Archive

Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

Iran: the elephant in Iraq’s living room

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –President Obama’s speech on the end of combat operations in Iraq was a strange muddle of domestic policy, blaming our recession on borrowing for the war (although according to the Congressional Budget Office, seven years of the Iraq war cost less than one year of the Obama Administration’s stimulus package) and equating the end of combat operations with providing the resources to turn our attention to economic recovery (as if we couldn’t attend to the economy until we “finished” the war, which isn’t finished in any event).
 
But the real wonder is how it was possible for the President of the United States to give a whole speech about Iraq without mentioning Iran. While the United States is “turning the page” and leaving Iraq to the Iraqis, the Iranians are heavily invested in the violence that continues to plague the country. While the President lauds the Iraqis for their courage and their choice to engage in politics (well deserved praise), the shooting war continues, funded and abetted by Iran. President Obama acknowledged:

“Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders.”

The Iraqis might have no interest in “endless destruction,” but Iran has no interest in an independent, democratic, pro-Western Iraq. The Iraqis may be able to “resolve their differences and police their streets,” but with Iran continuing to fund unreconciled militias, what hope has the Iraqi police/military of getting ahead of the mullahs? “Only Iraqis can build a democracy,” but can they build it under military attack from their neighbor Iran?
 
The President referred to “extremists,” but those extremists have a patron. Iran. And if Iran is the elephant in Iraq, it is the elephant in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and surrounding Israel as well.
 
The issue of American arms for a Lebanese armed force that shares with Iran’s agent Hezbollah has been discussed in prior JINSA Reports. The recent announcement of a Syria-Hezbollah military cooperation agreement, alongside the increased Syrian role in the Lebanese body politic, brings Iran right into Lebanon, north of Israel. 
 
Iran is the elephant in the Israel-Palestinian “peace” talks. Iran provides funds and ideological support to Hamas, while Hamas and Fatah are engaged in a civil war that has moved from Gaza (where Fatah supporters have been pushed underground by brutal attacks) to the West Bank, where Hamas supporters are increasingly visible – including in yesterday’s murder of four Israelis. It should be impossible for the Administration to propose a “two state solution” while the Hamas government wages war on both Israel and Fatah.
 
In each case, violence is treated as disembodied and unsupported. But in fact, in each case, trying to deal only with the closest manifestation of the violence – Israel’s Security Fence; the Iraqi army and police trying to disband militias; UNIFIL in Lebanon; the Israel-Egypt embargo of Gaza; or missile defenses against Hezbollah, Hamas or Iran – ignores the relative ease with which Iran is able to resupply and rearm its protégés.
 
Without an understanding of where the elephant is, and how to tame it or remove it, what success the United States has had in Iraq is likely to be short-lived. That failure will make a mockery of the sacrifices of both Americans and Iraqis in pursuit of consensual government for the Iraqi people.

*

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.

*

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

Intimidation persuades many Arabs to never cross the party line

August 21, 2010 Leave a comment

By Bruce S. Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker

PHILADELPHIA — Heartwarming words from Sarah Shiha, a student at Ain Shams University in Cairo: “Apart from the political issues, we are humans. I respect your religion, you respect mine.”

Her next comment, on Israel, sounded more robotic than humane: “What we see is that we had a land, and that people came and took this land. Now they want to stay here, and every day they are killing more and more of our siblings.”

Shiha is among 20 students from Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon who participated in a five-week program sponsored by the U.S. State Department to learn how religious pluralism is among America’s great strengths, according to an article in The Jewish Exponent of Philadelphia.

It seems that Shiha and her associates could have been a tad more diplomatic, especially since her inflammatory comment might be read by thousands of American Jews. She could have easily sidestepped the question by insisting she needed to learn more about the Israeli/Arabic conflict, couldn’t she? She might have faced more than verbal disdain back home. She might be murdered by her own people.

In the Middle East, free speech can carry a fatal price. Arabs have murdered their own who were suspected of collaborating with Israel, and Arab leaders who suggested or acted upon peaceful existence with Israel. Remember Anwar el-Sadat?

Yasser Arafat indicated that he feared a comparable fate if he assented to the peace plan offered during the Camp David summit 10 years ago. In his book “The Missing Peace,” Dennis Ross (then President Clinton’s Middle East envoy) relates a conversation in which Arafat asked then secretary of state Madeleine Albright if she wanted to attend his funeral. This comment came out of left field, but why else would he say this?

Arafat’s comment could invite some sarcastic responses – such as, his funeral was long overdue. I think his top motive for rejecting the plan was fear that other Arabs would kill him because they refused to accept any peace settlement.

It is clear that many Arabs keep silent because they fear retaliation. Of course, it is impossible to determine how many Arabs really loathe Israel and those who follow the script to protect themselves and their families.

Examples do abound. Before returning to his current prime minister post, Benjamin Netanyahu was asked by a television interviewer to identify Arab businesspeople with whom he communicates; he refused because, he said, it would jeopardize their lives. I recently read a report of an Arab man who saved Jews during World War II and told them to say nothing about his help. Israeli leaders claim that Arabs who sold land to Jews denied doing so because they could be harmed.

Some months ago, a native Iranian on a German sports team refused to play against an Israeli team. He did not offer this as a reason, but he still had family in Iran who could be endangered by his participation in that game.
 

The Arab and Muslim world is tightly controlled in parts. Putting Israel aside, ordinary Arabs and Muslims must worry about violent feuds between families and tribes, honor killings of women and conflicts with the ruling class. On Aug. 8, an Iranian attorney fled to Norway after he defended a woman who faced being stoned to death because she allegedly committed adultery. An Afghan couple were stoned to death, on Taliban orders, because they allegedly cheated on his wife and her family-chosen fiance.

Those familiar with the Middle East attest that roughly half of Turkish and Iranian citizens are sensible people who yearn for more moderate leaders. Egyptian businesspersons worked well with their Israeli counterparts, and Turks in the military oppose their ultra-religious regime. 

Tom Friedman of The New York Times reported on a Gazan woman whose son’s life was saved by a Jewish physician at an Israeli hospital. Now she wants her son to blow up…er, grow up…to become a suicide bomber. Consider that she must return home to face not only her neighbors but also Hamas, which has the power to make life miserable for her.

It is most annoying that American Muslims readily complain of bigotry, yet are less consistent in condemning Islamic-related violence – especially when Israelis are victimized. Muslim society in America appears to be closeted and hard to figure out.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the driving force behind the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, dodged a radio reporter’s question as to whether he concurred with the State Department’s designation of Hamas as a terrorist group, The New York Jewish Week reported.

Said Rauf: “I’m not a politician. I try to avoid the issues. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question…I’m a bridge builder. I define my work as a bridge builder…I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy.”

Far from an exercise in clarity.

It is strange that free speech exists on two levels in our own country – one standard for most of us and a self-imposed standard for a stifled and bewildering minority.

*
Ticker is the Philadelphia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World
 He may be contacted via bticker@comcast.net

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

Open letter to Fareed Zakaria concerning the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’

August 14, 2010 3 comments

Isaac Yetiv

Dear Mr Zakaria:

 
As an assiduous viewer of your Sunday TV show  (CNN/GPS), which I have always enjoyed for your judicious commentaries, the choice of your experts, and your well-prepared and deeply-probing questions, I have earned the right to express my disappointment.

The case in point is your position on the  controversial decision to build a mosque on Ground Zero in New York (your program of Sunday 8 Aug. 2010.)  I believe that your support for building the mosque was a knee-jerk reaction to ADL’s strong opposition to it, and that if you dig deeper, you might revise your opinion.  ( Already, in your interview with Anderson Cooper a few days later, you seemed less sanguine; I even detected some regretful tone) . The following analysis will hopefully help:

 
First, unless I missed something, you deliberately talk about “a center:” I didn’t hear you say the word “mosque.”  This is, of course, disingenuous and misleading. A “center” without a “mosque” is a less loaded proposition, and would have aroused less resistance and outrage.
 
Second, you call Imam Raouf a “moderate” or “a Bin Laden nightmare” while conveniently occulting from your discourse his own pronouncements such as ” America was the accessory to the crime of 9/11 ”  or “Bin Laden is made in the U.S.” and that he, Rauf,  would like “a Sharia-compliant America” (where , as you know, an adulteress is stoned and an apostate is HALAL to be killed etc.) He also  could not bring himself to admit that Hamas is a terrorist organization (“I am not a politician,”he said, “and terrorism is a complicated problem.”) There are also rumors I can’t ascertain that he has indirect links with terrorist organizations and that his father was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
 
Besides, even if all that is not true, there is no guarantee that he will not be “used” as Imam for a short time, and then replaced with a more radical Islamist  (the type of Al-Awlaki who was Imam in a mosque in Virginia frequented by two of the 19 hijackers of 9/11) who  will use the mosque as a hotbed for radical  Islamists, a center of recruitment, and as a MADRASA  to inculcate the Wahabi extremist religious ideology that has produced 9/11 and other violent eruptions elsewhere, notably in the Muslim world and with mainly Muslim victims.

Rauf refused to say where the money (100 millions !!) will come from. A foreign country? a sponsor of terrorism? the terrorists themselves? It is clear that those who will finance the project will dictate its content and its programs. Recent events clearly demonstrate that an “investment” of such magnitude can only come  from a few oil-rich theocracies that have produced nine-eleven and other terrorist calamities. Is that scenario not plausible?  Do you want to take that risk?

 
The fact that Imam Raouf was (or is being ) sent to the Middle-East by the State Department to “explain” to the Muslims that we, Americans, are nice people, and we love them etc…was used by the proponents to prove that he is, as you said, a “moderate.”
This initiative was already tried by the Bush State Department with Karen Hughes, at great cost, and failed lamentably. It only shows once more the naivete and gross ineptitude of the Arabists who dominate the Agency and who still “don’t get it.” Would that the love of the radical Islamists could be acquired with some logical explanation ! Instead, the fear is that Imam Rauf will enjoy a junket at American taxpayer expense which he will use as a fundraiser for his projected mosque from those same oil-rich potentates.
 
Third, this is absolutely not a case of freedom of religion or first amendment rights, as it was demagogued by the politicians, including ,most recently, the president,after a few weeks of reflection and hesitation . (A better case of violation of the first amendment can be made with what was recently discovered, namely that our taxpayer money has been spent –by Bush and Obama–to build and refurbish mosques in Egypt, Tanzania, and Iraq,  maybe elsewhere too. So much for the separation of church (!) and state .) But not in this case: America is a free country and we cherish all freedoms. There is no “establishment of religion” or preventing “the exercise therof.” There are more than a hundred mosques in New York only, about 3,000 in the US. (How many churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia? Syria?Jordan?)        
                                                                                                                                                It is a case of what I would call ” zoning for reasons of security, sensitivity to the feelings of the victims of 9/11, common decency,and domestic peace.” The onus of proof is on the proponents of building the  mosque precisely at that point and not a few miles away.
 
Many experts believe that a 15-story-100 million dollar mosque (at odds with the beautiful tenet of Islam which is modesty) ,towering above other religions’ houses of worship in the heart of New York ,or even elsewhere, and funded by the most extremist ideologues of the Wahabi doctrine of Islam, is a high-security risk. They ,of course, rely on past performance. A former CIA operative and expert on terrorism sees it as “a magnet for militants,” a training ground for future agents of mischief, and a center for proselytizing.
 
But security is not the only concern for the opponents. Their cry of outrage is fueled by the arrogant insensitivity to the feelings of the families of the victims of 9/11 (including Muslims) and of the majority of Americans (recent poll shows 69 % opposed against 28 % approving.) This project is also fomenting confrontation and threatening domestic peace.
There seems to be an awakening of the masses, as opposed to the lethargy of the leaders, in other places, too. In Temecula, California. in Wisconsin, in Tennessee, we see the same opposition to building mosques, and in Germany, the authorities have just closed a mosque in Hamburg which was frequented by Mohammed Atta and his acolytes.
Many real moderate Muslims spoke out against the project which they see as an unnecessary provocation. One of them, a prominent woman, president of an Islamic organization, Raheel Raza, explained at length on TV why she opposed the project. Another Muslim woman, originally from Iran, Neda Belurchi, published an article in which she lamented the loss of her dear mother as a passenger in one of the planes destroyed  in nine-eleven. She called the proposed mosque “a symbol of victory for militant Islam.”
 
So why, one might ask, the insistence on building the mosque precisely at ground zero? Why did they reject a compromise solution by the Governor of New York who offered them another area that will not stir the enormous controversy? You, Fareed,  may be more familiar with a  view of Islam, that of South East Asia, which is very different from the Middle-East interpretation and implementation . The latter  is stricter and more fundamentalist and ideologist, especially the Wahabi kind. As you surely know, in the study of conflict resolution, we distinguish between “conflicts of interest,” readily amenable to compromise solutions acceptable to both sides, and “conflicts of ideology” that brook no compromise, especially if the ideology is of the religious kind and involves the “word of God,” or if one side demands the destruction of the other “before it can negotiate” as in the case of Hamas and Hizballah toward Israel.
 
Those who want to build the mosque at ground zero, and their financiers in the Middle-East, want to make a point: that a mammoth shrine of Islam towering above all other minuscule houses of worship of other faiths, in the heart of New York, in the heart of America,
with the mellifluous stentorian voice of the MUEZZIN resonating far away and calling the flock to prayers five times a day, with Allahu Akbar exclamations full of symbolism, is a vivid proof of  victory of fundamentalist and militant Islam (just as Belurchi said.)
This act of triumphalism is in keeping with medieval war and lore . It was the norm for the victors (not only Muslims) to erect their own house of worship on the ruins of their defeated enemies’ shrines. We can see many examples in Spain , or in Turkey such as the Hagia Sofia mosque in Istanbul which was a Byzantine church in Constantinople, or the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem built on the Jewish Temple Mount.

The 9/11 atrocities were seen by the perpetrators and their sponsors (to be sure, a minority, to be distinguished from real moderate Muslims, and certainly from Islam as a respectable religion no less than the others)

as a “victory.” They danced in the streets to celebrate it. For them, what better way to triumph than enshrine the place with the projected mammoth mosque?
Historically, triumphalism uses symbolism to enhance its effect: the selected title to the project, “The Cordoba initiative,” was intended as a reminder of the “Golden Age” in Muslim Spain where different religions lived in peace and harmony (which is true), but in the 11 th century,the Almohades invasion changed all that with its persecutions of Jews and Christians of whom many fled for their life (the most famous were the scholars Maimonides and Averroes.) It was reported , whether true or false, that the organizers of the project planned to inaugurate the mosque …on September 11 of next year “as an act of commemoration for the souls of the victims,” but many see that,if true, as adding insult to injury. A Muslim lady said on TV: “that is sticking it in your face.”
 
One may ask: ” If it is so bad, why have the mayor of New York and some elected officials, all Jews, thrown their hats in the arena  on the side of the promoters? The answer is simple: it is political correctness run amok. The Muslim ladies quoted above called them “bleeding-heart liberal elites.”

I dare to go farther: as an avowed foe of political correctness of any kind– I believe it is our collective enemy number one because it obscures the truth, and afflicts us with willful blindness, and the truth, for me, remains the supreme criterion for any judgment– I say with sadness that the Jewish leaders on the Left, in general, suffer from the Jewish disease of what I call “universalitis.” They can’t take their own side in a dispute, the others are always right. They speak in the abstract, on what should be rather than what is.  To parody a popular adage, they don’t see the log in the eye of the others but they see the straw in their eye.

They indulge in self-deluding pieties on liberty, rights, constitution, and they defend those who reject them violently. In the words of Lenin in another context (speaking of the Communists in the West) they are “useful idiots.” To the point that they even brave the 69 % and growing opponents among their constituents. I believe they will not be re-elected.

I also believe the mosque will not be built on ground zero. As for Obama, safely protected by those Jewish politicians, he has an uncanny ability to do things against the majority of the people’s wishes. And he, too, will pay politically.

 
Conclusion: As documented above, I do not see the controversy as “religious,” akin to the “disputations” in Spain and France during the Inquisition. It is not a matter of theology, on which religion is right. I see it as matter of security even more than sensitivity to the sufferers. Can you, or anyone of the defenders, declare with some degree of certitude, that a mosque of this magnitude in America does not present any danger to our security?  If not, it is irresponsible to let it happen. We should use common sense: “when in doubt, abstain !”  Use caution, be prudent.

Maybe we should prohibit all religions, for the sake of fairness, to limit their houses of worship to no more than  2-3 floors. We should “respect and suspect” everyone,and not endanger the security of all because of political correctness. And if it is difficult to decide, I suggest to use “Le Pari” (the Wager) of Blaise Pascal. He wrote :” Let us wager that God exists. If we are right, we gain eternity; if we are wrong, what did we lose, a few pleasures or sacrifices, nothing.”

  
Applied here, it will be: ” If we build such a mosque, we expose ourselves to a potential huge danger but if we don’t, we avoid such catastrophe even if  we will annoy some group by limiting their “rights.” For me, the choice is clear.
I hope you reconsider your position, and you will have the courage to proclaim it. Thank you for your attention.
Prof. Isaac Yetiv
La Jolla, CA

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

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

August 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Jewish community alarm expresses alarm over terrorist affiliate

MELBOURNE, 5 August – The Victorian Jewish community has expressed concern that an extremist Islamic organisation with a history of incitement and antisemitism has begun holding meetings in Melbourne. Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in the US, Germany,  Russia and many Muslim countries including Pakistan and Egypt because it is defined as a terrorist  group. Terrorists involved in 9/11 and the London bombings have been linked to the group.

In Australia the group has been meeting in Sydney since 2007 but over the past year has begun holding events in Melbourne. Jewish leaders are
concerned that the group held a meeting in theBrunswick Town Hall on Sunday, with the  permission of the Moreland City Council.
They will be writing to council to ensure it is  aware of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s history of incitement, rejection of democracy and race hatred.

The chairman of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria Mr John Searle said he was sure the Moreland Council would not wish to support a group that preaches violence and runs counter to the spirit of multiculturalism.

“This is an issue that anyone who respects democracy and the rule of law should be concerned aboutas this a group that rejects Australian values.
“Hizb ut-Tahrir in Sydney describes Israel as ‘a dagger in Muslim lands’ and argues that democracyis not for Muslims. We don’t want that kind of
divisiveness undermining multicultural Melbourne.”

A Jewish community organisation which monitors  antisemitism says internationally Hizb ut-Tahrir hasan appalling record of spreading hate against Jews, The chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation
Commission Mr Tony Levy said Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ideology of destroying democracy and replacing itwith an Islamic Caliphate was partially
responsible for terrorist attacks like 9/11 and 7/7. In Britain Hizb ut-Tahrir disseminated material claiming Jews were “a people of slander” and in Denmark aHizb ut-Tahrir leader was convicted of inciting racial hatred after telling Muslims to kill Jews.

“Australians would be foolish to ignore the violence and hatred this group has expressed in othercountries. We have a wonderful tolerant multicultural society and we have to be vigilant in protectingit,” he said.

*
Jewish school runs into resident objections

MELBOURNE, 4 August – While its new Minimbah  Campus on Orrong Road is set for completion within weeks, The King David School has been left
in limbo over the usage of its new multimillion-dollar facility.

The City of Stonnington issued a notice of decision to grant a permit for King David to use  the new classrooms and theatre earlier this year, but objectors quickly applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to have the decision reviewed.

Local residents are concerned about the opening times, the number of people permitted to use the new building and a lack of parking.

With the VCAT hearing only set for mid-October and the August completion date of the facility looming, school president Michael Lawrence sought
advice from local member Tony Lupton before  requesting an intervention from Victoria’s Planning Minister.

“Last time we had a VCAT hearing scheduled for October and we didn’t receive a response until March,” Lawrence said. “We are nearing completion
of the building and part of the Federal Government’s conditions for use of the site under the Building the Education Revolution initiative, under which we received funding, is for the site to be available for community use within a specific timeframe.”

Despite concerns from residents, a spokesperson for Planning Minister Justin Madden said it is in fact common practice for the minister to call in matters on the basis of land use, particularly when the site is to be used for educational purposes.

“With building works due to finish shortly it is common sense to address the matter of the building’s use quickly,” she said this week. “Calling the matter in from VCAT means a decision can be reached more quickly, while still considering the differing views.”

The spokesperson also confirmed a meeting had been held last month between residents, the school, council representatives and the minister’s staff. The department is currently reviewing the information and is expected to make
a recommendation to the minister shortly.

She said the matter is of state significance as it is a multimillion-dollar development, has an educational usage, was part of the Building the
Education Revolution stimulus package and was partly funded by the Federal Government.

*
Film Festival threatened over Israel link

MELBOURNE, 5 August – The Melbourne International Film Festival has been threatened with legal action for refusing to withdraw a film at the
request of its makers, who objected to the  festival receiving funding from Israel. Feature film Son of Babylon, which is set in Iraq, screened on July 26 and July 28 as scheduled, despite demands it be withdrawn in protest at
funding from the Israeli government. The funding  amounted to a return economy-class airfare for an Israeli director.

”The festival was informed in enough time to stop the screening . therefore if you have knowingly disregarded our wishes and screened the film, we will of course be left with little alternative than to take appropriate action
against the festival,” producer Isabelle Stead wrote to festival executive director Richard Moore last week in an email exchange leaked to crikey.com.au.

”You should not underestimate our resolve to ensure that our film is not associated with thestate of Israel as long as it continues itsillegal crimes against humanity,” she wrote.

There is, in the filmmakers’ stance, a distinct echo of Ken Loach’s decision to withdraw his film Looking For Eric from last year’s festival on the
same grounds. On July 18 last year, The Age broke the story that the veteran English filmmaker hadsaid ”if it did not reconsider the sponsorship,
he would not allow the festival to screen his film”. Mr Loach cited ”illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods” and ”the massacres in Gaza” as reasons for the boycott.

Mr Moore said acceding to Mr Loach’s demand would be ”like submitting to blackmail”. That put him and the festival at odds with the Edinburgh Film
Festival, which had done precisely that. In acknowledgment of its stand and its response to pressure by the Chinese government over the
documentary, “The 10 Conditions of Love,” about Uighur independence leader Rebiya Kadeer,Victorian civil liberties group Liberty lastmonth gave this year’s Voltaire award to the Melbourne festival.

This year’s flare-up is a little more complicated, however.

Mohamed Al-Daradji, director and co-producer of “Son of Babylon,” wrote to the festival about 14 hours before his film’s first festival screening,
requesting that the festival cancel it and the second scheduled screening.

Within two hours, Mr Moore replied. ”To request a withdrawal of the film on the day of the screening is simply not acceptable and shows a lack of respect for our organisation,” he wrote.

”We are not able to replace the film at short notice and we will screen it today. I am prepared to consider other options for the second screening but I will also need to consider the financial ramifications.”

However, the July 28 screening went ahead, prompting an angry email from Ms Stead, who did not return calls or emails from The Age.

”When we grant a festival permission to screen a film that took us years to make along withdanger, blood, sweat and tears we do so with trust. I would have thought a festival would morally recognise the need to tell a Palestinian
co-production that it was funded by the state of Israel,” Ms Stead wrote.

The Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester meanwhile wrote to festival director Richard Moore, and the film’s director Mohamed Al-Daradji and producers Isabelle Stead and Atia Al-Daradji saying “The request by the makers was completely inappropriate … “[The boycott] is part of a worldwide attempt to isolate Israel, to boycott Israeli products, creativity, programs
and culture. We’re seeing it everywhere and that’s the real worry.”

Chester praised Moore, whose wife and children are Jewish and lived in Israel for several years, for refusing to yield.

“Richard Moore has been very courageous in saying, ‘this is inappropriate. You don’t have to like every film we show, but that’s what art and
festivals are all about, don’t try and censor me’.”

Following the screening, the film’s producers again contacted Moore requesting the proceeds from ticket sales be donated to a charity of
their choice. The request was denied.

*
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World