KABUL (WJC)–General David Petraeus, the US commander in Afghanistan, has warned that soldiers’ lives will be endangered if a Florida evangelical church goes ahead with a planned burning of the Koran – Islam’s holy book – on Saturday, the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Petraeus said the planned torching of the Koran would be a propaganda coup for the Taliban in Afghanistan and stoke anti-US sentiment across the Muslim world. Petraeus leads a 150,000-strong NATO force against an extremist Taliban-led insurgency.
Afghanistan is an Islamic country, and actions seen by Afghans as against their religion or even allegations that Western troops have insulted the Koran have led to deadly violence in the past. In January, seven tribesmen were killed by gunfire from security forces trying to disperse angry crowds during a demonstration sparked by allegations that US troops had torched the Muslim holy book.
The Dove World Outreach Center at Gainesville, Florida, announced it would burn copies of the Koran on this weekend’s ninth anniversary of the September 2001 attacks in protest at what it calls “the evil of Islam”. Petraeus condemned the plan, telling the ‘Wall Street Journal’: “It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort. It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”
The planned protest by the 50-member Florida congregation, whose Facebook page bears the motto ‘Islam Is Of The Devil’, has already triggered outrage in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM– More than any other national leader, Barack Obama has a global constituency. The world does not vote in American elections, but his capacity to fulfill his obligations depends on the cooperation of other national leaders, and the opinions of publics that have at least a minimum of influence on them.
Balancing those far flung publics is not easy. The task may have something to do with the 20 percent of Americans who are think that their president is a Muslim, and his forth and back postures with respect to the controversial idea to build a mosque near Ground Zero.
The tensions built into the world context of his presidency also help us to understand his repeated efforts to divorce the concepts of Islam and terror, while he is leading the greatest crusade against Islam since the 13th century.
Politicians lie. Of course. They have to. How else to juggle the multiple obligations they are expected to serve. They say one thing and do something else. The higher the office, the more likely the dissembling. And Obama’s is the highest.
His loyal supporters may already be furious at me. He did not begin the war against Iraq. He has proudly announced the withdrawal of combat troops, but commentators are not confident that he is leaving behind anything close to a victory, or a regime that can keep things stable. He has adopted and expanded American military efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
Barack Obama makes Richard the Lionheart look like a boy who got into a schoolyard brawl.
Guantanomo is still holding jihadists, despite the president’s campaign pledge to close it down. This may not be his desire, but who can be sure about the desires of a politician who has to serve so many interests, and is beholden to Congress, the courts, advisors who may convince him to abandon some commitments, and–in this case–the governments of other countries not enthusiastic about taking some of those prisoners off his hands?
Obama has had a mixed record on Israel, but mixed records are the nature of political leadership.
After his Cairo speech and demanding a freeze of building for Jews in neighborhoods of Jerusalem, only 4 percent of the Israeli Jewish population felt he was supportive. Since then, however, he has backed off from his sweeping demands against the country’s capital city, and his invitation to Israeli-Palestinian talks is close to the Israeli desire of no preconditions.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal describes what has been seen for some time in Israeli media, that American military aid remains at a high level, with Israeli access to some of the most advanced weaponry, and joint exercises that may surpass what previous administrations have offered. One passage in the WSJ reinforces the image of a crusade against Islamic extremists.
“The intensified partnership is part of the Obama administration’s broader policy of boosting military support for American allies in the Mideast amid heightened tensions with Iran and its allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas . . .”
Judging presidents is a task best left to historians and others with a broad perspective, some years after an incumbent has left office. Archives, memoirs, and contemplation can take the place of partisan passions. Even distance leaves open a number of difficult issues. How much credit should be given to any president for the nature of a national economy that responds to international and non-governmental stimuli, as well as to what the president does on top of what former presidents did? A dispassionate assessment of what came out of Congress and the White House under the heading of health reform might conclude that it is a mess not likely to deal with the self-serving efforts of insurance companies and HMOs, but only a child would think that a president can dictate legislation in such a context, or even maintain control over the details in a bill that grows from 1,000 to more than 2,000 pages.
Obama stirs passions. Soon after his inauguration, there were reports that he was the most threatened president since the Secret Service began its protection after the assassination of William McKinley. More recent news is that the tempo has declined to what has been the norm.
The President’s 2008 campaign stimulated great emotion, but a careful study of his nomination indicates that it had something to do with the formulas used by state Democratic parties to divide the delegates between him and HIllary Clinton (Mattan Sharkansky, “The Impact of the Electoral System on Delegate Allocations in the 2008 American Primaries,” Representation, 46/2, July 2010). Obama’s victory in November was more clear cut, but we can argue if that was on account of Obama, McCain, or Palin.
Currently the tea leaves do not look promising for his party’s success in the mid-term Congressional elections, and I have not seen any rosy predictions for his success in 2012. That, too, is part of the job. George Washington might have still been a national hero when he left office, but that is not the image of presidents that I have been observing since FDR.
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University
By Rabbi Ben Kamin
SAN DIEGO — Muslims themselves should not take too much solace in President Obama’s recent avowal of support for the Cordoba House and mosque project at the cusp of ground zero. Spoken in the midst of a Ramadan gathering at the White House, the president‘s jaw driven outward in a now trademark signal of thrust conviction, his eyes staring upward rather than at the audience he is actually addressing, he nonetheless began to disavow his guttural outburst almost immediately.
I didn’t actually say I was in favor of that mosque, what I meant was even though I do feel Muslim Americans should build a mosque wherever they e pluribus unum, I probably was thinking more generally though I may or may not have had the ground zero mosque, er, community center in my mind. Or maybe not.
Jews should mark the occasion with a great deal of interest and concern. We heard from the president’s soul when he was so uncharacteristically “incautious” at the White House. We heard from his political advisers when he cynically back-pedaled on his revelatory burst so expediently.
In Holland, for so long wrongfully considered a benevolent place via its exported Anne Frank / anti-fascist mythology, Muslims account now for 10% of the population and the bulk of its harrowing wave of anti-Semitic harassment, hate-mongering, and personal violence. A lot of extremist Muslims, including those building a nuclear weapon in Iran, will see the ground zero mosque as nothing less than Koranic affirmation of their unhinged war against Judeao-Christian civilization.
We see stark evidence of radical Islamic brutality via the systematic mutilation of women’s faces, breasts, and reproductive organs—not to mention stoning to death. Blackberry units, You Tube, and rock music are shut down, from northern Africa to Saudi Arabia. Our efforts to save Afghanistan from its Taliban essence (Mr. Obama’s benighted and/or naïve strategy at the expense of American lives) are doomed, even as we share goals with the country’s thoroughly corrupt and ungrateful presidential-despot.
No, President Obama is not a Muslim, and these charges about his background are ignorant and devilish. That whole discussion is steeped in bigotry and contempt. But if he is deeply sympathetic to a highly questionable and hurtful project that insults American sensibilities and memories, that gives the radical Muslims who want us all vaporized or veiled a stunning triumph at the expense of our 9/11 grief, let him just say so.
Who are you, Mr. President? We want to know more than whom you are not.
Rabbi Kamin is a freelance writer based in San Diego
By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM — Israel is too small and too poor for the demands that it lays upon itself, and are imposed by the world.
My favorite newspaper photo of the day shows a file room at a court house. It came with a story about a plaintiff’s case of medical malpractice that failed on account of a lost file. We see in the picture what we know about government offices, hospitals and other public facilities. There is too much to do in order to assure proper treatment.
Just last evening on our walk around French Hill we encountered a problem that might have justified a call to the police, but where the prospect of quick service versus the severity of the problem deterred us from making the call.
We passed by a group of Arabs dressed as if they had come from a family feast to celebrate the end of a daily Ramadan fast. Suddenly a boy of about 14 jumped, yelled, smacked his hand against a parked car, and swaggered off as if he had rendered appropriate damage to a Jew’s property.
Call the cops and point out the vandal? Last time we called the police was a more serious event of an Arab assaulting a young woman. At that time our first call to the emergency number broke off in the midst of our report. When we did make contact, it took 10 minutes for the first patrol car to arrive. This in a neighborhood bordering an Arab community with a high incidence of minor and not so minor incidents.
So last night we continued on our walk, frustrated at the system and angry at ourselves for choosing the easy over what might have been the appropriate decision.
Another case: the Supreme Court has ordered the government to reconsider the appointment of a woman to the commission investigating the seizure of the Turkish flotilla.
What to do? The law requires that such bodies include a woman, but the Court made its decision after the commission had already heard what are likely to be the most important witnesses from the government and the military.
The entire investigation is a farce. So what that nine fighters (terrorists, if you will) were killed in a military operation? How many operations of American and NATO forces have caused as many casualties in the area from Iraq eastward without provoking the United Nations and pressuring the soldiers’ home country to conduct a public investigation?
Another case: Ha’aretz is exposing that several thousand illegals from Africa have been held in detention longer than the period of time allowed by law before their cases are settled. Many of these individuals have no documents and come from countries without functioning governments. But a judge may look at the law, and order that individuals held too long be let out on the street. The individuals waiting for such a determination look something like those files pictured above: too many to deal with according to requirements.
Who’s responsible? Both Israelis and the world. Seekers of justice work to impose whatever regulations they pick up from elsewhere in order to make things better here. The people making the demands are Israelis and Jews feeling that Israel must be at least as good as other countries.
Then there is the world, always on edge in search of a new accusation that can be made against Israel.
Remember those 400 children of illegal immigrants ordered deported. There are daily articles describing citizen and overseas activists–from Eilie Wiesel downward–concerned that Israel might despoil itself by expelling children who should not be here.
None of these are bad ideas, but Israel does not have the population or resources of all those countries serving as models of public policy. And the resources that it does have are allocated more than elsewhere to defense. Staying alive comes at the cost of an ideal public administration or an environment as clean as that of Germany.
Overall, the country does not do badly with what it has. Its health and welfare, the incidence of violent crime, and the safety of its prisons look better than in the United States, but that is an easy standard of comparison. There is no other country where all of the universities are on the Chinese list of the 500 best in the world.
Thinking about making it better, I return to those moments last evening when I considered calling the cops against that teenager from Isaweea. Most likely the police had more serious things to do. One of my neighbors has a dented car, and an Arab is feeling good that he did something to the Jews. I am angry at myself, but would have been even angrier if the call to the police did not go through, if the patrol car came too late, or was met by women screaming about a racist Jew who had summoned the police for no reason about a well behaved boy.
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University
SAN DIEGO (Press Release) — For the first time in its 21 year history, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is coming to San Diego. The 2010 Human Rights Watch Film Festival is the world’s foremost showcase for films with a distinctive human rights theme and creates a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference.
“The Human Rights Watch Film Festival reflects the condition of the world we live in, including the top news events around the world,” said John Biaggi, the festival director. “No one is immune to the rippling effects when human rights are violated, whether here in our country or far away. It affects us all.”
“MoPA is proud to host the inaugural San Diego showing of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival,” said Deborah Klochko, executive director, MoPA. “It is essential to our mission to serve as a forum for educating through all forms of the photographic medium, which is exactly what the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is all about.”
Community partners of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival include the United Nations Association of San Diego, the San Diego World Affairs Council, the San Diego Latino Film Festival, the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice and the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies University of San Diego.
Additional information on HRWFF as well as downloadable images can be found at its website.
All films are screened at the Museum of Photographic Arts, 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101.
Saturday, September 18, 11:00 am
Youth Producing Change portrays human rights crises from the perspectives of youth worldwide. Two of these young filmmakers will be present at the screening.
Saturday, September 18, 1:00 pm
Mountains & Clouds
Mountains and Clouds revisits a seminal moment in the push for immigration reform, with implications for the immigration battle currently brewing for the Obama administration and Congress.
Sunday, September 19, 6:00 pm
Pushing the Elephant (Rose & Nangabire)
Congolese Rose Mapendo was separated during the conflict from her daughter, Nangabire. Through the story of their reunion, we come to understand the excruciating decisions Rose made in order to survive and the complex difficulties Nangabire faces as a refugee in the US.
Thursday, September 23, 6:00 pm
Enemies of the People
Follow filmmaker Thet Sambath as he uncovers terrifying personal explanations for the Cambodian genocide by allowing the perpetrators to speak for themselves.
Friday, September 24, 6:00 pm
Camp Victory Afghanistan
Drawing from nearly 300 hours of vérité footage shot between 2005 and 2008, Camp Victory, Afghanistan skillfully explores the reality of building a functioning Afghan military.
Saturday, September 25, 1:00 pm
Iran: Voices of the Unheard
The untold story of Iranian secularists through three characters—each from a distinct social, economic and educational background but all sharing a need for a country free from political repression and theocracy.
Ticket Information: Single screening tickets for the 2010 Human Rights Watch Film Festival are $5 for MoPA Members, $8 for students and $10 for the general public. Single screening tickets may be bought at the door the night of the event. Festival passes are available for purchase and cover admission to all six festival films. Festival passes are $20 for MoPA Members and $55 for the general public. Festival passes may be purchased online.
Preceding provided by the Museum of Photographic Arts