Monday, February 28, 2011

UN a joke-praises Lybia

UN to Adopt Report Commending Qaddafi’s Human Rights Record

Alana Goodman 02.28.2011 - 3:38 PM
The UN Human Rights Council, which just voted to suspend Libya as a member due to the country’s bloody crackdown on protesters, apparently doesn’t find it contradictory to release a report praising the Qaddafi regime’s human-rights record. From UN Watch:
Despite having just voted to suspend Libya from its ranks (to be finalized by the UNGA tomorrow), the UN Human Rights Council, according to the agenda of its current session, is planning to “consider and adopt the final outcome of the review of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.” According to the council’s timetable, the lengthy report hailing Libya’s human rights record will be presented on March 18, and then adopted by the council at the end of the month. The report, which the UN has published on the council website, is the outcome of a recent session that was meant to review Libya’s human rights record.
“Protection of human rights was guaranteed in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya; this included not only political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights,” reads the report. The countries lauding Libya’s human-rights record include Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
UN Watch has called on the UN Human Rights Council to rescind the report. “The report is a fraud, an insult to Libya’s victims, and should be withdrawn immediately,” said Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, in a statement on the group’s website.
After this, do we really need any more evidence of how useless the Human Rights Council is? It’s a wonder that the U.S. taxpayers are still forced to support this sort of nonsense.

What is going on in the Arab world?


A mass expression of outrage against injustice


Historian Bernard Lewis diagnoses the fundamental cause of the region-wide explosion of protest, and dismisses Western notions of a quick fix.

Bernard Lewis, the renowned Islamic scholar, believes that at the root of the protests sweeping across our region is the Arab peoples’ widespread sense of injustice. “The sort of authoritarian, even dictatorial regimes, that rule most of the countries in the modern Islamic Middle East, are a modern creation,” he notes. “The pre-modern regimes were much more open, much more tolerant.”

But Lewis regards a dash toward Western-style elections, far from representing a solution to the region’s difficulties, as constituting “a dangerous aggravation” of the problem, and fears that radical Islamic movements would be best placed to exploit so misguided a move. A much better course, he says, would be to encourage the gradual development of local, self-governing institutions, in accordance with the Islamic tradition of “consultation.”

Lewis also believes that it was no coincidence that the current unrest erupted first in Tunisia, the one Arab country, he notes, where women play a significant part in public life. The role of women in determining the future of the Arab world, he says, will be crucial.

Once described as the most influential post-war historian of Islam and the Middle East, Lewis, 94, set out his thinking on the current Middle East ferment in a conversation with me before an invited audience at the home of the US Ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, a few days ago. Excerpts:

Does the current wave of protest in the region indicate that, in fact, the Arab masses do want democracy? And is that what we’re going to see unfolding now?

The Arab masses certainly want change. And they want improvement. But when you say do they want democracy, that’s a more difficult question to answer. What does “democracy” mean? It’s a word that’s used with very different meanings, even in different parts of the Western world. And it’s a political concept that has no history, no record whatever in the Arab, Islamic world.

In the West, we tend to get excessively concerned with elections, regarding the holding of elections as the purest expression of democracy, as the climax of the process of democratization. Well, the second may be true – the climax of the process. But the process can be a long and difficult one. Consider, for example, that democracy was fairly new in Germany in the inter-war period and Hitler came to power in a free and fair election.

We, in the Western world particularly, tend to think of democracy in our own terms – that’s natural and normal – to mean periodic elections in our style. But I think it’s a great mistake to try and think of the Middle East in those terms and that can only lead to disastrous results, as you’ve already seen in various places. They are simply not ready for free and fair elections.

One of the most moving experiences of my life was in the year 1950, most of which I spent in Turkey. That was the time when the Turkish government held a free and genuinely fair election – the election of 1950 – in which that government was defeated, and even more remarkably the government then quietly and decently withdrew from power and handed over power to the victorious opposition.

What followed I can only describe as catastrophic. Adnan Menderes, the leader of the party which won the election, which came to power by their success in the election, soon made it perfectly clear that he had no intention whatever of leaving by the same route by which he had come, that he regarded this as a change of regime, and that he had no respect at all for the electoral process.

And people in Turkey began to realize this. I remember vividly sitting one day in the faculty lounge at the school of political sciences in Ankara. This would have been after several years of the Menderes regime. We were sitting in the faculty lounge with some of the professors discussing the history of different political institutions and forms. And one of them suddenly said, to everyone’s astonishment, “Well, the father of democracy in Turkey is Adnan Menderes.”

The others looked around in bewilderment. They said, “Adnan Menderes, the father of Turkish democracy? What do you mean?” Well, said this professor, “he raped the mother of democracy.” It sounds much better in Turkish...

This happened again and again and again. You win an election because an election is forced on the country. But it is seen as a one-way street. Most of the countries in the region are not yet ready for elections.

Yet in Egypt now, for example, the assumption is that we’re proceeding toward elections in September and that seems to be what the West is inclined to encourage.

I would view that with mistrust and apprehension. If there’s a genuinely free election – assuming that such a thing could happen – the religious parties have an immediate advantage. First, they have a network of communication through the preacher and the mosque which no other political tendency can hope to equal. Second, they use familiar language. The language of Western democracy is for the most part newly translated and not intelligible to the great masses.

In genuinely fair and free elections, [the Muslim parties] are very likely to win and I think that would be a disaster. A much better course would be a gradual development of democracy, not through general elections, but rather through local self-governing institutions. For that, there is a real tradition in the region.

If you look at the history of the Middle East in the Islamic period, and if you look at their own political literature, it is totally against authoritarian or absolutist rule. The word they always insist on is consultation. This is not just a matter of theory. There’s a remarkable passage, for example, in the report of a French ambassador to the sultan of Turkey a few years before the French Revolution.
The French ambassador was instructed by his government to press the Turkish government in certain negotiations and was making very slow progress. Paris said angrily, “Why don’t you do something?”

The ambassador replied that “you must understand that here things are not as they are in France, where the king is sole master and does as he pleases. Here, the sultan has to consult with the holders of high office. He has to consult with the retired former holders of high office. He has to consult with the merchants, the craft guilds and all sorts of other groups.”

This is absolutely true. It’s an extraordinarily revealing and informative passage and the point comes up again and again through the 19th and 20th centuries.

You have this traditional system of consultation with groups which are not democratic as we use that word in the Western world, but which have a source of authority other than the state – authority which derives from within the group, whether it be the landed gentry or the civil service, or the scribes or whatever. That’s very important. And that form of consultation could be a much better basis for the development of free and civilized government.

And therefore, for an anxious West which is trying to work out what signals it should be sending and what processes it should be encouraging, what opportunity does America and the free world have to influence this process?

I’d rather take it from the other side and say what signals you should not be sending. And that is not pressing for elections. This idea that a general election, Western-style, is a solution to all these problems, seems to me a dangerous fallacy which can only lead to disaster. I think we should let them do it their way by consultative groups. There are various kinds. There are all sorts of possibilities.
It’s happening now in Iraq, for example.

Yet the sense one gets is that the people in the streets, in Egypt, for example, want to have elections quickly and have a new leadership. That is the signal that they’re sending. Won’t it be supercilious and arrogant of the West to try to talk them out of it?

They’re all agreed that they want to get rid of the present leadership, but I don’t think they’re agreed on what they want in its place. For example, we get very, very different figures as to the probable support for the Muslim Brothers.

Yes, we’ve seen 20, 30, 40 percent and we’ve seen attitudes from that Pew Poll, from a couple of months ago, that were very extreme.

This is my point. And it’s very difficult to rely on these things. People don’t tell the truth when they’re being asked questions.

Broadly speaking, the notion of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is much disputed – from being perceived as essentially benign, unthreatening, even secular, according to one remark (later corrected, by US National Intelligence Director James Clapper), to being perceived as a radical and terrible threat. How would you judge it?

To say that they’re secular would show an astonishing ignorance of the English lexicon. I don’t think [the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt] is in any sense benign. I think it is a very dangerous, radical Islamic movement. If they obtain power, the consequences would be disastrous for Egypt.

I’m an historian. My business is the past, not the future. But I can imagine a situation in which the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations of the same kind obtain control of much of the Arab world. It’s not impossible. I wouldn’t say it’s likely, but it’s not unlikely.

And if that happens, they would gradually sink back into medieval squalor.
Remember that according to their own statistics, the total exports of the entire Arab world other than fossil fuels amount to less than those of Finland, one small European country. Sooner or later the oil age will come to an end. Oil will be either exhausted or superseded as a source of energy and then they have virtually nothing. In that case it’s easy to imagine a situation in which Africa north of the Sahara becomes not unlike Africa south of the Sahara.

As we look at this region in ferment, how would you characterize what is unfolding now? Can we generalize about the uprisings that are erupting in the various countries? Is there a common theme?

There’s a common theme of anger and resentment. And the anger and resentment are universal and well-grounded. They come from a number of things. First of all, there’s the obvious one – the greater awareness that they have, thanks to modern media and modern communications, of the difference between their situation and the situation in other parts of the world. I mean, being abjectly poor is bad enough. But when everybody else around you is pretty far from abjectly poor, then it becomes pretty intolerable.

Another thing is the sexual aspect of it. One has to remember that in the Muslim world, casual sex, Western-style, doesn’t exist. If a young man wants sex, there are only two possibilities – marriage and the brothel. You have these vast numbers of young men growing up without the money, either for the brothel or the brideprice, with raging sexual desire. On the one hand, it can lead to the suicide bomber, who is attracted by the virgins of paradise – the only ones available to him. On the other hand, sheer frustration.

So you have this explosion, which different regimes are handling in very different ways. Were you surprised with the ease with which, in Tunisia and Egypt, autocratic leaders were ousted? Do you see other countries where a similar process is likely to unfold?

I was expecting a wave of such movements. I didn’t think it would be as quick and easy as it was in Egypt. But I expect that there will be more. We can see in so many countries, the regimes are already gravely in danger.

In Syria we don’t see, so far, any major expression of an effort at people power. It’s a more ruthless regime. In Iran, the stakes are much higher. It requires much more courage to go out on the street when the regime is presumably prepared to go to greater lengths to hold onto power. Do you see these kinds of processes taking hold in the more repressive and ruthless regimes?

As far as one can judge, these movements of opposition are very strong, even in Iran for example. Now, as you say, the Iranian regime is very repressive. Nevertheless, there are ways in which people can communicate, notably by telephone, e-mail and the rest, and the messages coming out of Iran are unequivocal. It makes it clear that the regime is extremely unpopular. There are two oppositions, opposition to the regime, and opposition within the regime. I think that with even a little help from outside it would be possible to do something. As the saying goes, “You can’t beat something with nothing.”

A little help from outside? It’s a subtle process. If the help is overt, it can be used by the regime in Iran, for example, to suggest unwarranted and untenable Western influence. How do you give help to people seeking the overthrow of these regimes?

One method is by political warfare, by having some sort of propaganda campaign against the regime. This would not be difficult. There’s a vast Iranian population now in the Western world, particularly in the United States, who I’m sure would be willing to help in this, and thanks to modern communications, it would not be too difficult to get the message across. The messages coming out of Iran make this very clear. You must have heard when the American forces went into Iraq, lots of Iranians wrote e-mails or telephoned, saying, “You should have tackled your problems in alphabetical order.”

Tell us more about the nature of the Arab masses, their sense of their own religion, their sense of the agenda that Islam sets out for them.

Well, you see, two things have happened. One is that their position on the whole has been getting worse. The second, which is much more important, is that their awareness of that is getting much greater. As I said before, thanks to modern communications, they can now compare their own position with that in other countries. And they don’t have to look very far to do that. I have sat with friends in Arab countries, watching Israeli television, and their responses to that are mindboggling.

What is so striking to them?

One particular instance that I remember: There was a little Arab boy whose arm was broken by an Israeli policeman during a demonstration and he appeared the next day on Israeli television with a bandage on his arm, denouncing Israeli brutality. I was in Amman at the time, watching this. And sitting next to me was an Iraqi, who had fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and he looked at this with his jaw dropping and he said, “I would gladly let Saddam Hussein break both my arms and both my legs if he would let me talk like that on Iraqi television.”

Take us a little deeper into the mindset. Help us reconcile the discord in Egypt, for example, between hundreds and thousands of people coming out onto the streets and demanding to be rid of a dictatorial leadership, which most people in the West have interpreted as a push for freedoms and Westernstyle democracy, at the same time as we read opinion surveys which show overwhelming proportions of Egyptians taking very bleak views on some aspects of human rights, supporting terrible punishments for adultery, benighted attitudes to homosexuality and so on.

It’s not easy to define what they are for. It’s much easier to define what they are against. They are against the present tyrannies, which as they see it, not only oppress them, but dishonor their name, their religion, their nationality. They want to see something better in its place. Now what that something better would be is differently defined. They are not usually talking in terms of parliamentary democracy and free elections and so on. That’s not part of the common discourse. For different groups it means different things. But usually, it’s religiously defined. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Muslim Brothers’ type of religion. There is also an Islamic tradition which is not like that – as I referred to earlier, the tradition of consultation. It is a form of government.

If we have different potential Islamic paths that these peoples could now go down, how strong is a more moderate Muslim tradition? How likely is it that that would prevail? I ask you that because of your bleak characterization of the Muslim Brotherhood which, again, some experts claim is relatively benign.

I don’t know how one could get the impression that the Muslim Brotherhood is relatively benign unless you mean relatively as compared with the Nazi party.

There are other trends within the Islamic world which look back to their own glorious paths and think in other terms. There is a great deal of talk nowadays about consultation. That is very much part of the tradition.

The sort of authoritarian, even dictatorial regimes, that rule most of the countries in the modern Islamic Middle East, are a modern creation. They are a result of modernization. The pre-modern regimes were much more open, much more tolerant. You can see this from a number of contemporary descriptions. And the memory of that is still living.

It was a British naval officer called Slade who put it very well. He was comparing the old order with the new order, created by modernization. He said that “in the old order, the nobility lived on their estates. In the new order, the state is the estate of the new nobility.” I think that puts it admirably.

Are you leading toward the possibility that the unraveling of these modern, non-consultative regimes could return us to a genuine, potential, wider peopleto- people partnership between the Muslim world and the West? And if so, how do we go about achieving that?

The only time when they began to look favorably on outside alliances is when they see themselves as confronting a still greater danger. Sadat didn’t make peace because he was suddenly convinced of the merits of the Zionist case. Sadat made peace because Egypt was becoming a Soviet colony. He realized that on the best estimate of Israel’s power and on the worst estimate of Israel’s intentions, Israel was much less of a danger to Egypt than the Soviet Union at that time. That is why he set to work to make peace, and he was of course, right.

One sees similar calculations later than that. Consider for example, the battle between the Israeli forces and Hezbollah in 2006. It was quite clear that the Arab governments were quietly cheering the Israelis and hoping that they would finish the job and were very disappointed when they failed to finish the job. The best way of attaining friendship is by confronting a yet more dangerous enemy. There have been several such [enemies] in the Middle East and there are several at the present time. That seems to me the best hope of understanding between the Arabs on the one hand and either the West or the Israelis on the other hand.

People talk about American imperialism as a danger. That is absolute nonsense.
People who talk about American imperialism in the Middle East either know nothing about America or know nothing about imperialism. American imperialism is a term which might justly be used to describe some of the processes by which the original 13 states increased to the present 50. But as applied to American policy in the Middle East at the present time, it is wrong to the point of absurdity. Take the classical examples of imperialism: When the Romans went to Britain 2,000 years ago, or when the British went to India 300 years ago, an exit strategy was not uppermost in their minds.

When you look around the region, which are the potential enemies which may be regarded as the greater threat?

At the moment, principally the Iranian revolution. On the one hand they’re afraid of what you might call Iranian imperialism, and on the other hand of the Iranian Shi’ite revolution.

The Sunni-Shi’ite question is obviously different according to which country you’re in. In a country like Iraq or Syria, where you have both Sunnis and Shia, the distinction between Sunni and Shia, the clashes between them, are very important. In a country like Egypt where there are no Shia, which is 100% Sunni, it’s not an important issue. They don’t see the Shia threat as an issue.

There’s one other group of people that I think one should bear in mind when considering the future of the Middle East, and that is women. The case has been made, and I think there is some force in it, that the main reason for the relative backwardness of the Islamic world compared to the West is the treatment of women. As far as I know, it was first made by a Turkish writer called Namik Kemal in about 1880. At that time an agonizing debate had been going on for more than a century: What went wrong? Why did we fall behind the West?

He said, “The answer is very clear. We fell behind the West because of the way we treat our women. By the way we treat our women we deprive ourselves of the talents and services of half the population. And we submit the early education of the other half to ignorant and downtrodden mothers.”

It goes further than that. A child who grows up in a traditional Muslim household is accustomed to authoritarian, autocratic rule from the start. I think the position of women is of crucial importance.

That is why I am looking with great interest at Tunisia. Tunisia is the one Arab country that has really done something about women. In Tunisia there is compulsory education for girls, from primary school, right through. In Tunisia, women are to be found in the professions. There are doctors, lawyers, journalists, politicians and so on. Women play a significant part in public life in Tunisia. I think that is going to have an enormous impact. It’s already having this in Tunisia and you can see that in various ways. But this will certainly spread to other parts of the world.

Elsewhere, the question of women and the role of the women is of crucial importance for the future of the Muslim world in general.

A key country which has not been enveloped in these uprisings yet is Saudi Arabia. Why do you think that is? Is that going to change?

There’s not much prospect of its changing for the time being. But sooner or later oil will be either exhausted or superseded, and then of course the change will be dramatic.

And what of our other immediate neighbors in Jordan and among the Palestinians. From a security point of view, Israel is worried about what might unfold...

With good reason... Until recently I would have said that the Hashemite kingdom is fairly safe. I used to go to Jordan every year for many years and there was no doubting the popularity of the regime. Members of the royal family would travel alone, driving their own open two-seater cars across the city, without feeling in the slightest degree endangered, and even be greeted with cheers and kisses whenever they passed. That again could change.

The king would appear to be above the fray...


And by changing his government, has defused at least some of the protest?

It’s too early to say.

And on the Palestinian front, what you said before about the overstated assumption that elections are the panacea, that seems to be what unfolded with the Palestinians. There was a dash for elections, when the only choices were between Fatah and Hamas. I don’t see people-protests [against the regime] in Gaza, but in the West Bank could there be some replication of what happened in Egypt, directed against Israel?

I don’t see elections, Western-style, as the answer to the problem. I see it rather as a dangerous aggravation of a problem. The Western-style election is part of a very distinctively Western political system, which has no relevance at all to the situation in most Middle Eastern countries. It can only lead to one direction, as it did in Germany, for example.

Two weeks ago, I interviewed Natan Sharansky. He gave an enthusiastic endorsement of the push for freedom. But a caveat was: Don’t have this sense that elections equals democracy. Therefore, his recipe was: Go slower. But he still seemed to be pushing in the Western, democratic direction. He was saying, you need to take time; you need to create a climate in which opposition parties can organize, other parties can organize, so you don’t only have the Muslim Brotherhood; you need to have a media environment in which their message can be fairly reported; and then people have to be confident that they can make their choices without fear of persecution. That sounds very smart to me, but it also sounds very Western. Are you suggesting that might be a path or that it fails to understand the differences between the West and the Muslim world?

One has to understand not so much the differences between the two as the differences in the political discourse. In the Western world, we talk all the time about freedom. In the Islamic world, freedom is not a political term. It’s a legal term: Freedom as opposed to slavery. This was a society in which slavery was an accepted institution existing all over the Muslim world. You were free if you were not a slave. It was entirely a legal and social term, with no political connotation whatsoever. You can see in the ongoing debate in Arabic and other languages the puzzlement with which the use of the term freedom was first perceived.
They just didn’t understand it. I mean, what does this have to do with politics or government? Eventually, they got the message. But it’s still alien to them. In Muslim terms, the aim of good government is justice.

The major contrast is not between freedom and tyranny, between freedom and servitude, but between justice and oppression. Or if you like, between justice and injustice. If one follows that particular discourse in the Arab and more generally the Muslim world, it would be more illuminating.

So while we look at these protests as a demand for a greater stake in self-government and a push for what we consider to be freedoms, what you’re diagnosing here is outrage against injustice?


And how is that demand met?

Corruption and oppression are corruption and oppression by whichever system you define them. There’s not much difference between their definition of corruption and our definition of corruption.

So, if the leaderships in these countries were not corrupt and were just, they would not have been confronted? It’s that they’ve not governed fairly?


That resonates with what happened in Iran. You had elections and the results were announced before the votes had been counted...

The people felt they were being cheated.

It’s the sense of injustice at the core?

Yes. I think one should look at it in terms of justice and injustice, rather than freedom and oppression. I think that would make it much easier to understand the mental and therefore the political processes in the Islamic world.

And so to the Israel question. Israel, like everybody else, was taken completely by surprise. How should Israel be responding to these protests?

Watch carefully, keep silent, make the necessary preparations.

And reach out. Reach out. This is a real possibility nowadays. There are increasing numbers of people in the Arab world who look with, I would even say, with wonderment at what they see in Israel, at the functioning of a free and open society. I read an article quite recently by a Palestinian Arab whom I will not endanger by naming, in which he said that “as things stand in the world at the present time, the best hope that an Arab has for his future is as a second class citizen of a Jewish state.” A rather extraordinary statement coming from an Arab spokesman. But if you think about it, he’s not far wrong. The alternative, being in an Arab state, is very much worse. They certainly do better as second class citizens of the Jewish state. There’s a growing realization of that. People would speak much more openly about that if it were safe to do so, which it obviously isn’t.

There are two things which I think are helpful towards a better understanding between the Arabs and Israel. One of them is the well-known one, of the perception of a greater danger, which I mentioned before. Sadat turned to Israel because he saw that Egypt was becoming a Russian colony. The same thing has happened again on a number of occasions. Now they see Israel as a barrier against the Iranian threat.

The other one, which is less easy to define but in the long run is probably more important, is [regarding Israel] as a model of democratic government. A model of a free and open society with rights for women – an increasingly important point, especially in the perception of women.

In both of these respects I think that there are some hopeful signs for the future.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Palestinians have nothing to do with unrest


AYALON: The death of ‘linkage’

Palestinian issue was never the key to stability

The last few weeks and months have finally proven the fallacy of one of the most mistaken theories about development and peace in the Middle East. For a number of years, foreign officials, experts and commentators have claimed that if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was solved, then there would be peace in the Middle East. This was coined “linkage.”

Former President Jimmy Carter was once asked, “Is the linkage policy right?” He replied, “I don’t think it’s about a linkage policy, but a linkage fact. … Without doubt, the path to peace in the Middle East goes through Jerusalem.” Another enthusiast of linkage is former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who said, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the single most combustible and galvanizing issue in the Arab world.”

The WikiLeaks revelations proved that among Arab decision makers and policy-shapers, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was fairly low on the list of urgent priorities in the region. These private conversations reveal that Arab leaders are preoccupied with the looming threat of Iran and only make perfunctory statements on the “Palestinian question,” as one senior American diplomat who has spent his career in the Middle East told the New York Times recently.

These revelations shook the linkage argument to its very foundations, but recent events in our region have dealt it the mortal blow.

Last year, the United Nations Development Program released its Human Development Report for Arab states with the assistance of Arab scholars and researchers. This report stated that the Arab world is lacking in all areas of human development, such as freedom, empowerment of women and education. In addition, nearly 50 percent of the Arab world lives below the international poverty line. For the Arab world to merely maintain its current position, which is at the lowest rung on the development ladder, it will need to create 51 million jobs in the next 10 years.

Food insecurity, rising desertification and vanishing water resources have all contributed to placing parts of the Arab world on a precipice. The recent chaos on the streets of capitals in the Arab world demonstrates this volatility.

Furthermore, the linkage argument has allowed a dereliction of responsibility for anything that happens outside of Israel‘s few square kilometers, which is equivalent to less than one seven-hundredth of the Arab world. Even the term “Middle East conflict” is negligent in that it stresses the singularity and uniqueness of our conflict, perhaps even one of the least bloody and destructive, in a region that has seen dozens of recent and ongoing conflicts.

In fact, of the 11 million Muslims that have been killed in violent conflicts since the middle of the last century when the state of Israel was created, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Muslims were killed in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian or Israeli-Arab conflict. However, more than 90 percent of all Muslims killed during the same time period were killed by fellow Muslims.

While I am sure that the majority of the residents of the Middle East, including Israelis, would desperately like to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians, unfairly overloading the pressure to sign a peace agreement makes it that much harder.

Precisely those who feel that a utopian Middle East will exist after Israeli and Palestinian leader sign their name on a piece of paper demonstrate a lack of understanding of the issues at stake and make it harder for the conflict to be resolved.

Unfortunately, radical elements in our region will remain long after the ink on any agreement has dried. To fully grasp this, we just need to listen to the radical elements themselves. In 1996, al Qaeda rose to prominence with Osama bin Laden’s fatwa or “declaration of war.” The long, rambling fatwa stood at more than 11,000 words, railing against everything deemed unacceptable to his brand of militant Islam. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict barely appeared and was nothing more than a footnote to all the general grievances laid out by bin Laden.

While Israelis, including this Israeli government, desire a peace agreement with all of our neighbors, it cannot come at the cost of our existence. Recent events have only confirmed to Israel that we live in a tough neighborhood with constantly shifting sands. If Israel signs a peace agreement, it needs to know that it is permanent, stable and secure, and not subject to changing circumstances.

Israel, with a narrow waist of only a few kilometers, can afford to take few chances with the security of its population, the majority of which reside a mere RPG launcher away from the Green Line.

Those espousing linkage ignore the reality beyond Israel‘s borders. Recent events have brought the true nature of challenges facing the Middle East to international attention. Let us hope that this wider view will at least prove constructive to meeting those challenges, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can return to its proper perspective to improve the possibility of its resolution.

Danny Ayalon is Israel‘s deputy minister of foreign affairs.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Turning our back on Israel


Rick Richman 02.17.2011 - 12:48 PM

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement today on the reports that the U.S. has offered to support a Security Council Presidential Statement on Israeli settlements in order to avoid having to decide whether to veto the pending UN Security Council draft resolution to the same effect. Her statement reads as follows:

Support for this anti-Israel statement is a major concession to enemies of the Jewish State and other free democracies. It telegraphs that the U.S. can be bullied into abandoning critical democratic allies and core U.S. principles.

Palestinian leaders refuse to negotiate directly with Israel, while Israel has made unprecedented concessions and continues to repeatedly offer to negotiate anywhere, anytime. Responsible nations should be heralding Israel’s commitment to achieving peace and security, not giving credence to the relentless campaigns by anti-democratic forces to deny that commitment.

Offering to criticize our closest ally at the UN isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable. Pretending that criticism of Israel is OK if it comes in a ‘Presidential Statement’ instead of a resolution isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable. Twisting and turning and tying yourself in knots to avoid using our veto to defend our allies and interests isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable.

The Administration should change course, stand unequivocally with Israel, and publicly pledge to block any anti-Israel UN Security Council action.

Ros-Lehtinen’s press release notes that, on January 27, 2011, she and five fellow senior members of Congress (House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer; Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard L. Berman; and U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Gary L. Ackerman, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia) sent a bipartisan letter to the president requesting that the administration veto the UN Security Council draft resolution criticizing Israel.

The press release states that they have yet to receive a response to the letter.

Also this:

Republicans aren't alone in criticizing the administration's approach. New York Democrat Anthony Weiner said yesterday, "This is too clever by half. Instead of doing the correct and principled thing and vetoing an inappropriate and wrong resolution, they now have opened the door to more and more anti-Israeli efforts coming to the floor of the U.N. The correct venue for discussions about settlements and the other aspects of a peace plan is at the negotiating table. Period."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Iran back in business


Iran's Natanz nuclear facility recovered quickly from Stuxnet cyberattack

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, February 16, 2011; 12:00 AM

VIENNA - In an underground chamber near the Iranian city of Natanz, a network of surveillance cameras offers the outside world a rare glimpse into Iran's largest nuclear facility. The cameras were installed by U.N. inspectors to keep tabs on Iran's nuclear progress, but last year they recorded something unexpected: workers hauling away crate after crate of broken equipment.

In a six-month period between late 2009 and last spring, U.N. officials watched in amazement as Iran dismantled more than 10 percent of the Natanz plant's 9,000 centrifuge machines used to enrich uranium. Then, just as remarkably, hundreds of new machines arrived at the plant to replace the ones that were lost.

The story told by the video footage is a shorthand recounting of the most significant cyberattack to date on a nuclear installation. Records of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, show Iran struggling to cope with a major equipment failure just at the time its main uranium enrichment plant was under attack by a computer worm known as Stuxnet, according to Europe-based diplomats familiar with the records.

But the IAEA's files also show a feverish - and apparently successful - effort by Iranian scientists to contain the damage and replace broken parts, even while constrained by international sanctions banning Iran from purchasing nuclear equipment. An IAEA report due for release this month is expected to show steady or even slightly elevated production rates at the Natanz enrichment plant over the past year.

"They have been able to quickly replace broken machines," said a Western diplomat with access to confidential IAEA reports. Despite the setbacks, "the Iranians appeared to be working hard to maintain a constant, stable output" of low-enriched uranium, said the official, who like other diplomats interviewed for this article insisted on anonymity to discuss the results of the U.N. watchdog's data collection.

The IAEA's findings, combined with new analysis of the Stuxnet worm by independent experts, offer a mixed portrait of the mysterious cyberattack that briefly shut down parts of Iran's nuclear infrastructure last year. The new reports shed light on the design of the worm and how it spread through a string of Iranian companies before invading the control systems of Iran's most sensitive nuclear installations.

But they also put a spotlight on the effectiveness of the attack in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. A draft report by Washington-based nuclear experts concludes that the net impact was relatively minor.

"While it has delayed the Iranian centrifuge program at the Natanz plant in 2010 and contributed to slowing its expansion, it did not stop it or even delay the continued buildup of low-enriched uranium," the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said in the draft, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post.

The worm's effect

The ISIS report acknowledges that the worm may have undercut Iran's nuclear program in ways that cannot be easily quantified. While scientists were able to replace the broken centrifuge machines this time, Iran is thought to have finite supplies of certain kinds of high-tech metals needed to make the machines, ISIS concluded. In addition, the worm almost certainly exacted a psychological toll, as Iran's leaders discovered that their most sensitive nuclear facility had been penetrated by a computer worm whose designers possessed highly detailed knowledge of Natanz's centrifuges and how they are interconnected, said David Albright, a co-author of the report.

"If nothing else, it hit their confidence," said Albright, ISIS's president, "and it will make them feel more vulnerable in the future."

The creator of the Stuxnet computer malware remains unknown. Many computer security experts suspect that U.S. and Israeli intelligence operatives were behind the cyberattack, but government officials in the United States and Israel have acknowledged only that Iran's nuclear program appears to have suffered technical setbacks in recent months.

While Israel's government has previously said Iran was on the brink of acquiring a bomb, the country's outgoing intelligence chief estimated last month that the Islamic republic could not have a bomb before 2015. Other intelligence agencies have said Iran could obtain nuclear weapons in less than a year if it kicks out U.N. inspectors and launches a crash program. Iran denies it is seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

Stuxnet was discovered this summer by computer security companies that eventually documented its spread to tens of thousands of computers on three continents. While the worm appears to spread easily, an analysis of its coding revealed that it was harmless to most systems.

The computer security firm Symantec, which authored several detailed studies of the malware, found that Stuxnet was designed to target types of computers known as programmable logic controllers, or PLCs, used in certain kinds of industrial processes.

Moreover, the worm activates itself only when it detects the precise array of equipment that exists in Iran's uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz. The underground plant contains thousands of centrifuges, machines that spin at supersonic speeds to create low-enriched uranium, which is used to make fuel for nuclear power plants. With further processing, the machines can produce the highly enriched uranium used in nuclear bombs.

Stuxnet followed a circuitous route to Natanz, according to an analysis by Symantec. Initially it targeted computer systems at five Iranian companies with no direct ties to Iran's nuclear program. Then it spread, computer to computer, until it landed in the centrifuge plant.

Once inside the enrichment plant, Stuxnet essentially hijacked the plant's control system, causing the centrifuges to spin so rapidly that they began to break. At the same time, the malware fed false signals to the plant's computer system so the operators thought the machines were working normally, Symantec's experts found.

ISIS and Symantec analysts concluded that the Natanz facility was attacked twice by the worm, once in late 2009 and again in the spring. By autumn, when Iranian officials confirmed the attack, the damage was so severe that the plant had to be briefly shut down.

"An electronic war has been launched against Iran," said Mahmoud Liaii, director of the Information Technology Council of the Ministry of Industries and Mines.

As the attack was underway, IAEA inspectors were able to gauge its effectiveness by counting the carcasses of damaged centrifuges being hauled out of the facility. Under an agreement with the Tehran government, the watchdog agency is allowed to operate a network of surveillance cameras aimed at each of the plant's portals, to guard against possible nuclear cheating by Iran. Any equipment that passes through the doors is captured on video, and IAEA inspectors arrive later to eyeball each item.

Machines leaving plant

Iran's centrifuges are notoriously unreliable, but over a few months last year the flow of broken machines leaving the plant spiked, far beyond normal levels. Two European diplomats with access to the agency's files put the number at 900 to 1,000.

IAEA inspectors who examined the machines could not ascertain why the centrifuges had failed. Iranian officials told the agency they were replacing machines that had been idled for several months and needed refurbishing. Whatever the reason, the plant's managers worked frantically to replace each piece of equipment they removed, the two European diplomats confirmed.

"They were determined that the IAEA's reports would not show any drop in production," one of the diplomats said.

While U.S. officials declined to comment on the major equipment failure at Natanz, the speed of Iran's apparent recovery from its technical setbacks did not go unnoticed. "They have overcome some of the obstacles, in some cases through sheer application of resources," said U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies, Washington's representative to the IAEA in Vienna. "There's clearly a very substantial political commitment."

Still far from clear is whether Iran has truly beaten the malware. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a November statement acknowledging the attack, said the worm had been quickly contained and eliminated. But independent analysts are not as sure.

Albright and other nuclear experts discounted news reports suggesting that the worm posed a serious safety threat to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant. But the ISIS and Symantec reports noted that parts of the malware's operating code appeared to be unfinished, and Stuxnet has been updated with new instructions at least once since its release.

IAEA inspectors were unable to determine whether Iran's efforts to erase the worm from its equipment had succeeded, raising the possibility of subsequent attacks.

Albright said it was possible that the Natanz facility could become infected a second time, since so many computers in Iran - an estimated 60,000 or more - are known to have been affected. But he questioned whether the worm's limited success so far justifies the use of a tactic that will probably provoke retaliation.

"Stuxnet is now a model code for all to copy and modify to attack other industrial facilities," Albright wrote in the ISIS report. "Its discovery likely increased the risk of similar cyberattacks against the United States and its allies."
Iran: The Narrowing of Options Continues

J. E. Dyer 02.14.2011 - 7:13 PM

In a superb article posted today at the Heritage Foundation website, CONTENTIONS regular Ted Bromund and James Phillips outline the costs and difficulties of containing a nuclear Iran. An alternate title for their piece might be “The Unlikelihood of Containing a Nuclear Iran.” Their analysis suggests this conclusion: if we accept the containment course because it looks easier and more convenient, there will be little difference between the approach we’re using now to keep Iran denuclearized and what we would do to contain an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. The success of our strategy to date is a good indicator of how well containment would work.

The timing of the article is excellent. One of the key factors in our strategy for either of the two objectives — discouraging nuclearization or containing Iran if that doesn’t work — is maintaining a web of alliances that encircles Iran and enables us to execute options like sanctions or military action. In that regard, facts on the ground have had a negative trend in the past year. The Persian Gulf nations from which the U.S. might operate strike aircraft have been hedging their bets with Iran and announcing their policies against such U.S. operations. Regional assistance with sanctions enforcement has been selective, intermittent, and alibi-filled; there is little sentiment among Iran’s nearest neighbors for good-faith efforts beyond the letter of the UN resolutions.

As change permeates the Arab world, the geographic posture from which to execute tougher policies against Iran is likely to erode further. This needn’t be inevitable, but given the trend of U.S. policy, it’s probable. Last week, the Saudis accepted a remarkably timed and unprecedented port visit by Iranian warships in the Red Sea, a move that followed the earlier — equally unprecedented — visit of Chinese warships to Jeddah in late November 2010.

The Saudis’ new ecumenism in naval relations has yet to result in a resumption of the U.S. port visits that were once relatively common, before the attacks on the U.S. barracks in Dhahran in 1996 and on USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. The shift in the Saudi posture, meanwhile, adds a new wrinkle to the narrowing of America’s options against Iran. Israel’s options are being narrowed as well. In the past month, the Saudi cost-benefit calculation for allowing Israel to use Saudi air space has tilted toward the cost side.

The IDF’s option to send ships and submarines through the Suez Canal has also taken a hit with Mubarak’s ouster. Three years ago, Israel might reasonably have anticipated coordinating a sea-based campaign with air routes through Jordan and Saudi Arabia or through Turkey. Today all three approaches have been rendered either impossible or much less probable due to the political shifts in the intervening years. Conventional attack options are being squeezed out for both the U.S. and Israel — which should focus our thinking wonderfully on the benefits of popular regime-change in Iran.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

J Street invites pro BDS advocate

Of Course: J Street to Host Pro-BDS Speakers
Omri Ceren - 02.10.2011 - 8:24 AM
I hesitate to do a full post on this group — CONTENTIONS contributor Noah Pollak is right to call J Street a very marginal left-wing fringe group — but this latest dispatch is so sophomoric that it kind of begs to be blogged. I’m also genuinely curious about the excuses that J Street leaders trot out for their anti-Israel agitation. I’m never sure whether they have so little self-awareness that they think they’re being clever, or whether they think their cultists are dumb enough to accept barely coherent pretexts as the height of sophistication:

Among the more controversial speakers is Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voices for Peace, which advocates the use of BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) against Israel. BDS has been roundly condemned in the mainstream Jewish community because it serves to demonize and deligitimize Israel. J Street, too, opposes BDS, noted Ben-Ami, who said he is not concerned that the appearance of Vilkomerson might legitimize BDS. Rather, she was invited to air her views, he explained, so that conference attendees who might be “tempted” to embrace BDS will think otherwise after they see its moral and tactical failings exposed in debate. (Vilkomerson is scheduled to appear Feb. 28 on a panel along with three opponents of BDS.) [emphasis added]

Friday, February 4, 2011

Apologies to Congr. Alan West

Dear Congressman Alan West,

I want to apologize to you on behalf of the many members of the Rabbinical Assembly who do not support the criticism of you about Congressman Ellison. The majority of the rabbinical Assembly was NEVER CONSULTED before this criticism was made and many members of the Rabbinical assembly disavow that complaint and stand with you. While perhaps, as you recognize, your rhetoric was over the top about Islam if it was reported correctly, you clearly stated in your response to to Gaddy, Moline, Saperstein and Walker’s letter:

“I am neither anti-Muslim nor anti-Islam,” West writes them in response. “I respect every religion, and the Constitutionally-protected right to practice that faith in a peaceful manner.”

Attempting to explain his comments about Rep. Ellison, West states that he is concerned with the “radical jihadist movement” within Islam, and accuses the Council on American-Islamic Relations of being one of a few American groups “that masquerade as more peaceful moderates” while supporting that movement.

“My comments in regards to my colleague, Representative Keith Ellison, are not about his Islamic faith, but about his continued support of CAIR,” West writes.

Many of us see the great danger and support you in your efforts to identify it. We so appreciate your amazing support for the USA's best ally Israel and are sad so many Rabbis can't see the forest throught he trees.

Evidence of Ellison's extreemism and danger to USA
'Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison's groundbreaking pilgrimage to Mecca last month was paid for by an American Muslim organization that has ties to Islamic radicals and is "the Muslim equivalent of the neo-Nazi party," his critics say."It is the de facto arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S.," said Steven Emerson, director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "The agenda of the MAS is to ... impose Islamic law in the U.S., to undermine U.S. counterterrorism policy."

The MAS was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Islamist movement created in Egypt in 1928. Radical members of the Brotherhood founded the terror group Hamas and were among the first members of Al Qaeda.

The Muslim American Society's former secretary general has acknowledged that the group was founded by the Brotherhood, and in 2004 he estimated that about half of MAS members were in the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Ikhwan [Brotherhood] members founded MAS, but MAS went way beyond that point of conception," Shaker Elsayed told the Chicago Tribune, explaining that the group had expanded to include a wider viewpoint.

The Department of Justice has never taken action against MAS and declined to comment on whether it was investigating the group's ties.

"As a general rule, the Justice Department does not comment on whether or not a particular group or individual is under investigation or has been under investigation," said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for DOJ.

Keith Ellison, widely hailed as America's first Muslim congressman, could more accurately be described as CAIR and Hamas' man in Congress. Congressman Ellison has been a regular presence at CAIR fundraisers and at pro-Hamas rallies in the United States. As a former member of Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, Ellison has enough anti-semitic and Islamist credentials to satisfy anyone, and had expressed openly anti-semitic beliefs in the past.

Since Ellison got his start with CAIR , his attempt to provide support for Hamas is completely unsurprising. Both Hamas and CAIR are projects of the Muslim Brotherhood, which also helped birth Al Queda. Organizations like CAIR do the same work in America that Hamas does in Israel. The difference is that CAIR does its work on a political level, while Hamas functions on both a political and a military level. Like CAIR, Ellison is careful to cloak his pro-Hamas agenda, which he does by mentioning that all violence is wrong and that Israelis probably shouldn't be shelled-- but the thrust of his agenda is to force Israel to open its border with Hamas.

The other Muslim in Congress is Nation of Islasm/Farakkan backed Andre Carson of Indy who slid into the seat when his grandmother, the incumbent Congressswoman, died.