Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Australian foreign minister criticizes world media for telling lies about Israel

August 30, 2006


[Note by Tom Gross]

While politicians in most countries, particularly in Europe, continue to swallow the frauds and fabrications of the mainstream western media about Israel, at least one leading politician elsewhere, Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer, has spoken out.

Addressing the conference of Australian newspaper publishers in Brisbane earlier this week, Downer criticized media for the now numerous documented instances of misreporting of the recent conflict between Israel and Hizbullah.

These included the claim that Israeli aircraft intentionally fired missiles that hit two Lebanese Red Cross ambulances performing rescue operations. Respected news outlets giving widespread credence to this piece of Hizbullah propaganda included The New York Times, Time Magazine, NBC News, the BBC, ITV News, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Age (Australia), Le Monde, and newspapers and TV stations throughout Europe and Asia.

For extra measure, Britain’s ITV news added in its report on the fabricated incident that Israel had “committed war crimes.”

The New York Times ran a shot of a supposedly dead Lebanese civilian, only for later pictures to show him back on his feet.

Kofi Annan was among those that condemned Israel based on these misguided press reports.


Australian foreign minister Downer told the conference:

“What concerns me greatly is the evidence of dishonesty in the reporting out of Lebanon. For example, a Reuters photographer was forced to resign after doctoring images to exaggerate the impact of Israeli air attacks. There were the widely-reported claims that Israel had bombed deliberately a Red Cross ambulance.”

“In subsequent weeks, the world has discovered those allegations do not stand up to even the most rudimentary scrutiny. After closer study of the images of the damage to the ambulance, it is beyond serious dispute that this episode has all the makings of a hoax. Yet some of the world’s most prestigious media outlets, including some of those represented here today, ran that story as fact – unchallenged, unquestioned. Similarly, there has been the tendency to report every casualty on the Lebanese side of the conflict as if a civilian casualty, when it was indisputable that a great many of those injured or killed in Israeli offensives were armed Hizbullah combatants.”

“My point is this: in a grown-up society such as our own, the media cannot expect to get away with parading falsehoods as truths, or ignoring salient facts because they happen to be inconvenient to the line of argument – or narrative – that particular journalists, or media organizations, might choose to adopt on any given controversy or issue.”

For more on Downer, see this article from today’s “Herald-Sun,” Australia’s biggest-selling daily newspaper:,21985,20297192-25717,00.html#

It seems that Hizbullah have learned much from Palestinian terror groups, who have a long successful track record of taking in sympathetic or gullible western journalists. See, for example,

-- Tom Gross

UN Resolution 1701 is “the Mideast’s Munich agreement”

August 22, 2006


1. Condi falls for it
2. “The Mideast’s Munich” (By Arthur Herman, New York Post, Aug. 16, 2006)
3. “Misreading the Lebanon war” (By Edward N. Luttwak, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 20, 2006)
4. “Madeleine Albright redux?” (Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 21, 2006)


I attach a rather alarming piece by historian Arthur Herman in The New York Post. Herman is the author of “To Rule The Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World,” and is presently writing a book on Churchill and Gandhi.

This is followed by a rather more optimistic piece by Edward Luttwak in The Jerusalem Post.

Finally, I attach the main editorial from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: “The French promise a military force and Condi falls for it.”

-- Tom Gross



The Mideast’s Munich
By Arthur Herman
The New York Post
August 16, 2006

Historians will look back at this weekend’s cease-fire agreement in Lebanon as a pivotal moment in the war on terror. It is pivotal in the same sense that the Munich agreement between Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain was pivotal in an earlier battle against the enemies of freedom. The accord in October 1938 revealed to the world that the solidarity of the Western allies was a sham, and that the balance of power had shifted to the fascist dictators.

Resolution 1701 shows that, for the time being at least, the balance has likewise shifted to the terrorists and their state sponsors. Like Munich, it marks the triumph of the principle of putting off until tomorrow what needs to be done today. Like Munich, it will mean not peace in our time, but a bigger war in our future.

In that sense, the cease-fire may be even more momentous than Munich, and a greater blunder. In 1938 Chamberlain and other appeasers had the excuse that they were trying to prevent an armed conflict no one wanted. Today, of course, that conflict is already here. Historians will conclude that by supporting U.N. Resolution 1701 and getting Israel to agree, the Bush administration has in effect declared that its global war on terror is over. We have reverted to the pre-9/11 box of tools, if not necessarily the pre-9/11 mindset. From now on, the worst Iran, Syria, and North Korea will have to worry about are serial resolutions in the United Nations. Terrorists will be busy dodging Justice Department subpoenas, not Tomahawk missiles.

Our enemies know better. They know the war is only entering a new stage, and they know who the winners and losers were last weekend.

The clear losers were the United States and Israel. Israel has sacrificed lives and treasure, and had its honor dragged through the mud of international opinion, for no purpose.

America squandered its political capital at the start of the crisis by getting moderate Arab regimes to condemn Hezbollah instead of Israel. They did so because they thought Hezbollah was about to be annihilated. However, they soon realized their mistake. They now know Tehran and Damascus will set the agenda in the Middle East, not Washington. The Arab League’s support for this U.N.-brokered deal is just one more measure of our strategic failure.

The other loser is Lebanon. The price of peace in 1938 was de jure dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, as Germany annexed the Sudetenland. The price of Resolution 1701 is de facto dismemberment of Lebanon. A large, well-armed terrorist army acting at the behest of a foreign power now controls the southern half of Lebanon, and pulls the strings in the other half. The facade of Lebanese self-government has been preserved. As a territorial state, it may even last longer than Czechoslovakia did (Hitler gave the Czechs five months before he annexed the rest of their country).

But other states in the region will have learned their lesson. Faced by an internal terrorist organization, especially one with links with Tehran, they will have to make accommodations. No white knight in the guise of U.S.

Marines will ride to their rescue; no Israeli tanks and F-16s will do their dirty work for them. Appeasement will be the order of the day.

That includes Iraq. The disarming of Sunni and Shia militias, the necessary first step to ending sectarian violence there, will be postponed – perhaps for good. On the contrary, this crisis has taught Iraq’s Shia minority that extremism pays, particularly the Iranian kind.

For everyone in the Middle East knows Iran is the clear winner. Only the diplomats and politicians, including the Bush administration, will pretend otherwise. Iran has emerged as the clear champion of anti-Israeli feeling and radical Islam. The Iranians have their useful puppet in Syria; they have their proxy armies in place with Hezbollah and Hamas. They have been able to install missiles, even Revolutionary Guards, in Lebanon with impunity. Sunni regimes in the region will move to strike their own deals with Iran, just as Eastern European states did with Germany after Czechoslovakia. That includes Iraq; the lesson will not be lost on Russia and China, either. And all the while, the Iranians proceed with their nuclear plans – with the same impunity.

Finally, the other winners are the conventional diplomats at the State Department, especially Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns. In a narrow professional sense, appeasement is their business. They never saw the point to a “war on terror they are delighted to take back the initiative from the hawks at the Pentagon and the White House.”

The war in Iraq has clearly sapped the moral strength of the Bush administration. The men of Munich acquiesced to Hitler because another world war like the first seemed unthinkable.

The Bush administration clearly feels it cannot face another major confrontation even with a second-rate power like Iran. Yet by calling off the war on terror, it has only postponed that conflict.

“We have passed an awful milestone in our history,” Winston Churchill said after the Munich agreement was signed. “Do not suppose this is the end... This is only the first sip, the first foretaste, of a bitter cup that will be proffered to us year by year.” Despite the failure of appeasement, Churchill still believed the Western democracies would make the “supreme recovery” and take up the banner for freedom again. The United States and the forces of democracy will recover from this debacle – even with a Democratic Congress in 2006 and a Democratic president in 2008. The reason will not be because Bush’s opponents have a better strategy, or a clearer vision, or even a Winston Churchill waiting in the wings. It will be because our enemies will give us no choice.

Less than a year after Munich, Nazi panzers rolled into Poland. Instead of fighting a short, limited war over Czechoslovakia, the Western democracies ended up fighting a world war, the most destructive in history. The war with the mullahs of Iran is coming. It is only a question of whether it will be at a time or on a ground of our choosing, or theirs – and whether it is fought within the shadow of a mushroom cloud.



Misreading the Lebanon war
By Edward N. Luttwak
The Jerusalem Post
August 20, 2006

In the immediate aftermath of the 1973 October War, there was much joy in the Arab world because the myth of Israeli invincibility had been shattered by the surprise Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal, and the Syrian offensive that swept across the Golan Heights. Even unbiased commentators noted the failure of the Israeli air force to repeat its feats of 1967 while losing fully one-quarter of its combat aircraft to ground fire, just as hundreds of Israeli tanks were damaged or destroyed by brave Egyptian infantrymen with their hand-carried missiles and rockets.

In Israel, there was harsh criticism of political and military chiefs alike, who were blamed for the loss of 3,000 soldiers in a war that ended without a clear victory. Prime Minister Golda Meir, defense minister Moshe Dayan, the chief of staff, David Elazar and the chief of military intelligence were all discredited and soon replaced.

It was only later that a sense of proportion was regained, ironically by the Egyptian and Syrian leaders before anyone else. While commentators in Israel and around the world were still mourning or gloating over Israel’s lost military supremacy, both Egypt’s president Sadat and Syrian president Assad soberly recognized that their countries had come closer to catastrophic defeat than in 1967, and that it was absolutely imperative to avoid another war. That led to Sadat’s peace and Assad’s 1974 cease-fire on the Golan Heights, never violated since then.

Only in retrospect can the 1973 war be satisfactorily analyzed. Israel had been caught by surprise, because perfectly good Intelligence was misinterpreted in a climate of arrogant over-confidence. The frontal sectors, left almost unguarded, were largely overrun. The Egyptians had an excellent war plan and fought well. Syrian tanks advanced boldly and even where a lone Israeli brigade held out, they kept attacking in wave after wave for three days and nights. Within 48 hours, Israel seemed on the verge of defeat on both fronts.

But as soon as its army was fully mobilized, as soon as the reservist brigades that make up nine-tenths of its strength were ready to deploy for battle, it turned out that they could stop both the Egyptian and Syrian armies in their tracks, and start their own advance almost immediately. The war ended with Israeli forces 70 miles from Cairo, and less than 20 miles from Damascus. As for the Israeli air force, its strength over the battlefields was certainly blunted by concentrated anti-aircraft missiles and guns, but its air-combat supremacy prevented almost all attacks by the large Egyptian and Syrian air forces, while itself being able to bomb in depth almost at will.

That was the real military balance of the 1973 war, which was obscured by the tremendous shock of surprise, emotional overreaction, and the plain difficulty of seeing things as they are through the fog of war.

It is the same now, with the Lebanon war just ended. Future historians will no doubt see things much more clearly, but some gross misperceptions are perfectly obvious even now.

That even the heaviest and best-protected of battle tanks are sometimes penetrated by the latest anti-tank missiles should really not surprise anyone; they cannot be invulnerable, and did well enough in limiting Israeli casualties. Likewise, the lack of defenses against short-range rockets with small warheads is merely common sense. They are just not powerful enough to justify the expenditure of many billions of dollars for laser weapon systems the size of football fields.

More serious misperceptions are equally obvious. For example, instead of dismissing Nasrallah’s boasts, many commentators around the world kept repeating and endorsing his claim that his fighters fought much more bravely than the regular soldiers of Arab states in previous wars with Israel.

In 1973, after crossing the Suez Canal, Egyptian infantrymen by the thousands stood their ground unflinchingly against advancing 50-ton Israeli battle tanks, to attack them successfully with their puny hand-held weapons. They were in the open, flat desert, with none of the cover and protection that Hizbullah had in their fortified bunkers or in Lebanon’s rugged terrain.

Later, within the few square miles of the so-called Chinese farm near the Suez Canal, the Israelis lost more soldiers fighting against the Egyptians in a single day and night than the 116 killed in a month of war in Lebanon – including the victims of vehicle accidents and friendly fire.

Even in 1967, the best Israeli troops lost 37 killed in four hours to take less than a mile of trenches on Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill. The defending Jordanian infantry kept fighting until the end, even though they were greatly outnumbered and encircled from the start.

Hizbullah certainly did not run away and did hold its ground, but its mediocrity is revealed by the casualties it inflicted, which were very few.

When an IDF company attacked the mountain town of Bint Jbail, losing eight men in one night, that number was perceived in Israel – and broadcast around the world – as a disastrous loss.

Many a surviving veteran of the 1943-1945 Italian campaign must have been amazed by this reaction. There too it was one stone-built village and hilltop town after another, and though the Germans were outnumbered, outgunned and poorly supplied, a company that went against them would consider the loss of only eight men as very fortunate, because attacking forces could suffer a 150% or even 300% casualty rates – that mathematical impossibility being explained by the need for a second, third or fourth assault wave to take a small village.

Even that was not much as compared to the 6,821 Americans who died to conquer the eight square miles of Iwo Jima. Hizbullah should not of course be held to such standards, but on the whole it did not fight as fiercely as the Egyptians in 1973 or the Jordanians in 1967 – as Israeli casualty figures demonstrate.

What is perfectly true is that the Israelis lacked a coherent war plan, so that even their most purposeful bombing came off as brutally destructive (though with a deterrence payoff, as Syria’s immobility showed), while the ground actions were hesitant and inconclusive from start to finish.

There was a fully developed plan, of course, in the contingency folders – a sophisticated blend of amphibious, airborne and ground penetrations to swiftly reach deep behind the front, before rolling back, so as to destroy Hizbullah positions one by one from the rear, all the way to the Israeli border.

That plan was not implemented because of the lack of casualties among Israeli civilians. It had been a fair assumption that thousands of Hizbullah rockets fired in concentrated barrages would kill many civilians, perhaps hundreds of them each day. Barrages cancel out the inaccuracy of unguided rockets, and powerfully compound blast effects. That would make a large-scale offensive by more than 45,000 soldiers a compelling necessity, politically justifying the hundreds of casualties that it would certainly have cost.

Hizbullah, however, distributed its rockets to village militias that were very good at hiding them from air attacks, sheltering them from artillery and from probing Israeli unmanned air vehicles, but quite incapable of launching them effectively, in simultaneous launches against the same targets.

Instead of hundreds of dead civilians, the Israelis were therefore losing one or two a day, and even after three weeks, the grand total was less than in some one-man suicide bombings.

That made it politically unacceptable to launch the planned offensive that would kill young soldiers and family men, while not eradicating Hizbullah anyway, because it is a political movement in arms, and not just an army or a bunch of gunmen.

For that very reason, the outcome of the war is likely to be more satisfactory than many now seem to believe. Hassan Nasrallah is not another Yasser Arafat, who was fighting for eternal Palestine and not for actually living Palestinians, whose prosperity and safety he was always willing to sacrifice for the cause.

Nasrallah has a political constituency, and it happens to be centered in southern Lebanon. Implicitly accepting responsibility for having started the war, Nasrallah has directed his Hizbullah to focus on rapid reconstruction in villages and towns, right up to the Israeli border.

He cannot start another round of fighting that would quickly destroy everything again. Yet another unexpected result of the war is that Nasrallah’s power-base in southern Lebanon is more than ever a hostage for Hizbullah’s good behavior.



Madeleine Albright redux?
Mission Unaccomplished
The French promise a military force and Condi falls for it
The Wall Street Journal
August 21, 2006

Most U.N. resolutions don’t have the shelf-life of a gallon of milk, which isn’t always a bad thing. But in the case of Resolution 1701 – the cease-fire agreement for Lebanon and Israel adopted unanimously this month by the Security Council – things seem to be going sour even faster than that. And that is cause for serious unease.

On Thursday, Jacques Chirac confirmed a Le Monde report that his government was prepared to offer only some 200 combat engineers (in addition to the 200 French troops already in Lebanon) to what is supposed to be the resolution’s centerpiece: A 15,000-man U.N. force that will help the Lebanese army patrol their southern border and ensure that Hezbollah will no longer use the area as a staging ground for future attacks against Israel.

Given that the French contingent was supposed to be at the vanguard of this enhanced force, it’s unclear whether other nations will be willing to chip in with troops of their own. All of this after the French used the promise of a robust, French-led international force to get the U.S. and Israel to agree to a cease-fire and withdrawal. Even less reassuring is the insistence by French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie that her troops will remain in the lead only until February, after which, apparently, it’s salaam and adieu.

Then there is the delicate matter of disarming Hezbollah. Although the terrorist militia is so far abiding by the cease-fire, its leader Hassan Nasrallah made a televised statement last week insisting it was the “wrong time” to discuss disarmament. “Who will defend Lebanon in case of a new Israeli offensive?” he asks.

The answer, presumably, is the Lebanese Army. By the terms of the 1989 Taif Accord that ended Lebanon’s civil war, all domestic Lebanese militias should have long since disarmed or been folded into the regular army. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 of 2004 makes the same demand, as does 1701.

But the U.N. resolutions are dismayingly vague about just who, other than Hezbollah itself, is supposed to do the disarming. “I don’t think there is an expectation that this [U.N.] force is going to physically disarm Hezbollah,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told USA Today last week. “You have to have a plan, first of all, for the disarmament of a militia, and then the hope is that some people lay down their arms voluntarily.”

That’s some “hope” on Secretary Rice’s part. Emile Lahoud, the pro-Syrian Lebanese President who is nominally commander-in-chief of the army, has described the notion of disarming Hezbollah as “disgraceful”: “How can they ask us to disarm while the blood of the martyrs is still warm?” Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has been less explicit but little better. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that he has entered into negotiations with Mr. Nasrallah to arrange a modus vivendi between Lebanese troops and Hezbollah fighters still operating in the south of Lebanon.

Resolution 1701 also calls for an arms embargo on Hezbollah, although it specifies no penalties for those who break it. Anyone who has visited the remote, unguarded and unmarked hinterland between Syria and Lebanon must know that such an embargo will be very hard to enforce.

All of this explains Israel’s increasing frustration with the cease-fire. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert bought into the agreement based on what now appear to have been insincere pledges that European troops would dominate the U.N. force. Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is displaying his trademark even-handedness by denouncing Israel for trying to enforce the arms embargo while staying silent on the failure of everyone else to enforce it.

Israel can and will defend itself. The person who should really be furious here is Secretary of State Rice. She midwifed this cease-fire in the name of Lebanese democracy and as a way to use diplomacy, and the U.N., to tame Hezbollah and frustrate its patrons. She also believed French promises, so it’d be good to know if she now feels she was lied to. If this U.N. exercise turns out to be as feckless as it increasingly appears, U.S. credibility will also be a loser.

Firm with Nazi past buys 25% of Ha’aretz (& animals recover from Hizbullah)

August 21, 2006

* La Stampa reveals: Hamas terror money came from Italy
* Sophisticated Hizbullah equipment was “British-made”
* Red Cross admits to aiding wounded Hizbullah fighters, even if they returned to fire rockets at Israel



1. Firm with Nazi past buys 25% of Ha’aretz
2. German troops may face Jews
3. Italian foreign minister criticized for a stroll with Hizbullah
4. Leading Norwegian author says Israel has no right to exist
5. Venezuelan Pres. Chavez on Al-Jazeera: Israel uses methods of Hitler
6. Costa Rica to move embassy from Jerusalem
7. A crime to drink tea with Israelis
8. Mahmoud Abbas praises Hizbullah
9. Iranians among Hizbullah combat dead
10. Red Cross admits to aiding wounded Hizbullah fighters
11. Palestinians support Hizbullah
12. Hizbullah hands out cash to Lebanese war victims
13. Israeli zoo animals show signs of stress
14. Post-ceasefire poll: Israel failed to reach its goals
15. Double standards?

[Note by Tom Gross]


The DuMont Schauberg Group, one of Germany’s largest media concerns, has paid $30 million for a 25 percent stake in the Israeli daily newspaper, Ha’aretz. In Nazi times, the publishing house was headed by Kurt DuMont, a member of the Nazi party who was decorated by the Nazi regime.

Ha’aretz was founded in 1919 and purchased 71 years ago by Salman Schocken, a Jewish department store magnate-turned-publisher who fled Nazi Germany for pre-state Israel. Now, his Israeli heirs have sold part of their Ha’aretz newspaper to a German publisher with a Nazi past.

Kurt DuMont’s 78-year-old son, Alfred, the group’s current owner, has no Nazi ties, and shouldn’t be tarred by his father’s deeds, Amos Schocken, Salman’s grandson, told Yediot Ahronot.

The straight equity investment into the Ha’aretz group will be 25 million euros, valuing the company at 100 million euros or $130 million.


Germany may shatter its most enduring postwar taboo by sending troops into Lebanon, where they risk coming into direct conflict with Israelis.

As France continues to back away from its previous commitment made to Israel and the U.S. that it would form the backbone of the expanded UN force in south Lebanon, it looks like Germany may have to send some troops. Any German decision to participate would rank as its most delicate foreign policy move since the Holocaust.

Since then, it has been unthinkable that Germans would put themselves in a combat situation in which their soldiers could shoot at Jews.

France now says it will only send 200 troops towards the 15,000-strong Unifil peacekeeping force. It had previously promised 4,000 troops as a way of getting Israel and the U.S. to agree to an early ceasefire last week. France’s reticence to contribute more troops follows disastrous peacekeeping missions in the past. It lost 58 paratroopers to a Hizbullah suicide bomb attack in Beirut in 1983 and 84 soldiers in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

“We have to do this, not in spite of the Holocaust, but because of it,” Werner Sonne, a leading commentator, said on German state television. “If German troops guard Israel’s borders, they are there to protect Jewish lives. Frankly, there has never been a better reason to bring in soldiers in German uniform.”

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said she was ready to send some 3,000 troops, of whom about 1,000 will be Pioneers with heavy earth-moving equipment to help to rebuild airports and harbors. The navy, already in the eastern Mediterranean on Operation Active Endeavor, would be strengthened with frigates to patrol the coast of Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the German newspaper Sόddeutsche Zeitung: “There is at the moment no nation that is behaving in a more friendly way towards Israel than Germany. If Germany can contribute to the security of the Israeli people, that would be a worthwhile task for your country. I would be very happy if Germany participated.”

Other troops are likely to come from Muslim countries such as Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as Italy. Mark Malloch Brown, UN vice-secretary general, said on Friday that the international force that will be deployed in south Lebanon “will be very well equipped but not aggressive.”


A photograph of Italian foreign minister Massimo D’Alema strolling, arm-in-arm with a Hizbullah-linked Lebanese cabinet minister has stirred controversy in Italy, with a spokesman for Rome’s Jewish community condemning the gesture. “It’s incredible that our foreign minister can go arm-in-arm with an enemy, not just of Israel, but of peace,” the spokesman, Riccardo Pacifici, said in an interview published by the Turin-based daily La Stampa.

Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party also criticized the new leftist foreign minister.

La Stampa also reported on 18 and 19 August that Italian magistrates have alleged that Italian sources are funding the military wing of Hamas. Italian anti-terrorism authorities have applied for the arrest of a Jordanian architect of Palestinian origin, who had raised funds which he said were for “the Bethlehem Orphan Care Society and other charitable activities in Palestine,” but, according to the Italian magistrates, “actually ended up directly in the hands of Hamas fighting groups”, the paper reports. Between 2001 and 2004, 4.6m Euros (over $5m) left Italy, which ended up “financing suicide terrorists,” the paper says. Investigators said the money was gathered in Italian mosques.

Among the terrorist’s families awarded with Italian funds, according to La Stampa, was $56,000 which went to the family of August 2001 Sbarro pizzeria massacre in Jerusalem, where 15 people (mainly children) were killed and another $56,000 went to the family of the murderer of 23 people (including schoolchildren), on the number 2 bus in Jerusalem on August 19, 2003.


In an article on August 5, 2006, entitled “God’s chosen people,” in the leading Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, Jostein Gaarder, author of the book “Sophie’s World” (which has been translated into 53 languages and sold 26 million copies), says Israel should be dismantled.

His article compares Israel’s government to the Afghan Taliban regime and South African apartheid, and states, “We no longer recognize the State of Israel” and “the State of Israel in its current form is history.”

“We call child murderers ‘child murderers,’ and will never accept that they have a divine or historic mandate excusing their outrages,” Gaarder writes. “Shame on ethnic cleansing, shame on every terrorist strike against civilians [… by] the State of Israel!”

He added that “the first Zionist terrorists started operating in the days of Jesus.”

The article has triggered thousands of comments and dozens of stormy debates in the Norwegian media, mostly critical of Gaarder’s alleged anti-Semitism.

The Norwegian-Jewish music critic Mona Levin said she was shocked by the Norwegian government’s silence. She blasted the cabinet for not denouncing what she described as “the most appalling thing I’ve read since ‘Mein Kampf.’”

“This is a classic anti-Semitic manifesto, which cannot even disguise itself as criticism of Israel,” said the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University.

Gaarder, Norway’s most famous living writer, denies being anti-Semitic. Aftenposten’s political editor Harald Stanghelle said he saw no problem publishing Gaarder’s article. “Of course I don’t agree with what he says,” he said. “But an open debate on the issue is better than a covert one.

Meanwhile, the furor over Gaarder’s article coincides with a series of anti-Semitic incidents in Norway, including the desecration of an Oslo Synagogue and cemeteries and the assault and battery of a skullcap-wearing teenager.


In an interview with Al-Jazeera TV that aired on August 4, 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expressed his solidarity with the entire Arab people on the occasion of his birthday, stating that his heart “beats along with millions of Arab hearts.” He then said that Israel is “doing what Hitler did to the Jews.”

“My heart is with Al-Jazeera and with its media people, its employees, and its workers. You should continue to serve as an example, and present the truth to the world, because the truth is that you have a role in liberating the world.”

Chavez’s remarks were welcomed in the Arab world, including by so-called moderate countries. For example, this Egyptian website prominently displays a photo (taken by AFP) showing an Egyptian child sent as part of an official Egyptian government delegation to the Venezuelan embassy in Cairo to thank Chavez.

Last month, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared in Chavez’s presence that the Holocaust was Zionist propaganda, the Venezuelan president embraced the Iranian dictator, calling him a “a true friend and brother.”

For more on Chavez, see Venezuelan President Chavez: “The descendants of the Christ-killers’ control the world” (Jan. 2, 2006).


The president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, announced on Wednesday that his country would transfer its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.

“It is time to maintain friendly ties with the Arab world and the culture of Islam, to which a sixth of humanity belongs,” Arias said at an event marking his first 100 days in office. Arias was the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Arias said that Vice Premier Shimon Peres phoned him on Tuesday and tried to persuade him to change his decision, but he refused.

The Costa Rican leader, however, stressed that there was “no doubt” that Israel had the right to exist and live in peace without the threat of terrorism.

If implemented, the only country to have its embassy in the Israeli capital would be El Salvador. Former Costa Rican President Luis Alberto Monge moved the embassy to Jerusalem in 1982 as a show of support for Israel.


A Lebanese general was arrested Wednesday after a video broadcast on Hizbullah’s Al-Manar television showed him drinking tea with Israeli soldiers last week.

“They came peacefully up to our gate, asking to speak with me by name,” Lebanese Interior Ministry Brig. Gen. Adnan Daoud said. He said the Israeli ranking officer was very polite, and his encounter with them was a pleasant experience

Following the broadcast on Hizbullah’s Al-Manar television, the Lebanese interior ministry ordered that Daoud be arrested. Lebanon does not recognize Israel and forbids its citizens any contact with Israelis.


Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas praised Hizbullah terrorists. He told reporters in Yemen that the Hizbullah war has re-awakened the Arab world with honor and is an example for others to follow.


Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have been found among Hizbullah guerrillas slain by Israeli forces in southern Lebanon, Israel’s Channel 10 television reported August 9, citing diplomatic sources. It said the Iranians were identified by documents found on their bodies. Iran insists its support for the Shiite guerrilla group is purely moral, and is not financial or practical. Hizbullah, though, admit to receiving arms, training and money from Teheran.

While Iran denies sending Revolutionary Guards, the leading pan-Arab newspaper, the Saudi-owned al-Sharq al-Awsat, reported on July 16, 2006 (in remarks translated exclusively for this website), that the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards had told al-Sharq al-Awsat that 150 to 250 of the IRG’s best trainers had been sent to aid Hizbullah. The paper added that some 3,000 Hizbullah men had taken part in training in Iran during the last two years. It also stated that Iran had equipped 20 Hizbullah bases in the Bekka valley and the Lebanese Israeli border.



The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provided medical care to Hizbullah terrorists wounded while fighting against Israel, the Jerusalem Post reports.

“The moment a Hizbullah fighter is injured, he is considered a non-combatant, so we must take care of him,” ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad told The Jerusalem Post’s Michael Freund by phone from Geneva. “We are a neutral intermediary and the ICRC has a mandate to intervene.”

Haddad confirmed that ICRC personnel in southern Lebanon, working together with members of the Lebanese Red Cross, had offered medical assistance and other unspecified forms of relief to Hizbullah members hurt on the battlefield.

The Post contacted the ICRC after a photograph appeared in Thursday’s New York Times depicting Red Cross workers assisting wounded members of Hizbullah to cross a makeshift bridge over the Litani River.

Asked if the ICRC would assist wounded Hizbullah fighters even if it meant they would then be able to return immediately to the battle or continue firing rockets at Israel, Haddad replied, “There is nothing wrong with assisting the war wounded.”

The American Red Cross has thus far sent $500,000 to the ICRC for relief activities in Lebanon and an additional $80,000 has been raised.


About 97% of Palestinians say they supported Hizbullah’s war against Israel, according to an opinion poll. This rate went down to 95% among Palestinian Christians.


Hizbullah began handing out bundles of cash on Friday to people whose homes were wrecked by Israeli bombing, consolidating the Iranian-backed group’s support among Lebanon’s Shi’ites and embarrassing the Beirut government, reports Reuters.

“This is a very, very reasonable amount. It is not small,” Ayman Jaber, 27, told Reuters, holding a wad he had just picked up from Hizbullah of $12,000 in banknotes wrapped in tissue.

Israeli and U.S. officials have voiced concern that Hizbullah will entrench its popularity by moving fast, using Iranian oil money, to help people whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the 34-day conflict with Israel. The scheme appears likely to cost at least $150 million. The Lebanese government has yet to launch anything similar.


After 34 days in indoor shelters, many of the animals at the Haifa Zoo are now recovering. Haifa officials moved all the carnivores, bears and monkeys indoors to protect them from Hizbullah rocket strikes. “The baboons got stressed, the lions got fat and we worry the antelopes might have heart attacks,” zoo officials told the Associated Press.

AP reporters said the lions roared at them and flashed their teeth when they visited them at the 3 by 2 meter indoor cages where they were confined for more than a month.

Now the animals have been allowed outside again. “They’re thrilled with the ceasefire,” said veterinarian Ayelet Shmueli yesterday.

Many cows and other farm animals were killed by Hizbullah missiles over the last month.


The first major Israeli poll taken after the ceasefire was announced indicates that few Israelis feel the conflict’s stated goals were met. The survey was conducted by the Globes financial newspaper. According to the poll, 58% of Israelis believe the fighting achieved none or few of its goals; only 66% have a bad impression of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701; and only half the population thinks the ceasefire can last one month. In terms of political support, the new survey showed a severe loss of confidence in Ehud Olmert’s Kadima and Amir Peretz’s Labor parties – a distinct turnaround from figures posted during the course of the month-long conflict.

In another poll, in the daily Yediot Ahronot, 63% said they thought Minister of Defense Peretz is not up to the job, and 57% think that he should resign. 51% are not satisfied with the performance of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and 41% want him to resign. Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz received an approval rating of 49%. 94% of Israelis expressed admiration for their army.

Olmert has put his proposal for an Israeli pullout from parts of the West Bank on hold for now following the war in Lebanon, Ha’aretz reported on Friday.


On August 16, 2006, British troops clashed with a Shiite militia (south of Baghdad) in sustained battles that left a dozen Shia dead. Whereas British politicians of all political parties (Tony Blair excepted) continue to condemn Israel for “disproportionate use of force” in battling Shia militiamen, none have condemned Britain for doing the same thing.

Yesterday in Afghanistan, Nato forces (including a large British and Canadian contingent) killed 72 Afghans, with the loss of one British life. Again, Kofi Annan and the BBC didn’t rush to make statements about “disproportionate use of force.”

Of even more startling double standards was the severe criticism British politicians from all parties made of America aiding Israel during the conflict with Hizbullah. Now that it has been revealed that the Hizbullah night-vision gear (which helped Hizbullah kill many Israelis) was supplied by Britain, those same politicians are suddenly silent.

(For more, see this article from the San Francisco Chronicle: See also:

-- Tom Gross



In yesterday’s dispatch (Hollywood stars blast Nasrallah, but Spielberg, Streisand & others remain silent), I noted that Steven Spielberg was not among those 84 Hollywood celebrities who signed a petition condemning Hizbullah and Hamas. While it is true that Steven Spielberg did not add his name to the condemnation, it would be incorrect to have given the impression that Spielberg was unconcerned about Israeli victims. A friend of his who is a subscriber to this email list reliably informs me that Spielberg has donated $250,000 to the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, and a further $750,000 to the New Israel Fund for reconstruction efforts in Israel following the Hizbullah attacks. I am told that Spielberg also made similar-sized donations following the Southeast Asia Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Suha Arafat “remarries” (& anti-Hizbullah comment starts W. Bank wedding riot)

August 20, 2006


1. West Bank wedding riot after guest calls Nasrallah “a dog”
2. Suha Arafat “remarries”
3. Palestinian babies being named after Hizbullah
4. Syria continues to arm Hizbullah
5. War cost Israel $5.1 billion
6. Iranian cleric: We’ll hit Tel Aviv over “iota” of Israeli aggression
7. Iran launches exhibition of cartoons mocking the Holocaust
8. “Essay by intellectual spurs debate on Hezbollah leaders” (By Rana Fil, Aug. 14, 2006)

[Note by Tom Gross]


Two Palestinian families attacked each other with knives and clubs at a wedding last week after one guest cursed the leader of Lebanon’s Hizbullah terrorist group. Seven people were seriously wounded, according to Palestinian security officials.

It took Palestinian police three hours to break up the brawl that erupted in the village of Aqada near the West Bank town of Jenin after a critic called Sheik Hassan Nasrallah “a dog,” they said.


According to rumors sweeping the Middle East, Yasser Arafat’s widow Suha has married the Tunisian president’s brother-in-law, Belhassen al-Trabulsi. Al-Trabulsi had been due to marry Suha’s sister, but instead is said to have chosen Suha because of her large fortune.

The rumors started after a Tunisian website reported on August 16 that Suha Arafat secretly married al-Trabulsi, a brother-in-law of Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, a number of days ago. Arab commentators have noted that it is fitting that the widow of the former Palestinian Authority dictator married someone close to power.

Two years ago, after Arafat’s death, Suha was personally promised an annual stipend of $22 million to cover her lifestyle and household expenses by PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ staff.

Senior Palestinian figures say they were forced to come to a deal with Suha, after she instructed her lawyers to use French law to prevent PA members from visiting Arafat as he lay dying, or to take decisions on disconnecting his life support machine, until she received a financial commitment from them.

The money given to Suha comes from the “secret fortune” of the PA, managed personally by the PA president. The fortune is widely believed to be worth over $4 billion, and is kept in bank accounts in London and Zurich. (For more, see Suha Arafat, TVs for the World Cup, and Gaza’s so-called “humanitarian crisis” June 13, 2006.)

Suha, who was awarded citizenship by France, has denied Arab press reports that she married al-Trabulsi. She divides her time between Paris and Tunis.

Arafat died in Paris at the age of 75 in 2004. (For more, see Yasser Arafat, ‘the stuff of legends’.)


The Associated Press reports that many Palestinians are naming their newly born babies “Hizbullah” after the Lebanese militia group. Nahed Ghurani, a wealthy Gaza merchant, said he was proud that his new son would be called Hizbullah Ghurani. “My wife wanted to call the baby Nasrallah, but I wanted Hizbullah – to commemorate the entire resistance not only its leader,” he said.

At least five other babies born in recent days at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital have been called Hizbullah, which means “Party of Allah.”

Other babies are being named after the Hizbullah leader. In Shifa Hospital, at least six Palestinian women have named their babies Hassan, Nasrallah, or Hassan Nasrallah, according to maternity records since the fighting began last month.

In Gaza, as in many parts of the Arab and Muslim world, Nasrallah has seen his popularity rise dramatically by “defeating” Israel.

Ghurani said he also tried to change his 6-year-old son’s name from Islam to Nasrallah, but “couldn’t find the right papers.”

“The next son – we’ll call him Ahmadinejad,” Ghurani said, in honor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the complete annihilation of Israel.

During the Gulf war, many Palestinians named their children Saddam.

More than 120 babies born during the war have been named after Nasrallah in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, according to the official registrar there.


Israel is failing to prevent Syria from rearming Hizbullah, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. The paper cites a senior Israeli army source as saying that while it has had some success in stopping arms shipments, supply convoys have managed to bring armaments from Syria into Lebanon. These include anti-tank missiles and rockets of the kind that the group used to kill Israeli civilians.


While many western media continue to report on the cost of the recent war to Lebanon, few have reported on the cost of the conflict to the party that was attacked first, Israel.

The Israeli financial newspaper, The Marker (which is published by Ha’aretz) reports that the war in Lebanon will cost Israel $5.1 billion. This includes the cost of fighting, of rebuilding, and of reimbursing businesses and residents for damage suffered, and an anticipated 1.5% drop in the gross domestic product.

In addition to loss of life and hundreds of severe injuries sustained by Israeli civilians, many residential and commercial buildings were badly damaged in the Hizbullah attacks across northern Israel.

In Kiryat Shmona, the walls of some buildings and homes remain riddled with pockmarks from the thousands of metal ball bearings that exploded from the warheads of Katyusha rockets, and chunks of roads and sidewalks have been torn away. There has also been significant crop damage and tourism to Israel fell 25 percent in July.

Over 500,000 Israeli civilians were displaced or affected directly by the war. Over 4,000 Hizbullah rockets landed in Israel. 158 Israelis, including several children, were killed, and over 5,000 Israelis injured, some severely. Many more are still being treated for shock and distress.

Israel moved its civilians out of danger quickly and efficiently, thereby preventing much higher loss of life from the Hizbullah rocket attacks. This contrasts greatly with southern Lebanon, where civilians were used as human shields by Hizbullah, and in some cases even physically prevented from fleeing at gunpoint.


A hard-line Iranian cleric, citing Hizbullah’s success in firing rockets against Israel during the month-long war, warned Israel on Tuesday that Iran’s 2,000-kilometer missiles would land in Tel Aviv if Israel “makes an iota of aggression against Iran,” state-run Iranian television reported.

Ahmad Khatami, a Friday prayer leader in Teheran and a member of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical panel that has the power to choose or dismiss Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran would “turn Israel into a country of ghosts.”

This morning (Sunday) Iran test-fired a surface-to-surface short-range missile while a military training plane crashed outside the capital Teheran after catching fire, Iranian television reported.

Iran said its new military exercises launched yesterday are being held in 14 of the country’s 30 provinces and could last as long as five weeks.

Arms experts say Iran’s Shahab-3 missiles have a maximum range of around 2,000 km (1,240 miles), meaning they are capable of hitting Israel as well as U.S. military bases in the Gulf.


An exhibition of 204 cartoons mocking the Holocaust opened in Teheran last week.

The display was strongly influenced by the views of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called the Holocaust a “myth.”

The entries on display came from several countries other than Iran, including the United States, Indonesia and Turkey. One cartoon by Indonesian Tony Thomdean shows the Statue of Liberty holding a book on the Holocaust in its left hand, and giving a Nazi-style salute with the other.

The exhibition was sponsored by the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri, and Holocaust experts noted its similarity to the anti-Semitic cartoons published in German and Austrian papers in the run-up to World War Two.

The exhibition runs until September 13, and the winner will receive $12,000. The exhibition hall is next to the Palestinian Authority’s embassy, which was Israel’s diplomatic site in Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

I attach one article below.

-- Tom Gross



Essay by intellectual spurs debate on Hezbollah leaders
By Rana Fil,
Boston Globe
August 14, 2006

When Mona Fayad saw Lebanon engulfed in violence, she couldn’t keep silent. The psychology professor at Lebanese University did something almost no Shi’ite intellectual dares to do in Beirut, at least in public: criticize Hezbollah.

In a scathing essay titled “To be a Shi’ite now,” Fayad attacked fellow Shi’ites who, she says, blindly follow the leadership of Hezbollah on a path she described as “no different from suicide.”

Her bold and unusual stance has sparked debate in the daily newspaper An-Nahar, where it was published, and it has made Fayad something of a celebrity.

“What does it mean to be a Shi’ite for the majority of Shi’ites now, at this critical period?” Fayad wrote. “It means entrusting your fate to the wise and infallible leadership without daring to ask any question.”

To be a Shi’ite now “is to block your mind” and let Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, “command you, drive you, decide for you what he wants from the weapons of Hezbollah, and force on you a victory that is no different from suicide,” Fayad wrote. “To be a Shi’ite and dare such writing and such thinking means that you are a collaborator and a traitor.”

Since then, Fayad has been inundated with calls and e-mails from friends and strangers . “People thank me, encourage me, and ask me if I am scared,” Fayad said. “But I am not scared because I live in a country where a bomb can fall on my head at any time, so I want to express my opinion.”

Fayad’s essay gave vent to some of the frustration and anger that have built up among many Shi’ites. Although largely symbolic when measured against the widespread Shi’ite embrace of Hezbollah, the piece offers a glimpse of the debate taking place among intellectuals.

An-Nahar’s opinion page editor, Jihad al-Zein, who published the essay, said the piece has prompted a passionate reaction. “People are calling me from places as far away as the United States or the Gulf countries to comment,” Zein said. “There is vitality in the debate.”

Zein, a Shi’ite intellectual, had stirred passions a few weeks ago when he wrote an open letter to Khamenei in which he questioned Iran’s use of Shi’ite groups in the Middle East to advance Tehran’s political interests without regard to the consequences for local Shi’ites.

Zein is being flooded with responses to Fayad’s piece, so he publishes them to keep the debate alive.

“I, the Lebanese citizen from the south, a Shi’ite displaced in my country for calculations and adventures forced on me, I declare supporting Fayad,” Ismail Sharafeddine, a Shi’ite intellectual, wrote. “And I will say more: To be a Shi’ite is to demand accountability from those who took this adventure that led to the displacement of a million people.”

But not everyone has appreciated Fayad’s writing. In a toughly worded response, Nayef Krayyem, another Shi’ite intellectual, wrote that for Fayad, the Shi’ite is supposed to prevent Hezbollah “from building a force capable of maintaining the dignity of opinion if Israel thinks of stealing from us the dignity of life.”

“It is forbidden to be strong near Israel and if you dare, you have to pay a price you never paid before and to suffer in a way you never suffered before,” Krayyem wrote.

Fayad’s article has broken a longstanding taboo in the Shi’ite community. “People have been lying to themselves, afraid of Hezbollah because it is loaded with weapons but it is time to stand up and ask why,” Fayad said.

“We’ve been forced to shut up for decades because we are at war but we have to speak in critical periods so that the leaders know who are with them and who are not,” Fayad said. “The future of Lebanon is at stake.”

Fayad is not discouraged by the criticism. “If I get to the point where I can’t write what I believe in, life has no meaning.”

Hollywood stars blast Nasrallah, but Spielberg, Streisand and others remain silent

* In a letter, non-Jews Stallone, Willis, Kidman, Hopper, DeVito speak out for Israel
* But left-wing Jews like Spielberg, Streisand and Allen remain silent



1. Hollywood stars blast Nasrallah
2. Left-wing Jewish stars keep their distance
3. Hollywood’s muted response to Mel Gibson’s rant
4. Adam Shapiro pops up in Lebanon
5. Son of novelist David Grossman killed in Lebanon
6. “Star Wars” agency helps Israel on rocket threat
7. Sign in Turkey reads “Israeli murderers keep out”
8. “Jokes” about the Holocaust and Richard Perle
9. Edinburgh film festival warns Israeli director not to attend film’s screening
10. “Have you heard the one about the Jews?” (Times of London, August 15, 2006)

(This is one of three dispatches being sent today and tomorrow. After that, I have other important outstanding work to attend to and there will be no more dispatches this month.)

[Note by Tom Gross]


Some 84 high-profile Hollywood stars, directors and studio heads have taken out a strongly-worded full-page advertisement in The Los Angeles Times condemning Hizbullah and Hamas terror attacks on Israeli civilians.

Among those signing the statement were Nicole Kidman, Bruce Willis, Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Don Johnson, Sylvester Stallone, James Woods, Dennis Hopper, William Hurt and Kelly Preston.

Ridley Scott (the director of Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down, and Gladiator), his brother Tony Scott (the director of Top Gun, The Last Boy Scout, and Spy Game), and African-American tennis star Serena Williams, also added their names to the statement.

The advert was also published in the Hollywood Reporter newspaper, and Variety, and goes against the grain of the usual left-wing Hollywood political activism.

The advert was paid for by the head of Twentieth Century Fox, Australian-born media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Fox TV network. Murdoch is a life-long sympathizer with Zionism and the Jewish people.


With the exception of Michael Douglas, none of the Hollywood personalities cited above are Jewish. At the same time, and true to form, almost none of Hollywood’s politically-active left-wing Jewish stars – include those who have made much of their Jewishness, such as Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand and Woody Allen – signed the statement condemning Hizbullah and Hamas.

I have noted previously the absence of support for Israel by such stars: for example after the Netanya Passover massacre, in the dispatch Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Philip Roth, Daniel Libeskind: Where are you? (April 1, 2002.)

A more recent dispatch on Spielberg was Munich (1): “Spielberg is no friend of Israel” (Dec. 15, 2005.)

An exception among Jewish celebrities is the actor Adam Sandler, star of The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, who last week said he would donate $100,000 to help some of the tens of thousands of Israeli children traumatized after weeks of living in bomb shelters. Sandler also purchased 400 Playstation games for them.

With very few exceptions, Hollywood Jews were also remarkably silent throughout the Holocaust.


In an article last week in The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus noted: “The interesting thing about Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade doesn’t involve Mel Gibson [but] Hollywood’s reaction to it – or, more accurately, its cowardly lack thereof.”

“Imagine if Gibson had assailed African-Americans with the same kind of assault that he unleashed on Jews. I suspect Hollywood would have responded with the outrage it deserved – not with paeans to free speech, and psychobabble about healing,” wrote Marcus.


Adam Shapiro, the radical American Jew who infamously entered Ramallah to protect and assist Yasser Arafat when Israel responded to the Passover massacre of March 2002, has now organized a convoy to southern Lebanon, “to help local residents and show solidarity with the victims of Israel.”

Shapiro, 34, from Brooklyn, is a leader of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a pro-Palestinian group.

This is the first time that the ISM has worked outside the Palestinian territories. Israeli authorities view the ISM as trouble makers who sometimes incite violence.

Among one of the ISM’s most prominent activists was Rachel Corrie who led pro-Hamas rallies for children in the Gaza Strip and later died in a bulldozer accident. (For more, see The Forgotten Rachels.)

In the past, The New York Times has repeatedly referred to Shapiro as a “humanitarian worker.” This is curious, since Shapiro himself admits to support for “armed resistance” and a Palestinian “violent movement.” The NY Times forgot to tell its readers about Shapiro’s article in The Palestine Chronicle in which he referred to “suicide operations” as “noble.”

(For more, see All the news that’s fit to print? The New York Times and Israel.)

At Shapiro’s wedding to a Palestinian activist in Detroit, Old Testament passages were read in Arabic rather than in Hebrew. Shapiro, who told various news outlets he no longer considers himself a Jew, previously worked for Seeds of Peace, a summer camp that brings Jewish and Arab teenagers to Maine every year to learn about coexistence. (For more, see Israelis not safe outside Planet Earth either, May 28, 2002.)

Shapiro’s work in Lebanon last week has been widely publicized in English by the Reuters news agency, and has now been taken up in Arabic by a number of sources, including the Kuwaiti daily al-Rai al-Aam, and this new website


For those who haven’t heard already, since this was noted in several international newspapers, Uri Grossman, the 20-year-old son of renowned Israeli novelist and “peace activist” David Grossman, was killed last weekend in Lebanon, just days after his father made a public call for the Israeli army to halt its military operation.

Uri Grossman was one of 24 Israeli soldiers to be killed last Saturday, as part of Israel’s final push into Lebanon aimed at maximizing Israeli gains against Hizbullah before a UN-ordered cease fire came into force early Monday.

David Grossman, whose novels and political essays have been translated into 20 languages, is an outspoken advocate of Israeli concessions. Like most Israelis, he supported Israel’s retaliation when Hizbullah militia attacked an army patrol inside Israel on July 12 and unleashed a barrage of rockets on civilians in the north.

But two days before his son’s death, he said the war had gone on long enough, and at a joint news conference with fellow novelists Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, Grossman denounced Israel’s continuing campaign as dangerous and counterproductive. “Out of concern for the future of Israel and our place here, the fighting should be stopped now, to give a chance to negotiations,” he said.


The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency last week began working with Israel to help find ways to counter enemy rockets. “We have begun working with the Israelis as they go through with development of their own indigenous capabilities for that threat,” the head of the agency, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering said on Tuesday. “It is not yet mature. It is still in development.”

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency grew out of the so-called “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative launched by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1983. It is building a multibillion-dollar shield designed to thwart all classes and ranges of incoming ballistic missiles.

The United States has a long history of high-tech joint projects with Israel, including co-development of the Arrow, the system Israel has deployed to defend itself against short- and medium-range missiles.

Israel’s defense ministry recently asked the Pentagon for information about a next-generation chemical-laser system for intercepting short-range Katyusha and Qassam rockets, the Israeli business daily Globes reported last week.


A sign reading “For children killers Israelis: No Sale, No Entry” was put up for Israeli tourists at some clothing stores in the southern Turkish seaside resort of Antalya, reported the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot. Antalya is a popular destination for Israeli tourists each summer.

In a separate development, the Turkish foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, will arrive in Israel today (August 20) for a brief working visit. He will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Talks are expected to focus on the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, and bilateral issues.


A writer for “The Ali G Show” has reported in The Times of London that “the anti-Jewish sentiment at Edinburgh [this year] is shocking.”

The world’s largest arts festival, in Edinburgh, Scotland, is held every August.

Jamie Glassman writes: “There have always been anti-Semitic jokes. But you know times are changing when you go along to a stand-up show at the Pleasance Courtyard at the Edinburgh Fringe and you hear audience members shouting ‘Throw them in the oven’ when the comic suggests kids should stop playing Cowboys and Indians and replace it with Nazis and Jews.

“Stand-up comedy is as good a prism as any through which to look at the changing attitudes in our society. If my past few days are anything to go by then it is becoming increasingly acceptable to hate the Jews. Again.

“I’ve seen two comics so far who have been happy to amuse their crowds with Holocaust gags. I’m not sure which to be the more concerned about. One was a left-leaning angry Australian conspiracy theorist, Steve Hughes, [who joked] ‘I want to bash Condoleezza Rice’s brain to bits and kill that f****** Jew Richard Perle.’

“… What is going on in Edinburgh now is no satire… It is a cultural trend that I’ve found increasingly evident but never before has the Jew-hating element been so overt.”

I attach Glassman’s full article below.


Reuters reports that Israeli director Yoav Shamir has been advised in an email by the organizers of the Edinburgh film festival (which is part of the wider Edinburgh arts festival in Scotland) not to attend the screening of his new work due to Israel’s “actions in Lebanon.”

As Reuters notes, Shamir himself is a leftist Israeli. Shamir’s previous films include the critically acclaimed documentary “Checkpoint,” which showed the daily travails facing Palestinians at crossings in occupied territory interspersed with interviews with Israeli military personnel.

Shamir’s new documentary, “Five Days,” chronicles Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip last year from the viewpoints of Israeli settlers, the Israel army, and Palestinians. The nearly two week-long film festival, which began on August 14, is one of the key events on the world movie calendar. Reuters quotes an Edinburgh film festival spokeswoman saying that the letter sent to Shamir asking him not to come was “an amicable, advisory note” and it would be in his “best interest not to attend the festival.”

Shamir, 35, vowed to attend the screening in any case. “The festival has not thought about banning American film makers because of what is going on Iraq,” he said. “When a festival decides to take a stance like this it is a very dangerous kind of step to take. Film has the potential to create dialogue which is essential for understanding between people.”


Last week saw the biggest single migration of Jews in a single day from the UK since the creation of modern Israel in 1948. One hundred and forty Jews, ranging from a three-month-old baby to an 80-year-old woman, emigrated from the UK to Israel on August 16, 2006.

Among the reasons cited by many, according to news reports, were actual anti-Semitic attacks as well as “an atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the UK generated by sections of the news media.”

Security experts said that the Jewish community in Britain is facing a wave of anti-Semitic incidents as a result of the conflict in Lebanon. For example, references to Islam and the slogan “Kill all Jews” were painted on the windows at a Jewish doctor’s North London home, and hate signs were daubed outside a Glasgow synagogue. Other incidents involved abusive phone messages and hate mail.

Leila Segal, a writer and editor, described herself as living in a “mental ghetto” in London, where she felt she was “always censoring” herself when it came to her Jewish identity.

Over 500 Jews have left Britain for Israel so far this year. The numbers of Jews migrating to Israel from western countries including France, Canada and the U.S. is also rising.

-- Tom Gross



Have you heard the one about the Jews?
Jamie Glassman
The Times of London
August 15, 2006,,1072-2312891,00.html

As a writer on The Ali G Show I can do insulting jokes. But the anti-Jewish sentiment at Edinburgh is shocking

There’s nothing I like more than a Jewish joke. It’s the anti-Jewish ones I’m not so keen on.

Wandering through the streets of Edinburgh during the world’s largest arts festival, you never know what sight or sound you will be bombarded with next. Half-naked men on 6ft stilts meander by, half-naked girls rush to sell you their show, troops of Japanese acrobats tumble past. But I wasn’t prepared for the verbal assault I got when I wandered into a comedy gig this week.

There have always been anti-Semitic jokes. But you know times are changing when you go along to a stand-up show at the Pleasance Courtyard at the Edinburgh Fringe and you hear audience members shouting “Throw them in the oven” when the comic suggests kids should stop playing Cowboys and Indians and replace it with Nazis and Jews.

Stand-up comedy is as good a prism as any through which to look at the changing attitudes in our society. If my past few days are anything to go by then it is becoming increasingly acceptable to hate the Jews. Again.

I’ve seen two comics so far who have been happy to amuse their crowds with Holocaust gags. I’m not sure which to be the more concerned about.

One was a left-leaning angry Australian conspiracy theorist, Steve Hughes, whose show The Storm is an assault on all things Western. “I want to bash Condoleezza Rice’s brain to bits and kill that f****** Jew Richard Perle.” Hughes is the one at the Pleasance Courtyard while Perle is an adviser to George W. Bush as he was to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton on foreign affairs.

The second was a far more charming African-American comic who for much of the show was thoughtful, funny and even quite sweet. But he seemed to have a problem with Jews, too. Reginald D. Hunter is doing sell-out shows in the new E4-sponsored venue, the Udderbelly. Three hundred come along every night to see Hunter’s Pride and Prejudice and Niggas. You should see the poster.

I was laughing along until he announced that he was about to be extremely controversial and break the last taboo of stand-up comedy. Long silent pause. Jeeeeews. Another long pause with some giggles from the audience. You see, you’re not allowed to say that.

He went on to say how its illegal to deny the Holocaust in Austria. He has a good mind to go to Austria, stand in the street and say the Holocaust didn’t happen so that he could get arrested and tell the judge he was talking about the Rwandan holocaust. Whether or not he thought there should be a law against going to Rwanda and denying that genocide, he didn’t say.

By claiming that making a joke about Jews is the one last, great comic taboo, he simultaneously provides the moral justification for a crack at the Jews and he silences them from the right to complain, as this would only confirm the unspoken premise: that Jews are overprotected in society or even worse that Jewish media controllers are obsessed with silencing any criticism of their own.

His joke is essentially one about freedom of speech and selective Jewish control of that freedom, but he gives the lie to his true feelings by his choice of example. Of all the possible targets, of all the things he might wish to say, his complaint is that he is not permitted to parrot the greatest anti-Semitic slur of the last hundred years — that the Holocaust never happened. As a believer in free speech, I am not convinced by the criminalisation of Holocaust denial, but that does not mean I am confused about the motives of those who wish to utter it.

The great Lenny Bruce, a comedian who suffered endlessly at the hands of the American authorities for the right to freedom of speech and to break taboos, once did a bit that began: “Are there any niggers here tonight?” His liberal audience was initially shocked at this racist outburst, but as the monologue continued he made it clear that it was “the suppression of the word that gives it the power”. That was taboo-busting. That was a righteous plea for freedom of speech.

The African-American comedian Dick Gregory was in attendance that night. He subsequently published a book entitled Nigger, and dedicated it: “Dear Momma, Wherever you are, if you ever hear the word ‘nigger’ again, remember they are advertising my book.”

It’s hard to imagine a Jew reacting similarly to Hunter’s bit. The question of what is acceptable material for comedy is always going to be a complex one to answer. Comedians should certainly be allowed to say anything. In fact, it is their role and their duty to be breaking taboos where they need to be broken. But comics do have an obligation to think about whom they might be offending with their material and whether or not those who say they are offended are right to be.

These questions are not entirely foreign to me. As a producer and writer on The Ali G Show, I have been accused of racism, among other things, in the past. All three characters in that show had their prejudices but I hope all thinking people would see the satire not far below the surface.

Borat, the fictional Kazakhstani journalist, was overtly anti-Semitic. Sacha Baron Cohen would dangle Borat’s anti-Semitism in front of our interviewees and we would all be shocked and amazed at how many of them would take the bait and join in. The Country Bar in Phoenix, Arizona, where the crowd sang along to Throw the Jew down the Well, was a terrifying example.

Jewish communal organisations in the US were concerned at the time that the tune would catch on and spur a rise of anti-Jewish attacks. Fortunately, most people saw it for the satire it was intended to be.

Borat was also prejudiced against blacks and Gypsies. Ali G was a homophobe and a misogynist. Austrian fashion presenter Bruno hated the disabled, all fat people, ugly people and the Jews too. Apologies if I have forgotten some colour, creed or lifestyle that we would use as bait.

But what is going on in Edinburgh now is no satire. For me, Hughes represents a growing trend among left-thinking people in this country and around the world to accept as dogma that those on the Left should hate Bush, Blair, American imperialism, Israel and, while we’re at it, the Jews. It is a cultural trend that I’ve found increasingly evident but never before has the Jew-hating element been so overt. This week has confirmed that my Jewish paranoia is not entirely unfounded. As the old saying goes: “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.”

Hughes wasn’t one for the odd remark or the clever comment; he waxed lyrical on how Osama bin Laden is far less of a threat than Dick Cheney, before defending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, saying he has no intention of destroying Israel, he has just been misquoted.

Yet I sat in that audience and I didn’t heckle. In hindsight it is heartening that half of his audience sat in stunned silence, as I did, for most of his show; but at the time it was the other half of the audience who were whooping along and lapping him up that made the greater impression.

As for Hunter, he seems like a nice guy, well meaning and at times very funny. While Hughes did little to hide his Jew-hatred, in a way it is even more disheartening that Hunter is so keen to make the Holocaust fair game.

The media war against Israel

August 03, 2006


I attach an analysis of the international media’s coverage of the current conflict between Israel and Hizbullah, written by myself. It appeared yesterday in The National Post (Canada) and The National Review (U.S.), and appears today in Israel in The Jerusalem Post, and also in Hebrew on the front of the Ma’ariv magazine section. It has also been recommended on a number of blogs, for example here:

-- Tom Gross


Extracts from the article below:

* The BBC’s coverage of the present war has been so extraordinary that even staunch BBC supporters in London seem rather embarrassed – in conversation, not on the air, unfortunately. If the BBC were just a British problem that would be one thing, but it is not. No other station broadcasts so extensively in dozens of languages, on TV, radio and online.

* From the distorted imagery, selective witness accounts, and almost round-the-clock emphasis on casualties by the media, you would be forgiven for thinking that the level of death and destruction in Lebanon is on a par with that in Darfur, where Arab militias are slaughtering hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs.

* Another journalist let the cat out of the bag last week. Writing on his blog while reporting from southern Lebanon, Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton, casually mentioned in the middle of a posting: “To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I’m loathe to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist’s passport, and they’ve already hassled a number of us and threatened one.”



Media Missiles. Working for the enemy.
By Tom Gross
National Post (Canada) / Jerusalem Post (Israel) / National Review (U.S.) / Ma'ariv (Israel)
August 2, 2006

Large sections of the international media are not only misreporting the current conflict in Lebanon. They are also actively fanning the flames.

The BBC World Service has a strong claim to be the number-one villain. It has come to sound like a virtual propaganda tool for Hizbullah. And as it desperately attempts to prove that Israel is guilty of committing “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity,” it has introduced a new charge – one which I have heard several times on air in recent days.

The newscaster reads out carefully selected “audience comments.” Among these are invariably contained some version of the claim that “Israel’s attack on Lebanon” will serve as a “recruitment” drive for al-Qaeda.

But if anything is going to win new recruits for the likes of Osama bin Laden, it will not be Israel’s defensive actions, which are far less damaging than Western TV stations would have us believe, but the inflammatory and hopelessly one-sided way in which they are being reported by those very same news organizations.

While the slanted comments and interviews are bad enough, the degree of pictorial distortion is even worse. From the way many TV stations worldwide are portraying it, you would think Beirut has begun to resemble Dresden and Hamburg in the aftermath of World War II air raids. International television channels have used the same footage of Beirut over and over, showing the destruction of a few individual buildings in a manner which suggests half the city has been razed.

A careful look at aerial satellite photos of the areas targeted by Israel in Beirut shows that certain specific buildings housing Hizbullah command centers in the city’s southern suburbs have been singled out. Most of the rest of Beirut, apart from strategic sites like airport runways used to ferry Hizbullah men and weapons in and out of Lebanon, has been left pretty much untouched.

From the distorted imagery, selective witness accounts, and almost round-the-clock emphasis on casualties, you would be forgiven for thinking that the level of death and destruction in Lebanon is on a par with that in Darfur, where Arab militias are slaughtering hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs, or with the 2004 tsunami that killed half a million in Southeast Asia.

In fact Israel has taken great care to avoid killing civilians – even though this has proven extremely difficult and often tragically impossible, since members of Hizbullah, the self-styled “Party of God,” have deliberately ensconced themselves in civilian homes. Nevertheless the civilian death toll has been mercifully low compared to other international conflicts in recent years.


The BBC, which courtesy of the British tax payer is the world’s biggest and most lavishly funded news organization, would of course never reveal how selective their reports are, since such a disclosure might spoil their campaign to demonize Israel and those who support her. But one senior British journalist, working for another company, last week let slip how the news media allows its Mideast coverage to be distorted.

“CNN senior international correspondent” Nic Robertson admitted that his anti-Israel report from Beirut on July 18 about civilian casualties in Lebanon, was stage-managed from start to finish by Hizbullah. He revealed that his story was heavily influenced by Hizbullah’s “press officer” and that Hizbullah have “very, very sophisticated and slick media operations.”

When pressed a few days later about his reporting on the CNN program “Reliable Sources,” Robertson acknowledged that Hizbullah militants had instructed the CNN camera team where and what to film. Hizbullah “had control of the situation,” Robertson said. “They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn’t have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath.”

Robertson added that Hizbullah has “very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access into those areas. You don’t get in there without their permission. We didn’t have enough time to see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, a taxi driver by day, and a Hizbullah fighter by night.”

Yet “Reliable Sources,” presented by Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz, is broadcast only on the American version of CNN. So CNN International viewers around the world will not have had the opportunity to learn from CNN’s “Senior international correspondent” that the pictures they saw from Beirut were carefully selected for them by Hizbullah.

Another journalist let the cat out of the bag last week. Writing on his blog while reporting from southern Lebanon, Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton, casually mentioned in the middle of a posting: “To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I’m loathe to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist’s passport, and they’ve already hassled a number of us and threatened one.”

Robertson is not the only foreign journalist to have misled viewers with selected footage from Beirut. NBC’s Richard Engel, CBS’s Elizabeth Palmer, and a host of European and other networks, were also taken around the damaged areas by Hizbullah minders. Palmer commented on her report that “Hizbullah is also determined that outsiders will only see what it wants them to see.”

Palmer’s honesty is helpful. But it doesn’t prevent the damage being done by organizations such as the BBC. First the BBC gave the impression that Israel had flattened the greater part of Beirut. Then to follow up its lop-sided coverage, its website helpfully carried full details of the assembly points for an anti-Israel march due to take place in London, but did not give any details for a rally in support of Israel also held in London a short time later.


Indeed, the BBC’s coverage of the present war has been so extraordinary that even staunch BBC supporters in London seem rather embarrassed – in conversation, not on the air, unfortunately.

If the BBC were just a British problem that would be one thing, but it is not. No other station broadcasts so extensively in dozens of languages, on TV, radio and online.

Its radio service alone attracts over 163 million listeners. It pours forth its worldview in almost every language of the Middle East: Pashto, Persian, Arabic and Turkish. Needless to say it declines to broadcast in Hebrew, even though it does broadcast in the languages of other small nations: Macedonian and Albanian, Azeri and Uzbek, Kinyarwanda and Kyrgyz, and so on. (It doesn’t broadcast in Kurdish either; but then the BBC doesn’t concern itself with Kurdish rights or aspirations since they are persecuted by Moslem-majority states like Syria and Iran. We didn’t hear much on the BBC, for example, when dozens of Syrian Kurds were killed and injured in March 2004 by President Assad’s regime.)

It is not just that the supposed crimes of Israel are completely overplayed, but the fact that this is a two-sided war (started, of course, by Hizbullah) is all but obscured. As a result, in spite of hundreds of hours of broadcast by dozens of BBC reporters and studio anchors, you wouldn’t really know that hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been living in bomb shelters for weeks now, tired, afraid, but resilient; that a grandmother and her seven-year old grandson were killed by a Katyusha during a Friday night Sabbath dinner; that several other Israeli children have died.

You wouldn’t have any real understanding of what it is like to have over 2000 Iranian and Syrian rockets rain down indiscriminately on towns, villages and farms across one third of your country, aimed at killing civilians.

You wouldn’t really appreciate that Hizbullah, far from being some rag-tag militia, is in effect a division in the Iranian revolutionary guards, with relatively advanced weapons (UAVs that have flown over northern Israel, extended-range artillery rockets, anti-ship cruise missiles), and that it has a global terror reach, having already killed 114 people in Argentina during the 1990s.

The BBC and other media have carried report after report on the damaged Lebanese tourist industry, but none on the damaged Israeli one, even though at least one hotel in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, was hit by a Hizbullah rocket. There are reports on Lebanese children who don’t know where they will be going to school, but none on Israeli ones.


The relentless broadcast attacks on Israel have led to some in the print media indulging in explicit anti-Semitism.

Many have grown accustomed to left-wing papers such as Britain’s Guardian allowing their Mideast coverage to spill over into something akin to anti-Semitism. For example, last month a cartoon by the Guardian’s Martin Rowson depicted Stars of David being used as knuckle dusters on a bloody fist.

Now the Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph, Britain’s best-selling quality daily, and previously one of the only papers in Europe to give Israel a fair hearing, has got in on the act. The cartoon at the top of the Telegraph comment page last Saturday showed two identical scenes of devastation, exactly the same in every detail. One was labeled: “Warsaw 1943”; the other: “Tyre, 2006.”

A politician had already given the cue for this horrendous libel. Conservative MP Sir Peter Tapsell told the House of Commons that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was “colluding” with U.S. President George W. Bush in giving Israel the okay to wage a war crime “gravely reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter of Warsaw.”

Of course, there was no “Jewish quarter” of Warsaw. In case anyone need reminding (Sir Peter obviously does) the ghetto in the Polish capital, established in October 1940, constituted less than three square miles. Over 400,000 Jews were then crammed into it, about 30 percent of the population of Warsaw. 254,000 were sent to Treblinka where they were exterminated. Most of the rest were murdered in other ways. The ghetto was completely cleared of Jews by the end of May 1943.


The picture isn’t entirely bleak. Some British and European politicians, on both left and right, have been supportive of Israel. So have some magazines, such as Britain’s Spectator. So have a number of individual newspaper commentators.

But meanwhile anti-Semitic coverage and cartoons are spreading across the globe. Norway’s third largest paper, the Oslo daily Dagbladet, ran a cartoon comparing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the infamous Nazi commander SS Major Amon Goeth who indiscriminately murdered Jews by firing at them from his balcony – as depicted by Ralph Fiennes in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. (A month earlier Dagbladet published an article, “The Third Tower,” which questioned whether Muslims were really responsible for the September 11 attacks.)

Antonio Neri Licon of Mexico’s El Economista drew what appeared to be a Nazi soldier with – incredibly – stars of David on his uniform. The “soldier” was surrounded by eyes that he had apparently gouged out.

A cartoon in the South African Sunday Times depicted Ehud Olmert with a butchers knife covered in blood. In the leading Australian daily The Age, a cartoon showed a wine glass full of blood being drunk in a scene reminiscent of a medieval blood libel. In New Zealand, veteran cartoonist Tom Stott came up with a drawing which equated Israel with al-Qaeda.

At least one leading European politician has also vented his prejudice through visual symbolism. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero wore an Arab scarf during an event at which he condemned Israel, but not Hizbullah, who he presumably thinks should not be stopped from killing Israelis.


It’s entirely predictable that all this violent media distortion should lead to Jews being attacked and even murdered, as happened at a Seattle Jewish center last week.

When live Jews can’t be found, dead ones are targeted. In Belgium last week, the urn that contained ashes from Auschwitz was desecrated at the Brussels memorial to the 25,411 Belgian Jews deported to Nazi death camps. It was smashed and excrement smeared over it. The silence from Belgian leaders following this desecration was deafening.

Others Jews continued to be killed in Israel itself without it being mentioned in the media abroad. Last Thursday, for example, 60-year-old Dr. Daniel Ya’akovi was murdered by the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the terrorist group within Fatah that Yasser Arafat set up five years ago using European Union aid money.

But this is far from being an exclusively Jewish issue. Some international journalists seem to find it amusing or exciting to bait the Jews. They don’t understand yet that Hizbullah is part of a worldwide radical Islamist movement that has plans, and not pleasant ones, for all those – Moslem, Christian, Hindu and Jew – who don’t abide by its wishes.

(Tom Gross is a former Jerusalem correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and New York Daily News.)



There were a record number of dispatches sent in July, mainly as a result of the intense flare-up of activity in Gaza, Israel and Lebanon. After this week’s remaining dispatches, there will be few or no dispatches for the rest of this month.


At present, mainly because of the situation in Lebanon, I am being sent about 700 emails a day. Among these are dozens and dozens of requests for help, advice or information. It is physically impossible for me to read all these, let alone reply to them adequately. I would kindly request that all non-journalists on this list refrain from asking for my assistance for the rest of the month. Thank you for your understanding. Enjoy your summer.

Iraq 27: “Did any nation-state fall from the heavens wholly made?”

August 02, 2006

* This dispatch was prepared a month ago, but I have delayed sending/posting it until now because of the large number of other dispatches being sent and posted in July, first in connection with Gaza, and then in connection with Lebanon -- TG



1. Amir Taheri knows more than CNN, BBC and NY Times combined
2. Dinar up and refugees return
3. American policies have benefited moderate Islam
4. The freest media, trade unions in the Arab world
5. “Births are always messy. Since when is that a reason to declare a baby unworthy of life?”
6. “The real Iraq” (By Amir Taheri, Commentary Magazine, June 2006)

[Note by Tom Gross]


This email list/website has not touched upon the situation on Iraq for some time. The last such dispatch was on May 11, 2004 (

I attach a single piece below, from last June’s Commentary, by my friend Amir Taheri.

Taheri, formerly the executive editor of Kayhan, Iran’s largest daily newspaper, is a columnist for the pan-Arab daily “Asharq Alawsat,” and his work appears regularly in the New York Post, the Jerusalem Post and other publications. (He is also a subscriber to this email list, as are the senior editors at Commentary.)

Most people I know remain fiercely opposed to American policies in Iraq. Others are just tired of hearing about the subject. But Amir Taheri remains one of the few voices worth listening to. In many ways, he has far more knowledge and wisdom about the Middle East than all the CNN, BBC and New York Times correspondents in the region rolled into one.

I urge you to read this piece, written after Taheri’s latest trip to Iraq, a country he first visited in 1968 and knows intimately. Whatever your views, this kind of information is just not highlighted by most journalists, and should at least be considered.

There are, of course, horrific atrocities still being committed almost every day in Iraq, as there were under Saddam’s regime. But this shouldn’t obscure the bigger, more positive picture that, according to Taheri, is emerging.


Among the points Taheri makes:

* The picture of Iraq being presented by Western journalists is unrecognizable.

* In the final years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, the Iraqi dinar was in free fall. By contrast, it is now rising: for example, by 17 percent against the Kuwaiti dinar; by 23 percent against the Iranian rial; by 18 percent against the U.S. dollar.

* According to the IMF and World Bank, the Iraqi economy has been doing better than any other in the region. GDP is up vastly; inflation and unemployment are down.

* Unlike when times have been truly desperate in Iraq – in 1959, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1988, and 1990 – when long queues of Iraqis formed at the Turkish and Iranian frontiers, hoping to escape, the situation in Iraq is good enough today to mean people are moving to the country. Five million Iraqis, a quarter of the population, fled the country between 1958 and 2003.

In 1973, for example, when Saddam Hussein decided to expel all those whose ancestors had not been Ottoman citizens before Iraq’s creation as a state, some 1.2 million Iraqis left their homes in the space of just six weeks. Since the American-led coalition overthrew Saddam, more than 1.2 million Iraqis have returned.


* Under Saddam’s rule, refugees fled the holy cities. Now they are flooding to them. Last year, the holy sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina.

* Shiite seminaries, which just a few years ago held no more than a few dozen pupils, now boast over 15,000 pupils from 40 different countries. Those wishing to pursue the study of more traditional and quietist forms of Shiism now go to Iraq where, unlike in Iran, the seminaries are not controlled by the government and its secret police.


* A vast network of independent media has emerged in Iraq, including over 100 privately-owned newspapers and magazines and more than two dozen radio and television stations. To anyone familiar with the state of the media in the Arab world, it is a truism that Iraq today is the place where freedom of expression is most effectively exercised.

* More than 8.5 million Iraqi children and young people are attending school or university – an all-time record in the nation’s history.

* Assessing the progress to democracy is no simple matter. But, by any reasonable standard, Iraqis have made extraordinary strides. In a series of municipal polls and two general elections in the past three years, up to 70 percent of eligible Iraqis have voted.

* Iraq now has the first genuinely free trade unions in the Arab world.

* Yes there has also been murder and mayhem, but the terrorists have failed to stop the country’s overall progress, any more than they have stopped Israel’s overall progress, and don’t let the anti-American, anti-Israeli media persuade you otherwise.


Taheri says: “Operation Iraqi Freedom was not an attempt to impose democracy by force. Rather, it was an effort to use force to remove impediments to democratization, primarily by deposing a tyrant.”

“Among Bush-haters in the U.S., just as among anti-Americans around the world, predictions of civil war in Iraq, of spreading regional hostilities, and of a revived global terrorism are not about to cease any time soon. But more sober observers should understand the real balance sheet in Iraq. Democracy is succeeding. Moreover, thanks to its success in Iraq, there are stirrings elsewhere in the region, in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.”

Taheri asks: “Did any nation-state fall from the heavens wholly made? … Yes, the situation in Iraq today is messy. Births always are. Since when is that a reason to declare a baby unworthy of life?”

-- Tom Gross



The real Iraq
By Amir Taheri
Commentary Magazine
June 2006

Spending time in the United States after a tour of Iraq can be a disorienting experience these days. Within hours of arriving here, as I can attest from a recent visit, one is confronted with an image of Iraq that is unrecognizable. It is created in several overlapping ways: through television footage showing the charred remains of vehicles used in suicide attacks, surrounded by wailing women in black and grim-looking men carrying coffins; by armchair strategists and political gurus predicting further doom or pontificating about how the war should have been fought in the first place; by authors of instant-history books making their rounds to dissect the various “fundamental mistakes” committed by the Bush administration; and by reporters, cocooned in hotels in Baghdad, explaining the “carnage” and “chaos” in the streets as signs of the country’s “impending” or “undeclared” civil war. Add to all this the day’s alleged scandal or revelation – an outed CIA operative, a reportedly doctored intelligence report, a leaked pessimistic assessment – and it is no wonder the American public registers disillusion with Iraq and everyone who embroiled the U.S. in its troubles.

It would be hard indeed for the average interested citizen to find out on his own just how grossly this image distorts the realities of present-day Iraq. Part of the problem, faced by even the most well-meaning news organizations, is the difficulty of covering so large and complex a subject; naturally, in such circumstances, sensational items rise to the top. But even ostensibly more objective efforts, like the Brookings Institution’s much-cited Iraq Index with its constantly updated array of security, economic, and public-opinion indicators, tell us little about the actual feel of the country on the ground.

To make matters worse, many of the newsmen, pundits, and commentators on whom American viewers and readers rely to describe the situation have been contaminated by the increasing bitterness of American politics. Clearly there are those in the media and the think tanks who wish the Iraq enterprise to end in tragedy, as a just comeuppance for George W. Bush. Others, prompted by noble sentiment, so abhor the idea of war that they would banish it from human discourse before admitting that, in some circumstances, military power can be used in support of a good cause. But whatever the reason, the half-truths and outright misinformation that now function as conventional wisdom have gravely disserved the American people.

For someone like myself who has spent considerable time in Iraq – a country I first visited in 1968 – current reality there is, nevertheless, very different from this conventional wisdom, and so are the prospects for Iraq’s future. It helps to know where to look, what sources to trust, and how to evaluate the present moment against the background of Iraqi and Middle Eastern history.

Since my first encounter with Iraq almost 40 years ago, I have relied on several broad measures of social and economic health to assess the country’s condition. Through good times and bad, these signs have proved remarkably accurate – as accurate, that is, as is possible in human affairs. For some time now, all have been pointing in an unequivocally positive direction.

The first sign is refugees. When things have been truly desperate in Iraq – in 1959, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1988, and 1990 – long queues of Iraqis have formed at the Turkish and Iranian frontiers, hoping to escape. In 1973, for example, when Saddam Hussein decided to expel all those whose ancestors had not been Ottoman citizens before Iraq’s creation as a state, some 1.2 million Iraqis left their homes in the space of just six weeks. This was not the temporary exile of a small group of middle-class professionals and intellectuals, which is a common enough phenomenon in most Arab countries. Rather, it was a departure en masse, affecting people both in small villages and in big cities, and it was a scene regularly repeated under Saddam Hussein.

Since the toppling of Saddam in 2003, this is one highly damaging image we have not seen on our television sets – and we can be sure that we would be seeing it if it were there to be shown. To the contrary, Iraqis, far from fleeing, have been returning home. By the end of 2005, in the most conservative estimate, the number of returnees topped the 1.2-million mark. Many of the camps set up for fleeing Iraqis in Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia since 1959 have now closed down. The oldest such center, at Ashrafiayh in southwest Iran, was formally shut when its last Iraqi guests returned home in 2004.

A second dependable sign likewise concerns human movement, but of a different kind. This is the flow of religious pilgrims to the Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf. Whenever things start to go badly in Iraq, this stream is reduced to a trickle and then it dries up completely. From 1991 (when Saddam Hussein massacred Shiites involved in a revolt against him) to 2003, there were scarcely any pilgrims to these cities. Since Saddam’s fall, they have been flooded with visitors. In 2005, the holy sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina.

Over 3,000 Iraqi clerics have also returned from exile, and Shiite seminaries, which just a few years ago held no more than a few dozen pupils, now boast over 15,000 from 40 different countries. This is because Najaf, the oldest center of Shiite scholarship, is once again able to offer an alternative to Qom, the Iranian “holy city” where a radical and highly politicized version of Shiism is taught. Those wishing to pursue the study of more traditional and quietist forms of Shiism now go to Iraq where, unlike in Iran, the seminaries are not controlled by the government and its secret police.

A third sign, this one of the hard economic variety, is the value of the Iraqi dinar, especially as compared with the region’s other major currencies. In the final years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, the Iraqi dinar was in free fall; after 1995, it was no longer even traded in Iran and Kuwait. By contrast, the new dinar, introduced early in 2004, is doing well against both the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial, having risen by 17 percent against the former and by 23 percent against the latter. Although it is still impossible to fix its value against a basket of international currencies, the new Iraqi dinar has done well against the U.S. dollar, increasing in value by almost 18 percent between August 2004 and August 2005. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis, and millions of Iranians and Kuwaitis, now treat it as a safe and solid medium of exchange

My fourth time-tested sign is the level of activity by small and medium-sized businesses. In the past, whenever things have gone downhill in Iraq, large numbers of such enterprises have simply closed down, with the country’s most capable entrepreneurs decamping to Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Turkey, Iran, and even Europe and North America. Since liberation, however, Iraq has witnessed a private-sector boom, especially among small and medium-sized businesses.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as well as numerous private studies, the Iraqi economy has been doing better than any other in the region. The country’s gross domestic product rose to almost $90 billion in 2004 (the latest year for which figures are available), more than double the output for 2003, and its real growth rate, as estimated by the IMF, was 52.3 per cent. In that same period, exports increased by more than $3 billion, while the inflation rate fell to 25.4 percent, down from 70 percent in 2002. The unemployment rate was halved, from 60 percent to 30 percent.

Related to this is the level of agricultural activity. Between 1991 and 2003, the country’s farm sector experienced unprecedented decline, in the end leaving almost the entire nation dependent on rations distributed by the United Nations under Oil-for-Food. In the past two years, by contrast, Iraqi agriculture has undergone an equally unprecedented revival. Iraq now exports foodstuffs to neighboring countries, something that has not happened since the 1950’s. Much of the upturn is due to smallholders who, shaking off the collectivist system imposed by the Baathists, have retaken control of land that was confiscated decades ago by the state.

Finally, one of the surest indices of the health of Iraqi society has always been its readiness to talk to the outside world. Iraqis are a verbalizing people; when they fall silent, life is incontrovertibly becoming hard for them. There have been times, indeed, when one could find scarcely a single Iraqi, whether in Iraq or abroad, prepared to express an opinion on anything remotely political. This is what Kanan Makiya meant when he described Saddam Hussein’s regime as a “republic of fear.”

Today, again by way of dramatic contrast, Iraqis are voluble to a fault. Talk radio, television talk-shows, and Internet blogs are all the rage, while heated debate is the order of the day in shops, tea-houses, bazaars, mosques, offices, and private homes. A “catharsis” is how Luay Abdulilah, the Iraqi short-story writer and diarist, describes it. “This is one way of taking revenge against decades of deadly silence.” Moreover, a vast network of independent media has emerged in Iraq, including over 100 privately-owned newspapers and magazines and more than two dozen radio and television stations. To anyone familiar with the state of the media in the Arab world, it is a truism that Iraq today is the place where freedom of expression is most effectively exercised.

That an experienced observer of Iraq with a sense of history can point to so many positive factors in the country’s present condition will not do much, of course, to sway the more determined critics of the U.S. intervention there. They might even agree that the images fed to the American public show only part of the picture, and that the news from Iraq is not uniformly bad. But the root of their opposition runs deeper, to political fundamentals.

Their critique can be summarized in the aphorism that “democracy cannot be imposed by force.” It is a view that can be found among the more sophisticated elements on the Left and, increasingly, among dissenters on the Right, from Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to the ex-neoconservative Francis Fukuyama. As Senator Hagel puts it, “You cannot in my opinion just impose a democratic form of government on a country with no history and no culture and no tradition of democracy.”

I would tend to agree. But is Iraq such a place? In point of fact, before the 1958 pro-Soviet military coup d’etat that established a leftist dictatorship, Iraq did have its modest but nevertheless significant share of democratic history, culture, and tradition. The country came into being through a popular referendum held in 1921. A constitutional monarchy modeled on the United Kingdom, it had a bicameral parliament, several political parties (including the Baath and the Communists), and periodic elections that led to changes of policy and government. At the time, Iraq also enjoyed the freest press in the Arab world, plus the widest space for debate and dissent in the Muslim Middle East.

To be sure, Baghdad in those days was no Westminster, and, as the 1958 coup proved, Iraqi democracy was fragile. But every serious student of contemporary Iraq knows that substantial segments of the population, from all ethnic and religious communities, had more than a taste of the modern world’s democratic aspirations. As evidence, one need only consult the immense literary and artistic production of Iraqis both before and after the 1958 coup. Under successor dictatorial regimes, it is true, the conviction took hold that democratic principles had no future in Iraq – a conviction that was responsible in large part for driving almost five million Iraqis, a quarter of the population, into exile between 1958 and 2003, just as the opposite conviction is attracting so many of them and their children back to Iraq today.

A related argument used to condemn Iraq’s democratic prospects is that it is an “artificial” country, one that can be held together only by a dictator. But did any nation-state fall from the heavens wholly made? All are to some extent artificial creations, and the U.S. is preeminently so. The truth is that Iraq – one of the 53 founding countries of the United Nations – is older than a majority of that organization’s current 198 member states. Within the Arab League, and setting aside Oman and Yemen, none of the 22 members is older. Two-thirds of the 122 countries regarded as democracies by Freedom House came into being after Iraq’s appearance on the map.

Critics of the democratic project in Iraq also claim that, because it is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, the country is doomed to despotism, civil war, or disintegration. But the same could be said of virtually all Middle Eastern states, most of which are neither multi-ethnic nor multi-confessional. More important, all Iraqis, regardless of their ethnic, linguistic, and sectarian differences, share a sense of national identity – uruqa (“Iraqi-ness”) – that has developed over the past eight decades. A unified, federal state may still come to grief in Iraq – history is not written in advance – but even should a divorce become inevitable at some point, a democratic Iraq would be in a better position to manage it.

What all of this demonstrates is that, contrary to received opinion, Operation Iraqi Freedom was not an attempt to impose democracy by force. Rather, it was an effort to use force to remove impediments to democratization, primarily by deposing a tyrant who had utterly suppressed a well-established aspect of the country’s identity. It may take years before we know for certain whether or not post-liberation Iraq has definitely chosen democracy. But one thing is certain: without the use of force to remove the Baathist regime, the people of Iraq would not have had the opportunity even to contemplate a democratic future.

Assessing the progress of that democratic project is no simple matter. But, by any reasonable standard, Iraqis have made extraordinary strides. In a series of municipal polls and two general elections in the past three years, up to 70 percent of eligible Iraqis have voted. This new orientation is supported by more than 60 political parties and organizations, the first genuinely free-trade unions in the Arab world, a growing number of professional associations acting independently of the state, and more than 400 nongovernmental organizations representing diverse segments of civil society. A new constitution, written by Iraqis representing the full spectrum of political, ethnic, and religious sensibilities was overwhelmingly approved by the electorate in a referendum last October.

Iraq’s new democratic reality is also reflected in the vocabulary of politics used at every level of society. Many new words – accountability, transparency, pluralism, dissent – have entered political discourse in Iraq for the first time. More remarkably, perhaps, all parties and personalities currently engaged in the democratic process have committed themselves to the principle that power should be sought, won, and lost only through free and fair elections.

These democratic achievements are especially impressive when set side by side with the declared aims of the enemies of the new Iraq, who have put up a determined fight against it. Since the country’s liberation, the jihadists and residual Baathists have killed an estimated 23,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, in scores of random attacks and suicide operations. Indirectly, they have caused the death of thousands more, by sabotaging water and electricity services and by provoking sectarian revenge attacks.

But they have failed to translate their talent for mayhem and murder into political success. Their campaign has not succeeded in appreciably slowing down, let alone stopping, the country’s democratization. Indeed, at each step along the way, the jihadists and Baathists have seen their self-declared objectives thwarted.

After the invasion, they tried at first to prevent the formation of a Governing Council, the expression of Iraq’s continued existence as a sovereign nation-state. They managed to murder several members of the council, including its president in 2003, but failed to prevent its formation or to keep it from performing its task in the interim period. The next aim of the insurgents was to stop municipal elections. Their message was simple: candidates and voters would be killed. But, once again, they failed: thousands of men and women came forward as candidates and more than 1.5 million Iraqis voted in the localities where elections were held.

The insurgency made similar threats in the lead-up to the first general election, and the result was the same. Despite killing 36 candidates and 148 voters, they failed to derail the balloting, in which the number of voters rose to more than 8 million. Nor could the insurgency prevent the writing of the new democratic constitution, despite a campaign of assassination against its drafters. The text was ready in time and was submitted to and approved by a referendum, exactly as planned. The number of voters rose yet again, to more than 9 million.

What of relations among the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds – the focus of so much attention of late? For almost three years, the insurgency worked hard to keep the Arab Sunni community, which accounts for some 15 percent of the population, out of the political process. But that campaign collapsed when millions of Sunnis turned out to vote in the constitutional referendum and in the second general election, which saw almost 11 million Iraqis go to the polls. As I write, all political parties representing the Arab Sunni minority have joined the political process and have strong representation in the new parliament. With the convening of that parliament, and the nomination in April of a new prime minister and a three-man presidential council, the way is open for the formation of a broad-based government of national unity to lead Iraq over the next four years.

As for the insurgency’s effort to foment sectarian violence – a strategy first launched in earnest toward the end of 2005 – this too has run aground. The hope here was to provoke a full-scale war between the Arab Sunni minority and the Arab Shiites who account for some 60 percent of the population. The new strategy, like the ones previously tried, has certainly produced many deaths. But despite countless cases of sectarian killings by so-called militias, there is still no sign that the Shiites as a whole will acquiesce in the role assigned them by the insurgency and organize a concerted campaign of nationwide retaliation.

Finally, despite the impression created by relentlessly dire reporting in the West, the insurgency has proved unable to shut down essential government services. Hundreds of teachers and schoolchildren have been killed in incidents including the beheading of two teachers in their classrooms this April and horrific suicide attacks against school buses. But by September 2004, most schools across Iraq and virtually all universities were open and functioning. By September 2005, more than 8.5 million Iraqi children and young people were attending school or university – an all-time record in the nation’s history.

A similar story applies to Iraq’s clinics and hospitals. Between October 2003 and January 2006, more than 80 medical doctors and over 400 nurses and medical auxiliaries were murdered by the insurgents. The jihadists also raided several hospitals, killing ordinary patients in their beds. But, once again, they failed in their objectives. By January 2006, all of Iraq’s 600 state-owned hospitals and clinics were in full operation, along with dozens of new ones set up by the private sector since liberation.

Another of the insurgency’s strategic goals was to bring the Iraqi oil industry to a halt and to disrupt the export of crude. Since July 2003, Iraq’s oil infrastructure has been the target of more than 3,000 attacks and attempts at sabotage. But once more the insurgency has failed to achieve its goals. Iraq has resumed its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and has returned to world markets as a major oil exporter. According to projections, by the end of 2006 it will be producing its full OPEC quota of 2.8 million barrels a day.

The Baathist remnant and its jihadist allies resemble a gambler who wins a heap of chips at a roulette table only to discover that he cannot exchange them for real money at the front desk. The enemies of the new Iraq have succeeded in ruining the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis, but over the past three years they have advanced their overarching goals, such as they are, very little. Instead, they have been militarily contained and politically defeated again and again, and the beneficiary has been Iraqi democracy.

None of this means that the new Iraq is out of the woods. Far from it. Democratic success still requires a great deal of patience, determination, and luck. The U.S.-led coalition, its allies, and partners have achieved most of their major political objectives, but that achievement remains under threat and could be endangered if the U.S., for whatever reason, should decide to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory.

The current mandate of the U.S.-led coalition runs out at the end of this year, and it is unlikely that Washington and its allies will want to maintain their military presence at current levels. In the past few months, more than half of the 103 bases used by the coalition have been transferred to the new Iraqi army. The best guess is that the number of U.S. and coalition troops could be cut from 140,000 to 25,000 or 30,000 by the end of 2007.

One might wonder why, if the military mission has been so successful, the U.S. still needs to maintain a military presence in Iraq for at least another two years. There are three reasons for this.

The first is to discourage Iraq’s predatory neighbors, notably Iran and Syria, which might wish to pursue their own agendas against the new government in Baghdad. Iran has already revived some claims under the Treaties of Erzerum (1846), according to which Tehran would enjoy a droit de regard over Shiite shrines in Iraq. In Syria, some in that country’s ruling circles have invoked the possibility of annexing the area known as Jazirah, the so-called Sunni triangle, in the name of Arab unity. For its part, Turkey is making noises about the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which gave it a claim to the oilfields of northern Iraq. All of these pretensions need to be rebuffed.

The second reason for extending America’s military presence is political. The U.S. is acting as an arbiter among Iraq’s various ethnic and religious communities and political factions. It is, in a sense, a traffic cop, giving Iraqis a green or red light when and if needed. It is important that the U.S. continue performing this role for the first year or two of the newly elected parliament and government.

Finally, the U.S. and its allies have a key role to play in training and testing Iraq’s new army and police. Impressive success has already been achieved in that field. Nevertheless, the new Iraqi army needs at least another year or two before it will have developed adequate logistical capacities and learned to organize and conduct operations involving its various branches.

But will the U.S. stay the course? Many are betting against it. The Baathists and jihadists, their prior efforts to derail Iraqi democracy having come to naught, have now pinned their hopes on creating enough chaos and death to persuade Washington of the futility of its endeavors. In this, they have the tacit support not only of local Arab and Muslim despots rightly fearful of the democratic genie but of all those in the West whose own incessant theme has been the certainty of American failure. Among Bush-haters in the U.S., just as among anti-Americans around the world, predictions of civil war in Iraq, of spreading regional hostilities, and of a revived global terrorism are not about to cease any time soon.

But more sober observers should understand the real balance sheet in Iraq. Democracy is succeeding. Moreover, thanks to its success in Iraq, there are stirrings elsewhere in the region. Beyond the much-publicized electoral concessions wrung from authoritarian rulers in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, there is a new democratic discourse to be heard. Nationalism and pan-Arabism, yesterday’s hollow rallying cries, have given way to a “big idea” of a very different kind. Debate and dissent are in the air where there was none before – a development owing, in significant measure, to the U.S. campaign in Iraq and the brilliant if still checkered Iraqi response.

The stakes, in short, could not be higher. This is all the more reason to celebrate, to build on, and to consolidate what has already been accomplished. Instead of railing against the Bush administration, America’s elites would do better, and incidentally display greater self-respect, to direct their wrath where it properly belongs: at those violent and unrestrained enemies of democracy in Iraq who are, in truth, the enemies of democracy in America as well, and of everything America has ever stood for.

Is Iraq a quagmire, a disaster, a failure? Certainly not; none of the above. Of all the adjectives used by skeptics and critics to describe today’s Iraq, the only one that has a ring of truth is “messy.” Yes, the situation in Iraq today is messy. Births always are. Since when is that a reason to declare a baby unworthy of life?