Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

Petraeus: proposed Sept. 11 Koran-burning would endanger U.S. troops

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

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

Commentary: The ambiguous Mr. Obama

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

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

Please explain where your true sympathies are, Mr. President

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

By Rabbi Ben Kamin

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

Commentary:Ground Zero mosque controversy confronts political correctness

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–The issue of the New York City mosque near ground zero has awakened discussion of that big gorilla in the American living room. Despite all the platitudes slung back and forth about religious freedom and the separation of church and state, and the assertion that the problem of terror is not Islam, the gorilla will not go away.

Americans who write to me are strongly disinclined to see the reality, but they are already in the forefront of the battle in behalf of western civilization. It may not be mentionable in polite society, but a religious survey will not turn up many Christians or Jews among the enemy fighters killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, or still kept prisoner in Guantanamo.

The Soviet Union spent great amounts of blood and treasure dealing with Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan, just over the border of its own Muslim republics. It encountered not the cooperation of the United States, but the active opposition of American arms and money. The result may have advanced the end of the Cold War and entered the books as an American victory, but what was left behind turned against the United States. The Russians are still hurting in the Caucasus and elsewhere. Like others, they are disinclined to say that the problem is Islam, per se.. The New York Times reports the latest chapter in this story.

Dissembling may be necessary when dealing with an issue as explosive as religion. Christians and Jews can become feisty when public figures attack values held dear like homosexuality, abortion, Christmas trees, Easter eggs, Chanukah, or ritual slaughter, but they are nothing like sword waving and suicide belt wearing Muslims.

Scholars can find hateful doctrines in all the monotheistic religions, but those of Judaism and Christianity are historic relics. There are rogue rabbis who write about the conditions when it is proper to overlook the suffering of goyim, and priests who insist that the Jews really were the killers of Christ, but they are far from typical. Aggressive elements of Islam may not be statistically dominant among the faithful, but they are loud, arguably ascendant, and in control of fighters, governments, and armies in enough places to be more than a nuisance.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, prominent among the promoters of Cordoba House, has compiled a thick file of endorsements and doubts. Ambiguous comments about Hamas and American responsibility for violent Islamic anti-Americanism leave some wondering about his moderation, and the kinds of lessons that will be taught in the mosque and classrooms that he wants to build.

Dealing with Islam, or any other aggressive religious group is not simple in a society that prides itself on openness, tolerance, and moderation.

Israel suffers the disadvantage of being in the midst of a Muslim region, and having attracted the enmity of jihadists and their friends. It also has the advantage of long experience, and a willingness to invest heavily in intelligence gathering and defense. Critics speak out in embarrassment and anger about what their government does, but supporters are more numerous than doubters.

Israeli authorities know what is said in the mosques after Friday prayers. They pressure clerics who go over the line of what is acceptable. The police assemble in their thousands when the word is that something might happen. They announce that young men will not be allowed to enter the Old City, and put an observation blimp overhead. One of the most excitable clerics has been questioned about his incitement, arrested, tried, banished from Jerusalem, and imprisoned. An even more excitable cleric, based in Gaza, was sent to his Paradise by the IDF.

It is easier for Americans and Western Europeans to deal with rogue religious movements far from home, while telling their citizens that the issue is not Islam. There may be no better way of dealing with this problem while denying that it exists.

Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and the stork also serve noble purposes.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Israel’s idealism often overwhelms its governmental delivery system

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

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

Commentary: Welcome action by Congress reexamining aid to Lebanese Armed Forces

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday,  in the wake of the killing of an IDF officer inside Israel by Lebanese Armed Forces personnel, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) announced that Congress would block the disbursement of $100 million in U.S. military aid to Lebanon.  Lowey chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee that authorizes such funds.  Similarly, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) applied a hold with concerns about “reported Hezbollah influence on the Lebanese Armed Forces.”
According to The Jerusalem Post, “Berman entered his hold the day before the deadly incident, which he said only confirmed his reservations. His office also wants more information on Hezbollah’s role in the LAF, how diligently U.S. weapons are kept track of and how well the LAF cooperates with UNIFIL. ‘Until we know more about this incident and the nature of Hezbollah influence on the LAF – and can assure that the LAF is a responsible actor – I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon,’ Berman said.”
The hold may, in the end, only be temporary. But credit where it is due.
For more than a year, JINSA has worried about the influence of Hezbollah on the Lebanese government, where it holds a “blocking third” in the Cabinet. While the U.S. government and UNIFIL have insisted that a bigger and more competent LAF would be expected to “secure the borders of Lebanon” and enforce UNSCR 1701 – which calls for all of the militias in the south to be disarmed – we have never believed that Lebanese soldiers could be induced to kill other Lebanese in the interest of keeping the Israeli residents of the North safe. 
It’s only too bad that 45-year old LTC (res.) Dov Harari of Netanya had to be killed before Congress stopped to consider the problem. Great follow-up for Congress would be to reconsider other American “train and equip” missions.  We wrote in May:  

“The current counterinsurgency model provides millions of dollars in American military aid to the PA, Lebanon and Yemen along with American trainers, and billions of dollars to Pakistan and Afghanistan with our troops on the ground or in the air. We are training locals to kill the people we want killed – Taliban, al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. But each group we call terrorists may have a place in the framework of those countries and entities, in which case shooting them will just make them angry.”

We said, then, of Lebanon: Lebanon wants quiet at home and to remain part of the “rejection front” against Israel. Hezbollah in the government and in collusion with the Lebanese Armed Forces provides that.
It is unreasonable for the United States to assume that our enemies are someone else’s enemies and that they will dispose of them because we want them to – it is unreasonable for Israel to assume the same.  One of the deepest beliefs that JINSA has is that the United States and Israel are allies in fact if not by treaty because – whether in the Cold War or the war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them –  the same ideologies, same trends, same enemies threaten us both at some level.
Neither country should assume others share our concerns.

Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

Museum of Photographic Arts hosts Human Rights Watch Film Festival

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

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

A short history of anti-Semitism and its modern equivalent

July 31, 2010 Leave a comment
By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Anti-Semitism is ancient, although the term itself appears only from the 19th century onward. By the latter part of the 20th century, Arabs were ridiculing the charge that they were anti-Semites, on the grounds that they are Semites.

Tendentious claims aside, no less a reference than the Oxford English Dictionary defines anti-Semitism as “theory, action, or practice directed against the Jews.”

Josephus describes claims against the Jews from first century Alexandria, then a city populated largely by Greeks. They sound like some of those still expressed: that Jews are diseased; clannish; committed to bear no good will to non-Jews; kill non-Jews in order to eat their entrails and their blood; and observe laws that are inhumane.

The New Testament refers to Pharisees (predecessors of modern rabbis) as vipers, blind guides, and hypocrites who preach one thing and do another. It also claims that Jews demanded the death of Jesus, while the Roman official Pilate saw him as innocent of a charge that would require the death penalty; that Jewish priests bribed Roman soldiers to testify that disciples stole the body of Christ from his tomb, in order to create the image that he had not risen from the dead; that Jews poisoned the minds of Gentiles against Christians; and that Gentile authorities acted against Christians in order to curry favor with the Jews.

A later entry in the classic literature of anti-Semitism is The Protocols of The Learned Elders Of Zion. Civilized intellectuals recognize it as a concoction produced as anti-Jewish propaganda by authorities in Czarist Russia. In recent years it has been trumpeted by Arabs and others as a genuine document produced by Jewish leaders, and containing their plan to control the world.

Among the points in the Protocols said to come from the Elders of Zion are:

“God has granted to us, His Chosen People, the gift of dispersion . . .which has now brought us to the threshold of sovereignty over all the world. . . . when we come into our kingdom it will be undesirable for us that there should exist any other religion than ours . . .In this difference in capacity for thought between the GOYIM and ourselves may be clearly discerned the seal of our position as the Chosen People and of our higher quality of humanness, in contradistinction to the brute mind of the GOYIM. . . . From this it is plain that nature herself has destined us to guide and rule the world.”

Anti-Semitism got a bad press in the 1940s. Since then the Roman Catholic Church and other Christians have tended to emphasize friendship and accommodation. Many of their scholars concede that their earlier doctrines, including elements of the New Testament, were created to serve purposes no longer relevant, and ought to be archived.

Those looking for clear expressions of anti-Semitism can use the internet to find Muslim clerics preaching about the “Filth of the Jews, the Brothers of Apes and Pigs” 

While overt anti-Semitism has declined, anti-Zionism has become fashionable. It is directed against Israel, rather than against Jews, per se. Some of its practitioners are Jews and others are Gentiles who chafe at any accusation of anti-Semitism. “Some of my best friends are Jews” is still heard, although it has long since become a line of ridicule. 
Some of my best friends are Jews who accuse Israelis of claiming that every critic of the country is an anti-Semite. 
Some of Israel’s severest Jewish critics may be “self-hating Jews,” a phenomenon that has been around at least since Jewish collaborators testified at medieval trials of inquisition. However, many may simply be misguided in their choice of political fashions.
Distinguishing anti-Semitism from anti-Zionism is not easy. A useful conception is that anti-Zionism verges into anti-Semitism to the extent that individuals accuse Israel of violating standards of activity far more onerous than they use to judge other countries, including their own.
Americans and Europeans are among those who go over this line. People from other countries may be even guiltier, but Americans and Europeans may be reachable by argument, and their governments are most important to Israel. The United States is the largest and most powerful of this cluster. It is also a country not regularly censured by official bodies that censure Israel routinely, and it may be one of those most vulnerable to censure if it would be compared fairly to Israel. Norwegians, New Zealanders, and a few others may come out smelling even sweeter than Israel or the United States, but they are far from nastiness, and appear to be irrelevant to this discussion. 
There are several indicators to challenge the often-heard charge that Israel represses its Arab minority. Among the most persuasive is the summary indicator of health: longevity. Israeli Arabs do not live as long as Israeli Jews, but the differences are smaller than those between American Whites and Blacks. Not only do Israeli Arabs live, on the average, six years longer than American Blacks, but Israeli Arab men live longer than White American men.
The incidence of Israeli Arabs as opposed to African-Americans who are so far removed from the norms of their societies as to be incarcerated also shows that Israel is not the oppressive society often depicted. While Arabs are incarcerated at twice the incidence of Jews in Israel, Blacks are incarcerated at four times the rate of Whites in the United States.

Israel’s security actions often come under attack, but an inquiry into the balance of threat versus defensive action does not support the condemnation of Israel. Since 2000 the incidence of Israelis who have died from Palestinian violence and terrorism. is six times the incidence of American casualties on 9-11, in Iraq and Afghanistan, corrected for population . The casualties caused by Israel in its defense appear to be substantially fewer than those caused by the United States. Lacking the kind of international investigations focused on Israel, however, the figures about fighters and civilians killed by American troops are far from precise. Perhaps 7,500 Palestinians and Lebanese have been killed by Israeli security forces since 2000.

Estimates of those killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003 range between 100,000 and one million, and estimates of those killed in Afghanistan range up to 40,000. Both figures reflect violence among Iraqis and Afghans, as well as casualties traced to American and allied troops. Those willing to listen to a non-Israeli professional soldier on the morality of the IDF might consider the comments by the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan. He describes the IDF’s concerns to avoid civilian casualties as greater than those of any other military force. 

A friend in Thurston County, Washington is more certain than I that he can distinguish anti-Semitism from a posture against Israel. He described efforts to oppose the boycott of Israeli products by the Olympia Food Coop. He writes
This isn’t about anti-Semitism. The momentum for the boycott comes from anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian people in our community. For the most part they are careful to avoid doing/saying anything which would open them to a charge of anti-Semitism. 

He goes on to write that a hate crime at the Chabad Center produced an outpouring of support for the Jewish community; that he and his friends defeated a effort by pro-Palestinians to name Rafah as a sister city; and that hundreds of people, not just from the Jewish community, came out to protest when neo-Nazis tried to stage a rally. 

I am a long way from Thurston County, and I would not condemn its population on the basis of an unknown number who may have gone over the line between a reasonable posture against Israel and anti-Semitism. It appears to me, however, that my friend is being too generous in clearing his adversaries from the charge. What he describes smells too much like “Some of my best friends are Jews.”


Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Will WikiLeaks’ disclosures lead to international probes of Afghan War?

July 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Ira Sharkansky

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–“Document Leak May Hurt Efforts to Build War Support”

Each of us may have a different view of that headline in the New York Times, which derives from the paper’s activities, along with the Guardian, Der Spiegel, and WikiLeaks, to bring purloined documents to the public’s attention. Some will condemn the paper as working against the national interest or worse, and say that this is the latest chapter in a disingenuous effort against the war in Afghanistan.  Others will praise the paper for revealing to the public what should be known about a war destined for failure from the beginning. 
Those with a memory will say it all looks pretty much like the controversy surrounding the New York Time’s publication of Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers in 1971. That was a highlight in a campaign against a war that began with public support and ended in a mood of political embarrassment, and defeat for the party in power.
Ellsberg faced serious charges under the Espionage Act that could have put him in prison for the rest of his life, but a federal judge dismissed the case in the light of illegal activities directed against Ellsberg by the Nixon administration. Since then his story, and Vietnam, have been joined with Watergate in a grand condemnation of the Johnson and Nixon administrations. 
Now we will see if responsible people in the Obama administration remember the treatment of Ellsberg, and/or the story of Vietnam, and manage to avoid charges of how they defend a war that is, at the least, problematic.
We can quarrel about the public’s right to know the details of military actions, including errors in targeting, civilian casualties, convoluted relations with other governments, the deceptions that occur along the chain of command, and the disregard for human life that may reach the level of sadism. Control of such material is harder than in the 1970s, and perhaps impossible given the advent of the internet without a fixed base of entry, along with camera-equipped cell phones, tiny recording devices and other gadgets affordable and readily available to military personnel, journalists, and others. Censorship has become voluntary, and perhaps impossible to maintain in military operations that include tens or hundreds of thousands of participants. Some of those involved will be intense in their commitment to achieving military goals and impatient at any civilian control, while others will feel strongly about their own conceptions of decency. Individual attitudes change in the course of operations, and may move in the direction of disregard for civilian casualties or accurate reporting, or in the counter direction of disgust with any officially directed or condoned violence.
So far WikiLeaks does not have a Hebrew language version. Israel and the IDF may be spared, at least temporarily, anything equivalent to what is currently disturbing the Pentagon and White House. 
My own question is whether the current revelations will produce something like the torrent of investigations by the several organs of the United Nations and other do gooders to match Goldstone on Gaza, and the numerous commissions intent on revealing truth about Israel’s attack on peace loving Turks. 
A rhetorical question if I ever imagined one. We all know there is one rule for Israel, and another for countries with more supporters in international organizations.
International concern may push Israel to look more closely at its own behavior. The IDF has tried and punished soldiers and officers for unnecessary civilian casualties, and for distorting reports about military operations. Much of this has come as a result of established internal procedures or in response to revelations by Israeli media. Israel has no lack of Hebrew language web sites that reveal stories the establishment would prefer to keep quiet. What they lack, however, is a prominent central address having international exposure equivalent to WikiLeaks.
It is hard to say if commissions responsible to international organs or self-appointed outsiders claiming a concern for human rights have produced more assiduous inquiries by Israel, or a greater sense of isolation and persecution. My own perception is that a “damn the world” mentality has not become chronic with anything more than a fringe of Israeli society. On the other hand, skepticism and cynicism toward those claiming a right to criticize Israel are justified when it is only Israel that receives such treatment.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Commentary: The unsettling messages in Andrew Shapiro’s speech

July 21, 2010 Leave a comment
By Shoshana Bryen


Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Maybe it was just stylistic; maybe it was more. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro’s speech touting the United States as Israel’s best friend repeated itself:

  • Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state is under threat from the dynamics of demography, ideology, and technology.
  • The dynamics of ideology, technology, and demography in the region mean that this continuing conflict poses serious challenges to Israel’s long-term security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state.
Therefore, Shapiro said, “We believe 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.”
[Dispense quickly with his interpretation of Palestinian goals. No Palestinian leader has said that the Palestinian goal is the ’67 line with agreed swaps. Only Americans say that. The one agenda item on which Hamas and Fatah agree is that the recognition of Israel was a mistake by the international community – and that the mistake has to be corrected by the state’s disestablishment, though they differ on the necessary method and the government that will follow.]
“Demography, ideology and technology” is a sloppy, non-specific suggestion that the progress of life itself threatens Israel. But specifically what threatens Israel is the continuing unwillingness of (almost all) Arab states plus Iran and several non-state terrorist organizations to accept the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East. Arab and Muslim rejectionists use oil money (as well as American aid in the case of the Palestinians and the LAF, the Lebanese Armed Forces) to buy weapons, training and technology from the United States, Europe, Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan in hopes of carrying out their intention to turn back the clock. They use media that is alternately willing and naïve – and often state-sponsored – and a UN that is corrupt and venal, to advance their agenda.
It is not against “demography” that Israel fights – it is against armed enemies who consider the “law of war” to apply only to others, if they consider it at all. It is not against “technology” that Israel fights – Israel is a master at using technology for defense and protection, including better protection of enemy civilians than those civilians have any reason to expect. As for ideology, unharnessed to the money, land, arms and political protection provided by states to other states or non-state actors, ideology is small stuff. It is only when states provide the tools of war to other states or non-state actors that large-scale terrorism and open warfare become possible.
And, interestingly, Mr. Shapiro knows that, which is why he spent so much of his dissertation on the Qualitative Military Edge, which he correctly defines as, “the ability to counter and defeat credible military threats from any individual state, coalition of states, or non-state actor, while sustaining minimal damages or casualties.” So he reminds the audience, “Each and every security assistance request from (Israel) is evaluated in light of our policy to uphold Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge….As a matter of policy, we will not proceed with any release of military equipment or services that may pose a risk to allies or contribute to regional insecurity in the Middle East.”
Why? Because it is understood countries that maintain a state of war with Israel might use American weapons against it. To some extent we oppose that – although the administration has sold $20 billion worth of military hardware to the Arab world in the past year-and-a-half.
But not just countries threaten Israel. Shapiro notes, “Despite efforts at containment, rockets with better guidance systems, greater range, and more destructive power are spreading across the region. Hezbollah has amassed tens of thousands of short- and medium-range rockets on Israel’s northern border. Hamas has a substantial number in Gaza. And even if some of these are still crude, they all pose a serious danger.”
So what will the United States do? Permit Israel to wipe out its enemies? No, clearly not. The Obama Administration was critical of Operation Cast Lead and has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Gaza to ameliorate a situation it finds discomfiting – although the result is to ever more firmly ensconce Hamas as the ruler there and undermine Abu Mazen. The administration is providing hundreds of millions in aid to the LAF in hopes that it will do something about Hezbollah, while Hezbollah becomes ever more brazen in placing its rockets inside villages and harassing hapless UNIFIL forces. Will the United States encourage Israel to stop an announced blockade run by anti-Israel activists? No, clearly not.
And as Iran is the source of arms, training and funding for Syria and Hezbollah and an important source for Hamas, as well as threatening Israel directly, will we permit Israel to attack Iran? Or perhaps do it ourselves, as a means of removing what threatens so many countries at so many levels? No, clearly not.
Mr. Shapiro does allow for defense, however, mentioning Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and U.S. aid for it several times, and mentions David’s Sling, the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System upgrade and early warning radars. 
All are good and useful and all after the fact of an attack against Israel.
All of this leaves us very, very flat. The administration, in the person of Mr. Shapiro, seems to understand that the military threat to Israel is real and needs redress. But its emphasis on the requirement that Israel “take tough decisions” to make peace implies that Israel has the key to peace, not its enemies. That Israel has to do something different. That if Israel doesn’t take the decisions the administration thinks it should, the American commitment to provide technology and money for Israel’s defense – because offense to get rid of its enemies isn’t on the table – could stop.
On the other hand, there was one really, really nice paragraph in Mr. Shapiro’s speech:


Israeli-origin equipment deployed on Iraqi and Afghan battlefields are protecting American troops every day. This includes armor plating technology for U.S. military vehicles and unique medical solutions such as the “Israeli bandage” – a specially designed antibiotic-treated dressing that has been used widely by our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also includes sensors, surveillance equipment, unmanned aerial vehicle technology, and detection devices to seek out IED’s. Many such partnerships and investments between our two governments and U.S. and Israeli defense firms have yielded important groundbreaking innovations that ultimately make us all safer.

Yes, Mr. Shapiro, Israel’s hard-won expertise in warfare makes Americans on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan safer. American and Israeli troops are grateful for the partnership between the American and Israeli military and defense establishments that works to protect them – and as Americans and as JINSA, so are we.


Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.