Saturday, January 23, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Santis is right in hoping that the US will not repeat the errors of the past. Unfortunately, the toothpaste does not go back into the tubes. Once the United States committed itself to total settlement freeze and to total delegitimation of Israeli claims to Jerusalem, it is very difficult to reverse the policy. Moreover, it is not going to advance the peace process if the US does not come with a clear program. Obviously if the US position is biased against Israel, it won't be helpful for Israel but that doesn't mean that Mitchell's approach of coming with nothing new to offer is helpful. The Hamas presence in Gaza is in some ways an impetus to peace, but unless a way can be found to eliminate them, the Hamas is a clear obstacle to peace. They will not agree to any reasonable peace offer and they will not vacate Gaza without a fight. The problem cannot be ignored.
By Yitzhak Santis
Special to the Mercury News
Posted: 01/19/2010 08:00:00 PM PST
This week Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell is in the region trying to restart peace talks with the aim of finalizing a deal within two years. On the surface at least, Israelis and Palestinians seem to be farther apart than ever. Nevertheless, while areas of common ground may not be obvious, they are there.
In November, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Israelis and Palestinians quietly agreed to a text encompassing both their peoples' aspirations. The text declares "that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."
To give this document a chance, the administration appears to be taking a different approach than in 2009. Secretary Clinton, believing that "resolving borders resolves settlements," is now pushing for "borders first." Since many settlements would fall on the Palestinian side of the new border, the Israeli residents would have a choice: move back to Israel or stay within the new Palestinian state. Both Israelis and Palestinians have expressed concerns over this idea, but neither side has rejected it.
For Israelis, trading land for peace, including evacuating settlements, is nothing new.
Such was the case when Egypt signed a peace accord with Israel and Israel withdrew completely from Sinai. Israelis even gambled on leaving Gaza, vacating all the settlements there, but were "rewarded" with a Hamas takeover and a blizzard of rocket fire, with thousands of rockets fired at Israeli cities. Despite the disillusionment and continued Hamas threats, a substantial majority of the Israeli public is still willing to return most of the West Bank — if it brings real peace and security.
Another impetus for renewal of peace talks is the Iranian-backed Hamas in Gaza, whose hate-filled fundamentalist ideology rejects peace with Israel. Hamas also seeks to undermine President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah, which rules the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. Abbas can ill afford to allow matters to drift for too long.
To move forward, the U.S. must not repeat last year's mistakes. Washington had made very public demands on Israel for a full and unconditional settlement freeze without making any reciprocal public requirements on Palestinians and other Arabs, creating a damaging dynamic.
Previously, Palestinians did not demand such a freeze as a precondition to talks, but now they expected just that, and yet again dug in their heels. President Abbas said, "Obama laid down the condition of halting the settlements completely. What could I say to him? Should I say this is too much?"
In turn, the Israeli public lost confidence in President Obama's ability to persuade Arab parties to re-engage in peace efforts. Even after Israel did agree to a 10-month moratorium on West Bank settlements, there still was no reciprocity from the other side.
But it is a new year and a more seasoned Obama administration may have a better lay of the land. For instance, despite European pressure, Mitchell brought no letters of guarantee for either side, and with good reason. Drafting such letters would create its own grueling set of talks that could drag on for months. Secondly, such letters must be secret, because if leaked they could give hard-liners an opportunity to undermine talks.
The bitter lemons of years of conflict can sour anybody on the prospects for peace. The difficult task before Mitchell and the president is to turn it all into lemonade, and sooner rather than later.
YITZHAK SANTIS is director of the Middle East Project of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. He wrote this article for the Mercury News.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Israel Watchdog Group Sues European Union for "Transparency Failure"
NGO Monitor Bringing Suit to Compel Full Disclosure of NGO Funding
(JERUSALEM) NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based watchdog group, announced at a press conference today that it has brought suit against the European Commission (EC) for failing to fulfill EU transparency obligations regarding the distribution of funding to non-government organizations (NGOs).
NGO Monitor President Professor Gerald Steinberg said that his group resorted to legal recourse after 13 months of attempts to secure documents detailing non-governmental agency funding by the EC, the executive branch of the European Union. Under the European Freedom of Information law, such funding details must be made available upon request. However, the EC cited "public security," "privacy," and "commercial interests" in denying NGO Monitor's information request.
NGO Monitor legal counsel, Trevor Asserson of Asserson Law Offices, dismissed these reasons as "absurd" and "essentially unsupportable." He described the EU activity as "typical of the types of obfuscation that one gets when someone does not want to do what they are meant to do."
The lawsuit, filed yesterday at the European Court of Justice, seeks "to obligate the European Union, which claims to be a law-abiding institution and committed to looking out for the interests of world peace and security, to act according to its mandate and reveal these documents and the full extent of their funding."
NGO Monitor disclosed that its researchers identified 177 million shekels provided by the EC since June 2005 to NGOs active in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Many of these organizations are active in the strategy of demonization which seeks to isolate Israel, using lawfare and boycott campaigns. The organization alleges that EC allocations are made without full public disclosure of its decision-making processes or evaluation procedures.
"We therefore argue that absent appropriate documentation, European citizens are in the dark as to how their taxpayer funds are being used," Steinberg said. "If the European Union were to actually comply with its regulations, we wouldn't be here right now."
1 Ben Maimon Blvd, Jerusalem, 92268
Tel: +972-2-566-1020 Fax: +972-77-511-7030
For more info contact Fox.Rachel@ngo-monitor.org
The ironic satire below is a light version of the well meaning but mistaken effort to get accolades from Israel's aid in the Haitian disaster (see also Exploiting Israeli aid to Haiti for politics and Israel bashing ).
I haven't seen a lot of Israelis write in this vein. Please don't turn what we do into cheap "PR." If the degenerates of the other side want to invent horror stories about Jewish doctors, it is their problem. If Israel's efforts get no coverage from the BBC or Al Jazeera or anyone else (and they did get coverage) the Haitians will still know what Israel did, and we will still know that we did the right thing. The more people try to harness the rescue effort to improve Israel's image, the less likely it is that biased media like BBC and certain wire services will report it. They like to report news about babies being born after heroic rescues. But they are not interested in being a part of a PR campaign for the evil Zionists.
We do not do these things to improve the Israeli "image" or gain the love of the world. Bitter experience taught us that no good deed goes unpunished. African nations that received so much aid from Israel in the 60s broke off diplomatic relations in 1967. Uganda, which had been the recipient of agricultural aid and student exchange programs, repaid us by hosting a plane hijacked by terrorists. Anyone who expects that Haiti will establish diplomatic relations with Israel just because we saved some Haitians will probably be disappointed. As for anti-Zionists, nothing will change with them. It doesn't matter what we do, they still know that we all have horns and tails and eat babies. Don't confuse them with the facts.
We need also to keep our efforts in perspective. 200,000 people are probably dead in Haiti and many many more are injured. The US is mounting a gigantic effort, but it is not enough either. Every person who is saved by the aid of the various countries is a victory for humanity and for human fortitude and solidarity in the face of disaster. But the depressing fact is that at this stage most of the aid is symbolic. A major medical center, leave alone one or two field hospitals, would not be enough to treat all the injured, and an unimaginably large effort will be needed to provide housing, food and clothing to large numbers of people who never had much, and now have nothing. For the baby that we saved and his or her family, we have done a wonderful thing, but it is only really symbolic. It is no wonder that news reports concentrate on the misery and chaos in Haiti and may devote only a few lines to the worthy Israeli rescue teams.
One should never do good deeds in the expectation of reward. That is not only immoral, it is also unrealistic. The world does not work that way. We do this sort of thing because that is what we were taught that one is supposed to do. It is part of our education and outlook. Perhaps it is part of the Zionist ethic, perhaps not. I remember several instances where Palestinian Arabs helped Israeli Jews after accidents. Perhaps it is a local shared ethic. This was always a rough country and people always were in trouble from floods, disease, road accidents, earthquakes, marauders and famine and always needed help. On the other hand, the spirt of humanism pervaded all of the writings and work of the early Zionists. One of the most remarkable aspects of the work of the Hadassah medical charity is that from the very beginning of their work, they offered medical aid in Jerusalem to both Jews and Arabs without discrimination. Organized help of this type, available to anyone, is evidently a "genetic" part of Zionism and a part of the Jewish tradition. It should not be remarkable, but it is.
Many of the private Israeli aid efforts have been initiated and administered by the "leftist" kibbutz Artzi of Hashomer Hatzair, and the estate of peace advocate Abie Nathan has been active in them. If it is a part of the Zionist ethic, it is not necessarily related to religious injunctions or "advocacy" by far right groups.
The anti-Zionists and Israel bashers will respond, and have responded, with the expected sort of drivel. It doesn't occur to them that the IDF that rescued children in Haiti is unlikely to have engaged in war crimes in Gaza. Instead they insist that the aid to Haiti can't cover up Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
The "theory" that the evil Zionists are collecting victims who will be dismembered for organ transplant trade is mentioned by a talkbacker below as a half-joke:
"Great," said someone identifying himself as 'Smart Alex', "I just hope the IDF soldiers don't harvest any of the dead Haitians' organs without the permission of their families.
Reality is always much worse than anyone's notion of an ironic joke. The accusation is already on the Web - evil Zionists are collecting bodies for illegal organ transplant traffic in Haiti according to a conspiracy theorist.
How many will believe it? How many will lend it some credence in the form of "I wouldn't put it past those Zionists?" How many Jewish doctors were accused, in the past, of poisoning their patients? That should not stop Jews from doing the right thing.
Clever people the Jews… oops, I mean the Israelis. Look at the lengths to which they have gone to distract the world from their daily ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The latest trick is an Israeli field hospital, rushed into Haiti last Friday and erected in a soccer field.
The US, with all its resources, hasn't yet managed to set up a field hospital in Haiti (undoubtedly the State Department is still drafting the crucial legal papers needed) but the Israelis, operating with their usual disregard to the niceties of law, slapped one up and have already delivered a baby there. The father, obviously paid off by the Mossad, rapturously declared that the baby would be named "Israel".
According to Israeli government sources the hospital includes 10 tons of medical equipment, 40 doctors, 24 nurses, medics, paramedics, x-ray equipment and personnel, a pharmacy, an emergency room, two surgery rooms, an incubation ward, a children's ward and a maternity ward.
Information from Israeli government sources should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt, but footage of this tent-city/hospital has now been seen on SKY, Fox and CNN, ABC and CBS and the video seems to confirm (Mossad video fabricators are tricky) at least that the facility is large, clean, and full of modern equipment. CBS's piece called the hospital the "Rolls Royce of medicine in Haiti".
Thankfully, the BBC has kept its head and is not colluding with the Israeli government's attempt to make the world forget its sins. However, that has not stopped Jewish…er…Zionist propagandists, who are already triumphantly calling the field hospital "Israel's Disproportionate response", a reference to the charge last year that Israel reacted to Hamas rocket fire with "disproportionate" military force. The word "disproportionate" in this case refers to the fact that this country of 7.5 million has sent 220 people, compared to say, China, which as of last week had sent 60.
Thankfully, many people are onto the ploy, as these comments from the Los Angles Times show:
"Great," said someone identifying himself as 'Smart Alex', "I just hope the IDF soldiers don't harvest any of the dead Haitians' organs without the permission of their families.
"I know, I know," he wrote, "that was a cheap shot. But I believe well-deserved for a country that tries to use its U.S.-funded humanitarian efforts as propaganda to paper over its disastrous and vile treatment of the Palestinians."
A clever fellow and brave too! It takes guts to make such a deduction and publish it from behind the cover of a moniker like 'Smart Alex'.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
There is no doubt that Israeli rescue teams have done us proud in Haiti. See for example Israeli aid to Haiti. Israeli disaster missions and humanitarian aid are always given without strings, and the people who do it do not do it in anticipation of cheap "PR" that will improve Israel's "image." Such disaster aid missions have been sent to numerous countries, in addition to ongoing projects that provide cardiologists and opthalmologists to needy patients in developing countries. It is what we do, because that is who we are.
There is no doubt that we want people to see who we are and what we do, but when Haitians were yelling "bravo Israel" Major Zohar Moshe insisted, "It is not about that, it is about saving lives." About 200,000 people are estimated to have perished in the Haiti earthquake. This is a huge catastrophe. To put it in perspective, it is nearly ten times as many fatalities as Israel has suffered in all of our wars in our entire history, and about 70 times the number of fatalities caused by the Jihadist terror attacks of 9-11-01 in the United States.
Regrettably, there are cynical, tasteless and obsessed people do not understand that it is inappropriate to play politics with a disaster of this magnitude. Those who insisted on pointing out that Arab countries did not give aid to Haiti might be disappointed to see a Reuters/IRIN item about Arab aid to Haiti, including a Jordanian field hospital send January 14. This is a world class disaster and everyone should be, and is, pitching in. .
On the other hand, any time is the right time to dump on Israel for some people, and anything we do can be held against us. A CBS blog trumpeted " Pennies for Haiti, Billions for Israel, Egypt, as if US aid to Israel is at fault for the miserable condition of the Haitian economy and society. At least two Israeli Op-eds used Israeli aid to Haiti as an excuse and springboard for discussing what they wanted to discuss, which was totally unrelated. Gershon Baskin whined shamelessly:
What has all this to do with Haiti? Absolutely nothing. The only connection is one made by a perverse mind. And what has Gaza poverty to do with Israel? Not as much as you might think. Gaza was not a bustling and advanced part of the world before 1948 or before the arrival of the evil Zionists. The standard of living in Gaza was not better a hundred years ago, and the infant mortality rate was not lower. It was about 300 out of a thousand infants, many times higher than today. Gaza under Egyptian rule was certainly no better than it is today. Tikkun olam does extend to our enemies. IDF set up a field hospital to treat Palestinian victims during Operation Cast Lead (aka "Gaza War of 2008") and Israeli hospitals have been treating Palestinian patients from Gaza even in the worst of times. One of them, as Baskin might remember, tried to use Israeli generosity to blow up Soroka hospital. It really isn't Israel's fault that Palestinians voted for Hamas or that Hamas chose to launch rockets and mortars at our towns. Baskin claims that "we" don't care. Perhaps he speaks for himself. Perhaps he is telling us that he doesn't care either about the suffering of the Palestinians or the dead people in Haiti. To an observer, it looks like he is just using suffering as a device to advance a political agenda - a good "issue."
Yoel Marcus's effort in this direction was less perverse, but it was nonetheless artificial exploitation of a "hot news item" as a springboard for discussing what he wants to discuss.
Well yes. It is also easier to organize rescue operations outside Israel than to fix the road safety problem or the problem of Israeli homeless or any other problem that needs fixing, so the deaths of 200,000 Haitians and the Israeli relief effort can be used as a platform for discussing just about anything you like.
The Hamas got into the act too, forgetting their complaint (Gershon Baskin take note) that Gazans are all starving in the Israeli siege, and launching their own relief effort for Haiti, alleging that the Israeli attack on Gaza was similar to the earthquake in Haiti. Not even Judge Goldstone, imagined that Israel killed 200,000 people in Gaza.
But the icing on the cake, the one that takes the "no good deed shall go unpunished" award, goes to the enterprising conspiracy theorist who came out with the inevitable accusation: the evil Zionists are collecting bodies for illegal organ transplant traffic in Haiti.
Nothing can top that of course, but no doubt something will.
In Haiti, a Poignant Rescue Mission Amid 'We Love Israel' Cheers
By Nathan Guttman
Published January 17, 2010.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti — "Tell me please, what day is it? Is it Wednesday?" whispered Franz Gilles, laying in his bed at the field hospital.
"No, it is Saturday," the Israeli doctor standing next to him replied.
Gilles seemed baffled. He turned around and mumbled, "Saturday, oh my God."
The 59-year-old administrative director of the Haitian tax authority spent the past four days buried under rubble, in what used to be his office, across the road from Port-au-Prince's devastated presidential palace. "It was like in a box, then the night came," he later said.
Local rescue workers tried to get Gilles out shortly after the massive, 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Haitian capital on January 13, but to no avail. They left their equipment on the ground and went on to rescue others. But three days later, an Israeli rescue mission — part of a 200-member Israeli rescue and relief mission that flew in to Haiti on January 14 — came back to the building, after receiving information that someone was still alive in the building.
"We started looking around, using dogs and listening devices and then we found him," said Major Zohar Moshe, commander of the rescue force. Zohar's team was one component of the rescue mission Israel dispatched to Haiti, a detachment from the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command that includes engineering, medical, logistics and rescue experts.
This was their first chance to actually find someone they could help.
"I'm always optimistic. You have to be optimistic when you're on a mission like this," he said, as an Israeli military doctor climbed into the rubble to insert an intravenous liquid tube to Gilles arms.
The Israeli rescuers kept on working around the cavity in which Gilles was trapped, cutting through the debris that blocked the entrance. "We tried to talk with him, to keep him awake," said Captain Nir Hazut. "I told him, 'Do you know where we are from? We are from Israel.
Gilles, who all but lost hope to ever get out, replied: "I can't believe it. You came all the way from Israel to save me?" Then he asked for a cell phone to call someone in Israel and say thank you, but rescuers told him that he'd have a chance to do so once he was out from under the debris and safe.
It took more than seven hours of careful digging, and maneuvering through the piles of brick, wood and office stationery, but by day's end, Gilles was out. Bodies of his co-workers, who were not as lucky, were visible through the debris of what was once one of Haiti's main government office buildings.
As Gilles was taken out on a stretcher to the ambulance, the crowd waiting outside the building for hours, broke out in cheers. "Bravo," cried out one, and another led bystanders in cheers "We love Israel; we love Israel."
"It is not about that, it is about saving lives," said Major Zohar Moshe, covered in dirt and sweat after the rescue mission was over, "but it does make us very proud."
A few hours later, in the field hospital set up by the Israeli military, Gilles seemed exhausted, but the doctors said he that in a few days he would be just fine.
We don't do this to help our "image." Helping disaster victims is not a "PR" stunt. It is doubtful if Haiti will establish diplomatic relations with Israel because of our aid, though some people there may be grateful. We do it because that is who we are.
By Uriel Heilman · January 19, 2010
NEW YORK (JTA) -- The text messages started coming in to Shachar Zahavi's cell phone in the middle of the night: "What are we going to do about Haiti?"
Zahavi, chairman of IsraAid, a coordinating organization for 17 Israeli and Jewish humanitarian groups, hadn't even heard yet about the earthquake that had rocked Port-au-Prince, leaving untold thousands dead.
By morning, preparations already were under way to dispatch an Israeli relief team to the devastated Caribbean nation. Consisting of doctors, nurses, paramedics and logistics experts, the 15-person group arrived Saturday in Port-au-Prince and immediately set to work treating wounded Haitians at the site of a collapsed hospital near the city center.
On Monday, deep into the thick of coordinating logistics for a second aid team to replace the first, Zahavi received a heartening text message from one of his team members in Haiti: "A 6 year old girl, Jessica Hartelin, was just pulled from the rubble by locals nearly six days after the earthquake, was rushed to our clinic and treated by the IsraAID/FIRST medical team. She was saved. She will be transferred in the next few minutes to the Israeli Defense Force field hospital for further treatment."
It was one bright spot in a week that aid workers described as alternately heartbreaking and exhilarating.
The IsraAid team, comprised fully of volunteers, was just one component of the broad Israeli and Jewish effort to help Haiti. As soon as the magnitude of the earthquake's destruction became apparent, humanitarian officials sprang into action.
The Israel Defense Forces was the first major Israeli team to arrive. Team members reached Haiti last Friday on a flight loaded with military and civilian medical personnel from all over Israel, rescue teams, search dogs and supplies. While Port-au-Prince's hospitals were rendered mostly useless by the quake, the IDF team set up a field hospital near a soccer stadium to treat survivors. It was one of the only places Haitians could receive advanced medical treatment in the city.
"The Israeli field hospital is phenomenal," Dr. Richard Besser of ABC News told "Good Morning America." "They were up and running on Saturday morning, way ahead of the United States hospital."
When Besser encountered a woman in labor named Soraya in a Port-au-Prince park, he contacted the only medical facility he knew about in town: the one run by the Israelis.
"Before long, Soraya had an operating room waiting for her," said Besser, who helped deliver the baby. "Ultrasounds, IVs, medications. Soraya was now getting better care than she could have ever imagined."
On Saturday, Israeli doctors at the hospital delivered a baby boy whose grateful mother said she'd name the boy Israel.
Meanwhile, other civilian aid workers were having trouble getting into Haiti. Power was down in most of Port-au-Prince, complicating matters, and airplanes on the ground at the city's airport lacked sufficient fuel to take off and make way for additional aid flights to land.
The airport in Santo Domingo, in the neighboring Dominican Republic, became an alternate staging area, and aid officials from around the world converged on the Dominican capital as a first step toward reaching the earthquake zone in Port-au-Prince.
In Israel late last week, frustrated aid workers idled as they waited for a clear route into Haiti to be established. Reached by telephone last Friday, an official from Magen David Adom, Israel's version of the Red Cross, said the group still hadn't received clearance to leave.
It took until Monday for the team of five Magen David Adom paramedics to get to Port-au-Prince, which they reached overland after landing in the Dominican Republic. Once in Haiti, the paramedics set up a field hospital in conjunction with the Norwegian Red Cross at the courtyard of the university hospital in Port-au-Prince. The hospital was up and running Tuesday morning.
A group from the Israeli disaster relief organization ZAKA was in a better position to move quickly. ZAKA had a team of rescue workers in Mexico assisting in recovery efforts following a helicopter crash there two days before the quake hit, so when the official Mexican aid delegation to Haiti left Mexico, Israeli rescue workers hitched a ride with them aboard a Mexican Air Force Hercules aircraft.
Before the week was over, ZAKA rescue workers had pulled out eight students alive from the wreckage of a collapsed university building.
In a statement, the head of the delegation, Mati Goldstein, was quoted in an e-mail describing a "Shabbat from hell" in the earthquake-ravaged city. ZAKA is made up of Orthodox Jewish volunteers.
"Everywhere, the acrid smell of bodies hangs in the air. It's just like the stories we are told of the Holocaust -- thousands of bodies everywhere," Goldstein wrote. "You have to understand that the situation is true madness, and the more time passes, there are more and more bodies, in numbers that cannot be grasped. It is beyond comprehension."
To lift their spirits, the rescue workers from ZAKA taught Haitian survivors to sing "Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem."
Whether clad in IDF uniforms, wearing the flag of Israel on their shoulders or holding Shabbat prayers during a brief break from their rescue work, the Israeli aid workers' visible presence in Haiti is helping to promote a positive image of Israel in a world more accustomed to seeing the nation negatively.
"I am sure it is good for the Israeli image, but we're not doing it only because of this," said Danny Biran, ambassador of logistical and administrative affairs for Israel's mission to the United Nations and the Americas. "We are doing it because we believe in what we are doing."
"We always carry an Israeli flag and hang it wherever we work. We don't do anything under the radar," said Zahavi of IsraAid. "It's important for us to show that we come on behalf of the Israeli people, and people should know we're there for them."
The IsraAid coalition is made up of aid organizations -- such as the Fast Israeli Rescue and Search Team (FIRST), the Jerusalem AIDS Project and Pirchey Refua-Israeli Youth Medical Cadets -- as well as funding organizations including the American Jewish Committee, B'nai B'rtih International and UJA-Federation of Greater Toronto. On the ground in Haiti, IsraAid partnered with U.S.-based Operation Blessing, which provided sent a container full of medical supplies from Florida.
In an interview from Port-au-Prince, one of IsraAid's logistics volunteers, Alan Schneider, director of the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem, said the destruction in Haiti was overwhelming.
"I've been to Chad, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Kenya and Georgia on IsraAid missions, and I've never ever seen anything of this scale," Schnieder said by telephone as patients receiving treatment at IsraAid's clinic could be heard screaming in the background. "It's like a war scene."
(For comprehensive coverage of the Israeli and Jewish aid effort in Haiti, including videos and photos, visit JTA online at www.jta.org.)
Tuesday Jan 19, 2010
In the Trenches: Useful idiots
Posted by David Harris
In 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler became the German chancellor, the Oxford Union famously adopted a resolution which said "That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country." The measure was passed by a vote of 275 to 153.
Winston Churchill reacted by saying that "one could almost feel the curl of contempt upon the lips of the manhood of Germany, Italy, and France when they read the message sent out by Oxford University in the name of Young England."
Shortly afterward, his son, Randolph, tried to have the resolution stricken from the books, but the motion was resoundingly defeated by the Oxford Union.
In other words, otherwise bright students at a distinguished British university are capable of foolish things. At least in this case, it must be said, "Young England" rose to the occasion six years later, when the Second World War began, and revealed its true colors of patriotism, courage and grit.
Recently, another British student union was presented with a controversial proposal. The London School of Economics (LSE) debated whether to seek the twinning of this world-renowned institution with the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG).
After a spirited discussion, the motion was carried by a vote of 161 to 133. The university administration distanced itself from the decision.
As an alumnus of LSE, I am ashamed of the student action. Sure, LSE has a reputation for feisty politics, but this is taking it a bit far.
IUG was established in 1978 by none other than Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Yassin, it will be recalled, was the founder of Hamas. In 2007, a New York Times reporter described IUG as "one of the prime means for Hamas to convert Palestinians to its Islamist cause." Indeed, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, IUG "has emerged as a training ground for the political and spiritual leadership of Hamas. Many Hamas leaders who are also academics have taught at the university...."
Yassin was hardly cast in the mold of a Western liberal educator. Among his many public utterances, he declared that "reconciliation with the Jews is a crime" and that "Israel must disappear from the map." He claimed that Israel is, in fact, Muslim land and is to be reserved for those of the faith "until Judgment Day."
And Yassin didn't just limit himself to rhetorical flourishes, either. He pursued "armed struggle" against Israel, targeting civilians and blessing suicide bombers.
Moreover, in 2007, during the civil war in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah forces, the latter entered the university and found rocket-propelled grenade launchers, rockets, assault rifles and ammunition, all of which was subsequently shown on Palestinian television.
Two years later, Israel struck two IUG buildings which, according to military spokesmen, were used as "a research and development center for Hamas weapons, including Kassam rockets." Those rockets were used to attack indiscriminately Israeli towns and villages near the Gaza border, with the aim of killing and terrorizing residents.
When I first heard the news that the LSE Student Union voted to twin with IUG, I was speechless.
How could students at a world-class university that celebrates the open and respectful exchange of ideas find common cause with the academic standard-bearer of Hamas, a Sharia-based, obscurantist, violent group?
How could they claim solidarity with an institution that is actively involved in a long-term campaign to destroy a neighboring nation - and a democratic one at that?
How could they, living in a world of pluralism, gender equality and sexual freedom, join themselves at the hip to such a regressive, repressive social environment as IUG?
How could they, students of a university which was one of the stepping stones in British society for Jews to gain equality, identify with a school that preaches hatred of Jews and celebrates their murder?
The answer, I fear, is the bizarre alliance that has emerged in the UK between the keffiyeh-worshiping far left and Islamic extremists.
When neo-fascists come along spouting reactionary slogans about women and gays, the far left unhesitatingly denounces them. But when misogyny and homophobia emanate from the lips of Islamists, they're likely to get a deferential pass from the suddenly culturally-sensitive.
Ken Livingstone, former London mayor, and George Galloway, Member of Parliament, are two prime examples of what the communists referred to as "useful idiots" - those who, in their ultimate naiveté, would help the extremists ascend to power, only to be the first in line for destruction once the goal was attained. In the case of Livingstone and Galloway, they've rarely met a Middle Eastern radical with whom they couldn't agree. And, of course, they have their counterparts at LSE and on other university campuses, in trade unions and in the media.
The LSE Student Union vote was a sad day for the British academy. It betrays all the values that have made Britain a beacon of liberty and enlightenment.
One can only hope that this decision will follow the path of the 1933 Oxford Union resolution - and make its way to the dustbin of history as rapidly as possible.
Monday, January 18, 2010
It is difficult to comprehend the scope of this tragedy or to imagine a government that is so negligent that it cannot provide and organize basic security and health facilties for its people. We are proud that Israel is saving lives in Haiti, but it would really be much better if it were not necessary.
PORT-AU-PRINCE - The Israeli field hospital in the earthquake-stricken Haitian capital reflects the streets of the city, fluctuating between despair and hope amid the looting, violence and stories of miracles. Each account takes on great importance against the background of the earthquake that devastated the Western hemisphere's poorest country.
"His condition is stable and pretty good considering what he's been through. He'll get antibiotics and surgery on the leg - it's a rare case of survival; apparently he was in an air pocket," says Dr. Assaf Amit, who heads the children's emergency department. "When he came here his condition was life-threatening."
Photo: Natasha Mozgovaya
But no one stays for long. The hospital has a two-week mandate - nothing compared to the time it takes to recover from complex injuries.
"We're all thinking about the fact that we discharge them into the street, in effect, because they have no home," says Dr. Avi Yitzhak. "But you have to make the right decision: Either you take in 40 people and treat them for two weeks or you try to save as many as possible to at least stop the primary injury."
Yitzhak immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia in 1991 and says he feels a special connection to the patients here. He says he knows the problems of practicing medicine in the developing world.
"There's no organized network of clinics here, there's nowhere to discharge them to and we have to treat as many people as possible, as long as it's still possible to save them," Yitzhak says.
"When I went out on rescue yesterday I saw what was happening in the streets, the bodies, the people who didn't know what to do. It's obvious that the work is very intensive and I assume that we could burn out at a certain stage. But for now we're full of energy and we're thrilled by our ability to help."
Willsmith Joseph, 9, had surgery Saturday to amputate his toes, which had developed gangrene. Sunday morning he was in a deep sleep in the children's ward. His older brother knelt beside him. They will have to leave before noon. The nurse gives him two packets of antibiotics and some acetaminophen and tries to explain in English when to take them.
"Where are you going?," I ask the older boy. "We have no place to go. To the tent encampment," he says. "Our house was ruined." Willsmith's face contorts in pain as he walks with his new crutches.
"Had we not amputated his toes the gangrene would have spread and he would have died within days," Dr. Yitzhak explains. "Yes, it hurts, and there's an infection, but he'll live. It's a drop in the ocean, and it's frustrating, but we have to do the maximum to help as many people as possible."
Most of the wounds are infected and neglected - some people were pulled out of the rubble after being trapped for a few days, others simply couldn't get to a hospital or were turned away. Max Darlene Azur, 29, came to the Israeli hospital with open wounds on both sides of her leg. For four days she shouted and writhed in pain in the town square. The bodies of two of her cousins were still inside her home.
"I was in my room, and the wall simply collapsed onto my leg. But now I feel much better," she says.
The hospital also had its first birth Sunday. Jeanne-Michelle was brought in with labor pains and delivered a beautiful boy, her fourth child. Jeanne-Michelle sits indifferent most of the time, but when she says her newborn's name - Israel - a broad smile spreads across her face. "I feel fine," she says. She will be discharged within a few hours, to make room for other deliveries.
"It's very symbolic," Dr. Dar Shir says. "In a place where even without the disaster infant mortality is among the highest in the world and most women don't give birth in hospitals, the best experts in Israel delivered her baby. It's very moving, and balances out a little the things that are happening here, and reminds us that a woman who is ready to give birth will do so even when there's an earthquake. It's what keeps the human race going. Of course it's a problem to discharge them under these conditions, but at least she delivered safely and both mother and baby are in excellent condition."
According to the field hospital's commander, Dr. Itzik Kreis, "Throughout the night we continued to deal with saving lives; we received a number of patients in very poor shape who needed surgery and intensive care.
Photo: Natasha Mozgovaya
"For now the other medical teams don't have the ability to provide more than first aid. We are focusing on saving lives," says Colonel Kreis. "Most of the injuries are a result of the earthquake, but in a few days the situation can change and regular patients will start to come in as well."
How to donate via Israeli organizations:
Tel (+972) 2-659-4222
Online at https://www.zaka.us/haiti.asp
Or via bank account:
Bank of Jerusalem
Branch # 30
18 Keren Hayesod, Jerusalem, Israel
Account No: 300060134
Swift Code: JERSILIT
Magen David Adom:
Magen David Adom Trumot Lakaribim
Israel Discount Bank
Branch # 151
Yad Eliahu, Tel Aviv
Account No: 17926
A wonderful age of tolerance has dawned in our time. For most of the inhabitants of the Western world, the bad old days of bigotry and narrow-mindedness are gone.
The multicultural pluralistic politically correct society accepts almost everyone for what they are, and listens respectfully to their opinions. Discrimination against women is forbidden and frowned upon. People of all colors and creeds and nationalities, and with all manner of political beliefs, are respected, listened to and accepted for who they are and what they do. There is only one exception.
The wave of tolerance has spread to every corner of society. The standard bearer of conservative political values in the United States today is a woman - Sarah Palin. Gay people, who once had to hide their secret or face jail terms, have come out of the closet and serve as officials in Europe and the United States. They may even as ministers in churches. African Americans, once called "n****r," are closer than ever to being accepted as true equals in American society. An African American was even elected president.
Practically every creed and every political belief has gained respectability. Adherents of Mao and Stalin can argue their points of view alongside Social Democrats and Christian Democrats. Nobody reminds them of the millions of people who were murdered in the Soviet Union or Maoist China and of all the human misery caused by their "scientific" beliefs.. Let bygones be bygones.
Islamis accepted as a respectable creed, the religion of peace. The president of the United States has said so. Discrimination against people just because they areMuslims is rightly forbidden. Nobody assumes that all Muslims are terrorists or bigots or wife beaters. News reports from Muslim and Arab governments and press are treated with respect, and the Muslim point of view is heard and respected 'round the world.
Even terrorists and advocates of terror get a break. We must negotiate with Iran, accept Iran into the family of nations. Never mind if they sent their terrorist agents to murder US soldiers and violated the immunity of diplomats. Never mind if they are plotting to take over the Middle East. Dialogue with Iran is politically correct. Apologists explain that "militants" are practicing "resistance." Suicide bombers are billed as "altruists" by British professors. Jihadis thought to be not such a bad thing and is preached freely in the capitals of Europe. Respectable organizations recommend recognition of groups like the Hezbollah and the Hamas, who are welcome in many capitals of the world, and get a favorable press from major news media. A conference of such "resisters" was recently held in Beirut, under the auspices of the United Nations.
It is even OK to be Jewish in many circles of society, thoughJewremains a bad word. There is only one political group that is beyond the pale of "politically correct" and outside the bounds of the pluralistic multicultural society: : Zionists. Abortion rights groups and anti-abortionists can lobby for their causes, as can gun manufacturers, those opposed to firearms, Muslim groups and Palestinians. For Zionists, it is forbidden. The pro-Israel "Zionist lobby" conjures up images of a sinister conspiracy to subvert America, worse than anything dreamed up by the Cominform. An entire book and many articles, mostly fiction though not sold as such, have been written about the alleged role of the Zionist lobby in starting the Iraq war and other nefarious deeds. Not a shred of real evidence is offered in any of them, but "everyone knows" it must be true, and it is believed by respected professors and journalists and their students and audiences.
ForZionism and Zionist Israelis there is no quarter and no hope at all. Zionists are blamed for every ill of the world, and accused of every crime including eating babies, poisoning children and killing people to steal their organs for illegal transplant trade. None of this flood of baseless calumny is considered impolite, intolerant or not "politically correct." Zionists are the only group you can seriously dump on in intelligent society without being considered a boor and a bigot.If a Zionist product turns up in certain countries, there can be an international scandal. It doesn't bother anyone. In fact, "progressive" groups are working to widen the boycott of Zionists.
When a Zionist attempts to speak at a UN meeting, he is silenced. If a Zionist goes to an international conference at Annapolis, sponsored by the United States, he or she must enter by the service entrance, an institution created to separate domestics, menial laborers and other "inferiors" from "respectable" people. Nobody would shake their hands either. We may be about to see more of the same humiliating treatment in a different setting, again under the auspices of the United States, which claims an "unbreakable bond" with Israel. The Palestinian Arabs will not sit in the same room with Zionists, so the United States is trying to arrange "proximity talks." The evil Zionists will sit in one room, and the righteous "moderate" former (?) terrorists of the PLO will sit in another room and formulate their demands. The entire world thinks this is a great concession to the evil, racist, imperialist and colonialist Zionists. What will they talk about? Zionist concessions to the Palestinian Arabs.
If a person admits to being a Zionist, nobody will listen to his or her opinion or version of the facts - it must be "Zionist propaganda." The same is true of news items that originate from "Zionist" sources. If Al Jazeera writes that Zionists committed war crimes in Gaza it is accepted as a fact, even if Al Jazeera also reported that the United States had used atomic weapons in Iraq. Time Magazine and Newsweek then headline fantastic tales of Zionist atrocities in Gaza.
If, on the other hand, the "Zionists" report that they captured a ship bearing a cargo of illicit Iranian arms, and show the arms, marked with the marks of the manufacturers in Iran and bound for the Hezbollah terrorists, it is ignored. It is "Zionist propaganda." At most, it will get a back page headline that states that "Israel claimed that the arms were manufactured in Iran" "Israel claimed that the arms were bound for Hezbollah." Nobody believes it. Nobody will listen to the "tales" of Zionists.
At parties and social gatherings, it is OK to say that you are gay, that you favor Scientology or flat earth theory, that you are a Maoist or a supporter of "rights" for Hamas. You can announce that you believe in anything at all. Say that you are a Zionist however, and the room will become silent. People will change the subject and move away from you. It's not your deodorant.
Everywhere in the world, Zionists have gone to earth, hiding in the closet, avoiding the pernicious Z-word or at most masquerading as "pro-Israel." The BDS (Boycott, Divestment Sanctions) group condemns "imperialism, colonialism and Zionism," and presumably also pedophilia and necrophilia, though the latter are not mentioned. The Friends Society approves of this program and joins the BDS in their demonstrations in support of the Hamas. It doesn't matter what Zionists really do or what they really think, just as it didn't matter who Paul Robeson was in the bad old days. He had the wrong skin color and that was enough. It didn't matter what George Washington Carver did, he could not be served in the white section of an Alabama cafe. It doesn't matter what Zionist scientists invent, or how many children are saved by Zionist cardiologists who give their time to Save a Child's Heart, or how many people regain their sight thanks to the "international Zionists" of Eye from Zion.They are still Zionists.
It doesn't matter how much aid the Zionists or the "Tel Aviv government" give to disaster victims in Haiti or Turkey or Kosovo, regardless of whether those people support Israel or Zionism. "Zionism" is a dirty word, and Zionists are thought to be in the moral category of Nazis and are in fact compared to Nazis. The very word "Zionism" conjures up the worst associations: racism, colonialism, apartheid, imperialism. A retired SS Obersturmbahnfuhrer may get fairer treatment in the foreign press than an IDF officer. Former Nazi officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty, a courtesy not afforded to Zionist "war criminals" in many publications.
It doesn't matter how many Palestinian Arabs are treated in Israeli hospitals, or how much humanitarian aid Zionists give to Gaza. It makes no difference how many Zionists demonstrate for peace. Zionists are Zionists. They must be boycotted and ostracized. A Zionist, in the popular imagination, is a person with horns and a tail, a religious fanatic who wants to bring about the end of the world (never mind that Zionism is a secular ideology either).
The president of the United States, who has made so many eloquent pleas on behalf of the religion of Islam, would not dare to urge the world to accept Zionists as human beings, to listen to what we have to say as equals. The discrimination is institutionalized and is not confined to Arab countries. Israel is probably the only major country that has never yet had a rotating seat in the UN Security Council. "Everybody knows" that "Zionism is Racism" even if the odious UN resolution on that subject was repealed. The repeal too, is ascribed to a dark Zionist conspiracy. Zionists are held responsible for the terror bombings of 9-11 and the terror attacks in Mumbai, even if Muslim terrorists confessed proudly to perpetrating them.
San Francisco, the home of gay pride and Politically Correct ideas, the supposed bastion of tolerance and multicultural pluralism, is paradoxically probably the worst place in the United States to be a Zionist. Can you imagine a "Zionist Pride" parade in San Francisco?
"Zionism," which should be a source of pride to all its supporters - Jews and non-Jews, has instead been turned into an affliction that no-one dares to speak its name, worse than the "C" word. This has happened because of the work of a small group of dedicated bigots, fanatics and terrorists, who never lose an opportunity to blacken Zionism and Zionists with every calumny. They have managed to make their bigotry and hate respectable and accepted, because you and I let them do it.
Don't you think it is time to end the witch hunt against Zionists? I am proud to be a Zionist. I am proud of the Zionist tradition of construction and renewal, of defense of the rights of the Jewish people, and of Tikkun Olam (social justice) around the world. I am proud of the country that we built from scratch, against tremendous odds, and the new lease on life that we have given to our people. I am proud of the kibbutzim as an ongoing experiment in social justice and democracy. I am proud that Israeli Arabs have more freedom and more protection under the law than Arabs do in any other country in the Middle East. Aren't you? I am proud that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where no members of any religion are treated as dhimmi - second class citizens. I am proud of the fact that Israel is the only country in the world that has more trees today than it did a century ago - a consequence of the "Zionist plot." I am a Proud Zionist. Aren't you?
If you are afraid to stand up for what you believe, you are not free. You can't hide what you are forever. I am not afraid to say I am a Zionist. How about you?
It is time to tell the world, "We are proud to be Zionists. Zionism is not what you think it is. It is not about eating babies and poisoning wells. It is a progressive national movement like any other. and it has done wonderful things!"
Please help us end the persecution of Zionism. Zionists have to come out of the closet. If we don't stand up for what we believe, nobody else will. Read the Israel Advocacy Handbook to learn the Zionist side of the story. Spread the word for "Zionist Pride." Join the Facebook Zionism Cause ( http://apps.facebook.com/causes/causes/73516 ) and invite others - help us explain to people what Zionism is really about.
As for the rest of you, you may disagree. After listening respectfully, you may believe that Jews are not entitled to a homeland of our own- that it is too much of an inconvenience to the world, or that it causes too much strife. We cannot force you to support us. If you disagree, blame us only for what is really our fault and what we really believe - in the right to self-determination of the Jewish people. Don't make us out to be racists or imperialists or colonialists, body snatchers or baby eaters or initiators of wars in Iraq. Don't lock us out of the room and out of legitimate public discourse. We ask only that you grant us the same rights and the same hearing, the same legitimacy and respect that you grant so willingly to advocates of flat earth theory, Jihadism, Maoism and any other group or political movement that you may or may not support.
Israeli minister visits Abu Dhabi, a first for UAE
Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:51am IST
By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Israel's infrastructure minister Uzi Landau visited the United Arab Emirates at the weekend for a renewable energy conference, amid tight security, in the first visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf state.
Landau was in the country for a conference of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), based in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. Israel's arch-foe Iran also attended the meeting, as did other Arab states with no ties with Israel.
"It is the first time that an Israeli minister visited the UAE. I have to say the reception was nice and in line with all the rules that the people in Abu Dhabi promised to grant to countries that do not have (permanent) delegations in their country," Landau told Israel Radio.
According to his office, Landau arrived on Friday and left on Sunday. He did not take part in conference on Saturday.
Like most Arab countries, the UAE has no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state and Israelis are routinely denied entry.
Iran, a member of IRENA, was represented by a delegation led by its deputy minister for electricity and power affairs, Abbas Aliabadi.
IRENA's interim director-general Helene Pellosse said that although Israel and the UAE have no diplomatic ties, Israel was accommodated in accordance with specific agreements.
Three countries -- South Africa, Kyrgistan and St.Vincent & Grenada -- joined as new members on Sunday, she said, adding that Saudi Arabia has agreed in principle to join and is likely to sign up shortly.
The UAE sparked a firestorm last year when it refused to grant a visa to Israeli player Shahar Peer to take part in a $2 million tennis tournament in Dubai.
Tournament officials defended their stance, saying local fans would have boycotted the event if an Israeli was allowed to compete and that Peer's safety could also have been compromised.
But the controversy prompted the United Arab Emirates to change its policy of barring Israeli athletes. Days after Peer was excluded, another Israeli was given "special permission" by UAE authorities to play in a men's tournament.
Landau told the conference that it was significant to be holding talks on green energy in a region that is home to many of the world's biggest oil producing states, and said Israel wanted to share in helping solve the region's water woes.
"We can't talk about building a greener world without touching on the problem of water ... We in Israel in the last 60 years turned a desert into a flourishing country. We want to participate and contribute our experiences with whoever shares with us this problem," he said, according to a written copy of his speech to the conference.
(Reporting by Stanley Carvalho in Abu Dhabi and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Dominic Evans)
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Israeli medical, rescue workers help Haitians
January 17, 2010
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- An Israel Defense Forces medical and rescue team has set up a field hospital and begun treating earthquake-stricken Haitians.
The Israeli field hospital became operational on Saturday.
At the start of Sunday's regular Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Israeli team had already treated hundreds of patients. "I think that this is in the best tradition of the Jewish People; this is the true covenant of the State of Israel and the Jewish People," he said. "This follows operations we have carried out in Kenya and Turkey; despite being a small country, we have responded with a big heart. The fact is, I know, that this was an expression of our Jewish heritage and the Jewish ethic of helping one's fellow. I hope that the team saves lives and that Haiti succeeds in recovering from this awful tragedy."
Israeli medical professionals of IsraAID - F.I.R.S.T. traveled to the main Port-au-prince Hospital over the weekend to start treating patients, joining local physicians at the site of the collapsed central hospital where thousands of wounded have gathered looking for help.
A search and rescue team from the ZAKA International Rescue Unit on Saturday pulled eight Haitian college students from a collapsed eight-story university building.
Tens of thousands of Haitians are believed to be dead following Tuesday's devastating earthquake.
Mati Goldstein, head of the ZAKA International Rescue Unit delegation managed to send an e-mail to the ZAKA headquarters in Jerusalem, in which he writes of the "Shabbat from hell. Everywhere, the acrid smell of bodies hangs in the air. It's just like the stories we are told of the Holocaust – thousands of bodies everywhere. You have to understand that the situation is true madness, and the more time passes, there are more and more bodies, in numbers that cannot be grasped. It is beyond comprehension."
Israel's Education Ministry announced Sunday that all of the country's middle and high school students will take part in a special lesson about the Haiti earthquake on Tuesday morning. The lesson will be taught online.
"Resistance" was apparently headlined at a conference on resistance supported by the UN. It was held in Beirut and all the "resistors" such as Hassan Nasrallah of the Hezbollah were there. Ami Isseroff
By Barry Rubin
Have you heard from any of the Western mass media about the Resistance strategy of Middle East radicals? I'm sure you haven't. Yet without understanding this powerful and widely accepted worldview how could anyone possibly comprehend events in the region?
"Resistance" is the slogan used by Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah especially but also is used by Iran's regime, other Lebanese supporters of the Iran-Syria bloc, and assorted radicals throughout the region. While the word has echoes for any Western auditor of the French Resistance against the Nazis, this is not the origin of this Middle East usage.
Rather, it means on the one hand, Resistance to supposed U.S., European, and Israeli intentions to turn the Arabs into slaves and destroy Islam. It also signifies Resistance to Westernization and modernization. And then, too, of equal significance, it means Resistance to attempts to promote peace or even a peace process with Israel and moderation in general.
Most obviously, Resistance means rejection but it also implies the use of violence, to resist is to reject diplomatic solutions and to fight instead. No matter how many people die, how much destruction will hurt the societies of those resisting, how long bloody conflict will continue, and how remote the prospects for victory seem to be, this is the preferred option. In contrast, moderation, compromise, and negotiation are seen as cowardly and treasonous.
But those preaching Resistance also believe they will be victorious by dividing and wearing down their opponents. Indeed, they think—even though they are more wrong than not—that they are winning now. They think the West is weak and corrupt, while Israel is going to fall apart and give up. A lot of the arguments made and policies put forward in the West—apology, concession, misconception, self-criticism—feed this confidence and thus contribute to more violence and conflict.
In many ways, the Resistance philosophy is a close parallel to Arab thinking in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a new version of what used to be proudly called Rejectionism by Arab regimes. Now, however, it is reformulated in a version to be palatable to Islamists as well as nationalists and semi-Marxists.
If there was a founding statement regarding the Resistance strategy it was the speech of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Syrian Journalists' Union on August 15, 2006. Assad said he was formulating his alternative to the "new Middle East" proposed by the West and Israel in which political peace would produce prosperity, democracy, and stability. "The world does not care about our interests, feelings and rights except when we are powerful," Assad stated. Otherwise, they would not do anything."
Instead, Assad offered the prospect of triumph through bloodshed. Why compromise if you believe you can achieve total victory, revolution, and wipe Israel off the map with armed struggle and the intimidation of the West? Why engage in the long, hard work of economic development when merely showing courage in battle and killing a few enemies fulfills one's dreams. Victory, said Bashar, requires recklessness.
Here's an example of a recent statement of the Resistance concept. It comes from Hizballah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem, a man who often successfully conveys the false message to gullible Western journalists and "experts" that Hizballah is becoming moderate.
In a lecture to the Lebanese University's Faculty of Science—an interesting case of how the extremist fantasies of the Resistance philosophy is accepted even in academic and intellectual circles—Qassem called the Resistance option:
"The best choice for liberating the land….The [peace] settlement is an illusion that won't lead to any results, but rather would squander what is left of our land because Israel needs the peace process to annex lands and extend occupation."
Yet Resistance has much wider implications as well:
"The Resistance is not a local, regional, or international political tactic. It is not a part of deals among nations, and not a negotiation tool for political gains."
Thus, while Resistance is a good slogan for revolutionary Islamist groups it is also valuable in bringing together a wider base of supporters among the more militant Arab nationalists and ideological leftists as well. This is why it is perfect for the Syrian regime, which is part of the Iran-led Islamist alliance without being Islamist itself.
Another advantage is that it allows anyone who is relatively moderate—for example, the governments of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia—as effeminate traitors following the path of defeat. That is why in his speech quoted above, Assad called those who didn't agree with him—explicitly mentioning the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia--were mere "half-men," midgets who lacked his courage, and even outright traitors.
Thus, too, the experience of the last half of the twentieth century is negated. Objectively, that history shows the Arabs and Muslims cannot defeat Israel and the West, thus it is better to make a compromise deal. Specifically, it claims that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority resulting in a two-state solution will never lead to anything good and is at any rate unnecessary since the Palestinians can win total victory if they go on fighting for enough decades.
The Resistance strategy is the response of the regional radicals to the West's call for a "pragmatic" moderation. As so many leaders, officials, experts and journalists in the West claim that their enemies are eager to moderate and will make deals if they are only offered enough and given sufficient concessions, Resistance is the response these forces are giving. That's why the commonly heard Western arguments about the meaning of regional events and the proper policies to manage them are completely wrong and won't work.
Note: These issues are dealt with in more detail in the author's books The Tragedy of the Middle East and The Truth About Syria.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.
Someone finally noticed. Actually. the problem of persecution of Christians in Muslim countries is not new and did not start recently. Copts have suffered for many many years for example - unrelated to specific conflicts.
The wave of anti-Christian violence
Christians in the Muslim world are becoming scapegoats as anger about the 'crusader west' takes hold
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 14 January 2010 16.30 GMT
Coptic Christians protest in Egypt after an attack in which gunmen opened fire on a crowd of churchgoers. Photograph: Khaled El-Fiqi/EPA
A recent wave of violent attacks on Christian worshippers and churches in countries across the Muslim world is intensifying concern that continuing military conflict, cultural friction and economic imbalances embroiling Islam and the west are fuelling a parallel rise in religious intolerance at grassroots level.
The increase in tensions is seen as particularly disturbing in countries such as Egypt where Islam and Christianity have a centuries-old history of largely peaceful co-existence. In one recent incident, gunmen attacked a Coptic Christian congregation near Luxor, on the Coptic Christmas eve, killing six churchgoers and provoking inter-communal rioting and arson.
The Egyptian government said the violence was an isolated event and not sectarian. But many disagreed. About 2,000 Copts took to the streets of Cairo on Wednesday, saying the official response had been inadequate and complaining of systemic ill-treatment. One sign read: "Egypt burns while its leaders sleep."
Egypt's constitution guarantees equal rights for all religions. Yet according to Human Rights Watch's 2009 world report, discrimination against Christians, Bahá'ís and minority Muslim sects is entrenched. Egypt's 78 million population is predominantly Sunni Muslim. Copts make up 10% of the total.
Anger in local Muslim communities about Christian proselytising, alleged desecrations of the Qur'an, or "liberal" attitudes towards women often sparks confrontation. An attack on a Protestant church in Tizi Ouzou in Algeria on Saturday night, when Bibles and hymnals were burned, was reportedly touched off by rumoured Christian attempts to convert Muslims.
Reactions to the incident were typically defensive. "We have always been persecuted in this country. It is not acceptable and the authorities must do something to stop the attacks against us," said Mustafa Krim, head of the Algerian Protestant Church Association. Government spokesman Fellahi Ada was unsympathetic, suggesting such complaints were a western plot.
"The general trend is that Christianity is no longer attractive in Algeria," he said. "This is why some circles outside Algeria are doing whatever possible to portray my country as a country where religious minorities are suffering and that an international intervention is needed to protect them."
The US state department's latest country report on Algeria, whose population is 99% Sunni Muslim, says that "in practice" the Algerian government restricts religious freedom. Restrictions increased in 2009 following implementation of an ordinance limiting public assembly for the purpose of worship, the US said. Twenty-seven churches were closed for non-compliance with the ordinance. It also reported routine antisemitism in Algerian Arab media.
In Tizi Ouzou, other influences may be at work: the town 60 miles east of Algiers, a centre of resistance to French colonial rule, is now sometimes described as a hotbed of al-Qaida in the Maghreb. It was the scene of a suicide bombing in 2008. Islamists there are said to take exception, for example, to women mixing with men in Christian congregations.
Attacks on Christian minorities over the Christmas period were also reported in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, and in mostly Sunni Muslim Pakistan. In one case last year in Gojra, Pakistan, several Christians were burned to death and Christian homes and churches destroyed by a mob after reports circulated that a Qu'ran had been desecrated. "The attacks on Christians seem to be symptomatic of a well-organised campaign launched by extremist elements all over central Punjab," Pakistan's human right commission chairwoman Asma Jehangir said.
Disturbances have also shaken majority Muslim Malaysia in recent weeks, where attacks on churches and a Catholic school followed a row over whether Christians should be allowed to use the word "Allah" to refer to God. In separate incidents, extremist thugs have also picked on Malaysia's Hindu minority.
In Iraq, the problems facing Christians and other minorities are more deadly. An estimated 1,960 Christians have died there in targeted attacks since the 2003 invasion. The Christmas period saw a spate of church attacks in Mosul in defiance of a long, pre-war tradition of co-existence. Other minorities, such as Jews, have also suffered – although by far the biggest toll has been exacted by clashes between Iraq's Sunnis and the larger Shia Muslim community.
Local factors such as disputes over land, objections to the presence of alcohol, large numbers of unemployed young men with not enough to do, or sheer mutual ignorance and suspicion of "rival" religions help explain some of these tensions. And few would argue that somehow all such incidents are linked.
But analysts and academics suggest common threads do exist, notably the impact of globalisation on conservative communities across the Muslim world and a resulting threatened loss of cultural identity. Violence against Christians as representatives of the "crusader west" is also an aspect of what French author Gilles Kepel has described as the far bigger civil war, or fitna, raging within the Islamic world itself.
Yet hostility also arises, in a fundamental sense, from Muslim perceptions of western aggression against Islam, be it the war in Afghanistan, domineering western economic and cultural behaviour, attempts to ban veils, offensive cartoon caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, airline and immigration profiling, or systemic, unchecked and arguably worsening discrimination and harassment of Muslim minorities living in western nations.
To have a chance of overcoming this widening gulf, the west may have to put its own house in order first. One proposed path is wider adoption of Karen Armstrong's new Charter for Compassion, a "spiritual document for the world", whose guiding idea is that while almost every religion has a history of intolerance, all have traditions of compassion that rise above hatred.
For faithful believers of all descriptions, the charter offers a golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
This is the Israel News and Commentary Weblog of Zionism-Israel Center. Contact: info(at)Zionism-Israel.com
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