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Iran offers to sell Lebanon arms in wake of U.S. freeze

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment

TEHERAN (WJC)–Iran has said it was prepared to sell weapons to the Lebanon should the government in Beirut seek help to equip its military. On Tuesday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had proposed to the unity government of Prime Minister Hariri to formally seek military assistance from Tehran, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

In Teheran, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said that Lebanon “is our friend, and its army is also our friend” and if there was a demand [for arms], “we are ready to help that country and conduct weapons transactions with it.” Nasrallah, whose movement is backed by Iran and Syria, vowed in a televised speech Hezbollah could help secure the aid for the Lebanon’s army, which is still seen as under-equipped compared to the Shiite paramilitary group.

“I vow that Hezbollah will work fervently and capitalize on its friendship with Iran to ensure it helps arm the Lebanese military in any way it can,” Nasrallah said. His call came following a US freeze in military aid to Lebanon in the wake of deadly border clashes between Lebanese and Israeli troops four weeks ago.

A US$ 100 million aid package for the Lebanon’s military was put on hold earlier this month by two leading members of the House of Representatives over concerns the weapons could be used to attack Israel, and that Hezbollah might have influence over the Lebanese army. Nasrallah’s movement is part of Hariri’s governing coalition.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the possibility of Iran selling arms to the Lebanon underscored “the importance both to our national security and the security of the region to continue with our security assistance to the Lebanese army”. He added that a review of the aid program to the Lebanon was under way and that “we hope to conclude that soon, and renew assistance.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

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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

Iran and Syria say they’ll help Lebanon against Israel

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

DAMASCUS (WJC)–Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki  has met with Syrian President Bashar Assad here to discuss “the regional security threats posed by the Zionist regime” [Israel].

Referring to the deadly border skirmish last week, both men declared that they would support Lebanon against Israel’s “aggression”. Mottaki described Israel as “the source of insecurity and threat” in the Middle East . He also met with the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaleed Meshal, in Damascus.

Earlier, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr had lashed out at a decision by the chairman of a US Congressional committee to halt US$ 100 million in military aid for the Lebanese Army in the wake of last week’s clash with Israel, which according to the United Nations occurred on Israeli territory. A Lebanese Army sniper had opened fire on an Israeli officer involved in a brush-clearing operation. IDF troops responded, killing two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist.

On Monday, Howard Berman, the chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said he had suspended US aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces on 2 August amid growing concern in Congress that American-supplied weapons could threaten Israel and that Hezbollah may have influence over the army.

“Whoever sets as a condition that the aid should not be used to protect Lebanon’s land, people and borders from the (Israeli) enemy can keep their money,” Murr told a news conference, adding: “Let them keep their money or give it to Israel. We will confront [Israel] with the capabilities we have.” The minister’s comments came after Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, said Tehran was ready to help the Lebanese Army. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is slated to visit Beirut next month.

Meanwhile, a London-based Arab newspaper reported that France and the US had dissuaded Israel from opening a larger-scale military operation against Lebanon in response to the border incident. French sources told the paper that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had informed French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that Israel intended “to teach the Lebanese Army  a lesson and avenge the death of the senior Israeli officer.” This allegedly led to high-level interventions involving French President Nicolas Sarkozy, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Egyptian, Jordanian and other Arab state officials.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Commentary: Parallels between Johnson’s failed presidency and Obama’s.

August 11, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — There is a troubling item in the New York Times that describes “the Obama administration pouring billions into its nationwide campaign to overhaul failing schools, dozens of companies with little or no experience are portraying themselves as school-turnaround experts as they compete for the money.”

If the budget says spend $X on program Y, there is internal pressure to get it done. It is not so much a government giveaway as shoveling money out the door.

It reminds me of Community Action.

It may not have been the War on Poverty that ended the Johnson Administration, but it did not help. One can argue about which element of that presidency has contributed more to sully its reputation over the subsequent years.

One of the undisputed goods of that period are the social policies that have put the Obamas in the White House, and Black faces in corporate board rooms, university faculty offices, the staffs of distinguished hospitals and law firms, and in the roles representing those functions on popular television shows. Yet there remain the wreckages of Black lives and those of other minorities.
There are pictures circulating of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Detroit in 1945 and today that portray sparkling cityscapes in Japan and a wrecked Detroit
For those who don’t get the message, one of the items concludes with “What  has caused more long term destruction – the  A-bomb, or  U. S. Government welfare programs created to buy the votes of those who want someone to take care of them?”
 
Americans are a long way from knowing what they will gain and lose from the administration’s 2,000 page health reform, along with federal administrative rulings, state actions, as well as adjustments by insurance companies, HMOs, private physicians, and what the courts will say about the above.

The NYT has documented some of the unresolved questions of who will get what, at how much cost, and when will we finally know?
No one should accuse the NYT of being anti-social, anti-Democratic, or anti-Obama. However, it has reported about the continuing problems of a war that seems unwinable, as well as the follies in congressional/White House logrolling and public administration.
Americans may be seeing a repeat of the bad war and problematic social policy of the 1960s, this time in the presence of persistent unemployment, a large debt overhang, and all those tea parties.

Things are not looking any better in a region of the world claimed as a priority.
The Brookings Institution is reporting a poll of public opinion in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, during the period of June 29–July 20, 2010. Among its findings:

“Early in the Obama administration, in April and May 2009, 51% of the respondents in the six countries expressed optimism about American policy in the Middle East. In the 2010 poll, only 16% were hopeful, while a majority – 63% – was discouraged.”
The Arab public also has not gotten the administration’s message about Iran. “In 2009, only 29% of those polled said that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would be “positive” for the Middle East; in 2010, 57% of those polled indicate that such an outcome would be “positive” for the Middle East.” The governments in most of the countries surveyed have expressed strong opposition to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Go figure.
There has been a stability of feeling from 2008 to the present about the prospects of a lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians. Again, the signs do not give the American president what he wants. 50-55 percent feel it will never happen, and 27-40 percent say that it is inevitable, but will take more time.

The Palestinians have refused to begin direct negotiations with Israel, and the Israelis have refused any concessions without direct negotiations.
It is hard to blame either the the Palestinians or the Israelis for those postures. They both are reacting to political realities more than Americans and others still pushing for direct negotiations. Only the naive can expect something more positive than angry frustration to result for such talks in the presence of Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran, and Syria, plus a weak Palestinian Authority and a suspicious Israel.

The Americans may have to prepare themselves for a short presidency. We’ll get an some fresh tea leaves to read on November 2nd.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Assessing U.S. Counterterrorism Strategies: An Interview with Michael Chertoff

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

-Reprinted from Summer 2010 issue of inFocus Quarterly

On May 27, inFOCUS editor Matthew RJ Brodsky interviewed Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security from 2005-2009. As secretary he developed and implemented border security policy, homeland security regulations, and a national cyber security strategy. He also served periodically on the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council, and on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Prior to his appointment to the Cabinet, Mr. Chertoff served as the assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he oversaw the investigation of the 9/11 attacks. Today, he is senior of counsel at the law firm of Covington & Burling in Washington, DC.

iF: The Obama administration decided to abandon the term “war on terror” in favor of “overseas contingency operation.” Is this a semantic shift, or does it have practical consequences?

MC: Actually, I don’t know if that’s accurate. I don’t know that they have abandoned it. Sometimes I hear them use it and sometimes I hear them not using it, so I don’t want to characterize what their position is.

I think that the problem with the war on terror is that it is treating terror as a tactic. Although I think we all know what we mean when we say it, but I mean if you want to be literal it’s not literally accurate because terror is a tactic. I think that we are at war. I do think that the enemy is radical Islamist ideologues and their network. Obviously, al-Qaeda is part of that network but there are other parts of that network as well. And, we are in different degrees of war. We are in a hot war with some and a cold war with others. So it’s a little more complicated than the sound-bite but I think it is more accurate.

iF: Just yesterday the president’s top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, described the violent extremists as victims of political and economic social forces. But he said that those plotting attacks in the U.S. should not be described in religious terms. So if America’s adversaries are very clear in how they define us as enemies, why is it so difficult for the U.S. to identify with whom we are at war? Is the administration currently missing the boat here?

MC: Well again, I spent a lot of time when I was secretary talking to people, including many Muslims, about what is the right way to refer to adherents to the ideology that we’re fighting. And, there is an Arabic term, takfirism, which means basically the view is that everybody who disagrees with me is an apostate and should be killed, which is probably the most accurate but unintelligible. I don’t think you can avoid the fact that the people in this ideology are arguing, incorrectly, but nevertheless arguing, that they are reflecting a religious mandate. And so what I like about the term “radical Islamism” or “extremist Islamism” is that it makes it clear that we’re talking about Islam not as a religion but as a political doctrine – and that we’re talking not about all political Islam but extremist political Islam.

That being said, if we are not willing to be candid about the fact that it is a self-described movement that claims religious roots, then we’re not being honest about what it is we’re facing. Similarly, when I was a prosecutor, we did organized crime. I’ll never forget Governor Cuomo criticized us for using the term “La Cosa Nostra mafia.” Then I was the U.S. attorney prosecuting a case called the “Commission Case,” and we had tapes where the guys on the tapes said: “we’re the mafia, we’re La Cosa Nostra.” And so when the tapes got played in court, Cuomo got embarrassed. And Rudy [Giuliani] was Italian. But nevertheless he acknowledged that the group itself, while not emblematic of Italians by any means, did select only Italians or people of Italian lineage to be made members, and that was a self-imposed rule. So you can’t ignore that; that was part of how the group set itself up. So, to me, radical Islamism or extreme Islamism is probably the right balance to have.

iF: Do you see a pattern in the recent spate of terrorist incidents at Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bomber and Times Square. What do these mean?

MC: Well, we’ve had homegrown terrorists before. If you go back to 2002-2003, the Lackawanna Six – the people that we convicted up in Oregon and Washington. It does seem like there’s an uptick. And I think it’s attributable to two reasons. First, there’s been a self-conscious effort on the part of the extremists to recruit Americans or lawful residents because its gotten much harder to bring foreigners into the country. And second, I think that there’s been a tendency for some populations that have been alienated in this country to become a little bit more active. I think we’ve got much less of that than the Europeans have, by a considerable measure. But we’re a large country and you’re going to find some people who are alienated, and this ideology is one attractive way for them to deal with their alienation.

iF: In January the Pentagon released its report on the Fort Hood massacre carried out by Major Nidal Hasan. Defense Department Secretary Gates said there were “shortcomings” in the Department’s ability to defend against internal influences. In his speech after the failed Christmas Day bombing, President Obama said there were “systematic failures.” Janet Napolitano said, “the system worked.” Which is it? What is the state of our counterterrorism capabilities?

MC: I think our counterterrorism capabilities are good and they’re very much better than they were prior to September 11. They are not perfect, and I think in some cases what you see is human error – people who just didn’t see something they should have seen or perhaps didn’t work as urgently as they should have worked. And that’s what my focus would be. You need to drive this as a matter of leadership; it’s got to be a front-burner issue. The second piece is that you need to continually adapt. The tactics and strategies that worked last year are not all going to work this year because the enemy has adapted. So there’s a need for continuous improvement and focus. And you also finally have to support your field operatives. You know, the people you’re sending out in the field – you’ve got to have their back.

iF: Are we doing that?

MC: Well, I think the decision to go back and revisit the issue of prosecuting CIA agents after that was previously declined was probably not a helpful message. Right now, according to the newspapers, we’re using armed force against people in Pakistan and Yemen. So assuming that to be true, I hope and I would expect that we have the backs of the people who are doing that and in a year or two somebody’s not going to come back and say: “Whoa, wait a second. This is murder and we’ve got to investigate that.” To me, it’s leadership, it’s adaptation, and it is supporting your troops. Those are the three pillars of staying ahead of this.

iF: Did the decision to quickly pivot to charging the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal interfere with investigators’ ability to obtain the maximum amount of information? Was it the right decision?

MC: I can’t answer that because I wasn’t in the room. I think what they did with the Times Square bomber shows a more deliberate and thoughtful approach. Now, sometimes the answer may be that you give a person his Miranda rights because you’ve exhausted everything you can get out of him and, you know, in some of the cases we had we had been investigating people for months. So we had wiretaps and stuff, so we knew everything. The point is that it’s got to be a thoughtful decision; it can’t be a reflex to automatically default to the criminal justice system.

iF: The attempted car bombing in New York on May 1 has been traced back to a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen who spent five months in Pakistan last year. The Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the attack. What do you make of the fact that nearly every attempted or successful terror attack on Western targets in recent years has been traced back to Pakistan in some capacity?

MC: Well, the Christmas Day would-be bomber was Nigerian who went to Yemen. And we’ve had cases of Somalians. I think that Pakistan is probably still the epicenter of where this extremism is planning and training. But I think we have to watch Somalia, we have to watch Yemen, and we even have to start watching North Africa. I was in North Africa about a week ago and there’s a growing concern there about al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, which is involved in drug trafficking and kidnapping. That group could become the next Yemen. So this is a spreading problem; this is not limited to one geographic area.

iF: The United States has been using unmanned aerial drones to target al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. Some have questioned the legality of these “targeted assassinations” while the Obama administration has insisted they are lawful acts of war done in conjunction with the Pakistani government. What is your take?

MC: Well, assuming this to be true, what’s reported, I’m not going to confirm anything, but assuming that to be true I don’t have a problem legally with using force when you’re at war. But some people on the left have not at least hitherto accepted that we are at war, so they’re going to have to figure out how they deal with this issue. I don’t have a problem with it.

iF: Attorney General Eric Holder has been widely criticized, first for deciding to try terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court in New York City, and then for reversing his decision earlier this year. What do you think is the appropriate venue for trying terrorism suspects – civilian court or military tribunal?

MC: I think for people who are captured oversees, I would put them in a military commission. Unless they’re American citizens who under the current law are not allowed to be in a military commission. But if you’re not an American and you’re captured oversees, I see no reason to import you to the United States. Now, people captured in the United States present a different set of issues…

iF: Even if they’re foreign-born?

MC: Even if they’re foreign-born presents a different set of issues. But, certainly if you’re captured oversees I think it’s the right course to put them in a military commission. And frankly I don’t think you need to bring them into the U.S. to do that. I think you can try them somewhere else.

iF: What do you make of the decision to close Guantanamo Bay?

MC: I think it’s going to turn out to be a lot harder than was originally projected. Part of the problem is this: In a way, the easiest way to deal with it is that if someone’s been convicted and they’ve gotten life imprisonment or execution, that’s the easiest thing. You could then put them in a U.S. facility; lock them up at a place like Florence and that would be that.

The people who have not been tried yet or who are being detained, that’s the hard problem because what do you do if at the end of the day you can’t make a criminal case under U.S. criminal law? Do you release them in the U.S.? Do you deport them? Well, look what just happened in Great Britain. A week ago an immigration court in Britain said we have two terrorists that were acquitted, or there was insufficient evidence to charge them with a terror plot. But the court said: these are terrorists. One is clearly a member of al-Qaeda and the other is clearly ready to carry out al-Qaeda’s orders. But, under European law, because there is a slight risk they can be mistreated back in Pakistan, we’re not going to send them back but they have to remain in Great Britain. Now what? Are they going to put them under these control orders? That’s controversial, too. Well, we don’t want to have that in the United States. I can guarantee you that would be a huge mistake. So, before you start bringing people from Guantanamo into the United States you better have all the legal ducks in a row as to what happens if people can’t be convicted. And I don’t think we’re there yet.

iF: What do you make of the report of the transfer of Scud missiles from Syria to Lebanon-based Hezbollah? Is this a “game-changer,” as the Israeli’s have insisted? How should the U.S. respond and does Hezbollah present a threat to the United States or American interests?

MC: Without commenting on the specific report, I think Hezbollah, as I think I’ve said publicly before, is in terms of sophistication the most powerful of the terrorist groups. I mean, they are much more sophisticated than al-Qaeda. They have not attacked Americans directly to my knowledge since the Khobar Tower in 1996. But they do have a growing presence in this hemisphere, which they’ve been in the process of gaining over a period of decades now. I think that the issue has always been: at what point would they engage in hostilities with the United States? I think a lot of that is frankly tied to where we are with Iran. So I think they’re a piece of a larger geo-political issue having to do with Iran and its relationship with the United States and its relationship with the other countries in the region.

iF: Some have argued that the creation of the Homeland Security department merely adds one more level of bureaucracy and red tape to the government. How essential is the department to keeping the U.S. safe? Does it help or hinder the flow of information between governmental agencies?

MC: Actually, it made it much easier. We used to have the various pockets of things that were involved with border and infrastructure security scattered in different departments. So you had a piece of the border stuff in the Department of Justice, another piece in Treasury, another piece in the Department of Transportation, and they never worked together. They had uncoordinated plans. By bringing this department together, we for the first time built a coordinated border plan, which is one of the reasons that – contrary to what you hear on the news – we’ve actually had significant decreases in flow across the border in the last couple of years. We now share platforms between the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection. They share intelligence, they have joint planning, and they have joint exercises. So I think like any other maturing organization there are some growing pains, but I think it is significantly far ahead in terms of coordinating on border and infrastructure security than was the case when they were in separate departments.

iF: Excellent. Thank you very much for your time.

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Preceding reprinted with permission from inFocus Quarterly published by the Jewish Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

How should we distinguish between anti-Semites and vehement opponents of Israel?

August 4, 2010 Leave a comment
By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Does it do more harm than good to describe Israel’s intense antagonists as anti-Semites?

No doubt it assures that any discussion will be heated. However, if it was appropriate to use the term, it was, most likely, already at a fever pitch. 

Is it a distortion of reality to accuse opponents of anti-Semitism?

No more than a substantial segment of current opponents distort reality by focusing on Israel as deserving censure, boycotts, or other punishment without considering Israel’s activities in comparison to those of other countries set upon by intense enemies.

To repeat what I have written previously: anti-Semitism differs from a reasonable posture against Israeli actions 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.
The A word does not cool things, but neither may it increase the heat above where it already is. It may serve to link current accusations with earlier stereotypes well defined as beyond the pale, and lead some people to stop going after Jews out of fear of being labeled with one of history’s most objectionable labels.
 
My discussion of this issue has angered one person who is–or used to be–a friend. He wrote that I should butt out of the controversy about the proposed boycott of Israeli products by the Olympia Food Coop. According to him, I do not understand Olympia, and I may inflame efforts to deal with the issue by temperate people like him who live in the community. He urges me to, “open your eyes and look in the mirror. Israel is its own worst enemy which comes from blaming everybody else and taking no responsibility for its own actions.”
Butt out I will not do. It is my business every bit as much as it is that of the good people of Olympia. Israel is the country where I live. I am among the targets of Olympian madness. It is me and my colleagues whose work has not been considered by professional journals for reasons that appear fabricated, and built upon the same logic as that of the Food Coop. It is me and my family who may be subject to delay or even prohibition when we seek entry into a country aroused against Israel. On several occasions we have decided not to speak in Hebrew in a foreign city, in order to avoid what might happen.

Another correspondent wrote that “accusations of anti-Semitism inflame passions and prompt defensiveness rather than highlighting the error of boycott and divestment” This came from someone who also lives in the area of the Food Coop. The note when on to say  that “this campaign is a much more serious threat than Israelis (or certainly the Israeli government) realize, and should be considered and addressed with the attention and resources typically devoted to conventional military threats (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah) and terrorism threats (Hamas and others).”

When I responded that the issue might not warrant Israel’s air force staging a bombing raid over Olympia, the follow up was 
Not bombing – different types of resources, but a similar level of attention and consideration, talent, money, high-level visibility, etc….  Some of this is already underway; I understand that the Foreign Ministry has an “inquiry commission” (probably by another name) looking at the media and public-diplomacy aspects of the Gaza flotilla fiasco.

This is one way of calling for better Israeli explanations of what it does, and better campaigns to defend itself against outrageous accusations.

That would be nice. Maybe ideal. However, the proposal has been around for a long time. It surfaces whenever there is a perceived loss to those who accuse Israel of abominations.
I doubt that it is doable.
Governments know how to build cities and other physical structures, and armies know how to destroy them. The delivery of health, education, and other services responds to money and administrative detail. Changing attitudes in a democratic setting with freedom of expression is another matter. Intensity resists persuasion. A popular fashion that demonizes some distant people may be even more resistant. This may be especially the case when the campaign is widespread, financed by wealthy countries, and when the target of the hostility is a people who have served time and again as a scapegoat.
We have traveled back to anti-Semitism.
It is not a charge that should be used casually. Remember that I viewed Barack Obama’s Cairo speech as balanced, and I have ridiculed those who consider him anti-Semitic, or a Muslim and born somewhere that would disqualify him from being the President of the United States. I also ridiculed his demand that Jews not build in neighborhoods of Jerusalem. I seek to avoid madness while I identify other faults are ill-advised.
The campaign against the Olympia Food Coop will remain with local people, most likely focusing on changing the views of individuals who are not firmly committed to the boycott. I will not try to dictate the vocabulary of those working in my interests. But neither will I desist from concluding that fomenters of the boycott, and others like them fit a pattern best described by the “A” word. 

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Commentary: As peace talks loom, Arab rejectionists fire their missiles

August 2, 2010 Leave a comment
By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–It is not easy to make peace in this region. 

Currently those who aspire to a breakthrough depend on Mahmoud Abbas and Benyamin Netanyahu. Neither of them inspires a great deal of confidence, given their histories. Moreover, both are politicians, dependent on pressures and constraints from local and wider constituencies.
As we are hearing the hopeful talk about the prospects for discussion (few are hopeful enough to predict success), others in the region are making it difficult on both the Palestinian and the Israeli to be generous. 
Naysayers at the peaks of Syrian and Iranian governments, and well as Hizbollah, have spoken of war in the last couple of days. There has been an uptick of rocket fire from Gaza and the Sinai. The weapons cannot be aimed and are not reliable. A substantial proportion blow up while being assembled or fall on the wrong people. There was a explosion last night in the residence of a leading Hamas figure that injured more than 40 persons. No surprise that Hamas blamed Israel, but a more reliable response from the IDF said that it was not operating in Gaza at the time. 
The luck of those firing these missiles can create a catastrophe. One recently landed close enough to an apartment building in Ashkelon to do damage and terrify those nearby. Another hit a building on the campus of one of Israel’s better colleges. If school had been in session and a number of people killed, the follow up might have looked like last year’s destruction and death throughout Gaza.
Five rockets were pointed in the direction of Eilat. Israeli sources claim that they came from the Sinai. Egyptians say that would be impossible in the presence of their forces. Anyone spending a bit of time in the Sinai must doubt the capacity of any military to know what is happening on every ridge and in the wadis between them.
Two of those rockets landed in the sea, one on an empty field in Eilat, and two missed Israel and reached the Jordanian city of Aqaba. One of those injured several people near a hotel. Initial reports mentioned that international tourists were among those hurt. The Jordanians claim that only workers and drivers were injured. 
While few who are familiar with the Middle East or international politics anywhere may expect complete candor, the lack of anything close to that is one of the elements contributing to problems of reliability, and whatever that does to the confidence necessary for agreements. 
Among the speculations heard from the intelligence community is that the purpose of the firings toward Eilat/Aqaba was to threaten the Egyptian regime, presumably in control of the Sinai. Analysts say that these weapons bear signs of being Iranian.
In a place where there are multiple lines of animosity and enough troublemakers to provide weapons, the optimist must work hard to define conditions that may promote agreements, and then harder to encourage some actors who may be inclined to accommodations without provoking others to another spurt of violence.
Each rocket reminds Abbas what part of his constituency thinks about peace, and reminds Netanyahu of the same thing. Abbas and his coterie may have signed on to the principle of peace, but support throughout Palestine and other Muslim countries is sufficiently problematic to make any Israel wonder about the merits of an investment.
We heard on prime time television the principal Palestinian negotiator describing what he said was the most generous offer Palestinians had ever made to Israel. Then a commentator noted that it was similar to what some Palestinians, seemingly in the ruling circle, had offered in 2000, then other Palestinians, even closer to power, had rejected. 
The most difficult issues include the 50,000 or so Israelis living in the West Bank beyond the major settlements that are candidates for land swaps; control of Palestine’s eastern border; Palestinian demand for refugee rights; Jerusalem, especially the Old City and even more especially what Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims Haram esh Sharif or Noble Sanctuary. There is a longer list that includes Palestinian demilitarization, water, sewage, solid waste and other environmental controls, compensation for perceived wrongs done over the course of a century or more, and perhaps several others. Only inhabitants of a fairy land can think that any of this is easy, or that the details can be handled by technicians without reference to implications for security, national feelings, personal ego, and the next election.
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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University