human beings are born equal but cultures are not," she believes. "They are human-made and for the most part man-made. There is nothing sacred about cultures and nothing blasphemous about reforming them."

When Amis said something a little more forceful along those lines at the Cheltenham literary festival, he set off a new firestorm. "Some societies are just more evolved than others," he said. Then last week on Channel 4 News, he said: "I feel morally superior to Islamists."

Note that he is not saying he feels morally superior to Islam - but to Islamists. Is it wrong to make such a judgment, when there is nothing immutable about culture and society?

Manji says: "I absolutely defend his right to believe that certain civilisations are superior to others," but adds the important rider: "In contemporary times he may be right, but in the past Islam gave birth to the Renaissance."

To my mind, Manji is a "moderate" Muslim, in that she still describes herself as a person of faith, but to many of her Islamic brethren, she is off the scale. Liberals have been too quick to accept as moderates Muslims who are nothing of the kind * except in comparison with the suicide bombers and theologians of Al-Qaeda.

"It's not a waste of time to search for the moderate Muslim, because there is a civil war within Islam between people who do and don't want to live under sharia," says Hitchens, "but there are a lot of counterfeits who are being seized on in our cultural cringe moment."

The chief cringers, he might have added, are the phoney liberals. The new culture war looks set to run and run.

 The Sunday Times.

© Copyright 2007  Times Newspapers Ltd.

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A small victory for Israeli legitimacy

Congratulations to Peace Now UK, for stopping a debate on a "one state" solution, thought it is not clear that the "open discussion" will be much better. It must've taken someone with a real sense of humor to invite Norman Finkelstein to defend Israel's right to exist.

Ami Isseroff

Oxford cancels one-state debate

Congratulations to Peace Now UK, for stopping a debate on a "one state" solution,

Oxford cancels one-state debate

Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post correspondent , THE JERUSALEM POST  Oct. 22, 2007

The Oxford University Student Union debating society has been forced to cancel a debate on the Middle East following the withdrawal of the proposers of the motion: "This House believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict."

Prof. Avi Shlaim of the university's St. Antony's College at Oxford, and Dr. Ilan Pappe and Dr. Ghada Karmi, both of Exeter University, were due to present the one-state solution at Tuesday's debate.

Norman Finkelstein, formally of De Paul University in Chicago, Peter Tatchall, a gay rights activist, and David Trimble, a former first minister of Northern Ireland, were due to present the case for a two-state solution. Shlaim and Pappe are both Israelis.

When Peace Now-UK co-chair Paul Usiskin saw Finkelstein's name on the team opposing the motion, he expressed concern that "a far-left detractor of Israel" had been chosen to defend the existence of the Jewish state.

He told the Student Union they were "seeking sensation over substance" and were denying a proper and balanced debate.

Following talks with Oxford Union President Luke Tryll, the union decided to drop Finkelstein and invited Usiskin to participate along with Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow of the Middle East program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, who is also Israeli.

Usiskin told The Jerusalem Post that a Jewish student informed him Sunday that the proposers of the one-state solution were disgruntled at his inclusion in the debate and demanding Finkelstein's re-invitation. When this was refused, Shlaim, Pappe and Karmi withdrew from the debate.

"They clearly thought they had it sown up," said Usiskin. "I believe they're desperate for another arena in which to deligitimize Israel, after the failure to begin the academic boycott of Israel - in which all three were key. What they expected was a clear field for a one-state solution as the start of creating that new arena. Those of us who believe in Israel and support a two-state solution remained steadfast and denied them their victory."

Instead of the debate, a discussion with student participation will take place, in what Usiskin described as a "more open forum where a free flow of views can be held."


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Iranian air-force buys the best - blue and white

Iran to buy from China 24 fighter jets based on Israeli technology
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

Iran has signed a deal with China to buy two squadrons of J-10 fighter planes that are based on Israeli technology, the Russian news agency Novosti reported Tuesday.

The 24 aircraft are based on technology and components provided to China by Israel following the cancellation of the Lavi project in the mid-1980s. The engines of the J-10 are Russian-made.

The total cost of the planes is estimated at $1 billion, and deliveries are expected between 2008 and 2010.

The estimated operational range of the aircraft, with external fuel tanks, is 3,000 kilometers, which means Israel falls within their radius of operation.

During the 1980s, Israel Aircraft Industries, along with U.S. firms, developed a multi-role aircraft that was considered the most advanced of its type at the time.

Following the development of a prototype, the Reagan administration stopped funding for the project, bringing about the cancellation of the joint project.

Israel then began selling some of the systems it had developed to various countries, including China.

Experts point out that even with these aircraft, Iran's air force is no match for Israel's or even Saudi Arabia's.

Some analysts expressed criticism at what they called Israel's "short sighted" and lax export policies.

This is not the first time Israeli components were part of weapons systems aimed at Israel. Some reports claimed that China sold Saudi Arabia long-range missiles containing Israeli know-how.

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One state non-solution

Honest Reporting reviews rhetoric about the One State Solution.
As the US-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis draws near and prospects for new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians continue to improve, the enemies of peace and normalization are renewing efforts to scupper progress. While Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian regime openly declare their intentions to destroy Israel violently, others advocate a more subtle approach to achieving the same goal.
One such method is the so-called Palestinian "right of return", which would see Israel flooded with Palestinians ultimately leading to the end of Israel through demographic means. Those who advocate the Palestinian return to Israel know that Israel's Jewish character would not survive the influx of several million Palestinian refugees.
While there is a virtual consensus among world leaders for a two-state solution, another "solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, insidiously sold in the language of peace, is the "one-state solution" or "bi-national state", as laid out in the op-ed columns of Australia's The Age. Sonja Karkar, president of Women for Palestine, responds to an op-ed by Colin Rubinstein (which was itself a rebuttal of a previous op-ed by Ghada Karmi):
While Dr. Karmi does say that Israel - as a "Jewish state" that necessitated the removal of the indigenous Arab population - should never have been created, she does not suggest that present-day Israelis must be removed. Instead, she argues that a single state, that is secular and democratic for all its citizens, offers much more hope for peace than a state based on Jewish exclusivity next to a truncated and utterly unviable proposed Palestinian state under Israel's vice-like control.
The solution Dr. Karmi proposes shows remarkable magnanimity considering the terrible human cost of Israel's venture. Her vision is to bring Palestinians and the now established Israeli-Jewish community together in one state so that justice can be served for both sides.
Accepted diplomatic efforts for peace are centered around a two-state solution - Israel and a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace and security. Yet, Karmi and Karkar's op-eds, along with a now canceled Oxford University Debating Society debate on the one-state solution, may indicate the beginnings of a new campaign to radically alter the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian discourse.
Why then is the one-state solution unacceptable?
At its most basic level, the one-state solution denies the right of Jews to self-determination in their historical homeland and calls into question the very legitimacy of Israel as a state.
A bi-national state would have the same consequence as the "right of return" - the negation of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians, by virtue of a higher birthrate, would turn Jews into a minority before voting in favor of another Muslim Arab state in place of Israel.
The one-state solution is therefore simply a thinly veiled strategy for destroying the State of Israel and questioning its right to exist. As Sol Stern and Fred Siegel have written in the New York Sun:
The "one state" solution is a euphemism for the destruction of the Jewish state - a trope of the most extreme rejectionist elements within the Palestinian movement and their allies in Syria and Iran. Terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah want to create an Islamic Republic in place of Israel.
Alan Dershowitz adds:
The one-state solution proposal now being made by Palestinian lawyers and some anti-Israel academics is nothing more than a ploy. It is designed to destroy the Jewish state of Israel and to substitute another Islamic Arab state. Those who advocate the single state solution would never do so with regard to India, the former Yugoslavia, or other previously united states which have now been divided on ethnic or religious grounds.
On a practical level, a one-state solution is simply unworkable. As Palestinian columnist Ray Hanania writes:
the two-state solution will always be the only option because the premise of "one state" where Christians, Muslims and Jews can live side-by-side and with equality, is fundamentally flawed.
It is a fallacy that can never be achieved not just because Israelis won't support it. The Arab and Islamic World don't practice it. Exactly where do Jews and Christians live in the Islamic World today side-by-side with equality? We don't even live side-by-side with equality in the Palestinian Diaspora.
The one-state solution is also proposed by those who refer to Israel as an "apartheid" state. Drawing upon this comparison, the example of post-apartheid South Africa is held up as a model for a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state. However, former anti-apartheid activist Benjamin Pogrund explains in detail, examining issues of economy, religion, third-party intervention, political culture, violence and leadership, why the South African model does not fit the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
While there are those who advocate a one-state solution as a means to destroy Israel, they are also aided by naive idealists. But, in a world where ethnically mixed states such as Yugoslavia have broken down in bloodshed, and Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia claim Muslim Arab exclusivity, why does the only Jewish state have to be the test case for a far-fetched utopian experiment? Why is Jewish self-determination in a state of their own illegitimate?
Send your considered comments to The Age - remembering to include your home address and day and evening phone numbers for verification.

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Amnesty International: Occupied Palestinian Territories: Palestinian factional strife fuelling abuses

AI Index: MDE 21/023/2007 (Public)
News Service No: 202
24 October 2007
Embargo Date: 24 October 2007 00:01 GMT
Occupied Palestinian Territories: Palestinian factional strife fuelling abuses
Interfactional fighting between Hamas and Fatah forces in the Gaza Strip earlier this year left 350 Palestinians dead and has been followed by further serious abuses in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.
The 57-page report, Occupied Palestinian Territories: Torn apart by factional strife, accuses Hamas of resorting increasingly to arbitrary detentions and torture since it took power last June in the Gaza Strip, and of allowing its forces to attack and assault peaceful demonstrators as well as journalists reporting on their protests. In the West Bank, the report blames security forces loyal to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas of arbitrarily detaining hundreds of Hamas supporters but of failing to take action against Fatah militants responsible for abductions, arson and other attacks.
"The leaders of both the PA and Hamas must take immediate steps to break the cycle of impunity that continues to fuel abuses, including arbitrary detentions, abductions, torture and ill-treatment by their forces," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East Programme Director. "The ongoing factional struggle between Fatah and Hamas is having a dire effect on the lives of Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, compounding and exacerbating the human rights and humanitarian crisis caused by Israeli military campaigns and blockades."
The report calls for the establishment of an independent commission of experts to investigate human rights abuses committed by both parties since the beginning of 2006 and for the leaders on both sides to commit to implementing its recommendations.
According to the report, Palestinian interfactional fighting in the Gaza Strip reached unprecedented levels during the past year, culminating in June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Palestinian Authority security institutions in the territory. It argues that both PA and Hamas security forces and armed groups displayed a flagrant disregard for the safety of the civilian population by launching indiscriminate attacks and reckless gun battles in residential neighbourhoods. This left civilians virtually trapped like prisoners in their own homes while dozens of unarmed bystanders who were not involved in the confrontations, including children, were caught in the line of fire.
The report contains harrowing accounts from victims of both sides and from residents who were directly affected by the waves of armed clashes which took place in the Gaza Strip in June and previous months: "For three days we could not leave the house. Gunmen had taken position on tall buildings and were firing rockets at each others. We feared that a missile could come through the window any time," a resident of Gaza City told Amnesty International in June 2007.
Rival security forces whose responsibility it was to uphold and enforce the law, and to protect the population, betrayed this responsibility and instead acted as partisans, in concert with armed groups that serve as their proxy militias, and themselves broke the laws and committed gross abuses with complete impunity.
President Abbas' decision to suspend the operations of PA security forces and judicial institutions in the Gaza Strip following the de-facto takeover of Hamas in Gaza has created a legal and institutional vacuum. This paved the way for Hamas to establish a parallel security and law enforcement apparatus - but one which lacks appropriately trained personnel, accountability mechanisms or safeguards.
As a result, arbitrary detentions and torture of detainees by Hamas forces are now widespread in Gaza, as are attacks against demonstrators and journalists covering such incidents. The initial improvements in the security situation which followed Hamas' takeover in Gaza are fast being eroded .
In the West Bank, human rights abuses by PA security forces are also rife, though much less well publicised - as the international community is seemingly unwilling to rock the boat ahead of forthcoming US-convened conference aimed at resuscitating the long-stalled peace talks between the Israeli government and the PA emergency government.
Hundreds of Hamas supporters or presumed sympathizers have been arrested and arbitrarily detained by PA security forces, violations of legal detention procedures are routine and reports of torture or other ill-treatment are becoming more frequent. Detainees are held in sites not authorized by law for this purpose and security forces frequently ignore orders the judges' orders to release detainees for lack of evidence.
The PA emergency government has failed to hold to account Fatah gunmen who abducted Hamas supporters and burned down their houses, businesses and charity organizations suspected of links to Hamas in the West Bank - even though the perpetrators of these attacks were often known in their communities and acted in full view of the security forces.
The arrest and detention of more than 1,000 presumed Hamas supporters, most of whom are not accused of any crime, stands in stark contrast to the PA's failure to arrest and bring to justice members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Fatah's armed wing, responsible for unlawful killings, hostage-taking, arson and other attacks against people and property.
"The lawlessness which has increasingly gripped the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years, culminating in the recent interfactional fighting, is to a large extent the result of the prolonged and systematic failure of the PA to uphold and enforce the law," said Malcolm Smart.
The report also calls on the international community to cease the sale or transfer of weapons to any parties until guarantees can be secured that they won't be used to violate human rights.
"The international community must hold all Palestinian parties accountable to the same human rights standards," said Malcolm Smart. "It must ensure that the population of the Gaza Strip is not punished for the positions and actions of the Hamas de-facto administration and that emergency assistance essential to fulfilling fundamental human rights is never used as a bargaining tool to further political goals."
Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web:
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Annapolis prospects: Bad vibes for Israeli-Palestinian peace from analysts

The future of the Middle East may reach a crucial junction at the Annapolis meeting planned for November. Looking at the different actions and statements of leaders, and at reactions of analysts  Eran Lerman, Oded EranYossi AlpherDaoud Kuttab and Ghassan Khattib, we are forced to conclude that prospects for success are dismal, and at the same time, nobody seems to realize the stakes
The Palestinians are still stuck on making making unrealistic demands and not even considering that they need to think about concessions. The Palestinian rhetoric of 2007 doesn't sound much different from the rhetoric of 2000.  Alone among the Israeli analysts,  Yossi Alpher seems to realize the consequences that may ensue if the negotiations fail. Eran Lerman and Oded Eran, like the Israeli government, seem to be counting on coming up with some meaningless bumph that will give the conference an artificial flavor of "success." The conduct of the negotiations is reminiscent of the Lebanon war, when Ehud Olmert and his cohorts continued to make bombastic statements about war aims up to the last minute, and then tried to sell the meaningless UN resolution as a successful solution. For Americans, failure of this meeting may seal the fate of their position in the Middle East. Since they could not mop the ocean of Iraq, the Americans proposed instead that they could dry it up by squaring the circle of Israeli-Palestinian peace. When they can't do that either, they will lose the confidence of every state in the region, except possibly Israel, which can't be choosy about allies. For Palestinians, failure of the Annapolis meeting will probably mean failure of the government of Mahmoud Abbas. That would leave them with two possibilities: utter chaos or rule by the Hamas. Failure of the Abbas government would be disastrous for Israel. The nightmare of missiles launched against aircraft at Ben Gurion airport, is forecast by those who don't want to make concessions, but it could well be braought about by failure of this meeting.
Israeli analysts are right that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seems to have had no clue what she was risking when she proposed this conference. Yossi Alpher's assessment that she is out of her depth is unfortunately correct. She made a mistake, and she has no clue now about how to fix it. Someone had better do some hard thinking, before it is too late.
Ami Isseroff

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Yiddish in Lithuania

"Nahas" from an unexpected source. ("Nahas" in Yiddish, or "Nachat Ruach" in Hebrew means 'Satisfaction' - approximately. Like many Yiddish expressions, it does not lend itself to good translation.) It is mixed "Nahas," since it is difficult to understand why Jews would want to continue to live in Lithuania. Some people like to live dangerously I guess, or perhaps it is the perverse streak in the Jewish people noted since the time of Moses.
Ami Isseroff
By Patrick Lannin and Nerijus Adomaitis 37 minutes ago
VILNIUS (Reuters) - If you are having a shmooze over some nosh, but maybe you do not like schmaltz then, whether you know it or not, you are talking Yiddish.
Though the language -- known to Jews as the mame-loshn or mother tongue -- has made inroads into English, it has all but died out in daily use in its homelands of eastern Europe.
This includes Lithuania, which was once home to more than 200,000 Jews. But now schools and universities are trying to spread Yiddish again.
"Yiddish is a key to the rich culture of eastern European Jews, the heritage of European culture," said Roza Bieliauskiene, a former engineer who teaches at Lithuania's only Jewish school -- named Sholom Alecheim after the famed Yiddish writer whose stories inspired the "Fiddler on the Roof" musical.
"I feel a very rich person by knowing this language."
The school has 260 pupils, between the ages of seven and eight. Children take only one hour of Yiddish a week, starting at age 15, in a small step towards reviving the language.
Yiddish was originally seen as the language of women and children as opposed to the holy tongue of Hebrew that was studied by men, earning it the name mame-loshn, literally a mother tongue for Jews.
Yiddish writers also include Isaac Bashevis Singer, the only Yiddish writer to win the Nobel Literature Prize, in 1978. It was once spoken by about 13 million Jews in eastern Europe from all walks of life, but the combined effects of the Holocaust and Soviet repression caused a drastic fall.
At the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, founded in 2001 and the only one of its kind in eastern Europe, Professor Dovid Katz is keeping the flame alive with more than talk of matzo balls, gefilte fish and schmaltz (which is Yiddish for chicken fat).
"Our institute is committed to real Yiddish, rather than the touch and the feel and the sound and the cooking," he said.
He said non-Jews were more interested in learning the language than Jews: "There is an interest, some of it superficial, some of it deeper."
The language is a mishmash -- itself a Yiddish word -- of German, Aramaic, Hebrew and Slav, but written in Hebrew characters. The word Yiddish means Jewish.
Estimates vary widely of how many people speak Yiddish worldwide today, ranging between about two to four million. It is mainly the language of everyday use among Orthodox Jews. Otherwise, it is mainly spoken by older people.
Emigration took it to the United States: New York still has a Yiddish weekly, The Forward (Forverts), and there are many Yiddish sites on the Web.
Its rich history in Lithuania came from the fact that Vilnius, or Vilna in Yiddish, was a strong regional Jewish centre. Jews from Lithuania had their own name, Litvaks.
Vilnius -- once known as "the Jerusalem of Lithuania" -- used to be home to the Yiddish Institute of Learning (YIVO), which had the largest collection of Yiddish books in the world but which moved to New York in 1940.
Much of the heritage was lost when Nazi forces marched into Lithuania and the other Baltic states during World War Two, killing much of the Jewish population.
Today, only between 4,000 and 5,000 remain in Lithuania and Yiddish was dealt further blows in the former Soviet Union due to pressure to speak Russian.
Even the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 did not help, because Israel adopted Hebrew as its official language.
But Simon Gurevicius, 26, has a passion for Yiddish -- he learnt it from his grandfather and speaks it as a native language.
"It (Yiddish) was like on a heart machine, the signal was at the lowest level for a long time, but now it is picking up again," said Gurevicius, sitting in the headquarters of Lithuania's Jewish community in downtown Vilnius.
"There is too much that we would lose if we lose the language," he added.
Perhaps more typical of young people, eighth-grader Katerina Soldatova, 15, is less enthusiastic. She already has to deal with learning Lithuanian, Russian, Hebrew and English.
"It is only history," she said dismissively after her Yiddish class.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Israel and India - Remaking the face of Asia?

India and Israel could be the partnership that remakes Asia. Israel can be India's gateway to the European market. India can be Israel's industrial partner, making it possible to produce Israeli designs in India for a mass market. India also can have the industrial muscle to develop and manufacture things like jet engines, projects which are impractical and noncompetitive for a country of 7 million people and hardly any natural resources.
This article, one of a series appearing in the Hindustan Times, is a welcome sign that Indians are becoming more and more interested in Israel.
Pay attention to India, for it is our future. 
Ami Isseroff

Like all dreamers, Israeli entrepreneur Harel Cohen had an idea to change the world — well, to be precise, India.

"It's one of the world's biggest countries, it will be the world's biggest economy in 40 years," said Cohen, 37, an amiable, strongly built former Israeli army officer. "But with 22 languages and 10 scripts, India doesn't have enough Indian-language keyboards."

An e-mail and a flight to India in 2004 got him into the door of Vijendra Shukla, head of language technology at the government-run Centre for the Development of Advanced Computing in Noida and a pioneer in the development of Indian-language software.

Cohen is now CEO of FTK Technologies, which has a simple but smart way of programming keyboards for different languages: fit a webcam on a laptop to intuitively track the user's fingers and create a "virtual" keyboard on screen, which mirrors the keystrokes of the real keyboard.

At the click of a mouse, it can switch from Kannada to Urdu or eight other languages. Indian words that took two minutes to type, now take 20 seconds.

It was December 2005 when, like hundreds of entrepreneurs who populate the tech hubs around Tel Aviv, Israel's throbbing business capital, Cohen flew to New York. Within hours he sold his idea to a private investor. "I don't think he's ever been to India," said Cohen of his investor. "He said, 'it's bound to be good, there's one billion people there.'" It was as easy as that. "There's a lot of money in Israel for ideas," Cohen said. "That's how it goes."

People like Cohen are packing the flights to India and fuelling a spiralling but largely unknown trade beyond diamonds and secretive defence buys --  India is now Israel's biggest arms customer, with $5 billion (Rs 2,000 crore) in purchases, officially, since 2001--  to infotech, security systems, drip irrigation, even television shows.

Annual trade is expected to touch $5 billion, a 46 per cent rise since 2006.

"We've been around for 24 years, but only recently have we become sexy," said Anat Bernstein-Reich (42), deputy chairperson of the Israel-India Chamber of Commerce, over lunch in downtown Tel Aviv.

Bernstein-Reich has an office and an Indian partner, Alfred Arambhan, in Sherly Rajan village in Mumbai's upmarket western suburb of Bandra. A mother of three, she advises Israelis on conducting and developing business in India and her firm, A&G Partners, has interests that range from investment banking to Bollywood.

Israelis want to profit from India's great leap forward, Indians seek opportunities in one of the world's high-tech hubs. Over the last year, Mumbai's Mansaria group has bought over Israel's largest tyre manufacturer, Sun Pharma, has bought a stake in Israel's largest pharma company, Jain

Irrigation from rural Jalgaon in Maharashtra has bought into a drip-irrigation company, a field in which Israel is a world leader.  

In another high-tech hub in the town of Petah Tikva --  in the late 19th century the first Jewish immigrants fought malaria and began life here in what was then Palestine -- Associate Vice-President Giora Reish said his company, Gilat Satellite Networks, is bidding for one of India's largest telephone expansions, a tender issued this month by state-run BSNL to link 14,000 villages.

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It's always the fault of the JEWS

An unsurprising headline: Turkey blames Jews for genocide bill. It seems that the Jews are going to be blamed for the Armenian genocide one way or the other. Armenians blame Jews and Israel for NOT supporting their claim, historically justified, that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians in WW I. Turks blame the Jews and Israel for not doing doing enough to stop the US congressional resolution on the Armenian genocide. "Everyone" knows after all, that the Elders of Zion and the "Tel Aviv Government" control the United States, right? So everything the US does must be the fault of the Jews. Supporters of Turkey's position also like to point out that ambassador Morgenthau, who did much to make Americans aware of the massacre, was a "Zionist."
Add to this the ineptitude of the ADL, which reversed its position and managed to alienate both the Turks and the Armenians. And add to all of that, inevitably, an anti-Semitic fantasy that has been circulating for some years, claiming that the Jews actually committed the genocide! A long document circulating on the Web claims that Talaat Pasha who comitted the massacre, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, who is blamed for it (though he had nothing to do with it) were Jewish. The same document informs us that Adolf Hitler was a "Zionist."
Taken together, it is thus easy to understand how "the Jews," who actually had nothing to do either with the massacre of the Armenians or the Turkish suppression of it, are inevitably blamed for it.
Ami Isseroff

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The fight for desegregated buses is not over

Why do we allow this?
Haredi Youths Assail woman on bus
Oct 21, 2007 13:45 | Updated Oct 21, 2007 22:32

A haredi woman was attacked on a Beit Shemesh bus by five haredi youths Sunday for refusing to move to the back of the bus, police said.

SEPARATE SEATING for men and women on Egged bus lines is becoming more prevalent as haredi families increasingly move to outlying areas.

The woman, who was seated at the front, asked an IAF soldier to sit next to er for protection. The attackers then turned on the soldier.

"They started beating me murderously," the soldier said in an interview.

The midday attack on the Egged 497 bus culminated in a clash between several dozen haredi men and police.

During the melee, the suspects fled and the rioters were dispersed by  police,  no injuries  were reported in the incident, but the tires of a police vehicle were punctured.

In the haredi community, men and women traditionally sit separately on buses. Some bus lines that serve the haredi public exclusively are segregated by sex, with the women sitting at the back.

Last year, a 50-year-old American-Israeli woman making her way to the Western Wall was beaten on a Jerusalem bus for refusing to move to the rear of the bus. The woman, Miriam Shear, was slapped, kicked, punched and pushed by a group of men who demanded that she sit with the other women in the back of the city bus, which was not one of the segregated lines.

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Palestinians enter Israel as fake Police

Last update - 13:19 23/10/2007

Palestinian smugglers arrested driving makeshift Police vans

By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondent

Beit Shean Police on Monday arrested two Palestinians attempting to smuggle 40 illegal Palestinian workers into Israel in commercial trucks that had been painted to resemble Police vans.

The drivers, both residents of East Jerusalem, had gone so far as to fit the trucks with fake police lights and sirens.

The trucks were stopped by Police after they drove through a checkpoint in the northern Jordan Valley with sirens and lights blazing. Police at the checkpoint became highly suspicious of the makeshift Police vans and pulled them over.

After a brief check, Police found that one driver was wanted by Police and the other was driving on a suspended license. When they opened the trucks, Police found around 40 illegal Palestinian workers crammed into the storage bays.

Beit Shean Police Commander Shimon Ben Sabo stated that it was probably not the first time the men had entered Israel in this fashion and that they are taking the incident very seriously as the two could easily have been transporting terrorists

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Is Egypt cozying up to Hamas?

What is more worrisome, is Egyptian ties to the US...
Government concerned over Egypt-Hamas ties
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff , Haaretz Correspondent Last update -
08:11 23/10/2007

The government and defense establishment are becoming increasingly concerned over the closer ties Egypt and the Hamas government are forging in the Gaza Strip and over Egypt's turning a blind eye to continued smuggling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli government and defense delegation to Cairo recently protested Egypt's allowing gunmen to enter the Strip from its territory.

At the beginning of October Egypt allowed some 85 Hamas militants to enter the Gaza Strip from Sinai after a wait of a few months. The group reportedly included experts in manufacturing bombs, rockets and mortars, who had undergone extensive training in Iran and Lebanon.

The Palestinian media later reported that the group, which entered the Strip via Rafah and the Philadelphi Route, had been allowed to return in exchange for turning over an Al-Qaida activist from Sinai, whom Hamas had apprehended in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli ministers who visited Cairo during the past few weeks have also raised Jerusalem's concerns at meetings with senior Egyptian officials.

Egypt claims that Israeli soldiers are taking part in weapons smuggling from its territory. According to Palestinian sources, dozens more gunmen are expected to cross into the Strip from Sinai, including some who were trained in Iran.

Meanwhile Israel continues to gather intelligence on smuggling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip, which has greatly increased since Hamas has taken over power. Recently released information indicates that no less than 1,650 RPG rockets and some 6,000 bombs have been smuggled into Gaza since the beginning of the year.

Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet security service, told the cabinet meeting Sunday that an estimated 73 tons of explosives have been smuggled into Gaza through tunnels since June. Millions of bullets for light weapons and tons of potassium, used to manufacture bombs, have also crossed the Gaza-Sinai border.

Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip have said recently that intensive talks are underway between Hamas and the Egyptian security forces over Hamas' request to allow approximately 100 wounded Palestinians into Egypt to receive medical care. Most of the injured are Hamas members, some of whom were hurt in clashes with Fatah or the Israel Defense Forces.

Hamas Health Minister Bassem Na'im said Monday that Egypt had not yet responsed to the request.

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Artificial "Humanitarian crisis"

'Hamas is creating humanitarian crisis to pressure Israel'
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 22, 2007
Hamas is unnecessarily endangering Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip by generating phony humanitarian crises, head of the Gaza Coordination Liaison Administration (CLA) Col. Nir Press said Monday.

On Sunday night, Gaza's Shifa Hospital claimed that due to tight Israeli restrictions on imports into Gaza, it had run out of anesthetic for surgeries, and as a result had canceled all but the most critical procedures.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Press dismissed the claims and said that in a meeting he held Sunday afternoon with Palestinian Health Ministry officials he was informed that the hospitals were running "low" on the anesthetic. On Monday morning, less than 24 hours after making
the request, Israel transferred 151 nitrous oxide gas balloons to Shifa Hospital.

"It is the Palestinians' responsibility to order the supplies," Press said, noting that despite the daily rocket attacks on Israeli towns - on Monday 10 rockets and shells pounded the western Negev - Israel continued to transfer medical goods and supplies into Gaza whenever they were ordered.

Press said that orders were usually placed by the Palestinians days in advance and that Sunday's sudden announcement "was a spin by Hamas and an attempt to put pressure on Israel by creating a humanitarian crisis."

He said that the incident resembled Palestinian claims a few months ago that due to Israeli restrictions on the crossings they ran out of gas needed to operate the Gaza power plant and as a result large parts of the Strip were left without electricity for several days. Also then, Press said, Hamas unnecessarily disrupted Palestinian civilians' lives to try to create an image that a humanitarian crisis was developing in Gaza.

"These are examples of how Hamas wants to create humanitarian crisis," he explained. "They wait until the last moment and then tell us they are running out of supplies so they can create this image of a crisis."

While Israel was preventing the transfer of raw materials into Gaza - such as pipes that could be used to manufacture Kassam rockets - Press said that any order of medical supplies or food was immediately processed. He said that the CLA also allowed a number of Palestinians to cross from the Gaza Strip into Israel for medical treatment daily.

Meanwhile Monday, in an effort to improve health conditions in the West Bank, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yusef Mishlav allowed 120 Palestinian medical students to enter Jerusalem to complete their studies. Some of the students are from the Gaza Strip and have been studying medicine for the past six years at Al Quds University.

The Foreign Ministry also approved a plan to train Palestinian medical teams at Hadassah-University Hospital, Ein Kerem. Under the plan, Palestinian doctors, nurses and technicians will be trained at the Israeli hospital and in addition receive a monthly stipend of $643.

On Thursday, a joint Palestinian-Israeli conference on gynecology and childbirth will be held at the French Hospital in Nazareth. The IDF has allowed 50 Palestinian doctors to enter Israel to attend the conference.

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An impression of Israel

Some errors here - "Calid Ben David" is Caleb Ben David, but it interesting to see how others see us.

Inside the Promised Land
By Samar

First 5,576 Qassams. That's the number on the roadside billboard. There's a crudely painted green rocket spewing bright-red flame.

In Sderot, central Israel, they count the explosives-stuffed rockets that rain on them.

You can see the rusted, mangled remains of the Qassams fired this year, stored neatly in racks behind the Sderot police station. A close look reveals the frustration, anger and hatred that drive the makers of the rockets.

The rockets are no more than water pipes, the threadings clearly visible. Some have slogans in Arabic, some are painted red and green, the colours of Sderot's neighbours, the Palestinians who live in the city of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza strip, an area 41 km long and between 6 and 12 km wide, stuffed with 1.4 million Palestinians governed by the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas.

Some Qassams are painted yellow, the colours of Islamic Jihad, an extreme Al-Qaeda affiliate whose driving ambition is to exterminate Sderot — and Israel.

Sderot is the latest frontline of what is now one of world's most enduring conflicts and rift between two peoples.

It is also the story of how 7.5 million people of varying races and cultures have Judaism and high-technology — more than half the world's Nobel laureates have been Jewish — to forge an advanced nation that flourishes in the midst in a largely hostile Arab-Muslim neighbourhood of about 300 million.

Sderot was established in 1955 in the then-emerging, tenuous land of Israel (it declared independence from British rule in 1948). Many of Sderot's Jews came, ironically, from Arab countries like Morocco, Iran, Yemen and Iraq.

It's a neat working-class town with children and families. Its people have nowhere else to go, so they reinforce their rooftops, and the high-tech Israeli army floats balloons, eyes-in-the-sky, with infra-red cameras that peer into Beit Hanoun night and day.

But the rockets keep coming. "We don't really have a defence," explains Calid Ben David, a writer with the right-of-centre English-language Jerusalem Post. "Qassams are in the air for only a minute." So if the ground radars and air balloons pick up a Qassam launch, loudspeakers across Sderot blare: 'Code Red!'

Townsfolk in houses have maybe 30 seconds to rush into a reinforced 'safe room'. Outside, they just lie flat. The length of a cricket bat, Qassams are like mortar shells. They cannot be aimed. That's why no more than 12 people have died since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip two years ago.

But the steady rain of Qassams has left Sderot nervous and tense. "So far, we have found only one way to stop the Qassams," says David. "We kill them (the Palestinians)."

David is referring to the Israeli policy of 'targeted killings', using technology and air power to find and kill individual Gaza fighters. But the problem is bystanders, including women and children, sometimes die in these strikes; just one of many troubles that the Gazans must live with. Israel is their economic lifeline, but with the borders now closed, it is hard to record their daily misery. Trade between Gaza and the main Palestinian territories of the West Bank (along the River Jordan) flourished before the Israelis sealed off Gaza, its only contact to the outside world being through a 7-km border with Egypt. Lorries pile up at checkpoints, and a trip that should take two hours can take up to four days. An estimate in The Economist says that sending a container to Gaza now costs $5,000 or Rs 2 lakh. Sending a container to China costs $800.

David, a lean, neat American immigrant with a strong New York accent, argues that targeted killings of Palestinians are "the most humane solution". He says: "Of course we can fire artillery into the Gaza Strip, but that will kill many civilians."

David is not a government spokesman, but like so many Israelis who cheerfully perform multiple roles — many that Indians would consider demeaning — he also works with the Israel Project, an American-Jewish organisation that calls itself a "non-profit, non-partisan organisation impacting world opinion to help achieve security and peace for Israel". It is, clearly, strongly allied with the government. David has conducted more than 75 "intellicopter tours", as the Project calls free helicopter tours for journalists and opinion-makers from around the world. His colleague on today's flight is Leah Soibel, a former (or possibly still serving) military intelligence officer. An attractive woman in her 30s, Soibel is an Argentinean immigrant who is doing a PhD in "Arabic public diplomacy". She speaks Arabic, English, Spanish, Hebrew and is learning Persian. She talks with authority of the 500 or more websites run by Hamas. It emerges gradually that she's an expert in cyber-terrorism. Today, she's a guide.

As the helicopter wheels east in the warm, afternoon air over highways, orange farms and a sprawl of concrete housing high-tech industry, Israel's small size — a combat jet can go from north to south in three minutes — and utter lack of elbow room between Palestinians and Arabs is apparent. At Herzelia, where the helicopter has lifted off, the Israeli-held corridor is just 7 km wide.

All through the helicopter flight, Jewish and Palestinian settlements are sometimes as close as Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate or Bandra and Mahim — sometimes, as in the 2,000-year-old disputed capital of Jerusalem, it is impossible to extricate Arab and Jewish neighbourhoods.

That's why, despite one of the world's most efficient defence forces (every Israeli has to serve two years in the military), the country has lost hundreds to attacks and suicide bombings by Palestinian zealots. So have the Palestinians, to thousands of Israeli incursions.

That's why Israel is now throwing up a controversial wall, variously called separation barrier, anti-terrorist fence, or simply the wall. Part wall, part wire-mesh fence, built partly on land taken from the Palestinians, the barrier will stretch 730 km: about half is now complete, sometimes cleaving villages and town into half.

To the Palestinians, the barrier has become a symbol of their isolation and unending sorrow. To the Israelis, it has meant a sudden peace from a once-endless rash of suicide bombings. Streets across hardworking, hard-partying Tel Aviv and holy Jerusalem are dotted with numerous memorials to victims of Palestinian human bombs.

Not forgetting tragedy, learning its lessons and weaving it into the national Judaic narrative create the modern Israeli. On the shore of the Dead Sea, on the eastern fringe of the Judean desert, atop a sun-browned plateau, whopping groups of schoolchildren — among them Ethiopian, Indian and European faces — fall silent.One of many passionate part-time guides, some of whom are professional archaeologists, explain how the palatial fortress — now a lovingly restored world heritage site — of Masada, the last bastion of Jewish freedom fighters, fell to the Romans amid the violent destruction of the Biblical kingdom of Judea 2,000 years ago. "Masada shall never fall again!" declare postcards at the foot of the mountain, accessible by a vertiginous cable car.

That metaphor of Jewish determination is evident too among the hushed young soldiers, most teenagers, who stockpile their M-16 automatic rifles before visiting Yad Vashem, an immaculately documented museum to the Holocaust, when six million Jews were put to death by the Nazis. Also here are colonels and wing commanders, sent to remember why they defend what they do and why they cannot ever fail.

When they do fail, the grief is deep, enduring — and silent. In an open, breezy farmhouse-cum-art-studio between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the walls are covered with photographs of and by Itay Steinberger, a 21-year-old soldier who died two years ago in the clumsy war — by Israeli standards it was a failure with 180 soldiers dead — that left Hizbollah, the Islamic Lebanese group, badly bloodied but intact.
Frieda Steinberger, a ceramic artist, and her husband Arik, a dentist, explain how their son, while trying to save a wounded colleague, took a direct hit from a shell. They are hospitable, serving nuts and liqueurs under a starry sky. Later, after midnight, Arik talks of how they coped. "You have to learn to walk again, you have to learn to talk again," he says quietly. "You have to learn to live again."

(Samar was in Israel on invitation of the Israeli government for six days)

Courtesy Hindustan Times

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Awareness of Jewish refugees from Arab Countries - H. Res 185

This is an action item for American citizens, information for everyone else. Jewish refugees from Arab lands are often forgotten in discussions of the Middle East settlement and Arab Israeli peace. Anyone who is concerned about justice cannot forget that about 800,000 Jews left Arab lands as a result of the conflict. While some left willingly, many left under duress, losing their property and businesses, particularly in Iraq and Egypt.
For some more background on the issues, see
The forgotten Refugees
Jimena has posted the action alert below regarding House Resolution 185, which would call for inclusion of Jewish refugee rights on the agenda of the upcoming peace conference. While Congressional resolutions do not generally have a practical direct effect on foreign policy, they do help raise public awareness of the issue. It wouldn't hurt to make sure US presidential candidates are aware of this issue as well.  

Action Alert! -
Call Chairman Lantos and urge him to send H. Res 185 to the full house!
(202) 225-5021  

In a word association game, if people are given the words "Middle East refugees" – overwhelmingly most will respond – "Palestinians." Yet, there is another population that were made refugees from the Israeli-Arab conflict, a group usually not considered – the Jews from Arab countries. Chairperson, of the San Francisco-based Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa.

The Bush Administration will be hosting a Middle East summit in mid-November. Invited guests are the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian National Authority. There will likely be three main issues on the table -- refugees, Jerusalem, and borders. JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) is concerned that the "Forgotten Refugees" of the Middle East conflict, the almost one million Jews forced or compelled to flee from nine Arab countries, will again be forgotten. This is why we are urging Congressman Tom Lantos, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to send House Resolution 185 to the full House.

This bill states in part that, "any resolutions relating to the issue of Middle East refugees, and which include a reference to the required resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue, must also include a similarly explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of Jewish refugees" from Arab countries.

No just, comprehensive Middle East peace can be reached without recognition of, and redress for, the uprooting of centuries-old Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa by Arab governments hostile to the State of Israel.

The international response to Middle East refugees was differential and disproportionate. Since 1948, over 101 resolutions have been adopted by the United Nations on Palestinian refugees. Not one of these 101 UN resolutions specifically mentions the plight of Jews displaced from Arab countries.

In all relevant international bilateral or multilateral agreements, (such as UN Resolution 242, the Road Map, the Madrid Conference, etc.), the reference to 'refugees' is generic, allowing for the recognition and inclusion of all Middle East refugees - Jews and Palestinians.

The call to secure rights and redress for Jews who were forced to flee Arab countries is not a campaign against Palestinian refugees; nor is it about initiating legal proceedings to seek compensation. It is a legitimate effort to ensure that the plight of ALL Middle Eastern refugees be placed on the international political agenda as a quest for truth and justice and that their rights be secured as a matter of law and equity.

It would constitute an injustice were the United States to recognize rights for one population - Palestinian refugees - without recognizing equal rights for other refugees of that very same Middle East conflict - Jews from Arab countries.

The United States must ensure that all relevant bi-lateral and multi-lateral discussions, and documents, refer to the multiple refugee populations precipitated by the Arab-Israeli conflict and that any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees is balanced by a similar explicit reference to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

The U.S. brokered Middle East Summit in mid-November provides an historic opportunity to establish principles that should govern any negotiations. While it is unlikely that a substantive peace will come from the summit, it is important that discussions on all issues – refugees, Jerusalem, borders; – be based on principles of law and equity.

Congressman Lantos co-sponsored such a resolution during the last two sessions. His role now as Foreign Affairs Committee Chair is critical. He needs to now work for adoption by the committee, and passage by the House before the scheduled November Middle East summit. This would send an important message to the President that the principle of including Jewish refugees as part of the modern Middle East narrative is fair, equitable and indeed necessary for the integrity of any peace negotiations.

In a February 2007 resolution the Israeli Cabinet underscored the continuing need to document the losses of the Jews from Arab countries and appointed a Minister of Restitution and Human Rights to oversee the work of an inter-ministerial committee – including the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs – that would coordinate governmental efforts to secure rights for Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

We want to ensure that the resolution moves forward from the Foreign Affairs Committee to the full House. If adopted by November, it would send a strong statement to guide the U.S. approach to the issue of Middle East refugees.

Please call Congressman Lantos at (202) 225-5021 and let him know that this is an issue of urgency and importance to our entire community. Without the full and equal inclusion of all parties affected by the Arab-Israeli conflict there can be no lasting peace.
Justice for Jews from Arab Countries and B'nai B'rith International, worked with the Congressional Human Rights Caucus to plan the briefing.  JIMENA participated in the preparation and coordination of Ms. Bublil-Waldman's testimony.

In addition to the above, a JIMENA mailing informs us that Lantos's conditions for moving the bill out of committee have been met, with co-sponsorship by 25 representatives including 10 from the House Foreign Affairs committee. Here is the list:
Co-Sponsors for House Resolution 185 
Original Sponsors:
Rep Nadler, Jerrold (D-NY)
Rep Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana (R-FL)
Rep Ferguson, Mike (R-NJ)
Rep Crowley, Joseph (D-NY)                                 

House Resolution on
Middle East refugees (H.Res 185)

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the creation
of refugee populations in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf region as a result of human rights violations

Subsequent  Sponsors:     
* - Foreign Affairs Committee member
Chairmain Tom Lantos -*
Rep Berkley, Shelley [NV-1] - 4/20/2007
Rep Berman, Howard L. [CA-28] - 3/7/2007 *
Rep Brady, Robert A. [PA-1] - 10/15/2007
Rep Burton, Dan [IN-5] - 2/27/2007 *
Rep Chabot, Steve [OH-1] - 5/17/2007 *
Rep Cleaver, Emanuel [MO-5] - 10/3/2007
Rep Cohen, Steve [TN-9] - 9/5/2007
Rep Engel, Eliot L. [NY-17] - 9/4/2007 *
Rep Eshoo, Anna G. [CA-14] - 5/9/2007
Rep Hastings, Alcee L. [FL-23] - 8/3/2007
Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA-15] - 3/5/2007
Rep Israel, Steve [NY-2] - 9/4/2007
Rep Kirk, Mark Steven [IL-10] - 3/1/2007
Rep Linder, John [GA-7] - 9/4/2007
Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14] - 9/17/2007
Rep McNulty, Michael R. [NY-21] - 10/16/2007
Rep Pence, Mike [IN-6] - 6/12/2007 *
Rep Rothman, Steven R. [NJ-9] - 3/5/2007
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] - 3/5/2007
Rep Schiff, Adam B. [CA-29] - 7/27/2007
Rep Schwartz, Allyson Y. [PA-13] - 2/27/2007
Rep Sherman, Brad [CA-27] - 10/17/2007 *
Rep Watson, Diane E. [CA-33] - 9/4/2007*
Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30] - 4/16/2007
Rep Weiner, Anthony D. [NY-9] - 2/27/2007
Rep Wexler, Robert [FL-19] - 9/20/2007*
Rep. Brad Sherman [CA-27] - 10/17/2007 *

Continued (Permanent Link)

Mazuz: Olmert will bring any declaration of principles for Knesset approval

That is in Jerusalem Post, a language close to English. What it means is that according to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, PM Ehud Olmert has committed to bringing any joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration of priniciples reached at the Annapolis conference to the Knesset for approval, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said Monday, responding to a petition by MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud.)

OK, so why didn't Olmert say it? And what does it mean? Doesn't it mean that any paper that will be presented will not be called a "declaration of principles" to avoid getting Knesset approval? Wouldn't it be better in any case, to put any such declaration to the test of a referendum, by both Palestinians and Israelis? That way, there can be no recriminations at a later date.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Evangelical Christians bring Iranian Jews to Israel

This is how it should be, no? But why should Jews need to be paid to come to Israel?
Last update - 11:38 22/10/2007    
By Associated Press
Evangelical Christians in the U.S. have brought dozens of Iranian Jews to Israel in recent months, offering cash incentives and claiming that Iran's tiny Jewish community is in grave danger.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a charity that funnels millions of dollars in evangelical donations to Israel every year, is promising U.S. $10,000 to every Iranian Jew who comes to Israel, said the group's director, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
The project is another example of the alliance between the Jewish state and evangelical American Christians, many of whom see the existence of Israel and the return of Jews to the Holy Land as a realization of Biblical prophesy that will culminate with Christ's Second Coming.  Advertisement

But an Iran expert said the money would not be enough to draw Iranian Jews, who do not perceive themselves to be in grave danger.
Eckstein said his group has helped bring 82 Jews to Israel from Iran since the project began this year, and hopes to bring 60 more by year's end.
About 25,000 Jews are left in Iran, the remnants of a community with origins dating to biblical times. Most Iranian Jews left for Israel or the U.S. over the last 50 years. Israel and Iran are staunch enemies and do not have diplomatic relations.
Repeated calls by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Israel to be wiped off the map, coupled with Iran's reported nuclear weapons program, represent danger, Eckstein said.
"Is this not similar to the situation in Nazi Germany in the late '30s, where they (Jews) also felt they could weather the storm?" he asked. Instead, 6 million were killed in the Holocaust.
The charity, based in Jerusalem and Chicago, has raised $1.4 million for the project, Eckstein said. The IFCJ initially offered $5,000 per immigrant, but doubled the amount when response was lower than expected, he said. Immigrants also receive government aid upon arriving in Israel.
One of the recent arrivals, a 31-year-old widow with three children, said she was not in danger in Iran but was concerned for her children's future.
At the end of the day, this is the place for the Jewish people, she said, referring to Israel. She is living in the southern port city of Ashdod.
Though she claimed to have felt safe in her hometown of Isfahan, she asked that her name be withheld to protect family remaining in Iran.
The grant from the IFCJ was what enabled her to come to Israel, she said.
Most Jews in Iran have heard about the grant through word-of-mouth and Israel Radio's broadcasts in Farsi, she said.
Iranian government officials would not comment on the new project.
Iran's Jewish community is technically protected by the Islamic, Republic's constitution, and has one representative in a 290-seat parliament, which is controlled by Islamic clerics.
In a speech at Columbia University in New York last month, the Iranian president insisted that Iranians are friends of the Jewish people. There are many Jews in Iran living peacefully with security.
But the community has led an uneasy existence under the country's Islamic government. In 2000, Iranian authorities arrested 10 Jews, convicted them of spying for Israel and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from four to 13 years. An appeals court later reduced their sentences under international pressure and eventually freed them.
Generally, Jews are free to practice Judaism inside Iran, said Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli analyst whose family emigrated from Iran in the 1980s. Iranian Jews, however, are increasingly concerned about the intensity of attacks on Israel by the Iranian press, which they view as bordering on anti-Semitism, he said.
Such attacks have not led to a mass exodus from Iran, because the majority of Iranians are hospitable to the Jews and most Jews there are well off, Javedanfar said. However, he noted, the level of concern has increased recently because of Ahmadinejad's statements.
Javedanfar said the IFCJ's aid likely won't be enough of a lure to entice Iranian Jews to move to Israel, because most Jews in Iran are economically comfortable. Property values in Tehran have doubled in recent years and are still increasing, he said.
This is not the first time evangelical Christians have taken part in bringing people to Israel. Eckstein's charity also played a role in funding the immigration to Israel of 7,000 members of the Bnei Menashe, a group in India claiming descent from one of the Biblical lost tribes of the Jews.
The charity's evangelical donors, who tend to have hardline political views, see encouraging Jewish immigration as a way of strengthening the country in the face of Arab threats.
The IFCJ is one of the most prominent examples of Israel's alliance with evangelical Christians, who have become among the country's most generous donors and most enthusiastic political supporters.
The ties have been welcomed by many Israelis but criticized by others. Some Israelis believe the country should not align itself with a group seen as an extreme element of American society, while others have charged that the evangelicals' goal is ultimately to convert Jews to Christianity, a charge the evangelicals deny

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Son of Yigal Amir returns

About a quarter of Israelis have been convinced by Barry Chamish that Yigal Amir didn't assassinate Yitzhak Rabin, or at least that is what they want to believe. But he did do the deed, as he admits, and he is proud if it. 
And now he will have a son. From this headline, we can see what sort of son it may be, and how he will be educated:
In the Bible, we find this in 1 Samuel 20:30: Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman.
"Ben Na'avat Hamardut."
Capital punishment has its uses.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Overcoming prejudice - Together we learn to read and write

How many are old enough to remember this?
"A child is black
A child is white
Together they learn to read and write"
In Israel, school integration has another social dimension. Israeli Jews desperately need to learn Arabic in order to end our isolation from the Arab world, and to ensure that everyone can udnerstand everyone else.
The article states:
"...Neither is the multicultural atmosphere which many of the religious Jewish neighbors don't care for....  
"It's a mixed school and it doesn't sit well with a religious neighborhood," one of the residents told Haaretz, requesting anonymity. "If this were a normal school then there'd be no problem. The same goes for a yeshiva, of course. It's the mixing between Jews and Arabs that's the problem. The rest pales in comparison."
Another woman echoes this sentiment. "The Arabs have their own villages. That's where they should go study. Not here in the middle of a Jewish neighborhood," she said. "I've got nothing against Arabs, but why do they have to go to school with Jews? It will only lead to assimilation that will begin at an even earlier age because of this school."
What religion is that? It must be the religion of Sodom. Before you go off Israel-bashing, however, try to find out how many mixed Jewish-Arab schools there are in Saudi Arabia or Syria.
Ami Isseroff

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Rabbi Sacks vs Multiculturism

Headline: U.K. chief rabbi: Multiculturalism is a threat to liberal democracy

Rabbi Sacks seems to think women have a different culture, like Hindus or Muslims. Some of what he said needed to be said, though perhaps a rabbi is not the person to say it:
Multiculturalism promotes segregation, stifles free speech and threatens liberal democracy, Britain's top Jewish official warned in extracts from his book published Saturday.

Jonathan Sacks, Britain's chief rabbi, defined multiculturalism as an attempt to affirm Britain's diverse communities and make ethnic and religious minorities more appreciated and respected. But in his book, "The Home We Build Together: Recreating Society," he said the movement had run its course.

"Multiculturalism has led not to integration but to segregation," Sacks wrote in his book, an extract of which was published in the Times of London. 

"Liberal democracy is in danger," Sacks said, adding later: "The politics of freedom risks descending into the politics of fear."

Sacks said Britain's politics had been poisoned by the rise of identity politics, as minorities and aggrieved groups jockeyed first for rights, then for special treatment.

The process, he said, began with Jews, before being taken up by blacks, women and gays. He said the effect had been inexorably divisive.

Blacks, Jews, Gays?? How strange that he left out Muslims! Also strange to think of women as a separate culture. But shorn of the intellectual confusion, there is a point to considering that the mutli-cultural segmented society (a Middle Eastern model) is not conducive to an integrated and egalitarian society. It is a medieval model. Hassidic rabbis and Imams take note.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Preparing for the worst: Israel's missile defense

Israel To Develop Top-Tier Missile Interceptor
By BARBARA OPALL-ROME Posted 10/22/07 18:22
TEL AVIV - While Israeli political leaders may still harbor hope of diplomatically dismantling Iran's nuclear program, Ministry of Defense (MoD) officials are forging ahead with plans to develop new top-tier defenses against doomsday-like threats should diplomacy fail.

"Unlike the diplomats and politicians, we don't have the luxury of hope," a senior military planner here said. "Our job is to anticipate the most extreme, worst-case scenarios and make sure we're prepared to handle them."

Defense and industry officials say the prospective top-tier defensive layer - known here as Arrow-3 - requires development of an entirely new interceptor capable of blunting potentially devastating salvo attacks by nuclear-tipped Iranian missiles. Preliminary MoD plans envision the exo-atmospheric Arrow-3 as the nation's future front line of active defense, with the operational Arrow-2 deployed as a second-echelon guard against lesser threats and so-called leakers.

The planned upward extension of Israel's defensive envelope promises more opportunities to intercept incoming missiles, thereby boosting success rates - or so-called kill probabilities - from current levels of more than 80 percent to "somewhere in the very high 90s," said the planner, a general officer in the Israel Defense Forces.

"After careful analysis, we've come to the conclusion that we need an upper layer," said Arieh Herzog, director of the MoD's Israel Missile Defense Organization. "Our requirement is now quite clear: We need to give ourselves more chances to intercept the threats we will face."

Herzog said he is confident that existing Block 3 and new Block 4 upgrades of the Arrow-2 are now capable of defending against current and projected near-term threats. But for the longer term, given the specter of synchronized launches of increasingly high-performance nuclear-tipped missiles, the top tier becomes imperative, he said.

Looking at All Threats

In a preliminary conceptual design study conducted over the past year or so, Herzog's team and experts from the Israel Air Force examined options for defending against future threats. Options included more Arrow-2 upgrades and the U.S.-planned Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system."What we discovered is that THAAD is an excellent system, and I'm sure
whoever uses THAAD will derive great benefit from it. But in our specific case, it cannot fit our requirements," Herzog said.

According to Herzog, Israel's operational force of Arrow-2 and PAC-2 systems now provide the type of high-low mix that the MoD plans to recreate - through Arrow-2 and the proposed Arrow-3 - for future, far more sophisticated threats.

"Right now, with Arrow-2 and existing Patriot systems, we have a good solution against the Scud-family of threats from Iran, Syria and other points in the region," he said.

The Israeli missile defense boss said security classification prevented him from discussing specific reasons that his evaluation team ultimately disqualified the THAAD. He said, however, Israeli professionals are discussing the top-tier report and the new Arrow-3 with counterparts from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

He said MDA support for the prospective interceptor is critical, not only for the considerable funding anticipated from Washington, but because of the need to share data and subsystem technologies over the life of the program.

"We've not yet decided how much year-by-year funding each side must earmark for the program, and we'll probably need to sign new documents about how technical information should be handled," Herzog said. "But I hope by the end of this year, all these details will be sorted out and we'll be able to say we have a real program."

He estimated it would take at least five years and "several hundred million dollars" for the first Arrow-3s to become operational.

Herzog said the new interceptor would use the same radar, battle management and other supporting systems developed for Arrow-2, helping to keep interoperability up and costs down.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will remain the prime contractor and lead integrator for the prospective Arrow-3 program, Herzog said.

In interviews here, industry sources said IAI has already begun negotiations with Boeing Missile Defense Systems to extend the co-production partnership begun in 2003. Boeing produces nearly 40 percent of Arrow-2 components under a complex, U.S.-funded government-to-government teaming agreement managed by Israel's MoD and the Arrow program office in Huntsville, Ala.

Two-Part Iran Strategy

Israel's two-pronged strategy for countering the Iranian threat was clearly evident last week, with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Moscow pushing harsher sanctions on Tehran and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Washington drumming up support for strategic cooperative initiatives.

In an Oct. 16 Pentagon meeting focused largely on the Iranian threat, Barak and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed to collaborate jointly on multiple layers of anti-rocket and anti-missile defense. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the two sides agreed to establish a committee to evaluate Israel's proposed Arrow-3, as well as new developments aimed at halting "Palestinian rockets coming from Gaza."

Barak also reaffirmed Israel's "understanding" of multibillion-dollar arms packages planned for Arabian Gulf states as part of Washington's Iran-focused Gulf Security Dialogue, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. The Iranian threat also dominated discussions Barak held with U.S. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and key congressional leaders, Israeli sources here said.

Meanwhile, Olmert was attempting to persuade Russian President Vladmir Putin of the need for get-tough sanctions favored by Israel, the United States and many leading European states. In three hours of one-on-one deliberations - which included presentation of the latest Israeli intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program - Olmert managed to offset some of the Russian-Iranian solidarity exhibited during the Russian leader's visit to Tehran earlier last week, an Olmert aide said.

Yet key issues remain open, including pending Russian arms sales to Iran and Syria, the aide said. And while Putin "expressed genuine interest in understanding our security concerns," the aide said Moscow remains opposed "at this time" to sanctions.

Earlier last week, following meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Putin rebuffed U.S., European and Israeli calls for sanctions and insisted he had seen no convincing evidence to counter Tehran's claims that ongoing nuclear efforts are for peaceful, energy-related purposes. In an Oct. 16 news conference in Tehran, he upbraided Bush, French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy and other world leaders for even hinting at use of a military option to solve the dispute.

Israeli officials are taking comfort in Washington's commitment to deny Iran nuclear weapons.

They are also intensifying efforts in China, where they are appealing for support - or, at least non-active objection - to sanctions. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is scheduled to visit Beijing later this week in attempts to persuade Chinese leaders not to veto resolutions planned for introduction in the U.N. Security Council.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Islam and the scientific revolution - a critique

Hereunder is the last of Fjordman's three articles about Islam, Greeks and the Scientific revolution that are supposed to represent the Wisdom of the West about the East.
The other parts are here:
I am sorry for the size of this magnum opus, which will discourage those used to brief Web logs and articles. It is bad manners to pour out so many words in a Web log.  
I confess that I have reproduced these three articles out of the duty to consider views with which I disagree, so that I understand why I disagree. If you find them a torture, comfort yourself that such intellectual exercises are "good for the soul," like learning to conjugate Latin verbs. If you are looking for profound intellectual stimulation, you might do better watching Southpark.
They look like important intellectual documents. They mention important people like Pirenne, and Aristotle, and Martin Luther and even Albert Einstein. They remind us of things we know or ought to know: the invention of printing is related to the invention of paper, but printing was perfected only in the West; the Chinese and Arabs invented many things, but the inventions were only used by the West, and the like. We know all that, and we should not forget it. But do they tell us anything new, or anything about Islam?
As a brief review of the history of the rise of technology, they are not entirely without merit, though there are surely better ones (H.G. Wells Outline of World History for one). I won't comment much on Fjordman's views on the diffusion/importation of printing, gunpowder and the compass as opposed to their independent invention. I am not qualified to do so, and Fjordman, if he relies on sources like Wikipedia, may not be qualified either. In any case, if there was a reason for his discussion of that issue, it escapes me entirely. These three essays are mostly about Islam versus the West and specifically, why Islam failed to modernize, and that is what concerns us.
As an account of the fact that Muslim society failed to undergo modernization, whether it is called reformation, scientific revolution or industrial revolution, they pale beside Bernard Lewis's lucid and detailed accounts in numerous books and articles. A thesis doesn't qualify as worthy of intellectual merit just because it mentions a great many facts or quotes from intellectuals, or even because it is boring. An essay can be excruciatingly pedantic and chock full of minutiae and yet have less explanatory merit than an episode of The Simpsons. But Lewis, while he doesn't ever tell us why it went wrong, gives, in his earlier books, an erudite chronicle both of the glories of Muslim and the fact of its eventual failure. And Lewis is never boring.
As an explanation of why Muslim society failed to industrialize, or "What Went Wrong," Fjordman's trilogy is lacking. As I wrote in the introduction to the first installment of this work, nobody really knows what causes differences in development between human civilizations, or really what "causes" any history. Fjordman tells us that Islam failed to modernize because Allah is an illogical God, whereas Jehovah and the Christian Trinity are logical gods (or a logical God). He writes:
In my view, this failure to see the connection between cause, science and a free society, and effect, technological progress, stems from a fundamental flaw in the Islamic way of looking at the universe: They see no connection between cause and effect because their entire religious world view is based on the notion that everything is subject to the whims of Allah, and that there is no predictable logic behind anything. As Hugh Fitzgerald frequently says, this resigned Inshallah-fatalism ("If Allah wills it, it will happen") greatly inhibits progress of any kind. The ultimate irony and tragedy is that Muslims move to infidel societies in order to enjoy the commodities and consumer goods produced there, yet immediately set out to destroy the conditions which created these advances in the first place, political freedom and manmade laws.
Indeed! Ignoring the syncretic fallacies of the above logic, let's consider the empirical facts only. A visitor from Mars to the planet Earth about 700 AD would have had a quite different impression of the relative merits of Western and Muslim civilizations and their theologies. In the north of the British isles, he would have met the ancestors of James Watt, not thinking of inventing any steam engines, mostly naked and illiterate. Had he been lucky, he would have enountered the cream of British intellect: the Venerable Bede, writing his history, in which he chronicles all the instances in which holy water calmed angry seas, the bodies of dead saints did not decay, and sinners were punished by the plague. Bede's chief concern was that Easter must be celebrated at the proper time, since celebrating it at the wrong time would most certainly lead to hellfire and eternal damnation. Likewise, if priests got the wrong sort of haircut, according to Bede, they would be denied afterlife. This was the sort of "causality" beloved of Christian Europe until the modern age. At least, Bede was literate, a rare accomplishment.
As for natural phenomena, such as plagues, earthquakes, famines and eclipses - - these were all the works of an inscrutable God. Had he ventured further north, our visitor would have encountered the ancestors of Fjordman, in their skins and Viking boats, getting ready to plunder England and Ireland and everywhere else. Thus England and Scandinavia. In continental Europe proper at this time, there was more or less utter chaos, slightly better than Scandinavia only because of the remnant of Roman civilization left there. It was so desperately bad that even the reign of the illiterate Charlemagne, yet to come, was to be considered a great improvement.
This same visitor, had he chanced upon Muslim Spain, or visited the Caliphate in Baghdad, would have found physicians, mathematicians, philosophers, literati, comparative cleanliness and great buildings. Very likely he would have attributed this difference to the logical nature of the Muslim religion as opposed to the illogicality of the Nicene creed and its insistence that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son, and also was the progenitor of the Son, that there are there three Gods, but only one God and so on.
Fjordman tells us:
"Certainly the Muslim world exhibited an active and sustained opposition to movable type technologies emanating from Europe in the fifteenth century and later. This opposition, based on social, religious, and political considerations, lasted well into the eighteenth century. Only then were presses of European origin introduced into the Ottoman Empire and only in the next century did printing become widespread in the Arab world and Iran. This long-term reluctance, the disinterest in European typography, and the failure to exploit the indigenous printing traditions of Egypt certainly argue for some kind of fundamental structural or ideological antipathy to this particular technology."
Our Martian visitor, had he come back to Europe a few centuries after Bede, could disabuse Fjordman of his enthusiasm for European culture. Had printing been introduced in Europe much before it emerged, the practitioners would most certainly have been hanged, especially if books had been printed in a language that people could understand. The distribution of a vernacular Bible by Wycliffe and his followers was quickly stamped out by an act of Parliament: De Heretico Comburendum. People who possessed such bibles were burned at the stake. Could our Martian have predicted that within 300 years, this nightmare of medieval bigotry would give birth to Newton and the scientific revolution? The arithmetic manipulations that Jewish rabbis had invented to calculate the end of days according to the mysteries of the Kabala, with the help of Arabic digits, would gradually be transformed into a workable system of arithmetic operations. Anyone who has seen what long division looked like in the Middle Ages, knows that the invention of simple ways to do division and other such lowly tasks was an essential step on the road to modern civilization.
That was not all, for many other wondrous transformations were to take place. The ancestors of Einstein believed that the seat of the conscience was in the kidneys and that study of anything but Talmud was sinful. But in the nineteenth century, Jewish society too was to undergo its own partial reformation and produce a series of intellectual giants.  
Our understanding of all these currents and processes is poor enough, but Fjordman is triply and unnecessarily handicapped. As he is a conservative, he is careful not to come to close to anything that might smack of Marxist analysis. There is no mention in these essays of the rise of the middle class, for example (only a passing reference below to a "merchant class" - not the same thing), which would appear to be a necessary part of modernization. It is difficult to write about the modernization of Europe without writing about the emergence of the middle class. It is so difficult, that Fjordman deserves great credit for that alone. Like one who succeeded in making a bridge without steel, using only cheddar cheese, his achievement is at most an admirable effort, but it can hardly be expected to support any automobile traffic.
Fjordman also has a rather interesting view of the history of science in Europe. He writes of Islam:
This failure was intimately linked to the Islam's hostility towards innovation and freethinking. In contrast, the Christian and Jewish religions proved more receptive towards new ideas. At the very least they were not as aggressively hostile to logic as was Islam, and in certain situations even facilitated it.
Why then, if Christianity was not aggressively hostile to logic (actually - presumably Fjordman means to empiricism - not the same thing) was Galileo forced to recant the heliocentric thesis?
Judaism had no political power, though they managed to persecute Spinoza. But as long as Catholicism had political power, all such heresies as heliocentricism and evolution would be banned, and Christian fundamentalism is still warring with scientific research. In some places, science is still fighting - and not necessarily winning - a battle for evolution and big bang theory versus Christian fundamentalist creationism.
Fjordman's third great handicap is what makes these essays popular among a certain political element. He is not writing to explore the truth. He is writing because he believes he can prove some point about the inherent inferiority of Islam. That appeals to many people, but essays and researches written "to prove a point" never really do that. They just keep the crowd happy. 
Science must serve truth and art must serve art. When either tries to serve politics, they suffer. That is, obviously  equally true of "scholarship" that attempts to justify the opposing viewpoint. 
Islamophobes will find much satisfaction in Fjordman's work. The conclusion of these three essays pours out indictment after indictment on the hapless followers of the prophet. Some of it follows in some sense from the groundwork laid in previous essays, but some is just gratuitously chauvinistic generalization:
Muslims failed to develop clocks and eyeglasses and were actively hostile to printing, yet immediately embraced gunpowder and firearms (though the development of the latter soon stagnated, too). I think this highly selective view of technology tells us something about their mentality: They didn't see the value in printing, but they liked gunpowder since it could be used to terrorize and intimidate non-Muslims. Infidel technology is primarily interesting if it can be used to blow up other infidels. Sadly, I'm not so sure Islamic mentality has changed significantly in the 800 years since then. During the past few decades, globalization, Muslim immigration to the West and the massive influx of petrodollars to Muslim nations with huge reserves of petroleum have enabled Muslims to acquire or buy technology they are unable to develop themselves. The result, along with a huge demographic increase in Muslims which is again caused by infidel advances in medicine, has been a tidal wave of Jihad sweeping across the world. The lesson for non-Muslims should be: If you provide Muslims with technology and know-how, this will not be used to create peaceful and prosperous societies; it will be used to kill or subjugate you.
Actually, Muslims "embraced" gunpowder and modern weaponry because they perceived that they were about to be wiped out by the West. The stimulus for modernization of the Turkish army was the landing of Napoleon in Egypt, not any Jihad on the West. It was the "Saracen" infidels who were about to be wiped out. Defensive weaponry is always a priority in societies. It will be remembered that the United States government was completely uninterested in German rocket technology until the Soviets started sending up satellites. Congress, uninterested in financing a trip to the moon, asked Edward Teller what scientists expected to find there. Teller's answer was to the point:
America sent men to the moon. If stem cell research could be used for a new weapon, President Bush would allow it. As it can only save lives, it is banned as sinful in the West, while Iran is free to forge ahead in this field. So much for logical and peaceful and tolerant Western Christianity versus illogical, bellicose and fanatic Islam.
Following Commodore Perry's visit, the Japanese, like the Muslims after Napoleon, perceived that they were hopelessly behind the West. The Japanese, like the Muslims, quickly learned to make weapons before just about anything else. But unlike the Muslims, the Japanese had iron and coal and could make steel. The Muslims had neither, and the use of oil was as yet unknown. That is more likely the explanation of the great difference between Islamic society and modern industrialized societies.
In a more or less non-sequitor, Fjordman marches to his inevitable conclusions:
"The problems faced by the West now in confronting Jihad have been facilitated by a failure of our education system, our media and indeed our entire society to uphold the ideal of critical thinking. If the rise of the West was linked to political liberty, rational thinking, free speech and universities championing free enquiry, the decline of the West can be linked to the decline of the same factors."
After explaining the infallible superiority of the West for three long articles, Fjordman now tells us the system is no good after all. For all their faults, the evil and narrow minded Muslims may triumph over the liberal and tolerant West:
I'm also not convinced Europe's Islamization is inevitable, yet, but if present trends continue, maybe we will see a reversal of roles in the twenty-first century: China will prosper and Europe will disintegrate. In the meantime, however, when Muslims get their hands on Western technology and Europe's accumulated wealth, the world from Britain to Thailand could be plunged into a new age of Jihad.
It is not clear how any of this relates to what came before. How can the Muslims, who don't "get" science according to Fjordman, harness it to their Jihad? That is, assuming all Muslims want a Jihad, in the bad sense of Jihad?
If the Muslims are to conquer Europe, won't they need modern societies, with compulsory education and mass literacy? And won't that, inevitably, lead to the downfall of extremist religious ideas, if not to democracy? If Americans adopt the credo of Fjordman's conservative allies in the United States, and ban the teaching of evolution, will that serve progress and science?
Can anyone be blamed for suspecting that the man began by writing the conclusion, "Islam is no good, but it is going to take over the world," and then wrote three essays full of verbiage to try to justify the conclusion?
Here then, is part three. Caveat Lector. Don't take any wooden intellectual nickels from neo (or paleo-) conservative theorists.
Ami Isseroff

The great British expert on Chinese science history Joseph Needham has written about how the "four great inventions of China," the compass, printing, papermaking and gunpowder, were exported to the rest of the world. Although Needham is good at writing about technology, he doesn't always provide sufficient evidence of transmission for these inventions. Only one of them, paper, can be said with absolute certainty to have reached the West as a fully developed product. According to Professor T.F. Carter, "Back of the invention of printing lies the use of paper, which is the most certain and the most complete of China's inventions."
As Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin write in The Coming of the Book, "It would have been impossible to invent printing had it not been for the impetus given by paper, which had arrived in Europe from China via the Arabs two centuries earlier and came into general use by the late 14th century." In the period from 1450 to 1550, Europe was becoming covered with paper mills. The traditional parchment was expensive and not well suited for mass production.
During the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, the reformers wanted the Bible to be available in the common language, not in Latin. Martin Luther thus helped shape the modern German language. As scholar Irving Fang states in the book A History of Mass Communication, "Vernacular printing also led French readers to think of themselves as being part of France, and English readers to regard themselves as part of England."
In some ways, we are witnessing a reversal of this trend towards nationalization now with global communications and the rise of English as an international lingua franca. Febvre and Martin believe, though, that about 77% of the books printed before 1500 were still in Latin, with religious books still predominant. This gradually gave way to secular books and other languages, but "it was not until the late 17th century that Latin was finally overthrown and replaced by the other national languages and by French as the natural language of philosophy, science and diplomacy. Every educated European then had to know French." They estimate that about 20 million books were printed in Europe before the year 1500, and that "between 150-200 million copies were published in the 16th century. This is a conservative estimate and probably well below the actual figure." This is even more impressive if we remember that Europe of that day was far less populous than it is now and that only a minority could read. There was obviously a change then, and a swift one, compared to the slow, expensive and sometimes inaccurate process of copying each individual book by hand.
Printing did have a major impact in East Asia, but it didn't trigger quite the same revolution as it did in the West. Buddhism came to Japan via China and Korea, and Buddhist monks also brought with them, in addition to tea and thus the basis for the elaborate Japanese tea ceremonies, other aspects of Chinese civilization, among them printing in the eight century. Yet until the late sixteenth century the Japanese printed only Buddhist scriptures. Europe also benefited from having a more diverse book trade than China and from having more competition in general.
As Irving Fang states, "Printing had not disturbed the monolithic Chinese empire. The introduction of printing in mid-fifteenth century Europe might also have made little headway if Europe were not ripe for change." According to him, the "establishment of European universities from the twelfth century onward marked the end of the 700-year-old Monastic Age. The more secular age that followed saw the emergence of a literate middle class and a rising demand for books of all kinds."
Movable type printing had been invented in China by Bi Sheng around 1040, but it never gained widespread popularity. The nature of the Chinese language with its nonalphabetic script presumably didn't help. To solve this dilemma, in the first half of the 1400s the Korean King Sejong the Great encouraged book production and ordered his scholars to create an alphabet for the common people as opposed to the complicated Chinese script with its thousands of characters. They produced hangul, "Korean letters," a phonetic system inspired by other alphabetic scripts, among them Sanskrit.
Movable type printing with metal types and an alphabetic script was thus in use in Korea before Gutenberg began printing Bibles in Germany, but there are no indications of a connection between what happened in Korea and what happened in Europe. The geographical distance is too big and the time difference too small to make such a connection likely. The Chinese used baked clay for their characters, and only started employing metal types after their use in Europe. Gutenberg was a goldsmith and naturally created his letters out of metal.
According to Fang, "What Gutenberg produced that did not exist in Asia was a printing system. Most obvious among its elements were controlled, exact dimensions of alphabet type cast from metal punches made of hardened steel. These were not unlike the dies, stamps, and punches that were well known to European leather workers, metalsmiths, and pewter makers."
Although possible, no link between the Eastern and the Western printing traditions has ever been conclusively proven. The different nature of the systems involved has caused many historians to believe that printing was developed in Europe independently of Asia. In contrast, we know with 100% certainty that Muslims were familiar with East Asian printing. The Mongols left a trail of devastation across much of Eurasia in the 1200s, but their vast empire did open up unprecedented opportunities for cultural exchange. As scholar Thomas T. Allsen shows, however, being exposed to foreign ideas doesn't necessarily mean that you will adopt them. Local scholars often clung to the inherited tradition. He uses Russia at the time of Peter the Great as an example where some elements of that society were fanatically opposed to all innovation while others enthusiastically embraced all things foreign. Allsen has described how the authorities in Iran under Mongolian rule in 1294 attempted to introduce Chinese-style printed banknotes, but failed, despite severe threats, due to massive popular resistance:
"Certainly the Muslim world exhibited an active and sustained opposition to movable type technologies emanating from Europe in the fifteenth century and later. This opposition, based on social, religious, and political considerations, lasted well into the eighteenth century. Only then were presses of European origin introduced into the Ottoman Empire and only in the next century did printing become widespread in the Arab world and Iran. This long-term reluctance, the disinterest in European typography, and the failure to exploit the indigenous printing traditions of Egypt certainly argue for some kind of fundamental structural or ideological antipathy to this particular technology."
I am definitely not a believer in technological determinism, but some technologies do have a greater impact than others. One of the most important inventions ever made has to be printing. Surely it is no coincidence that the Scientific Revolution decisively took off in Europe after the introduction of printing, just as it is not a coincidence that the one civilization that came closest to a similar breakthrough, China, was the one where printing had first been invented. It is likely that the rejection of printing alone set the Islamic world back centuries vis-à-vis non-Muslims.
As David Crowley and Paul Heyer write in Communication in History: Technology, Culture, and Society, "Traditionally, the view has been that printing, along with numerous other developments, marked the transition between the end of the Middle Ages and the dawn of the modern era. However, the more we study this remarkable invention, the more we realize that it was not just one factor among many. Although we hesitate to argue for historical 'prime-movers,' certainly the printing press comes close to what is meant by this term. It was a technology that influenced other technologies - a prototype for mass production - and one that impacted directly on the world of ideas by making knowledge widely available, thereby creating a space in which new forms of expression could flourish. The repercussions of the printing press in early modern Europe did not come about in an inherently deterministic manner. Rather, they resulted from the existence of conditions whereby print could enhance a context receptive to its potential."
The spread of printing in East Asia was intimately connected to the Buddhist religion, just as it was used in Europe to print Bibles. Yet while Buddhists, Christians and Jews eagerly embraced this new technology, Muslims stubbornly rejected it. The contrast is striking if we compare this to how eagerly Muslims embraced another Chinese invention: gunpowder. Gunpowder wasn't the first chemical substance used in warfare.
According to legend, "Greek fire," a feared weapon in its time, was invented in the seventh century by Callinicus, a refugee from the Arab conquest of Syria. It was successfully used to defeat sieges by Arab Muslims of Constantinople in 674 and in 718, and helped the Byzantine Empire to survive for as long as it did. Its qualities appear to be somewhat similar to modern napalm. James R. Partington suggests in his book A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder that it consisted of a mixture of "sulphur, pitch, dissolved nitre, and petroleum." The term "Greek fire" is a misnomer as the Byzantines called themselves Romans. The greatest revolution in the history of warfare, however, came with the introduction of gunpowder. According to Dr James B. Calvert, professor of engineering, "The fundamental inventions of gunpowder and cannon had been made by 1300, but the sources are rare, difficult to interpret, hard to date, and often contradictory. The best guess is that gunpowder followed quickly after saltpetre was discovered (that is, a process for its purification was developed) by Chinese alchemists around AD 900 and introduced to Europe via trade routes and travellers around AD 1225, and that cannon were invented in southern Europe just before AD 1300."
One of the problems in determining this accurately is that Chinese writers can be just as ethnocentric as Western ones, sometimes more so. There is some debate whether gunpowder was invented independently in several regions, but most historians have settled for the explanation that it was first manufactured in China. Gunpowder (black powder) consists of charcoal, sulphur and potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, and was impossible to create until you could manufacture saltpeter with a high degree of purity. This was a specialty of Chinese alchemists quite early. The discovery reached the Middle East and Europe, probably via the Silk Road, and became known as "Chinese snow." Black powder remained the principle explosive until the nineteenth century, when the invention of unstable nitroglycerine made it possible for Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel to patent the more stable version of dynamite in 1867, and accumulate the great wealth which was later used to fund the various Nobel Prizes.
In the thirteenth century, the English Franciscan friar Roger Bacon, as well as the German Dominican friar Albertus Magnus, both theologians and scientists with an interest in alchemy, mention a recipe for gunpowder. The Mongol conquests spread the knowledge of the fire-lance, a gunpowder-filled tube made of bamboo which could fire various projectiles, across Eurasia. The development of this weapon stagnated in China proper. According to James B. Calvert, "The place and time of the invention of the cannon is unknown, but its evolution from the fire lance among the Turks, Arabs and Europeans can hardly be doubted. (…) The earliest use of cannon is not definitely known, but occurred sometime between 1300 and 1350. The use of cannon spread rapidly between 1350 and 1400."
Cannon were used during the Hundred Years' War between France and England, and Turkish Muslims successfully employed prolonged bombardment by massive Hungarian-made cannon during the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 to breach the walls of the city. Joel Mokyr, professor at the Department of Economics at Northwestern University and author of The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy, writes about innovation and economic history. According to him (pdf), glass, although known in China, was not in wide use as tea was drunk in porcelain cups and the Chinese examined themselves in polished bronze mirrors. Islamic countries had a significant glass industry, yet they never came up with spectacles: "Tokugawa Japan had a flourishing industry making glass trinkets and ornaments, but no optical instruments emerged there either until the Meiji restoration [from 1867]. Not having access to the Hellenistic geometry that served not only Ptolemy and Alhazen, but also sixteenth century Italians such as Francesco Maurolico (1494-1575) who studied the characteristics of lenses, made the development of optics in the Orient difficult." The earliest known lenses were made of rock crystal, quartz, and other minerals, and have been used in Eastern and Western lands since ancient times. There is evidence that lenses were known in the Greco-Roman world. They have been used as burning glasses and magnifying glasses for centuries, and so-called reading stones were in common use during the Middle Ages, for instance the Visby lenses, lens-shaped rock crystals of high quality from in a Viking grave in Gotland, Sweden. The oldest one we know of is the Nimrud lens, found in modern Iraq. Estimated to be almost three thousand years old, it indicates that the ancient Assyrians did have some basic understanding of optics. Iraq, seat of the Sumerian, Akkadian and Assyrian kingdoms, is home to one of the world's oldest astronomical traditions. Babylonian astronomy greatly influenced many subsequent cultures, Middle Eastern, Greek and Indian, and the sexagesimal (based on the number sixty) numeral system of the Sumerians is still with us today, in the form of sixty minutes to the hour and 360 degrees in a circle.
The Iraqi-born scientist Ibn al-Haitham, known in the West as Alhacen or Alhazen, had a powerful influence on several Western scientists. Alhazen was a pioneer in the scientific method by basing hypothesis upon systematic observation. He is most commonly remembered for his great contributions in the field of optics, where he pondered the nature of light, speculated on the colors of the sunset and described the qualities of magnifying lenses. His eleventh century Book of Optics was translated into Latin during the late twelfth century, and left a significant impact on Roger Bacon and others in the thirteenth century.
Bacon was educated at Oxford and lectured on Aristotle at the University of Paris, the intellectual center among the small, but growing number of European universities. His teacher, the English bishop and scholar Robert Grosseteste, was a proponent of validating theory through experimentation. Roger Bacon wrote about many subjects, including optics, and was among the first persons to argue that lenses could be used for the correction of eyesight. He asserted that "philosophy is the special province of the unbelievers," and urged scholars to learn Arabic.
The Chinese experimented with lenses and mirrors, too, and produced a type of sunglasses, or eyeglasses with colored lenses. However, these appear to have been mainly for decorative purposes and possessed no corrective properties. The science of optics stagnated in China after initial advances. The first fully developed spectacles were made in Europe, in Northern Italy from the late thirteenth century onwards. The American scientist and inventor Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals in the eighteenth century, during the early years of the United States.
In 1572 Freidrich Risner printed some of Alhazen's work on optics, as well as a work by the thirteenth century Polish friar Witelo which was similar to it, and thus made Alhazen widely known to new generations of scholars. Notable among them was the German astronomer Johannes Kepler. Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who died in 1601, was perhaps the most meticulous astronomer of the pre-telescopic era. During the final year of his life, Brahe passed on his observations of Mars to Kepler. These precise notes were important for Kepler's work on planetary motion, but another breakthrough that could verify his thesis was soon to come.
As corrective lenses for near-sightedness became more sophisticated, the demand for high quality glass lenses grew. In the Netherlands in the seventeenth century, Baruch Spinoza could make a decent living as a skilled lens grinder while working on his philosophical theories. This was during the Dutch Golden Age when the country was a refuge for many groups suffering from religious persecution, for instance Huguenots (Protestants) from France. Spinoza descended from Jews who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal following the Reconquista. The production of spectacles opened up new arenas for optics. A Dutch eyeglass maker, Hans Lippershey, is said to have created the first practical telescope and made it publicly available in 1608.
Within a few months of the news, Italian scientist Galileo Galilei had made his own telescope, and became the first person to turn the new invention towards the sky, discovering the four major moons of Jupiter in 1610. Kepler developed the Galilean telescope further by 1611 and described the theoretical basis for telescopic optics, in part inspired by Alhazen's work. The telescope had traveled from the Netherlands via Italy to Kepler in Prague within three years of its invention and had been improved along the way, a remarkable pace of innovation and diffusion of knowledge. Sir Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica from 1687 and his laws of motion and gravity were derived from, among other things, Galileo's telescopic observations and Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion.
Dutch eyeglass maker Zacharias Janssen and his father Hans are usually credited with inventing the first microscope in the late 1500s. The microscope was improved in the seventeenth century by their countryman Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who was the first to spot bacteria and thus opened up an entirely new field of microbiology. This in turn led to great advances in the natural sciences. The German physician Robert Koch and the French chemist Louis Pasteur founded the science of bacteriology in the nineteenth century. The understanding that disease is caused by bacteria and microscopic germs produced the greatest strides in medicine in history.
According to the free online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, reading stone lenses were invented by polymath Armen Firman (Abbas Ibn Firnas) in Córdoba in Islamic-occupied Spain in the ninth century, and later spread throughout Europe. Wikipedia embodies both the good and some of the problematic aspects of the Internet. I have found useful information there more than once, but it can also be notoriously unreliable on certain subjects due to its numerous editors and lack of professional oversight. Let's assume for a moment that this information is correct. If so, how come lenses weren't developed further by Muslims? The telescope and the microscope were by-products of advances in the production of glass lenses. They made possible, for the first time ever, the study of what is not visible to the naked human eye and radically altered our understanding of the universe, both in the realms of the very small and the very big. All of this could have happened in the Islamic world. So why didn't it, despite the fact that lenses were know there at least as early as in Europe, and despite the fact that the region produced a gifted optical scientist, Alhazen?
Alhazen personally should be credited with being one of the greatest scientists of his age in any discipline, Eastern or Western, yet his inquisitive attitude and scientific mindset wasn't always appreciated by his contemporaries. Here is how his writings were received by fellow Muslims, as quoted in Ibn Warraq's book Why I Am Not a Muslim: "A disciple of Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher, relates that he was in Baghdad on business, when the library of a certain philosopher (who died in 1214) was burned there. The preacher, who conducted the execution of the sentence, threw into the flames, with his own hands, an astronomical work of Ibn al-Haitham [Alhazen], after he had pointed to a delineation therein given of the sphere of the earth, as an unhappy symbol of impious Atheism."
Alhazen made numerous books, many of which are lost today. His groundbreaking Book of Optics survives to us in Latin translation. Muslims thus had access to ideas, but they failed to appreciate them and exploit their potential. This pattern was repeated on several occasions. The first windmills were probably made in Persia prior to the Islamic conquest in the seventh century. Windmills were introduced in Europe during the High Middle Ages, at least from the twelfth century onwards, and spread rapidly across Western Europe during a prolonged period of great improvements. Persian-style windmills spread from Central Asia to China following the Mongol conquest in the thirteenth century, yet in 1206 the leading Arab engineer of the day observed to his readers that the notion of driving mills by the wind was nonsense.
Sundials have been used in Egypt and other civilizations since prehistoric times. Water clocks, too, date from ancient times and had reached a certain level of complexity in the Greco-Roman world. The ancient Greeks created devices resembling clock-work, for instance the Antikythera mechanism (second century B.C.) which has been called a mechanical computer. Early clocks (though not fully developed) were made in Asia, especially China, and could have been known in the Middle East. Around the year 800, Caliph Harun al-Rashid from Baghdad presented Charlemagne with the gift of a complex water clock which struck the hours. In 850 the three Persians Banu Musa, as part of the translation efforts undertaken at the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, published The Book of Ingenious Devices describing many mechanical inventions developed by earlier cultures. They were interested in the work of Greek engineer Hero of Alexandria who made the first known steam-powered device. Again, there is plenty of evidence that Muslims had at their disposal both the theoretical knowledge and the practical examples necessary to create mechanical clocks.
Despite having access to much of the same knowledge as did Christian Europeans, Muslims didn't develop fully mechanical clocks. This happened in Europe in the thirteenth century. The invention spread rapidly throughout Italy, France and England. One was installed in the Old St Paul's Cathedral in London in 1286. The fourteenth century English author Geoffrey Chaucer mentioned a clock, apparently meaning one with a bell which struck the hour. Salisbury cathedral is thought to have the oldest functioning clock in existence, dating back to the year 1386. Clocks were initially large and were used to decorate public buildings. By the year 1500, the coiled spring had been invented, paving the way for smaller clocks. The first portable timepiece was created in Nuremberg, Germany by locksmith Peter Henlein in 1505 in the shape of a sphere worn as a jewel. Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens, by employing Galileo's law of the pendulum, in 1656 made the first pendulum clock, which was much more accurate than previous models. He also invented the balance wheel and spring assembly underlying many modern watches. French mathematician Blaise Pascal is said to have made a wristwatch by attaching his portable clock to his wrist with a string.
I'm not suggesting that no scientific achievements were made in the Islamic world. Avicenna's Canon of Medicine was translated into Latin in the twelfth century, and as late as the sixteenth century, Vesalius wrote a thesis commenting on Rhazes. It is impossible to write the medical history of the West during this age without mentioning Middle Eastern physicians such as Avicenna and Rhazes. What I am suggesting is that the number of achievements steadily declined, and I'm not sure how much Islam should be credited with those achievements that were actually made.
Muslims failed to develop clocks and eyeglasses and were actively hostile to printing, yet immediately embraced gunpowder and firearms (though the development of the latter soon stagnated, too). I think this highly selective view of technology tells us something about their mentality: They didn't see the value in printing, but they liked gunpowder since it could be used to terrorize and intimidate non-Muslims. Infidel technology is primarily interesting if it can be used to blow up other infidels. Sadly, I'm not so sure Islamic mentality has changed significantly in the 800 years since then. During the past few decades, globalization, Muslim immigration to the West and the massive influx of petrodollars to Muslim nations with huge reserves of petroleum have enabled Muslims to acquire or buy technology they are unable to develop themselves. The result, along with a huge demographic increase in Muslims which is again caused by infidel advances in medicine, has been a tidal wave of Jihad sweeping across the world. The lesson for non-Muslims should be: If you provide Muslims with technology and know-how, this will not be used to create peaceful and prosperous societies; it will be used to kill or subjugate you.
As writer Bassam Tibi notes, Muslims today tend to view science as something that is separated from society, and believe they can adopt or appropriate modern science and technology but not the wider framework that goes with them.
I agree with Tibi. Muslims have no understanding of science as the basis of technological progress, and free speech and rational criticism of everything, including religious doctrines, as the basis of science. They talk about science as if it were a commodity, a television or a personal computer, something which Muslims "had" earlier, then "lost" or handed over to Westerners who "took" it from them. Hence, Muslims shouldn't feel grateful for anything infidel science provides them with, since science was really "theirs" in the first place and they're just taking back something which rightfully belongs to them. But science isn't a commodity; it is a method, a way of looking critically and rationally at the world.
In my view, this failure to see the connection between cause, science and a free society, and effect, technological progress, stems from a fundamental flaw in the Islamic way of looking at the universe: They see no connection between cause and effect because their entire religious world view is based on the notion that everything is subject to the whims of Allah, and that there is no predictable logic behind anything. As Hugh Fitzgerald frequently says, this resigned Inshallah-fatalism ("If Allah wills it, it will happen") greatly inhibits progress of any kind. The ultimate irony and tragedy is that Muslims move to infidel societies in order to enjoy the commodities and consumer goods produced there, yet immediately set out to destroy the conditions which created these advances in the first place, political freedom and manmade laws.
At least two conditions are necessary for the creation of a successful nation: The ability to produce talented individuals with great ideas, and the cultural and structural ability of society to recognize the full potential of these ideas and utilize them. The Islamic world, for a while, performed reasonably well at the former task, but failed miserably and consistently at the latter. Even if it could occasionally give birth to gifted individuals they tended to be unorthodox Muslims or, in the case of Rhazes, outright hostile to Islam. The frequency of thinkers of Avicenna's and certainly Alhazen's stature also steadily declined. This strongly indicates that "Islamic science" had little to do with Islam, but was the amalgam of pre-Islamic knowledge, Greek, Indian, Persian, Jewish, Assyrian Christian and other. As Muslims gradually became numerically dominant and Islamic orthodoxy more firmly established, this pre-Islamic heritage was slowly extinguished, hence science declined and never recovered. This failure was intimately linked to the Islam's hostility towards innovation and freethinking. In contrast, the Christian and Jewish religions proved more receptive towards new ideas. At the very least they were not as aggressively hostile to logic as was Islam, and in certain situations even facilitated it.
Europe did produce many talented individuals, yet what ultimately set it apart from the Islamic world, and even from non-Muslim Asians at this age, was the remarkable pace of diffusion of new ideas, home-grown or imported, and the speed with which further improvements were made once an idea had been introduced. This was due to a combination of factors: A successful marriage between Christian doctrines and the Greco-Roman heritage during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the ability to continuously generate new knowledge and put it into practical application through the accumulation of capital and a dynamic merchant class, an institutionalized framework for scholarly debate through universities with a significant degree of free enquiry, the adoption of printing, which made communication easier and facilitated the accumulation of ever-more accurate knowledge, and last, but not least, a higher degree of individualism and political liberty, which encouraged freethinking, a non-traditionalist outlook and by extension innovation.
Upon saying this, I must confess that I cannot say with a straight face that these are hallmarks of Europe today. We have always been told that there is a basic conflict between religion and reason, which would presumably mean that the less religious we become, the more rational we should become. Western Europe is currently less religious than we have ever been, yet I see no indication that we have become more reasonable because of this. We may not have a formal index of forbidden books, as did the Catholic Church for centuries, but we do have an informal index of forbidden topics which can be equally effective in suppressing free enquiry and stifling debate. This is now done in the name of tolerance and Multicultural diversity, not God, but the result is much the same. The end of religion, thus, didn't herald an age of reason; it led to a new age of secular superstition and new forms of witch-hunts. Bad things can be said about medieval Europeans, but at least they didn't import Muslims in large numbers and congratulate themselves for their tolerance. Secular Europeans do.
Andrew G. Bostom keeps referring to Julien Benda and his 1928 book The Treason of the Intellectuals, about how the abandonment of objective truths abetted totalitarian ideologies, which led to World War II. Bostom identifies a similar failure of Western intellectuals to acknowledge the history of Jihad today. From what I gather, Benda was a bit too anti-religious and anti-nationalist for my taste, but otherwise I agree: The problems faced by the West now in confronting Jihad have been facilitated by a failure of our education system, our media and indeed our entire society to uphold the ideal of critical thinking. If the rise of the West was linked to political liberty, rational thinking, free speech and universities championing free enquiry, the decline of the West can be linked to the decline of the same factors.
Author V.S. Naipaul thinks Islam is parasitical by nature and preys upon the pre-Islamic culture in the conquered lands. I will add that it is also the kind of parasite which kills its host. I have no doubt that if Muslims should succeed in conquering Europe, this will in the future be hailed as a Golden Age of Islam. But it wouldn't be a Golden Age of Islam, it would be the twilight of Europe, just as the previous Golden Age was the twilight of the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Zoroastrian and Buddhist cultures from North Africa to Central Asia, and the much vaunted accomplishments of "Islamic medieval science" were echoes of the heritage of Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Syrians and Greeks.
Yes, I know Mughal emperors could create magnificent architecture such as the Taj Mahal in India, but this was still a slave-state based upon the exploitation and persecution of non-Muslims. And yes, there can be rulers such as Akbar the Great, with his religious tolerance and imperial garden with thousands of cheetahs, but he was tolerant precisely because he was a Muslim in name only. Any such ruler will be succeeded by more pious Muslims, as was the case with Aurangzeb who reinstated the Jizya tax for infidels and destroyed Hindu temples. Anything good that happens in countries under Islamic rule generally happens in spite of Islam, not because of Islam, and the good parts will soon be reversed in the name of sharia. There will always be at least a dozen Aurangzebs to every Akbar.
We are currently witnessing major global shifts in power. In a macrohistorical perspective, China was the leading civilization a millennium ago but was surpassed by Europe. I firmly believe free speech and political liberty have long-term effects, and I'm not convinced China can keep up her economic progress unless she undertakes reforms. I'm also not convinced Europe's Islamization is inevitable, yet, but if present trends continue, maybe we will see a reversal of roles in the twenty-first century: China will prosper and Europe will disintegrate. In the meantime, however, when Muslims get their hands on Western technology and Europe's accumulated wealth, the world from Britain to Thailand could be plunged into a new age of Jihad.
Fjordman is a noted Norwegian blogger who has written for many conservative web sites. He used to have his own Fjordman Blog in the past, but it is no longer active.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Part II of Islam, the Greeks & the Scientific Revolution

Here is some more of Fjordman's speculations concerning the reason for failure of the Scientific Revolution in the Islamic lands (his version of "What Went Wrong") -- and its 'retardation' in the west. Can we really take this sort of reasoning seriously? For example:

The reason why the Christian West for centuries didn't have easy access to the Classical learning of the Christian East was because Muslims and Jihad had made the Mediterranean unsafe. It has to be the height of absurdity to block access to something and then take credit for transmitting it, yet that is precisely what Arabs do. As stronger states slowly grew up in the West, regular contact with their Eastern cousins was gradually re-established, starting with the Italian city-states. And as soon as direct contact was established, Western Europeans gained access to the original Greco-Roman manuscripts preserved in Constantinople.

Firstly, can we really believe that the physics of Newton or the steam engine of James Watt were inevitable children of Aristotelian logic? Newtonian physics owes a tiny bit to Pythogoras, but nothing to Aristotle certainly. The modern atom, which devolved from the rediscovered ideas of Democritus, was still well in the future when the steam engine was invented. Second, let's face facts. Charlemagne, mentioned below in this context, was illiterate. If he got an Aristotelian manuscript, he would not know which end was right side up. The classical wisdom of the ancients was burned and pillaged by Fjordman's Teutonic and Gothic and Vandal kinfolk. There is a reason why it is called "vandalism." Whatever was left, was systematically suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church. Ancient manuscripts that were not burned were "recycled" for pious purposes such as copying over the Nicene creed or a book of hours, or a hymn to Mary Mother of God.
This is part II, or Islam and the Greek returns, as it were. Part 1 is here:
Ami Isseroff

Islam, the Greeks and the Scientific Revolution, part 2
Fjordman - 10/7/2007
According to scholar
Lynda Shaffer, "Francis Bacon (1561-1626), an early advocate of the empirical method, upon which the scientific revolution was based, attributed Western Europe's early modern take-off to three things in particular: printing, the compass, and gunpowder. Bacon had no idea where these things had come from, but historians now know that all three were invented in China. Since, unlike Europe, China did not take off onto a path leading from the scientific to the Industrial Revolution, some historians are now asking why these inventions were so revolutionary in Western Europe and, apparently, so unrevolutionary in China."

The Song dynasty, from the tenth to the thirteenth century, was arguably the most dynamic period in Chinese history. Although printing "was invented by Buddhist monks in China, and at first benefited Buddhism, by the middle of the tenth century printers were turning out innumerable copies of the classical Confucian corpus."

According to Shaffer, "The origin of the civil service examination system in China can be traced back to the Han dynasty, but in the Song dynasty government-administered examinations became the most important route to political power in China. For almost a thousand years (except the early period of Mongol rule), China was governed by men who had come to power simply because they had done exceedingly well in examinations on the Neo-Confucian canon. At any one time thousands of students were studying for the exams, and thousands of inexpensive books were required. Without printing, such a system would not have been possible."

As she explains, "China developed the world's largest and most technologically sophisticated merchant marine and navy." The Chinese "could have made the arduous journey around the tip of Africa and sail into Portuguese ports; however, they had no reason to do so. Although the Western European economy was prospering, it offered nothing that China could not acquire much closer to home at much less cost."

In contrast, the Portuguese, the Spanish and other Europeans were trying to reach the Spice Islands, what is now Indonesia. "It was this spice market that lured Columbus westward from Spain and drew Vasco da Gama around Africa and across the Indian Ocean." In Shaffer's view, technologies such as gunpowder and the compass had a different impact in China than they had in Europe, and it is "unfair to ask why the Chinese did not accidentally bump into the Western Hemisphere while sailing east across the Pacific to find the wool markets of Spain."

Yes, Asia was the most prosperous region on the planet at this time. Europeans embarked on their Age of Exploration of the seas precisely out of a desire to reach the wealthy Asian lands (and bypass Muslim middlemen), which is why Christopher Columbus and his men mistakenly believed they had arrived in India when they reached the Americas. Asians did not possess a similar desire to reach Europe. But this still doesn't explain why the Chinese didn't embark on the final and most crucial stage of the Industrial Revolution in the West: Harnessing the force of steam and the use of fossil fuels to build stronger, more efficient machinery, faster ships and eventually railways, cars and airplanes.

Printing and literacy greatly expanded during Song times; the world's first printed paper money (bank notes) was introduced and a system of canals and roads was built, all facilitating an unprecedented population growth. Iron smelting and the use of coal multiplied several times over as China reached a stage sometimes called "proto-industrial." And yet China produced no Thomas Savery, Thomas Newcomen or James Watt to develop successful steam engines, nor a George Stephenson to build railway lines or a Karl Benz to make the first gasoline-powered automobile. Although experiments with flying had been undertaken in many nations around the world, the airplane was made possible only with the invention of modern engines, which is why China didn't produce the Wright brothers.

For thousands of years, human beings were limited by their ability to harness muscle power, of men and animals. This was later supplemented with windmills, watermills and similar inventions, which could be important, but in a limited fashion. The harnessing of steam power for engines and machinery was a revolution which provided the basis for enormous improvements in output and efficiency. For some reason, China never did take this final step, and although the country remained prosperous for centuries, later dynasties never quite matched the dynamism under Song times. Emphasis was on cultural continuity, and China experienced no great cultural flowing or event similar to the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment in Europe. China was in its own eyes the Middle Kingdom. It had some annoying barbarians at its frontiers, but no immediate neighbors to rival its size and power, and thus little incentive for improvement. The result was relative (though not necessarily absolute) scientific stagnation. China could afford to grow self-satisfied, and she did. In contrast, Europeans, who were divided into numerous smaller states in a constant state of rivalry instead of one, large unified state, had stronger incentives for innovation, including in weapons technology.

The Mongol invasion, which ended the Song dynasty, is sometimes blamed for this loss of impetus. After the conquest of Beijing in 1215 the soil was greasy with human fat for months. According to Genghis Khan, "The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters." He believed in practicing what you preach. DNA studies indicate that he may have as many as 16 million descendants living today.

The Mongols were notorious for their brutality, but they had a particular dislike for Muslims. Hulagu Khan led the Mongol forces as they completely destroyed Baghdad in 1258, thus ending what remained of the Abbasid Caliphate. The Christian community was largely spared, allegedly thanks to the intercession of Hulagu's Nestorian Christian wife.

The irony is that many Mongols soon adopted Islam as their preferred creed. Maybe the warlike nature of this religion appealed to them. It is possible to make a comparison between Muhammad and Genghis Khan. Temüjin, who gained the title Khan when he founded the Mongol Empire in 1206, did believe he had received a divine mandate to conquer the world, and he created an impressive military force out of nothing by uniting scattered tribes and directing their aggressive energies outwards. He created a Mongolian nation where no nation had existed before, similar to what Muhammad did with the Arabs. The difference is that the Mongols didn't establish a religion of their own throughout their empire which outlasted their rule. We should probably be grateful for that, otherwise the Organization of the Mongolian Conference would be the largest voting bloc at the United Nations today, our schools would teach us about the glories of Mongol science and tolerance and our media would constantly warn us against the dangers of Genghisophobia.

In Europe, the Mongol conquests had the most lasting impact in the Ukraine and Russia. The city of Kiev was devastated while a new Russian state slowly grew out of Moscow. Ivan the Great in the 1400s expanded the Russian state and defeated the Tatar yoke, as the now Islamized Turko-Mongols of the Golden Horde were called. The Mongols invaded Eastern Europe and in the course of a few years attacked Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Serbia. They had reached as far as Vienna in 1241 when the Great Khan suddenly died and the commanders had to return to elect a new leader.

The Black Death, the great Eurasian plague pandemic, swept from Central Asia along the Silk Road through the Mongol Empire, reaching the Mediterranean and the Middle East in the 1340s. The disease, which killed at least a third of the population and more than 70% in some regions, probably reached Europe after the Golden Horde used biological warfare during a siege of the Black Sea port of Caffa, catapulting plague-infested corpses into the city. It was then carried to the European continent with fleeing Genoese traders. The Mongols thus didn't invade Western Europe, but at least they gave us the plague.

Many historians place great macrohistorical importance on the Mongol conquest. It certainly had a disruptive impact, and the trail of devastation it left behind severely depopulated regions from China and Korea via Iran and Iraq to Eastern Europe. It ended the dynamic Song dynasty, yet even before the Mongol conquest, there were few indications that a development towards modern machinery was about to take place in China. Japan, which has always learned a lot from China, escaped unscathed. A series of typhoons, dubbed kamikaze or "divine wind" by the Japanese, saved the country from the Mongol fleets in 1274 and 1281, but they, too, didn't develop a fully fledged industry until they adopted a Western model during the Meiji Restoration in the late nineteenth century.

Moreover, even if Western Europe escaped the Mongols, we should remember that Western Europeans had recently experienced centuries of political disintegration and population decline, longer than in any period in Chinese history for several thousand years. Europe also had to face a much more prolonged assault by Islam. Belgian scholar Henri Pirenne in his work Mohammed and Charlemagne asserted that the definitive break between the Classical world and the Middle Ages in the West was not the downfall of the Western Roman Empire following the partition in 395, but the Islamic conquests in the seventh century.

In Pirenne's view, although the Germanic tribes caused imperial authority to collapse in the fifth century, Western Europe was not totally cut off from the Eastern Roman Empire. The Mediterranean, Mare Nostrum or "Our Sea" as the Romans called it, still remained a Christian lake. This changed decisively during the seventh century when North Africa came under Islamic rule, as did the Iberian Peninsula. Although the Arab conquest was halted by the forces of Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in France in 732, arguably the most important battle in Western history, Islamic attacks continued for centuries since Jihad is a permanent obligation and should be carried out on regular intervals. Jihad piracy, slave trade and looting across the Mediterranean accompanied by inland raids, occasionally as far north as the Alps in Switzerland, made normal communication between the Christian West and the Christian East extremely difficult. In fact, Jihad piracy and slavery from North Africa remained a serious threat to Europeans for more than a thousand years, even into the nineteenth century. As historian Ibn Khaldun, a devout Muslim and therefore anti-Christian, proclaimed: "The Christian could no longer float a plank upon the sea."

This was certainly true in the West, though the Byzantines still held their ground in the Aegean Sea. The Eastern Roman Empire was attacked by Arab Muslims in the 630s and quickly lost Syria, Palestine and Egypt, but managed to survive. Only a few years earlier the official language had been changed from Latin to Greek. It is custom to call the remaining, smaller and Hellenized state the Byzantine Empire.

The Carolingian Empire, named after Charles Martel (Carolus in Latin), was the "scaffold of the Middle Ages." Although it didn't survive for long, the structures put in place by Charles Martel and his grandson Charlemagne were to shape Western Europe for centuries. While civilization in Europe had always been centered on the Mediterranean, the center of power in the West was now north of the Alps. The Carolingian capital was established in Aachen in present-day Germany, as Muslims made access to the sea difficult. Charlemagne held his imperial coronation by Pope Leo III in Saint Peter's Basilica in the year 800, yet already in the year 846 Muslims sacked Rome and stole every piece of gold and silver in Saint Peter's. Arabs also occupied Sicily for several centuries, and attacked Naples, Capua, Calabria and Sardinia repeatedly. As Pirenne says, "the coast from the Gulf of Lyons and the Riviera to the mouth of the Tiber, ravaged by war and the pirates, whom the Christians, having no fleet, were powerless to resist, was now merely a solitude and a prey to piracy. The ports and the cities were deserted. The link with the Orient was severed, and there was no communication with the Saracen [Muslim] coasts. There was nothing but death. The Carolingian Empire presented the most striking contrast with the Byzantine. It was purely an inland power, for it had no outlets. The Mediterranean territories, formerly the most active portions of the Empire, which supported the life of the whole, were now the poorest, the most desolate, the most constantly menaced. For the first time in history the axis of Occidental civilization was displaced towards the North, and for many centuries it remained between the Seine and the Rhine. And the Germanic peoples, which had hitherto played only the negative part of destroyers, were now called upon to play a positive part in the reconstruction of European civilization."

Pirenne's thesis has been debated for generations, and new archaeological evidence has been uncovered since it was published in the 1930s. I personally think he underestimated the extent to which civilization collapsed in the West after the Germanic raids, but he is right that the Mediterranean was still open for communication, and that this changed dramatically after the Arab conquest. Though contacts between the Byzantines and Western Europe were limited during this time period, we should remember that they were never zero. Findings from Viking graves indicate that there was trade between the Baltic Sea and Constantinople even at this point, but trade was greatly diminished compared to what it had been previously.

The reason why the Christian West for centuries didn't have easy access to the Classical learning of the Christian East was because Muslims and Jihad had made the Mediterranean unsafe. It has to be the height of absurdity to block access to something and then take credit for transmitting it, yet that is precisely what Arabs do. As stronger states slowly grew up in the West, regular contact with their Eastern cousins was gradually re-established, starting with the Italian city-states. And as soon as direct contact was established, Western Europeans gained access to the original Greco-Roman manuscripts preserved in Constantinople. They didn't need to rely on limited translations in Arabic, which were anyway made from the same Byzantine manuscripts in the first place, and frequently by Christians. Moreover, Muslims have spent more than one thousand years systematically wiping out Greek culture in the Mediterranean region, a process which continues at Cyprus even into the twenty-first century, which makes it patently ridiculous when they now brag about how much we owe them for their efforts at "preserving the Greek heritage." The efforts of Arabs are, in my view, as overrated as those by the Byzantine Empire are underrated.

John Argyropoulos, who was born in 1415 in Constantinople and died in 1487 in Italy, was a Byzantine expert on Greek history who played an important role in the revival of Classical learning in the West. He lectured at the universities of Florence and Rome. Among his students was Lorenzo the Magnificent from the influential Medici family, who sponsored Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and others. Sandro Botticelli was working under the patronage of the Medicis when he in the 1480s painted The Birth of Venus. Pagan motifs inspired by the mythology of ancient Greece and Rome were widely popular at this time. Apparently, Leonardo da Vinci, too, attended the lectures of Argyropoulos. The universal genius was passionately interested in Classical learning, perhaps especially in science and mechanical engineering, a field in which he created numerous inventions. He was certainly familiar with the Ten Books on Architecture by the Roman engineer Vitruvius, the only major work on architecture and technology to survive from the Greco-Roman world, which was also a vital inspiration for Renaissance architects Brunelleschi and Alberti. Leonardo's famous drawing the Vitruvian Man was inspired by Vitruvius' writings about architecture and its relations to the proportions of the human body.

In the words of Deno Geanakoplos, Professor of Byzantine History, "We know that until the ninth century the patron saint of Venice was not Mark but the Greek Theodore, and that in the eleventh century Byzantine workmen were summoned by the Doge in order to embellish, perhaps entirely to construct, the church of St. Mark. Venetian-Byzantine contacts became more frequent in the twelfth century as a result of the growth of the large Venetian commercial colony in Constantinople." These contacts continued to grow during the High Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, and "In the half century or so before Constantinople's fall in 1453, a gradually increasing number of refugees from the East poured into the West. Venice, as lord of important territories in the Greek East, especially the island of Crete, and as the chief port of debarkation in Italy, received the major part of these refugees. This stream quickened rapidly after 1453."

He stresses that it is a mistake to believe that all Greek texts were transported out after the fall of Constantinople. Most of the refugees fleeing the Turkish Jihad could carry few possessions with them. The process of transferring Classical knowledge to the West took generations, even centuries, but was now greatly aided by Johannes Gutenberg's movable type printing press, introduced around the year 1450 in Mainz, Germany.

It was a major stroke of historical luck – a religious person would probably say divine providence - that printing was reinvented in Europe at exactly the same time as the last vestige of the ancient Roman Empire fell to Muslims. The texts that had been preserved by the Byzantines for a thousand years after Rome collapsed could now be rescued forever instead of quietly disappearing. This ensured that the Renaissance marked a permanent infusion of Greco-Roman knowledge into Western thought, not just a temporary one.

As historian Elizabeth L. Eisenstein says in her celebrated book The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: "The classical editions, dictionaries, grammar and reference guides issued from print shops made it possible to achieve an unprecedented mastery of Alexandrian learning even while laying the basis for a new kind of permanent Greek revival in the West. (...) We now tend to take for granted that the study of Greek would continue to flourish after the main Greek manuscript centers had fallen into alien hands and hence fail to appreciate how remarkable it was to find that Homer and Plato had not been buried anew but had, on the contrary, been disinterred forever more. Surely Ottoman advances would have been catastrophic before the advent of printing. Texts and scholars scattered in nearby regions might have prolonged the study of Greek but only in a temporary way."

According to Deno Geanakoplos, in the late fifteenth century "only one city in Italy, Venice, could fulfil all the complex requirements of a Greek press. Venice possessed a class sufficiently wealthy to buy, and the leisure to read, the printed classics. Venice was less subject to papal pressures than other Italian cities. Important too in [printer] Aldus' thinking must have been Venetian possession of the precious collection of Greek manuscripts bequeathed by Bessarion — manuscripts which could serve as paradigms for his books. And hardly less significant for him must have been the presence in Venice of a large, thriving Greek community. (…) By the time of Aldus' death in 1515, his press had given to the world practically all the major Greek authors of classical antiquity."

Historian Bernard Lewis writes in his book What Went Wrong?: "In the vast bibliography of works translated in the Middle Ages from Greek into Arabic, we find no poets, no dramatists, not even historians. These were not useful and they were of no interest; they did not figure in the translation programs. This was clearly a cultural rejection: you take what is useful from the infidel; but you don't need to look at his absurd ideas or to try and understand his inferior literature, or to study his meaningless history."

Muslims who wanted translations of Greek or other non-Islamic works were primarily concerned with topics of medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. As Lewis says, they usually ignored playwrights and dramatists such as Sophocles and Euripides, historians such as Thucydides and Herodotus and poets such as Homer. This entire corpus of literature could only be saved from the Greek originals preserved in Constantinople. Moreover, in addition to being selective about Greek works, Muslims showed little interest in Latin writers, for instance Cicero. There was thus a large body of Greco-Roman learning and valuable literature that was never available in Arabic in the first place.

It is true that a number of Greek works were translated to Arabic, especially in the ninth century when a group called Mu'tazilites attempted, without lasting success, to reconcile Islamic with logic. As Ibn Warraq writes about them:

"However, it is clear now that the Mu'tazilites were first and foremost Muslims, living in the circle of Islamic ideas, and were motivated by religious concerns. There was no sign of absolute liberated thinking, or a desire, as [Hungarian orientalist] Goldziher put it, 'to throw off chafing shackles, to the detriment of the rigorously orthodox view of life.' Furthermore, far from being 'liberal,' they turned out to be exceedingly intolerant, and were involved in the Mihna, the Muslim Inquisition under the Abbasids. However, the Mu'tazilites are important for having introduced Greek philosophical ideas into the discussion of Islamic dogmas."

According to writer Patrick Poole, "Western Christianity's rational tradition developed in the Medieval era precisely as a result of the outright rejection of the irrationalism inherent in Islamic philosophy, not the embracing of it." As he states, "a rationalist philosophy had begun to develop under the Mu'tazilite school of interpretation, which advocated for a created, as opposed to an uncreated, Quran. But Caliph al-Mutawakkil [reign 847-861] condemned the Mu'tazilite school, which opened the door for the rival Ash'arite interpretation, founded by al-Ash'ari (d. 935), to eventually take preeminence within Sunni Islam." Rationalism also faced an uphill battle because of the view of Allah as an unpredictable and whimsical deity, since "only Allah truly acts with real effect; all seemingly natural observances of causation are merely manifestations of Allah's habits, for Allah simultaneously creates both the cause and the effect according to his arbitrary will. This view is best expressed by one of the Islamic philosophers cited by [Tariq] Ramadan, al-Ghazali (1059-1111), in his book, The Incoherence of the Philosophers."

The Koran is, structurally speaking, deeply inconsistent and almost incomprehensible to an average reader. One verse says one thing, the next verse contradicts this. The notion that Allah as incomprehensible and provides no correlation between cause and effect had a serious impact on the development of empirical sciences in the Islamic world. In contrast, for Jews and Christians, God has created the universe according to a certain logic, which can be described and predicted. Kepler firmly believed the solar system was created according to God's plan, which he attempted to unlock. Sir Isaac Newton was passionately interested in religion and wrote extensively about it. Even Albert Einstein, who was certainly not an orthodox, religious Jew, still retained some residue of the idea that the universe was created according to a logic which is, to a certain extent, comprehensible and accessible to human reason: "I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind."

The Caliph al-Ma'mun (reign 813 - 833), who was influenced by the Mu'tazilite movement, created the House of Wisdom, a library and translation office. The Baghdad-centered Abbasid dynasty, which replaced the Damascus-centered Umayyad dynasty in 750, was closer to Persian culture and was probably inspired by the Sassanid practice of translating works and creating great libraries. Alkindus (Al-Kindi) was appointed to participate in the undertaking. Philosophical and scientific texts were translated into Arabic from Persian and Indian (Sanskrit) sources, but above all from Greek ones. Great efforts were made to collect and buy important Greek works and manuscripts from the Byzantines and have them translated.

In the book How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs, De Lacy O'Leary states that "Aristotelian study proper began with Abu Yusuf Ya'qub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi (d. after 873), commonly known as 'the Philosopher of the Arabs.' It is significant that almost all the great scientists and philosophers of the Arabs were classed as Aristotelians tracing their intellectual descent from al-Kindi and al-Farabi."

At the heart of these efforts was a Nestorian (Assyrian) Christian named
Johannitius (Hunayn ibn Ishaq). He had studied Greek by living in Greek lands, presumably in the Byzantine Empire, and was put in charge of translations at the House of Wisdom. Soon, he, his son and his nephew had made available in Arabic and Syriac Galen's medical treatises as well as Hippocrates and texts by Aristotle, Plato and others. In some cases, he apparently translated a work into Syriac and his son Ishaq translated this further into Arabic. All senior medical doctors in the Islamic world, including Avicenna and Rhazes, were later influenced by these translations of Greek medicine.

In 431 Nestorius, a Christian Patriarch, was expelled from Constantinople for heresy. The so-called Assyrian Church of the East thus split from the Byzantine Church. Their followers found a new home in the Syriac-speaking world and were welcomed in the Sassanid Persian Empire, the rival of Byzantium. They brought with them a collection of Greek texts, among them medical works of Galen and Hippocrates. It was these texts, aided by other manuscripts acquired and bought from Constantinople later, which provided the basis for translations of Greek texts into Arabic. The followers of this Eastern church, usually called Nestorians in the West, had communities spread out across much of Iraq, Iran and Central Asia, and were respected for their medical skills.

According to scholar Thomas T. Allsen, "Nestorians in the East were closely associated with the medical profession. A considerable body of Syriac medical literature, some in the original and some in translation, has been recovered in central Asia. This is hardly surprising, because Eastern Christians were an important fixture in West Asian medicine." Western medicine in Yuan (Mongol ruled) China, often characterized as "Muslim," was almost always in the hands of Nestorians, a situation that Western travelers found worthy of note.

Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. It was once the lingua franca of the Middle East and was widely used among Christians and also Arabs and to some extent Persians. It had a major impact on the development of Arabic, which later replaced it following the Islamic conquests. The Nabataeans, a Semitic people associated with the famous rock city of Petra close to the Dead Sea in present-day Jordan, were greatly influenced by Aramaic, and the Arabic alphabet developed out of their alphabet. The most unorthodox scholars even suggest that the Islamic religion itself may have developed closer to this region, at the northern fringes of Arabia, than around Mecca in central Arabia.

Some researchers believe that Syriac, or Syro-Aramaic, was also the root of the Koran. When it was composed, Arabic was not fully developed as a written language. Syriac, however, was widely used in the region at the time. Ibn Warraq estimates that up to 20% of the Koran is incomprehensible even to educated Arabs because segments of it were originally written in another, related language before Muhammad was born. A German professor of ancient Semitic and Arabic languages writes about the subject under the pseudonym Christoph Luxenberg. If you believe Luxenberg, the chapters or suras of the Koran usually ascribed to the Mecca period, which are also the most tolerant and non-violent ones as opposed to the much harsher and more violent chapters from Medina, are not "Islamic" at all, but Christian:

"In its origin, the Koran is a Syro-Aramaic liturgical book, with hymns and extracts from Scriptures which might have been used in sacred Christian services. (…) Its socio-political sections, which are not especially related to the original Koran, were added later in Medina. At its beginning, the Koran was not conceived as the foundation of a new religion. It presupposes belief in the Scriptures, and thus functioned merely as an inroad into Arabic society."

Monte Cassino
is a monastery in southern Italy, founded by Saint Benedict in the sixth century, which was sacked and burned and its monks killed in 883 by Arabs in one of their countless Jihad raids in Western Europe. It was later rebuilt, and from here the monk Constantine the African in the eleventh century translated medical texts from Arabic into Latin, including those of Hippocrates and Galen done by Johannitius in Baghdad. Constantine also translated medical treatises written in Arabic by the Egyptian Jew Isaac Israeli ben Solomon. He was influenced by Hippocrates, Galen, Aristotle and Plato.

It is easy to track how Arabic translations of Greek texts from Byzantine manuscripts, often done by Christians, made their way from the Islamic East and ended up in the Iberian Peninsula in the Islamic West, where some of them were translated by Christians, for instance in the multilingual city of Toledo in central Spain, back to Latin. It is thus true that some Greek texts were reintroduced in the West via Arabic, sometimes passing via Syriac or Hebrew along the way, but this was always based, in the end, on manuscripts from the Byzantine Empire.

The work led by Johannitius in Baghdad preserved via the Arabic translation some of Galen's works lost in the Greek original. The Greek physician Galen worked in the second century A.D., systematized medical knowledge in the Greco-Roman world and supplied this with his own research. He lamented the fact that he couldn't perform dissection of human corpses, but this wasn't allowed during Roman times so he based his studies of human anatomy on dissections of animals such as dogs, apes and pigs. This is funny if you are familiar with the low status dogs, apes and pigs have in Islam, and know that all subsequent medicine in the Muslim world was inspired by Galen. Since dissection of human corpses was taboo in the Islamic world, too, Galen's errors remained unchallenged for centuries, until the Renaissance in Christian Europe. Leonardo da Vinci made numerous accurate anatomical drawings but didn't share this knowledge much at his time. The final breakthrough came with the anatomist Andreas Vesalius from Brussels, who published his book On the Workings of the Human Body in 1543 based on observation through autopsy. He is considered the father of modern anatomy in the Western world.

Fjordman is a noted Norwegian blogger who has written for many conservative web sites. He used to have his own Fjordman Blog in the past, but it is no longer active.


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Israel: A shmita swindle

What is described below is a farcical swindle. It is an extension of the idea of the United States government agricultural subsidy program, which pays farmers for not growing crops on their land. With enough land that isn't growing wheat or corn, you can often make a good living. Some clever hucksters have devised the Jewish equivalent: Finding Jews in the Diaspora to buy land in Israel on which nothing is grown during a shmita - a 7th year sabbatical in which crops are not supposed to be grown. Of course, nothing is ever grown on this land - it may be a parking lot, for example.
Ami Isseroff
'Spiritual access' to Israel, in Diaspora comfort
Stewart Weiss , THE JERUSALEM POST  Oct. 20, 2007
It happens every seven years. Since biblical times, the Jewish people has been commanded to observe the unique mitzva of shmita, also known as shvi'it. Treating the land as a living thing, God ordains that we trust in Him for sustenance and allow our fields to rest once in seven years, just as we and all our belongings are to take a break each seven days.
For 2,000 years, after the destruction of Temple and the dispersion of the Jews to foreign nations, this commandment itself lay fallow. But when we began to return to our ancient land, in the late 1800s, we were given the opportunity to once again fulfill the mitzvot dependant upon living in Israel.
As with any complex commandment, there are various opinions on how best to fulfill the mitzva. Principal among the issues involved is whether Jewish land should be symbolically sold to a non-Jew in the Sabbatical year - just as hametz is sold to a non-Jew prior to Pessah - thus allowing the produce to continue to be sold and protecting the livelihood and market share of Jewish farmers.
Great rabbinic decisors such as Rabbi Elchonon Spector ruled, in the shmita of 1889, that the sale of the land is proper and necessary; Israel's first chief rabbi, Abraham Isaac Kook, re-affirmed the ruling for the shmita of 1910.
In more recent years, as Israel prospered and became less centered around agricultural activity, rabbinical voices began to argue for a more literal observance of the mitzva, preferring to use fruits and vegetables imported from abroad rather than those grown on Jewish soil.
THIS DEBATE rages on, and it is a legitimate one. But not all shmita-related endeavors are as honorable. Like the seven-year locust and the seven-year itch, bizarre schemes seem to appear every time shmita approaches.
One of the most "creative" ventures being promoted is the leasing of land which is completely unsuitable for growing any kind of produce. This may include isolated, unworked fields, swampland, desert dunes or asphalt-covered parking lots. Tiny sections of these properties are then "sold" to Jews all over the world, who receive a handsome certificate proclaiming that they, too, have now kept the mitzva of shmita by owning land in Israel on which nothing is grown.
When I first heard about this enterprise, I got a good laugh out of it. It is what we call in yeshiva-lingo a chap - a clever way of separating Jews from their money by attempting to keep the letter of the law while totally ignoring its spirit. It reminded me of a comment I once heard at a rabbinical convention to the effect that Shabbat's greatness lies in the fact that it is the one day when all Jews - across the religious and secular divide - equally observe the mitzva of tefillin!
But upon further consideration I realized that, all kidding aside, there is a twisted, even dangerous, dynamic at work here.
ISRAEL IS the homeland of the Jewish people. If you reside outside the Holy Land, you can support Israel, visit, love the country, fund Israel, cry over its agonies and exult over its triumphs. But - you cannot live here unless you actually live here.
It's OK to read Israeli newspapers in Miami, drink Carmel wine in Jo'berg, or watch Israeli shows by satellite in Melbourne or Marseilles. But telling a Jew in Brooklyn or Golders Green that he can now practice - by remote control - from the comfort of his Diaspora living room those mitzvot indigenous to the Land of Israel is beyond bad humor. It's a repudiation of the great opportunity granted to this generation: to fulfill our destiny in the land of our destiny.
Were Israel "spiritually accessible" from every corner of the globe, why would it retain an eternal holiness unmatched by any community outside its confines?
MOSES, the greatest of all Jewish leaders, was born in the Diaspora. His lifelong dream was to lead his people to the Promised Land and cross the border with them into Israel. He pleaded with the Almighty - alas, to no avail - for the privilege of spending at least one day on Jewish soil.
Moses passionately desired to make aliya not because he liked the felafel here, or because he thought the shekel would out-perform the Egyptian pound. Having kept the commandments as well as any man in history while in the wilderness, and appreciating the beauty and balm that mitzvot provide for the soul, he now wanted the chance to perform those precious laws that can be performed only within the boundaries of the Jewish homeland.
Would Moses have been satisfied with part-ownership, from afar, of a parking lot in Petah Tikva? Would he have been happy with the deed to a dune in Dimona?
If you believe that, then there's some swampland... I mean, beachfront property, that I'd sure like to sell you.
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana.
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Do we know why Muslim society did not industrialize?

Without necessarily agreeing with every word of this essay, I believe the question of why there was no scientific revolution in Islam is certainly interesting. It is certainly remarkable that the Arabs of Palestine, exposed to the industrialization introduced by the Zionists even before the creation of the state of Israel, have never developed any real industry to speak of, despite having a relatively high literacy rate. <
One thing to bear in mind - nobody knows why cultures develop unevenly. Fjordman's ancestors were cavorting about in skins when the Jews were building the first temple, and they were busy ransacking England in Viking boats when the Muslim civilization flourished.
Declarations susch as the following should be weighed carefully:
"Islamic rational scholarship, which we have mainly in mind when we speak of the greatness of Muslim civilisation, depends in its entirety on classical Islam as in every civilisation, what is really important is not the individual elements but the synthesis that combines them into a living organism of its own....Islamic civilisation as we know it would simply not have existed without the Greek heritage."
European civilization as we know it would likewise would not have existed without the Greek heritage, the Arab heritage and the Jewish heritage, so what? But the Arabs also borrowed the zero from the Indians and they invented Algebra and a few other things.  
We have reproduced this essay with, I hope, credit to the original place it was posted. It is posted in several places.
Ami Isseroff

Islam, the Greeks and the Scientific Revolution, part 1
Fjordman - 10/5/2007

I have written a couple of essays regarding the Greek impact on the rise of modern science, and why the Scientific Revolution didn't happen in the Islamic world. I find this to be an interesting topic, especially since there are so many myths regarding this perpetrated by Muslims and their apologists today, so I will explore the subject in some detail.

I mentioned the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs in one of my previous essays. It has been claimed by one researcher that an Arab alchemist in the ninth century managed to decode some of the hieroglyphs. Even if this should be true, his research didn't leave any lasting impact and wasn't followed up by others, which is in itself significant. The proven track record is that Arab Muslims had controlled Egypt for more than a thousand years, yet never managed to decipher the hieroglyphs nor for the most part displayed much interest in doing so. The trilingual Rosetta Stone was employed by the French philologist Jean-François Champollion to decipher the hieroglyphs in 1822. He chose an intuitive (though ultimately correct) approach by employing the Coptic language, the liturgical language of the Egyptian Christians (which was a direct descendant of that of the ancient Pharaohs, as opposed to the language of the Arab invaders) rather than the more mathematical approach of his English rival Thomas Young.

For the sake of historical accuracy, it should be mentioned that when hieroglyphs were finally put out of use, thus ending one of the oldest continuous cultural traditions on the planet, dating back at least to the Narmer Palette celebrating the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt in the 32nd century B.C., this was also done by Christians. The process was begun in the fourth century AD, before the partition of the Roman Empire, and was completed by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Justinian who abolished the worship of Isis on the island of Philae in the sixth century. As the Egyptian religion was shut down, so the writing system associated with it was forgotten. The remnants of Plato's Academy were also closed in the name of Christian (Nicaean) unity.

Justinian is otherwise remembered for constructing the Hagia Sophia, the grandest cathedral in Christendom for almost a thousand years, and for his ultimately unsuccessful attempts at restoring the unity of the Roman Empire by reconquering the Western lands. This stretched the resources of the Empire, and along with a plague pandemic, drained its strength. The long wars between the Byzantines and the Sassanid (Persian) Empire weakened both states and were one of the reasons why the Arabs could make their Islamic conquests in the seventh century.

Logically speaking, the Middle East should be perfectly situated to combine the knowledge of all major centers of civilization in the Old World, from the Mediterranean and the Greco-Roman world via the Persian and other pre-Islamic cultures in the Middle East to India and the civilizations of the Far East. As I will demonstrate, the Muslim thinkers and scientists whose names are worth mentioning did just that.

According to scholar F. R. Rosenthal: "Islamic rational scholarship, which we have mainly in mind when we speak of the greatness of Muslim civilisation, depends in its entirety on classical Islam as in every civilisation, what is really important is not the individual elements but the synthesis that combines them into a living organism of its own....Islamic civilisation as we know it would simply not have existed without the Greek heritage."

Greek thought was certainly an important inspiration for virtually all Muslim thinkers, but it wasn't the only one. Alkindus (Al-Kindi), the Arab mathematician who lived in Baghdad in the ninth century and was close to several Abbasid Caliphs, was one of the first to attempt reconciling Islam with Greek philosophy, especially Aristotle, a project that was to last for several centuries and prove ultimately unsuccessful. His other lasting impact was his writings about Indian arithmetic and numerals. Alkindus was one of a handful of people primarily responsible for spreading the knowledge and use of Indian numerals in the Middle East.

India has a long-standing mathematical tradition and the Hindu numerical system is one of its most important contributions to world culture. It was slowly introduced in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, gained momentum after the Italian mathematician Fibonacci in 1202 published his book Liber Abaci and reached wide acceptance during the Renaissance. Europeans learned about Indian numerals via Arabs, which is why they were mistakenly called Arabic numerals in the West. They were superior to Roman numerals in several ways, the revolutionary concept of zero being one of them. There is no doubt that this numerical system reached the West via the Islamic world, but we should remember that since the Middle East is situated between India and Europe, any ideas from India by necessity had to pass through that region to reach Europe. I'm not sure how much credit we should give Islam for this geographical accident.

Al-Razi was a talented Persian physician and chemist who lived in the ninth and early tenth century. He combined Greek, Indian and Persian traditions, and relied on clinical observance of patients in the Hippocratic tradition. He also commented, and criticized, the works of philosophers such as Aristotle. Some of his writings were translated into Latin. As Ibn Warraq writes in his book Why I Am Not a Muslim, "Perhaps the greatest freethinker in the whole of Islam was al-Razi, the Rhazes of Medieval Europe (or Razis of Chaucer), where his prestige and authority remained unchallenged until the seventeenth century. Meyerhof also calls him the 'greatest physician of the Islamic world and one of the great physicians of all time.'" He was also highly critical of Islamic doctrines, and considered the Koran to be an assorted mixture of "absurd and inconsistent fables." Moreover, "His heretical writings, significantly, have not survived and were not widely read; nonetheless, they are witness to a remarkably tolerant culture and society - a tolerance lacking in other periods and places."

Avicenna (Ibn Sina) was a Persian physician who continued the course set by al-Razi of mixing Greek, Indian, East Asian and Middle Eastern medical learning. His book The Canon of Medicine from the early eleventh century was a standard medical text for centuries. A striking number of the Muslims who did leave some imprint upon the history of science were Persians, who could tap into their proud pre-Islamic heritage. Historian Ibn Khaldun admitted that "It is strange that most of the learned among the Muslims who have excelled in the religious or intellectual sciences are non-Arabs with rare exceptions."

It is also interesting to notice that virtually all freethinkers and rationalists within the Islamic world, such as Avicenna or Farabi, were at odds with Islamic orthodoxy and were frequently harassed for this. Whatever discoveries they made were more in spite of Islam than because of Islam, and in the end, Islam won. As Ibn Warraq notes, "orthodox Islam emerged victorious from the encounter with Greek philosophy. Islam rejected the idea that one could attain truth with unaided human reason and settled for the unreflective comforts of the putatively superior truth of divine revelation. Wherever one decides to place the date of this victory of orthodox Islam (perhaps in the ninth century with the conversion of al-Ashari, or in the eleventh century with the works of al-Ghazali), it has been, I believe, an unmitigated disaster for all Muslims, indeed all mankind."
Averroes (Ibn Rushd) was born in Córdoba, Spain (Andalusia) in the 12th century. He held comparatively progressive views on women, was in some ways a freethinker and faced trouble for this, yet he was also a jurist in the Maliki school of sharia law and served as a qadi, Islamic judge, in Seville. He supported the traditional view, held by leading scholars even into the twenty-first century, of the death penalty for persons leaving Islam: "An apostate…is to be executed by agreement in the case of a man, because of the words of the Prophet, 'Slay those who change their din [religion]'…Asking the apostate to repent was stipulated as a condition…prior to his execution."

Still, Averroes is chiefly remembered for his attempts at combining Aristotelian philosophy and Islam. According to Ibn Warraq, he had a profound influence on the Latin scientists of the thirteenth century, yet "had no influence at all on the development of Islamic philosophy. After his death, he was practically forgotten in the Islamic world."

Philosophy in general went into permanent decline. One of the reasons for this was the influential al-Ghazali, by many considered the most important Muslim after Muhammad himself, who argued that much of Greek philosophy was logically incoherent and an affront to Islam. Averroes' attempts at refuting al-Ghazali were ignored and forgotten.

The leading Jewish thinker of this era was the rabbi and physician Moses Maimonides. He was born in 1135 in Córdoba in Islamic-occupied Spain, but had to flee through North Africa when the devout Berber Almohades invaded from Morocco and attacked Christians and Jews in a classical Jihad fashion. Maimonides eagerly read Greek philosophy, some of which was available in Arabic. He also, for the most part, wrote in Arabic. His attempts at reconciling Aristotelian philosophy with the Torah influenced the great Christian thinker Saint Thomas Aquinas, who made similar efforts at reconciling Greek thought with biblical Scripture a few generations later.

It is true that some Greek and other classics were translated to Arabic, but it is equally true that Muslims could be highly particular about which texts to exclude. As Iranian intellectual Amir Taheri explains: "It is no accident that early Muslims translated numerous ancient Greek texts but never those related to political matters. The great Avicenna himself translated Aristotle's Poetics. But there was no translation of Aristotle's Politics in Persian until 1963."

In other words: There was a great deal of Greek thought that could never have been "transferred" to Europeans by Arabs, as is frequently claimed by Western Multiculturalists, because many Greek works had never been translated into Arabic in the first place. Muslims especially turned down political texts, since these included descriptions of systems in which men ruled themselves according to their own laws. This was considered blasphemous by Muslims, as laws are made by Allah and rule belongs to his representatives.

William of Moerbeke was a Flemish scholar and prolific translator who probably did more than any other individual for the transmission of Greek thought to the West. His translation of virtually all of the works of Aristotle and many by Archimedes, Hero of Alexandria and others paved the way for the Renaissance. He was fluent in Greek, and was for a time Catholic bishop of Corinth in Greece. He made highly accurate translations directly from the Greek originals, and even improved earlier, flawed translations of some works. His Latin translation of Politics, one of the important works that were not available in Arabic, was completed around 1260. His friend Thomas Aquinas used this translation as the basis for his groundbreaking work The Summa Theologica. Aquinas did refer to Maimonides as well as to Averroes and Avicenna and was familiar with their writing, but he was rather critical of Averroes and refuted some of his use of Aristotle.

Like Aquinas, William of Moerbeke was a friar of the Dominican order and had personal contacts at the top levels of the Vatican. Several texts, among them some of Archimedes, would have been lost without the efforts of Moerbeke and a few others, and he clearly did his work on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, one of the reasons why he did this was because the translations that were available in Arabic were incomplete and sometimes of poor linguistic quality. The Arabic translations, although they did serve as an early reintroduction for some Western Europeans to Greek thought, didn't "save" Greek knowledge as it had never been lost. It had been preserved in an unbroken line since Classical times by Greek, Byzantine Christians, who still considered themselves Romans, and it could be recovered there. There was extensive contact between Eastern and Western Christians at this time; sometimes amiable, sometimes less so and occasionally downright hostile, but contact nonetheless. The permanent recovery of Greek and Classical learning was undertaken as a direct transmission from Greek, Orthodox Christians to Western, Latin Christians. There were no Muslim middlemen involved.

As a result, by the late 1200s, Saint Thomas Aquinas and early Renaissance figures such as the poet Dante and the humanist Petrarch had at their disposal a much more complete and accurate body of Greek thought than any of the renowned Muslim philosophers ever did. What's more, many of the translations that did exist in Arabic had been undertaken by Christians in the first place, not by Muslims.

At the American Thinker, Dr. Jonathan David Carson dispels some of the hype regarding Islam's role in the history of science. In his view, "The 'Islamic scholars' who translated 'ancient Greece's natural philosophy' were a curious group of Muslims, since all or almost all of the translators from Greek to Arabic were Christians or Jews." Moreover, most Greek texts "did not make the long journey from Greek to Syriac or Hebrew to Arabic to Latin, and Western Europeans preferred [surprise!] translations of Aristotle directly from the Greek, which were not only superior but also more readily available."

In A History of Philosophy, Frederick Copleston says that "it is a mistake to imagine that the Latin scholastics were entirely dependent upon translations from Arabic or even that translation from the Arabic always preceded translation from the Greek." Indeed, "translation from the Greek generally preceded translation from the Arabic." This view is confirmed by Peter Dronke in A History of Twelfth—Century Western Philosophy: "most of the works of Aristotle, however, were translated directly from the Greek, and only exceptionally by way of an Arabic intermediary...translations from the Arabic must be given their full importance, but not more."

As Carson sees it, "the great rescue of Greek philosophy by translation into Arabic turns out to mean no rescue of Plato and the transmission of Latin translations of Arabic translations of Greek texts of Aristotle, either directly or more often via Syriac or Hebrew, to a Christendom that already had the Greek texts and had already translated most of them into Latin."

Moreover, the intellectual curiosity was entirely one-sided. As Bernard Lewis states in The Muslim Discovery of Europe: "We know of no Muslim scholar or man of letters before the eighteenth century who sought to learn a western language, still less of any attempt to produce grammars, dictionaries, or other language tools. Translations are few and far between. Those that are known are works chosen for practical purposes and the translations are made by converts or non—Muslims." J.M. Roberts put it this way: "Why, until very recently, did Islamic scholars show no wish to translate Latin or western European texts into Arabic? (…) It is clear that an explanation of European inquisitiveness and adventurousness must lie deeper than economics, important though they may have been."

Much has been made of Spain's glorious Islamic past, yet more books are translated in Spain now in a single year than have been translated into Arabic over the past 1,000 years. As I have shown, what existed of advances in sciences in the early centuries of Islamic rule owed its existence almost entirely to the infusion of pre-Islamic thought, and even at the best of times the translations from non-Muslim ideas and books could be quite selective. Later, even the limited debate of Greek philosophy was curtailed. Muslims were assured of their God-given superiority and did not bother to look into ideas from worthless infidel cultures.

Toby E. Huff, author of the book The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West, explains this. A landmark in Western science was Nicholas Copernicus' The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres from 1543. The same years also saw another milestone in the rise of modern science: Vesalius' On the Fabric of the Human Body, which created the foundations for modern medicine by representing an empirical agenda, the first-hand examination of the body through human dissection (autopsy).

According to Huff, "Vesalius claimed to have corrected over 200 errors in Galen's account of human anatomy," and his "illustrations are far superior to anything to be found in the Arabic/Islamic tradition (where pictorial representation of the human body was particularly suspect) or, for that matter, in the Chinese and (I presume) Indian traditions." In astronomy, "Kepler went far beyond Ptolemy's methods, and discovered entirely new principles for the precise description of the motions of bodies in the heavens," thus proving the elliptical (and hence not perfectly circular) orbit of Mars.

In the eyes of Toby E. Huff, "the twelfth and thirteenth centuries witnessed a social, intellectual and legal revolution that laid the intellectual and institutional foundations upon which modern science was later constructed. At the heart of this development was the jurisprudential idea of a corporation, a collection of individuals who were recognized as a singular 'whole body' and granted legitimate legal autonomy. Such entities were given the right to sue and be sued, to buy and sell property, to make rules and laws regulating their activities, to adjudicate those laws and to operate according to the principle of election by consent as well as the Roman legal aphorism, what affects everyone should be considered and approved by everyone. Among the entities granted status as legitimate corporations were cities and towns, charitable organizations, professional guilds (especially of physicians) and, of course, universities. Nothing comparable to this kind of legal autonomy emerged in China or under Islam. In short, the European medievals created autonomous, self-governing institutions of higher learning and then imported into them a methodologically powerful and metaphysically rich cosmology that directly challenged and contradicted many aspects of the traditional Christian world-view."

This was also a time period noted for the growth of early modern capitalism, but Huff rejects any simplistic connection between money and science. Christian Europe exhibited an intellectual curiosity, a desire to uncover truth, that could not be reduced simply to a matter of economic interests: "There was indeed a 'commercial revolution' sweeping Europe from about the twelfth century, but that hardly explains the great interest in Aristotle in the universities of that period or the decision by medical practitioners to undertake dissections and to incorporate medical education into the university curriculum. Similarly, there was another rise in commercial activities in the sixteenth century, but this hardly explains either the motivation of the clerical Copernicus, or of Galileo, Kepler, or Tycho Brahe in developing a new astronomy against the interests of the Church."

One of the most groundbreaking innovations in Europe during the High Middle Ages was the creation of an ongoing, university-centered debate. This made all the difference, since, as Huff points out, "it is one thing if an activity is pursued randomly by various actors; it is something else altogether if that activity is carried on collectively as a result of a regularized process." While Islamic madrasas excluded all of the natural works of Aristotle, as well as logic and natural theology, European scholars benefited from "a surprising degree of freedom of inquiry" which "did not exist in the Arab/Muslim world then and does not exist now."

Centers of learning have existed in civilizations throughout recorded history, yet most of them did not possess all of the qualities generally associated with a university today. It is possible that the Chinese, the Koreans, the Japanese, the Indians and others had institutions that could be called universities already at this early age; I don't know Asian history intimately enough to judge that. But the Islamic world definitely did not.

The German-Syrian reformist Bassam Tibi points out that the Muslim thinkers who developed Greek rationalism are today despised in their own civilization. As he writes in his book Islam Between Culture and Politics, "rational sciences were – in medieval Islam – considered to be 'foreign sciences' and at times heretical. At present, Islamic fundamentalists do not seem to know that rational sciences in Islam were based on what was termed ulum al-qudama (the sciences of the Ancients), that it, the Greeks."

Science was viewed as Islamic science, the study of the Koran, the hadith, Arab history etc. The Islamic madrasa was not concerned with a process of reason-based investigation or unrestrained enquiry but with a learning process in the sacral sense. Tibi believes it is thus incorrect to call institutions such as Al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt, the highest institution of learning in Sunni Islam, a university: "Some Islamic historians wrongly translate the term madrasa as university. This is plainly incorrect: If we understand a university as universitas litterarum, or consider, without the bias of Eurocentrism, the cast of the universitas magistrorum of the thirteenth century in Paris, we are bound to recognise that the university as a seat for free and unrestrained enquiry based on reason, is a European innovation in the history of mankind."

It is noteworthy that the first medieval European universities were sometimes developed out of monasteries or religious schools. However, here the Greek knowledge was adopted in a far more unfettered manner than it was in the Middle East. The earliest European universities, such as the University of Bologna in Italy and Oxford in England, were created in the eleventh century. More were established during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, for instance the University of Paris (Sorbonne), the University of Cambridge, the University of Salamanca in Spain and the University of Coimbra in Portugal.

According to Bassam Tibi, the situation has changed less than one might think: "In Muslim societies, where higher institutions of learning have a deeply rooted procedure of rote-learning, the content of positive sciences adopted from Europe is treated in a similar fashion. Verses of the Koran are learned by heart because they are infallible and not to be enquired into. Immanuel Kant's Critiques or David Hume's Enquiry, now available in Arabic translation, are learned by heart in a similar manner and not conceived of in terms of their nature as problem-oriented enquiries." As a result, "In contrast to the European and the US-model, students educated in a traditional Islamic institution of learning neither have a Bildung (general education) nor an Ausbildung (training)."

This is a problem members of this culture bring with them abroad if they move. In Denmark, Århus city council member Ali Nuur complained that one of the challenges certain immigrant groups face in the education system is that they are unfamiliar with tests rooted in a rational, critical and analytical way of thinking. Guess who?

Another issue is the lack of individual liberty. I still haven't read Atlas Shrugged, a novel I know many Americans hold in high regard, and I have mixed feelings about Ayn Rand's philosophies. However, one thing I do agree with her about is that "Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." A Danish man who lived in Iran before the Revolution in 1979 noticed that if he suggested to his Muslim friends that he would like to enjoy some privacy for while, they thought he was crazy. The very notion of "privacy" was alien to them because it implies that you are an autonomous individual with needs of your own. A Muslim is simply an organic part of the Umma, the Islamic community. This lack of individualism and individual liberty is one of the main reasons why Muslims lost out to other cultures.

On the other hand, I believe the West has in recent decades gone too far in making individualism the sole basis of our culture. When a nation is reduced to nothing more than an atomized collection of individuals, with no ties to the past and no obligations to future generations, mounting a defense of a lasting society becomes difficult, if not impossible.

Fjordman is a noted Norwegian blogger who has written for many conservative web sites. He used to have his own Fjordman Blog in the past, but it is no longer active.


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"Another Voice" Against OneVoice

"Another Voice" Against OneVoice

by Carlos

October 21, 2007 - Who speaks for the Palestinians? A Palestinian group calling itself "Another Voice" claims that they do. They do not like OneVoice trying to sound like one voice of moderate Palestinians and Israelis. Another Voice's purpose for existing is to undermine the work of One Voice and to present "peace" on their terms only, which means unconditional surrender to Palestinian demands.
Right now they are crowing with pride over the cancellation of the OneVoice peace concert. Their web site boasts: "Another Voice is proud to have contributed towards the grassroots mobilization that has resulted in the cancellation of OneVoice's event in Jericho on October 18th." They are thrilled that "most of the Arab artists have withdrawn their participation from the concert," and are planning their own concert in Ramallah later this month.
Another Voice is unhappy because OneVoice does not come out in support of their positions, which include an unlimited right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel and condemnation of the security fence. However, as OneVoice states, it is not their mandate to support specific conditions of any future settlement:
Of course the people have demands, whether they be to end the occupation or to deliver security. OneVoice, however, does not have a political platform other than to endorse negotiations for a Two State solution and stands only to support the leaders and demand that the will of the people serve to energize the process.
Another Voice clearly does have a political platform. They also don't really consider themselves just "another voice," but use the phrase to suggest an undeserved underdog status, the courageous "suppressed alternative." This "other voice" claims to represent the entire Palestinian community. They want people to believe that the OneVoice concert was canceled due to "grassroots mobilization" from within that community. They also leave the impression that Palestinians as a whole are unwilling to compromise and will accept "peace" only on their terms. They link to a press release from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel that states: "This achievement [cancellation of the OneVoice peace concert] is further proof that a clear majority in Palestinian society continues to insist on the full realization of the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine, paramount among which is the right to self-determination and the right of return for the refugees." This right of return would effectively turn Israel into a second Palestinian state, and would violate the principle of two states for two peoples, which OneVoice supports.
If there is truly a courageous alternative voice that is being suppressed, as the pressure to cancel this concert proves, it is not Another Voice, it is OneVoice.
Does Another Voice speak for the Palestinian Community? Well, at least it speaks for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The pro-Palestinian ISM also portrays itself as a "nonviolent," "peace" movement, but its leaders are masters of deception. Though its members may not themselves actually engage in violent acts, the ISM has supported violence and terrorism. It also opposes a two-state solution, and any compromise towards peace that would give Israel legitimacy.
Read the rest of it here: "Another Voice" Against OneVoice

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Palestinian plotters released and then rearrested

This is truly difficult to fathom, unless we take into account that utter chaos reigns in the Palestinian authority.
The story is below.
Ami Isseroff
Palestinian PM: Suspects in plot against Olmert back in custody
By Barak Ravid, Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff, and Shahar Ilan, Haaretz
Last update - 17:44 21/10/2007

The Palestinian militants suspected of plotting to attack Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's convoy earlier this year were arrested for a second time on Friday and will face a military trial, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Sunday.

Olmert said Sunday that Israel would "not look the other way" on a plot by a terrorist cell from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction to attack his convoy this past summer in the West Bank city of Jericho.

Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told cabinet members on Sunday the Fatah cell had planned to carry out the attack as the convoy entered the West Bank city on August 6, en route to the prime minister's meeting with Abbas.

Israeli security sources said the cell planned to fire on the convoy, and had made preliminary preparations for the attack, which primarily included intelligence gathering.

According to the sources, the terrorists were members of the PA security forces, and therefore knew the convoy's route as well as security arrangements.

Following the incident, Israel gave the PA intelligence information regarding the terrorists' identities, and several were arrested by the PA intelligence services. Several additional Fatah men were arrested by Israel during West Bank raids.

Nonetheless, the PA last week released those terrorists it had detained, despite the fact that, according to Diskin, they had admitted to planning the attack.

Palestinian PM: Suspects have been arrested again

In talks with Knesset Speaker Dahlia Itzik later in the day, Fayad said that he had ordered the suspects arrested anew as soon as he learned that they had been released after their first incarceration.

Fayad added that the intelligence given to Israeli security sources regarding the arrests of the suspects was not detailed enough, adding that he expected further information to be released.

The Palestinian prime minister also said Sunday that Olmert was never seriously threatened by an assassination plot by Palestinian militants and promised to do his best to rein in West Bank gunmen.

"There was nothing imminently dangerous," Fayad said as he arrived for a meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli officials. "We are trying the very best we can to bring law and order to the cities, villages and areas that are under our control."

A senior political source in Jerusalem said Israel views the incident, and especially the fact that potential assailants were initially released, with utmost severity.

The source added that the Prime Minister's Bureau has submitted a harsh protest to Abbas' office, and Israel expects the PA to take action on the matter.

PA intelligence chief Tawfiq Tirawi told Haaretz that the PA still has two suspects in custody that are under investigation and confirmed that the arrests were made after Israeli security officials handed their names over to the PA.

Tirawi denied that members of the cell were released, but declined to provide further details.

The August meeting was Olmert's first with Abbas in the West Bank after seven years of conflict, and the location was seen as significant as thecontent.

Ministers and MKs call for protest of PA conduct

Labor Party minister Ami Ayalon said that, in response to Diskin's report, he had decided to cancel a scheduled meeting with PA Prisoners' Affairs Minister Ashraf Al-Ajrami in protest of the PA's conduct.

In addition, the Shin Bet ordered Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to move to Jerusalem her meeting Sunday with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad, which was originally scheduled to take place in Jericho.

Shas Party sources called Diskin's report "more proof that the Annapolis summit should not be held as a diplomatic summit, but rather solely as an economic summit."

National Religious Party Chairman Zevulun Orlev called on Olmert to "immediately halt his contacts with Abu Mazen [Abbas] and announce the cancellation of the summit as long as Abu Mazen continues to provide cover for terrorists."

National Union MK Aryeh Eldad added that, "Olmert must recite the traditional blessing, for having been saved from an assassination. Abu Mazen should recite a blessing for having a partner like Olmert, because anyone else would have cut off negotiations long ago, and the State of Israel should say a blessing for getting rid of Olmert."

National Union MK Zvi Hendel said that Olmert should be examined "by the best professionals, because a situation in which the prime minister is willing to meet with those who freed terrorists that tried to assassinate him, is not politics but rather insanity."

Kadima MK Zeev Elkin urged the prime minister to "freeze all talks on gestures to Abu Mazen until the members of the cell are taken back into custody and tried."

National Union MK Effi Eitam said "Olmert must awaken from the pointless dream of a moderate partner in Abu Mazen."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ancient archeological remains found on temple mount

Archaeological remains dated to the First Temple Period discovered on Temple Mount

Archaeological inspection by the Israel Antiquities Authority over works of the Waqf has uncovered remnants from the First Temple Period (Iron Age IIB).

 Conical object from Temple Mount dating from the First Temple period
Conical clay object from Temple Mount dating from the First Temple period(Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority)

During a recent archaeological inspection on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority over maintenance works of the Waqf, a sealed archaeological level probably dated to the First Temple Period was exposed in the area close the southeastern corner of the raised platform surrounding the Dome of the Rock.
Archaeological examination of a short section of this level, undertaken by Yuval Baruch, the Jerusalem District Archaeologist, uncovered finds that included fragments of ceramic table wares and animal bones. The finds are dated to the eighth to sixth centuries BCE.
Yuval Baruch of the IAA, Prof. Sy Gitin, Director of the William F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, Prof. Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University and Prof. Ronny Reich of Haifa University examined the finds and the archaeological data and reached the conclusion that the characteristics and location of the finds may aid scholars in reconstructing the dimensions and boundaries of the Temple Mount during the First Temple Period.
The finds include fragments of bowls, including rims, bases and body sherds; the base of a juglet used for the ladling of oil; the handle of a small juglet and the rim of a storage jar. The bowl sherds were decorated with wheel burnishing lines characteristic of the First Temple Period.  In addition, a piece of a white washed handmade object was found.  It may have been used to decorate a larger object or may have been part of a figurine.
An archaeological seminar concerning these finds and their archaeological interpretation will be organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Continued (Permanent Link)

How to discredit a Lebanese leader

This is how to discredit a Lebanese leader, or anyone in the Arab or Muslim world - guaranteed to work:

According to the Web site posting, Jumblatt intends to ask Barak to pressure the US to topple the Syrian regime.
US Vice President Dick Cheney has reportedly encouraged the meeting.
So according to the Syrians, Jumblatt is an ally of Zionists and Neocons. Cheney of course is a big monster, but Bashar Assad is Mr. nice guy, right? And conveniently, the news was leaked to the Syrians, who probably know every time Jumblatt sneezes.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians (Mahmoud Abbas gov't) release terrorists who attempted assassination of Olmet

And some text:
A Fatah cell tried to carry out an attack on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's convoy during his visit to Jericho on August 6, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told cabinet members on Sunday.

According to Diskin, the attack was to be carried out on the convoy as it entered the West Bank city, en route to the prime minister's meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Following the incident, Israel gave the PA intelligence information regarding the militants' identities, and several were arrested by the PA intelligence services. Several additional Fatah men were arrested by Israel during West Bank raids.
So far so good, but here is the interesting part (are you ready for this?):

Nonetheless, the PA last week released those militants it had detained, despite the fact that, according to Diskin, they had admitted to planning the attack.

A senior political source in Jerusalem said Israel views the incident, and especially the fact that potential assailants were released, with utmost severity.

The source added that the Prime Minister's Bureau has submitted a harsh protest to Abbas' office, and Israel expects the PA to take action on the matter.
Talk about understatement!
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

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