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Saturday, October 24, 2009

J Street's Ben Ami doesn't like Walt and Mearsheimer - legitimizes Blumenthal and Cobban

By lending a room to Max Blumenthal and Helena Cobban and their friends, Ben Ami said more than he did in the interview. I am really disappointed if he did not say that all his staffers are intermarried and have Buddhist Seders, as I was going to ask him how to conduct a Buddhist Seder, and if he thinks all intermarried Jews are necessarily anti-Zionist (evidently he does).

J Street's Ben-Ami On Zionism and Military Aid to Israel

23 Oct 2009 08:54 am
Jeremy Ben-Ami of the liberal lobbying group J Street is the man of the moment: The group's upcoming conference in Washington has become a source of great controversy for many reasons. I interviewed Ben-Ami yesterday by telephone, and here is an edited transcript of our conversation. In our talk, he showed that he learned a bit about triangulation during his years in the Clinton White House. He declared himself a Zionist; condemned the book "The Israel Lobby"; called America's military aid package to Israel untouchable; and told me he hopes his group angers the non-Zionist left by staking out mainstream Jewish positions on Israel and the peace process -- "I hope that we have a very strong left flank that attacks us."

Jeffrey Goldberg: Let's just go right to the
Stephen Walt question. Why do you think Walt (the co-author of the book "The Israel Lobby") likes J Street?

Jeremy Ben-Ami: I don't know and I don't care. One of the reasons why I won't answer your call to quote-unquote renounce him is that it really smacks of witch-hunts and thought-police. It's not my business to "renounce."
JG: Witch-hunt? How is it a witch-hunt to argue that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer blame the organized American Jewish community for starting the Iraq War and even helping cause 9/11? It's a statement of fact, it's in their book. I would think that when you have an organization, like you do, one of the ways you define yourself is by saying what you do and don't stand for--

JB: May I finish? I actually respect your writing. I respect your thinking. But then there are the people like
Michael Goldfarb, who is a Republican political operative who is masquerading as a (Weekly Standard) journalist. And when he goes after us, and asks people to verify their loyalty to certain principles, that's a different thing. But I'm more than happy to tell you why, on a personal basis, I don't like what Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer have written in their book and in their articles. I don't agree with Stephen Walt. It's his business whether or not he chooses to say nice things about us. I have zero right to tell him, and I have zero interest in telling him, not to say what he thinks. That is his business.

JG: Tell me about the problem with his thesis.

JB: Here's where the line is. There is no question that over the last 40 to 50 years, the American Jewish community has developed a very sophisticated lobbying mechanism to promote its views and its interests, and I am in awe of that as a student of politics. I also happen to respect and value much of what has been achieved. For instance, the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, the essential security guarantee that the U.S. provides, the notion that Israel should always have a qualitative military edge -- those are things that have been achieved by lobbying, by what some people would call the "Israel lobby." J Street is very happy with these achievements, and we support those ends, and we respect and admire much of what groups like AIPAC and others have done over the years.

However, when the analysis of that lobby veers over a line and essentially says that all of American foreign policy is controlled by this one lobby and this one interest group, to me, personally, this does smack of the kind of conspiracy theories contained in the
Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This notion that somehow Jews control this country, they control our foreign policy, that there is some diabolical conspiracy behind the scenes, this is when you cross that line.  I believe that the analysis in the Walt and Mearsheimer book and article crossed that line, but this doesn't take away from my view that this is an incredibly effective lobby.

JG: You have a situation now in which the Obama Administration has obviously failed to achieve a settlement freeze.  You believe that the American government should pressure both the Arabs and the Israelis to come to the table and reach a deal. If Israel ignores the entreaties of the American president, should continuing American military aid to Israel be up for discussion?

JB: The short answer is no, but there's actually a longer explanation for the no. The short answer is that military aid should not be on the table -- this is an absolutely essential aspect of Israel's security, and it's an essential aspect of the U.S.-Israel relationship. However, the U.S. should be able to get across that, as an ally, and as a partner in this relationship with its own interests and view of what will actually move the situation forward, its voice and its views need to be listened to, and that means some serious, behind-closed-doors conversations between the president and the prime minister.

JG: But they've already had those.

JB: I don't know what took places in those conversations.

JG: Well, they didn't work yet.

JB: It's very, very early in the process. What J Street has said is that this issue of a settlement freeze is not the place to put all your cards on the table. If this is a card game, I wouldn't go all in on the settlement freeze. I think that the settlement freeze is an important precondition, it's an important early issue, but the fundamental issue is to get to two states, let's get to a final status agreement, and it's at that point that I think the full force of the U.S. should be brought to bear on all the parties. And let me be really clear: all the parties.  When we get to that point, there should be a very, very different and serious conversation. I don't think this is the point to go all in.

JG: Are you a Zionist?
JB: I am a Zionist personally. I am deeply committed to a Jewish home, to a democratic home, to a Jewish Israel. I'm deeply committed to that and you know my family background.

JG: Ben-Ami is a Jewish name, I think.

JB: Exactly. My great-grandparents were in the
First Aliyah, my grandparents founded Tel Aviv, my father was in the Irgun. I've lived in Israel myself. I have 500 cousins there. I'm deeply committed to the safety, the sanctity and the security of a Jewish home in the state of Israel.

JG: Is J Street a Zionist organization?

JB: Well, we are unabashedly for a Jewish home in the land of Israel, that there should be a Jewish home that is a democracy, that has a Jewish character and a Jewish flavor and where the right of return is a fact -- I know you're
having a disagreement with Bernie (Avishai) right now. I don't even know what he said about the Right of Return.

JG: That he wants it repealed.

JB: Well I don't agree with that, I certainly don't agree with that. I think that the notion is that there should be a homeland that is a Jewish homeland. That is the founding principle of J Street. The question is, how do we preserve it? That's where we seem to be getting attacked. Our view is that in order to preserve this, there just simply has to be an independent state for the Palestinians next door, and that's where they will live. And we live in Israel and we live there and there's always going to be a minority in Israel that is not Jewish and we need to treat them like equal citizens and value their participation in our democracy, but it is a Jewish home. This is the Jewish homeland.

JG: Come back to one of the controversies swirling around this conference. Do you believe that AIPAC or other Jewish organizations have been actively lobbying against you and, specifically, lobbied against having the Israeli ambassador come to your conference?

JB: I have no idea. I have absolutely no idea. I hope not.

JG: Why do you think
Michael Oren is not coming?

JB: I think there has been a pattern to the behavior of this Israeli government of pushing back strongly against all who disagree with them. It's a way of acting and behaving that characterizes everything about this government and I think it is counter to the long-run interests of the state -- I think that you have to speak to those with whom you disagree, I think you have to find ways and language and places to speak with not only your enemies but just those who disagree with you. So I don't even know that it's just about us -- it's kind of the character of the entire foreign policy of the government at the moment.

JG: On another subject,
you're giving some space at your conference to a group of bloggers who range from the anti-Zionist Max Blumenthal to the anti-Zionist Helena Cobban.

JB: There's a lunch. They've asked us that, since there is a lunch, can we have a room where we who are bloggers on this issue can sit and talk to each other? I mean, give me a break, I'm not giving them any approval whatsoever, and there's no sanction to their beliefs.  I'm just saying, sure, there are seven free rooms on the floor, use one. I'm not going to say, "No you can't eat lunch together." I mean really.

JG: They're not eating lunch together. They're having a program.

JB: I don't even know what the program is. They can go into a room - wait, who's speaking?

JG: Helena Cobban and a bunch of others, I think.

JB: Oh man, come on, Jeffrey. I'm letting them have a room for lunch.

JG: Well you did
reject a group of anti-Israel poets.

JB: That's because it was supposed to be a formal conference event and there is a red line we have, and that is about using the Holocaust and Holocaust imagery as a political football, and there is more than enough of that in the track records of these poets.

JG: Let me ask you something about something that you said to
James Traub in The New York Times Magazine. You said that all of the people who work for you are intermarried and I was wondering -- 

JB: No, I never said that. I asked The Times for a retraction but they wouldn't give it. I never said that. What I said is that the young generation of Jews is a different generation, and all that. No one is intermarried in my office! No one on my staff is intermarried.

JG: So it's an inaccurate quote.

JB: An inaccurate quotation. Our staff is not intermarried. Not that that's a bad thing. There's nothing wrong with being intermarried.

JG: This is getting Seinfeldian here.

JB: There's nothing wrong with intermarriage. What's wrong with intermarriage?

JG: We're a small people--

JB: Right, but you know what I find? I find that most of my friends, and we're talking mid-to-late forties at this point, most of my friends who intermarried, their spouses either converted, or they're kids are being raised Jewish. What I find so fascinating about my intermarried friends is that they're searching for welcoming Jewish communities. So let's make ourselves a welcoming community.

JG: Look, I have that sadness of 'Oh, why are you leaving?' but I also recognize that you may as well just open up the door and say, "Come on in."

JB: The fastest answer to the shrinking Jewish population is to welcome in all of these spouses.

JG: It's good for the gene pool, too.

JB: It's incredibly good for the whole community. I think to put forward the notion that intermarriage is bad is exactly the kind of unwelcoming feeling that this community gives off to this generation.

JG: I don't think it should be phrased as bad or good. I think that marrying someone Jewish should be considered a positive thing, and we should be able to say that we'd like you to marry Jewish people or marry someone who wants to be Jewish and join the Jewish community.

JB: Right, continuing the Jewish community and keeping the Jewish people alive.  Let me say, because I married the daughter of a cantor, so I'm totally in the Jewish community here, but I wanted to marry someone I loved. That's my first criteria. That's what I want my kids to do. What I would like them to do is to feel that when they marry and they have kids, that they will be welcome in Jewish communities and that they'll want to be a part of this community and they'll want to raise their kids in this community. I actually don't think it is fair to put anything on the kids and on this generation about who they marry. What we want them to do is retain the sense of community and identity and bring them into the fold.

JG:  I think we've become seriously diverted. So, what do you think accounts for the cessation of rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza since the Israeli army incursion?

JB: You mean the 250 rockets that have come since then? It's not a cessation. When there was a ceasefire for four and a half months, from June until early November of last year, there were zero rockets. So if you're to compare actually which strategy provides zero rockets, a negotiated ceasefire is actually the strategy.

JG: Do you think Israel should be negotiating with Hamas?

JB: That's up to Israel to decide. The one thing I feel very strongly about is that we should not, as a Jewish community or as a U.S. government, prevent Israel from negotiating with Hamas. And in fact, if there is a Palestinian unity government, and you keep hearing rumblings about this, that we shouldn't prevent the Israelis from dealing with a unity government that brings the Palestinians back together, because if we're really going to have peace, there has to be unification.

JG: Why are some congressmen and senators dropping out of the list that you put together of conference co-sponsors?

JB: Well, I think that the biggest problem that J Street has actually been created to solve is the political atmosphere on Capitol Hill. Our mission is to change the dynamics of American politics when it comes to Israel and the Middle East. This process by which one Republican partisan operative has scared five of the six Republicans off of our host committee--

JG: You're talking about Michael Goldfarb?

JB: It has scared people who don't know enough about who we are. We're only 18-months-old, we only have four lobbyists, we haven't met every member of Congress personally. There's a general sense that we are moving in the right direction, that this is a rational and sane set of views that is actually the mainstream of American foreign policy and of the Jewish community, but it's early days for us, and people don't know us 100 percent. So they get a call from a Republican operative telling them you just signed up on the list of a group that is anti-Israel and pro-Hamas. And they're like, 'Wait a minute! I didn't do that.'

JG: Go to one more thing. You once said Israel is treating Palestinians in a way that forces them to become terrorists. Could you go into that a little bit more?

JB: Well, let's really take a step back. Ehud Barak, in 1999, when he was running for prime minister, said "If I was a young kid growing up in the Palestinian territories, I'd probably be a terrorist, too." There is a sense of hopelessness, there's a sense of a lack of future in the Palestinian territories and particularly in Gaza. When an Israeli kid grows up, he wants to launch the next big start-up, they want to make a billion dollars by having an IPO out of their garage, by having the next great idea, right? In Gaza, the kids are growing up wanting to be the next great suicide bomber, and that's where martyrdom comes in, that's where fame comes, that's where family honor comes from, because there's no other path. So we have to recognize that this is a part of the climate in the Palestinian territories. This is not blaming Israel for terrorism.

JG: Well, it is.

JB: No, it's not blaming--

JG: Israel is creating conditions for the Palestinians to become terrorists, you're saying.

JB: In order to solve a problem, you must be able to rationally analyze its causes and discuss the best solutions. And if we can't have an open and an honest conversation about the role that the conditions in which kids are growing up in the territories plays in their development and what they're growing up to be, then we're not going to solve the problem. I'm not casting blame. This is a terrible conflict and there is really absolute hatred and anger about suicide bombing and rockets and terrorism and violence -- that is not the way to achieve your hopes and your dreams and your aspirations, and I condemn it and we condemn it, but that's not enough to really solve the problem. And then I can just close up the doors and say, 'Well we solved the problem because we condemn the tactics of the other side' -- no, we actually have to solve the problem, so we say, 'Okay, let's talk about the problem.'

JG: Loop back finally to this one because I want to make sure it's clear. At the point that negotiations aren't working, and the administration thinks it's in part Israel's fault, and someone in American society says, you know what, if they don't do what we're asking them to do, maybe we should just condition their military aid on participation in this process. Would you ever support that? If it really became clear to you that the Israelis were the recalcitrant party in this, and that Obama chewed their ears off for hours and nothing worked, would you support taking actual legislative steps to pressure Israel to come to the table?

JB: No is the first word of the answer. I don't think that it will ever come to that. I think that there are enough people in Israel who share the basic worldview --
Tzipi Livni just sent us a very warm letter of welcome and congratulations.

JG: But she's not coming, though.

JB: Right, well, it's a long journey to come and say hello for the leader of the opposition, and I understand that. She sent a very warm letter. This is what she stands for, the basic positions of J Street are positions that can command majority support in the Israeli population. Now I understand that there is a great deal of conflicted thinking within the Israeli population. You can get a majority, an overwhelming majority to support military solutions, you can get a majority as well to support diplomatic ones, so I think we're--

JG: People are complicated.

JB: And confused. Look, it's a difficult and confusing situation with very little sense of hope, and I think that if the U.S. and the world community and the Arab League can come together and put on the table a proposal that is eminently reasonable, that you would agree with, that I would agree with, I don't think that it's ever going to get to the point where you actually need that kind of legislative action or that kind of risk to the alliance. In fact, you probably need the strength of that alliance to give the Israelis the assurance that they can make this kind of a risk for peace. It's actually counterproductive -- if you're willing to put the aid at risk, then you're actually giving an argument to the other side, that Israel has no lifeline, we can't--

JG: Right, that Israel's got to hunker down.

JB: I think tactically it's a huge mistake, but I don't think we're ever going to get to that point.

JG: Are you surprised, pleased, unhappy with the level of controversy that this conference is obviously generating in the Jewish universe?

JB: I'll differentiate between quality and quantity. I'm very pleased about the controversy. One of the goals of J Street is to open up debate and discussion on these issues, to be able to talk about some very difficult things openly, that there are a lot of people who would prefer you not to talk openly. So the fact that this is actually getting such play means we're actually fulfilling our mission, so I think that is terrific. What I'm not happy about is that I think it is very bad for our community, very bad for the Jewish people, that some of those who don't want us to be having this conversation have gone over the line in the way in which they personally attacked and used lies and smears to try to make their point.

Lenny Ben-David and others have actually been doing you a favor in a kind of way by identifying the donors he doesn't like as Arabs rather than as opponents of Israel.

JB: Right, and they're not opponents of Israel. That's his problem, they actually aren't.

JG: But they're by no means Zionists. Helena Cobban, who is going to be speaking on this blogger panel, is close to a one-stater, as far as I can tell.

JB: J Street officially will not use the term "One-State Solution." That is an oxymoron because it is a one-state nightmare. That is the thing we are most opposed to -- moving in a one-state direction.

JG: A nightmare for practical reasons or a nightmare for moral reasons?

JB: A nightmare for the Jewish people. There would be no more Israel. One state is not a solution, one state is a dissolution.

JG: The thing I'm worried about with the conference is that I think most of your supporters are well-meaning, left-of-center Jews who love Israel and are tortured by the various dilemmas, who do stay awake at night worrying about this. But there are others who are glomming on to you guys as a cover, just using you to advance another agenda entirely.

JB: I hope that we have a very strong left flank that attacks us, that Jewish Voice for Peace and other groups that are consistently upset with us for backing Howard Berman's sanctions plan and for refusing to embrace the Goldstone report and for standing up for the right of Israel to defend itself or for its military aid -- I hope we get attacked from the left because I would characterize J Street as the mainstream of the American Jewish community.

JG: You believe that you're at the center of American Jewish thought?

JB: I believe that we are at the center. The Marty Peretzes and the Michael Goldfarbs and the Lenny Ben-Davids are on the right, to the far right, and there are people to our left, and we are in the middle trying to put forward a thoughtful, moderate, mainstream point of view about how to save Israel as a Jewish home.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Romney for Israel at AIPAC Conference

I'll bet you didn't even know there was an AIPAC conference in San Diego last week. Bigger than the J Street conference this week, but all you heard about it, if anything, was a few little squeaks and Jim Jones didn't bother to show up. At least Mitt Romney came.
Romney stands up for Israel

Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor October 19, 2009 12:39 PM
Seeking to buff up his foreign policy credentials and reaching out to Israel's supporters, Mitt Romney is telling a major pro-Israel group today that he is "very concerned" by the Obama administration's Mideast policy.
"In pursuit of a peace process, the United States today has exerted substantial pressure on Israel while putting almost no pressure on the Palestinians and the Arab world," the former Massachusetts governor, 2008 Republican presidential hopeful, and possible 2012 contender said to the AIPAC national summit in San Diego.
Obama has been pushing for a renewal of negotiations toward a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority -- and has been pressuring Israel to stop expanding settlements on the West Bank.
But saying that America and Israel are "bound together by common commitments and shared values," Romney says US policy should recognize that.
"Inexplicably, the United States now places the burden on Israel to make still more unilateral concessions," he said. "At the United Nations, we decried the building of new Israeli settlements but ignored the launching of Palestinian rockets. How is this possible? Have we not yet learned from the concessions in Gaza, as well as from all recorded history, that giving in to the demands of oppressors always and only leads to more demands, not to peace?
"We can encourage both parties in the conflict, but we must never forget which one is our ally. Nor must we forget that Hamas, like other violent Jihadists, does not have a two-state solution as its objective—it has the conquest and annihilation of Israel as its objective. The notion that Hamas and violent Jihadists are motivated by 'shared interests' and 'common goals' is naïve in the extreme and dangerous to the entire free world."
Romney also inveighs against the United Nations, which is about to consider a report accusing Israel of war crimes during its assault in Gaza, saying it "has become a forum for invective against the Jewish state."
And Romney urged a hard line against Iran's nuclear ambitions and warned against Obama's desire for talks.
"At this late stage I would simply say that it is long past time for America to recognize the nature of the regime we are dealing with," he said. "The Iranian regime is unalloyed evil, run by people who are at once ruthless and fanatical. Stop thinking that a charm offensive will talk the Iranians out of their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It will not. And agreements, unenforceable and unverifiable, will have no greater impact here than they did in North Korea. Once an outstretched hand is met with a clenched fist, it becomes a symbol of weakness and impotence."
His full prepared remarks are below:
Thank you, Ron. I appreciate your kind introduction. Ron was a great supporter of mine during my presidential campaign. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge my old friend Ed Levy, who was also most generous to support my campaign. And Ed's attorney in Detroit is a partner with my brother Scott—the law firm is Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohen. Scott is the token Mormon.
It is a pleasure to participate in this national summit. The work you do has always been important— working to make Israel more secure, ensuring that American support remains strong, and confirming that Israel and America stand shoulder-to-shoulder in an increasingly dangerous world. I believe that your work is about to become far more important. It is for that reason that I flew here today to speak with you.
* * * *
I have been to Israel twice – mostly recently in 2007. I came away encouraged by what I saw.
On that last trip, I traveled (with some of the people in this room) by helicopter to Al-Fay Menasha. It was to tour a strategic span in the security fence, standing between the center of Israel and the West Bank. It is at that point that one can see just how narrow the waist of Israel actually is.
I was struck during that tour by the IDF officer that was briefing us. He bent over backwards to explain how low and how unobtrusive the fence was—how much effort had been expended to keep it from being too imposing. At one point, I respectfully interrupted him to explain that he didn't need to apologize…at least not to this American. Because if America lived in a neighborhood like Israel's, with suicide bombers crossing into our country to kill children in school buses, we'd be building a fence that was higher, thicker and hard as concrete. Israel should be proud that it values the blood of its countrymen—of its children—above the approbation of foreign bureaucrats.

During my last trip, I was impressed with the business community. As you know, my career was in business, as a management consultant, a venture capitalist and as a private equity investor. While in Israel, we met with entrepreneurs and business people. Their ingenuity demonstrated why it is that Israel has the highest density of start-ups in the world, and more companies on NASDAQ than all of India, China, Korea, Japan, and Europe combined. I understand that there is talk among some European organizations about boycotting Israeli products and barring Israeli academics. If they do, they will be punishing themselves more than they hurt Israel. Brilliant innovation and technology have always been able to penetrate the walls built by the uninformed, protectionist and prejudiced, and they always will.
Most of all, I was impressed with the people of Israel. That people actually immigrate to Israel, rather than fleeing from the threatening and violent neighborhood of the Middle East, is a testament to their courage, faith and character. It is an inspiration to an often self-indulgent world.

* * * *
America and Israel are bound together by common commitments and shared values. We believe in representative democracy and human rights. We believe in the rule of law--in learning, scholarship, and free inquiry. We believe in the dignity of the human soul and in its God-given right to ascend above government domination… with freedom to speak, worship, associate and think as one desires.
And because we share the same values, we also share many of the same adversaries. We reject oppression, terrorism, authoritarianism. Violent Jihadists have referred to America as the "great Satan" and to Israel as the "little Satan." Of course, they don't recognize the irony, committed as they are to the imposition of power over others, to violence, to brutality, to the subjugation of women and girls and to bigotry and racism.
Israel has been fighting all of these things from the moment it was born. As the United States carries on that fight in countries scattered across the globe, we know that Israel is America's most ardent ally in the Middle East.
The world is fast becoming a more dangerous place. Liberty and peace are threatened in new and frightful ways. Russia is returning to its authoritarian ways, fueled by its energy stranglehold on Europe. China has married the power of free enterprise with the oppression of Communist rule. Violent Jihadists are fighting to crush people and nations across the globe. And rogue nations with maniacal autocrats are recklessly pursuing nuclear capabilities that puts the world in jeopardy. Left unchecked, a nuclear race will be joined by many, many others.
For all these reasons, America needs strong allies.
This is one reason why I am so very concerned by the current drift in our government's relationship with Israel.
In pursuit of a peace process, the United States today has exerted substantial pressure on Israel while putting almost no pressure on the Palestinians and the Arab world.
Consider how little we ask of the Arab world. Why is it that only Egypt and Jordan have peace agreements with Israel? What about Saudi Arabia? The Saudi government will not even sit in the same room as the Israelis, let alone normalize relations or work towards a realistic peace agreement. In 2007, at the height of the Olmert-Abbas peace track, the Saudis were demanding that more U.S. companies comply with their boycott of Israel.
Israel, on the other hand, has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to a lasting and realistic peace. As you know well, in 2005, for example, Israel handed over the Gaza strip to the Palestinians. This generous, unilateral act was met in return with rockets fired into Israel, with a coup by Hamas in Gaza, and with two wars – one on the Lebanese border and another in Gaza.
Inexplicably, the United States now places the burden on Israel to make still more unilateral concessions. At the United Nations, we decried the building of new Israeli settlements but ignored the launching of Palestinian rockets. How is this possible? Have we not yet learned from the concessions in Gaza, as well as from all recorded history, that giving in to the demands of oppressors always and only leads to more demands, not to peace?
We can encourage both parties in the conflict, but we must never forget which one is our ally. Nor must we forget that Hamas, like other violent Jihadists, does not have a two-state solution as its objective—it has the conquest and annihilation of Israel as its objective. The notion that Hamas and violent Jihadists are motivated by "shared interests" and "common goals" is naïve in the extreme and dangerous to the entire free world.
This is one reason why America must never cede to the United Nations our commitment to Israel, our leadership of the free world and our defense of liberty. I will happily agree that the UN has done some good in its history. But I will also insist that it has also done terrible damage to the causes it claims to uphold. And on no issue has it been more irresponsible and morally reckless than when considering the fate of Israel.
Time and time again, the UN has become a forum for invective against the Jewish state. We saw it in 1975, when the UN passed an anti-Semitic resolution that condemned Israel as racist. And we have seen it in just the last few weeks, when the UN gave a platform to a Holocaust-denier who has pledged over and over again that he will wipe out Israel. It was a grotesque moment and another stain on the reputation of the United Nations. And congratulations to Prime Minister Netanyahu for having the moral courage to say what needed to be said to those members of the United Nations who stayed to listen to Mahmoud Achmadinejad—"Have you no shame!"
But the outrage did not stop there. A report, titled "United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict," was the latest in a long line of infamous acts. The so-called Goldstone Report took Israel to task for defending itself after being pummeled by more than 7,000 missiles fired on Israel by Hamas. Hamas not only was targeting innocent civilians -- it was also using innocent Palestinians as human shields. Israel took extraordinary measures to prevent civilian casualties. Yet who did the UN Human Rights Council see fit to condemn? Israel. Again, the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu, "A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and
quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot."
A world in which America is more attuned to the approbation of the United Nations than to its ally Israel is a world in peril. May this never be so.

* * * *
My concern extends to our entire foreign policy. If the U.S. Government engages tyrannies and autocracies – countries like Iran and North Korea, Syria and Russia, Sudan and Zimbabwe – based on the conviction that we are dealing with common interests more than competing interests, it will not end well.
Dean Acheson, President Truman's Secretary of State, offered wise and timely counsel. Following the 2nd World War, America had recognized that not every power on this planet shared our goals and values. And this realization is what shaped the foreign policy that has guided us for 60 or so years. Truman, he said, had been "released from the acceptance of a dogma that builders and wreckers of a new world order could and should work happily and successfully together, [Truman] was free to combine our power and coordinate our action with those who did have a common purpose."
Our approach to international relations must continue to adhere to the vision of Truman and Acheson. First, we should treat our allies like the allies they are. That means, for starters, not being harder on them, or demanding more from them, than we do from our adversaries. It means treating them with respect rather than offense. It means striving to make their lives easier rather than harder.
In short, we should honor the basic rules that govern state-to-state affairs. "Foreign policy commitments are not to be made and unmade at will," Margaret Thatcher once said. "We cannot expect others to keep their word to us, unless we keep our word to them."
Keeping our word to our allies is a matter of honor, but it is also a matter of self-interest. The United States needs allies for economic, political, and national security reasons. Good allies and strong alliances allow us to share the burdens we carry, complement and supplement our efforts, and present a united front against those who wish us harm.
When we treat any ally in a desultory manner – and especially if we act in a way that causes them to question our reliability, our resolve, our commitment and staying power – then they as well as our other allies, all of whom are watching very closely, will turn to others for their security.
When Poland and the Czech Republic are humiliated by us, they lose confidence in America's support for them, and they may decide that they must incline more toward Russia.
If our friends in Latin America like Colombia become convinced that we are turning our back on them, they may feel compelled to become more accommodative to Hugo Chavez.
If Japan believes the United States is weakening its commitment in the Pacific, it may distance itself from America and draw closer to China.
When defenders of democracy and the rule of constitution and law in Honduras find that we have sided with their pro-Chavez illegal opposition, freedom fighters across the world, re-calculate their chances for success.
And if Arab nations believe that we will accommodate Iran's ambition to dominate the Middle East with nuclear weapons, they will move closer to that very nation.
Whenever or wherever America steps away from one of its friends and allies, or shrinks in the face of belligerent tyrants, those who are allied with us may understandably or inevitably step closer to our foes. The advance of human rights and the defense of liberty demand that America stands firm with its allies—all of them.

* * * *
I now want to say more about Iran. The Iranian leadership is the greatest immediate threat to the world since the fall of the Soviet Union, and before that, Nazi Germany.
Mr. Ahmadinejad, has gone well beyond the boundary of outrage -- beginning with his calculated desecration of history. When he denies the Holocaust, he could care less about history. His point is about the present and the future. His purpose is not merely to deny the Holocaust, but also to deny Israel. He is testing the waters. He wants to know who will object. And how they will register their objection.
The Iranian regime threatens not only Israel, but also every other nation in the region, and ultimately the world. It is a repressive regime… an intractable enemy of liberty and human rights… the world's leading sponsor of terrorism and subversive war. The threat it poses to the world would take on an entirely new dimension if Iran were allowed to become a nuclear power.
Earlier this month, senior staff members of the U.N. nuclear agency concluded in a confidential analysis that Iran has acquired "sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable" atom bomb. We also learned of a previously secret, illegal uranium enrichment facility that the Iranians had been hiding near Qom.
A nuclear Iran would be a tipping point in the proliferation of nuclear regimes.
It is beyond the scope of this address to provide a detailed tactical and strategic approach to Iran, as I endeavored to do at the Herzylia conference two years ago. In that address, I detailed the six critical steps that would have to immediately be taken to dissuade Iran from nuclear folly. Not a single one of them has been taken by America.
At this late stage I would simply say that it is long past time for America to recognize the nature of the regime we are dealing with. The Iranian regime is unalloyed evil, run by people who are at once ruthless and fanatical. Stop thinking that a charm offensive will talk the Iranians out of their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It will not. And agreements, unenforceable and unverifiable, will have no greater impact here than they did in North Korea. Once an outstretched hand is met with a clenched fist, it becomes a symbol of weakness and impotence. President Eisenhower said it well: "the care of freedom is not long entrusted to the weak and timid."
The President of the United States can employ his admiration and good will to actually accomplish something meaningful and real in Iran– comprehensive, withering sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and international support for the forces of freedom within Iran. The people of Iran represent a major source of strength. By and large, they have not been radicalized by their government and clerics; in fact, the regime's effort to crush the uprising against it has only alienated the people of Iran. They fear economic stagnation and they hate political repression. Most are not seeking a military confrontation with the West. Indeed, most want greater engagement with the West.
And the military option must remain on the table – and that threat needs to be credible. Unfortunately– for reasons that are unfathomable to me – our Government has signaled that the military option is effectively off the table. How can that be countenanced when an ally of the United States faces an existential threat?
I don't pretend for a moment that the course of action to take with Iran is easy or obvious; there are costs to anything we do – but there are even greater costs if we do nothing at all. If we allow Iran under the rule of the mullahs to get a nuclear weapon, it will make the problems America faces today look like a walk in the park.
The clock is ticking, with no real progress to show for the precious time that has already lapsed.
* * * *
Earlier I mentioned President Truman. I'd like to end my remarks by recounting a remarkable day in the history of our two nations, as told by Michael Oren – Israel's ambassador to the United States.
He tells how word of Israel's birth reached Washington on May 14, 1948. At that moment, the armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq were mobilizing for war against the nascent state. The question on everyone's mind was whether the United States would recognize this new nation of Israel and its self-proclaimed government.
Alone in the White House, with much of the world and many in his own Administration against recognizing Israel, Truman pondered the ramifications of his decision. At eleven minutes past six in the evening, an administration spokesman appeared before reporters at the White House. "This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine and that recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof." Then, reading from a printed text, understating the momentousness of his message, the spokesman said, "The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the State of Israel."
Truman never regretted his decision or the key role he played in mid-wifing the birth of the Jewish state. He understood how on every level – moral and geopolitical, cultural and historical – it was right for America to stand with Israel.
Harry S. Truman was a wise and courageous president, a person of unshakeable principles, and a man who helped bend history in the direction of justice. Truman was a great president – in part because he was deeply committed to our friends, to our national character, and to the State of Israel. As it was, let us hope it shall be again.
Thank you very much.

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Demonstration and counter demonstration at Olmert talk in San Francisco

The pro-Israel counter-demonstration was organized by SF Pro-Israel and perhaps other groups. Estimates of the turnout vary.
Ehud Olmert heckled in San Francisco appearance
Friday, October 23, 2009 | by brooke donald

Protesters heckled former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during a speech in San Francisco Oct. 22, denouncing him as a war criminal and demanding his arrest.
As soon as Olmert took the stage at the Westin St. Francis Hotel — and following a warning by the discussion's moderator that no disturbances would be tolerated — a woman and man rose from their seats and shouted: "war criminal," "mass murderer."

Pro-Palestinian protestors stand outside the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco ahead of Ehud Olmert's speech. photos/huy doanMinutes after they were pushed out by police, another person stood up and yelled, "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"
Similar outbursts occured at the rate of nearly one per minute in the first 20 minutes of the event, making it nearly impossible for Olmert to even complete a sentence. In all, more than 20 people were led out of the hall (including one who had to be carried by five law enforcement officials) and taken to the Tenderloin Police Station, where they were cited for disturbing the peace and released, according to SFPD spokesman Sgt. Wilfred Williams. Each person was given a court date, and none had any additional charges, such as resisting arrest, Williams added.
Security at the event inside the hotel was wall-to-wall, provided by a team of approximately 50 to 60 officers, some from the SFPD and others from the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, according to a World Affairs Council spokesman.
After the 12th interruption, moderator Jane Wales, the president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Northern California, said, "I invite the police to move more swiftly."
Olmert responded, "I think the police are doing a great job. This is part of the political game." After another disturbance a few minutes later, Olmert said he hoped that the people in the audience who came to hear him actually speak were patient and have time, "because I am free until after midnight. Eventually those that want to remain will be the only people left, and we'll have an enjoyable evening."

Pro-Israel activists congregate across the street.The event, scheduled for 75 minutes, ended up going 15 minutes longer than that as Olmert addressed issues such as Middle East peace, Iran, the Lebanon War in 2006 and last winter's Gaza offensive, which occured toward the end of Olmert's stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2009.
Although a World Affairs Council spokesman said 430 people had signed up for the event -- at a cost of $20 for members and $35 for non-members -- only about three-fourths of the hall's 480 seats were filled.
Olmert was unfazed by the jeers, even saying that one of the protesters likely traveled from Chicago, where Olmert was greeted similarly last week in a speech at the University of Chicago.
"He was unsuccessful there," Olmert said as the man was dragged away by police. "Let him shout. Who cares."
After another interruption, Olmert said he was "impressed by the amount of energy that some of them have," but added, "they know nothing about the facts."
Among the many topics Olmert addressed, one was the Goldstone Report, which he rejected and called distorted, because, he said, it failed to address the background of the war.
"To come to Israel ignoring the fact that for eight years Israel was attacked almost on a daily basis by rockets and missiles, and to talk only about the reaction of Israel is unfair, is unjust, is unacceptable, is intolerable and Israel will not cooperate with it," he said.
The protesters inside were part of a bigger demonstration that took place outside the hotel, no either side of Powell Street.
On the Union Square side of the street, people carried placards with the names of children who they said were killed during the Gaza war and signs that said "Let Gaza Live," "Stop U.S. Aid to Israel" and "Wanted: Ehud Olmert, War Criminal."
Jim Harris, of Berkeley, said Olmert should be "held accountable" for his actions.
"He should be facing the Hague," he said.
On the other side of the street, directly in front of the St. Francis, counter-protesters carried Israeli flags. Bemused tourists got out their cameras to take pictures of the scene, which included some 250 protesters on anti-Israel side of the street and 100 pro-Israel supporters on the other, according to SFPD Lt. Jim Garrity.
"Very peaceful," said Garrity. "It's a good group."
At one point, several pro-Palestinian supporters came onto the pro-Israel side of the street, some toting posters and some trying to start arguments with the Israel supporters, but they were quickly and efficiently forced back onto the other side by Garrity.
Marshall Schwartz, a board member of "San Francisco Voice for Israel," said his group was there to show their support of Israel.
"There certainly was no plan except to protect the people of Gaza as much as possible while achieving the goal of stopping relentless rocket fire," he said of the offensive.
J. staff writer Andy Altman-Ohr contributed to this report.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Claim: No Israel boycott of Egypt Breast Conference

Originally, it was announced that Israelis would not be allowed to participate in this event. The conference is taking place right now. It is not clear if this announcement means there are Israelis really participating or if they just got a formal invitation after the fact, so that there would be an appearance of decency.
Statement by Nancy Goodman Brinker, Founder, Susan G. Komen for the Cure
"Breast cancer advocates from the United States and across the Middle East are meeting in Egypt from October 21-27 for breast cancer awareness events. There have been reports that some of the invited participants would not be allowed to attend these events. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has now received confirmation that all advocates, regardless of their country of origin, are invited to fully participate in events to bring breast cancer to the forefront of public discussion in the Middle East.
After we received the initial report on the situation, we launched a diplomatic effort to ensure they would be able to participate. I am pleased to report that our efforts led to confirmation that all advocates would be welcome to participate in the events. 
Susan G. Komen for the Cure remains steadfast in our mission to save lives and end breast cancer forever."

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Israeli and Iranian Nuclear Officials Met for First Time in 30 Years

Israeli and Iranian Nuclear Officials Met for First Time in 30 Years
In Breakthrough Meeting, Opposing Countries Discussed Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament

JERUSALEM Oct. 22, 2009
Israeli and Iranian nuclear officials have met for the first time since Iran's shah was deposed in 1979 to discuss non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, officials confirmed to ABC News today.
The meeting occurred as Israel - which has a nuclear arsenal - has threatened to destroy Iran's clandestine nuclear program. With that as a backdrop, the meeting might be considered somewhat of a breakthrough.
"This was only a semi-official get together, but the fact the Iranians agreed to sit in the same room with us on this sensitive issue is significant," a senior official of the Israeli government told ABC News.
The meeting was organized by the International Commission on Nuclear Non Proliferation and Disarmament. Both the Arab League and the U.S. sent representatives. It took place in Cairo's Four Seasons Hotel on Sept. 29 and 30.
The Israeli representative was Meirav Zafary-Odiz, director of policy at Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and the Iranians sent Ali Ashgar Soltanieh the Islamic Republic's delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Israel Still Skeptical of Iranian Cooperation
There were no one-on-one meetings between the Israeli and the Iranian, according to the Israeli government official who spoke to ABC News on conditions of anonymity due to sensitivity of the issue. However, both delegates took part in small forums and direct verbal exchanges took place across the table.
They took part in three separate discussions on declaring the Middle East a nuclear free zone, preventing proliferation and the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
In one of the sessions, according to those present, Soltanieh directly asked his Israeli counterpart in a loud voice: "Do you or do you not have nuclear weapons?"
Zafary-Odiz smiled, but did not respond. Israel launched its own clandestine nuclear program in the 1960s and ever since has conducted what it calls a policy of ambiguity with regard to its nuclear capabilities. Israel is widely credited with its own arsenal of nuclear weapons, but refuses to confirm this or disclose any details.
This policy has long been criticised by Arab states and while some seek to develop their own nuclear programs outisde international agreements on non-proliferation, Israel's continued reluctance to talk about its own program or allow outside inspections have become major bones of contention in the region.
There has been little comment so far from the Israeli government over the draft deal currently under discussion in Vienna. The deal agreed by Friday might allow Iran to ship most of its enriched uranium out of the country for conversion into fuel rods for its experimental reactor.
Unnamed Israeli officials say they will not comment until they know the details of the deal.
Israel papers Thursday stressed such a deal would delay Iran's supposed progress towards making a bomb by a year or two. Israeli officials have long cautioned against optimism in the Obama adminstration's dialogue with Tehran. They fear the Irnanians are developing their program at secret sites like the one recently uncovered near the holy city of Qom.
But details of the recent and highly unusual Cairo meetings indicate the Israelis are not against direct talks with the Iranians themselves.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Perverts of the world unite

I have always maintained that sex perverts are the one group that has not gotten any recognition of their right to resistance against society. Suicide bombers and manufacturers of "alternate" histories and the genocidal Hamas all have their share of supporters, but nobody sticks up for poor old Merv the Perv, or so it seems.
It seems I was wrong. According to Haaretz, convicted sex offender Ezra Nawi "has has in recent months received the support of prominent international leftists, including Professor Noam Chomsky, former deputy attorney general Yehudit Karp and author Naomi Klein."  He had been convicted of sexually assaulting a minor. However, they didn't support him for his "significant act of resistance" evidently. They did support him for attacking Israeli police who were dismantling illegal Palestinian "settlements." Nawi has now gotten a one month jail sentence and a stiff fine for assaulting the (non-minor) police.
Perverts of the world unite. Your day will come yet.
Ami Isseroff

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US Breast Cancer Group allows Egyptian boycott of Israel

Something to think about if you are considering a donation... Also something to think about when US military aid comes up for consideration in congress...
Monday, October 19, 2009, 10:19 PM
Jim Hoft

komen egypt
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Organization is holding a conference this week in Egypt.
No Jews are allowed.
Israel National News reported:

A United States-based organization's conference on breast cancer awareness, to be hosted in Egypt, has been touted by international news networks as an example of "unprecedented cooperation" in the region. However, according to Channel 2 news, the celebration of unity may be premature, as Israeli doctors were told at the last minute that their invitations to participate had been rescinded.

The conference will be held in Alexandria, Egypt this week, under the auspices of the American group Susan G. Komen for the Cure – the world's largest breast cancer advocacy organization. It is to include meetings between leading researchers from the U.S. and several Mideast countries.

Israeli doctors were invited to the event as well, and several had planned to attend. However, on Sunday night, the doctors received brief notices telling them that they were no longer invited to the conference, by order of Egyptian Health Minister Hatem el-Gabali.

The notices did not include an explanation of Gabali's decision.

Hat Tip Ken Solomon

Evidently, boycotting Israel is more important than curing breast cancer.

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Healey excluded from J Street meeting as J Street tries to "look legit"

Too bad Josh Healey will not be at the J Street conference to express the true feelings of the "pro-Israel" participants. The manner of his exclusion was, in a way, worse than his inclusion.
It will be remembered that Josh Healey is the author of the following "masterpiece": called Queer Intifada:
we call ourselves the chosen people
but I'm asking chosen for what?
chosen to recreate our own history
merely reversing the roles
with the script now reading that
we're the ones writing numbers
on the wrists of babies born in
the ghetto called Gaza
But Healey didn't get booted from the J Street conference for likening Israelis to Nazis. That was OK. Of course, Israelis did not write numbers on wrists of babies born in Gaza, but what does truth matter? It's poetic license for a "pro-Israel" poet, right?
Healey only got booted for likening Guantanamo to Auschwitz. Trashing Israel and "the chosen people" is OK, but don't you dare say anything bad about the USA. The Obama administration is of course still knee deep in Auschwitz. J Street has to live up to its slogan, "Mr President, we've got your back."
The explanation given by J Street's Ben Ami is even worse. It seems that likening Guantanamo or Gaza to Auschwitz is not depraved and inappropriate for a "pro-Israel" conference. It is just not politically tactful, right?
J-Street's Ben-Ami issued the following explanation: "As a matter of principle, J Street respects the dissenting voice that poetry can represent in society and politics. We acknowledge that expression and language are used differently in the arts and artistic expression when compared to their use in political argumentation. Nevertheless, as J Street is critical of the use and abuse of Holocaust imagery and metaphors by politicians and pundits on the right, it would be inappropriate for us to feature poets at our Conference whose poetry has used such imagery in the past and might also be offensive to some conference participants."
In an interview with Haaretz, Josh Healey didn't conceal his disappointment. "I had a conversation with 'J Street' staff, and they explained that they are playing the game - Washington politics, and seeking legitimacy. And they are not willing to fight this battle. I was born in Washington, so I'm not surprised to become Van Jones of J Street," (U.S. President Barack Obama's "green jobs czar" who resigned over the controversy about his past political associations).
Ben-Ami and his friends are trying to put on their Sunday best and keep attention away from their real sentiments. Legitimacy is being sought. Legitimacy should be denied.
Ami Isseroff

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No to "Arab Jews" wishful thinking

Excerpts from a reaction of a Mizrahi Jew to the florid statement of anti-Zionist Jews from Arab lands.

Mizrahi Open Letter closed to Europeans

Remember Obama's speech in Cairo ? In what now seems a false dawn, the Left hailed it as a new beginning for relations between the US and the Muslim world.

At the time, so excited was a small group of leftist Mizrahim in Israel about the wind of change that Obama seemed to promise, that they drafted an Open Letter, directed at the Arab and Muslim world, called A new spirit. The letter did the rounds of blogs and email networks. It seemed to die a death and nothing more was heard about it, until it resurfaced this month in the Palestine Chronicle, revealing the anti-European, anti-Zionist agenda behind it.

An interview by Sherri Muzher with one of the signatories, self-styled Arab Jew and activist Mati Shemoelof, begins with a disingenuous reference to how Nasser demonstrated his regard for the Jews by choosing Leila Murad over Um Kalthoum as the Revolution's official singer - even as he expelled 25,000 Jews from Egypt. (Muzher forgets to mention that accusations of disloyalty to Egypt dogged Murad until she died.) The Palestine Chronicle reveals the Open Letter's signatories to be 'social activists' who seek to decolonise Israel - ie divest its of its European nature. In reaching out to the Arabs, bringing down the 'apartheid' wall between Judaism and Islam, they are prepared to drive a wedge between themselves and European Jews - an act of apparent racism.

The letter glosses over the antisemitism which caused the parents of these signatories to flee the Middle East and North Africa. It was a 'temporary crack'. The signatories are saying, "we are Arabs like you - Arabs of the Jewish religion. We have more in common with you than with the European Jews that fate has lumped us together with in Israel. We know something bad happened between you Muslims and us Jews but it's nothing really, nothing in the overall scheme of things."

At first sight, the letter is full of lofty sentiments:

" we express our support for the new spirit presented by president Obama in his Cairo speech. A spirit of reconciliation, realistic vision, striving for justice and dignity, respect for different religions, cultures and human beings, whoever and wherever they are."

You can't argue with any of that.

We were born in Israel and we are Israelis. Our country is important to us, and we would like to see it secure, just, and prosperous for the benefit of its inhabitants. Yet, the recent conflict into which we were born cannot erase the long history of hundreds and thousands of years, during which our parents and ancestors lived in Muslim and Arab countries. Not only they have lived in the region from time immemorial, but were also part of the fabric of daily life and have contributed to the development of the region and its culture.

These are younger Mizrahi Israelis with no direct experience of life in an Arab or Islamic country except for a romantic notion of the Arabic language and culture. They call themselves 'descendants of Jews from Islamic countries'. They are Jews from Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, where Arabic is not the national language, as well as Morocco and Libya. Quite what all these Jews have in common is not clear. It is enough that they are not Europeans.

Nowadays, the cultures of the lands of Islam, Middle East, and the Arab world, are all still part of our identity; a part which we cannot, and do not wish to repress nor uproot.

A mighty strange way of referring to oneself. Imagine if Ashkenazi Jews were to say that they come from the 'lands of Christendom'. To say that you belong to the Middle East is one thing; to say your identity is rooted in the Arab world, and what's more, the lands of Islam, means that you define the region you come from primarily by its religion, a religion that conquered the region 1,000 years after your Jewish ancestors settled there.

Surely, the Jews living in Muslim countries endured some difficult times. Nevertheless, those painful moments should not conceal nor erase the well known and documented history of shared life. Muslim rule over the Jews was much more tolerant and lenient compared with non-Muslim countries. The fate of Jews in Muslim regions cannot be compared with the tragic fate of Jews in other regions, Europe in particular.

...endured some difficult times. The euphemism of the year. Jews were ethnically cleansed, robbed, their 2,000-year-old civilisation destroyed. Imagine the Ladino-speaking Jews of Spain telling the Spaniards - we endured some difficult times. The odd pogrom, denunciation, inquisition or auto-da-fe, but hey! it wasn't as bad as what Jews went through in other places. Our nostalgia for Spain and its glorious culture and language, which we still speak, more than makes up for any 'bad stuff'. And we adore borekas.

Judaism and Islam are not far apart from religious, spiritual, historical and cultural point of views. The alliance between these two religions dates back many generations. Yet the memory of this partnership and the unique history of Jews originated from the Muslim and Arab world (which today constitutes 50% of the Jewish population in Israel!) has unfortunately faded, both in Israel as well as in the majority of the Muslim world. In the necessary reconciliation process between West and East, oriental Jews can and should embody a live bridge of remembrance, healing and partnership.....  

Anyone who believes that Judaism and Islam are not that far apart has little knowledge of either religion or the dhimmi status suffered for centuries by Jews who lived among Muslims. The letter-writers don't hold humans responsible for that deep chasm - It must have just happened. Arab governments bear no responsibility for persecuting their Jews, it was an act of God or Mother Nature. Note that in the last sentence Palestinian pain takes precedence over Israeli pain.

Irony of ironies, these Mizrahim have taken on a guilt-ridden Eurocentric vew of the conflict, where Israel is the coloniser, the Arabs and Muslims lack agency for all the 'bad stuff' and the Palestinians are the main victims. The letter-writers' own Mizrahi history has been erased, lost in a cloud of warm, fuzzy nostalgia.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The reinvention of history: Sholomo Sand's historic genocide of Jewish national rights now in English

Shlomo Sand's abominable thesis, first published in French and Hebrew (see Zand and the Final Solution to the Jewish Question) , that Zionists "invented the Jewish people" has now reached the United States.   

Are Jews NOT a 'people'?

Shlomo Sand is a professor of history at Tel Aviv University, with a specialization in Europe. In New York last week to promote the English-language edition of his book, "The Invention of the Jewish People" (Verso Press), he quipped that he would not have published his book before obtaining job security as a tenured professor. Although somewhat flawed in his English, he charmed a packed audience of the "Marxist Theory Colloquium" at New York University with his wit and devastating attacks on ideas that most Jews and Israelis hold dear.

The basic notion is that the people we know as Jews are a disparate collection of peoples who are descendants of converts, but not of the original inhabitants of the land of Israel, and that the Palestinian Arabs are actually descendants of the ancient Judeans to a much greater degree than today's Jews. His basic points of argumentation include:

1. that the Romans never "exiled" the Jews from Judea and that most of them converted to Islam with the Arab conquest about 600 years after Rome's suppression of the two great Jewish rebellions;
2. that Ashkenazi Jews are mostly descended from the Khazars --- a Turkic people, originally from near the Caspian Sea, who largely adopted Judaism over 1000 years ago;
3. that Sephardic Jews are mostly descended from Berbers who had a Jewish kingdom that fell to the Arab-Muslim conquest of North Africa;
4. that Yemenite Jews are descended from a Jewish kingdom in Medieval Yemen;
5. that the idea of a "Jewish people" was "invented" by Zionist thinkers in the late 19th century.

If this were a dispassionate academic discussion of scholarly issues, there'd be less of a problem here. Instead, Prof. Sand presents his ideas in incendiary ways, to forums that are emotionally committed to thinking of Israel as automatically in the wrong in whatever it does and to a large extent unjust in its very existence. Sand engages more as an ideologue and provocateur than as a true scholar.

According to Wikipedia, Prof. Sand is a red diaper baby who belonged to an Israeli Communist youth organization and the anti-Zionist Matzpen group in the 1970s. I point this out only to indicate that his personal history predisposed him to a sharply dissenting viewpoint regarding Israel.

I lost my cool at certain points and shouted out brief comments protesting some of what he asserted as fact: for example, that Israel as a self-defined "Jewish state" cannot be a democracy. I indicated that Israel is a democracy since the word fundamentally denotes majority rule, but I would agree with critics that it's a flawed democracy and in some ways not a liberal one. He actually shot back that Israel is liberal in many ways --its pluralism, its free press, etc.-- and I would not disagree, but this leaves him arguing a contradiction: that Israel is both "liberal" and undemocratic. (Following the lecture, I explained to someone sitting near me, who had believed otherwise, that Arab citizens of Israel vote and are even elected to political office.)

In another of my interjections during his talk, I indicated in response to his #1 point that the Romans killed most of the Jews of ancient Judea/Palestine in the course of putting down the rebellions of the years, 66-73 C.E. and 132-135 (Bar Kochba's revolt). He said that contemporary accounts always exaggerated numbers and that you have to discount them by "dropping a zero."

But even if this were true, many if not most survivors were exiled as slaves; still, he dismissed the notion that the figures carved in Rome's Arch of Titus, depicting men carrying menorahs and other Jewish artifacts, were exiled Jews-- because their faces were shaven (and therefore Roman). Evidently, these figures were Roman soldiers carting off booty from the Temple; but the Roman Coliseum is understood to have been built by Jewish slaves. He is correct that Jews remained (he makes the point that rabbis there created the "Mishnah"), but their viability as a people with the numbers and means to sustain national independence was surely gone by then. There is certainly no dispute that Palestinian Jews compiled the "
Jerusalem Talmud" after the Roman wars; but these points prove nothing other than how hard he's arguing to minimize the extent of the catastrophe suffered by the Jews at the hands of the Romans.

During the Q & A, I calmly asked him how his ideas comport with linguistic scholars who see Yiddish as originating about 1,000 years ago from eastern French and western German dialects, and then moving eastward. He complimented me on the question, indicating that the answer is in his book; he takes the view of a scholar named Paul Wexler who contends that Yiddish developed in eastern German lands rather than the west. It took me a day or two to realize that this didn't answer my question, because whether Yiddish originated in western German lands or a couple of hundred miles to the east, this doesn't show why Yiddish, the lingua franca of Eastern European Jews, would be based on German and not on the Turkic tongue of the Khazars.

With regard to #5, I've already discoursed somewhat on this
in an earlier posting: "The Zionist movement successfully remade the Jewish people as a nation in the land of Israel. It took a series of scattered religious and ethnic communities and – with the 'help' of pervasive and (eventually) genocidal antisemitism – gathered them up and transformed them. ..."

Prof. Sand admits that there is such a thing as "Jewish identity," apart from the religion. But he doesn't seem to understand that all national identities are "invented."

blogged on this as well: "This is one of the lessons I drew from an insightful book by Prof. Rashid Khalidi: Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (Columbia University Press, 1997). He makes the point that 'National identity is constructed; it is not an essential, transcendent given....' Khalidi proceeds to relate how Palestinians didn't see themselves as a distinct people until well into the 20th century. Just as anti-Zionist writers and activists would never think of denying Palestinians their understanding of themselves as a people, they should not be denying the Jews their sense of peoplehood – a consciousness born of centuries of persecution, discrimination and worse, not to mention strong religious and cultural continuities."

Early Reform Judaism, born in 19th century Germany and the US, attempted to recast Jewish self-definition into only a religious frame; classical Reform Jews were Americans or Germans of the "Mosaic" faith. The traditional or Orthodox view of Jews is of "Ahm Yisrael" -- the people or nation of Israel (even among anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews). The left has generally granted people the right to define themselves, to "national self-determination";
only for the Jews does this seem not to be the case.

Sand proved that he knows little about Jewish religious practice in asserting that "Jews don't read the Bible." I don't see the relevance of this to his thesis, but I assume that he was really thinking about the fact that observant Jews interpret the Bible in light of Talmudic and later rabbinic commentaries; but the Torah (the first five books) is read in traditional synagogues three times a week-- Saturday, Monday and Thursday-- supplemented by readings from the Prophets every Saturday, and the chanting of other Biblical scriptures on specific holidays (e.g., the Megillahs of Ruth on Shavuot and Esther on Purim).

We had a nice little discussion afterwards. We briefly got into some core political issues: when I indicated that I'm with Meretz USA and that the Meretz party believes that Israel should be a "Jewish state" that is also "of all its citizens," he dismissed this as "an oxymoron."

We both agreed and disagreed some on the 1948 war and the Palestinian-Arab "Nakba" (catastrophe): we agreed that it was not at all unreasonable for Palestinian Arabs to flee the fighting with the expectation of returning to their homes once the war was over, but that it's too late for a Palestinian "right of return." He hastened to add, of course, that he disapproves of Israel's "Law of Return" (something that I see necessary as an insurance policy for Jews requiring a safe haven from persecution).

I see the Nakba as a Palestinian as well as Jewish responsibility in that it happened because of the violent Arab rejection of the UN's partition plan. He harked on the fact that the smaller Jewish population was granted a larger share of the land -- ignoring that the Jewish state was to have a large Arab minority and that many survivors of the Holocaust (stateless refugees in DP camps--as he was, ironically, as a child) were sure to move there.

He believes strongly in Israel as "an Israeli state," rather than a Jewish state; while I agree that it's only proper and healthy for Jews, Arabs and other Israeli citizens to forge a sense of common nationality as Israelis, I don't see it as wrong that Israel also serves a special function as the one place in the world that Jews can call their spiritual homeland (whether or not it's actually their ancestral home). Finally, Prof. Sand and I agree on the need for a two-state solution, for Israel and the Palestinians, and we'd both welcome a regional confederation some day, but we disagree profoundly on many other things, as I've indicated.
Click here for a follow-up posting.

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Birthright Israel program short of money

80% of wait-listed birthright applicants never reapply
Oct. 20, 2009
Up to 80 percent of young Diaspora Jews wait-listed for birthright-Israel trips fail to sign up again if they miss out the first time around, Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-birthright Israel, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, putting them at higher risk for assimilation.
According to Mark, more than 13,000 young, mostly unaffiliated, Jews from around the world were turned away from the free 10-day trip to Israel this upcoming winter due to lack of space.
Research undertaken by the organization over the past few years suggests that the vast majority will never reapply for the popular tour, he said.
Mark, who has been involved in facilitating the trips to Israel since the initiative was launched 10 years ago, said this was "the source of much frustration.
"We don't deal with it and we don't know how to deal with it," he said. The only way was to try to increase funding, he added.
"If we had more money today we could bring up to 50,000 people to Israel a year," Mark said. "Israel is capable of absorbing many more people and we have shown time and again that we can cope with such a large number. There are no limitations on our ability to recruit more people."
He pointed out that last year, for Israel's 60th anniversary, the organization brought some 40,000 young Jews to Israel. This past summer, however, the it brought only a quarter of that number and this winter trips will see 8,000 young people arriving here.
Figures from birthright for this year show that it has raised close to $80 million for the free trips, with 55% coming from individual Jewish philanthropists, including the Las Vegas-based Adelson Family Foundation; 22% from Jewish communities worldwide and the Jewish Agency for Israel; and 23% from the Israeli government.
"Our biggest challenge today is increasing that funding so less people will be left off the trips," said Mark, adding that the organization has already started to intensify fund-raising efforts through the Birthright-Israel Foundation.
However, Avraham Infeld, senior consultant at the NADAV Fund for strengthening Jewish peoplehood and fostering Jewish continuity and a former president of Hillel and the Chais Family Foundation, told the Post that until such funding was found, a united effort was needed to keep those turned away from birthright trips from falling through the cracks.
"Having the names and addresses of these young people is an invaluable resource," said Infeld, who will speak on Jewish peoplehood later this week at the president's Facing Tomorrow Conference that opens in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
"These are the people that the Jewish world was trying to reach in the past and while, in many ways, birthright has made that possible, the main problem is the disunity in the Jewish world.
"All organizers worry about are their own activities and not about the general good of the entire community," Infeld continued. "There is a whole world of Jewish organizations that could make use of these people. If they can't go on birthright due to funding then we all need to think together what can be done for them."
This article can also be read at

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Danny Ayalon on Goldstone Mission

By Danny Ayalon
Originally published Oct. 19, 2009: 
For eight years, while Hamas indiscriminately shelled Israeli civilians with rockets provided by its patrons in Iran, the UN stood silent. Only when Israel, after years of restraint, moved to put an end to the terror, did the Human Rights Council act - by condemning Israel. This one-sided body passed a one-sided resolution calling for a one-sided investigation. Last month, the results of this "investigation" were presented by Justice Richard Goldstone to the HRC. Yet instead of dealing responsibly with the report, HRC members engaged in yet another anti-Israel travesty, which even Goldstone acknowledged as one-sided.
There have been dozens of international inquiries into events in the Gaza operation, and Israel has cooperated fully with almost all of them, including one undertaken by the UN Secretary General. Only in those instances where it was clear beyond any doubt that an inquiry was motivated by a political agenda - and not concern for human rights - did Israel decide not to cooperate. Unfortunately the HRC's Fact-Finding Mission was one of these.
Sadly, what was clear to Israel from the outset, has only now become clear to Goldstone. He is now trying to distance himself from the results of his own handiwork.
Last Friday he discussed his disappointment with the action taken by the HRC, telling the Swiss daily Le Temps: "This draft resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel, there is not a single phrase condemning Hamas."
WE MUST now deal with the consequences. The council's adoption of the Goldstone report constitutes nothing less than a prize for terrorism in more ways than one.
First, the resolution adopted Friday perverts the reality of Hamas criminality, blaming the victim, rather than the true perpetrator of war crimes in Gaza. For the HRC, it was totally irrelevant that Hamas committed grave war crimes by openly calling for Israel's destruction, purposely firing thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians, endangering Gaza civilians by firing from populated areas and abducting Gilad Schalit.
It was likewise irrelevant to the HRC that Israel had a responsibility to protect its citizens, made every effort to avoid confrontation and did all that it could to minimize civilian casualties. The only relevant consideration for the HRC was the fact that an opportunity had presented itself to demonize Israel in the international arena.
Second, the resolution undermines moderate Palestinians who are interested in peace with Israel. There is a power struggle going on within Palestinian society. It is a zero-sum game, in which any gain for extremism comes at the expense of support for moderation. When the Hamas "tail" is allowed to wag the Middle East "dog," the Palestinian street takes heart and the entire region takes heed. In our neighborhood, everybody loves a winner. So when an international body upholds Hamas's atrocious behavior and exploits it once more to bash Israel, Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority loses face, moderate Arab states lose ground and the Hizbullah-Syria-Iran axis gains strength.
Thirdly, the resolution creates a new obstacle in the global battle against terrorism. A new form of warfare has emerged, in which terror groups launch attacks against "enemy" civilians from behind a shield of "friendly" civilians. This resolution grants immunity to the terrorists and prevents law-abiding states from defending their citizens. With the blessing of the HRC, this tactic will be repeated by terrorists throughout the world, to the detriment of all other democracies struggling against terrorism, putting millions of innocent civilians in danger.
FINALLY, AND most tragic, this whole episode has led Israelis to doubt the underlying assumptions that have guided them until now in their internal debate on how best to achieve peace. Most Israelis supported the willingness of their leadership to take calculated risks to advance the peace process, with the understanding that the "world" would support such efforts and "hedge their bets." Israelis assumed that if, after making compromises, things didn't work out, they would at least retain the right to defend themselves and the world would support them in their struggle.
Yet now, a nightmare has come true. After taking the tangible risk of leaving contested territory for the sake of advancing peace, Gaza was turned into a lawless enclave of Hamas-led, Iranian-backed terrorism. Yet, when Israel was forced to defend itself, the world reacted not with support and understanding, but with accusations of "crimes against humanity." Damned when they do and damned when they don't, Israelis are now asking themselves "Was the sacrifice worth it?"
While Israelis consider their options, the Goldstone snowball is threatening to gain momentum. From Geneva, the issue has now been passed to the UN General Assembly in New York for further action. But, it is still not too late. An international rejection of the HRC's treatment of the Goldstone report would signal to the Israeli public that the world indeed supports its compromises toward peace.
The writer is Israel's deputy foreign minister.

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Former HRW head blasts Human Rights Watch for anti-Israel crusade

Robert L. Bernstein was the chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998. He has some very serious criticism of Human Rights Watch.
By Robert L. Bernstein
Originally published Oct. 20, 2009: 
AS the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group's critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.
At Human Rights Watch, we always recognized that open, democratic societies have faults and commit abuses. But we saw that they have the ability to correct them — through vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform.
That is why we sought to draw a sharp line between the democratic and nondemocratic worlds, in an effort to create clarity in human rights. We wanted to prevent the Soviet Union and its followers from playing a moral equivalence game with the West and to encourage liberalization by drawing attention to dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky and those in the Soviet gulag — and the millions in China's laogai, or labor camps.
When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.
Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.
Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch's Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.
Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch's criticism.
The organization is expressly concerned mainly with how wars are fought, not with motivations. To be sure, even victims of aggression are bound by the laws of war and must do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties. Nevertheless, there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense and those perpetrated intentionally.
But how does Human Rights Watch know that these laws have been violated? In Gaza and elsewhere where there is no access to the battlefield or to the military and political leaders who make strategic decisions, it is extremely difficult to make definitive judgments about war crimes. Reporting often relies on witnesses whose stories cannot be verified and who may testify for political advantage or because they fear retaliation from their own rulers. Significantly, Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an expert on warfare, has said that the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza "did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."
Only by returning to its founding mission and the spirit of humility that animated it can Human Rights Watch resurrect itself as a moral force in the Middle East and throughout the world. If it fails to do that, its credibility will be seriously undermined and its important role in the world significantly diminished.

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Final(?) word on Michael Oren and J Street conference: Embassy will send an observer

It appears that Ambassador Michael Oren will not attend the J Street conference - at least that's the word today.  
By Eric Fingerhut · October 20, 2009
After questions over the past week over whether Israeli ambassador Michael Oren would attend next week's J Street conference, the Israeli Embassy has released a statement  saying it would be sending an observer to the Oct. 25-28 event. J Street responded by saying they hoped to get a "direct response" from Oren, and believe he'll be "missing an opportunity." Here's the Embassy's statement released Tuesday morning:
    In response to the question about J Street's invitation to participate in its conference, the Embassy of Israel has been privately communicating its concerns over certain policies of the organization that may impair the interests of Israel. Accordingly, the embassy will send an observer to the conference and will follow its proceedings with interest.
And J Street's response, from spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick:
    J Street still looks forward to receiving a direct response from Ambassador Oren to our invitation to speak at the conference.  We believe the Government of Israel will be missing an opportunity should it choose not to engage with the over 1,200 pro-Israel activists who will be in attendance at the J Street conference next week.  The invitation to address the conference's participants remains open, and we look forward to working with the Embassy to secure Israel's future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Former NASA Scientist arrested on charges of spying for Israel

According to Haaretz, Nozette formerly worked for NASA. The wording of the announcement "transmit classified information to an individual he believed to be an Israeli intelligence officer" suggests that Nozette was set up for a sting, and that in fact he never spied for Israel, nor did any Israeli agency recruit him. Does this mean the FBI is going to go about testing the loyalty of every person of the Jewish faith in the US government?  
October 19, 2009
U.S. Scientist Arrested on Spy Charges

Filed at 5:15 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Maryland scientist who worked for the Defense Department and other agencies has been arrested on espionage charges.
The Justice Department said Monday that 52-year-old Stewart David Nozette of Chevy Chase was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to communicate, deliver and transmit classified information to an individual he believed to be an Israeli intelligence officer.
The complaint does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf violated U.S. law.
Nozette was arrested Monday by FBI agents. He is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Washington on Tuesday.

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Why Michael Oren initially refused to attend the J Street conference - and why he was right

At the time the article below was written, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren had officially turned down the invitation to address the J Street conference. Now he may be having second thoughts. Shmuel Rosner has addressed the pros and cons of attending and Kadima party MK Nachman Shai has urged him to attend. Shai is known to Israelis as the well liked IDF spokesperson during the 1991 Iraq war, whose reassuring voice accompanied our confinement to sealed rooms which were supposed to protect us against Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles.
There is some logic in the call for dialogue and the attempt to maintain some unity among Jewish organizations. If he does not attend, Oren will miss an opportunity to explain why J Street's positions on negotiations with Hamas, and their support for the showing of the anti-Semitic play "Seven Jewish Children" by Theater J (which claims to be unrelated to J Street, but will participate in the conference) as well as their opposition to sanctions on Iran and avoidance of criticism of the Golstone report are all positions that are NOT "pro-Israel" by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps he could really sway some opinions there. .
After due consideration, it seems to me that Michael Oren's original call was correct, and that Nachman Shai does not understand American politics. J Street is trying to establish itself as a legitimate "alternative" "pro-Israel" voice. But it is not "pro-Israel in any sense. Based on its claims to legitimacy, about 160 congresspersons agreed to host the J Street conference dinner. After Oren's refusal, about 10 or more dropped out, as Rosner noted. There is no way for Oren to attend and announce that his attendance is not an endorsement. If he is there, it is a signal to U.S. congresspersons that this organization has a "Kosher" stamp and represents a legitimate "pro-Israel" view. It does not. Israelis were much less enthusiastic about Nachman Shai, by the way, after we learned that his reassuring reports of the effectiveness of Patriot missiles in countering the Scuds sent by Saddam Hussein were simply untrue.    
Ami Isseroff   
As it prepares for its first national show of force, J Street, the 18-month-old dovish lobby, is experiencing unprecedented success coupled with unexpected criticism.
An item of interest for the national and international press and a rapidly growing organizational power, J Street, which defines itself as the "pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby," has already made its mark as the leading pro-peace group in the Jewish community.
But it is still struggling to prove its pro-Israel credentials.
The latest bump in the road was the refusal of Israel's ambassador to the United States to meet with the group, citing concerns that J Street's views might harm Israel's interests. Ambassador Michael Oren's rebuke adds to a vocal choir of critics from the right that has intensified its activity approaching J Street's first national conference, scheduled to begin on October 25 here in Washington.
The official Israeli rejection of J Street was made public in a carefully worded statement issued by Jonathan Peled, the embassy spokesman in Washington. "While recognizing the need for a free and open debate on these issues, it is important to stress concern over certain policies that could impair Israel's interests," Peled said. He added that the embassy had "communicated to J Street its views on the peace process and on the best way to ensure Israel's security."
Peled said that despite Oren?s decision not to meet personally with J Street, the embassy is conducting talks with the group through its public affairs department. "We decided to move ahead in a measured and cautious way," the spokesman said, adding that the embassy has yet to make a final decision on whether Oren will speak at the upcoming J Street conference.
Upon taking office as Israel's top diplomat in the United States, Oren stated that he would work to reach out to groups previously ignored by his government, including progressive organizations to the left of the mainstream Jewish community. Oren initiated a meeting with Americans for Peace Now, a group with similar views on the Middle East peace process to those of J Street. APN, however, is a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, while J Street is not.
In an open letter to Oren, J Street's executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, made a personal appeal. "Mr. Ambassador, what J Street shares in common with you far outweighs that on which we disagree," Ben-Ami wrote. He invited Oren to "argue over how best to ensure the health, safety and vibrancy of the Jewish people and of Israel for generations to come."
Shunning J Street may be a result of domestic Jewish politics as much as an expression of foreign policy. A diplomatic source told the Forward that Israeli officials received calls from Jewish organizations stating that they "have a problem" with J Street. The groups, which the source would not name, argued that J Street's criticism of other Jewish organizations should not be endorsed by the government of Israel.
Representatives of major Jewish groups contacted by the Forward denied any involvement in convincing the Israeli government not to engage with J Street.
Hadar Susskind, J Street?s new director of policy and strategy, said he still hopes Oren will attend the conference. "So often,? Susskind said, "the problem is that the ambassador is hearing people who categorize for him groups as pro-Israel or anti-Israel." He added that those who say J Street is anti-Israel are wrong, and some are "intentionally spreading falsehood" because they feel "threatened by having another voice out there." Others, Susskind argued, do so out of a partisan political motivation.
Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who now heads a pro-Israel political action committee in Washington, said that J Street received a "well-deserved rebuke" from the ambassador. Amitay said that Oren was ?showing good taste? in not meeting with J Street, adding that the Israeli ambassador to the United States is not obliged to meet with every Jewish group.
But Seymour Reich, a veteran Jewish leader who once was head of the Presidents' Conference, argued that disagreements with J Street's views should not deter engagement with the organization. "It would be appropriate for the ambassador to meet with J Street so each side can hear the other?s views," Reich said. He also noted that Ben-Ami was included when President Obama recently met with Jewish leaders, giving the group extra credibility.
M.J. Rosenberg, one of the leading voices in the dovish community and a senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters, a non-profit research center, said that Oren?s refusal to meet with J Street shows a flawed reading of the Jewish communal map. "Does he think it is enough to meet with Howard Kohr and David Harris? Doesn't he understand that they are the old guard?" Rosenberg asked, referring to the heads of AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee, respectively.
J Street is expecting 1,000 participants at its conference; 160 members of Congress have signed on to the honorary host committee for the conference's gala dinner - most from the Democratic side of the aisle. During the conference, participants will also introduce the new lobby to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
By comparison, AIPAC draws more than 5,000 participants to its annual conference, holds hundreds of lobbying meetings and hosts more than half the members of Congress at its gala event, alongside top government officials from the United States and Israel. J Street had only partial success in attracting speakers from Israel; several current and former Israeli lawmakers will attend, but none from the government or the ruling Likud party are on the list.
One keynote speaker receiving special attention is Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Yoffie had sharply criticized J Street this past winter for its opposition to Israel?s military campaign in Gaza

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Should Ambassador Oren speak at J Street conference?

If Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, speaks at the J Street conference, he will be lending  legitimacy to the organization. If he doesn't attend, he will be missing an opportunity to present Israel's case and to challenge J Street to live up to their slogan that claims they are "pro-Israel" by actually initiating and supporting pro-Israel legislation, rather than pushing policies that are harmful to Israel and helpful to Iran and the Palestinians. If the Israeli ambassador were to be invited to present the Israeli point of view at a PLO conference, there would be no doubt that he should go, so why should he not attend a J Street conference? True, J Street supports legitimation of the Hamas, but they are not the Hamas. True, J Street favored the performance of the anti-Semitic play, Seven Jewish Children, but they didn't say they endorsed the content of the play.  
If there is a chance to win hearts and minds for Israel, shouldn't Oren take that opportunity?
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 12:16 19/10/2009       
Michael Oren ducks the question of J Street
By Natasha Mozgovaya
WASHINGTON - The October 25 conference in Washington D.C. of left-leaning lobby group J Street is just one week away, but Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, is still not saying whether he will attend or not. President Shimon Peres has written a welcoming letter to conference participants, J Street said, with his apologies for not being able to attend.
Ambassador Oren spoke Sunday at a Reform synagogue, the Washington Hebrew Congregation, and was asked about his conflict with J Street, but would not say whether he would attend the conference. He said that the American Jewish community's strength was always in its diverse opinions. He praised the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations as an appropriate framework for representing American Jews. He just did not mention that J Street is not included in that organization.
Daniel Kohl, J Street's political director, was in the audience for Oren's speech. He said it was still possible that Oren would accept the organization's invitation to speak at the conference. On the American side, U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones will be a keynote speaker, representing the Obama administration. Senator John Kerry was also invited to speak, as were several members of Congress, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk and others, including former Nebraska Republican senator Chuck Hagel and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of Reform Judaism.
The Israelis whom J Street listed as attending the conference include Knesset members and former parliamentarians - Amir Peretz, Shlomo Ben-Ami, MKs Shlomo Molla and Yuli Tamir, and others. J Street is proud that it has drawn MKs not only from the Labor Party but also from Kadima.
Oren told the synagogue audience that the Obama administration's demands for a total freeze on settlement construction was impossible politically and practically. He said for Jews not to live in the land of their forefathers was problematic. But he said today there were no significant differences between the Israeli and U.S. positions on freezing construction, and over a few months a compromise was reached on a limited freeze, which will differentiate East Jerusalem from the West Bank and allow normal life in the settlements.
Oren added that it is still not clear how involved the Americans will be in the direct negotiations with the Palestinians and, more important, on what will be in the negotiations. He said that while the political track was moving slowly, that of economic development in the West Bank was advancing more quickly.
On the subject of Iran, Oren said the American administration is promising Israel on almost a daily basis that the dialog with Iran will not go on forever.
He also said the U.S. was closely cooperating with Israel on the Goldstone Commission report, saying the Americans understood very quickly the report was a disaster that not only serves to delegitimatize Israel but also would be a death blow to the peace process.
Oren's words hinted at criticism of the Obama administration's approach, which, he implied, is learning and adopting more realistic positions. He compared Obama's approach to that of another Nobel Prize-winning U.S. president, Woodrow Wilson.

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Iran: US, Britain, Pakistan and Israel resposnible for suicide attack

It will soon be easier to draw up the list of nations that Iran does not blame for the suicide attack in Iran. Of course, Israel could not be left out of the list, since Israel is the one country to accuse when you are accusing more than one.  In reality, there is only one country responsible for this suicide attack, and that is Iran. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps invented suicide bombing and their proteges, the Hezbollah, were the first to carry out such attacks.
Iran cannot expect that only Shia Muslims will want 72 virgins. Of course, everyone wants in on the act.
Ami Isseroff
After accusing US, Britain, Pakistan of involvement in suicide attack that left 42 people dead, Revolutionary Guard chief Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari says 'Israeli intelligence behind this. We must pay them back to punish them'
Dudi Cohen
Published:  10.19.09, 14:03 / Israel News
After accusing the United States and Britain of involvement in the suicide attack that took place in south Iran on Sunday, the Islamic Republic on Monday claimed that Israel was also involved in the terror attack.

Five senior Revolutionary Guards commanders and 37 others were killed in the bombing.

"New evidence has been obtained proving the link between yesterday's terrorist attack and the US, British and Pakistani intelligence services," state TV quoted Jafari as saying. "Evidence shows that US, British and Pakistani intelligence supported the group."
He said the attack was "undoubtedly" planned and ordered by the three nation's intelligence services and that a delegation would soon travel to Pakistan to present evidence.

When asked how those responsible for the attack would be punished, Jafari said, "The American and Israeli intelligence agencies are behind this. We must pay them back in order to punish them, and, God willing, we hope to be able to do so."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the terrorist that carried out the attack are now hiding out in Pakistan, and said he had phoned his Pakistani counterpart and demanded the terrorists be extradited. 

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

European Jewish lobby: Good news and bad

A good sign and a bad sign. Good that Jews in Europe have a voice, but as an Israeli with a memory for history, I get an itchy feeling when contemplating the return of Jews to Europe. As an Israeli, I find that Europe is a nice place to visit. As a Jew, it gives me the willies.  I admit to having mixed feelings about restoration of synagogues in places like Berlin, which are reported as gala events. The smell of ashes hangs over the party.

Europe's Jews get a political lobby

Oct. 18, 2009
HAVIV RETTIG GUR, Jerusalem Post correspondent , THE JERUSALEM POST

BRUSSELS - Europe once had 80 to 90 percent of the world's Jews, until the 20th century's calamities brutally cut that figure down to the current estimate of 10%. Two very different societies - Israel and the United States - have replaced Europe as home of the major centers of Jewish life.

But Europe's Jews are apparently no longer satisfied with accepting this verdict of history. They are increasingly organized and increasingly vocal. And now they have a lobby.

The inauguration in Brussels of a new branch office of the European Jewish Congress last week marks a dramatic development in European Jewish political activism, believes EJC president Moshe Kantor.

"In Europe we see both too much tolerance" - for example, toward the Iranian regime's genocidal ambitions - "and too little" when it comes to Europe's religious and ethnic minorities, Kantor says.

The office in Brussels will be charged with "triggering important processes in legislation, legal issues and research to advance tolerance. The goal is not to talk about tolerance, but to [engage] in a wide spectrum of real action," he adds.

According to Raya Kalenova, the director of the new office, it will also focus on "educating against anti-Semitism and for reconciliation between the three great monotheistic religions."

The message of the new Jewish presence in the heartland of European government "is that Europe's Jews are European citizens with European values," Kalenova explains.

The opening of the Brussels office on Wednesday seemed to suggest the organization already possessed the ability to reach the highest echelons of European politics. In attendance at the celebratory cocktail reception and dinner were Europe's most senior officials, including European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Commission Vice President for Justice, Freedom and Security Jacques Barrot, and some 50 MEPs.

Israel also sent a high-ranking representative, in the person of National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau.

According to observers, however, it is too early to tell whether the new office will be influential or significant.

A comparison with the United States may be instructive, some argued. Mainstream American Jewish organizations maintain lobbies in Washington, but rarely are they influential if they don't represent the broad consensus of American Jews.

Among the most powerful of the Jewish advocacy lobbies is the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, which is focused almost exclusively on making US tax policy favorable to charitable giving. This is because American Jewish life does not exist outside its non-profit institutions, which include all its synagogues, schools, old-age homes and charities.

Also in keeping with the wide consensus of the American Jewish community, Jewish groups in Washington have been instrumental in developing civil rights legislation and in advocating in broad terms for American support for Israeli security. But they shy away from dealing with issues that lack an overwhelming Jewish consensus, such as the Afghan deployment, sex education or international trade policy.

What, one might ask, are the consensus issues of European Jewry?

Asked about the European Jewish "constituency," Yossi Lempkowicz, founder of the European Jewish Press, a pan-European news agency based in Belgium, noted that it is not easy to pin down such issues of consensus.

"Europe's Jews are citizens of Europe," he says. "They care about many different issues as Europeans," not in clearly defined Jewish blocs.

"For example, there is disagreement on the question of the expansion of Europe, or on [the rights of states to limit the wearing of] the Muslim veil," he says.

Furthermore, domestic issues affecting the daily life of Europe's Jews - taxation, law enforcement, regulations on religious life - are not handled at the European level, but in each country's national institutions.

An even greater obstacle to European Jews' ability to conduct political advocacy is their extreme diversity. One may fairly ask if Jewish Latvians, Belgians and Italians can really share an overarching agenda that can be represented in pan-European institutions.

In a sense, this question of a Jewish agenda for Europe is a microcosm of the larger question of European identity.

What does it mean to be "European?" asked one attendee at the reception. Is this an authentic popular identity or, as some complain, an invention by activist bureaucrats?

Another layer of complexity lies in the EJC's own structure, which is also the umbrella for many communities outside the EU, including Russia, Macedonia and Norway. Can EJC Brussels have a position on EU-Russian energy spats? Or can it oppose Russia's Iran policy within EU institutions without harming the political situation of the Russian Jewish organizations ostensibly represented in the Brussels office?

All these issues will have to be resolved in the new office's first months of operation. It is not likely to be an easy task, and there are no guarantees of success.

Yet, according to many participants, the mere existence of the new office is a telling symbol of a nascent European Jewish consciousness that is emerging alongside the development of a broader European identity.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Fw: Daily Kvetch: My Reply to Amira Hass

Written by our friend Yaakov M, who lives way up in the north of Israel.
This is a reply I sent in to Haaretz to another infamous article by Amira Hass that stalwart defender of the great Palestinian lie in her latest article, "Family who lost 29 members in Gaza war: We envy the dead".

In her article, as usual, Ms Hass totally quotes the testimony of an "innocent" Palestinian and she gives his words legitimacy by publishing them in full without a full background check. This is part and parcel of her history of written words in Haaretz. She nary questions the authenticy of those she quotes among the Palestinians in order to bring the full weight of negative criticism only against Israel. Never has she criticized the Palestinians and their leadership in the manner she relays her hypocritical criticism towards Israel.

There are some contradictions in the story which tell that the death of the family members may not have been caused by IDF fire:

"As was reported here last month - on January 4, under orders from the army (IDF), Salah Samouni and the rest of the family left their home, which had been turned into a military position, and moved to the other, the home of Wael, located on the southern side of the street. The fact that it was the soldiers who had relocated them, had seen the faces of the children and the older women, and the fact that the soldiers were positioned in locations surrounding the house…" Then he continues; "Nothing prepared him for the three shells and the rockets the "IDF" fired a short time later."

Now I ask you "IF" as Salah Samouni states; "…soldiers were positioned in locations surrounding the house…" WHY would the IDF fire at the house if Israeli soldiers were indeed in the houses next door?

Here is what I wrote:

To sit comfortably in a nice, clean and safe civilian office far away from the nitty griddy of real life and real death house to house fighting you cannot fathom the totally horrific world of death and surprise that exists in combat. Any soldier who has ever served their country in combat and has walked the walk, knows that when fighting in areas where there are civilians terrible things can and will occur.

I can agree with you to an extent that there should not be an excuse for dead civilians. But hindsight is most definitely better than foresight in the true heat of battle. In a combat situation you do not have the time to fully assess who is a civilian and who is not. When bullets, mortar fire and RPG rounds seek you out from all angles and your brain is full of fear of the shrapnel from a nearby IED or grenades and their concussions. You react out of training and the instinct for survival. When fully exposed to the full and very real terrors of warfare, you are filled with adrenalin as you attempt in a split second to determine your next movement fully conscientious that the next sound you hear may be your last. The ever present and constant noise ringing in your ears, the screams of those wounded or killed. Sweaty, dirty, thirsty and full of fear for your immediate survival, you strain with every part of your being to keep yourself focused on staying alive.

In summary, until you have been in the situation where another is just around the corner waiting to kill you, you cannot fully comprehend how mistakes can happen.

In this article by Amira Hass, one is given the total impression of war at it's most horrid form. Civilian casualties are a terrible price and there are many such cases of terrible instances such as these in all war zones. As someone who has been in military service in the United States and in the IDF I have seen this too many times. As to the words written here by Amira, it is not explain just how and why they were the Samouni clan family members actually killed. From the testimony of Salah Samouni one is given a picture that the entire clan were all pro-Israeli. He even states that in the past several family members worked in the Jewish settlement of Netzarim which until 2005 was located right next door. Yet what the readers are not informed by Ms Hass is that after Israel's disengagement from Gaza the terrorist movements converted the now deserted Jewish settlement into a fortified area resplendent with trenches and concrete bunkers. That its area of once flourishing hot houses left intact at the behest of the Israelis to encourage farming where instead converted into a training ground for fighters. Ms Hass fails to mention also that mortar fire and rockets were constantly launched from this area and that members of the family; Tawfiq Rashad Hilmi al-Samouni, Muhammad Ibrahim Hilmi al-Samouni and Walid Rahad Hilmi al-Samouni, were affiliated with Islamic Jihad and boasted of this fact to others in Zeitun. There are others from the village who also had once worked with Israelis in the settlements and within Israel proper. A Islamic Jihad flyer even noted that Muhammad and Walid al-Samouni was active in fighting against the IDF in the Zeitun neighborhood. So could they have been fighting from within the houses as is common in street to street fighting? Why were they not in bomb shelters as our civilians were? If the Palestinians are so concerned about their civilians, as we Israelis are, why did they build fortified bunkers for fighting instead of bomb shelters? There is really no excuse for dead civilians other than the fact that if there was no cause for fighting they would be alive today. Ms Hass consistently fails, time and time again, to point out to the readers her total lack of criticism of her Palestinian friends. That if the Hamas and the Palestinians had fully accepted the Oslo peace accords and had foregone their inflated dreams the Samouni clan family members would be very alive today.

So Amira try to remember that as a real journalist and not as a propogandist, "Hearsay is never the truth."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Threat of West Bank rockets is real

A rocket factory was discovered in an Abu Dis raid Abu Dis, of course, is just outside Jerusalem. The threat of rockets in the center of Israel is not imagination or hyperbole. It is a real possibility. It will not be avoided by concessions. If Abu Dis was in Palestinian hands, those rockets would probably have been launched against Jerusalem. Here is the little story:

A weapons lab containing explosives and pipes that were apparently meant to be used to assemble rockets was discovered in a joint Border Police-IDF-Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] operation last month in Abu Dis, next to Ma'aleh Adumim, security officials announced Friday.

Three Palestinians were arrested in connection with the factory.

The discovery followed intelligence gathered by the defense establishment.

The Shin Bet revealed in a report last year that Hamas terror operatives in the West Bank had increased efforts to obtain a rocket capability and to develop Kassam rockets that could be fired into central Israeli cities.



Continued (Permanent Link)

Muslims united against terror

An important statement against terror that should be heard and echoed. It is important because it specifically condemns terror not just against other Muslims, but against non-Muslims as well:
Some sick-minded people have started talking about assassinations as if they were a tradition established by the Prophet. This is more than a misunderstanding – it is delusional. Did the Prophet permit the execution of the leaders of Quraysh in Mecca when they sought to stamp out the Muslims in their midst? No. Or the leaders of the traitorous hypocrites in Madinah when the sought to undermine the nascent Muslim community? No. Did he call for executing the leaders of the Jews when there was a covenant between them? No. Did he ever grant anyone the right to pass personal judgment over others and their faith and carry out punishments? No. Never did he permit such things. What chaos would have been worse than that? But this is what these people today want to reduce us to.
Sanity has at last overtaken a part of the Muslim world, because it is finally understood that terror and unlimited war will destroy everything and everyone if it is unchecked:
I assert, on the basis of certain conviction, that the people who follow that extreme path, if they ever come into power, will bring destruction and ruin to everything. Society, from its civil cohesion, to its family integrity, to its agriculture, would waste away. Those people would foster civil strife and suffer for it in turn. This is because they have deviated from the straight path. They have no understanding of Islamic teachings and the wisdom behind those teachings. They are ignorant of the natural laws that Allah has placed in His creation. Therefore, they will never be successful and never find divine support. That is for certain, as anyone who has understanding can see. Nevertheless, those people are quite successful in spreading chaos and confusion. They are good at misleading the simple-minded and causing discord, and they are given support in this whenever we are silent, mince our words, or withhold judgment.
Ami Isseroff
This article contains some harsh words for those who choose to follow the path of violence. However, I find it necessary to use a harsh tone – which departs from my normal writing style – in order to confront those people who take up arms with the purpose of bringing death to numerous people and reducing societies to ruin.
When I wrote about al-Qaeda, some of my dear friends took exception to my doing so, warning me that I would be the brunt of libel and attacks upon my honor, or worse. However, I replied that the situation required that we speak clearly and frankly, and it does not matter what people will say.
I have persistently called upon our sincere scholars and preachers – and continue to call upon them – to describe things by their proper names, and to disassociate the word "jihād" (a word rich in meaning which is found in our sacred texts) form the activities of those killing organizations which murder innocent people and undermine security in societies around the world – regardless of whether those societies are Muslim or non-Muslim – since carrying out atrocities and targeting civilians is categorically forbidden in Islam.
Today, I must stress how important it is for us to condemn the abominable and criminal acts being perpetrated around the world in Islam's name and which are being misrepresented as "jihād". We must expose those acts and the people who carry them out by calling them what they really are, whether their perpetrators refer to themselves as al-Qaeda, or a jihad organization, or a militant organization or an "Islamic state". It is not enough to give vague indications and make ambiguous general statements.
At the same time, I must stress that it is the right of every country in the world to defend itself against external aggression and to carry out resistance against an invader or occupying power. This is an international right acknowledged by all nations. Nevertheless, carrying out such legitimate resistance neither justifies nor excuses the targeting of civilians and innocents, regardless of where they are.
It is not enough that we speak up. Things have gone farther than that. A crisis has rent the intellectual and cultural fabric of our society. Therefore, I appeal to myself and to my fellow preachers to condemn this great evil in the clearest and most unambiguous terms, an evil which is causing bloodshed, destroying society, and blackening Islam's good name. It is also hampering our development, bringing ruin to our countries, inciting transgression against human life, while violating both the tenets of Islam and the dictates of basic human values.
Therefore, we must take care not to confuse our message by discussing other wrongdoings at the same time we discuss this matter, tying them in with each other. Some ignorant people might claim that we are justifying those atrocities or seeking an excuse for them. Indeed, we should not bring up the question of terrorist attacks when we discussing social and political issues, or the media, and say: "This is the cause of that. Avoid these mistakes so as not to give cause for extremism…" This is not a good way to address the matter. It could make some of those people feel, when they see things they dislike, that they have an excuse to perpetrate acts of violence. We need to make a clear distinction between issues, and take care how we speak, so as not to unwittingly have a negative impact upon such people.
We should be wary of how we use the words "but" and "however", words which can lead some young people to fall into misunderstandings, as if what we are saying has many angles to it which can be interpreted in various ways.
The problem we are addressing is one of blind civil strife, where "every time it seems to come to an end, it just goes on" as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in an authentic tradition describing the tribulations of the Last Days. The onus of quelling this strife and exposing how it violates Islamic teachings falls upon the sincere scholars and preachers of Islam who do not fear the censure of others and who feel no hesitation in calling a crime a crime, regardless of the consequences.
I do not care if some people who dislike what I say are going to accuse me of working for this or that interest group, or of being a "government stooge". I call Allah to witness for what I say. My condemnation of terror stems from my religious faith and my firm convictions. No one has any sway over my beliefs. I am neither for nor against the governments. Regardless of the consequences, I am against deviance, destructive behavior, and acts of atrocity in general, and especially when those acts are perpetrated in the name of religion. I make my position plain.
I do not care if my opponents insist on making false accusations against me. I say what I mean, loudly and clearly. These are my religious beliefs, which I have not changed and which have not been any different in the past. However, there is a more pressing need today than at any previous time to reiterate those beliefs and announce them all the more forcefully. Indeed, ever since the outbreak of these violent acts, speaking out against them has become a religious, educational and moral imperative for anyone who cares about the future of Islam, our country, the generations to come, and preserving what little stability is left in the Muslim world.
That which is happening in Somalia and elsewhere is a heartbreaking tragedy. Everything is being laid to waste and people are killing each other over the ruins – all in Islam's name. People have being killed by the droves, without pause, even in the month of Ramadan.
I declare that Allah does not make right the deeds of those who perpetrate atrocities. Nor does He bring the plots of the deceivers to right guidance. Those who, in the name of Islam, kill innocents – and very often they happen to be Muslims – or who claim that by doing so they are upholding Islamic teachings, they will not succeed and they will not set things right. Rather, they will face Allah's punishment and become a warning to others unless they repent beforehand.
Al-Qaeda is not what it was before September 11. It has turned into a media phenomenon with many people claiming the name merely for its symbolic value, mobilizing the youth under its umbrella. In this way, the strategy has changed, the evil has shaken loose from its reins and become like shrapnel all over the place, possessing a regional character but making a global noise. Al-Qaeda has become like a trademark that anyone can get hold of and carry out their activities in its name. It is no longer a cohesive organization with strong ties between its leaders and followers.
I call upon those who still make excuses and hesitate when they speak to think about the judgment they will face when they will stand before Allah. They should not let the oppressive acts of governments or their policies – like what took place in Algeria – or the embargoes that governments impose upon them, cause them to be unjust. The heavens and the Earth are only set aright by justice.
The merciful thing to do is to tell those young people who have been deceived, and those who are set to join their ranks tomorrow, that: "This path you are taking is not going to bring you to your goal. It will not save you from Hell or earn you Paradise. Whoever wants success in this life, salvation in the next, and Allah's pleasure should adhere to the true teachings of Islam and keep far away from bloodshed and strife. Do not attempt to reinterpret the faith so as to justify acts that are clearly and patently evil. In the boldness with which you commit such mortal sins, you engage in crimes far worse in Allah's estimation than those whom you purport to condemn."
This should be the message that parents give to their families, that mothers teach their children, that teachers impart to their students, and that preachers address to their congregations. The condemnation of terror should not be connected with any official campaign, media drive, or salaried work. Rather, it should come from an inner sense of religious duty, from our obligation to raise the next generation correctly and to call people to what is right. It should be carried out with the intention of fostering reconciliation in society and building bridges between ourselves and those who disagree with us, which can be achieved on the basis of our shared concern to safeguard our faith and our worldly lives. In our thinking, we need to get beyond defending our individual interests and look to the general good and to the future. Our concern should be for society: its common folk and its leaders, its rich and its poor, those who are righteous and those who are sinners. All of these people are part of our society, and we must share a sense of loyalty with them all.
When we talk about this issue, which is of the utmost seriousness, we must not mix it up with talk about other things. Those other matters might very well be equally important, or more important, or less. In any case, those issues can be addressed on other occasions.
In all earnest, I call upon our young people to discuss this matter both in person and on the Internet, to uncover the reasons why some people have sympathies for such activities and organizations and how to remedy the causes for those sympathies. I call upon them to hold fast to the clear and explicit teachings of Islam, as set forth in the Qur'an and Sunnah, which warn against sowing dissention, killing, and murder. Indeed, this was one of the last exhortations that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made to his followers at the end of his life, on the occasion of his final pilgrimage.
Some sick-minded people have started talking about assassinations as if they were a tradition established by the Prophet. This is more than a misunderstanding – it is delusional. Did the Prophet permit the execution of the leaders of Quraysh in Mecca when they sought to stamp out the Muslims in their midst? No. Or the leaders of the traitorous hypocrites in Madinah when the sought to undermine the nascent Muslim community? No. Did he call for executing the leaders of the Jews when there was a covenant between them? No. Did he ever grant anyone the right to pass personal judgment over others and their faith and carry out punishments? No. Never did he permit such things. What chaos would have been worse than that? But this is what these people today want to reduce us to.
I assert, on the basis of certain conviction, that the people who follow that extreme path, if they ever come into power, will bring destruction and ruin to everything. Society, from its civil cohesion, to its family integrity, to its agriculture, would waste away. Those people would foster civil strife and suffer for it in turn. This is because they have deviated from the straight path. They have no understanding of Islamic teachings and the wisdom behind those teachings. They are ignorant of the natural laws that Allah has placed in His creation. Therefore, they will never be successful and never find divine support. That is for certain, as anyone who has understanding can see. Nevertheless, those people are quite successful in spreading chaos and confusion. They are good at misleading the simple-minded and causing discord, and they are given support in this whenever we are silent, mince our words, or withhold judgment.
May the peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, who brought the clear message and established the clear proof. And praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Muslims speak out against terror

Perhaps, at last, the tide is turning against the insanity of extremism. Here is one clear statement about terror. It is yet to be determined if "civilians" mentioned in this rhetoric include non-Muslims.  
Closing the Chapter on "Benefit of Doubt" to Terrorists (al-Qaeda et al.)
Posted by MuslimMatters • October 17th, 2009 •
The following message is MM's response, as approved by the Shayookh, to all those who suggested (in the Sh. Salman Oudah + MM Shayookh post)  that the so-called, self-styled "mujahideen" be given benefit of doubt, that perhaps they are "misunderstood" or wrongly portrayed by "the media." Furthermore, suggestions have been made that these terrorist outfits, including alQaeda do not target civilians:
In response to those who suggest that the errors (i.e. terrorism) of al-Qaeda et al. should be over-looked, since they are (supposedly) "fighting Jihad," we say that these "errors" are grievous acts which result in the death of countless innocent civilians. These are not acts that can simply be excused or overlooked, but rather such atrocities must be condemned with the strongest words.
Take, for example, the recent targeting of a UN food programme office. Will they argue that this is an act of war where civilians "accidentally just happened to be there?" Unfortunately for them, there are simply too many cases of these so-called "mujahideen" hitting targets that are quite obviously full of civilians. It is implausible to just keep chalking that up to collateral damage and keep giving them "benefit of the doubt," while their actions are killing so many civilians. At some point, it becomes very clear that this is their mode of operation. It simply is not acceptable to be sympathetic towards them and keep giving "70 excuses," given all the atrocities they have committed.
And if it is claimed that al-Qaeda et al., in reality, dissociate from every act where civilians are killed, then our response is that those who are claiming thus should be in agreement with Sh. Salman when he stated:
    Al-Qaeda is not what it was before September 11. It has turned into a media phenomenon with many people claiming the name merely for its symbolic value, mobilizing the youth under its umbrella. In this way, the strategy has changed, the evil has shaken loose from its reins and become like shrapnel all over the place, possessing a regional character but making a global noise. Al-Qaeda has become like a trademark that anyone can get hold of and carry out their activities in its name. It is no longer a cohesive organization with strong ties between its leaders and followers.
Specific individuals within an organization can disavow responsibility because, as Sh. Salman stated, organizations like al-Qaeda don't have a direct line-of-command structure to begin with. But as Sh. Salman continues, independent groups can claim affiliation, whether legitimate or not, and carry out attacks without express consent from upper management, thus giving them plausible deniability while the campaign attacks continue.
A better question to ask is not who is responsible, but rather, do they sanction and consider legitimate such techniques? Would they speak up and condemn the killing of Muslim and non-Muslim civilians to clarify what is and is not 'proper' jihad? Why don't these groups ever speak up against the killing of civilians, and why don't they ever speak up against targeting places where it is well-known that there will be civilians, such as embassies. If they do not approve of these actions, then why don't they speak up and differentiate themselves? Why is the onus on us to clarify whether certain resistance movements are legitimate or not, when they are - on the surface - in support of such actions, even if they themselves might not necessarily partake in them? Why don't they release these statements through their 'reliable' media outlets?
Finally, in response to those who claim that we cannot take information from various general media outlets, due to the Quranic injunction "O you who believe, If a fasiq comes to you with news, then verify it...," we note that such information is reported almost unanimously across the board, by both Muslim and non-Muslim sources, in addition to countless Muslim eyewitnesses to the atrocities.
Furthermore, the way that the term "The Media" is being used is utterly fallacious.  "The Media" does not exist in the sense that is intended by such statements. It is as if every journalist and every mainstream and alternative media outlet that have reported on matters of terrorism are part of a grand conspiracy.
Rather, it is incorrect to say the media outlets are untrustworthy as a blanket statement. In fact, principled journalists are some of the best sources of real information about these issues. They write under their own names, with a sincere commitment to objectivity, with their professional reputation at stake for any missteps.
Of course, they also have biases, but those are easily discernible, as are the impacts of their biases on the overall argument. It seems clear that the mainstream media as a whole is trustworthy though relative degrees of ideological and source bias can skew certain messages dramatically. Some single sources, such as Fox News, are untrustworthy and unreliable. But, in reality, if anything, it is the jihadi media that has proven over time to be utterly unreliable and propagandistic. The ayah, "If a fasiq comes to you...," that they use for mainstream media reports is more applicable to their own sources; if we consider the definition of a fasiq as one who sins openly or insists on a sin, then alQaeda, et al. clearly qualify, as they repeatedly commit actions which result in the deaths of many civilians.
Anyone who uses tactics that affect civilian populations, is simply not worried about civilians. It is well-documented that al-Qeada in Iraq targets civilians to undermine the government forces and create fear. It is the same modus operandi from place to place. The whole point of terrorism is the targeting of civilians to create fear and undermine civil law and authority because the perpetrators cannot wage a conventional war. Terrorism, in any form, simply must be condemned in the strongest of terms. It simply does not matter whether the perpetrators of these atrocities label their actions as "jihad" or mass-murder.
As Muslims who care about the laws of Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, we must always condemn such actions and their perpetrators.
Comments are closed for this post, as there is no room for negotiation and discussion in clear matters. Cheerleaders of terrorism, and defenders of terrorists, can go find their own sites to engage in despicable rhetoric.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Suicide bombing in Iran kills 5 Revolutionary Guard commanders

Here is a deliciously ironic bit of news. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) entered Lebanon in 1982 and trained the Hezbollah. The Hezbollah soon carried out the first of several suicide bombings. The first one was against an Israeli army barracks in Lebanon, attributed by Israel to gas cylinders exploding. Then there were suicide attacks against American marines and others.
The proverbial chickens have now come home to roost. Someone, probably Al-Qaeda, evidently blew themselves up in order to kill five or more IRGC commanders in Iran. What goes around, comes around. Once the genie of terror is out of the bottle, it is hard to replace it.  
It does not require sympathy with the Ayatollah regime however, to understand that a take over by Al-Qaeda would be far worse. In the Middle East, the bad regimes are always protected by the fact that the replacement would be worse, no matter how bad the regime may be.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 09:39 18/10/2009       
Top Revolutionary Guard commanders killed in Iran suicide bombing
By The Associated Press
At least five senior commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guard have been killed in a suicide bombing in southeastern Iran, the Islamic Republic's official news agency reported Sunday.
The IRNA news agency said the dead included Gen. Noor Ali Shooshtari, the deputy commander of the Guard's ground force, and Rajabali Mohammadzadeh, the Guard's chief provincial commander.
IRNA reported that dozens of others were wounded.
The report said the commanders were inside a car on their way to a meeting when an attacker with explosives blew himself up.
The attack took place in the Pishin region near Iran's border with Pakistan.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Speaking truth about the Go to power and hate: 'Mistakes are not war crimes'

This is the plain truth of course, that everyone who wants to know, can know.
'Mistakes are not war crimes'
Oct. 16, 2009
The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan said on Friday that the IDF took more precautions during Operation Cast Lead than any military in the history of warfare.
Col. Richard Kemp made the comment in an address to the president of the UN Human Rights Council, Alex Van Meeuwen of Belgium, at its special session on the Goldstone Report in Geneva. Kemp's address is printed below:
I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK government's Joint Intelligence Committee.
Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.
Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.
Hamas, like Hizbullah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.
The IDF faces a challenge that we British do not have to face to the same extent. It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.
The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.
Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.
More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas's way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.
Mr. President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets.
And I say this again: The IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.
Thank you, Mr. President.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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