Sunday, December 13, 2009

Israeli-Palestinian Peace: Two Opposing Views

Consider first Barry Rubin's contention:

Why if the Palestinians are suffering so much won't they make peace?
Here's the answer: the Palestinian leadership wants total victory and Israel's elimination. They are willing to go on letting their people suffer for a century in pursuit of that goal. They hope that the world will give them everything they want without their having to make any concessions.

Next, a two week old column in The Wall Street Journal:
In June, the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl related how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him why he had turned down Ehud Olmert's offer last year to create a Palestinian state on 97% of the West Bank (with 3% of pre-1967 Israeli land being added to make up the shortfall). "In the West Bank we have a good reality," Abbas told Diehl. "The people are living a normal life," he added in a rare moment of candor to a Western journalist.

Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet.

The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance. So long as the Obama administration and European politicians don't clumsily meddle as they have in the past and make unrealistic demands for the process to be completed more quickly than it can be, I am confident the outcome will be a positive one.

Put the two together and what insight pops out? That in the West Bank, both sides are working to create peace in all but name. But for the moment, Israeli troops are both needed and desired - hence the intransigence of the Palestinian leadership!

Friday, December 04, 2009


Courtesy of Solomonia:

Update, 12/5/09: Welcome Pakistan Defence Forum readers! The deleted post in the "Israel's cruel face" thread contained the lower of the two cartoons above. It was in response to this comment by "Barrett":
Israel is a zionist state, their policies are barbaric and satanic.
Israel should stop killing innocent human beings -

After the cartoon, I added the following, as close as I can remember:

Israel does its best to avoid casualties, but its enemies do their best to make that difficult. One American academic, Bruce Thornton, calculated back in 2006 that "Since World War II, some 25 million people have died in various conflicts, only 8,000 as a result of Israel’s attempts to ward off a chronic existential threat." link That's about the average number, by my calculation, of Iraqis killed by Saddam over a four-month period, or a bad hair day for Hafez Asad. Does this mean that Israel is "barbaric and satanic"?

My post was deleted by "taimikhan", who has been a moderator for about three weeks. He explained his reasons in a pm exchange with me. Because I consider taimikhan's response unbecoming of a moderator (this post violates no posted policy at PDF), and because he ignored my arguments to reinstate it, I reproduce it here. (I hope never to have to violate a pm exchange ever again.)

Me: "Big Fat Lie" is your reason for DELETING a post? Not that something isn't relevant, but because you THINK it's a lie? Are you not using your position to advocate a particular point of view? Do you really consider this the proper duty of a moderator? Please undelete my post immediately, thank you.

taimikhan: "The picture that you posted was one big fat lie and insulting to the thousands of innocent children killed by Israel. This is not what we say, it is said by the whole world. Lebanon War 2006 was a further proof where UN sanctuaries got hit having children in them. I remember seeing the pictures of dead children being taken out of a school, where around 40 or so children were murdered by Israel in a so called mistake. So don't make me started, i being a moderator doesn't means i have to see and do nothing to the lies that you or guys like you paste and put the blame on others, while Israel justifies itself killing women and children in the name of human shield. Whole world knows, nether the still cameras photos are photo shopped nor the live TV coverage showing dead women and children are lies. So don't give us your propaganda, use it in Israel or US to keep the mouths of people shut and get more weapons and money to kill thousands more in coming months."

The cartoon graphically illustrates why, in the opinion of many, many, Israelis and Jews, innocents are being killed. By withholding this you are denying non-Arabs knowledge of Israeli self-conception of Israeli motives.

"i being a moderator doesn't means i have to see and do nothing to the lies that you or guys like you paste and put the blame on others"

That's for you to respond and debate, isn't it? Only yesterday Reuters carried a report with the headline, "Israeli runs over Palestinian", you had to read far down the page to learn that the Palestinian had stabbed the Israeli and his wife first. The mainstream media is full of this sort of bias - do you really want to see it here, too?

I didn't start the "cruel face" thread. But think of what preventing me from answering the charge means. Do you really want the Forum to decay into a hall of mirrors, a receptacle for blind hatred?

And today, finally:

Since I consider you have ignored my previous pm, and in my opinion have acted in a fashion unbecoming of a moderator by expurgating a post that doesn't violate PDF rules, I am taking the unusual step of posting this private exchange on my blog.

You should know that I've asked to be banned from the forum. If my voice cannot be heard, the process of justice is corrupted and so the best choice is to leave the community and seek better company, rather than remain in what has proved to be an unholy community. For my people and by extension myself are accused of crimes yet forbidden to defend ourselves.

Why shouldn't I consider this another example of the sort of "toleration" Muslims boast of when they speak of the protection they offer Jews and Christians? Do you wonder why so few Jews remain in Muslim lands today?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Guest Post: Amotz Asa-El

Dubai crisis is the Arab economy’s opportunity

What began as a pharaonic construction site is suddenly sinking in economic quicksand, its future as an archeological attraction possibly more promising than its pretensions as a global financial center.

Dubai, which until last week loomed tall – literally – as an enterprising, cosmopolitan, glitzy and happy antithesis to the Middle East’s economic stagnation, has now emerged as a sad monument to all that is ill about the pan-Arab economy, which includes more than a quarter-billion people but is smaller than Spain’s.

Once the dust settles over Dubai World’s debt-default announcement last week, its many Western victims would do well to probe not only the way the emirate’s authorities treated their money but also the relationship between the entire petrodollar elite and the pan-Arab economy.

The Dubai crisis originated in a brave dream: that the Gulf’s oil riches would buy rather than produce a great financial center.

Had this transpired, it would have defied historical precedent, whereby the great modern financial centers — from London, Frankfurt and New York to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore — both followed and fed monumental industrial revolutions.

Those financial centers rose after millions had moved from the countryside to factories, where the process of their economic empowerment began, eventually giving rise to the broad, educated, affluent and socially mobile middle classes that are the backbone of healthy economies.

Metropolis in the Dunes

In the Gulf, despite the complete absence of middle classes and an industrial base, a financial metropolis was emerging from the Arabian dunes.

Dominated by Burj Dubai, the $1 billion turret that at 2,500 feet is the world’s tallest structure and by its trademark palm-shaped system of artificial islands, Dubai invested $200 billion in tourism infrastructure. On top of that, it put $20 billion into a property venture that included 30,000 houses, luxurious hotels and an artificial lake, and an additional $4 billion for 300 artificial islands.

Dubai’s emir, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Makhtoum, openly spoke of the need to prepare for the morning after oil, which some suspect will arrive within several generations, whether because the resource will be exhausted or alternative energies will take precedence.

But the construction frenzy transcended Dubai. To the north, the Bahrain Financial Port was planned to employ 8,000 bankers and insurance agents, while at the other end of the Arabian Peninsula the Saudis laid the cornerstone for the $27 billion King Abdullah Economic City.

And real estate was but the most visible aspect of a spendthrift Zeitgeist that swept the entire Gulf area during this decade’s seven fat years of record oil prices.

It was the time when Emirates Airlines bought a $37 billion fleet including 45 state-of-the-art double-decker Airbus A380s; when Abu-Dhabi-based Mubadala Development bought a stake in Ferrari, and Dubai International shopped for U.S. seaports while other Gulf sheikhs bought skyscrapers in Manhattan and a chunk of London’s Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.

No one abroad, let alone locally, seemed to ask who makes all those decisions and how, why and at what social cost, just as western governments never questioned their steady supply of Saudi Arabia’s estimated $20 billion annual military spending — about the size of Russia’s defense budget — and its social costs.

Westerners preferred to look at the happy side of all this financial momentum, which besides welcoming rich foreigners included a genuinely progressive quest, like Qatar allowing U.S. universities to open local campuses for Arab students, a large number of them women, and like Saudi Arabia earlier this decade launching a $50 billion plan to build new roads, hospitals and schools.

Economic alchemy

Alas, it was all part of one big exercise in economic alchemy.

Financially, the Dubai crisis is rooted in the region’s disbelief in transparency. Until this moment the extent of Dubai’s debt and resources remains unclear. And the suddenness of its default announcement was in keeping with the local idea of corporate governance, which recently saw the emir of Dubai sack the Ivy-League-educated chairmen of Dubai World, Dubai Holding, and Dubai International Financial Center, and replace them with his relatives and cronies.

With more transparency, the markets might have made the usage of the region’s minerals a bit more prudent and balanced. Yet that drawback is dwarfed by the Gulf vision’s social aspect.

Bluntly put, the great development along the Arabian coastline was part of an effort to freeze the Middle East’s deformed social structure, whereby hundreds of millions of impoverished and uneducated Arabs live almost immediately under a well-born moneyed elite, with hardly any middle class between them.

That is why the Gulf’s Arab oil producers did not use their wealth to build — in their own lands, let alone elsewhere in the Arab world — the kind of assembly lines that revolutionized the economies of China, India and Brazil. That is why Dubai and its neighbors import millions of Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis as their unskilled workforce, even though nearby Egypt and Syria have chronic labor surpluses.

That is why a place like Dubai at any given time has more foreign residents than locals; and that is why the burgeoning financial center’s profits (while they were still being made) went abroad rather than where they were needed most: in the slums of Cairo, Casablanca, Damascus, Khartoum and Sana’a, where hope is as close to the destitute masses as the Burj Dubai’s 160th floor is to the ground.

Like Pharaoh’s Egypt, the Gulf economy rested on abundant resources, cheap labor, and a disregard for social solidarity. Economically or morally, this was no way to build a modern financial center.

The fact that Western institutional investors happily flocked to the Gulf should surprise no one, although one wonders just what all the bankers who are now fuming at Dubai’s leader were thinking when they signed deals with him. Did they think that the laws of economic gravity would not apply where islands were being imposed on the sea and castles were being planted in the sand? The bankers’ short-sighted attitude in this theater is but an extension of their failings during the era of greed that preceded the meltdown in Wall Street. Chances that they will now fix what they helped ruin are therefore low.

The ones in a position to make the repairs are Europe and America — if not because they care for social justice then because they care for the poverty that feeds Europe with a Middle Eastern immigration it does not want and Islamist terror with the fresh recruits it very much wants.

Europe and America can therefore use this moment of perplexity to help restore confidence in the vision of a financial center in the Gulf, but the proper way: with more transparency, social concern and regional investments, with less extravagance and with a real economy attached to it.

Amotz Asa-El is a former executive editor of the Jerusalem Post.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Quick Summary of Judaism

An extract from the “Islam ≠ Fundamentalism” comment thread at Crossroads Arabia, out of a conversation with ever-bright "Sparky":

Solomon2 I know you are Jewish but I don’t know if you are a Orthodox Jew but I wouldn’t ever be able to follow the strict rules Jews are supposed to. when I was a Christian, I had read the Torah numerous times and I thought God had wanted Jews to have some sort of mental breakdown with all the cleanliness bits and rituals. I believe such might lead to OCD of course less than a psychosis but who knows what God is thinking up there???


Most Jews would class me as Orthodox since I keep strictly kosher, don’t drive or flip electric switches on Shabbat, and attend an Orthodox shul.

I wouldn’t ever be able to follow the strict rules Jews are supposed to…I had read the Torah numerous times and I thought God had wanted Jews to have some sort of mental breakdown -

Your sympathy is appreciated, sometimes I think the same! The thing is, the “rules” don’t exist in isolation, but in relation to each other; you have to grasp at understanding the whole to understand the bits. (A good Talmudic education or rabbi helps.) So Jews aren’t out there burning witches, for example. We also realize (most of us) that it’s quite possible to follow all the “rules” and still mess things up with God. There are many fine Jews who are Conservative or Reform, and some Orthodox who have a bad attitude towards others because they think, erroneously, that greater observance gives one license to be contemptuous of others.

The best short summary of Judaism is still Hillel’s Golden Rule, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn”. Implied in that are timeless concepts of truth, justice, modesty, conduct – all salted with what nowadays we call “common sense”. We don’t necessarily have to “know what God is thinking” (indeed there is great room for doubt), for the rituals we observe are all meant to reinforce these principles as our obligations to God – and if they take some effort to do sometimes, that may make the reward of inner peace all the greater.

So Jews may be neurotic about what their conduct should be, yet rarely psychotic because they know they are to deal with the real world, not impose something “perfect” upon others.

Even most “non-observant” Jews feel they follow these precepts. Consider, for example, the disproportionate number who pursue law, science, and accounting as their trades, and the attachment many have to the ideals of economic fairness and justice towards all men and women, regardless of religion, race, or creed.

I apologize for this too brief, incomplete, and awkward explanation. If I was a rabbi and had greater learning I think I might be able to explain it rather better.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guest post: An Open Letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Your Excellency,

Allow me to apologize to you for not being able to be present during your address to civil society at the hallowed campus of Government College University in my beloved city of Lahore. Much as I would have wanted to benefit from the wisdom of your analysis and foresight, I could not make the journey quickly enough from the remote town of Chilas where I was in consultation with the proponents of a major dam which shall displace 32,000 people and submerge 32,000 ancient rock carvings if and when built. Allow me to further explain that since flights were cancelled from the nearest airport in Gilgit, a tedious five hour journey on the Karakoram Highway, I was compelled to take the road journey over the Babusar Pass situated at an altitude of 14,000 feet above sea level, travelling a total of eighteen hours to Islamabad.

Your Excellency, it was during this eighteen hour journey through some of the most desolate yet spectacular landscape of my country that I imagined speaking to you, being unable to join the privileged few who were invited to hear you speak both in Lahore and in Islamabad. As the vehicle carrying us made its way carefully over open culverts fashioned by the able engineers of the China Construction Company, as it slid over six inches of freshly falling snow, as it dipped into crevices swirling with glacial melt, and as it glided smoothly over the bits of tarmac which have survived the devastation of the 2005 earthquake which killed 70,000 people in these remote parts, I spoke to you, imagining that you were truly interested in what I, an ordinary citizen of this, my beloved, blighted country had to say.

But before I put those words down on paper, Your Excellency, allow me to welcome you to my country, this broken jaw of your kingdom. Allow me also to congratulate you, belatedly, on your appointment as Secretary of State of the most powerful nation on earth. That President Barak Obama had the prescience to see a woman in this commanding position is also a move worthy of appreciation. That you were his opponent in the Democratic Party’s primaries shows the objectivity and wisdom in President Obama’s selection. That you are a woman signifies the possibility that you will bring sanity to the White House, and by extension, to the Pentagon. For if the world was to be run by women, Your Excellency, it is quite possible that today we may not be mourning the brutal deaths of millions killed in the many wars over the past many centuries.

Your Excellency, it was at the outset of the second Gulf War in March 2004 that I resigned from my honorary position as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations to which I had been appointed by Dr. Nafis Sadiq, then the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund. For five years I had tried to bring to the attention of my department the fact that the issue of population, poverty, and peace cannot be addressed without empowering women to deal with all of these. It was, and still is, my firm belief that women will not choose war over negotiating peace, that given a choice, they will not produce children who must go hungry, that they are the backbone of a nation’s economy and cultural articulation, and that they hold the key to the myriad conflicts which rage like an uncontrollable conflagration, destroying a world built by men and predicated on inequity and injustice.

It is unfortunate that I was unable to convince my department of the value of the genuine empowerment of Pakistan’s women, beyond the provision of services and family planning counselling. It is equally unfortunate that I was being seen as the face of the United Nations at a point when this esteemed organization was totally impotent in the face of your country’s insistence on invading Baghdad. My protest at this incapacity led to my resignation, something I have never regretted and would do time and time again, for protest is my right, and practically the only thing left to me to use with clarity, dignity and purpose. And it is through this fissure that I hope to be able to insert these words, Your Excellency, through the cracks in the daunting security which surrounds you during your visit to my country.

Your Excellency, before me, wrapped in a piece of fabric stained with grime and fragile with wear, lie the gifts I received from the family I recently visited in the hamlet of Thor which straddles a glacial stream rushing down the majestic Karakoram mountains. This parcel was given to me by the woman whom I met while conducting a Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment for the proponent of the Diamer Basha Dam. It contains what she had gathered in the fading light of autumn from the forest surrounding her stone hovel which she shares with eight children, her husband, several goats, a cow, two dogs and a ginger kitten with a broken leg. Lying inside this piece of fabric were a couple of pomegranates, some dried mulberries, and a handful of apricot kernels.

When I shook out the piece of cloth containing these precious gifts, I realized that it had been carefully embroidered with intricate designs resembling the motifs I had seen etched into the dark surface of the igneous rock which lies scattered across hundreds of miles of this desolate landscape, described as the “abomination of isolation” by the British who wished to consolidate the far reaches of their empire in the nineteenth century. That this family lived just besides the 19th century British-built rest-house, perched on a cliff over-looking the thundering rivulet running down from the melting snows, appeared to me a fitting irony: rampant poverty living in the shadows of the greatest empire of the modern world.

I listened helplessly as my host explained in a language unknown to me that her husband was being threatened by the powerful land-owners of the area to give up his little patch of land on which his family eked out a meagre existence. This patch of land shall not be submerged by the 100 kilometre long reservoir of the proposed dam, but before the river is dammed, this family, and many like them, shall be damned to displacement, dispossession, and the absolute disarticulation of everything they have known for centuries: their music, their songs, their stories, their way of life. There shall be many like them, “collateral damage” in the path of progress of a country starved of energy and full to the brim with contradictions which flame the fire of terror.

Why do I tell you this simple story, Your Excellency? Why should you be concerned about the lives of an obscure family living in some remote region of a country considered to be the pariah of nations for its involvement in the breeding of terror? Why should your mind be cluttered by the details of the lives of ordinary Pakistanis who struggle to survive all sorts of neglect and deprivation? After all, the simple mantra chanted by your government and those before it is that by bringing democracy to these conflicted lands, the world shall be a safer place. And democracy is what supposedly describes the dispensation in our Parliament today, and even for the several years before that, despite the fact that the self-appointed head of state was nothing but a military despot wearing the disguise of well-cut suits.

I tell you this simple story for the simple reason that perhaps the problem lies in the details, Your Excellency, in the details of ordinary lives. The problem itself is simple, and the solution is not as simplistic as American foreign policy would like us to believe. The problem, Your Excellency, is the wilful and malevolent perpetuation of a universal state of inequity and injustice – a state of dangerous contradictions poised to implode despite the many hasty and ill-thought out designs to alleviate the burden of poverty and privation. Today I see you standing before a computer, accompanied by a permanently beaming President and a stately Minister who gives away money to the needy, once a month, as long as the needy are defined by a certain parameter.
Your Excellency, apparently you are to push a button on the computer which shall randomly select a winning family which shall benefit from the munificence of a government functioning almost entirely on the rhetoric generated by martyrdom. That this family is then to return the awarded amount while those in government have loans worth millions of dollars written off is an irony as sharp as the fact that the family in Thor Nallah had never heard of this benevolent scheme, nor have they ever received the benefit of electricity which could possibly power a computer on which their names could be listed.

Your Excellency, I had worked with my mother in the region of Gilgit Baltistan for thirteen years before her untimely death in the region she had come to love. For most of the people of this region, as for most of the people of the four provinces of my beloved country, such schemes have remained inaccessible, much like gainful employment, health care, education, land, and the most ubiquitous of all rights: justice. It is ironic that those who have denied the people of Pakistan these essential rights are the ones you are now accompanied by: the grinning and ingratiating folk who surround you on your visit. Your Excellency, how can we possibly be anointed with the ink of Democracy when the parchment we have been writing on is brittle with conflict, fragile with prejudice, and infested with a feudal ethos which eats into the very fabric of democratic principles? How can we, ordinary Pakistanis, believe that those with whom you do business are truly representing our interests, the interests of the family in the Thor Nullah and countless others like them in Awaran, in Badin, in Zhob, in Gwadar, in Dir, in Bakkhar?
Your Excellency: I am not trying to dissuade you from your noble mission to inform us of what is already written in blood, the blood of men and women and children killed in a war we did not create. As I write this, news filters in of the deadly bombing of the heart of my father’s beloved city Peshawar. Tonight the sound of mourning, of women wailing for lost children, of babies seeking lost mothers, shall fill the sky above my country. Can you hear that song, Your Excellency, that lament of despair, that elegy to a nation defeated by those who sold it for another song, a song of greed and a malignant lust for power? That is not a song anyone would willingly want to hear, and unless you and those in positions as significant as yours are willing to hear that elegy, I fear that very soon, too soon perhaps, there shall be no space for further burials in this beloved, blighted country of mine.
In closing, allow me to offer you the lines of the wonderful British poet who made America his home:

I am moved by fancies that are curled /
Around these images, and cling: /
The notion of some infinitely gentle /
Infinitely suffering thing.

(T.S. Eliot – Prelude)

Yours most sincerely,
Feryal Ali Gauhar

[Hat tip from the Tooth Maestro. Originally published in The News. Cross-posted at the Pakistan Defence Forum.]

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pakistan: A State of Denial

Ignoring the practically obligatory anti-Israel stuff at the end, this has, pretty much, been my line of thinking for the past several years - except that I now know that "recalling some historical facts" will do nothing to reduce anti-Americanism (or anti-Zionism or anti-Semitism) unless a populace is ready emotionally to accept them.
...Similarly, some conspiracy theorists believe that Al Qaeda does not exist and the Sept 11, 2001 attacks were the handiwork of Israeli agents. The fact that Osama bin Laden has taken responsibility for 9/11 and all those involved in it were Arab nationals has not deterred the ardent believers of conspiracies.

How should one explain such a state of denial? It is not a case of not knowing the facts. Actually, the conspiracy theorists do not want to believe anything that comes in the way of their firmly held views: firstly, that the US, Israel and India are the arch enemies of Muslims; secondly, that the militants involved in the struggle against anti-Islam forces must be absolved of any charge of brutal excesses...

What kind of mentality is helping create sympathy for violent extremism? How is it that extremists are attracting so many adherents? No doubt, the majority are drawn from madressahs where young boys are subjected to relentless brainwashing. But some supporters are well-educated people. It is important, therefore, to understand the phenomenon of ‘Talibanisation’ since military measures alone cannot destroy Al Qaeda and the Taliban. In the final process, ideas must be fought with ideas...To counter Talibanisation and the religious fanatics, it needs to be emphasised, firstly, that they have done a grave disservice to Islam’s image by their senseless violence and brutality. Secondly, the rampant anti-Americanism that is providing so many recruits for Al Qaeda can be countered by recalling some historical facts...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Diseased Thinking

"with what is now known about the costs in blood and treasure that the U.S.-Israeli relationship has imposed on the U.S., its key ally, Israel could fall within five years...Absent external pressure, Israeli behavior will not change."

There's a lot of misinformation in this article, but especially misleading is the thinking that U.S. military and economic support keeps Israel alive. This probably has its roots in the lie circulated by Arab leaders in the aftermath of the Six-Day War that it was the U.S. and Britain that defeated them, not Israel.

Consider that until the 1967 war the Soviet Union and France were Israel's biggest arms suppliers, and that U.S. support for Israel didn't really take off until the 1973 war. How did that happen?

In October 1973, after initial retreats from the sudden attacks of the Egyptian and Syrian armies on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, the Israel Defense Forces defeated the Egyptian 2nd Army and totally surrounded and cut off the Egyptian 3rd Army. The U.S., trying to pry Egypt from the Soviet orbit as part of the Cold War, didn't want to see the Egyptian Army destroyed.

Thus the U.S. issued Israel an ultimatum, and Israel faced a choice: either destroy the Egyptian 3rd Army and forgo substantial U.S. military and economic aid, or let the Egyptian Army remain trapped, but unmolested and re-supplied with food and water.

Israel chose to let the trapped Egyptians remain alive, new cease-fire lines were drawn, and eventually Israel permitted the evacuation of all but a fraction of the Egyptians. After a few years, Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty.

So U.S. aid isn't what keeps Israel strong enough to destroy Arabs. U.S. aid is a massive bribe to Israel NOT to destroy or uproot Arabs and crush their armies. After all, everyone says Israel is the strongest military power in the region, and that it's the policy of the U.S. to keep it that way.

Now suppose Israel is faced with the prospect of decreased U.S. support, or increased U.S. support for its enemies who wish to destroy Israel and slaughter at least its Jewish population. What do you think Israel's response will be?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Another Saudi-sponsored "Inter-religious dialogue" conference

This time, it's in Geneva. I am not particularly impressed with the Inter-religious dialogue efforts to date. I suppose some conference invitees are thrilled with it because they get to press hands with heads-of-state, eat sumptuous food, and enjoy royal gifts. However, last year's conference ended on a sour note when the organizers tried to issue a final statement without approval of the attendees.

The authorized guidelines for the entire effort were settled at the June, 2008 Islamic Preparatory Conference on Religious Dialogue - the "Makkah initiative" referred to in the article. Among other things, these can be read as directing Muslim delegates to proselytize and not listen to others, and if they do listen to protect against "demoralization". link

Were these guidelines meant for real, or are they just pieces of paper necessary to pursue a genuine effort? In my opinion, this is the point where the Dialogue stalls.

Will taking the Dialogue to the grassroots by help it break through this barrier? Or will deeper roots will add to the intellectual inertia that prevents Dialogue from going forward. I think the latter is the case - and Abdullah Al-Turki, chief organizer of these conferences as head of the Muslim World League, knows this.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On the Goldstone Report

This massive 574-page report, originally commissioned by the (deeply-flawed) United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to explore exclusively Israeli wrongdoing (by design, taking Israel's actions out-of-context) and later pushed to its limits by its chief investigator, Richard Goldstone, to include some of the actions of Hamas and the Palestinians who Israel was actually fighting, seems to upset Jews mightily. Perhaps it shouldn't.

Do people ever considered that the U.N.'s first priority may be to protect its own personnel, including locally-hired Arabs? (Originally set up mostly to help Jews after WWII, the United Nations Relief Works Agency is now exclusively devoted to Arab relief and most of its staff are Palestinians.)

If you were running the UN, what would you do under the circumstances? How are you supposed to protect your employees in Arab refugee camps without U.N. police and troops which the Security Council won't supply? Especially in a Gaza where Arabs claim that Hamas throws those who oppose it from roof-tops?

Might you not choose to issue reports exculpating those who threaten your employees, even as you try to document their crimes in the hope that they could one day in the future be brought to justice? Bray loudly in agreement with tormentors as you whisper for help to others?

Would Hamas have threatened the UNRWA about teaching the Holocaust if Hamas didn't feel that terrorizing the U.N. wasn't effective? Indeed, the UNRWA assured Hamas they would do no such thing.

Consider that the Goldstone Report contains the confession that Hamas leaders employed human shields, but adds that confession is not proof. This shield the U.N. from retribution – not that the U.N. bothered to look very hard at such proofs.

There’s lots of other silliness in there, but some good stuff in between the lines. For the Goldstone Report is a "non-judicial" document, hence labeling the confessions of Hamas leaders as "boasts" won't matter a bit if these matters are taken to criminal court; the Report serves as evidence, not judgment.

One must also consider what’s missing that an unafraid investigator would have reported. The one thing one can’t do is take the report at face value – especially its allegations against Israel.

Rather than condemn the document entirely, I would focus on its contextual and factual aspects - real facts that can be confirmed, not dreamed-up fantasies and distortions - and express sympathy for the U.N. and all Arab populations that have to live under the thumb of crippling dictators; if the Arabs truly want credibility to their rants, it won't be through U.N. reports, but by accepting the need for freer societies and freedom of debate within their own communities.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Remembering the Hebron Massacre


No theme is more deeply embedded in Jewish history than exile and return. The biblical exodus from Egypt to the promised land, the return from Babylonian exile, and, most recently, the establishment of the state of Israel all affirmed the enduring determination of the Jewish people to return to their homeland.

Yet another wrenching exile and return, now rarely remembered, occurred 80 years ago this week. On Aug. 23-24, 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron was exiled following a horrific pogrom. The tragedy is known as Tarpat, an acronym for its date in the Hebrew calendar.

Until 1929, Jews had lived in Hebron for three millennia. There, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah. It was the first parcel of land owned by the Jewish people in their promised land. Ever since, religious Jews revered Hebron as the burial site of their matriarchs and patriarchs. Conquered, massacred and expelled over the centuries, Jews always returned to this sacred place.

After 1267, under Muslim rule, no Jews were permitted to pray inside the magnificent enclosure, built by King Herod in the 1st century, that still surrounds the burial caves. But following the expulsion of Jews from Spain at the end of the 15th century, a small group of religious Jews rebuilt a community of study and prayer in Hebron.

In August 1929, that community was suddenly and brutally attacked. Incited by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem—who claimed that Jews were endangering Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—Arab rioters swept through Palestine. In Hebron, the carnage was horrendous.

It began on Friday afternoon when Arabs attacked Jews with clubs and murdered a yeshiva student. The next morning, joined by local villagers, Arabs swarmed through Hebron screaming "Kill the Jews." They broke into the home of Eliezer Dan Slonim, where many Jews had gathered for safety. There they wielded knives and axes to murder 22 innocents. In the Anglo-Palestine Bank, where 23 corpses were discovered, blood covered the tile floor. That day, three children under the age of five were murdered. Teenage girls, their mothers and grandmothers were raped and killed. Rabbis and their students were castrated before they were slain. A surviving yeshiva student recounted that he "had seen greater horrors than Dante in hell."

When the slaughter finally subsided, 67 Jews had been murdered. Three days later, British soldiers evacuated 484 survivors, including 153 children, to Jerusalem. The butchery in Hebron, Zionist and religious officials alleged, was "without equal in the history of the country since the destruction of the Temple." Sir Walter Shaw, chairman of an exhaustive British royal investigation, concluded that "unspeakable atrocities" had occurred.

Tarpat extinguished the most ancient Jewish community in Palestine. With synagogues destroyed, Jewish property converted into storerooms and barns for livestock, and the ancient cemetery desecrated, few signs remained that there had ever been a Jewish presence in Hebron.

But nearly 40 years later, after the Six-Day War of 1967, a small group of religious Zionists returned to Hebron to rebuild the destroyed community. "What was in the past in Hebron," declared their matriarch Miriam Levinger, "is what will happen in the future. Always!" So it would be.

The Jewish community of Hebron—some 700 people—recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of their return. This month they commemorate the 80th anniversary of Tarpat. All the other ancient peoples mentioned in the Bible have vanished. But Jews, a community of memory, still live in Hebron.

Hebron Jews are relentlessly vilified as fanatics who illegally occupy someone else's land. As religious Zionists, they are the militant Jewish settlers whom legions of Jewish and non-Jewish critics love to hate. It is seldom noticed that their most serious transgression—settlement in the biblical land of Israel—is the definition of Zionism: the return of Jews to their historic homeland.

Mr. Auerbach, a professor of history at Wellesley College, is the author of "Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel," published in July by Roman & Littlefield.


On the other hand, Arabs like Bu Jassem refer to such reporting as "a complete joke by western media to be so biased against the Palestinians." link. His recommendation is that people "think not" of the Hebron massacre, but instead of "the murderous campaigns of Israel".

Would Israel even have to exist as a separate Jewish State if events like the Hebron Massacre hadn't demonstrated the failure of Arabs to stand for justice within their communities, so that if Jews were to live in their internationally-endorsed homeland, they would have to fight to establish justice themselves? And is this not similar to the struggles other minority population in the middle east have today?

Elder of Zion, Ian, Anna Baltzer, and bataween continue the discussion.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mission Accomplished?

As the U.S. withdraws from an active role in Iraqi affairs to military bases and then home, Iraqi leaders step up to the plate. Here's one story told by a U.S. soldier of a ceremony to re-open a bridge crossing an open sewer dividing Sunni and Shia communities, an event made possible only because Americans slogged it out hard with blood and spent treasure heavily for five years to reduce sectarian conflict:

In the 120 degree heat, we listened to readings from the Quoran, poetry from local civilians, and speeches from top generals. They talked about the great things the Iraqi Army has done and the secure future that is in store for the Iraqi people. Everyone felt good about themselves; you could feel it in the air.

As we stood to move to the ribbon cutting and bridge crossing there was an announcement. A couple of the religious leaders wanted to make statements. Everyone obliged and returned to their seats.

Sunni and Shia both stood and made the same claims. My translator began to speak, “A day of brotherhood, unity, and security. There was to be only one people; Iraqi Muslims. No more Sunni, no more Shia…..”

My translator stopped speaking.

“What are they saying?” I asked.

“You don’t want to know.”

“Tell me.”

“Okay, sir. Coalition Forces and Terrorists are no long welcome in this country.” my translator stated.

Because we've given the Iraqis more than they can ever hope to repay, they must take the attitude that they owe us nothing at all - that it was the Americans who brought terror to their country and gave nothing in return.

Very much like the French who complained there was no fighting in Normandy until the Americans landed. Remember, the first speech DeGaulle gave after the Allied liberation of Paris was to give all credit to the French for the liberation. Not one word about British and American forces - and no word about collaborators, either.

Five years ago I wrote:
We Americans put too much faith in gratitude. The fond feeling the French had for us twice saving them faded in the 1960's. The Germans want to forget their debts to us for freedom and unification... Both want - desperately - to believe the U.S. today is just as bad as they were in their imperial days -- to lessen their collective feelings of guilt and moral inferiority, and to justify their refusal to stand side-by-side with the United States...Gratitude goes even less far in the Arab world. Arabs today have, at best, selective memories; at worst, they believe their own lies, and, by the noise of repetition, impress it into others...

...the Iraqis must feel that they created their own democracy, not one imposed by an "empire"...In the end, they may feel angry with us, but if they succeed, they will be a real, confident, country, one that will stand up for democratic values, like El Salvador is today -- not wilted lettuces like France and Germany. We want an Iraq that won't tolerate terrorists in its midst." link

But all we got was an Iraq that doesn't tolerate terrorists, and that may change. The Iraqis now have a republic of sorts - if they can keep it. I sense we are leaving without the values of democracy rooted in the government - the people don't feel empowered, as the Americans did with their (mildly) corrupt state governments after the Revolutionary War.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Pakistan's War

Since April, the tide of Pakistani opinion has turned:
"The Pakistani media had lost both its fear and its illusions about extremists, who had once been portrayed as ‘Robin Hood’ figures" link
In contrast with earlier operations, the Pakistani Army is working very aggressively. link The turning point in Pakistani public opinion was the widely-circulated video of a teenage girl in Swat being punished for khulwa, being seen by a man not her family. Pakistanis decided that such punishment wasn't what they wanted.

True to form, the Taliban's leaders have resorted to increasingly brutal and intimidating methods to maintain their rule over their forces and their captive population:
Baitullah Mehsud ordered 18 of his wounded men slaughtered before retreating in the face of the army operation going on against him. The men lost their lives because they were no longer fit to keep up with the rest as they made good their escape. Seeing the operation unfolding effectively against the TTP, the parents of the boys he had shanghaied into his suicide-bomber training camps begged him to release their offspring. He refused. Baitullah is showing signs of being under pressure by employing savage tactics of retaliation too. Anyone who speaks against him inside the vast tracts occupied by the various warlords is liable to get killed. As he moves from one safe place to another safe place to avoid being hit by the Pakistan jets, he is carefully monitoring his rivals within the Taliban and eliminating them.

Unfortunately the government's success in winning over the populace by the technique of letting the Talibs show how bad they can be rather than fighting the Talibs in the first place means they can continue to be corrupt, rather than face popular pressure to reduce corruption and improve governance.

Luckily, some newspapers realize that: Practical Democracy

Even as the Taliban find themselves caught between the American hammer and the Pakistani forge, even as Pakistan and the U.S. now share a common enemy, Pakistanis themselves do not see the U.S. as a friend link. I consider this a sure measure of the failure of America's current Public Diplomacy efforts - cooperation is quiet, rather than overt and celebrated. Even under Obama, Pakistanis still feel that the goal of the U.S. president is "to impose American culture on the Islamic world, and 90 percent supported the notion that he wanted to weaken and divide the Muslim world". In IDP camps the Americans are told to work quietly, while Islamists preach jihad openly - as a condition for refugees to receive their aid. (Reminds me of the folks who tried to sell me a time-share during my honeymoon in exchange for a lift.)

I wonder what the next generation of Pakistanis will think - both of their elders and of the U.S.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iran's Second Revolution, Week Two

I grab a broken brick and throw. I’m amazed. I never thought I’d do it. I should practice. It was a very bad shot. I grab another one, the size of a pomegranate and keep it with me, hiding it behind my back. My feeling is a mixture of a university teacher and a hooligan -

...There is a woman who is being beaten. She’s horrified and hysterical but not as much as the anti-riot police officer facing her. She shrieks, ‘Where can I go? You tell me go down the street and you beat me. Then you come up from the other side and beat me again. Where can I go?’

In sheer desperation, the officer hits his helmet several times hard with his baton. ‘Damn me! Damn me! What the hell do I know!’

How much longer can this go on?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Mouse Roars!

· I have come due to concerns of current political and social conditions - to defend the rights of the nation
· I have come to improve Iran's International relations
· I have come to tell the world and return to Iran our pride, our dignity, our future
· I have come to bring to Iran a FUTURE of FREEDOM, of HOPE, of fulfilment
· I have come to represent the poor the helpless the hungry
· I have come to be ACCOUNTABLE to you my people and to this world
· Iran must participate in FAIR elections, it is a matter of national importance
· I have come to you because of the corruption in Iran
· 25% inflation means IGNORANCE - THIEVING - CORRUPTION - where is the wealth of my nation?
· What have you done with $300 BILLION in last 4 years - where is the wealth of the nation?
· The next Gov of Iran will be chosen by the people
· Why do all our young want to leave this country?
· I know of no creation who places HIMSELF ahead of 20 million of the nation
· We are Muslims - what is happening in Iran Government is a sin.
· This Gov is not what Imam Khomeini wanted for Iran - #Iranelection I will change all this - This is the SEA of GREEN

It sounds promising, but that last line worries me. The Mouse and his allies (Rafsanjani, Khatami, etc.) demonstrably know how to deflect and defuse popular sentiment for their own ends, and the last time they did that they helped Khomeini eliminate all political opposition to create the mullahocracy that so many Iranians despise. What will they do different now?

Note that the regime's thugs are now beginning to cover their faces. It is important that when the crowd catches one of them that they are photographed and even fingerprinted (one can always cut open a pen) before being released. Fear of accountability will then spread quickly through their ranks.

Iran Election Twitter feeds

[Posting comments over at Contentions.]

Update, 6/19/09: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei threw down the glove this morning and declared the vote legitimate, as a worried-looking Mahmoud Ahmedenejad, a man who knows he is currently president only in name, looks on. It seems no more compromises are possible, The Mouse must either accept the results or work outside the system and choose revolution. Mehdi Jami writes:
This is the end of Khamenei and the beginning of a new era. He doesn’t hear our voice and doesn’t speak our language…today, Khamenei showed the people that he is not their leader…He sees us as enemies. Elections are not important for him. He only represents a small group of people. The problem is that he wants to suppress other groups so they cannot participate in decision-making. People feel this. They see that power is in the hands of a few. Khamenei even dislikes the old leaders of the revolution. In this regime, there’s no place for anyone with a different opinion.

Khamenei resigned from real leadership and was demoted to the leadership of a certain group of his supporters. He easily ignored and threatened this great opposition, which according to his own formal statistics, is composed of 13 million people. His problem is that he wants to ignore the population. His biggest mistake was to say that he is closer to the current president than to the people. According to our constitution, our leader cannot belong to one political party or another. He will be remembered as a leader who split the people, ended his own leadership and became a tribal chief. He created divisions in the society.

Khamenei says there are legal ways to protest. But in such a system, which laws are legitimate? A law on paper is not a law. A law together with its administrators is a law. When the administrators are corrupt, create roadblocks to the implementation of the law and interpret it any way they want, how can one have any hope in the role of law? Based on which law has he arrested hundreds of people? Based on which law has he ignored the complaints of millions of people?

I am certain that opposition by the great people of Iran will continue against this kind of politics and leadership until they find a new leader who is able to think of the people and does not dominate a small group over the larger population.

Mousavi and Karroubi are leaders of an opposition that did not vote for Ahmadinejadism. This is a result of Khamenei’s mistake who has tied his future with Ahmadinejad. This is a great movement by millions. Either Mousavi or Karroubi realize this and take the responsibility to lead it or they will retreat because of threats. But it is clear that this great power [opposition] will not remain without a leader and will not die down. Khamenei’s era is over and new leaders are compelled to emerge.

What goes through the minds of today's young revolutionaries?
I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…”

Revolution, yes, but even now it is not certain that the rule of mullahs will be overthrown, for The Mouse represents conservative yet inclusive influences, not liberal Western ones.

The best hope for Iranians today is that the men on both sides are professional revolutionaries - they did this in 1979, remember - so that, like good generals, they will know when to tell their troops to retreat or surrender. This revolution could still be less bloody than the last. Tomorrow may be critical.

In the meantime, Iranians are enjoying a brand-new sport: Basiji hunting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Iranian Islamic Revolution is Dead!

The tremendous events in Iran following its latest presidential election may be difficult to follow, but it seems life there will never be the same again. During one of the demonstrations yesterday a list of Seven Demands was circulated among the crowd. Number Three was the "temporary appointment" of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri as Supreme Leader. Montazeri helped turn Iran into a theocracy and at one time was Khomeini’s designated successor, but in the late 80s he denounced the regime’s excesses and retired to comparative security in Qom.

Here is what Montazeri has to say:
...This was the greatest occasion for the government’s officials to bond with their people. But unfortunately, they used it in the worst way possible.Declaring results that no one in their right mind can believe, and despite all the evidence of crafted results, and to counter people protestations, in front of the eyes of the same nation who carried the weight of a revolution and 8 years of war, in front of the eyes of local and foreign reporters, attacked the children of the people with astonishing violence. And now they are attempting a purge, arresting intellectuals, political opponents and Scientifics…based on my religious duties, I will remind you…I expect the government to take all measures to restore people’s confidence. Otherwise, as I have already said, a government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy...I pray for the greatness of the Iranian people.

Valid democracy trumps valid Islam - this from Khomeini’s closest partner and at one time intended successor. The Iranian Islamic Revolution is over, let the Second Iranian Revolution bury it as peacefully as possible, lest the best that can be expected is a generation of spiritual emptiness, like the Soviet Union during the Brezhnev years.

Counterpoint: Now Lebanon reports on the alternation between buoyancy and depression that Hezbollah and Ahmadinejad supporters experienced in that country: 1, 2: They now see regional war as an option to regain their fortunes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2 people shot inside U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

I was afraid of this but didn't expect things to happen so soon. An inevitable result of Obama's Cairo speech labeling Israel's "continued settlements" in the West Bank as "illegitimate" is massively increased danger to almost all Jewish-related targets: if the attackers make it to another country, they can fight extradition and prosecution on the grounds that they were attacking organizations that supported (even indirectly) "illegitimate" colonization, so their own attacks are, by extension, perfectly legitimate.

It seems somebody didn't want to wait for Al Qaeda or Hezbollah or the Nazis but took it in their head to attack right away.

Of course, I'm blogging off the top of my head. I could be wrong - but how likely is that?

Update, 2:48pm: Fox News reports the gunman is a white supremacist. Charles Johnson has excerpts from his website.

You don't just walk into the museum proper with a gun, not the USHMM anyway. The gunman was probably stopped just inside the building at the security desk. Question is, why wasn't he stopped before he got in? This is one of the most heavily-patrolled areas of Washington. There is little parking, so the gunman probably either took a taxi or walked with his shotgun a considerable distance.

Update, 3:04pm: As the alleged gunman describes it,
"In 1981 Von Brunn attempted to place the treasonous Federal Reserve Board of Governors under legal, non-violent, citizens arrest. He was tried in a Washington, D.C. Superior Court; convicted by a Negro jury, Jew/Negro attorneys, and sentenced to prison for eleven years by a Jew judge. A Jew/Negro/White Court of Appeals denied his appeal. He served 6.5 years in federal prison." [courtesy amir/LGF]
Pay attention to the word, "treasonous". Not that different from "illegitimate", is it? So the guy thought what he did was legal.

Update, 3:47pm: Illegally parked.

Update, 6/16/09: The real issue, as Richard Cohen puts it, is that
To far more people than we would like to admit, the mystery of James W. von Brunn, the alleged shooter at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, is not that he held such weird and depraved views about Jews and the Holocaust, but that those views are considered weird and depraved...That anti-Semitism is now a part of Middle Eastern culture. It has infiltrated textbooks; it is recited in mosques. It is aired on television -- for instance, the broadcast of a play produced at Gaza's Islamic University in which Jews were portrayed as drinking Muslim blood...James W. von Brunn was quickly segregated from the American mainstream and designated the crackpot he is. In the Middle East, though, he would be no such thing...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Banned from the Pakistani Defence Forum!

I have been "eternally banned" from this forum, which I discovered a few weeks after the Mumbai Massacre. (I suppose it was something I wrote.) This post is provided for those forum members who still wish to discuss Pakistani issues with me.

Some interesting articles:

Corruption: "I own Karachi … and can sell it!" - parts 1, 2, and 3

Neutrality of religious organizations: What? Are we not Muslims?'

Pakistan's past duplicity: Little time and few choices

The old days were better: A brief, happy interlude

The Taliban may create recruits from the refugees they themselves displaced: Military victory in Swat will not be enough

Zardari on dealing with such problems as "18,000 madrasas that are brainwashing our youth": Pakistan on the Brink

Waking up to the Taliban: Paradise Lost

Frightened residents creep out of their homes in reconquered Mingora: link

Taliban communications intercept: "LOST IDENTITY: IS PAKISTAN WINNING ITS WAR ON TERROR?" link1 link2

The Taliban escape to Karachi: link

Pakistan's nukes make it an Al-Qaeda target: "[P]replanning for nuclear arsenal control is a lot better than planning for 30 years of Jihad." link

PBS Frontline Videos: Conflict Zones: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq

"Some hypocrites say that we are doing this for money - or because of brainwashing - but we are told by Allah to target these pagans": Taliban recruits teenage suicide bombers for revenge attacks

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Niilofur Farrukh: Unheeded lessons of democracy

An excellent article from Dawn. I couldn't put it any better: Pakistanis muster up their energies to face yet another humanitarian crisis they must also pause to reflect on Talibanisation and its relationship to our dysfunctional democracy. We need to give serious thought to the deep-seated causes behind the presence of the Taliban...The Taliban managed to make inroads not because they are invincible or outnumber their detractors but because we, the citizens of Pakistan, for six decades have collectively ignored the lessons of democracy that promises equal rights and justice for all citizens...Dictators may have deprived us of our vote from time to time, but we as a nation have contributed to a system built on nepotism, expediency and convenience. Pakistanis clamour for democracy during dictatorships yet make a mockery..

With most institutions having lost the capacity to function efficiently the masses feel a growing sense of injustice, deprivation and helplessness. These have created deep fissures in our society and gradually pushed us to the brink that makes us so vulnerable to extremist ideologies. The nations that have averted disasters are the ones that can find the inner strength, resolve and resilience so future generations do not have to pay a heavy price...For any tangible success the real battle has to be fought within each Pakistani as he/she struggles to re-learn the spirit of democracy.

Even with men like Niilofur Farrukh, Pakistan may not win its battle. Those authors who confidently declaimed, "The pen is mightier than the sword!" never had to deal with murderous fanatics who slay not just those who oppose them, but all who fail to actively support their cause by word and deed.

Even liberals may have to pick up the sword and fight to remain liberals! Will they learn this?

Here's one who did:
I was programmed from birth to be a devout liberal. My dad, a hard working first generation Russian Jew, would lecture me on a regular basis, "The Democrats are the party of the little people. The Republicans are the party of the rich guy."..When I was 26, I parked myself in the People's Republic of Berkeley, CA, the epicenter of the far left. I came as a liberal but soon morphed into a leftist as most people here do...So maybe you get now how hard it was, how disorienting and destabilizing and crazy making it was, when I realized about 1 1/2 years ago that I no longer believed in liberalism. I walked around in a confused state for weeks...The first step, I decided, was deprogramming myself from decades of liberal propaganda...if this lifelong left winger from Berkeley can wake up, hopefully others will also do so before it's too late.

How to Deprogram a Liberal in One Year Or Less

Friday, February 06, 2009

Pakistan: The Logic of State-Supported Terrorism

Were the Mumbai attackers creations of Pakistan's ISI? Over at the Pakistan Defence Forum, "Energon", whose logic appears impeccable to me, had this to say:

The issue is very much about where these attacks are coming from. Kasab may not have official sanction of the nation, but he was recruited, trained and deployed by one of the institutions created by the state's agencies not too long ago, with the primary objective of conducting low intensity/subversive/proxy warfare and terrorism against India. Let's first and foremost be very, very clear on this point. (There are numerous internationally vetted official reports, intelligence briefs, published literature and admissions from Pakistan's own intelligentsia, and insiders about the origins of groups like JeM and LeT)

It would also be prudent to realize that the issue of state sponsorship when it comes to terrorist attacks by organizations like LeT, JeM etc. is an oxymoron. The fundamental reason for the creation of these groups was to absolve the state of blame, censure and retribution when perpetuating war, murder and violence; and their handling by the clandestine agencies was conducted with the primary intent of official deniability. In short, the whole point of having spies control terrorists is to not leave paper trails; but that doesn't change the fact that there are spies, and terrorists, and they share a relationship. Also the blanket of deniability doesn't necessarily cover the serious repercussions when the non existent spies can no longer control the 'non state actors' who carry out gross acts of murder and war that are all too real.

In regards to the Indian government holding Pakistan responsible for terrorism, an issue that has IMO been misconstrued in the press:

At least based on the formal position as voiced by Indian officials that I have been able to see present their case here in the US, I don't think they're saying that the Pakistani government "ordered a hit" on Mumbai; and even if they did there is certainly no evidence of it (albeit the whole point of ordering hits is specifically to not leave palpable evidence). What the Indian government is saying is that the mere existence of these institutions and the scope of their operational abilities after numerous international episodes warranting censure, warnings and subsequent promises from the GoP to crack down upon said groups over the past decade+ clearly indicated one of two things:

1. Pakistan is in fact a categorically ramshackle failed state where the government is incapable of preventing such high profile and massive institutions with global aspirations and vetted regional capabilities from operating freely from its territory. In which case the two subsequent deductions from this assumption would be:

a) the out of control institutions should essentially be considered as parallel governments. Especially considering that institutions like LeT/JuD or whatever they are called this week have shown the ability to outperform governmental agencies in providing certain services; in addition of course to their ability to unilaterally attack another state and hold a city hostage.

b) Pakistan's sovereignty is a joke if these parastatal [S2: working with the government in an unofficial capacity] organizations can wage war upon India at will.

2. The various terrorist organizations aimed at India remain free to operate, improve their capabilities and carry out trans national attacks from Pakistan with at least the tacit approval (which includes intentional ignorance and/or criminal negligence) of the government.

The GoP mobilized various representatives to deny the first category through a paper that was presented to the UN in January indicating that the GoP had just enough coverage in their territory (primarily in the east) to technically stave off the "failed state" label. Although the comprehensive picture was a bit hollow considering the western portion of the state it at least indicated that no India specific organization like the LeT could exist in Pakistan without the GoP having a good idea of their capabilities; and if they so desired could dismantle them, or at least render their ability to attack India inert. It then led to the consensus that the GoP should be held accountable for the organizations that they have spurned and the underhanded support they still provide them. That the connection between client Jihadi groups and the government have been incognito intelligence operatives and retired military officers is a topic that has been heavily discussed in the academic circles and which is also if I'm not mistaken elaborated upon by Ahmad Rashid in his latest book; so this isn't conjecture by any means, and again, to expect paper trails to establish the veracity of this claim in the court of law is oxymoronic.

Lastly, the intel reports suggesting the support that these 10 assailants had was based on much more than their ability to wield Kalashnikov rifles and throw grenades. In fact there is a very detailed analysis (I haven't seen it published as open source so I won't elaborate upon it in detail) as to how and what distinguishes these attackers from your run of the mill gun toting grenade blasting terrorist that are now dime a dozen in Pakistan. Furthermore the complexity and the institutional capabilities required to raise Fidayeen cadres is another thing you're overlooking in your simplistic explanation as to what the Indians found amazing about these particular assailants. What you fail to realize is that although the defensive apparatus of the Indian government itself is pathetic when it comes to protecting themselves from terrorist attacks, there are quite a few well renowned and highly experienced experts on the science of anti terrorism in the Indian academic and governmental structure whose council is sought worldwide. There are at least 4 of them (ok 3 of them, one isn't technically Indian) who are co-authors on the paper in question; so it certainly isn't something officials from the executive branch are pulling out of thin air.

There are however serious and prohibitive international ramifications for countries like the US and the UK to publicly hold the current civilian GoP responsible for the terrorism link who are hence forced to tread carefully, choose their words very wisely and try their best to suppress the recent Afghanistan embassy bombing link (technically a direct act of war) to do everything short of stating the obvious.

Update, 6/7/09: The Taliban will 'never be defeated'
Times story of the Pakistani trained by the U.S. to fight the Soviets, who then trained the Taliban.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Open letter from an Israeli to his Arab neighbor in Gaza

Dear neighbor,

My name is David and I live in Israel, thirty minutes (or one minute rocket time) from you, in a beautiful house by the woods. I hope someday to have you over for a cup of tea. We have a lovely view from the balcony. On a clear day we can see our jets bombing your neighborhood.

I think it’s time we had a heart to heart. It’s time you knew the
truth. After all, what are neighbors for? You might have wondered why both you and your parents were born in a refugee camp. Why is it that even though we live only 30 minutes apart, I live in prosperity and you live in poverty and filth? Why you live in despair and hatred while we live in hope and love.

Here is the truth, neighbor:

There really was a Holocaust. I realize you’v e been taught otherwise. I know, that ever since you were a small child you’ve been told that the Holocaust is something the Jews fabricated to justify taking your land. Well, dear citizen of Gaza, it really happened. Not very long ago. It happened. And guess what? It’s NEVER going to happen again. The time in history when Jews were led to slaughter, persecuted, raped and pillaged is over and will never recur. Never. Now we have our own country. Now we have the bombs. We will never forget what was done to our people and you better not either.

We don’t hate you. We don’t hate anyone. Jews are a peaceful people. We do not want your land. We don’t want oil. We don’t want to rape your women or murder your children. We never tried to force our religion on anyone. Our eternal capital, Jerusalem, is open to all faiths to love and to worship. We treat your Arab brothers who live among us as equals. Our hand has been extended to peace with our neighbors since day one. We have proven this time and time again through numerous negotiations and extensive compromise.

We ask only for one thing. Leave us in peace. That’s right. We have no other demands. Just leave us in peace. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t, we will fight back ferociously and mercilessly. We will destroy your homes and your cities. We will make your miserable lives even more miserable. If you don’t want this to happen any more, leave us in peace.

Our soldiers are not motivated by hate but by determination. We embrace life and will do anything to preserve it. However, we will kill and die to protect our land and our way of life. That’s what they should be teaching in your schools instead of useless lies.

A terrorist is a terrorist. Sorry to be the one to break the news, but it’s about time somebody told you that a terrorist is nothing more than a coward. Not a hero. Not a Shahid. There is nothing heroic in blowing yourself up amongst a crowd of woman and children. Anybody can do it. Anybody can hide inside a school or a mosque and blindly fire rockets into cities, hoping to kill as many babies as possible. There is nothing courageous or admirable in these acts of cruelty. To take pride in an act of terror is pitiful and pathetic. I know you’ve been raised to believe the contrary, but it is a lie. I have seen how your children are taught to commit suicide. How your suicide bombers are glorified. This is tragically sad. A real hero faces his enemy and doesn’t hide in schools and hospitals. A real hero protects his people and will die for them but not among them.

Israel exists and it belongs to the Jewish People. I’ve seen your school books. I know that Israel has been omitted from your maps. Contrary to what you’ve been told, the State of Israel really does exist. Look outside your window. We are here and we are not going anywhere. Dear Palestinian neighbor, it’s time to deal with the facts. We love our beautiful little country. We will protect it with our lives. You are not getting it. This was explained to you in 1948. You got your country and we got ours. Your arrogant and stupid leaders promised you that you will get the whole thing. Thousands have lives have been lost for nothing. It’s NEVER going to happen! While you have been foolishly drooling over our land instead of nurturing your own, we have built one of the most beautiful and successful countries on Earth. We have done it not to spite our greedy neighbors, but rather in spite of them. We’ve planted forests and quenched the desert. We’ve drained wetlands and culivated fields. We built universities, opera houses, superhighways, hospitals, skyscrapers and stadiums. We have millions of refugees, but no refugee camps.

You could do the same. Focus on what you have and not on what you will never have. It takes love, hard work and determination. We can help. We have experts and scientists helping developing nations across the globe. Accept the facts, lay down your weapons and join us in making this great region of the planet even greater.

Remember, we’re neighbors.

David Rosenblatt, Sarigim, Israel - Jan. 9th, 2009 link

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Wisdom of Joe the Plumber?

"I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting"

Priceless. But there is a kernel or two of truth:

1) Journalists are by definition beholden to their sources, and if a source has veto power over reporting - as Hamas has over the media representatives in its territory - then it is unlikely the reporting will not be very accurate. Winston Churchill, who wrote for newspapers between WWI and WWII, said he refused an invitation to visit Hitler because he could only see two outcomes: either he would compromise his own principles, or he would insult his host. Churchill's modern successors demonstrably do not suffer from such a conscience.

In the early 80s Western reporters in Beirut would add disclaimers to their reports; these have now been abandoned, possibly out of time constraints, but more probably, I'd guess, out of sheer embarassment.

2) To the saying, "If it bleeds, it leads" should be added, "if it is outrageous, it makes the pages". Usually that takes the form of mis-labelling, perhaps deliberately, media images or quotes. The classic example from Vietnam is the photo of the summary execution of a Vietcong by a South Vietnamese general, captioned as typical of the justice of the U.S.-supported regime; but the photographer and general both knew that the man being shot was a Vietcong who had attacked during the Tet holiday truce. General Sherman summarily executed prisoners, on a man-for-man basis, whenever he discovered a Union soldier who had been taken prisoner, then mutilated and killed by Confederates, in violation of the rules of war. Was shooting this Vietcong so different?

3) Being a big-time reporter means never having to say you're sorry. The current example is Dan Rather, who never apologized for running a phony letter designed to torpedo Bush 43's campaign just before election day in 2004.

Then again, Rather did have to leave his job as news anchor shortly afterward. Maybe, thanks to bloggers like Charles Johnson and Jack-in-the-Boxes like Joe the Plumber, journalism is making a little progress after all.