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Monday, December 29, 2008

Hamas's Strategy: The Rockets or the Media

By Barry Rubin
December 29, 2008
Nothing is clearer than Hamas's strategy. It gives Israel the choice between rockets and media, and Hamas thinks it is a situation of, "We win or you lose."Option A: The CeasefireHamas ends a ceasefire giving it the peace and quiet needed to build up its army and consolidate its rule over the Gaza Strip. Israel would deliver supplies as long as there weren't attacks. From a Western-style pragmatic standpoint this is a great situation.But Hamas isn't a Western-style pragmatic organization. Peace and quiet is its enemy not only because of its ideology--the deity commands it to destroy Israel--or its self-image--as heroic martyrs--but also because battle is needed to recruit the masses for permanent war and unite the population around it.Hamas has no program of improving the well-being of the people or educating children to be doctors, teachers, and engineers. Its platform has but one plank: war, war, endless war, sacrifice, heroism, and martyrdom until total victory is achieved.Thus, it ends the ceasefire.Option B: The RocketsAnd so Hamas ends the ceasefire and rains rockets down on Israel, accompanied by mortars and the occasional attempt at a cross-border ground attack. Israel does nothing.Hamas crows: you are weak, you are confused, your are helpless. Come, people, arise and destroy the paper tiger! And so more people are recruited, West Bank Palestinians look on with admiration at those fighting the enemy, and the Arabic-speaking world is impressed.Remember 2006, they say. It is just like Hizballah. Israel is helpless against the rockets. Why don't our governments fight Israel? Let's overthrow them and bring brave, fighting Islamist governments to power.Option C: The MediaBut then Israel does fight back. Its planes bomb military targets which have been deliberately put amidst civilians. If there is a high danger of hitting civilians, Israel doesn't attack. But there is a line below which risk that will be taken, and rightly so.The smug smiles are wiped off the faces of Hamas leaders. Yet they have one more weapon, their reserves, they call up the media.Those arrogant, heroic, macho victors of yesterday--literally yesterday as the process takes only a few hours--are transformed into pitiful victims. Casualty figures are announced by Hamas, and accepted by reporters who are not on the spot. Everyone hit is, of course, a civilian. No soldiers here.And the casualties are disproportionate: Hamas has arranged it that way. If necessary, sympathetic photographers take pictures of children who pretend to be injured, and once they are published in Western newspapers these claims become fact.Yet there is a problem here. Rockets and mortars may win wars; newspaper articles really don't. Of course, too, material damage is inflicted that sets back Gaza's material development.Hamas doesn't care about that, but by acting in a way to ensure the destruction of their material base, Hamas does weaken itself. Precisely because Israeli attacks are focussed on military targets, Hamas is weakened.Conclusion: The problem with no solutionOf course, Israel does not win a complete victory. Hamas does not fall. The problem is not gone. For Hamas will define survival as victory. Hamas, like the PLO before it, wins one "victory" after another and always ends up worse off.The conflict will be back, however it ends this round, on whatever day it ends. Quiet will return, the supplies will flow back into Gaza. And so many months in the future the process will be repeated.There is, however, an important difference. Israel uses its time not only for military preparations but to educate its children, build its infrastructure, raise its living standards. Hamas doesn't."We believe in death," Hamas says, "You believe in life."Be careful what you wish for, you will get it.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, P.O. Box 167, Herzliya, 46150, Israel Email: info AT - Phone: +972-9-960-2736 - Fax: +972-9-960-2736 © 2007 All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How my eyes were opened to the barbarity of Islam

Is it racist to condemn fanaticism?
Phyllis Chesler

Once I was held captive in Kabul. I was the bride of a charming, seductive and Westernised Afghan Muslim whom I met at an American college.
The purdah I experienced was relatively posh but the sequestered all-female life was not my cup of chai — nor was the male hostility to veiled, partly veiled and unveiled women in public.
When we landed in Kabul, an airport official smoothly confiscated my US passport. "Don’t worry, it’s just a formality," my husband assured me. I never saw that passport again. I later learnt that this was routinely done to foreign wives — perhaps to make it impossible for them to leave. Overnight, my husband became a stranger. The man with whom I had discussed Camus, Dostoevsky, Tennessee Williams and the Italian cinema became a stranger. He treated me the same way his father and elder brother treated their wives: distantly, with a hint of disdain and embarrassment.
In our two years together, my future husband had never once mentioned that his father had three wives and 21 children. Nor did he tell me that I would be expected to live as if I had been reared as an Afghan woman. I was supposed to lead a largely indoor life among women, to go out only with a male escort and to spend my days waiting for my husband to return or visiting female relatives, or having new (and very fashionable) clothes made.
In America, my husband was proud that I was a natural-born rebel and free thinker. In Afghanistan, my criticism of the treatment of women and of the poor rendered him suspect, vulnerable. He mocked my horrified reactions. But I knew what my eyes and ears told me. I saw how poor women in chadaris were forced to sit at the back of the bus and had to keep yielding their place on line in the bazaar to any man.

I saw how polygamous, arranged marriages and child brides led to chronic female suffering and to rivalry between co-wives and half-brothers; how the subordination and sequestration of women led to a profound estrangement between the sexes — one that led to wife-beating, marital rape and to a rampant but hotly denied male "prison"-like homosexuality and pederasty; how frustrated, neglected and uneducated women tormented their daughter-in-laws and female servants; how women were not allowed to pray in mosques or visit male doctors (their husbands described the symptoms in their absence).
Individual Afghans were enchantingly courteous — but the Afghanistan I knew was a bastion of illiteracy, poverty, treachery and preventable diseases.
It was also a police state, a feudal monarchy and a theocracy, rank with fear and paranoia. Afghanistan had never been colonised. My relatives said: "Not even the British could occupy us." Thus I was forced to conclude that Afghan barbarism was of their own making and could not be attributed to Western imperialism.
Long before the rise of the Taleban, I learnt not to romanticise Third World countries or to confuse their hideous tyrants with liberators. I also learnt that sexual and religious apartheid in Muslim countries is indigenous and not the result of Western crimes — and that such "colourful tribal customs" are absolutely, not relatively, evil. Long before al-Qaeda beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan and Nicholas Berg in Iraq, I understood that it was dangerous for a Westerner, especially a woman, to live in a Muslim country. In retrospect, I believe my so-called Western feminism was forged in that most beautiful and treacherous of Eastern countries.
Nevertheless, Western intellectual-ideologues, including feminists, have demonised me as a reactionary and racist "Islamophobe" for arguing that Islam, not Israel, is the largest practitioner of both sexual and religious apartheid in the world and that if Westerners do not stand up to this apartheid, morally, economically and militarily, we will not only have the blood of innocents on our hands; we will also be overrun by Sharia in the West. I have been heckled, menaced, never-invited, or disinvited for such heretical ideas — and for denouncing the epidemic of Muslim-on-Muslim violence for which tiny Israel is routinely, unbelievably scapegoated.
However, my views have found favour with the bravest and most enlightened people alive. Leading secular Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents — from Egypt, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria and exiles from Europe and North America — assembled for the landmark Islamic Summit Conference in Florida and invited me to chair the opening panel on Monday.
According to the chair of the meeting, Ibn Warraq: "What we need now is an age of enlightenment in the Islamic world. Without critical examination of Islam, it will remain dogmatic, fanatical and intolerant and will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality, originality and truth." The conference issued a declaration calling for such a new "Enlightenment". The declaration views "Islamophobia" as a false allegation, sees a "noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine" and "demands the release of Islam from its captivity to the ambitions of power-hungry men".
Now is the time for Western intellectuals who claim to be antiracists and committed to human rights to stand with these dissidents. To do so requires that we adopt a universal standard of human rights and abandon our loyalty to multicultural relativism, which justifies, even romanticises, indigenous Islamist barbarism, totalitarian terrorism and the persecution of women, religious minorities, homosexuals and intellectuals. Our abject refusal to judge between civilisation and barbarism, and between enlightened rationalism and theocratic fundamentalism, endangers and condemns the victims of Islamic tyranny.

Ibn Warraq has written a devastating work that will be out by the summer. It is entitled Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism. Will Western intellectuals also dare to defend the West?

Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the City University of New York

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Report: U.S. choppers attack targets inside Syria?

Our Deepest appreciation to Hot Air Blog and AllahPundit for this excellent reporting:

Report: U.S. choppers attack targets inside Syria?

So say local witnesses and, er, Syrian state media.

Bush surely realizes how much mileage Democrats will get from painting this as a contrived October surprise and an example of Republican “warmongering,” so if — if — it’s true, something mighty interesting must have been going on in that village to make him pull the trigger.
Local residents in a Syrian border town said that American forces killed seven men in a helicopter-borne commando attack inside Syrian territory. State-run TV later raised the number of dead to nine.
Doctors in the town of Al-Sukkariya, some eight kilometres from the Iraqi border, said seven corpses and four wounded had been delivered to a nearby clinic after the attack.
The eyewitness accounts said that four helicopters were involved in the operation, with two of the helicopters landing in the town and eight American soldiers disembarking. The eyewitnesses said that the seven killed men were supposedly construction workers.
Afterwards, the US helicopters then left Syrian airspace with all the soldiers again on board.
A U.S. spokesman in Baghdad says the military’s investigating. JPost notes that the site of the attack is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which jihadis used as a way station for years to enter the country, so there’s your potential motive. Why we felt obliged to cross the border now, though, when we were content to respect Syrian sovereignty even during the worst days of the insurgency isn’t clear to me. I sent an e-mail to Bill Roggio asking him if he thinks it’s plausible; stand by for updates when he responds. For what it’s worth, an Israeli security correspondent tells Sky News he thinks it probably was Americans and that they were likely after Al Qaeda. The immediate question will be why Bush felt he had to act now as opposed to, say, a week from Wednesday.
Worth noting: U.S. soldiers in Iraq have been impersonated by enemy fighters before, to devastating effect. Although if they’re impersonators, it leaves open the not so minor matter of where they got the choppers and where, precisely, the attack was staged from.
Exit question: If they were targeting an AQI safehouse, why put men on the ground to “storm a building,” as the BBC report puts it? Why not just send a missile down the chimney, Waziristan style? Clearly they were looking for someone.
Update: The only two people I can think of who might justify an operation in Syria are al-Masri, the leader of AQI, and Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who’s long been rumored to be hiding out there. Roggio will have other guesses, certainly. A snatch and grab operation of some high-ranking insurgent would explain why boots were on the ground and why they felt they had to act now, even with the election so near. Short of that, the only explanation I can come up with is that there was some sort of cargo in transit that simply had to be seized and secured, even at the risk of casualties.
Update: Roggio to the rescue. He thinks it’s plausible and that al-Masri was the likely target.
The raid occurred close to the main border crossing point between Iraq and Syria. Al Qaeda declared an Islamic Emirate in Al Qaim right along the Iraqi border during the spring of 2005. Al Qaeda terrorized the local tribes and attempted to institute a Taliban-like rule. Al Qaim was the main infiltration route into Iraq until US Marines and Iraqi troops launched a campaign to dislodge al Qaeda from the region.
The US has neither confirmed nor denied the operation took place. If the attack occurred, it would have been carried out by Task Force 88, the special operations hunt-killer teams assigned to target al Qaeda operatives as well as Shia terrorists in Iraq…
The US military may be closing in on al Qaeda’s senior leadership. US forces killed Abu Qaswarah, al Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command, during a raid in Mosul in northern Iraq on Oct. 15. The military has also killed and captured numerous al Qaeda leader and couriers over the past several weeks. The information obtained during these raids help to paint a picture of al Qaeda’s command structure inside of of Iraq as well as in neighboring countries.
Update: More plausible by the minute: “The Syrian report comes just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq told reporters that American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he said was an ‘uncontrolled’ gateway for fighters entering Iraq.”

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Rev Leslie Hardman , OBM

If anyone addressed Leslie Hardman as "rabbi" they were sure to hear about it — from Hardman himself. He always styled himself "the Rev". He was an Orthodox Jewish minister of what is now a very old school, learned, cultured and tolerant.
He did have a rabbinical ordination, but the title of "Rev", which has now gone completely out of fashion, somehow suited him better. And he had one qualification to use it that was unique: he was the British Army chaplain who went in with the troops who liberated the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
Hardman was 32 at the time, and it was an experience that moulded his life for ever after. For 60 years after driving into the camp reeking of the thousands of emaciated dead bodies — and the barely alive — around him, he suffered nightmares which he never learnt to shake off.
He was minister (another title now gone into abeyance) for 35 years of one of London’s leading Jewish congregations, one of the most popular men to occupy a pulpit in the capital. But it was his own experience of the Holocaust that made him a public figure, both within his community and outside it.
When BBC television produced a special, The Relief of Belsen, in 2007, his part was played by an actor. Hardman never saw the programme but he was glad that there was emphasis on the suffering of the inmates. "One member of my congregation complained that I was seen in it without a kippar \. Can you imagine that? There I was, burying thousands of bodies, and all this man cared about was that I wasn’t wearing a hat."
That statement alone indicated how different he was from the Orthodox colleagues who followed him.
Leslie Hardman was born in Glynneath, South Wales, in 1913 into one of the dozens of immigrant families who went to live in the valleys and worked as small traders. He was a small boy when the family moved to Liverpool, where he attended — he always spoke about it proudly as though he were recalling days at Eton or Harrow — the Hope Street Jewish School. It was round the corner, he liked to say, to Hardman Street. "No connection to my family," he would insist.
He attended a yeshivah or religious seminary and then Leeds University, where he took his BA and then MA. He married in 1936, two years after becoming minister of the Jewish community at St Anne’s, where he was also the ritual slaughterer. From there he took a ministerial appointment in Leeds.
In 1942 he joined the Army as a chaplain. It was on April 15, 1945, that the formative event of his life occurred. He later described how he was told to report to the colonel. He said: "We have uncovered a concentration camp. It is horrible, ghastly, sickening. Most of the inmates are your people. You should go there now. They need you."
As Hardman said, he had never felt more needed in his life. He immediately set about trying to bring comfort to the survivors and then saying the memorial prayer, the Kaddish, over the dead as he tried to persuade the bulldozer drivers who were thrusting the bodies into a pit to bury them with some kind of dignity.
The amazing thing, he recalled, was the effect his uniform had on the inmates. "They saw the Star of David on my cap and my tunic and they at first couldn’t understand it. Then, they regarded me as a kind of messiah."
One woman who was so emaciated that he at first found it difficult to be with her, begged him not to leave her. He recalled that he spent an hour talking to her in Yiddish before conducting prayers, the first they had heard for years.
He was featured in the radio report of the Belsen liberation by Richard Dimbleby. In it he was heard singing a hymn with two women. One of them died almost immediately after the recording was made.
The whole of life experience was there before his eyes. He initiated Jewish babies born in the camp as well as burying those who died. He even conducted the marriage of an inmate and the British sergeant who had liberated her.
Hardman spent the next half century or more speaking about his experiences at Belsen.
"Far too many people have got away," he would say. "They have hardly scratched the surface of the enormity of this evil."
At one time he went on record saying that he had lost his faith at Belsen, an astonishing confession from a rabbi. He later amended that: "I didn’t lose my faith, but some of the words of the prayers I said at Belsen stuck in my throat. I couldn’t understand how the God I worshipped could permit this."
When the 50th anniversary of the liberation was marked with a service at the Ravensbrück camp, it was Hardman, then in his mid-eighties, who was invited to conduct the service. He was called on by American organisations to speak at numerous conferences. At one, rabbis there presented him with an American rabbinical certificate, a presentation which had been denied him by Jews College, the principal Jewish theological college in London, "for political reasons," he would say.
The lack of that certificate did not prevent his being appointed minister of the Hendon Synagogue in 1947, where he stayed until his retirement in 1982. He then was made emeritus minister — at about the same time that he was appointed MBE.
From the time of his appointment at Hendon, he wore a small beard — but at first even a dog collar — and was recognised throughout the religious establishment as being a man learned in Jewish law. But he had his own ideas about what Orthodoxy should stand for.
He supported the case of Rabbi Louis Jacobs, who, after a dispute with the then Chief Rabbi, Sir Israel Brodie, was the subject of what was almost a schism in the Orthodox community in 1964. Jacobs had been refused the post of Principal of Jews College and then of minister to the prestigious New West End Synagogue in London and as a result set up his own synagogue in St John’s Wood.
Hardman, however, stayed within the umbrella United Synagogue movement. But he did not agree with much that the United Synagogue regarded as paramount in the Jewish faith. He believed that anyone converted to Judaism by a competent rabbi should be regarded as Jewish, even though the Beth Din, the Chief Rabbi’s court, demanded that converts keep to the minutiae of Jewish law.
He also said there needed to be greater tolerance of Jews who marry out of the faith. "I will not accept the term, ‘marrying out’," he declared. "So many people who marry non-Jews still regard themselves as Jewish, and that should be respected. It is why I think that the Reform and Conservative movements, who do respect that, should be praised."
Hardman’s wife of 71 years, Josi, died in 2007. One daughter predeceased them both and another daughter survives him.
Leslie Hardman, MBE, rabbi, was born on February 18, 1913. He died on October 7, 2008, aged 95

Saturday, September 27, 2008

AP Blames Israel For Making Palestinians Want to Destroy It

Barry Rubin
September 26, 2008

In an article of September 20, Ali Daraghmeh, "Army says troops kill Palestinian with firebomb," there is a long discussion of the current state of the peace process.Let's be clear: virtually nobody in Israel who is not speaking as an official government spokesman believes that there is any chance that there will be a peace soon with the Palestinians.
The great majority of them place most or all the blame on the Palestinians. In addition, most people in political life who would say publicly that there is a chance for peace have the opposite view in private conversations.
These two points, which hold true across the political spectrum except for the far left--doubts about the process and blame on the Palestinians--never appear in coverage. Never, ever. Yet these are the two most important facts about the most over-covered issue in the world.
Articles lately will say that the deadline will probably not be met, but present that as sort of an accident or due to Israel's fault--the fall of the government.
This article, like so many others, gives a lot of space to Palestinian viewpoints and none to Israeli viewpoints. In this case:"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, warned that time for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is quickly running out."
It then quotes a Mahmoud Abbas op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal blaming, "Israel's continued settlement expansion and land confiscation in the West Bank makes physical separation of our two peoples increasingly impossible." Actually both settlement growth and land confiscation (pretty much exclusively for the separation fence and often reversed by Israeli courts) is pretty limited.Another really long article is dedicated to proving that Israel is destroying any chance for peace, basically serving as a Palestinian propaganda statement. This article, Steven Gutkin, "Palestinians despairing of independence effort, September 20, 2008, basically says that the nice Palestinians really want peace but Israel won't give it to them. As a result, the frustrated Palestinians may have to resort to violence.
Well who could blame them under these conditions, right?Here's the lead:"Prominent Palestinians are lighting a fire under Israel's feet by proposing a peace in which there would be no separate Palestine and Israel, but a single state with equal rights for all."So let's ask some questions.
The Palestinians use the phrase about lighting fires as a code word for terrorist violence, though the American reader will understand it here as sort of, urging Israel to move forward. Is a Palestinian demand for Israel to disappear and millions of Palestinians to be allowed to live there a peace proposal? And does anyone take seriously the idea of equal rights for all, a phrase taken from the U.S. Supreme Court building?In the next paragraph though we are told that it is not just a single state with equal rights for all but a "binational" state, which is sort of like creating the perfect conditions for daily violence and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Maybe, the article continues, this is "little more than a Palestinian pressure tactic fed by frustration over the failure of talks on a two-state solution, but it has set Israeli leaders on edge."My, my. Now why would it set them on edge, it seems so harmless, sort of like how things work in America? Oh, right, it is a binational state that would include radical Islamists and radical nationalists who have been murdering Israelis for decades."Such a merger of Israel with the West Bank and Gaza Strip would quickly result in the Jews being outnumbered by the faster-growing Arab population. For most Israelis it would result in a nightmare choice: Give the Arabs full voting rights and lose Israel's Jewish character, or deny them equality and be branded an apartheid state."You think?But even in the above paragraph which pretends to explain Israel's point of view a key point is left out: Palestinians have never abandoned their goal of replacing Israel with a Palestinian Arab Muslim state.
It isn't something new. And the idea of using a "binational" state as an interim step in that direction has been around for 35 years.
Instead, we are told that this "idea is gathering important Palestinian adherents," as if up until now they have been in favor of an end to the conflict, permanent peaceful coexistence, and the resettlement of Palestinians in a Palestine state. Note that their refusal to accept such things was critical in the collapse of the "peace process" in 2000 at and after Camp David and has been the continued cause of inability to achieve a diplomatic solution since.
The rest of this extremely long article repeats the false themes of Palestinians just yearning for peace but being forced, unwillingly, to demand Israel cease to exist.On another front, the AP finds room for a very long article by George Jahn, "Diplomats: Syria passes 1st test of nuclear probe," September 20.
The article uses a dozen paragraphs to clear Syria of any guilt for having been engaged in an effort to build a nuclear facility to produce materials for gaining atomic weapons.
Note that this is a leak, not an official report, and even then proves nothing. It was immediately pointed out, for example, that the Syrians had been working on the site and might well have removed or buried the evidence.
Now, however, hundreds of thousands of readers will say: Ah, so that attack on Syria was about nothing, then, and the Syrians were victims.Just like the Palestinians.
And, it would be far more true to say, just like the people who read these stories.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fifty First Negotiations

Barry Rubin

August 7, 2008

For those who don't know, "Fifty First Dates" is a comedy film undistinguished except by its brilliant premise. It describes the dilemma of a man in love with a woman who has short-term memory loss. Each day she forgets she has ever met him and he must start the relationship all over again from the beginning. No matter how kind, funny, or romantic he is it doesn't really matter. Like Sisyphus in the legend, he has to roll the boulder up the mountain from the bottom and never--at least until the Hollywood-style happy ending--gets to the top.
Actually, I don't know if he succeeds since I lost interest before the end. Even if I knew, why should I ruin the film for you?
But I realize this situation is a great parallel for the Middle East. People constant urge negotiating with Syria or with Iran, as if this has never happened before, or it just wasn't done right, or not enough concessions were offered. We are supposed to believe that success is just around the corner, and as people say before they gamble away their life savings: What can you lose by trying? But what about all the other times this has been tried and failed? Are these simply forgotten by people with systematic memory loss?
How about the numerous visits of U.S. secretaries of state to Syria which failed to get Damascus to stop cooperating with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (before 2003) or stop helping terrorists murder American soldiers and Iraqis in Iraq (after 2003), or close the offices of terrorist groups in Damascus, or make peace with Israel .
What about the ten year (ten year!) effort in the 1990s, pursued mainly by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat (yeah!) not an "evil Republican" to bring Syria into the peace process and to make peace between the Palestinians and Israel?
Remember how the Syrians made a fool out of Secretary of State Colin Powell who assured American journalists that Syria had already closed the terrorist offices in Damascus on one occasion and had already closed the oil pipeline to Iraq on another only to realize he had been conned?
I have actually heard Powell speak recently about what a success his diplomacy was. As if that weren't enough, I also heard former Secretary of State James Baker in a radio interview speak of his attempt to get the terrorist offices closed as a success, even though they are still open 18 years later!
How about the bait and switch tricks President Bashar al-Asad pulled on French President Francois Sarkozy regarding negotiations over Lebanon?
Sarkozy sent high-ranking officials to Syria without preconditions; had officials falsely deny Syrian involvement in a 1983 terror attack against French peacekeeping soldiers in Lebanon; asked Bashar to mediate with Iran; dropped demands that Syria normalize relations with Lebanon; begged--rather than demanded--Asad show some sign of respecting human rights; and pushed forward a highly profitable EU association agreement with Syria despite that country's failing to meet earlier demands for reform.
On every point, Bashar let Sarkozy down yet this did not lead to a learning of lessons. Indeed, Sarkozy had forgotten what experience had taught his predecessor Jacques Chirac by 2006, that "the regime of Bashar seems incompatible with security and peace." It's bad enough not to go forward, even worse to go backword.
And then there are those gullible American members of Congress, notably Senator Arlen Specter, who said Bashar promised them to free political prisoners only to discover he had arrested even more?
Regarding Iran the situation is even worse. For about five years European states--led by Britain, France, and Germany--have negotiated with Iran over the nuclear weapon program only to find Tehran:
Lied to them.
Broke commitments.
Ignored deadlines.
Obviously, systematic memory loss is the only explanation.
I, however, have a solution. Every politician who wants to negotiate with Iran and Syria (or the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Hizballah, or Muslim Brotherhoods for that matter) must sign the following pledge:

I ___________________ __ prime minister __ president __ foreign minister __ secretary of state __ member of parliament/congress
Of ____________; Fill in name of countryHereby promise that if I bargain with this ___ name of country or ___ name of terrorist groupAnd it __ treats me like dirt __ lies to me __ breaks commitments __ ignore deadlines __ murders my friends or allies __ all of the above
I solemnly pledge that if I try and fail in negotiations, and especially if I make concessions in exchange for promises not fulfilled, I will learn my lesson, understand that these forces are extremist enemies, honestly inform my people of this fact, and treat the said regime or terrorist group accordingly in future.
If I do not do so let my popularity fall below zero, my campaign treasury be empty, my secret diary fall into the hostile media's hands,
Fill in Title and Name

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, P.O. Box 167, Herzliya, 46150, Israel Email: info AT - Phone: +972-9-960-2736 - Fax: +972-9-960-2736 © 2007 All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

G_d Bless Earl Krugel

I don't know if there is a G_d, or what he is like, but if there is such a being, and he cares, and he cares for those who protect the Children of Israel, then I know where my dear chaver, Earl Krugel is, tonight.
He gave his life for the Jewish People.
We will never forget him.
Baruch HaShem

AP Falsely Reports Israel Building New Settlement

Barry Rubin

The AP falsely reported that Israel is building a new settlement on the West Bank and linked this to a wrong-headed spin on an important national leader visiting Israel.
No, not Obama! He's still just a candidate. I'm referring to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Curiously, Brown's visit was highlighted for its criticism of Israel by the AP though his trip was seen in Israel as incredibly supportive. Indeed, Brown made the most pro-Israel statements of any British leader since Margaret Thatcher left the scene. This was especially significant since Brown is the Labour party leader and given the incredibly hostile anti-Israel sentiment in the British media and academia.
One wouldn't know this from the AP story, "British leader presses Israel to halt settlements," posted July 21, by Mohammed Daraghmeh. Its lead was Brown demanding "Israel cease settlement construction." Ironically, another AP story a few days later, in criticizing a reported Israeli decision to build a new West Bank settlement, pointed out (only in the context of criticizing Israel of course) that Israel had not started a new settlement in years.
In fact, the report was false. In fact, Israel had authorized the building of 22 houses on a settlement created more than 25 years ago.
The story claimed Brown's "strongest comments were reserved for the settlements: `I think the whole European Union is very clear on this matter: We want to see a freeze on settlements.'" But given the fact that no new settlement has been built for a long time what did he mean? The phrase used was "settlement expansion." But there is no expansion--settlements are not getting bigger though new buildings are built in existing settlements.
Even when an article reports facts fairly it sort of puts a spin on them. This article states:
"Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks late last year at a U.S.-backed conference in Annapolis, Md. Both sides had originally aspired to reach a final peace deal by the end of the year, but have backed away from that goal somewhat because of arguments over settlements and whether the Palestinians are capable of enforcing security in areas they control.
"Under the first phase of the internationally backed peace plan known as the road map, which is the basis of the negotiations, Israel was to freeze all settlement construction and Palestinians were to crack down on extremist groups."
Notice anything? Well, the AP gives a lot of attention to settlement construction but none to the Palestinian failure to "crack down on extremist groups" or enforce "security in areas they control." The fact is that the Palestinian Authority does very little or nothing in these directions but this is not presented as a problem or reported, virtually ever.
Where are the reports of the PA failing to stop terrorists, releasing them, glorifying them, putting them on its payroll, endorsing their goals, inciting to terrorism in its media, providing rationales for their actions in its schools, and so on? Why are radical speeches by PA and Fatah officials ignored?
This week, Palestinian Media Watch documents how the PA's official newspaper claims that Jewish settlers are bringing in and releasing hundreds of super-rats that only attack Palestinians to drive Arabs out of east Jerusalem. Do Palestinians believe this? Many no doubt do, at least in part. But the point is that the PA wants them to believe it. By showing what is really going on it would be clear why peace is so unachievable and who is responsible.
Consider this simple question: If Israel withdrew from all the West Bank and/or freed all Palestinian prisoners would anything really change? Would the Palestinians reciprocate or alter their line, stopping terrorism and backing an end to the conflict. The evidence indicates not.
At any rate, the media gives no hint of such matters but only pursues its own agenda, which requires misstating Brown's agenda.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Alternative to War or Surrender With Iran

Barry Rubin

July 15, 2008
Here's what Israel thinks: Since Iran's regime is thoroughly radical and deeply committed to its destruction, Israel can't accept Tehran having nuclear weapons. Unless sanctions and pressures can stop this program Israel must attack in order to defend itself.
That's a correct strategy. But there are problems with it, as is always true of even the best policies.
We know the level of sanctions even under an optimistic scenario aren't sufficient to stop Iran.
That means violent confrontation is inevitable.
The United States isn't going to attack Iran and will not necessarily give Israel a "green light" to do so.
The combination of Iranian intransigence, European reluctance (and Russian-Chinese outright refusal) to make really tough sanctions, plus fear of war pushes the West toward talking with Iran, most likely without conditions and with more concessions--in other words, appeasement.
Is there an additional, realistic option to supplement this strategy? Let's try to find one.
The sanctions strategy combines wishful thinking with the need to exhaust all peaceful means first. Russia and China don't cooperate; some European states are actually increasing trade with Iran. The resulting pressure hurts Iran but not enough to make it stop.
Regime change is a dream. The Islamic government is too well-armed and deeply entrenched to be overthrown; no revolutionary movement is in sight. The opposition reform faction is too weak, divided, and demoralized even if it has great popular support.
The simplest and cheapest--therefore very popular--idea is to talk Iran out of making nuclear weapons. This is silly. The regime wants them, laughs at Western threats not backed by strength, and awaits the next American president (no prizes for guessing who it prefers) hoping he'll follow a surrender strategy.
Iran won't be bought off, it merely seeks to buy time.
As for an attack to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, it might one day be necessary but won't be easy. There's too much to destroy; Iran would have the knowledge and equipment to rebuild.
Then, there's the cost of such an attack which could include: Iranian missile attacks on Israel, rocket barrages from Hizballah and Hamas, heightened global terrorism, an Iranian campaign to destabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, and far higher oil prices.
That list doesn't make the cost of an attack too high if Israeli leaders believe the country's very existence is at stake. (In fact, our research indicates the direct cost to Israel is quite sustainable.) Nevertheless, while an attack might be necessary it surely isn't preferable.
Moreover, if Barack Obama is elected, Iran will know itself safe not only from any U.S. assault, or even pressure, for four years, long enough to complete the nuclear project, but also guaranteed he'd never give Israel a green light to attack. Tehran wins.
So is there anything else that could be done, again leaving aside the possibility of an Israeli attack some day?
The answer is: yes. Instead of regime change, call it faction change. Let's be clear: all Iran's leaders are radical, all would like to see Israel destroyed. But the question is: how much risk and how high a cost would a given leader pay to try?
Ahmadinejad is so extreme, adventurous, demagogic, and seemingly irrational that his using nuclear weapons on Israel is credible, forcing Israel to attack. Others, like Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; former president, now Expediency Council chief Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; or former presidential candidate, now parliament speaker Ali Larijani (who Ahmadinejad fired as nuclear negotiator) are bad guys but less mad guys.
Khamenei will use Ahmadinejad unless the price of his behavior becomes too high. But he and the rest also know Ahmadinejad uses demagoguery, including risking war with Israel and America, because he wants all power for himself and his increasingly powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' friends. In comparison, Rafsanjani wants nuclear weapons but also good commercial relations with the West. He'd like to see Israel wiped off the map but isn't going to be the one to do it.
A power struggle rages in Iran, with next year's presidential election a key battle. Ahmadinejad's critics use everything possible to discredit him, including his economic mismanagement and provocative deeds.
Help them. Pressure against Iran should be heightened and tightened; the possibility of military conflict should be kept before its eyes. Make it clear that Ahmadinejad and his allies are more dangerous to Iran's prosperity and the regime's survival than to Israel or the West.
That's why talk about direct negotiations or concessions is especially dangerous now. This strengthens Ahmadinejad and makes an eventual Israeli attack, with resulting confrontation, more likely. Now he's saying: I can get away with everything I do at little or no cost. America's president is ready to meet us because he's scared of me. We're winning. Why should we change our policy?
If you want to avoid war then isolate Iran and boycott Ahmadinejad. Make it clear he's leading Tehran toward disaster, but a more reasonable leadership can avoid this outcome. Say that if the right person wins the election, direct talks could happen.
There are dangers here for Israel if the West accepts a radical Iranian regime with nuclear weapons. But remember these points:
Israel may attack Iran's installations at some point without real Western support.
The West won't do much more than it is now to stop Iran from succeeding.
If the West doesn't like this outcome it better give Israel enough to avoid that happening. More thought should be given to "appeasing" Israel by meeting its security requirements.
An Israeli military campaign isn't going to stop Iran from continuing its effort no matter how much is destroyed.
So alongside this onrushing disaster, we need a realistic strategy to reduce the chance of an Iranian leader actually trying to use nuclear weapons against Israel.
In addition, the main issue is not Israel just defending itself but saving enemy Arab regimes and the industrialized world's vital interests.
Any Islamist government in Iran armed with nuclear weapons would be a disaster for the Middle East and for the West in general, not just Israel. For starters, Arab countries would make their own deal with Tehran; the West would be paralyzed from acting effectively in the region; Arab-Israeli peace would be delayed by many decades; oil prices would rise to higher triple digits; and revolutionary Islamist movements would grow, threatening every Arab regime.
No doubt, many foolish people seem to think, a small price to pay for high levels of trade with Iran and "avoiding" trouble in the short run.
Again, no illusions. A "moderately radical" leadership will still seek its ambitions and nuclear weapons, but more likely to be pushed and talked out of going to the brink either by slowing, abandoning, or at least never using such weapons. Better a Tehran regime less likely to fire nuclear-tipped missiles on Israel or pursue risky aggressive adventurism than a seemingly suicide bomber president inevitably forcing Israel to attack.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). Prof. Rubin's columns can be read online.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Earl Krugel (A letter From a Friend)

I met Earl at the Men's Federal Correction Center.
I was a Corrections Officer at the jail when Earl first arrived.

The first thing you noticed about him was he had some kind of inner strength, he didn't seem aloof, exactly, but it was like he had, I don't know how to describe it, (I'm not much of a writer) a power that he drew on out of himself.
The first day, during report, one of the other "C.O."s" told me, "That's Earl Krugel, a high profile case, David, he's the West coast Chairman of the Jewish Defense League."

I'd read about the case, of course, and the nickname, "Captain Krugel" popped into my head, so I always called him "Captain."
I found myself drawn to him immediately,
I was having some problems at home, I was separated from my wife, and Earl had a way of reaching out to people.
With all the legal problems he had himself, he spent his time counseling everyone around him, and he reached out to me, as well.

Late one morning I was doing rounds, I made a check next to his name and remarked, in "comments", "studying Bible, no apparent problems, adjusting well."
"How you doing, captain?" I asked.
"I am well," he said, lowering his leather bound Jewish Bible. "And you, David, how are you?"
Although, like I said, I found myself liking Earl immediately, as a trained professional I always did my best to appear impassive while conversing with inmates.
"I'm fine, Captain, just dandy."
He smiled a little and said, "Your words say one thing but your eyes say another."
I looked at him, "You're guessing. But you're right. It's my wife. Last night I went by to see her and there was a man there. I almost lost it. I could have killed the dude."
Earl got up and walked towards me. "There is a strength." he said, a slight smile on his lips.
"What are you talking about, Captain?" I asked.
His right hand shot out through the bars and grasped mine in a gentle yet vise-like grip.
I'd never seen a move that quick, yet I didn't feel threatened.
Something was flowing from him to me.
"Pull your hand away." He said.
I couldn't move.
"It's the strength of our people, our faith and our G-d." He said, and let my hand go.
"Our G-d?" I shot back. "You mean the one who let most of my family be tortured and murdered by the Germans in Europe?"
Earl's eyes were hooded but burning with intensity.
"You seek to know why.
You don't understand, so you turn your back on your faith, your people, your wife, and your
G-d." I started to walk towards the next cell. "Don't preach to me, Convict." I snapped.
Earl had a composure that was unreal.
"You don't understand the birth of a sapling in a Redwood forest. You don't understand the crash of waves on every beach in the world, one after the other. You don't understand the tears in the eyes of a hungry child. You don't understand the explosion of a supernova which pulls solar systems into the void and returns a million verdant planets, so do you now turn your back on the universe?"
I just looked at him.
"Your wife is coming back to you, David. Take her to synagogue, return to our people. Make babies. Be a light to the nations."
I spoke over my shoulder, cynically, "What are you now, Captain, a prophet?"
He grasped his bible from the bed and and gracefully lowered himself onto the floor of the cell, crossing his legs, the Book on his lap. "I am a man, David. A child of G-d, like you."

The next day there was a small riot in the day room. Two black convicts were beating Hell out of some poor white kid.
A phalanx of C.O.s headed towards the scene to break it up.
Earl emerged from a crowd of screaming inmates, grabbed the two black guys, one with each hand, and pulled them off of the kid.
"Enough!" he shouted.
A strange stillness descended over the inmates. The disturbance was over that quick.

Later, during rounds, I stopped by Earl's cell.
"Captain." I nodded, holding my clipboard.
"David." he responded, still sitting in what he later told me was the "Lotus position" on the cement floor.
I looked towards him. "Don't get involved in inmate situations, Captain, that's our job."
He smiled, "As you wish."
Earl stood up and stretched, doing some slow ballet looking martial arts movements.
I went on, "My wife called last night, Captain, she wants to try again."
He detected the joy in my voice.
" A man and a woman. Two people, one flesh. Treasure her, my young friend."

Earl and I grew closer over the years. I was relieved, though saddened, when he was sentenced and assigned to what was considered a "nice" prison, as prisons go.
I went to wish him well as they called his name to roll up, but was called to another wing for an issue over there.
I almost missed him.
I trotted back to Earl's cellblock and saw him for what was to be the last time.
"Captain, Captain!" I yelled as Earl headed down the stairway, a saint like expression on his handsome face.
I broke and ran as he looked back vaguely in my direction.
In a minute he'd be gone and I'd never see him again.
I caught him as he stepped off of the metal stairway and put my hand on his arm.
He turned around and looked at me.
Tears welled up in my eyes.
"What?" he asked, softly.
"Good luck." I said, and hugged him fiercely.

They took him away and I never got to see him again, but I will never forget that remarkable man.

Three days later he was murdered.
Below are some of the details.
I wish to add that the U.S. Attorney was threatening to revoke the plea agreement since Earl refused to inform as was called for in the agreement.

On November 4, 2005, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Phoenix, Arizona, Krugel was murdered by another inmate, who used a concrete block to strike his head. Krugel had been at the prison for three days. As the case against Earl Krugel was on appeal at the time of his death, Judge Lew dismissed conviction.
"David Frank Jennings, 31, an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Phoenix (FCI Phoenix), was sentenced here to 35 years in federal prison by Senior U.S. District Judge Earl H. Carroll. Jennings had pleaded guilty on October 25, 2007 to Second Degree Murder.
The facts showed that on November 4, 2005, inmate-victim Earl Krugel (62) was doing pushups in the recreation yard at FCI Phoenix when Jennings approached Krugel from behind and bludgeoned him in the head five times with a piece of concrete wrapped in a mesh bag. Krugel was pronounced dead on the scene."
The suspect, David Frank Jennings, 30, allegedly attacked Krugel from behind with a piece of concrete hidden in a bag while Krugel was using an exercise machine at a federal prison in Phoenix.
The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on July 19, offers neither details nor motive, asserting that Jennings "with premeditation and malice aforethought willfully kill[ed] and murder[ed] Earl Leslie Krugel."


PHOENIX – David Frank Jennings, 31, an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Phoenix (FCI Phoenix), was sentenced here to 35 years in federal prison by Senior U.S. District Judge Earl H. Carroll. Jennings had pleaded guilty on October 25, 2007 to Second Degree Murder.

The facts showed that on November 4, 2005, inmate-victim Earl Krugel (62) was doing pushups in the recreation yard at FCI Phoenix when Jennings approached Krugel from behind and bludgeoned him in the head five times with a piece of concrete wrapped in a mesh bag. Krugel was pronounced dead on the scene.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The prosecution was handled by Alison S. Bachus and Thomas C. Simon, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.


RELEASE NUMBER: 2008-060(Jennings)

Jennings is the only person charged in the killing, which took place in plain view. Authorities contend that Jennings acted alone.
"He was the only one charged. There was no conspiracy," said Ann Harwood, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office in Phoenix, Authorities would say little else, including anything about the motive of the alleged killer, a small-time repeat offender with nothing in his rap sheet to suggest either this level of violence or any particular animosity toward the 62-year-old Krugel.
Krugel had been transferred to the Federal Corrections Institute (FCI) Phoenix, a medium security prison, just three days before the assault. To date, there is no indication that Krugel and Jennings knew each other. "My husband was brutally murdered just a few days after he was sent to that prison," Lola Krugel said. "He wasn't there long enough to make any deadly enemies."
At the time of the attack on Krugel, Jennings was serving a 70-month sentence at FCI Phoenix for a 2003 bank robbery in Las Vegas, which netted him $1,040. Because Jennings had threatened the teller during the robbery, authorities eventually extended his plea bargain sentence from 63 months to 70 months.
Jennings, who lived in Oregon before moving to Nevada, has multiple convictions, but court records reviewed by The Journal did not indicate any association with racist or anti-Semitic groups in or out of prison.
In 1993, Jennings was convicted in Oregon on an Assault III charge; a "class C" state felony, which resulted in an 18-month state prison sentence. In 1994 he was arrested and convicted for unauthorized use of a vehicle and sentenced to six months in jail.
In 1995, a probation violation cost him another six months.
He had apparently moved to Nevada by 1996. That same year he was arrested and pleaded guilty to state charges of grand larceny and unlawful possession of a credit card, for which he received a sentence of 16 to 72 months in state prison.
Krugel was transferred to the Phoenix facility to serve out the balance of a 20-year sentence, following his negotiated guilty plea to conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges.
The high-profile case against Krugel and the JDL involved an abortive bombing plot against possible targets that included a Culver City mosque and the field office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), an Arab-American of Lebanese descent.
A fitness fanatic, Krugel was using exercise equipment when he was blind-sided between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2005.
Details of the assault did not emerge in previous reports; a review of the autopsy depicts a vicious attack.
His main injury was the initial blow to the back of his head, which crushed the left side of his skull and severely damaged his brain and brain stem. But his attacker also delivered multiple blows to Krugel's skull, face and neck, according to the autopsy, which was performed by the Maricopa County medical examiner and obtained by The Journal.
Krugel suffered multiple skull fractures, internal bleeding and multiple lacerations to his head, face and brain. The beating knocked out teeth and also fractured one of his eye sockets. Krugel was pronounced dead at the scene.


Barry Rubin

Engagement doesn’t always produce marriage.
In the U.S.-Iran case, diplomatic engagements have been repeatedly disastrous. Yet many think the idea of engagement was just invented and never tried.
1. President John Kennedy pressed Iran for democratic reforms in the early 1960s..
The Shah responded with his White Revolution which horrified traditionalists and moved them to active opposition. One of them was named Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
2. President Richard Nixon urged Iran in the early 1970s, under the Nixon Doctrine, to become a regional power since America was overextended in Vietnam.
The Shah embarked on a huge arms-buying campaign and close alliance stirring more opposition and fiscal strain, contributing to unrest.
3. In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter pushed Iran to ease restrictions. The result was Islamist revolution. Next, Carter urged the Shah not to repress the uprising, helping bring his downfall.
4. After the 1979 revolution, Carter engaged the new regime to show Khomeini that America was his friend.
National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, today advising Barack Obama, met Iranian leaders.
Tehran interpreted this engagement as an effort to subvert or co-opt the revolution, so Iranians seized the U.S. embassy and took everyone there hostage.
[1]5. The Reagan administration secretly engaged Iran in the mid-1980s to help free U.S. hostages of its terrorism. Result: a policy debacle and free military equipment for Iran. 6. In recent years there was a long engagement in which European states negotiated for themselves and America to get Tehran to stop its nuclear weapons’ drive. Iran gained four years to develop nukes; the West got nothing.
[2]The history of U.S. engagement with the PLO and Syria is similar. The Oslo era (1992-2000) was engagement as disaster, establishing a PLO regime indifferent to its people’s welfare, increasing radicalism and violence, with no gain for peace. Aside from the worsened security problem, Israel’s international image was badly damaged by concessions made and risks taken. America’s making the PLO a client brought it no gratitude or strategic gain.
[3]Similarly, Syria used the 1991-2000 engagement era to survive its USSR superpower sponsor’s collapse while doing everything it wanted: dominating Lebanon, sponsoring terrorism, and sabotaging peace. U.S. secretaries of state visited Damascus numerous times and achieved nothing, a process that continued up to 2004. Syria first helped Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, then sponsored terrorists who disrupted Iraq and killed Americans.
[4]There have, of course, been successful engagements—but not with Iran, Syria, or the PLO. The most successful was Egypt’s turnaround by Nixon and Kissinger. A partial success was changing Libya’s behavior.
In those two cases, American power, not compassion, achieved success.
Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi and Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat (“America holds 99 percent of the cards”) knew they were weak and needed to stop America from hitting them hard.Engagements, of course, have effects other than direct success. One is to buy time for someone. But who? If one party subverts other states, builds nuclear weapons, demoralizes the other’s allies, and sponsors terrorism during talks while the other side…just talks, the first side benefits far more.Second, if one side gets the other to make concessions to prove good faith and keep talks going, that side benefits. Keeping engagement going becomes an end in itself as the weaker side uses a diplomatic version of asymmetric warfare to make gains.Finally, while using talks to deescalate tensions apparently benefits everyone, matters are not so simple. By talking, a stronger side can throw away its leverage.
The weaker side does not have to back down to avoid confrontation.
So engagement, without pressure or threat, benefits the weaker side.
If the stronger side is eager to reach agreement, the weaker side has more leverage. The advantage is transferred from the strongest side to the most intransigent one. Here, Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah have the upper hand.
Senator Obama doesn’t understand these points.
To see how alien a normal liberal concept of foreign policy is for him, note what he could have said:“America must be strong to protect its interests, values, and friends against ruthless adversaries.
But if America is strong, it can also be flexible. Let us engage countries and leaders by telling them clearly our demands and goals.
Once Iran understands the United States will counter its threats of genocide against Israel, involvement in terrorism against Americans, and threats to our interests it may back down. If Iran gives up its extremism, we are ready to offer friendship.
But if Iran remains extremist we will quickly abandon engagement and never hesitate to respond appropriately.”
This way, a leader shows he knows how to use both carrots and sticks.
But Obama has never said anything like this. He has no concept of toughness as a necessary element in flexibility, or of deterrence as a precondition to conciliation.
Nor does he indicate that he would be steadfast if engagement failed.
He defines no U.S. preconditions for meeting or conditions for agreement.
He offers to hear Iran’s grievances but says nothing about American grievances.
Radical Islamists interpret this strategy as weakness of which they will take full advantage. That’s why Iran, Syria, and Hamas favor Obama.
Thus spoke Lebanese cleric Muhammad Abu al-Qat on Hizballah’s al-Manar television on May 10: “The American empire will very soon collapse….This won't happen as a result of war….An American Gorbachev will surface in America, and he will destroy this empire.
[5]Islamists and radicals want Obama because they understandably expect him to play into their hands. By the same token, more moderate Arab regimes and observers are horrified.Obama is so scary and is accused of appeasement not because he wants to meet enemies in person but because he doesn’t want to meet them in struggle.
He doesn’t know how international politics work through power, threats, deterrence, self-interest, and credibility.
He doesn’t comprehend that totalitarian ideologies cannot be moderated by apology or weakness.
Whatever you think of Senator John McCain, he understands these basic concepts. That’s why he’s a centrist who can be trusted to protect American national interests.
Whatever you think of Senator Hillary Clinton, she understands these basic concepts. T
hat’s why she’s a liberal who can be trusted to protect American national interests.
And that’s why Obama is both a dangerously naïve amateur and a leftist posing as a liberal.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); andThe Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit[1] On Points 1-4, see Barry Rubin, Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran, (Oxford, 1980; Viking-Penguin, 1981)[2] On Point 5, see Barry Rubin, Cauldron of Turmoil: America in the Middle East, (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1992.) available for free at]. See also Barry Rubin, "Lessons from Iran," in Alexander T. J. Lennon and Camille Eiss, Reshaping Rogue States: Preemption, Regime Change, and U.S. Policy toward Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, (Boston: MIT Press, 2004), pp. 141-156, and “Regime Change and Iran: A Case Study,” Washington Quarterly, 2003.[3] On U.S. policy and the PLO, see Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin, Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography Oxford University Press 2003; paperback, 2005.British/Commonwealth edition: Continuum 2003. Australian edition: Allan & Unwin. Italian edition: Mondadori, 2004; Hebrew edition, Yediot Aharnot, 2005; Turkish edition, Aykiri Yayincilik, 2005.[4] On U.S. policy and Syria, see Barry Rubin, The Truth About Syria, Palgrave-MacMillan (2007); paperback, 2008.[5] Barry Rubin,Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center <>Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal <> Editor, Turkish Studies

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


By Barry Rubin

It’s become fashionable to match celebration of Israel’s founding (though part of the media can’t even admit Israelis are celebrating) with Palestinian marking of their 1948 “nakba” catastrophe. Yet whose fault is it that they didn’t use those six decades constructively?
And who killed the independent Palestinian state alongside Israel that was part of the partition plan?
Answer: The Arab states and Palestinian leadership themselves. The mourners were the murderers.
You can read details in my book, The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict.
Here’s a summary. The key point is that in rejecting partition, demanding everything, and starting a war it could not win, the Arab side ensured endless conflict, the Palestinian refugee issue, and no Palestine.
It wasn’t murder it was suicide. Or in the words of General John Glubb, commander of Jordan’s army: “The politicians, the demagogues, the press, and the mob were in charge….
Warnings went unheeded. Doubters were denounced as traitors.” Briefly, the British tried to help the Arabs win; the Americans to assist them in finding a last-minute way out, and the soon-to-be Israeli Jews were ready to have a Palestinian state alongside Israel if their neighbors had accepted it. The British government provided money and arms to Arab states (for Egypt 40 warplanes and 300 troop carriers; for Iraq, planes as well as antiaircraft and antitank guns; for Saudi Arabia, a military training mission) while embargoing them to Israel, tipped off Arabs about the timing of its withdrawals (giving them a head start to seize abandoned installations), subsidized the Arab League,
blocked Jewish immigration, and let British officers run Jordan’s army in the war against Israel. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Said later said, “It became clear to us that Britain viewed with favor the Arab aims regarding Palestine.”
It’s well-known that President Harry Truman supported partition and quickly recognized Israel. But in March 1948 the U.S. government offered the Arab states a serious plan to suspend partition, block a Jewish state, and create a new, long-term trusteeship.
They considered but rejected it, even after Washington proposed an international peacekeeping force—including Egyptian troops—to maintain order. Finally, if the Arab side has accepted partition, the Jewish leadership would have accepted establishment of a Palestinian Arab state. Many were desperate to get a state at all, lacked confidence they would win the war, and knew they could not buck an international consensus.
Why, then, did the Arab side, and especially the Palestinian leadership, reject partition, go to war, and trigger a 60-year-long crisis that was a disaster for their people?
There are four basic reasons: --Palestinian leader Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, was a man who thought like Hamas.
Fresh from his stay in Berlin, where he cooperated with Adolph Hitler, he hated Jews, wanted to destroy them, and could not envision compromise. --Pressure from radical forces and public opinion made it unthinkable, or suicidal, for Arab regimes not to go along with all-out war even when they feared the worst. --Arab states competed for influence, seeing the future Palestine either as their satellite or a place they could seize land for themselves. --Finally, they thought they would win easily.
Even the moderate Jordanian King Abdallah said, “It does not matter how many there are. We will sweep them into the sea!” Syria’s prime minister warned that the Arabs would “teach the treacherous Jews an unforgettable lesson.”
The leader of Syria’s client guerrilla force, Fawzi al-Qawukji, bragged, “We will murder, wreck, and ruin everything standing in our way, be it English, American, or Jewish.”
He explained that the holy war would be won not through weapons but through the superiority of self-sacrificing Arab fighters. The idea was revived, with the same failed result, by Yasir Arafat in the 1960s. Today, having learned nothing from experience, radical Arab nationalists and Islamists frequently make the same claim. True, Arab armies in 1948 were badly led, badly trained, and uncoordinated.
Arab regimes distrusted and disliked the Palestinian leadership and bickered among themselves, striving for individual advantage.
This pattern, too, was often repeated in later years. Abdallah secretly negotiated with the Zionists but they distrusted him, knew he couldn’t control the other leaders, and he offered too little. Still, the consensus was, in the words of a U.S. intelligence report, “The loosely organized, ill-equipped armies of the Arab nations do not have any capabilities against a modern opponent but they do have the strength to overrun Jewish resistance in Palestine….” It didn’t work out that way.
The nascent Israeli forces gained ground against the Husseini and Qawukji forces before the Arab states’ invasion then largely won the ensuing international war. Neither during the conflict nor after their defeat did the regimes help create an independent Palestinian Arab state. Egypt held the Gaza Strip; Jordan annexed the West Bank. Their rejecting peace so often thereafter made the conflict last until today.
The continuation of these policies today by much of the Palestinian leadership—either explicitly or in practice—could make it last another century.
The underlying concept was that either the Palestinian interest should be subordinate to wider movements (Arab nationalism, Islamism) or at least a Palestinian state could only be established after total victory, in all the lands between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
Even if some Palestinian leaders think differently today, they are unable to act differently. Another element in the self-perpetuated nakba was the management of the Palestinian refugee problem. In contrast to all other refugees in the world, the UN set up a system in which Palestinians who left in 1948 maintained that status forever, even if they obtained another nationality. By not integrating Palestinian refugees—though this sometimes happened on an unofficial level—and keeping them in camps, Arab regimes with the collaboration of the PLO ensured that their suffering would fuel endless conflict and provide recruits for violence. Fifteen million people were expelled from India and Pakistan, twelve million Germans had been thrown out of eastern Europe, about the same number of Jews were forced out of Arab states, and other such situations had occurred.
They are all resolved and mostly forgotten today.
In the Palestinian case, however, the nakba was deliberately perpetuated because the Arab world, including the Palestinian leadership, decreed that it could only be ended by a triumphant return to what was now Israel. Neither resettlement elsewhere nor in a West Bank/Gaza state was satisfactory. Indeed, this was one of the main issues on which Arafat destroyed the peace process in 2000. Even the “moderate” leadership of the Palestinian Authority maintains this stance today. Of course, regarding peace—and even more the desire to avoid war--there has been some real progress in Arab states, including full, but not fully accepted, peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Most Arab leaders know they cannot win the struggle with Israel by total victory, but that was also true back in 1948. What has changed is their margin for doing nothing has increased, which lets them avoid war.
Yet their ability to admit the truth publicly, change their course fully, and accept peace formally and fully still remains quite constricted. And the strong challenge from Islamist movements threatens to reverse even this minimal progress. Such is the reality misunderstood or ignored by all those who think peace is easily obtainable with enough effort or unilateral Israeli concessions. Peace, however, cannot be achieved by pretending since those who engage in this process only fool themselves.
Despite the lessons of sixty years ago and throughout the ensuing time, the Arab side has the chutzpah to complain—and a good part of the Western media echo—that they were Israel’s victims in 1948.
Back then, Qawukji explained that once the Arabs started winning, the Western media would proclaim, “The Arab cause is a just one.” The Arab side made no secret of the fact that the Jews were the underdog and everyone knew what happened to underdogs. As Arab League Secretary-General Abd al-Rahman Azzam explained, “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre….” By the way, what slogan were Palestinian schoolchildren told to chant at the Nakba Day demonstrations organized by the Palestinian Authority?
Why, “Palestine is all ours!” of course, the same slogan as in 1948. Sad to say, the main complaint of Palestinians today is still not so much that they are Israel’s victims but that so far Israel hasn’t been theirs, Azzam-style.
What would Qawukji think to learn that in fact the Western media would proclaim, “The Arab cause is a just one,” only after they had so thoroughly and repeatedly failed to gain such a bloody total victory, though long before they fully accepted the lessons of that failure?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit Professor Barry Rubin,Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center <>Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal <> Editor, Turkish Studies

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


By Barry Rubin

While America’s secretary of state devotes her time to doomed Israel-Palestinian talks and America goes ga-ga over a candidate whose main foreign policy strategy is to talk to dictators, still another crisis strengthens radical Islamists and endangers Western friends and interests.
William Butler Yeats said it best: "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere, The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst , Are full of passionate intensity."
The "best" are often too innocent indeed, sunk in constant self-criticism, persuading themselves they must atone for having done too much in the past by doing nothing in the present, trying to convince the other side of their niceness and sensitivity. Their priority is to ensure no one will accuse them of being imperialistic. And to prove it they will let another country fall into the enemy camp.
The Lebanese logjam has broken at last as Hizballah seized west Beirut and inflicted a big defeat on the pro-government side.
While Iran and Syria provide guns and strong backing to their friends, the West responds with words backed by nothing. Who can blame Hizballah and Damascus and Tehran for laughing with contempt, believing they are the tide of the future, assuming their "passionate intensity" will inevitably triumph over the weak-willed West?
The historic great powers act as pitiful, helpless giants but their enemies will take no pity on them. In short, Hizballah is pulling a two-stage version of Hamas’s Gaza strategy in Lebanon and no one does anything effective about that either.
What Spain was in 1936; Lebanon is today.
Does anyone remember the Spanish Civil War? Briefly, a fascist revolt took place against the democratic government. The rebels were motivated by several factors, including anger that their religion had not been given enough respect and regional grievances, but essentially they sought to put their ideology and themselves into power. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy backed the rebels with money and guns. The Western democracies stood by and did nothing.
Guess who won? And guess whether that outcome led to peace or world war.
Funny, I thought September 11 changed everything.
Why should Lebanese Sunni, Druze, and Christians risk their lives when the West doesn’t help them? Every Israeli speaking nonsense about Syria making peace; every American claiming Damascus might split from Tehran; every European preaching appeasement has in fact been engaged in confidence-breaking measures.
Hizballah doesn’t need to win a military victory but only to show it can win one, using that position of strength to try to force its demands on the moderate government. . The government has already accepted Michel Suleiman, Syria’s candidate for president. But Hizballah and the rest say this is not enough: they want veto power over everything.
The goal of Hizballah, and its Syrian and Iranian backers at present is not the full conquest of Lebanon—something beyond their means—but to control the government so it does nothing they dislike: no strong relations with the West, no ability to stop war against Israel, no disarming Hizballah’s militias or countering that group’s control over large parts of the country, and certainly no investigation of Syrian involvement in terrorism there.
Government supporters don’t have to surrender. Hizballah took west Beirut in large part because local Sunni Muslims lacked their own militia. Once Hizballah tried to keep going into Druze-controlled areas it got a bloody nose. With its Shia Muslim constituency only about one-third of the population, Hizballah is not capable of conquering Lebanon militarily.
Still, the West often acts as if it would like to lose the struggle in the Middle East. There are all too many examples of how this is true:
Why, three years after Damascus ordered the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri do investigators dawdle, having edited out the names of top Syrian officials they blamed for the killing in their initial report?
Israel bombed a nuclear reactor being built in Syria. Rice reportedly opposed the action. The world yawned.
Iran drives for nuclear weapons. There is some effort but too little, too slow. Whether or not the war in Iraq was a mistake, when terrorists murdered Iraqi civilians, much of the West blamed America; all too many Americans agreed.
Far too much Western media, intellectual--sometimes political life--reviles Israel. But Israel is no threat to them; other forces are. And events in Lebanon are one more proof that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is only a portion, say one-fifth, of the wider Middle East crisis.
Many in the West think Israel will pay the price for their follies. But Israel is ready to do what it needs for its self-defense. If anything, the mistakes of the last round in Lebanon reinforced this determination.
Instead, the main victims will be Arabs, mostly Muslims, in Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq, and Lebanon, killed by the various Jihad groups, or ruled by them where they take power or dominate through intimidation. And second they will be Western interests, which would not fare well in a region dominated by a combination of Islamists and those who feel they have no choice but to appease them.
When Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama says he will negotiate with Syria and Iran over Iraq’s future, he signals every Persian Gulf regime to cut its own deal with Iran. When his stances convince Hamas that he’s the guy for them; when Iran and Syria conclude they merely need stand defiant and wait until January 21 for any existing pressure vanishes, the U.S. position in the Middle East is being systematically destroyed.
Note that this does not make Obama the candidate favored by Arabs in general but only by the radicals. Egyptians, Jordanians, Gulf Arabs, and the majorities in Lebanon and Iraq are very worried. This is not just an Israel problem; it is one for all non-extremists in the region.
If the dictators and terrorists are smiling, it means everyone else is crying.
The Syrian and Iranian regimes know that while they may walk through the valley of the shadow of sanctions they need fear nothing because there are all too many who comfort them.
After all, if the UN human rights committee is run by Libya, if UNIFIL forces in Lebanon tread lightly so Hizballah won’t be angry with them, if Westerners tremble and repeal freedom of speech lest some Muslims be offended, why should the "bad guys" worry?
Yet the West doesn’t have to play it stupid forever. Now is the time for energetic action on Lebanon to wipe that confident sneer off their faces. To contain Iran and Syria, to buck up the Lebanese government side and all those Arabs who, whatever their faults, don’t want to live in an Islamist caliphate.
If you want to know what’s wrong, consider Obama’s May 10 statement on Lebanon. He starts out playing tough, talking about "Hezbollah's power grab in Beirut….This effort to undermine Lebanon's elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately." He calls for supporting the Lebanese government, strengthening the Lebanese army, and to "insist on disarming Hezbollah."
But how to do this? By "working with the international with the international community and the private sector to rebuild Lebanon and get its economy back on its feet."
In other words, according to the Obama world view, it’s a problem of development. If people have more money they won’t be terrorists. Of course, that was the policy of Hariri, which was countered by Syria blowing him up. In politics, bombs trump business. And any way you can’t have a strong economy with no government and chaos. Part of the mistake here is Obama’s assumption that Hizballah (and other radicals) want stability and prosperity. In fact, they want to use instability as blackmail in their pursuit of power. They don’t want conciliation. It’s a military-strategic problem, not one of community organizing.
The statement continues: "We must support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions that reinforce Lebanon's sovereignty, especially resolution 1701 banning the provision of arms to Hezbollah, which is violated by Iran and Syria."
Great. But the UN is no substitute for U.S. power. As David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy writes, "It is highly unlikely that the UN -- which failed to even prevent the rearming of Hizballah--would agree to more dangerous deployments in Lebanon." America doesn’t need a president whose solution is to turn over crises to the UN.
Nor can Obama pass the buck to Lebanon’s army. Its commander is Syria’s presidential candidate, its soldiers are mostly pro-Hizballah, and the quarter-billion dollars of U.S. aid given since 2006 may well become additional assets for Tehran.
As President Harry Truman said of the president’s desk, the buck stops here. So the president of the United States must take the lead, be tough, and make credible threats. What’s needed is not a conciliator but a confronter.
These are the questions Obama isn’t even pretending to try to answer: Are you willing to fight on this issue? To defy an "international community" that opposes action? To intimidate and defeat the radicals? Answer: No.
But here’s the worst part that few in America but everyone in Lebanon will understand all too well:
"It's time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment."
Here, make no mistake, Obama is endorsing the Hizballah program. It wants a new Lebanese consensus based on it having, along with its pro-Syrian allies, 51 percent of the power. What’s needed is not consensus (the equivalent being getting Fatah and Hamas to bury their differences, or bringing in Iran and Syria to determine Iraq’s future) but the willingness to fight a battle. In effect, Obama without realizing it, is arguing for a Syrian-, Iranian-, and Hizballah-dominated Lebanon. Such talk makes moderate Arabs despair.
Here, at the "From Beirut to Beltway" blog, is a typical, sarcastic, reaction by Lebanese government supporters:
"Oh the time we wasted by fighting Hizballah all those years….If only we had engaged them and their masters in diplomacy…sitting with them around discussion tables, welcoming them into our parliament, and letting them veto cabinet decisions. If only Obama had shared his wisdom with us before, back when he was rallying with some of our former friends at pro-Palestinian rallies in Chicago. How stupid we were when, instead of developing `national consensus’ with them, we organized media campaigns against Israel on behalf of the impoverished people who voted for them.
"During that time when we bought into the cause against Israel, treating resistance fighters like our brothers, we really should have been `building consensus’ with them. Because what we did…was…unnecessary antagonism, a product of a `corrupt patronage system and unfair distribution of wealth.’"
"We stand today regretting the wasted time that could have been wisely spent talking to them, to the Syrian occupiers who brought them into our system, and the Iranian revolutionary guards who trained them.[1]
The battle isn’t over, which is all the more reason for real—not just verbal—international action. Hizballah has made its point for the moment that it is the most powerful and to it every knee must bend. Yet without serious political and diplomatic support for Lebanon’s government and real costs inflicted on Syria and Iran, the battle will be lost eventually.
For all those in the West who don’t like Israel, then at least help the people you pretend to like. Back the Lebanese government with real power and aid, covertly or overtly, those battling the radical forces in Lebanon.
Rick: "Sam, if it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?"
Sam: "Um, my watch stopped."
Rick: "I bet they’re asleep in New York. I’ll bet they’re asleep all over America."

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit

Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel