Monthly Archives: January 2008

The American Military Adapts to New Threats in Iraq, But What is the Cost?

There is an orthodoxy among the critics of the war in Iraq that America’s military capabilities are being harmed by the war. The issue is a complicated one, and it has become increasingly apparent that the U.S. military is simply too small. The fact that America’s fighting forces are actually fighting should not alarm critics as much as it does- fighting is in the job description. And there is virtually no discussion of the low-intensity conflict skills that the military has developed, so crucial in the small wars against Islamic terrorists in the new century.

Erik Swabb, a Marine infantry officer in Iraq, wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal in which he discusses the implementation of the lessons learned from involvement in Iraq. Swabb witnessed these improvements first-hand .

There is something missing from Swabb’s analysis. America would be well-served to learn from Israel’s negative example. The IDF flourished as a military designed to annihilate Syrian and Egyptian columns of Soviet tanks. Its weapons, structure, and training reflected this orientation. Then, as Palestinian terror began to demand pressing answers from the military, the IDF slowly began its evolution away from its focus on existential threats from standing armies toward becoming a counter-terror force. Reserves stopped live-fire training as money was allotted to social projects at the expense of the military. Forces like artillery, crucial in open war but virtually meaningless in hunting terrorists, spent far less time and energy on their specialty and started manning checkpoints and arresting terrorists. The 2006 Second Lebanon War was a harsh wake-up call to the Israeli military establishment. The fortune of having a traditional ground war against a force that did not pose an existential threat to Israel was a lucky development that exposed the gaps in Israeli mindset and capabilities. It was a war that Israel did not really win, but made it far more likely to win the next one, be it against Hizbullah, Syria, and or even Egypt.

PA Officials Flee Territories as Palestinian National Movement Falters

This site has covered the increasing evidence for Palestinian preference for Israeli rule in recent posts. Daniel Pipes has contributed valuable research and analysis to those following the trend.

Danny Rubinstein wrote a related article in Haaretz documenting the collapse of the Palestinian national movement, and the exodus of senior Palestinian officials to Egypt and Jordan.

In the summer of 1971, Prof. Yehoshua Porat of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem published his important book “The Emergence of the Arab- Palestinian National Movement, 1918-1929.” In a preface to the book, veteran teacher and researcher Gabriel Baer praised “the pioneering work in the field, in which the scientific approach has been neglected.” The best scholars associated with this research field, including Arabs, praised Porat’s work. Quite a number of Palestinians with an ability to be self-critical bitterly remarked that the best work on the early days of Palestinian nationalism was written by an Israeli scholar, of all people.

New York Times Inflates Phenomenon of Veteran Murderers

Yesterday, The New York Times ran the first article in a series called “War Torn”, what it describes as “a series of articles and multimedia about veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have committed killings, or been charged with them, after coming home.” The article tells the story of several young male soldiers who have returned from the Middle East to difficulty adjusting to civilian life that eventually leads to murder. The premise behind the article is that the stress of America’s war on terror causes extremely violent behavior in the young soldiers who return from the fighting.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment – along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems – appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.

Melanie Phillips Discusses the Unspeakable

I recently attended a conference in Budapest, where I made the mistake of saying that Europe was in danger of “going under” to Islam. It was something like passing loud and smelly wind in public. Not too many people wanted to talk to me after that, and no one wanted to talk about my remark. What’s so appalling is that it’s precisely that failure to face the problem that makes it so likely. Here Melanie Phillips pulls no punches.

Sleepwalking Into Enslavement
The Spectator

Step by remorseless step, the free world continues in its trance-like state to attack, disable or paralyse its ability to defend itself against the global Islamic jihad.

In other words, a form of auto-immune deficiency. Here, not only can the system’s “brain” not recognize the nature of the invasive forces, but it actively attacks any anti-bodies that spontaneously form… as in the “Canadian Human Rights Commission” in its prosecution of Ezra Levant for publishing the Muhammad Cartoons.

First, the ineffable UN has condemned not Islamic terrorism but the identification of and defence against it. As Robert Spencer reports:

    The Organization of the Islamic Conference, the largest voting bloc at the United Nations, has succeeded in pushing through the UN a resolution condemning the ‘defamation of religions.’ That’s ‘religions,’ not ‘religion’ – yet according to Cybercast News Service, ‘although the resolution refers to defamation of ‘religions,’ Islam is the only religion named in the text, which also takes a swipe at counter-terrorism security measures.’ …The resolution denounces ‘laws that stigmatize groups of people belonging to certain religions and faiths under a variety of pretexts relating to security and illegal immigration.’ Muslims, it says, have suffered from ‘ethnic and religious profiling…in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001.’ This is the fault, in part, of ‘the negative projection of Islam in the media.’ The UN voices its ‘deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.’

Perish the thought. Next, the western liberal mind now presents such a mortal threat to life and liberty that a group of anti-jihadi Muslims has been driven to denounce an American Reform rabbi, Rabbi Yoffie,for his sanitising of Islamic extremism and grotesque moral equivalence. In a column in The Jewish Week, they said they viewed with dismay a ‘partnership’ between the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) which they said was not a legitimate representative of mainstream Islamic believers in the West.

    Rabbi Yoffie was cited by the Post in a number of statements with which we disagree. He said, ‘As a once-persecuted minority in countries where antisemitism is still a force, we [Reform Jews] understand the plight of Muslims in North America today.’ We are Muslims concerned to protect the rights of our communities in non-Muslim societies, but we consider absurd any attempt to equate the situation of Muslims in Western Europe and North America today with historic anti-Jewish prejudice and oppression. Muslims in Western Europe and North America have not been subjected, in recent times, to wholesale denial of civil rights. Free discourse about Islam in the Western democracies is occasionally abrasive, but has never resembled the wholesale libels directed against Jews — including by latter-day Islamists — and has not been embraced by or institutionalized by any government in Western Europe or North America.

When I made my remark about Europe possibly going under to Islam, the chair of my panel rebuked me: “It’s like accusing the Jews of wanting to take over the world, a new version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The statement is deeply ironic. It’s an attempt to dismiss the awareness of an Islamic imperialism that does threaten Europe by pretending it’s as false as the forged and destructive fantasy of Jews wanting to take over the world. “Lest we end up being like the Nazis, let us not go down that paranoid path,” it seems to say.

And yet, no Jew ever claimed they wanted to take over Europe or the world; the Jews never had the demographic weight to conceive of a population take-over; and finally, the Jews’ power came from their genuinely playing the rules of the game of civil society. In the current scene, Muslims openly declare their desire to take over; they have effectuated a stunning demographic shift over the past generation which is accelerating; and they act precisely as the Jews are accused of doing in the Protocolsusing democracy to destroy freedom.

    Rabbi Yoffie continued, ‘Islamic extremists constitute a profound threat. For some, this is a reason to flee from dialogue, but in fact the opposite is true.’ We do not understand the intent of this statement. It appears that Rabbi Yoffie believes dialogue is possible with extremists. We do not agree. We believe that dialogue between mainstream Muslims, Jews, and Christians is necessary, but that the defeat of Islamist extremists is necessary for such interfaith efforts to succeed. We do not support ‘dialogue’ with Islamist and other apologists for violence, or proponents of restrictions on freedom under the pretext of religion.

To which one can only say ‘Bravo’ to these courageous Muslims for reasserting truth and sanity in the face of a lethally deluded Jewish liberal.

Next, an intensely disturbing development in, of all places, the Pentagon. One expects the State Department to grovel to illegitimate force, but the Department of Defence has been assumed to be more robust. No longer. It has fired Stephen Coughlin, its most knowledgeable specialist on Islamic law and Islamist extremism — because he committed the crime of identifying that extremism. The Washington Times reports that Hasham Islam, a key aide to the Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, tried to get Coughlin to soften his views about Islamic extremism.

    Misguided Pentagon officials, including Mr. Islam and Mr. England, have initiated an aggressive ‘outreach’ program to U.S. Muslim groups that critics say is lending credibility to what has been identified as a budding support network for Islamist extremists, including front groups for the radical Muslim Brotherhood.

    Mr. Coughlin wrote a memorandum several months ago based on documents made public in a federal trial in Dallas that revealed a covert plan by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian-origin Islamist extremist group, to subvert the United States using front groups. Members of one of the identified front groups, the Islamic Society of North America, has been hosted by Mr. England at the Pentagon.

So much for America’s role on the battleground of ideas.

In Britain, one man does get it. The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, himself the Pakistani son of a Muslim convert to Christianity, created a storm when he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that Islamic extremists have created ‘no-go’ areas across Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter. Already separate communities, he says, have been turned into areas where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability.

Those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them. In many ways, this is but the other side of the coin to far-Right intimidation. Attempts have been made to impose an ‘Islamic’ character on certain areas, for example, by insisting on artificial amplification for the Adhan, the call to prayer. Such amplification was, of course, unknown throughout most of history and its use raises all sorts of questions about noise levels and whether non-Muslims wish to be told the creed of a particular faith five times a day on the loudspeaker. This is happening here even though some Muslim-majority communities are trying to reduce noise levels from multiple mosques announcing this call, one after the other, over quite a small geographical area.

There is pressure already to relate aspects of the sharia to civil law in Britain. To some extent this is already true of arrangements for sharia-compliant banking but have the far-reaching implications of this been fully considered? It is now less possible for Christianity to be the public faith in Britain.

The Roman Empire fell in part because the Germanic kingdoms carved out autonomous regions from the Empire’s living body politic.

For uttering these truths, the Bishop has been denounced by both Islamists (with the ever-more preposterous Inayat Bunglawala proving the Bishop’s point by asserting that church bells are just as much of a public nuisance in Britain as the muezzin’s call to prayer) and Nick Clegg, the new centrist Gramscian leader of the more mature infantile Liberal Democrats.

Clegg described the Bishop’s comments as

    a gross caricature of reality.

Once again, however, it was a Muslim who showed up both the idiocy and the arrogance of the western liberal. Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Muslim forum, wrote of the Bishop in the Daily Mail:

    He has been condemned for making ‘inflammatory’ remarks, distorting the truth about our inner cities and ‘scaremongering’ against the Muslim population. But, paradoxically, this reaction from the politically-correct establishment is an indicator of the weight of his case. If our ruling elite were not so worried that his views would strike a chord with the public, it would not have been so anxious to condemn him.

    His statement about the dangers of the rise of radical Islam matches the reality of what people see in our cities and towns, where the influence of hardliners is undermining harmony and promoting segregation…However much his critics may sneer at his accusations, the fact is that the determination of some of my fellow Muslims to cling to certain lifestyles, customs, languages and practices has helped to create neighbourhoods where non-Muslims may feel uncomfortable, even intimidated.


It is encouraging that Muslim voices are now being heard more and more speaking up against Islamic extremism. Their task is made infinitely more difficult, however, by western liberals determined to do the extremists’ work for them.

It has been a longstanding argument that only moderate Muslims can save Islam. Given our idiocy, it may be that only courageous moderate Muslims will save the West.

Apocalyptic Islam: Paul Landau explores the unspeakable

This is a topic I don’t often blog on, although I should. It’s the core of my own academic work, but I’ve chosen to focus on the media at the Augean Stables. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep in mind that one of the major functions of the MSM in the 21st century is to keep from the public awareness of the nature of the challenge. Islamic apocalyptic millennial expectations are at the heart of both the Shi’i (Khoumeini, 1979/1400) and Sunni (Bin Laden, 1989) jihadi awakening.

If you don’t know about this dimension of the problem, you’re much more likely to fall prey to PCP and LCE… which is why the guardians of the public sphere — academics and media talking heads — don’t like to bring it up much.

Hamas and Islamic Millenarianism: What the West Doesn’t Recognize

Paul Landau | Bio 08 Jan 2008

Some 20 years after its founding, the Palestinian organization Hamas remains little understood in the West. Although it is invoked nearly daily in the media, it has been the subject of only a very small number of serious studies. The most common error made by observers in considering contemporary Islamist movements — and notably, Hamas — is that of attempting to grasp them in terms of concepts and modes of thought that are proper to the West. Most western analyses of the phenomenon of Islamism tend to underestimate or even obscure a fundamental element that is common to all the various Islamist currents and organizations: namely, the role of specifically Muslim religious beliefs and, more precisely, of Islamic eschatology.

Thus in his book “Jihad,” a well-known French expert of Islamism like Gilles Kepel can explain Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979 as the result of an “alliance of the pious bourgeoisie and the poor urban youth.” In similar fashion, numerous journalists continue to describe the perpetrators of suicide attacks — both Palestinians and others — as economically disadvantaged and driven by “desperation,” even though all the research conducted on the subject demonstrates that such a Marxist-tinged sociological interpretation does not reflect the reality.

It is impossible to understand the success enjoyed by Hamas, notably since the Palestinian elections nearly two years ago, and the persistence of Islamism in general — the decline or even proximate demise of which is regularly announced by Western observers — if one fails to take into account the beliefs held by the members of Islamist movements themselves or if one diminishes their importance: dismissing them, for instance, as medieval gibberish devoid of any concrete significance.

We need to listen to what the Islamists say and appreciate the importance of their discourse if we are going to be able to grasp their motivations and strategies. It is symptomatic in this regard that the Western media, which regularly touch upon the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas in covering events in the Middle East, nonetheless almost never mention the charter of the Palestinian Islamist movement.


Eschatology and the Conflict Between Islam and the West

One of the most essential — and most little-known — aspects of contemporary Islamism is the role of eschatological or millenarian beliefs within it. This millenarian dimension of Islam has often been minimized by commentators, sometimes for polemical reasons: Christianity is presented as the only religion that is oriented toward the beyond, whereas Islam is supposed to be characterized by strictly this-worldly preoccupations.

This forgotten dimension of the Islamist phenomenon is key to understanding the current resurgence of a triumphalist Islam, since it cuts across all the divisions within the Muslim world: between Sunnism and Shiism, between traditional Islam and contemporary Islamism. As the French historian Pierre Lory explained in a recent lecture at the Sorbonne, “Eschatology represents one of the fundamental traits of the Muslim religion. The imminence of the end of time and of the final judgment is one of the oldest and most constant Quranic themes and is found throughout the sacred text of Islam.” Inasmuch as Muhammad is the last prophet (bearing the “seal of prophecy”), his advent inaugurates the last period of universal history: i.e. the eschatological period.

In his collection of Hadith titled “The Major Signs of the End of the World from the Prophet to the Return of Jesus,” Abdallah al-Hajjaj cites a saying of the prophet, who, raising his hand, is supposed to have affirmed that his mission and the final hour were as close as his middle and index fingers. This belief in the imminence of the end of time is a fundamental aspect of the contemporary Islamic reawakening, in both its peaceful and belligerent forms.

It is sometimes suggested that only the Shia version of Islam assigns importance to eschatological considerations, and it is true that the motif of the return of the hidden Imam, the central element of Shia belief, lends itself especially easily to millenarian interpretations. Since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, millenarian aspirations have been at the center of developments in the Shia Muslim world. The belief in the imminence of the Final Judgment helps to explain both the suicidal forms of behavior that proliferated during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s and the current attitude of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


A Millenarian and Redemptive Anti-Semitism

Hamas is a radical Islamic movement whose worldview is marked by an Islamic eschatology in which the Jews occupy a central place. Its apocalyptic vision of a final confrontation with Israel excludes every possibility of coexistence or “moderation.” This vision is identical with that of the most radical Jihadist movements.

Far from being merely an epiphenomenon, the anti-Semitism of Hamas constitutes the very core of its political-religious doctrine. The hatred of Jews expressed in the Hamas Charter and conveyed in the discourse of its officials is not simply a religious anti-Judaism or an imported anti-Semitism of European origins. It is, as the French scholar of anti-Semitism Pierre-André Taguieff has put it in his book “La nouvelle judéophobie,” a “millenarian and redemptive anti-Semitism.” Taguieff compares radical Islamic Judeophobia — in terms of which “the Muslim world can only be saved by the extermination of the Jews” — to the racist anti-Semitism of Hitler.

It is troubling to note, as Richard Landes has recently pointed out, that the West, far from condemning the apocalyptic discourse of Hamas, actually encourages it. Such an attitude is undoubtedly to be explained by the fact that certain European leaders and diplomats share the convictions of Hamas officials concerning the imminent disappearance of Israel.

Paul Landau is the author of the recent study of Tariq Ramadan and the Muslim Brotherhood “Le sabre et le Coran” (Editions du Rocher, 2005). The above article was translated from French by John Rosenthal.

Read the whole article.

On The Media Getting New Hampshire Primary Wrong

The media coverage of the New Hampshire democratic party is an excellent case-study in misreporting resulting from faulty assumptions and media group think. Conventional wisdom (and unreliable poll results) had it that Obama was going to win big, and that Clinton’s campaign was in serious trouble. The poll results, which turned out to be off by ten-twenty percentage points , colored the way reporters saw reality (the campaign). There were undoubtedly journalists who were less caught up in the hype, but there is safety in numbers. No use going out on a limb and risking professional advancement when one can line up with the rest of the media and not be exposed if he calls it wrong. I heard an expert pointing out that reporters end up spending most of their time with other reporters, and assumptions snowball and become cemented in their minds and in their dispatches.

Only 9% of Palestinians Feel Occupation is Their Primary Concern

The primary fallacy that shapes Western policy makers’ views is that Israeli occupation is the main problem for the Palestinians. The Palestinians certainly don’t think so. Tom Gross points out in his blog a recent Palestinian poll in which Israeli occupation is the most pressing problem for only 9% of Palestinians.

As polls and recent history have shown, there is a significant percentage of Palestinians prefer Israeli rule to any realistic alternative.

President Bush, who today visited the West Bank, might want to consider the results of this poll, taken by a leading Palestinian polling company. It shows that contrary to what Condoleezza Rice and various journalists would have us believe, most Palestinians are much less concerned about ending the Israeli “occupation” than they are about finding reliable and honest leaders to govern any future Palestinian state.

What’s Going Wrong? Haqqani explores Islamic dysfunctionalism

My colleague at BU has an interview with the alumni magazine Bostonia.

Bernard Lewis wrote a book entitled What Went Wrong?, in which he explored the Muslim encounter with the West. Here Haqqani meditates on why it’s still going wrong.

Why They Hate Us: The Long Answer

Husain Haqqani explores the roots of a Muslim instability.

By Tricia Brick

Husain Haqqani argues that a lack of economic, intellectual, cultural, and technological productivity in the Muslim world has left a vacuum that has been filled by paranoia and inflammatory rhetoric.

Husain Haqqani recalls a Newsweek cover from October 2001: a Pakistani child brandishing a gun and the headline “Why They Hate Us.”
zakaria nwswk cover
The photo is emblematic of a question that has haunted Haqqani, director of BU’s Center for International Relations and a College of Arts and Sciences associate professor of international relations. “I have always wondered why the Muslim world is in the eye of virtually every storm, in my lifetime at least,” he says. “The Middle East is a cauldron. The India-Pakistan conflict has a Muslim dimension. In Russia, there’s Chechnya, another Muslim dimension.” Why is the Muslim world plagued by instability, undemocratic governments, and sectarian violence?

Haqqani has set out to find answers. He calls his project State of the Muslim World, and he draws broadly from such fields as anthropology, sociology, history, economics, and demography. He has written a series of articles exploring some of his questions, and he plans to begin writing a book this year.

Despite the diversity of the Islam-influenced world, he says, Muslims everywhere share membership in the Ummah, or community of believers. “There are many differences among Muslims, but there are also common streaks running from Egypt to Indonesia, and there is a sense of belonging together,” he says. “And yet, in the last few centuries, it has been a belonging together in decline. The Kuwaitis may be rich, but they know it is coming from oil in the ground, not from something they’ve accomplished. There is a lack of a general sense of accomplishment in modern times.”

He reels off a succession of surprising statistics in support of this argument: the GDP of the world’s fifty-seven Muslim-majority countries combined is less than that of France.

Mind you, this is what the Muslims produce for themselves… if you will, how they take care of their own people. The huge discrepency between production (GDP) and available capital (income) that characterizes the Arab world is what happens when a prime-divider elite can import everything it needs. No matter how wealthy the country inflated by petrodollars (new petroeuros?), the commoners get the scraps. It’s the sign of a culture of impoverization in which the eliites disdain productive activities and despise manual labor.

Those fifty-seven countries are home to about 500 universities, compared to more than 5,000 in the United States and 8,000 in India. Fewer new book titles are published each year in Arabic, the language of 300 million people, than in Greek, spoken by only 15 million. More books are translated into Spanish each year than have been translated into Arabic in the last century.

These are all signs of insularity, insecurity, incapacity to absorb criticism.

Haqqani is getting some help in pulling together the data. “On Fridays, I usually have a set of my students working with me on this project,” he says. “How many books are sold in Bahrain? Compare that with some other country comparable in size and resources.”

I’d advise a study of the media, the percentage of “conspiracy” narrative, the appeal to zero-sum emotions, the incidence of genuine self-criticism. Interesting question: how to quantify these qualitative phenomena?

Using these facts, Haqqani argues that a lack of economic, intellectual, cultural, and technological productivity in the Muslim world has left a vacuum that has been filled by paranoia and inflammatory rhetoric, fueling “a culture of political anger, rather than political solutions.” Angry rhetoric, he maintains, keeps Muslims in a constant state of fear that Islam and Islamic culture are in danger of being snuffed out, resulting in a persistent cycle of violence as Muslims respond to the perceived threat posed by both external and sectarian enemies.

Well, I guess that answers the implications of my suggestions. It’s so nice to hear a Muslim say this, because when I say it, my “progressive” colleagues call me a racist and a demonizer and my “liberal” colleagues edge away in the hope they won’t get tarred.

At the same time, this culture of anger prevents Muslims from examining the internal problems that plague the Islamic world, such as repressive governments, sectarian conflict, and a lack of democratic representation. “Muslims must rise and peacefully mobilize against sectarianism and the violence and destruction in, say, Iraq,” he wrote in the Gulf Times, an English-language newspaper popular in Qatar. “But before that can happen, Muslim discourse would have to shift away from the focus on Muslim victimhood and toward taking responsibility, as a community, for our own situation.”

This could make an enormous difference in Iraq, because despite the demonization of the West in Arab discourse, and its affirmation by BDS-impaired “critics”, what the US has offered Iraq — real independence if they can sustain it — is a fantastic opportunity. Of course, in the Muslim world Haqqani’s dream of peaceful mobilization against sectarianism and violence is a quasi-messianic leap of hope. It would help if Western progressives didn’t have Bush Derangement Syndrome so badly that they prefer everyone to lose if only they can blame Bush, and so feed the worst instincts in the Arab world.

But if there are bold Muslims who want to bring their people out of this land of self-defeating rage, no single dimension of their culture offers a simpler and more pervasive issue for reconsideration/reformulation than their collective discourse on Israel. This astonishingly uniform and harshly negative attitude not only features all of the elements of this larger discourse of grievance and rage, but each one of them appear in their most severe form. Indeed, I’d venture that anti-Zionism constitutes the “sacred narrative” of Muslim rage and fear, and only by reconsidering it, will Muslims be able to dismantle their prime dividers and enter the productive world of civil society.

Haqqani came to the United States after a career as a Pakistani journalist and statesman. He was Pakistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka from 1992 to 1993 and was an advisor to Pakistani prime ministers Benazir Bhutto, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, and Nawaz Sharif.

Haqqani is the author of Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, which was a bestseller in South Asia. He is also a practicing Muslim who studied in a madrassa, or traditional Islamic school, in Pakistan.

Although he hopes his message will reach Muslims, Haqqani believes that his research has something to teach Western policy makers as well. “Basically, I am saying that this is an entire section of the world that is reeling from the trauma of its decline,” he says. “How can the United States and other Western powers build relationships with the Muslim world without understanding what happens in the Muslim mind?”

Right on. It takes a great deal of courage to say this.

Instead our policy makers think of how they can appease the angry, resentful Muslim without having a clue about the doubt and anxiety that underlies that anger. Not a good idea.

Two-Thirds of Al-Jazeera Readers Think Pentagon Footage Fabricated

Unwilling to confront the numerous documented Pallywood and Hizbollywood fabrications, readers of Al-Jazeera expressed their belief in a recent poll that the Pentagon footage of the incident at the Straits of Hormuz was fabricated. 67% said they believe the U.S. footage is fake. Readers of Arab media are willing to accept the wildest conspiracy theories (Israeli involvement in 9-11, Zionist world domination), and changing U.S. policy to pacify them will not make the slightest difference.

Iranian and American Footage of the Incident at Hormuz

Here is the United States’ version of Sunday’s incident at the Straits of Hormuz-

Here is the Iranian government’s version of that same incident-

NY Times Readership Shows Its Colors In Response to Article on Military Planning

The following NY Times article, by Major General Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., advocates  traditional military force in combination with cutting-edge technology in dealing with current and future threats. While the article does have a whiff of advocacy for increased allocation of resources to Gen. Dunlap’s Air Force, he is apt to point out that in fighting wars against contemporary terrorist groups, killing the enemy should be the primary goal (whereas, in traditional wars, capturing objectives like mountains and junctions is tantamount to killing the enemy). But the U.S. should learn from the IDF’s miscalculation and not create an army designed to fight terrorists, when the existential threats come from regular armies.

The replies to the article are an enlightening view into the NY Times readership’s sentiments (or at least those who take the time to respond to articles). About half of the comments come from a paranoid world-view, talking about the Industrial-Military complex controlling America, the evil of all things military, and Bush’s drive to control the world for oil. Of the first 45 commenters, only 8 actually commented on the subject of the article, military strategy in Iraq and its implications for future military planning.

Wedeman’s World: Israel, not Hamas or Fatah, Cause of Palestinian Suffering

Ben Wedeman, CNN’s veteran Middle East correspondent, wrote an article on CNN’s website in which he places the blame for the Palestinian’s economic situation squarely on Israel’s shoulders. Wedeman does not blame Hamas, who took control by murdering Fatah supporters and who spend millions on weapons, or Fatah, whose leaders have embezzled billions of dollars meant for the Palestinian public.

Note to readers: Lazar initially put up this piece. My additional comments are in italics.

This is a perfect article for describing the Augean habits of the media, from the language used to the framing of the problem in which Palestinian behavior — against Israel or against their own people — doesn’t figure. Wedeman — against heavy competition — takes the Most Valuable Idiot of the Day award.

JERUSALEM (CNN) — Air Force One touched down in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. President Bush has come to the Holy Land for the first time as president of the United States.

But he’s trapped inside his security bubble, his every step mapped out in great and precise detail by teams of security experts and handlers. In the end he’ll see a side of this unhappy land that bears as much resemblance to reality as Hollywood does to real life.

Katyusha Fire Meant As Another Message to Bush

Tuesday’s Katyusha strikes on the northern Israeli town of Shlomi were likely an Iranian/Hizbullah muscle-flexing meant to coincide with Bush’s visit. The incident should be viewed in relationship with the bizarre Iranian behavior in the Straits of Hormuz over the weekend. These small incidents are intended to remind Bush that Iran remains influential and can destabilize the region at its whim, whether by disrupting oil shipments or re-igniting the northern border of Israel. Thus far on his visit, Bush has been tough rhetorically on Iran, saying that Iran was a threat, remains a threat, and will be a threat so long as its uranium enrichment continues.

Two Articles on the Need to Resolve Conflict with Israel in Arab Media

Moderate Arab thinkers are running out of intellectual space. They are caught the rise of Islamism on the one hand, and the need to be sufficiently anti-Israel on the other. This leaves them with few fresh ideas to distinguish themselves from the Islamists. MEMRI reports that in the wake of Bush’s Middle East trip, two Arab intellectuals are pushing the path of normalization with Israel on the basis of the Saudi plan.

In recent articles in the Arab print and electronic press, Egyptian liberal authors wrote that it is up to the Arabs to take steps to advance peace with Israel.On January 7, 2008 in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, prominent Egyptian intellectual Dr. Mamoun Fandy proposed that the Arabs use President Bush’s visit to the Middle East to demonstrate that they are serious about resolving the conflict. On December 5, 2007 in the liberal Arab e-journal Elaph, Egyptian author and researcher Kamal Gabriel wrote that the promise of normalization is the only card the Arabs have left to play at the negotiationing table, but that until they take steps to replace a culture of hatred with a culture of peace, this promise will not be taken seriously.

Western Aid: Harmful to both Israel and Palestinians?

Conventional Western wisdom states that foreign aid is beneficial to a country or people, providing it with opportunities and economic stability.

There are those who argue that this conventional wisdom is wrong. According to them, monetary aid, to both Israel and the Palestinians, ends up harming the beneficiary economies.

Joel Bainerman, publisher of Tel Aviv Business, wrote an article in the September, 1995 edition of The Middle East Quarterly, entitled “End Foreign Aid to Israel?: Yes, It Does Harm.” At the time of Bainerman’s writing, there were a

“number of important voices among those concerned about Israel’s welfare…saying that perpetual U.S. financial aid to Israel may not be a good thing. In January 1994, Yossi Beilin, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, told a gathering of the Women’s International Zionist Organization that Israel may no longer need diaspora Jewry’s contributions: “If our economic situation is better than in many of your countries, how can we go on asking for your charity?”2 Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and a leading figure in the Likud party, recently told an American audience that Israel should suggest through its own initiative that the United States gradually phase out civilian economic aid. This skepticism is a positive development, in part because it goes beyond the old, sterile points raised by those trying to hurt Israel by denying it assistance; and in part because it returns the issue of aid to a practical discussion of benefits and losses.”

Israelis on the Hajj

The following video, from Media Line, portrays an Israeli Arab Hajj guide who engages fellow Muslims about Arabs in Israel. Arab media is so skewed that many do not even know that there are Muslims in Israel. The guide tells them that they enjoy civil liberties and a relatively good economic situation. While he may not be especially supportive of Israel, he knows enough about other Muslim societies to appreciate his good fortune of living in Israel.

France2 begins to sweat, tries to bully

I will be giving a talk tomorrow at the IDC in Herzliya on Muhammad al Durah. The invitation reads as follows:

    The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in conjunction with the Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS), the Ambassador’s Club and StandWithUs International, is pleased to invite you to a symposium with

    Professor Richard Landes, Boston University

    “Icon of Hatred:
    The Muhammad al Dura Affair: From Media to Internet to Courtroom”

    On Wednesday, January 9, 2008, from 18:00 – 19:45
    In the Arison building, room A318
    17:30- Light meal in the Arison Lobby

    On September 30, 2000, Palestinian photographer Talal abu Rahmah filmed a father and son allegedly shot by Israeli troops at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip. Charles Enderlin, correspondent for France2, showed the film on television claiming the Israelis targeted the defenceless pair, killing the boy and wounding his father badly. The story became a global sensation, a symbolic image of the Intifada’s struggle against a murderous Israeli army.

    Despite extensive contradictions between Talal’s account and the evidence of his own footage, most of which point to the strong likelihood that he staged the whole scene, the media accepted this version and has resisted efforts bring these doubts to the public’s attention. But with investigators writing on the Internet the story took on a life of its own. Enderlin, in an attempt to suppress even these marginal voices, sued several of these cyber-critics for defamation. Despite early victories, his offensive turned against him last month when the court viewed some of Talal’s raw footage.

    Historian Richard Landes has maintained the most extensively documented website concerning this affair, and has closely followed and reported on the Muhammad al-Dura story since it began. He will discuss the affair, its implications and impact, and will also show and analyze film clips, some of which have not been seen before publicly.

    The event will be conducted in English and start with opening remarks by Prof. Barry Rubin, Director, The GLORIA Center, followed by a short lecture on the use of propaganda in the media from Dr. Yariv Ben-Eliezar from IDC Herzliya’s Sammy Ofer School of Communications. Prof. Landes will make his presentation immediately afterwards.

    For more information or any special requests, please contact Keren Ribo, Director of Operations, The GLORIA Center (, at: [email protected]: 972-9-960-2736, Cell: 972-52-390-0609.
    Or Jeremy Ruden, Director, International Media Relations, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, at: [email protected] Tel: 972-9-960-2754, Cell: 972- 52- 407-0775.

The invitation was sent to all major press agencies in Israel, including France2. As a result, the organizers of the conference received the following letter from the lawyers representing France2 (translated from the Hebrew, if anyone wants a copy of the Hebrew original, please let me know):

Aharonson Sher Abulafia Amoday & Co. Law Offices

To: The GLORIA Center
The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya
P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150

Re: Conference on the Muhammad al-Dura affair

Our clients, France 2 and Mr. Charles Enderlin, have instructed me to address you as follows:

1. This letter is intended to express our client’s firm protest concerning “the Muhammad al-Dura Affair” conference to be held on January 9, 2008, and concerning the invitation to this event, which makes a broad and misleading use of our clients’ names, and without even obtaining their view.

2. The conference, according to the above invitation, plans to deal with the footage of French television photographer Talal abu Rahmah and the reporting of network correspondent Mr. Charles Enderlin regarding the September 30, 2000 shots fired toward Jamal and Muhammad al-Dura, which resulted in Muhammad’s death and his father, Jamal, being seriously wounded.

3. Beyond the fact that the conference invitation is full of accusations and inaccuracies, to say the least in everything concerning this matter, it is not acceptable from any perspective that such a conference be held in such a one-sided manner, without bringing forth our clients’ response and moreover without addressing them on this matter.

4. In order to present the matters accurately, I will cite the correct facts relating to the information appearing on the invitation:

a. The tape which was filmed by Mr. Talal abu Rahmah is authentic footage of the events which occurred at the Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000. This does not refer to something staged, and our clients view this offhanded accusation gravely.

b. Mr. Enderlin has never acted, and is not acting, to cancel the criticism against him and France 2. Even in real time, our clients broadcast every relevant response, even if it was opposed to the events as our clients viewed them. It is not clear where you obtained the audacity to note on the conference invitation that criticism against our clients has been “blocked” by libel suits. Our clients are acting with the tools provided to them by law in order to prevent damage to their good name—and nothing more. The insinuation that our clients have acted otherwise is truly outrageous.

c. The tape of the footage of the event from September 30, 2000 was presented in its entirety in the French court of appeals. Until this date the court’s position concerning this tape had not been heard. Any other statement is simply not correct and is misleading.

5. Our clients regret your choice, as a respected academic institution, to hold a conference on this subject, while the matter is being debated in several forums, in [Israel] and abroad, while presenting a distorted, sometimes false, view, which is not based upon fact but upon unfounded assessments and accusations.

6. Our clients further regret that you chose to conduct this conference in such a demonstrably, one-sided manner, while harming our clients’ reputation.

7. We believe that fairness dictates that no conference should be held on the matter which is being debated in the courts, or at a minimum our clients’ position be obtained beforehand.

8. We regret you chose the way you did.

9. I would be happy to be at your service on any matter at telephone number: 02-561-8677.

Respectfully and cordially yours,
Louise Sportas, Attorney at Law
Aharonson Sher Abulafia Amoday & Co.
Attorneys at Law

CC: Prof. Barry Rubin
Dr. Yariv Ben Eliezer

Note, no copy to me.

I have written the following response, an abbreviated version of which will be circulated along with France2’s response at the talk:

This missive is riddled with errors and misrepresentations. If this letter represents France2 and Charles Enderlin’s notion of “true facts” and “straightening things out,” then we can begin to understand how the al Durah Affair could have played out as it has for the past seven years. Responses grouped by topic:

On the subject of one-sidedness.

France2 has maintained a near-monopoly of Mainstream Media discussion of this matter for the past seven years and done everything it could to block criticism from reaching the larger public. When Enderlin did deal with criticism in a November 2000 news report on IDF General Yom Tov Samia’s investigation which found that the boy and father could not have been hit by the Israeli bullets, he dismissed it from his own podium as an “impartial” journalist, without debate, without representation from the IDF. He presented to France2 viewers only what he saw fit.

Charles Enderlin has, moreover, turned down multiple invitations to share a podium with his critics, most recently in the case of a conference on Journalistic Ethics held at Mishkenot Sha’ananim on December 30, 2007. For a giant mainstream media corporation that has 24-hour access to a public of millions of viewers, to complain that it must be given equal time in discussions it has done its best to marginalize, redefines chutzpah.

On the subject of blocking criticism.

In 2002 France2 blocked the showing of a French version of the German documentary of their sister-station ARD on the al Durah affair by Esther Schapira. Although this documentary did not pursue the hypothesis of staging, it gave ample exposure to Yom Tov Samia’s investigation. Moreover, Enderlin and France2 refuse to give the IDF a copy of the disputed footage so that they can conduct their own investigation. In an interview with Schapira, Enderlin asserted that he would not give the raw footage to the IDF “so that they can whitewash themselves.” At no time has any major French television station, much less France2, allowed the public to hear the case for staging. On the contrary, when they do mention that hypothesis, they ridicule it as “extreme right-wing conspiracy theory.”

On the subject of using the libel courts to intimidate and silence critics.

In the ARD documentary, Enderlin tells Schapira that if anyone accuses Talal, him, or France2 of manipulation or fabrication, it’s reason to go to court. And three of the four accused in France2’s defamation trials did not even go so far as to claim staging. So France2 has defined criticism as a cause for litigation and this very letter illustrates how they want to use the existence of their litigation to prevent alternative positions from reaching the public whose perceptions they have fundamentally shaped.Using the law to “prevent [others] from hurting [France2’s] reputation,” and using the law to intimidate criticism are two different aspects of the same maneuver. It is disingenuous to say the least to pretend they mutually exclusive, and to wax indignant about the “outrageous” allegation that France2 is doing the latter. In any case, the honest way to protect one’s reputation is to answer the criticisms, not attack them as defamation.

On the showing of the tapes.

No one contests that Talal’s tape is authentic footage of what happened at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000. The real question is, does this “authentic footage” corroborate the claims that Talal abu Rahmeh and Charles Enderlin make about what happened there. Close observation suggests many more contradictions between the evidence of the tapes and the reports of the journalists. There is nothing “off-handed” about the carefully phrased assertion in the invitation to this talk that there is a “strong likelihood that [Talal] staged the whole scene.”

As for showing these tapes in the French Appeals court last November, it seems passing strange that this letter puts the words “was presented in its entirety” in bold underline, since this is precisely what did not happen. The tape of the Talal’s footage of the event was cut by several minutes, something Enderlin admitted in court when he explained why there were only 18 minutes. The passages he cut, he claimed, were “not relevant.” But since I have seen the Talal’s tapes three times, I can testify that he cut scenes from Netzarim Junction that day, and that at least one of the passages cut shows the ludicrous efforts at staging news that the Palestinians on site engaged in all that day and that Talal eagerly filmed.

The “facts” of the case.

There are few firmly established “facts” in this case. Mostly there are assertions – e.g., “eventually Mohamed found his death and his father, Jamal, was badly injured” (above) – whose reliability has been extensively put in question. For example, the claims from Palestinian hospitals about Jamal’s serious injuries have now come under new examination since every injury claimed by the Palestinian sources corresponds to injuries Jamal received from his fellow Palestinians years earlier and for which he was treated in an Israeli hospital. In any case, those who attend the IDC Conference will see and hear a comparison of the “factual” claims made by Talal and Enderlin in this case, compared with the hard evidence (especially evidence from Talal’s own footage). The contrast has every reason to concern France2 in their effort to protect their reputation. They have every reason to be distressed at the public’s exposure to the evidence.

France2’s “Position” on al Durah.

France2 should indeed clarify its “position” in this affair. Do they still stand by Enderlin’s original broadcast in which the al Durah’s are “the target of fire coming from the Israeli position”? Has Talal in fact sent a fax disclaiming his sworn testimony of October 3, 2000? And if so, what has he specifically retracted? Where are the “unbearable” scenes of the boy’s “death throes” that Enderlin claimed he cut?

It’s one of the characteristics of an “emperor’s new clothes” scenario that, as long as the hegemonic discourse can compel people to deny what their own eyes behold, the public discourse remains favorable. But once the word starts to get out, the mask slips, and the spell is broken. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

When all is said and done in this case, Charles Enderlin will rue the day he convinced France2 to sue Philippe Karsenty. Those whom the gods would destroy, first they make arrogant.

Iranian Action in the Persian Gulf Meant as Message for Bush

The timing of the Iranian posturing in the Persian Gulf is crucial to understanding Iran’s intentions.  Early Sunday morning, five small Iranian Revolutionary Guards Naval Corps boats approached three American naval vessels, the USS Port Royal, USS Hopper, and USS Ingraham, that were entering the Gulf. The boats approached from the north, and split into two groups to pass on either side of the U.S. formation.  Navy Vice Adm. Kevin J. Cosgriff, who also commands U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said that they received communications from the Iranians saying that they were heading toward the U.S. formation, and that they would explode the American ships. The U.S. Navy tried to warn off the Iranians, but two of the small craft began to dump small white boxes that floated in front of the USS Ingraham. American sailors manned battle stations and were moments away from opening fire. After about 30 minutes, the five Iranian ships turned and sped back to Iranian waters.  

A Day at the New Hampshire Primary Events

Yesterday, I traveled up to New Hampshire to participate in the unique and precious primary tradition. We should not forget how fortunate we are to have a system that requires the future leader of the free world to make him (or her) self  accessible to anyone who is willing to take the time to attend a rally or town-hall meeting. And often, even if that person does not want to hear a candidate, the candidate will find him in a coffee shop or on the sidewalk and initiate the conversation. The process is fun, quirky, and exciting.

The first event I attended was a Mike Huckabee chowderfest/rally. Of course, Chuck Norris was to make an appearance with Huckabee. In what apparently is par for the course for presidential candidates, Huckabee was more than a half hour late. Not wanting to try the chowder nor wait indefinitely for Chuckabee, I decided to head up to Nashua to see Willard Mitt Romney.

Right-wing, Left-wing: What is going on?

A website called Orthodox Anarchist — “no authority but G-d” — put up a brief note on my post on David Landau:

Augean Stables’ response to David Landua’s remark to Condoleezza Rice that the US should “rape” Israel offers perhaps the most insightful critique of “Jewish anti-occupationism” that I have ever read. As Kelsey so brilliantly noted in a recent conversation: The Jewish Left and the Jewish Right are hardly ever right about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they’re often very right about each other.

I responded:

    thanks for your comment on my explanation for David Landau’s request to Condi that the US rape Israel. i do however, object to your implied categorization of me as “right”, and to your implied suggestion that i’m wrong about the “occupation” when i haven’t even published something on what Israel “ought to do.” my overall point is that, however annoying and even violent the settlements, they are not the source, cause, or main problem behind the “occupation.” indeed they are a drop in the bucket compared with the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim perception that the very existence of an autonomous Jewish state in the region is a theological blasphemy and an unbearable humiliation. so it’s got nothing to do with the “green line” and everything to do with the shore line. if that kind of realistic observation makes me a “right-winger”, then heaven help us all.
    Posted on 06-Jan-08 at 12:20 am

To which Mobius wrote back:

i apologize if you feel misrepresented. you’ll have to excuse me if i took the inclusion of dhimmi watch, little green footballs, and pajamas media in your blogroll, as well as your championing of daniel pipes and your endless indictments against the palestinians and their supporters as an indication of your political orientation. it is certainly not uncommon for jews to hold liberal positions on every domestic issue and only go batshit crazy when it comes to israel. so perhaps you’re not a right-winger. perhaps you are indeed a liberal. …on everything except israel.

as per your remarks concerning the main problem underlying the occupation, i will not bother to justify arab rejectionism (though i think one can make such a case legitimately).

rather, what i will say is that the most interesting question for me, piqued, in fact, by your post upon which i initially remarked, is as to whether or not it is wise to withdraw from the territories — having the full awareness that it is the ethical and moral thing to do — while acknowledging that it will neither pacify israel’s enemies nor bolster israel’s standing in the world.
israel certainly has a responsibility to its citizens to insure their safety, and withdrawing from the territories without a negotiated settlement (to which fatah, hamas, and islamic jihad adhere) will, in fact, only bring the rocket and sniper attacks all that much closer to israel’s major population centers. with this assessment, i cannot disagree. it is an inescapable fact and as a resolution to this situation i can offer no easy answers.

however, i can say that the occupation does go to certain extremes. there are certain excesses that go beyond israel’s legitimate security needs: the often humiliating and degrading policies of the IDF towards palestinians, the endless complications heaped upon the average palestinian in the conduct of their daily affairs, and the act of settlement and the actions of settlers, only add to the anger, the animosity, and the hatred that commit palestinians to the destruction of israel.
that said, i believe it is possible to provide for israel’s security without inflaming the situation by allowing — among other things — religious fundamentalists to run amok, enacting their own version of vigilante justice, by uprooting olive groves, cutting off water, staging attacks against arab villagers, and expanding their settlements onto lands from which palestinians draw their sustenance.

there is no magickal sigil — no simple act — that israel can do that will resolve this conflict painlessly. however, israel as the occupier can act to minimize the pain and reduce the harm to everyone involved, should it only choose to do so.

that israel and its supporters have grown completely callous and indifferent towards the suffering of palestinians is certainly understandable. but it’s neither acceptable nor forgivable. it is israel’s responsibility to ease the suffering of those it occupies, and to do so should not be considered rewarding terror nor abetting the enemy.

i can accept not racing to withdraw from the west bank. i cannot accept indifference to the actions of yesha.

to which I respond interlinearly [Mobius in blockquote; me in regular]:

i apologize if you feel misrepresented. you’ll have to excuse me if i took the inclusion of dhimmi watch, little green footballs, and pajamas media in your blogroll, as well as your championing of daniel pipes and your endless indictments against the palestinians and their supporters as an indication of your political orientation.

I don’t know if I’d take PJMedia and LGF as signs of “right-wingerhood.” Certainly, before 9-11, both Roger Simon and Charles Johnson were pretty much on the left by any standards. As for Pipes, I’m not even sure what his real political orientation is, since what he talks about virtually non-stop is the problem of Islamism (and is careful not to indict all of Islam), which problem, as I’ll argue below, throws all the political meters off kilter. If the only way to stay “left” or “progressive” in these times is to ignore what sites like Dhimmiwatch, Pipes, PMW, and MEMRI have to tell us, then okay, I’m not left.

By the way I periodically go to “leftist” blogs, but I must say I find them so riddled with Bush Derangement Syndrome (not that I either like or voted for Bush), that it gets very tiresome. If you have some good “progressive” blogs to recommend, I’d be happy to visit and blogroll them.

it is certainly not uncommon for jews to hold liberal positions on every domestic issue and only go batshit crazy when it comes to israel. so perhaps you’re not a right-winger. perhaps you are indeed a liberal. …on everything except israel.

Regardless of whether I or anyone else is Jewish, I’d argue that any real liberal — i.e., someone who believes in things like equality before the law, resolution of conflict through a discourse of fairness, human rights, gender equality, freedom of speech and press — could not possibly side with anyone but Israel in the Middle East, and that for any liberal to side with the Palestinians given the behavior of their leaders and colleagues in the Arab/Muslim world, is nothing short of a dramatic betrayal of liberal values. On the contrary, it is precisely because I adhere to liberal values that I cannot countenance the “progressive” pro-Palestinian discourse that has hijacked the “left” in these last years (since 2000 in particular).

as per your remarks concerning the main problem underlying the occupation, i will not bother to justify arab rejectionism (though i think one can make such a case legitimately).

i’d like to see you do that by liberal standards without special pleading and without ignoring the behavior of the Palestinian political elites whatever their orientation — secular, religious, “moderate”, extremist…