Monthly Archives: August 2008

Ayalon the Politician Misuses Historical Comparisons

Haaretz  is reporting that Danny Ayalon, former Ambassador to the United States and new member of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, is warning against the secessionist threat posed by Galilean Arabs.

In Ayalon’s first public appearance since he joined the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party on Saturday, he warned on Sunday: “If the government of Israel does not act to have a Jewish majority in the North, then the Arab majority in the Galilee will declare independence and [demand] international recognition on the basis of the precedents of Kosovo, Abkhazia and [South Ossetia].

“The formal demand will be the last piece in the puzzle, which will lead to the dismantling of the State of Israel in practice,” explained the former envoy.

What is Strategy, and is It Even Possible?

As passionate observers of America’s and Israel’s struggle against Islamic terrorism, we often take pause to reflect on those countries’ strategies in their wars on terror. We discuss and critique past strategies, and debate the various proposals for future strategies for a successful plan to make the world more secure.

Many of the participants in this debate would be well served to move the discussion back to an understanding of basic concepts in security before given their prognoses for the most elusive answer, the proper course of action against terror.  One cannot propose a strategy without understanding what  ‘strategy’ is,  and once that has been established, whether it is truly attainable (or whether ‘strategy’ really does exist).

The finest evaluation of the fundamental questions of strategy that I have come across is Richard K. Betts’ in International Security, “Is Strategy an Illusion” (Vol. 25, No. 2 (Fall 2000), pp. 5-50). Dr. Betts is the Director of the Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, and is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. The article, no less than its author, is very highly regarded in the field of security studies, and is still taught today to students of the discipline, the future policy-makers of the nation.

 So, to our first, crucial question- What is strategy?

Strategy is simply how the means serve the ends. In our discussion, the means are the military measures, the actual tactics and operations, the ends are the political goals,  the establishment of a democratic government or the dispersal of a terrorist network, and strategy is how the military fighting  makes possible the political aims. In the absence of strategy, war becomes meaningless act, the shedding of blood with no rational reason. In Betts’ words,

Strategy is the essential ingredient for making war either politically effective or morally tenable. It is the link between military means and political ends, the scheme for how to make one produce the other.

Moonbats in Denver: Chronicles of the Left in Bed with Islamic Monsters

Seeing this photo from a Denver demonstration taken by Zombietime

reminded me of an article from CNN about a mosque run by Al Sadr’s army that had its own torture chamber… for fellow Muslims. Alas! “Peace” militants as tools of Jihad.

Chain wrapped around ‘old man’s body’ found in mosque
By Arwa Damon

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — “There are the bloodstains on the wall, and here it is dried on the floor,” Abu Muhanad said as he walked through a torture chamber in a Baghdad mosque where more than two dozen bodies have been found.

“And here, a woman’s shoes. She was a victim of the militia. We found her corpse in the grave.”

Chunks of hair waft lazily across the floor in the hot Baghdad breeze.

“This was the torture room,” said Muhanad, the leader of a U.S.-backed armed group that now controls the mosque.

“This is what they used for hanging,” he said, pointing to a cord dangling from the ceiling. “Here is a chain we found tied to an old man’s body.” Go inside the mosque’s torture chamber »

The horrific scene at this southwestern Baghdad mosque is what officials say was the work of a Shiite militia known as the Mehdi Army. Residents who live near the mosque say they could hear the victims’ screams.

The militia had been in control of the mosque, called Adib al-Jumaili, from at least January 2007 until May of this year. Residents say coalition forces weren’t in the region and the torture and killings went unchecked.

The NYT Ship of Fools: Rodenbeck (PCP2) Reviews Pollack (PCP1)

I recently posted on the way the NYT packages discussions of the Middle East. Now we get a close look at how it packages book reviews. Below is a review of a book by Ken Pollack offering a grand strategy for the US to contribute significantly to resolving the Middle East conflict. It seems like a flawed book in many ways, but hardly in the terms in which the chosen reviewer critiques it. The reviewer is Max Rodenbeck, the Middle East correspondent for The Economist. It’s a case of washing away PCP1 with a dose of PCP2, rather than balancing it with a more sober appraisal of the situation (HSJP)

For a more valuable critique, see Michael Rubin’s review in the New York Sun. Thank civil society for multiple sources of opinion. Thank the NYT for sheltering you from painful realities, and loading up its pages with writers from the ship of fools.

War and Peace

Published: August 22, 2008

Back in 2002, I ran into one of the Brookings Institution’s top Middle East hands at the inaugural session of the United States-Islamic World Forum, a now annual event that Brookings sponsors jointly with the government of Qatar. “How’s it going?” I asked, expecting to hear about clashing misperceptions across the cultural divide. “Good,” came the gruff reply. “They’re beginning to realize that they are the problem.”

A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East
By Kenneth M. Pollack
539 pp. Random House. $30
First Chapter: ‘A Path Out of the Desert’ (August 24, 2008)

Reading this big, ambitious book by Kenneth M. Pollack, who is the head of research at Brookings’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, it is hard not to wish that what he refers to as Washington’s “policy community” would more often realize that they are the problem.

That’s pretty amazing. If he had written, “they are part of the problem,” okay. But “they are the problem.” That’s pure MOS: Masochistic Omnipotence Syndrome — as if there were no problem besides our bungled attempts to solve the problem. It’s a little like saying all health problems are iatrogenic. There are no diseases; it’s the doctors’ fault.

It would have been nice, for instance, had Pollack himself thought harder before arguing, in scholarly papers and his widely read 2002 book, “The Threatening Storm,” that America had “no choice” but to invade Iraq. That ostensibly sober appraisal, coming from a former C.I.A. analyst, Clinton official and self-described liberal, arguably added more gravitas to the shrill cries for war than any other voice.

Pollack has long since confessed to having been wrong about Iraq. “A Path Out of the Desert” includes other mea culpas. “There has been far too little asking the people of the region themselves what they thought and what they wanted,” he ruminates at one point, though the book offers slim evidence of his having pursued this advice. While the administration that Pollack served gets some light wrist-­slapping, it is the following eight years of Bush policy that he calls “breathtakingly arrogant, ignorant and reckless.”

Rudenbeck speaks as if it’s a) clear how to consult the people of the region, b) that they are clear on what they want, and c) they’ll give you a straight answer whether they are clear or not.

Many of Pollack’s other judgments are as sound as is this criticism of the Bush administration. Since most of the post-cold-war world has stabilized, democratized and prospered, it is probably correct to suggest, as he does, that America should commit itself to helping the messy Middle East come up to par.

Now there’s an breathtaking piece of ignorant and reckless arrogance. Who says they want democracy? And who is they? And even if they say they want it, who says they (and here I’m speaking of the key players, the alpha males) are willing to make the sacrifices necessary for democracy (like giving up honor-killings or self-help justice). What a mealy-mouthed homogenized view of post-war culture Rodenbeck offers up with this description of post-war culture and the [obvious] conclusions he thinks we should draw from it.

The Foolish Rage of the “Progressive” Left

The far left staged a protest march today in Denver in front of the state capitol. The march included figures like Cindy Sheehan and Ward Churchill (he who called 9/11 victims “little Eichmanns). Churchill called on the United States to end its occupation of Hawaii. Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins tried to talk to some of the protesters to give them a chance to make their message clear, but all he got was blind, stupid rage from people who could not come up with a coherent message. The video from the event gives an idea of the tenor of the affair, and what kind of people it attracted. The irony of the situation was summed up nicely by Caleb Howe of Political Machine:

Throughout the event, these men and women exercising their freedom of speech lamented, in dramatic and ominous terms, their lack of free speech. Then in the middle of the event they decided to silence the Fox News crew.

Maghen Challenges Leading Conventional Ideas on Agreement Between Iran and the West

Ze’ev Maghen, Senior Lecturer in Islamic Religion and Persian Language at Bar-Ilan University, and Chair of the Department of Middle East History, recently published “From Omnipotence to Impotence: A Shift in the Iranian Portrayal of the “Zionist Regime“. The article examines and challenges some of the prevailing notions about the prospects for and the price of an agreement with Iran, and what the implications would be for Israel.

One of the interesting points about his study concerns the wild swings of Iranian thinking on Israel. One minute it’s omnipotent, the next, impotent. Not only does this reflect the Iranian mullahs’ lack of touch with reality, but also their terrible lack of confidence which they must compensate for by using totalistic language. Profound imbalance, profound instability.

Maghen opens with a description of the banal, ubiquitious nature of calls for the destruction of the U.S. and Israel in Iran. After classical music performances, soccer goals, and even a speech by Ayatollah Khamenei meant to counter President Ahmadinejad’s extreme rhetoric about Israel, Iranians robotically call for Israel and America’s demise:

In January 2006, the Iranian daily Jomhuriya Eslami carried the text of a speech delivered in Tehran’s main mosque by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene’i. Attempting to defuse the diplomatic tension occasioned by newly elected President Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel’s destruction at the previous month’s “World without Zionism” conference, Khamene’i concluded his uncharacteristically moderate sermon with the following ringing remarks: “We Iranians intend no harm to any nation, nor will we be the first to attack any nation. We do not deny the right of any polity in any place on God’s earth to exist and prosper. We are a peace-loving country whose only wish is to live, and to let live, in peace.” Without missing a beat or evincing even a hint of irony, the reporter who had covered the event continued: “The congregation of worshippers, some seven thousand in number, expressed their unanimous support for the Supreme Leader’s words by repeatedly chanting: marg bar Omrika, marg bar Esra’il – ‘Death to America, Death to Israel!'”1

The ISM’s Disrespect for Jews and Disdain for Israel

The International Solidarity Movement’s ‘protest’ boats shipped off today from Lanarca, Cyprus, toward the Gaza Strip. Their stated goal is :

Our mission is to expose the illegality of Israel’s actions, and to break through the siege in order to express our solidarity with the suffering people of Gaza (and of the occupied Palestinian territory as a whole) and to create a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside world.

It does not take in-depth analysis to understand that the ‘free and regular’ channel that the ISM advocates is an open door for Hamas to increase their already unacceptable arms shipments into Gaza for use against Israeli soldiers and civilians (not to mention Palestinians who belong to other factions). 

Empty Posturing: A Demopath Stands up for Press Freedom in “Occupied Palestine”

Muzzling press freedom in Occupied Palestine

Khalid Amayreh

To begin with, I would like to point out that I am writing this article at the risk of being arrested for “incitement” and “tarnishing” the Palestinian Authority (PA) image.

However, the cause of press freedom in Occupied Palestine is too important to be compromised by fears for one’s safety.

Sounds like a brave man. And he may be. But his opening sentence is packed with ludicrous notions: a) there is a cause of press freedom in “Occupied Palestine”; b) it’s only for “incitement” and “tarnishing” the PA image that he runs risks (try criticizing Hamas and see who shows up at your door); and c) it’s “Occupied Palestine” that’s the problem. On the contrary, the closest thing to press freedom Palestinians ever experienced was under Israeli “occupation.” It’s when the place was handed over first to Arafat, and then in Gaza to Hamas, that press freedoms — and freedom of speech — vanished.

As one Palestinian in “occupied Jerusalem” put it: “At least here I can speak my mind freely without being dumped in prison…” Another, from an area that rioted in 2000 against Israel, but balked ferociously at being “transferred” to Arafat’s Palestine in a land-exchange deal, said: “Here you can say whatever you like and do whatever you want — so long as you don’t touch the security of Israel. Over there, if you talk about Arafat, they can arrest you and beat you up.”

Pipes quotes Palestinians about “Freedom of Expression”:

    ‘Adnan Khatib, owner and editor of Al-Umma, a Jerusalem weekly whose printing plant was burned down by PA police in 1995, bemoaned the troubles he’d had since the Palestinian Authority’s heavy-handed leaders got power over him: “The measures they are taking against the Palestinian media, including the arrest of journalists and the closure of newspapers, are much worse than those taken by the Israelis against the Palestinian press.” In an ironic turn of events, Na‘im Salama, a lawyer living in Gaza, was arrested by the PA on charges he slandered it by writing that Palestinians should adopt Israeli standards of democracy. Specifically, he referred to charges of fraud and breach of trust against then-prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Salama noted how the system in Israel allowed police to investigate a sitting prime minister and wondered when the same might apply to the PA chieftain. For this audacity, he spent time in jail. Hanan Ashrawi, an obsessive anti-Israel critic, acknowledged (reluctantly) that the Jewish state has something to teach the nascent Palestinian polity: “freedom would have to be mentioned although it has only been implemented in a selective way, for example, the freedom of speech.” ‘Iyad as-Sarraj, a prominent psychiatrist and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, confesses that “during the Israeli occupation, I was 100 times freer [than under the Palestinian Authority].”

So, granted, the PA are thugs and don’t allow freedom of expression, but alas for our intrepid journalist trying to stand up for freedom of the press in “occupied Palestine,” the only time there was anything like “freedom of the press” was when the Israelis really did occupy the land.

Hence, journalists and free-minded citizens must not allow themselves to be intimidated by a police-state apparatus that views itself as God’s vicegerent on earth.

In recent weeks and months, the American-backed and Israeli-favored regime in Ramallah has been systematically violating the human rights and civil liberties of the Palestinian people in ways unseen since the start of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.

UN, Demopathic Instrument of Retrogression: Pascal Bruckner on Durban II (Boycott!)

Pascal Bruckner is one of my favorite French intellectuals, someone who cuts through the maze of post-modern morality like a lazer through butter. So I was pleased to find that he’s taken on Durban II.

Boycott Durban II
Sign and Sight, 16/06/2008
Pascal Bruckner

At the 2001 UN Conference against Racism in Durban, anti-colonialism bared its anti-Semitic face. Democracies should stay away from a repeat performance next year in Geneva. By Pascal Bruckner

In September 2001 the South African city of Durban played host to the third United Nations World Conference against Racism, which was aimed at achieving recognition for crimes related to slavery and colonialism. The event’s organisers hoped that the whole of mankind would use this ceremonious occasion to face up to its history and chronicle events with equanimity.

It was billed as a conference against racism, and had a “soft” millennial quality of hoping that the world would enter a new era where it left racism behind.

These good intentions rapidly degenerated into one-upmanship among victims and bloodlust directed at Israeli organisations and anyone else suspected of being Jewish. The original intent, which was to heal the wounds of the past through a sort of collective therapy and arrive at new standards for human rights, twisted into an outburst of hatred which, in the wake of the September 11 attacks that followed only days later, disappeared from the public eye.

It was an orgy of hatred aimed at Israel and the USA, and offers perhaps the single most concentrated example of demopathy available. Led by Arab nations, it excoriated the USA for her slavery (almost a century and a half ago) and Israel for her racism and genocide (with al Durah as poster boy and patron saint), when Arab states are currently the only ones actually engaged in both genocide and slavery (specifically of sub-Saharan Africans). The hypocrisy was suffocating, and the participation of “human rights NGOS’s” one of the most astounding expressions of the moral corruption of the “progressive” left on record.

It’s time we had another look. Against the wishes of the organisers, Durban became an arena where people screamed and hurled insults at each other in a re-enactment of the comedy of damned, in the face of the white exploiter. “The pain and anger are still felt. The dead, through their descendants, cry out for justice”, Kofi Annan said on August 31 of the same year – an astounding choice of words for a UN secretary general and more a call for revenge than reconciliation. The delegates at the conference, particularly those from the Arab-Muslim states, also understood it as such and, together with the African group, they transformed the conference into a stage for anti-colonialist revenge. The West, which is genocidal by nature, should recognise its crimes, beg for forgiveness and pay symbolic and financial reparations to the victims of its oppression. Emotions ran high and anger was brought to the boil by coverage of the second Intifada which was being violently quashed by the Israeli army.

Muslims who Admire Israel: What Significance?

There are a tiny number of Arab and Muslim intellectuals who have expressed admiration for Israel. What does this admiration mean? Do we take its numerical percentage as a sign of its significance? Say a hundred pro-Israel Muslims out of 1.4 billion Muslims, so less than .00001% of the total, i.e., less than a fraction of a statistical error?

Or do we take it as the tip of an iceberg of an opinion that cannot express itself in an honor-shame culture where honor has been defined in terms of hating Israel, and therefore every expression of pro-Israel sentiment represents something far more significant, something that, just in order to exist, must fight heavy cross-winds. In other words, it’s the easiest thing to be pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel in the Muslim world; it takes great courage and intellectual integrity to fight that consensus. Just as we should weight Israeli self-criticism differently from Palestinian demonization in our efforts to assess the information we get from the Middle East, so should we weigh pro- and anti-Israel sentiments in the Muslim world.

The case of Salah Choudhury, the Bengladeshi journalist who is now fighting for his life against charges of sedition, treason, blasphemy and espionage, raises yet another dimension. In addition to the peer-pressure of an honor-shame culture — so strong it can drive mothers to kill their daughters — there is also the matter of violent intimidation, whether state-sponsored (as in Choudhury’s case) or supported by a fatwa that operates at the grass-roots level. Just as Islam considers that apostates deserve death, so does this religion exercise enormous threats of and execution of violence against those it considers guilty of betraying the cause.

When one considers the joint threat of social and economic ostracism on the one hand and threat of violence on the other, even the slightest expression of support or admiration for Israel in the Muslim world needs to be factored at, say, 100,000,000 times the significance of an anti-Israel sentiment that is so easy and so (seemingly) cost-free for Muslims to express.

In honor of Choudhury’s struggle — I urge everyone to sign the petition on his behalf — I post here the reflections of another courageous Muslim, exiled Iraqi writer Najem Wali, who followed her intellectual instincts and went to visit Israel.

A journey into the heart of the enemy
Sign and Sight

Exiled Iraqi writer Najem Wali travelled to Israel to uncover some uncomfortable truths about the Arab leaders

When a child is born in Israel or to us in the Arab world, the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is flowing in its umbilical cord. Since the declaration of the state of Israel on May 14 1948, Israel has been the official enemy number one for the Arab states.

But even as a child I found the rhetoric didn’t add up. How could this somehow “all-powerful” country so successfully “let the Arab nations sink into lethargy”, as the official speeches would have us believe? And why, at the same time, were they so confident that the “small state of Zionist gangs” would inevitably “disappear from the map”? I never found a convincing answer. Nor did I ever make the connection between the “Jew question” and the “Palestine question”, between the victims of the Holocaust and the victims of Israel’s foundation.

Saudi Marriage Officiant: A’isha Slept with Muhammad when She was Nine

(Hat Tip EC)

An interesting supplement to the posts on the A’isha novel controversy, MEMRI has an interview with Saudi marriage officiant Dr. Ahmad Al-Mu’bi on its website. Dr. Al-Mu’bi states explicitly and unabashedly that Muhammad married A’isha when she was six and had sex with her when she was nine. It is worth noting that the objections over the novel by Sherry Jones, The Jewel of Medina, are not in reaction to the assertion that Muhammad had sex with a very young girl. Rather, Random House and several academics predict that certain Muslims will object to the explicit details of that consummation portrayed in the novel.  

Dr. Ahmad Al-Mu’bi: “Marriage is actually two things: First we are talking about the marriage contract itself. This is one thing, while consummating the marriage – having sex with the wife for the first time – is another thing.

A Surprise Tactic McCain Should Consider: Debate Nader

John McCain has always been one to take surprising risks as a politician and as a candidate, and there is an intriguing, but very risky, suggestion for McCain that has been circulating in recent weeks. That proposition is to debate Ralph Nader. At first glance, this seems like a pointless exercise, one that could only elevate Nader and diminish McCain. But let us consider the idea carefully, and try to understand why it might constitute a viable surprise manuever.

McCain would challenge both Obama and Nader to a debate- Nader would jump at the chance for some free airtime and for someone to take him seriously. If Obama agreed to that additional debate, McCain would have already won, but Obama will again stick to the minimum of three debates. At that point, McCain simply would say that even though Obama is ducking both him and Nader, McCain is perfectly happy to have a respectful discussion on policy with a national figure like Nader.

Nader will spend the entire time attacking Obama, since his voters are the only ones Nader could potentially attract. McCain should be able to find himself in the position of defending American anti-isolationism and support for Israel, and will have an opportunity to talk forcefully on issues that matter to conservatives. The end result could very well be a bounce of a few points for Nader, at the expense of Obama. As long as McCain holds his own, he will not lose any support from having the debate.

Once Obama sees that Nader is stealing his voters, and has an opportunity to attack Obama unchallenged on national TV, he might reconsider turning down another Obama/McCain/Nader debate. And then McCain has gotten Obama to agree to an additional debate while elevating Nader.

The idea comes with risks. If McCain falters against Nader, he could seriously damage himself. The public might view the debates as the two dinosaurs arguing while Obama rises above it. And McCain may have to agree to a debate with Bob Barr, but he should have no problem handling Barr, while portraying himself as the candidate who is willing to open the national debate to a variety of voices.

If McCain finds himself needing a few more percentage points in the polls, it may be a risk he should consider taking. Finally Reports on A’isha Novel, A Week After The Augean Stables

On August 11, The Augean Stables alerted its readers to Random House’s decision not to publish a fiction novel about Aisha, wife of Muhammad. In “Random House’s Fear of Muslim Violence Trumps Free Speech“, I argued that this was a dangerous precedent and a blow to the principle of free speech. I also urged readers to buy the book when author Sherry Jones finds a publisher to show support for those who will support free speech in the face of threats of violence.

It took until today for to pick up on the story. Their article features input by Steven Emerson,  including his comment that “You can intimidate publishing and media to not publish anything critical about Islam and just by an indirect threat of not being happy about it.”  

Book Based on Prophet Muhammad’s Child Bride Yanked At 11th Hour
Tuesday, August 19, 2008

By Jana Winter

NEW YORK – A racy, historical novel based on the Prophet Muhammad’s child bride A’isha was supposed to hit book stores in the U.S. Tuesday.

But in a rare case of self-censorship to preempt possible violent reaction by Muslims, one of the world’s largest publishing houses pulled the plug on the book just before its release date.

PCP meets HSJP: Deborah Solomon of the Grey Lady interviews Brigitte Gabrielle

I got an email alert from CAMERA about an offensive (and misleading) interview with Brigitte Gabriel in the NYT by Deborah Solomon. Solomon is a classic representative of the liberal cognitive egocentrism that makes people easy dupes of demopaths. What’s fascinating and (still) astonishing is to see how openly Solomon embraces her (for me) peculiar point of view (the Politically Correct Paradigm — PCP) as if it’s the simple truth, and that Gabriels’ paradigm (the Honor-Shame Jihad Paradigm — HSJP) is from Mars. And of course, coming from the audacity of arrogance, she readily tries to cubby-hole Gabriel as a right-wing nut and Islamophobe.

If there’s anything irrational about this interview it’s how the interviewer isn’t even aware that there is something to be worried about. As CAMERA points out, “Islamophobia is an irrational fear of Islam.” Gabriel’s own experience has taught her to fear radical Islam and its easy spread within Muslim circles. The use of the accusation “Islamophobe” to shut down rational discussion has become one of the most irrational dimensions of current public discourse. (Here’s a place where one might expect a consistent “leftist” to paraphrase the classic attack on Israeli self-defense, “Not all criticism of Islam is Islamophobia.”)

Gabriel’s responses are dignified and to the point… indeed they remind me of some of Boulton’s responses to an equally aggressive and self-assured interviewer at al Jazeera.

This might not be Solomon’s work, but the interview is announced on the front page of the Sunday Magazine as follows:

The best-selling author and radical Islamophobe talks about why moderate Muslims are irrelevant, the lessons we should have learned from Lebanon and dressing like a French woman.

Now that’s an amazingly nasty attack designed to discredit her from the start. I especially like the use of the adjective “radical,” since it turns the tables on Gabriel, whose target is real “radicals” — i.e., Islamists. Robert Spencer has some particularly pointed remarks on this specific point.

    The implication is that “Islamophobes” have some irrational prejudice against Muslims, a prejudice which is probably racially motivated — so in other words, their resistance to Islamic jihad activity cannot be characterized as a legitimate stand in defense of human rights, but is rather simply an expression of “hate.” Of course, if Muslims would stop committing violence and justifying it according to Islamic teachings, and stop pursuing a supremacist agenda to replace Western pluralistic systems with Sharia, “Islamophobia,” both as an intellectual critique of and expression of resistance to that agenda, and also as any actual victimization of innocent Muslims, would melt away — but the Times, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and CAIR, and the rest of them are not going to tell you that.

Was this nasty dig at Gabriel the NYT editor’s way of apologizing for even running the interview in the first place? “Hey, all you Muslims with a short fuse out there, don’t blame us for this interview, we told everyone what we thought of it right up front.”

Note that Solomon (whose questions are in bold), actually talks more than Gabriel. That’s not by acccident. This interview is more about Solomon than Gabriel.

The Crusader

Published: August 15, 2008
As a Lebanese-Christian immigrant who spent her girlhood amid the bloody devastation of the Lebanese civil war, you have lately emerged as one of the most vehement critics of radical Islam in this country. Are you concerned that your new book, They Must Be Stopped, will feed animosity toward Muslims? I do not think I am feeding animosity. I am bringing an issue to light. I disapprove of any religion that calls for the killing of other people. If Christianity called for that, I would condemn it.

Not a question on the content of the book? It’s as if Solomon were so alarmed by the contents — i.e. how they might anger Muslims — that she has to immediately attack the author. At least she admits that Gabriel is attacking “radical Islam.” Of course the real question here is, “are you suggesting that the public should be protected from hearing alarming stuff about radical Islam lest they draw conclusions at variance with your ecumenical and irenic values? Are you willing to by a false peace at the price of ignorance?

What about all the moderate Muslims who represent our hope for the future? Why don’t you write about them? The moderate Muslims at this point are truly irrelevant. I grew up in the Paris of the Middle East [Beirut], and because we refused to read the writing on the wall, we lost our country to Hezbollah and the radicals who are now controlling it.

I know Solomon’s column is supposed to be concise, but she might help the reader by pointing out that Gabriel is talking about a 7-12 year-long civil war in which Lebanese Arabs of all Christian and Muslim denominations killed about 150,000 of each other, mostly civilians, often deliberately.

But the most shocking part of this question is: What about all the moderate Muslims who represent our hope for the future? Solomon could have put it: “who some say represent…” But for her, this is so obvious a truth that she doesn’t even feel the need to relativize it as an opinion. On the contrary, it’s just “the truth” which Gabriel has violated, and therefore, endangered the moderates.

Why? Why shouldn’t the moderates be able to say to those Americans who read Gabriel’s book, “yes, this is a problem, and this is what we’re doing about it, and you can help us,” rather than, “shut up, Islam is a religion of peace and you’re offending me by calling my co-religionists war-mongers, you Islamophobes”? The idea that Solomon couldn’t tell a real moderate from a demopath in most cases, and that that situation is dangerous for everyone including the real moderates, apparently has not occurred to her.

There’s another fallacy embedded in this question. Not only are Muslim moderates “our hope for the future,” but you, Brigitte Gabriel, undermine them by denouncing their enemies, the Islamists. That’s a truly bizarre perspective, almost the opposite of the real situation where, without support, moderate Muslims in the US and Europe are everywhere being pushed out of leadership positions in mosques and communities. Perhaps, Solomon’s not interested in the real situation, but how things look: as long as she and her “bien pensants” can pretend we’re all one happy family of moderates — bring down the walls between religions — then things are fine, right?

Incompetence or Bad Faith? Sheehan tries to explain why Bush’s Peace Plan is failing in Middle East

Edward R.F. Sheehan, a former fellow of Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, had an op-ed in the Boston Globe recently that illustrates everything that’s wrong with the kind of “policy” thinking that emanates from both Washington and the major academic institutions. It also represents the kind of editorial the Globe will run, ad infinitum, because it articulates liberal cognitive egocentrism to perfection.

This has taken me some time to fisk because it is so relentlessly, discouragingly wrongheaded. Not knowing Sheehan’s other work, I don’t know if it’s stupidity or dishonesty. But it most surely is the kind of advocacy for the Palestinians — indeed for the most irredentist and extremist of the Palestinians — one can find. The Globe should be proud; it has upheld its editorial tradition.

Bush’s doomed Mideast peace efforts

By Edward R.F. Sheehan
August 6, 2008

PRESIDENT BUSH does not seem to know it yet, but his peace plan for the Middle East is moribund. That is my chief impression from a recent three-month journey through the troubled region. A viable Palestinian state will not exist by the time Bush leaves office. Nor will one exist, probably, in the predictable future – not least because of the failures of US policy.

Of course, many of us who know what the Palestinian agenda is — secular and religious — have known that this round is moribund. My guess is, many of the Bush administration have also known that. Sheehan, on the other hand, is playing naif and doesn’t even waste a sentence on the Palestinians’ contribution to their own failures. That might confuse the reader with complexity. Go straight after Bush. I wonder if, during his three months in the Middle East, Sheehan spent any time in the hate factories (mosques, schools, TV stations) — or was he ushered around by his “contacts.”

Cynicism prevails among Palestinians, and Israelis also. Azmi Bishara, a prominent Palestinian intellectual, decries what he calls “the Palestine settlement industry – that inexhaustible source of quasi-initiatives [and] pseudo-dialogues” that after 41 years of harsh Israeli occupation have led nowhere. To virtually every Palestinian I talked to, Bush’s peace process has become a black comedy.

Well they would complain about all that, but as a journalist, one would have expected you to know a bit more about this and maybe ask them some hard questions rather than take dutiful notes and report back to your public as if this were the story. For example, it might be nice to acknowledge that before the first “intifada,” Israeli rule was hardly “harsh occupation.” On the contrary, modeling themselves on the Marshall Plan, the Israelis succeeded in helping a Palestinian economy which, in the 1970s, was among the fastest growing economies in the world.

Israeli Nissan Ad: Making fun of Arabs with no sense of humor

There’s a controversy about an Israeli ad that takes the mickey out of oil-rich Arab sheikhs to sell a fuel-efficient Nissan. In the world of humorless Arabs with lots of money and witty Israelis with little consumer clout, the Arabs win. Ultimately, the joke is on the Arabs. Enjoy.
Here’s the ad.
Here’s the controversy:

Car ad drives Saudis to distraction
Some are outraged after Israeli ad portrays Arabs as greedy, aggressive, foul-mouthed
0. Article Comments (86)
From Monday’s Globe and Mail
August 11, 2008 at 4:33 AM EDT

JERUSALEM — Israelis are used to being the butt of jokes that focus on stereotypes: Israeli women of Polish descent are said to be cold in bed; Israeli men of Moroccan descent might be asked where they keep their knives; Israelis of Persian background are characterized as stingy.
While Israelis might be used to such stereotyping, Saudi Arabians are not. So when an Israeli television ad campaign showed an Arab man, dressed in robes typical of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region, violently attacking and vehemently cursing a Nissan car for being fuel-efficient, some Saudis called for a boycott of Nissan.
Guy Dayan, an Israeli ad man, said Israeli advertising companies often resort to stereotypes to get consumers’ attention.
“The goal is to make as much buzz as possible,” said Mr. Dayan, manager and co-writer of Mizbala, Israel’s leading creative advertising Web blog. “Here in Israel [ad campaigns] enjoy more sting.”
One person who was stung by the Nissan ad was Hannah Suwaid, an Arab member of Israel’s Knesset. “[The commercial] portrays the Arab as a person who is short-tempered, aggressive, and foul-mouthed,” he said, adding that he resented the portrayal of Arabs as greedy people more interested in their own wealth than in fuel conservation.

Note the collective mind-set and the demopathic appeal to liberal values. For an Israeli Arab to feel targeted when an oil-rich sheikh from the Gulf is portrayed is a little like an American objecting to an upper-class Englishman portrayed as stiff and formal. And to object to a depiction of these kind of wealthy Arabs as “more interested in their own wealth than in fuel conservation” has to be a joke… no? Not.

In late July, he wrote the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the President of Nissan in Japan calling for the commercial to be withdrawn. The Israel Broadcasting Authority did not heed his call. Nissan International, however, did.
Ten days after Mr. Suwaid sent his letter and four days after the Saudi-owned MBC pan-Arab satellite channel led the evening news with a story about the ad, Nissan International contacted Nissan Israel.
“We got a request from Nissan International to remove the ad and not to use it again,” said Daniella Raybenbach, spokesperson for Nissan Israel.
That comes as no surprise. In the MBC coverage, a Saudi representative told the channel that the Persian Gulf Arabs might boycott Nissan and he demanded a company apology. Several Saudi and Arab websites and newspapers called on Arab and Muslim car dealers to boycott Nissan for insulting Arabs. Some Arabs wrote on websites that they would sell their Nissan cars in protest. Others wrote that it was funny, but not coming from Israel.

Ah, a glimmer of humor.

Saudi Arabia is the largest market for cars in the Arab world. Japanese cars represent some two-thirds of the new car sales in Saudi Arabia, and Nissan is the second most popular brand. In 2007, Nissan Middle East sold 184,000 Nissan cars, while in 2006, Israel sold only 2,653.

Personally, I think the ad would be wildly successful in the USA, Australia, and many other Western countries, and that would total very many more that 184,000 cars. Check out, for example, the following short made by National Banana that’s making the rounds of the internet:
Nozzle Rage

Jewish Israelis couldn’t understand why Arabs were irked by the Nissan ad. “Maybe they don’t have a sense of humour,” said Guy Mantsoor, 29, a Tel-Aviv bartender.

Or maybe they only have a sense of humor when others are the butt of the joke.

“[The Arabs] took it personally – it’s not personal,” said Shay Goren, deputy CEO of McCann-Erickson Israel, one of the country’s top advertising agencies. “[The Gulf Arabs] are just a symbol for rich people. I think it’s a great ad. Our role is to do our job in the best way possible. We don’t need to take into account the feelings of the Arabs.”
Ms. Raybenbach said the commercial created by Inbar-Merhav-Shaked Advertising agency had ended as scheduled at the beginning of last week. Nevertheless, she quickly explained that Nissan Israel had no negative intentions.
“We are sorry that there are people who did not understand the advertisement, and we hope that now, after the subject was clarified, that they understand that it was all done with humour and without any intention to hurt anyone.”
Not everyone in the Israeli ad world would agree. Mr. Dayan acknowledged that he doesn’t like the Israeli approach. “I don’t think cheap provocation should be used to create the buzz,” he said.

Prissy comment. On whose behalf is he getting his nose brown? And it’s not cheap provocation. It’s well deserved.

America Makes Its First Move Against Russia

In a move clearly timed to send a message both to Russia and to America’s former Soviet allies, the United States and Poland reached an agreement to station ten Patriot interceptor rockets in Slupsk, in northern Poland. The radar for the battery will be in the Czech Republic. There is also a mutual commitment agreement “in case of trouble”.

Predictably, Moscow is worried about the agreement, and is using threats of increased tension to try to force one of the parties to reverse course. But after the Georgia invasion, Poland is eager to secure itself with American commitments and most importantly, by having American personnel stationed in the country,  and the United States has found a perfect way to send a stern message to Russia without bringing up the possibility of military force.

This move does present some risks for Poland, as Russia now views it as more of a target. Poland has now become a surrogate for the U.S. in Russia’s eyes, an available means to embarass the U.S. This is possible only if Russia feels that America will not defend Poland in case of aggression. As long as Moscow understands that America is serious about defending its allies and its assets, Poland will be safer.

Boston Globe Readers Attack Jacoby for Condemning Muslim Honor Killings

On August 10, The Boston Globe ran Jeff Jacoby’s op-ed, “‘Honor’ Killing Comes to the US“. The piece was powerful and straightforward in its defense of the rights of innocent women against violently patriarchal Muslim family structures and societies. It was an argument that would not be hard for Americans of all stripes to support, with the exception of those for whom the defense of the violent expressions of Islam is paramount to the defense of human rights.

Or so it seemed. Apparently, in letters as shocking as they are absurd, readers of the Globe felt compelled to portray Jacoby as a man on an “ongoing crusade against Islam”, and to minimize the unique abhorrence of Muslim honor killing by linking the phenomenon to violence against protesters in the sixties. These readers not only lack the clear thinking necessary to distinguish between a society that condemns legally and socially violence against women, and one that protects it, they seem eager to condemn their own societies but are absolutely unable to condemn the most abhorrent norms in some Muslim cultures. This is classic Western “who am I, a Westerner, to criticize non-Western cultures?” thinking. If these honor killings were happening in Britain, Kansas, or of course, Israel (among Jews), these same readers would be up in arms screaming about the protection of women’s rights in an abusive, male-dominated society.

Pravda’s Version of a Free, Critical Press

Articles in the Russian newspaper Pravda, ostensibly straight news articles, are more akin to Soviet party mouthpieces than to real journalism.

Jonathan Martin posted this gem on his blog

From the news portion of Pravda under a headline, “Russia: Again Savior of Peace and Life:”

The international community collectively held their breath waiting for the reaction of Russia after the savage, brutal, criminal attack by Georgia on South Ossetia. After having offered a ceasefire in hostilities, the back-stabbing Georgians immediately violated the ceasefire, invading South Ossetia and causing massive destruction and death among innocent civilians, among peacekeepers and also destroying a hospital.

Today’s Pravda main headline is

USA shows its meanness again as Russia mourns victims of genocide

The article includes these pieces of pro-government advocacy-

Condoleezza Rice’s anti-Russian remarks became yet another demonstration of double standards of the Bush’s administration in terms of sovereignty and territorial integrity, ITAR-TASS reports.

Washington blatantly ignored these principles several months ago, when it recognized the independence of Kosovo, an inseparable part of Serbia. However, it just so happens that the US administration sees the sovereignty principles highly important when it comes to Georgia.

Still trumpeting the party line after all these years.

Criticism of Islam No Longer Acceptable at UN Human Rights Council

Enough is enough.

It needs to be said explicitly to Muslim nations like Iran, Egypt, and Pakistan- You are welcome to join international bodies and the global human rights discussion, but your membership in these organizations is a tacit agreement on your part that other nations are not expected to treat your religious and cultural symbols as unimpeachable and infallible, beyond comment or criticism. If you wish to remain in an environment in which Islam is not to be commented upon, then you will find yourselves comfortable in organizations such as the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. But if you would like to be heard in international fora, then you must accept the basic principle that even your own religion and culture might be respectfully but firmly criticized.

Until that message is conveyed, and I doubt sincerely that it will be, there will be travesties like the 8th UN Human Rights Council session on June 16, 2008.  Daivd Littman, in a joint statement with the Association for World Education, International Humanist and Ethical Union, attempted to speak on violence against Muslim women, but was repeatedly interrupted by representatives of Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran.