Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

We underestimate Ahmadinejad at our peril (& Pregnant shooting victim gives birth)

September 27, 2010

* Stuxnet: “The world’s first known cyber super weapon designed specifically to destroy a real-world target”. Has it been designed to disable Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant?

* Pregnant Israeli gives birth last night after she is wounded in Palestinian terror attack
* Many of those Western news outlets that did report on the shooting, failed to mention that the “military wing” of Palestinian President Abbas’s Fatah party claimed responsibility for the attack

* Turkish president addresses rally in which Israeli Arabs are told “Al-Aqsa will be redeemed by blood and fire”

* “The prominent American TV personality seated next to me said something cringingly obsequious to Iranian TV about how gracious Ahmadinejad is for making himself available to the media”

 

CONTENTS

1. Israeli shooting victim gives birth to son
2. New British Labour leader’s mother backs Jewish anti-blockade flotilla
3. We will speak to Hamas “in a very peaceful and friendly way”
4. Turkish President tells Israeli Arabs: We will protect al-Aqsa
5. Ahmadinejad dines in New York with Louis Farrakhan
6. “You stoned my sister!”
7. Yale students get to meet Ahmadinejad
8. Iranian troops cross into Iraq and kill 30 Kurds
9. Hizbullah “successfully tests long range missiles in Iran”
10. An imaginative way to slow down Iran’s nuclear program?
11. “Breakfast with Ahmadinejad” (By Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal)
12. “The Stuxnet computer worm and the Iranian nuclear program” (Stratfor Global Intelligence)
13. “Stuxnet out to destroy Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant?” (Christian Science Monitor)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

ISRAELI SHOOTING VICTIM GIVES BIRTH TO SON

A pregnant Israeli gave birth late last night in an emergency Cesarean section, shortly after she was wounded in a gun attack on two Israeli cars in the southern West Bank.

Doctors at Soroka Medical Center in the nearby Israeli town of Beersheba succeeded in delivering a healthy baby boy after the woman (Netta Zucker, 35) and her husband Sharon, also 35, were shot and injured.

Zucker, who was nine months pregnant with her first child, sustained moderate injuries in the attack. In a statement last night, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the “military wing” of Palestinian President Abbas’s Fatah party, jointly claimed responsibility for the attack with the Islamic Jihad movement. (Islamic Jihad and Fatah share aims in their rivalry to Hamas, as well as their hatred for Israel.)

After giving birth, Zucker underwent surgery for her wounds. Her husband, who also underwent surgery to remove bullets from his legs, said, “This was not how I planned on bringing my first child into the world.”


Above: Sharon Zucker in hospital this morning with his newborn son


This was the third such terror attack in the area in less than a month. One of the four Israelis shot dead in the same area of the southern West Bank on August 31 was also pregnant. (You can see photos of the victims of that attack, together with several photos of Palestinians celebrating it, near the top of the page here.)

Two other Israelis were shot and wounded in their car in the area on September 1, and in June, two Israelis were killed in an ambush nearby. The two Hamas operatives who were arrested for that attack and proudly confessed to it, had been released from an Israeli jail where they had been serving sentences for previous terrorist offenses.

 

NEW UK LABOUR LEADER’S MOTHER BACKS JEWISH ANTI-BLOCKADE FLOTILLA

The mother of Ed Miliband, the newly elected leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party, has added her name to a far-left British Jewish group that yesterday launched a boat from northern Cyprus to sail for Gaza. The aim of the boat, they said, was to “break the Israeli blockade” and meet with Hamas representatives.

Miliband narrowly beat his older brother, David, in a dramatic vote to win the Labour leadership on Saturday ahead of the party’s annual conference. (David won 49.35%, Ed won 50.65%.)

As foreign secretary, David Miliband took a number of steps which many considered hostile to Israel, such as voting for the Goldstone report and expelling a senior Israeli diplomat from London earlier this year. His brother Ed has positioned himself on the left of David (and has already been dubbed “Red Ed” by sections of the British media) and is thought to be even less sympathetic to Israel than David and may possibly share his mother’s views on the subject.

WE WILL SPEAK TO HAMAS “IN A VERY PEACEFUL AND FRIENDLY WAY”

Naomi Wayne, a co-founder of Jews for Justice for Palestinians UK, of which Ed and David Miliband’s mother Marion Kozak is a signatory, said yesterday that “what we are hoping to do by sending the boat is reach Gaza in a very peaceful and friendly way.” When asked if their group was being rather naïve, she vigorously denied this.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians was founded in 2002, at the height of the second Intifada. Besides Kozak, other well-known signatories include Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, actor and comedian Stephen Fry, actress Zoë Wanamaker, sculptor Sir Anthony Caro and former Labour MP and London mayoral candidate Oona King. (As reported on this email list at the time, in 2003 King told a press conference organized by the Christian Aid charity in London that, “speaking as a Jew,” the situation in Gaza is “the same in nature” “as the Warsaw Ghetto”.)

According to recent opinion polls, the group’s views are only shared by a tiny segment of British Jews.

Miliband is the son of the late prominent Marxist sociologist Ralph Miliband, whose Polish-Jewish parents fled Belgium in 1940 as the Nazis arrived. Ralph Miliband is buried in London’s Highgate Cemetery close to Karl Marx. He met Marion Kozak, who was born in Poland, when she was one of his students at the London School of Economics.

***

The organizers don’t seem to have noticed the additional hypocrisy of an anti-“occupation” flotilla sailing from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.


***

The Arabic service of Russia Today yesterday became the latest TV station to run a report on the new Gaza mall, whose existence was first revealed on this website.

***

Among dispatches on previous flotillas to Gaza, please see:

* Videos of today’s tragic incident off the coast of Israel
* “Rachel Corrie is on Her Way” – Due to attempt to land shortly in Gaza
* Cartoons on the flotilla incident from the Arab media

 

TURKISH PRESIDENT TELLS ISRAELI ARABS: WE WILL PROTECT AL-AQSA

Thousands of people attended the (Israeli) Islamic Movement’s annual rally in Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel on Friday, which was addressed by phone by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who promised to support “efforts to protect the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.”

The head of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, who is currently serving a five-month prison sentence for assaulting a police officer, sent a statement which was read to the crowd, warning of the supposed Jewish danger to the al-Aqsa Mosque.

“This is the most perilous year for al-Aqsa,” he said. “The dangers (from the Jews) know no end. We must redeem Al-Aqsa by blood and fire.”

In his message, read over the phone by the Turkish advisor for Mideast affairs, President Gul assured participants that “Your brothers in Turkey will always lend their support to the protection of the al-Aqsa Mosque and all other holy sites in Jerusalem.”

Israeli-Arab Knesset Member Hanin Zuabi told the crowd that “Turkey’s freedom flotilla represents the profound link between us. Together we will protect the holy sites of Jerusalem.”

Sheikh Kamal Khatib, the deputy chief of the Islamic Movement, made a speech mocking Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat: “You’re entire life is about negotiations. You are all just peddling illusions,” he said.

Commenting on Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s remarks about the possibility of a territorial swap between Israel and a future Palestinian state in which Palestinian-Israeli towns like Umm al-Fahm might become part of Palestine, Khatib said that “the only population swap we will agree to is for the Jews to go to Russia.”

***

A reader adds: Interestingly, Israeli President Shimon Peres hasn’t addressed any rallies in eastern Turkey saying Kurdistan will be redeemed by blood and fire.

 

AHMADINEJAD DINES WITH LOUIS FARRAKHAN

As part of his six-day-stay in New York last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a “secret” dinner with Louis Farrakhan and members of the New Black Panther Party last Tuesday at the Warwick Hotel on West 54th Street.

The meeting took place in a banquet room, where the leaders exchanged theories on what’s wrong with the world. Both Ahmadinejad and Farrakhan have in the past blamed “the Jews” for many of the world’s problems.

Farrakhan (who was born Louis Walcott) is best known as the bow-tie-wearing leader of The Nation of Islam movement. In 1996, he was awarded the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights by Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi. He has called Jews “satanic” and said “Hitler was a very great man.”

 

“YOU STONED MY SISTER!”

The New York Post reports that on Thursday night, two well-dressed women sat at the hotel bar of the Hilton Manhattan, on 42nd Street, where Ahmadinejad was staying. One of them caught the attention of the president’s security detail. She was soon surrounded by eight angry Iranians, who ordered her to leave. She refused.

A manager tried to calm things down. Suddenly, the woman stood up and pointed at the Iranians, yelling, “You stoned my sister! You’re murderers!” before she was removed from the hotel.

***

Earlier on Thursday, delegates from the United States, Europe and other countries walked out in the middle of a speech by Ahmadinejad to the UN General Assembly after the Iranian leader reiterated the conspiracy theory that the U.S. government itself orchestrated the 9/11 attacks on America.

 

YALE STUDENTS GET TO MEET AHMADINEJAD

New York Times op-ed contributor Hillary Mann Leverett – who has long been accused of being an apologist for the Iranian regime – was granted a special seminar with Ahmadinejad for her Yale graduate students last Thursday, shortly after Ahmadinejad’s controversial speech to the UN. Leverett, a senior fellow at Yale’s newly created Jackson Institute, is a proponent of engaging with Iran rather than imposing sanctions.

Her husband, Flynt Leverett, with whom she often co-writes articles, is also a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute and works for the New America Foundation, a leftist think tank based in Washington. Last year the Leveretts wrote an op-ed titled “Ahmadinejad won. Get over it” in Politico, which argued that Ahmadinejad won the 2009 elections fairly.

Hillary Mann Leverett has held various positions related to Middle East policies in the U.S. State Department and National Security Council.

Jim Levinsohn, director of the Jackson Institute, said the Institute’s main aim in hiring fellows is to expose students to a wide range of views.

In the spring semester, Leverett will teach a Yale undergraduate course titled “The United States and the Middle East.”

 

IRANIAN TROOPS CROSS INTO IRAQ AND KILL 30 KURDS

Troops from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Saturday crossed into northern Iraq and killed 30 members of a Kurdish opposition group. As not reported by most Western media, the Revolutionary Guard periodically fire artillery across the border into areas where the Kurdish rebels hide out.

 

HIZBULLAH “SUCCESSFULLY TESTS LONG RANGE MISSILES IN IRAN”

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai reports that a new Iranian missile, which was displayed with great pride in Tehran recently, has now been successfully tested by the Lebanese Hizbullah militia.

Al-Rai said the test took place in Iran since such an event could not take place in Lebanon. “The test was successful and part of the units which participated returned to their bases in Lebanon,” unidentified officials told Al-Rai. Hizbullah has formulated a “bank of targets” in Israel such as “power stations and sensitive institutions” across the country, the sources added.

The missile has a range of 200 kilometers which means it is capable of hitting many cities in Israel if it was launched from the Israel-Lebanon border.

According to figures given in August in an Iranian TV broadcast, the missile is 9 meters in length and weighs 3,500 kilograms.

 

AN IMAGINATIVE WAY TO SLOW DOWN IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM?

I attach three articles below. In the first, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, a subscriber to this list, describes his breakfast with Ahmadinejad last week – and the reactions of the other journalists present.

The second and third articles concern the computer worm proliferating in Iranian targets that may have been sent by an unnamed national intelligence agency to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

The worm is very advanced, requires specific intelligence on its target, exploits multiple system vulnerabilities and uses two stolen security certificates, suggesting a typical hacker did not create it.

If a national intelligence agency in fact targeted Iranian nuclear facilities, this would be the first deployment of a cyberweapon reported to the public, and the full details of the operation are not likely ever to be known.

Experts say it took a massive expenditure of time, money, and software engineering talent to identify and exploit such vulnerabilities in industrial control software systems.

(Among previous dispatches on the Iranian nuclear threat, please see this one)

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLES

PAYING COURT TO AHMADINEJAD

Breakfast with Ahmadinejad
Lox, bagels and the “Zionist regime”
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
September 23, 2010

New York -- It’s a few minutes before eight in the morning on Tuesday, and the 30 or so journalists who have assembled to meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the conference room of a midtown Manhattan hotel are gorging themselves on lox and bagels and wondering whether the buffet is some kind of sly catering joke. A prominent TV personality seated next to me is approached by an Iranian film crew wanting to know her thoughts about their president. She says something cringingly obsequious about how gracious he is for making himself available to the media.

I suppose she’s simply trying to be polite, and perhaps taking care not to say anything that could cause trouble for her or her colleagues down the road. But it dawns on me that the exchange also captures the central dynamic of the meeting. We get access to Ahmadinejad – and the feeling of self-importance that goes with that. In exchange, we pay him court.

The first question goes to an editor from Fortune magazine, who wants to know how the Iranian economy is doing. Ahmadinejad devotes a good 10 minutes to extolling Iran’s economic strengths – industrial exports have “tripled”; investment in infrastructure is way up; the service sector is thriving; agriculture has experienced “a gradual but consistent pattern of growth.”

All of this is, of course, a lie, which is why the regime no longer allows its Central Bank to publish economic statistics. And yet it is a flawlessly delivered lie, spoken in the kind of modulated tone you would expect from an IMF technocrat. As a matter of performance, it’s masterful. And while none of us in the audience believes a word of Ahmadinejad’s answer, we believe him the way we believe Al Pacino when he inhabits a role. We believe his self-belief. And we wonder whether he believes it, too.

Next question: the nuclear talks. “There is a good chance that talks will resume in the near future.” Suddenly he has slipped back into an objective reality. Sure enough, word comes down the following day that the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have “reaffirmed our commitment to continued and active engagement” with Iran, in the words of the EU’s Catherine Ashton. The U.S. is a party to that statement.

Somebody asks about the status of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both of whose offices were raided this month. Ahmadinejad flatly denies this, and once again we make a seamless transition back to the realm of the perfect lie, perfectly told.

Now CNN’s Fareed Zakaria asks Ahmadinejad whether he would accept whatever deal Palestinians might strike with Israel in the current negotiations.

The question is meant as a trap – if he says no, he is potentially contradicting the Palestinians; if yes, he might have to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Ahmadinejad’s answer showcases his rhetorical gifts. He says he has no trouble deferring to the wishes of Palestinians; he merely wishes they be represented by the people they actually elected, meaning Hamas. In a stroke, he has put himself on the side of democracy and exposed the central fallacy of the current peace process, which is that a majority of Palestinians want to co-exist with a Jewish state called Israel.

A little later, under questioning about Iran’s obstruction of U.N. nuclear inspectors, he points out that the “Zionist regime” operates under no U.N. nuclear strictures. Which makes for a powerful argument the moment you accept the premises of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

By this point the questioning has become a little more testy. Ahmadinejad remains unflappable, even bemused. But there’s also an undercurrent of menace in his answers, as if he knows he owes his audience the frisson of danger that is his trademark. In response to a question about a prospective Israeli airstrike, he says “the Zionist regime is a very small entity on the map and doesn’t really factor into our decisions.” As for a U.S. attack, he warns that “war is not just bombing someplace. When the war starts, it knows no limits.”

In the New York Times’s account of the breakfast, reporter Neil MacFarquhar – who asked an opaque question about Cyrus the Great and was roundly mocked for it by Ahmadinejad – described the president’s remarks as “standard talking points” plus “a little fresh bluster.” Perhaps I haven’t achieved the appropriate degree of jadedness, but my own impression of Ahmadinejad was that he was easily the smartest guy in the room. He mocked us in a way we scarcely had the wit to recognize. We belittle him at our peril.

 

EVIDENCE PINPOINTING WHO CREATED THE WORM IS NOT LIKELY TO EMERGE

The Stuxnet computer worm and the Iranian nuclear program
Stratfor Global Intelligence
September 24, 2010

SUMMARY

A computer worm proliferating in Iran targets automated activity in large industrial facilities. Speculation that the worm represents an effort by a national intelligence agency to attack Iranian nuclear facilities is widespread in the media. The characteristics of the complex worm do in fact suggest a national intelligence agency was involved. If so, the full story is likely to remain shrouded in mystery.

***

ANALYSIS

A computer virus known as a worm that has been spreading on computers primarily in Iran, India and Indonesia could be a cyberattack on Iranian nuclear facilities, according to widespread media speculation.

Creating such a program, which targets a specific Siemens software system controlling automated activity in large industrial facilities, would have required a large team with experience and actionable intelligence. If a national intelligence agency in fact targeted Iranian nuclear facilities, this would be the first deployment of a cyberweapon reported on in the media. It would also mean that the full details of the operation are not likely ever to be known.

The so-called Stuxnet worm first attracted significant attention when Microsoft announced concerns over the situation in a Sept. 13 security bulletin, though various experts in the information technology community had been analyzing it for at least a few months. The worm is very advanced, required specific intelligence on its target, exploits multiple system vulnerabilities and uses two stolen security certificates, suggesting a typical hacker did not create it.

On a technical level, Stuxnet uses four different vulnerabilities to gain access to Windows systems and USB flash drives, identified independently by antivirus software makers Symantec and Kaspersky Lab. Discovering and exploiting all four vulnerabilities, which in this case are errors in code that allow access to the system or program for unintended purposes, would have required a major effort. Three of them were “zero-day” vulnerabilities, meaning they were unknown before now. A Polish security publication, Hakin9, had discovered the fourth, but Microsoft had failed to fix it. Typically, hackers who discover zero-day vulnerabilities exploit them immediately to avoid pre-emption by software companies, which fix them as soon as they learn of them. In another advanced technique, the worm uses two stolen security certificates from Realtek Semiconductor Corp. to access parts of the Windows operating system.

Stuxnet seems to target a specific Siemens software system, the Simatic WinCC SCADA, operating a unique hardware configuration, according to industrial systems security expert Ralph Langner and Symantec, which both dissected the worm. SCADA stands for “supervisory control and data acquisition systems,” which oversee a number of programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which are used to control individual industrial processes. Stuxnet thus targets individual computers that carry out automated activity in large industrial facilities, but only will activate when it finds the right one. Siemens reported that 14 facilities using its software had already been infected, but nothing had happened. When Stuxnet finds the right configuration of industrial processes run by this software, it supposedly will execute certain files that would disrupt or destroy the system and its equipment. Unlike most sophisticated worms or viruses created by criminal or hacker groups, this worm thus does not involve winning wealth or fame for the creator, but rather aims to disrupt one particular facility, shutting down vital systems that run continuously for a few seconds at a time.

VirusBlokAda, a Minsk-based company, announced the discovery of Stuxnet June 17, 2010, on customers’ computers in Iran. Data from Symantec indicates that most of the targeted and infected computers are in Iran, Indonesia and India. Nearly 60 percent of the infected computers were in Iran. Later research found that at least one version of Stuxnet had been around since June 2009. The proliferation of the worm in Iran indicates that country was the target, but where it started and how it has spread to different countries remains unclear.

Few countries have the kind of technology and industrial base and security agencies geared toward computer security and operations required to devise such a worm, which displays a creativity that few intelligence agencies have demonstrated. This list includes, in no particular order, the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Israel, Russia, Germany, France, China and South Korea.

Media speculation has focused on the United States and Israel, both of which are seeking to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program. Though a conventional war against Iran would be difficult, clandestine attempts at disruption can function as temporarily solutions. Evidence exists of other sabotage attempts in the covert war between the United States and Israel on one side and Iran on the other over Iranian efforts to build a deliverable nuclear weapon.

U.S. President Barack Obama has launched a major diplomatic initiative to involve other countries in stopping Iran’s nuclear activities, so another country might have decided to contribute this creative solution. Whoever developed the worm had very specific intelligence on their target. Targeting a classified Iranian industrial facility would require reliable intelligence assets, likely of a human nature, able to provide the specific parameters for the target. A number of defectors could have provided this information, as could have the plants’ designers or operators. Assuming Siemens systems were actually used, the plans or data needed could have been in Germany, or elsewhere.

Evidence pinpointing who created the worm is not likely to emerge. All that is known for certain is that it targets a particular industrial system using Siemens’ programming. Whether the worm has found its target also remains unclear. It may have done so months ago, meaning now we are just seeing the remnants spread. Assuming the target was a secret facility – which would make this the first cyberweapon reported in the media – the attack might well never be publicized. The Iranians have yet to comment on the worm. They may still be investigating to see where it has spread, working to prevent further damage and trying to identify the culprit. If a government did launch the worm, like any good intelligence operation, no one is likely to take credit for the attack. But no matter who was responsible for the worm, Stuxnet is a display of serious innovation by its designer.

 

TARGET: BUSHEHR?

Stuxnet malware is ‘weapon’ out to destroy ... Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant?
By Mark Clayton
The Christian Science Monitor
September 21, 2010

Cyber security experts say they have identified the world’s first known cyber super weapon designed specifically to destroy a real-world target – a factory, a refinery, or just maybe a nuclear power plant.

The cyber worm, called Stuxnet, has been the object of intense study since its detection in June. As more has become known about it, alarm about its capabilities and purpose have grown. Some top cyber security experts now say Stuxnet’s arrival heralds something blindingly new: a cyber weapon created to cross from the digital realm to the physical world – to destroy something.

At least one expert who has extensively studied the malicious software, or malware, suggests Stuxnet may have already attacked its target – and that it may have been Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, which much of the world condemns as a nuclear weapons threat.

The appearance of Stuxnet created a ripple of amazement among computer security experts. Too large, too encrypted, too complex to be immediately understood, it employed amazing new tricks, like taking control of a computer system without the user taking any action or clicking any button other than inserting an infected memory stick. Experts say it took a massive expenditure of time, money, and software engineering talent to identify and exploit such vulnerabilities in industrial control software systems.

Unlike most malware, Stuxnet is not intended to help someone make money or steal proprietary data. Industrial control systems experts now have concluded, after nearly four months spent reverse engineering Stuxnet, that the world faces a new breed of malware that could become a template for attackers wishing to launch digital strikes at physical targets worldwide. Internet link not required.

“Until a few days ago, people did not believe a directed attack like this was possible,” Ralph Langner, a German cyber-security researcher, told the Monitor in an interview. He was slated to present his findings at a conference of industrial control system security experts Tuesday in Rockville, Md. “What Stuxnet represents is a future in which people with the funds will be able to buy an attack like this on the black market. This is now a valid concern.”

A GRADUAL DAWNING OF STUXNET’S PURPOSE

It is a realization that has emerged only gradually.

Stuxnet surfaced in June and, by July, was identified as a hypersophisticated piece of malware probably created by a team working for a nation state, say cyber security experts. Its name is derived from some of the filenames in the malware. It is the first malware known to target and infiltrate industrial supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software used to run chemical plants and factories as well as electric power plants and transmission systems worldwide. That much the experts discovered right away.

But what was the motive of the people who created it? Was Stuxnet intended to steal industrial secrets – pressure, temperature, valve, or other settings – and communicate that proprietary data over the Internet to cyber thieves?

By August, researchers had found something more disturbing: Stuxnet appeared to be able to take control of the automated factory control systems it had infected – and do whatever it was programmed to do with them. That was mischievous and dangerous.

But it gets worse. Since reverse engineering chunks of Stuxnet’s massive code, senior US cyber security experts confirm what Mr. Langner, the German researcher, told the Monitor: Stuxnet is essentially a precision, military-grade cyber missile deployed early last year to seek out and destroy one real-world target of high importance – a target still unknown.

“Stuxnet is a 100-percent-directed cyber attack aimed at destroying an industrial process in the physical world,” says Langner, who last week became the first to publicly detail Stuxnet’s destructive purpose and its authors’ malicious intent. “This is not about espionage, as some have said. This is a 100 percent sabotage attack.”

A GUIDED CYBER MISSILE

On his website, Langner lays out the Stuxnet code he has dissected. He shows step by step how Stuxnet operates as a guided cyber missile. Three top US industrial control system security experts, each of whom has also independently reverse-engineered portions of Stuxnet, confirmed his findings to the Monitor.

“His technical analysis is good,” says a senior US researcher who has analyzed Stuxnet, who asked for anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the press. “We’re also tearing [Stuxnet] apart and are seeing some of the same things.”

Other experts who have not themselves reverse-engineered Stuxnet but are familiar with the findings of those who have concur with Langner’s analysis.

“What we’re seeing with Stuxnet is the first view of something new that doesn’t need outside guidance by a human – but can still take control of your infrastructure,” says Michael Assante, former chief of industrial control systems cyber security research at the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory. “This is the first direct example of weaponized software, highly customized and designed to find a particular target.”

“I’d agree with the classification of this as a weapon,” Jonathan Pollet, CEO of Red Tiger Security and an industrial control system security expert, says in an e-mail.

One researcher’s findings Langner’s research, outlined on his website Monday, reveals a key step in the Stuxnet attack that other researchers agree illustrates its destructive purpose. That step, which Langner calls “fingerprinting,” qualifies Stuxnet as a targeted weapon, he says.

Langner zeroes in on Stuxnet’s ability to “fingerprint” the computer system it infiltrates to determine whether it is the precise machine the attack-ware is looking to destroy. If not, it leaves the industrial computer alone. It is this digital fingerprinting of the control systems that shows Stuxnet to be not spyware, but rather attackware meant to destroy, Langner says.

Stuxnet’s ability to autonomously and without human assistance discriminate among industrial computer systems is telling. It means, says Langner, that it is looking for one specific place and time to attack one specific factory or power plant in the entire world.

“Stuxnet is the key for a very specific lock – in fact, there is only one lock in the world that it will open,” Langner says in an interview. “The whole attack is not at all about stealing data but about manipulation of a specific industrial process at a specific moment in time. This is not generic. It is about destroying that process.”

So far, Stuxnet has infected at least 45,000 industrial control systems around the world, without blowing them up – although some victims in North America have experienced some serious computer problems, Eric Byres, a Canadian expert, told the Monitor. Most of the victim computers, however, are in Iran, Pakistan, India, and Indonesia. Some systems have been hit in Germany, Canada, and the US, too. Once a system is infected, Stuxnet simply sits and waits – checking every five seconds to see if its exact parameters are met on the system. When they are, Stuxnet is programmed to activate a sequence that will cause the industrial process to self-destruct, Langner says.

Langner’s analysis also shows, step by step, what happens after Stuxnet finds its target. Once Stuxnet identifies the critical function running on a programmable logic controller, or PLC, made by Siemens, the giant industrial controls company, the malware takes control. One of the last codes Stuxnet sends is an enigmatic “DEADF007.” Then the fireworks begin, although the precise function being overridden is not known, Langner says. It may be that the maximum safety setting for RPMs on a turbine is overridden, or that lubrication is shut off, or some other vital function shut down. Whatever it is, Stuxnet overrides it, Langner’s analysis shows.

“After the original code [on the PLC] is no longer executed, we can expect that something will blow up soon,” Langner writes in his analysis. “Something big.”

For those worried about a future cyber attack that takes control of critical computerized infrastructure – in a nuclear power plant, for instance – Stuxnet is a big, loud warning shot across the bow, especially for the utility industry and government overseers of the US power grid.

“The implications of Stuxnet are very large, a lot larger than some thought at first,” says Mr. Assante, who until recently was security chief for the North American Electric Reliability Corp. “Stuxnet is a directed attack. It’s the type of threat we’ve been worried about for a long time. It means we have to move more quickly with our defenses – much more quickly.”

Has Stuxnet already hit its target?It might be too late for Stuxnet’s target, Langner says. He suggests it has already been hit – and destroyed or heavily damaged. But Stuxnet reveals no overt clues within its code to what it is after.

A geographical distribution of computers hit by Stuxnet, which Microsoft produced in July, found Iran to be the apparent epicenter of the Stuxnet infections. That suggests that any enemy of Iran with advanced cyber war capability might be involved, Langner says. The US is acknowledged to have that ability, and Israel is also reported to have a formidable offensive cyber-war-fighting capability.

Could Stuxnet’s target be Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, a facility much of the world condemns as a nuclear weapons threat?

Langner is quick to note that his views on Stuxnet’s target is speculation based on suggestive threads he has seen in the media. Still, he suspects that the Bushehr plant may already have been wrecked by Stuxnet. Bushehr’s expected startup in late August has been delayed, he notes, for unknown reasons. (One Iranian official blamed the delay on hot weather.)

But if Stuxnet is so targeted, why did it spread to all those countries? Stuxnet might have been spread by the USB memory sticks used by a Russian contractor while building the Bushehr nuclear plant, Langner offers. The same contractor has jobs in several countries where the attackware has been uncovered.

“This will all eventually come out and Stuxnet’s target will be known,” Langner says. “If Bushehr wasn’t the target and it starts up in a few months, well, I was wrong. But somewhere out there, Stuxnet has found its target. We can be fairly certain of that.”


NY Review of Books discovers Fayyad (& Hamas shuts down Gaza cafes and parks)

September 20, 2010

* If rockets were falling on the suburbs of London, what would you do?
* Palestinian Authority plans first ever currency: the Palestinian pound
* They plan to put the face of Yasser Arafat, the father of modern airline terrorism, on the banknotes
* Gaza’s luxury water park for kids torched by Islamist gunmen

Above: Gaza water park, before the attack. There had been reports of mixed male-female bathing.

 

CONTENTS

1. Hamas closes down restaurants, cafes, galleries and parks in Gaza
2. Clegg and Cameron: who can be more hostile to Israel?
3. How ethnic cleansing works in Darfur
4. Supreme Leader Khamenei of Iran: We must punish the Jews for 9/11
5. The New York Review of Books discovers Fayyad
6. “Statement on the shutting down of hotels and restaurants in the Gaza Strip (Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, Sept.19, 2010)
7. Nick Clegg on Israel (and other issues) (Washington Post, Sept.19, 2010)
8. “The death of ‘Ahmed’ of Kassab camp” (Sudan Tribune, Sept.15, 2010)
9. “Ayatollah says Koran burning is Jews fault shock!” (Tim Marshall, Sky, Sept.15, 2010)
10. “Our Man in Palestine” (Nathan Thrall, New York Review of Books, Oct. 14, 2010)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

HAMAS CLOSES DOWN RESTAURANTS, CAFES, GALLERIES AND PARKS IN GAZA

I attach five items below.

The first is a “Statement on the shutting down of hotels and restaurants in the Gaza Strip,” emailed to journalists yesterday by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights.

Some of the establishments listed in the Statement, and now shut down by Hamas, are the same ones that I have written about in dispatches over the past couple of years (while noting that their very existence was being ignored by many major Western media).

These include: (1) The restaurant, hotel and café of the Orient House (Al-Beitsh) shut down on September 15 for three days, on orders of the Director General of Gaza Police under the laws “prohibiting mixed dancing”.

(2) The Cinema Forum in the gallery of Asamak restaurant, shut down on September 9 despite the fact that they had obtained the necessary permit. The owner of the restaurant and two other organizers were taken into custody.

(3) The gallery of Al-Bieder, where a cultural event by the Association of Community Colleges Graduates was broken up on September 12.

(4) The children and family resort “Crazy Water Park,” which was shut down on September 5.

(5) The Jockey Club, which was shut down on September 5.

(6) The restaurant and café shop of “Sma Gaza” was shut down on September 2 because it had allowed women to smoke.

***

Tom Gross adds:

A group of 40 to 50 masked gunmen stormed Gaza City’s “Crazy Water Park” during the predawn hours yesterday and caused widespread damage to this popular attraction.

The owner of the park told the German news agency DPA that about 40 unidentified gunmen entered the park, tied up and beat the two security guards, destroyed various slides and other items used by children and set fire to at least three buildings.

The 10-dunam (2.5 acre) park includes three large swimming pools, water slides, numerous cafes, two mosques and wedding halls. Since opening at the start of the year, it has quickly become one of the Gaza’s most popular family attractions.

Despite its popularity, the park was closed on September 5 for a month, on the orders of the Hamas government after there were reports of mixed male-female bathing. Yesterday’s damage will make it much harder for the park to reopen.

 

CLEGG AND CAMERON: WHO CAN BE MORE HOSTILE TO ISRAEL?

The second item below is extracts of an interview with Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg published yesterday in The Washington Post. Clegg, the leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrat Party, seems to be competing with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, for who can make statements more hostile to the government of Israel. (Cameron recently traveled to increasingly pro-Iranian Turkey where he made a statement likening Gaza to a prison camp.)

The governments of Germany, France, Italy and other European powers have a relatively good understanding of Israel’s predicament. Britain is now in many respects by far the most hostile major Western power when it comes to Israel. This includes the BBC World service radio which is directly under the supervision of the British Foreign office and is far more hostile to Israel than even the domestic BBC is.

***

Incidentally, on September 18, AOL News became the latest media outlet to report from Gaza that:

“The shops are now full of food and clothes. Even luxury electronic goods like washing machines and flat-screen televisions are readily available in sparkling showrooms in Gaza City. According to an International Monetary Fund report produced for a conference next week of international donors to the Palestinian Authority, Gaza’s economy has grown by a startling 16 percent this year…”

***

Tom Gross adds: I would like to emphasize again that there are a multitude of political and economic problems in Gaza, as there are in many countries. But the situation in Gaza is a far cry from the image of mass “starvation” that Time magazine and others have been reporting. If Western media had been more truthful earlier this year, we might have avoided politicized flotillas resulting in nine deaths. And Western governments might not have continued to pour hundreds of millions of extra aid money into Gaza that could have been used for far poorer people in Africa and elsewhere.

 

HOW ETHNIC CLEANSING WORKS IN DARFUR

The third item below is by Eric Reeves of The Sudan Tribune who explains how ethnic cleansing works in Darfur, adding that “without this notice from one of the world’s more obscure news sources, the boy’s anonymity would have been complete – joining the hundreds of thousands who have perished in similar anonymity over the past eight years.”

***

(Among previous dispatches on Darfur, please see:
Sudan genocide 2: Where’s Sean Penn when you need him? Where’s the ISM?)

 

SUPREME LEADER KHAMENEI OF IRAN: WE MUST PUNISH THE JEWS FOR 9/11

The fourth item below is by Tim Marshall, the foreign news editor of Sky News, who points out that the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, has just blamed the Jews for the fact that an obscure pastor in America burned the Koran (in fact he didn’t burn it) and adds that the Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Tim Marshall says: “This most learned man of piety and scholar of one of the world’s greatest religions appears to suggest that, well, how can I put this, everything that’s happening, is the fault of the Jews.

“This sombre thinker finishes by saying people must ‘duly punish the main planners and operators of this heinous crime who have hurt the feelings of one and a half billion Muslims the world over.’”

 

THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS FINALLY DISCOVERS FAYYAD

The fifth and final item, from The New York Review of Books, concerns Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Many other newspapers have had articles on Fayyad since George W. Bush invited him to the Oval Office and began promoting him in 2003 (at the suggestion of then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon).

But I am glad that The New York Review of Books – a favored publication of the intellectual American left, and a paper that has run a number of highly inaccurate anti-Israel articles in recent years – has agreed to run Nathan Thrall’s piece (“Our Man in Palestine”).

The piece is scheduled to be published in The New York Review of Books edition of October 14, 2010, and it is unusual to release a piece on line so early. Nathan Thrall tells me that the paper released it early, in advance of Fayyad’s forthcoming visit to Washington and his talk in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday evening.

Some critics believe that the NYRB piece tends to focus too much on perceived security matters and not enough on economic progress and institution-building, which are, after all, the reasons for bolstering security in the West Bank. Saying at the end of the piece that there are now two “occupations” also seems unfair.

***

Incidentally, not mentioned in the NYRB article is that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is planning to produce a currency – the Palestinian pound.

Palestine Monetary Authority Chairman Jihadal-Wazir, says that a photo of Yasser Arafat (the father of modern airline terrorism) “is almost certain” to appear on the currency. At present Palestinians in the West Bank use Israeli shekels and sometimes Jordanian dinars. And in Gaza, Israeli shekels and occasionally Egyptian pounds are used.

(For more on Arafat, please see here. For a picture of Arafat on a Palestinian stamp, please scroll down here )

***

I attach five items below. (The writers of the second, fourth and fifth items are subscribers to this email list.)

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ITEMS

STATEMENT ON THE SHUTTING DOWN OF HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS IN THE GAZA STRIP

Statement on the shutting down of hotels and restaurants in the Gaza Strip
Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (www.ichr.ps)
Sunday, September 19, 2010

الهيئة المستقلة لحقوق الإنسان “ديوان المظالم”

ICHR expresses grave concern over the decision by security agencies in the Gaza strip to shut down hotels and resorts in the city of Gaza during September, 2010.

According to the information of ICHR, on September 15, 2010 the police shut down the Restaurant Hotel and Café of the Orient House “previously known as Al-Beitsh” for three days, upon a letter signed by the Director General of the police in the Gaza strip. They owed this decision to the non-commitment of the hotel’s administration to the conditions and laws enforced in the Gaza strip including the “prohibition of mixed dancing” during festivities or celebrations permitted by the police.

ICHR has monitored several incidents like these during the same period, as the General Investigation Force disrupted on 7/9/2010 a cultural event organized by the Cinema Forum in the gallery of Asamak Restaurant, despite the fact that they had obtained the necessary permit holding such an event. The owner of the restaurant and two other organizers were seized and the administration of the restaurant was forced to sign a document prohibiting such events.

On 12/9/2010, a force of the General Investigation Unit disrupted a cultural eve organized by the Association of Community Colleges Graduates in the gallery of Al-Bieder. The force ordered the organizers of the event to end it in ten minutes.

On 5/9/2010, the Attorney General of the Deposed government issued a decision to shut down the resort of “Crazy Water” which is based in Al-Shiekh Ajlin area near Gaza beach for (21) days without any justification. According to the affidavit of a member of the board of directors of the resort, the Attorney General justified his decision claiming that the administration of the resort dug an underground well without obtaining the necessary permit from the municipality. It is noteworthy that the police agency shut down the resort for three days on August 20, 2010 under the pretext that it organizes entertainment celebrations.

On 5/9/2010, the Attorney General ordered a jockey club closed in the area of Shiekh Ajlin in Gaza city for (21) days claiming it doesn’t have the necessary licenses.

On 2/9/2010, the police shut down the Restaurant and Café Shop of “Sma Gaza” for three days because it let women smoke water pipe (“Nargile”).

ICHR views these measures as a violation of the Palestinian Basic Law which asserts maintenance and protection of citizens’ rights and liberties, including respect of personal freedom and freedom of holding public and private assemblies. ICHR emphasizes, in this regard, that such practices constitute a blatant violation of the system of rights and freedoms ensured by Palestinian legislations. Further, it views that the conditions which require permits for organizing celebrations and banning women from smoking water pipe and participating in mixed gatherings are not part of the legal frames stated in the relevant Palestinian legislations, and inducing such conditions proves the Deposed government’s intention of giving these legislations an ideological dimension.

Stressing the danger of such measures, ICHR demands the following:

1. Ending such practices and reopening all the facilities which were shut down.
2. Ensuring security agencies’ respect for all laws and legislations ensuring personal public freedoms and liberties.
3. Calling on the Deposed government to take all necessary measures to facilitate the work of the hotels sector and respect the freedoms and rights ensured under international agreements.

 

IF ROCKETS WERE FALLING ON THE SUBURBS OF LONDON, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Nick Clegg on Israel (and other issues)
Interview by Lally Weymouth
The Washington Post
September 19, 2010

Washington Post: You have denounced the occupation of Gaza as “a living nightmare for a million and a half Palestinians.” What is your attitude toward Israel?

Nick Clegg: My own attitude as a friend of Israel is that you have got to ask yourself: Are the actions that have taken place in Gaza through Operation Cast Lead in Israel’s long-term interest? It seems to me to be a wholly uncontroversial thing to say that to have a million and a half people on a tiny sliver of land -- one of the most wretched and overcrowded parts of the world -- and no employment, is that in your long-term strategic interest? Clearly not. Now, that does not mean that Israel hasn’t got every right to retaliate and take action to protect its own citizens. But how does Israel disentangle itself from a series of military strikes and incursions which provide short-term security but don’t provide long-term stability and safety?

Washington Post: But Israel did withdraw from Gaza. They tore up all their army bases and sat there for eight years while rockets fell on Israel with no retaliation.

Nick Clegg: But then the military action which was taken -- you need to ask yourself, was it proportionate?

Washington Post: If rockets were falling on the suburbs of London, what would you do?

Nick Clegg: Of course I would take military action. Do I think the nature of the military action and the overwhelming use of force and the huge collateral damage that was caused, do I think that is necessarily in the long-term interest of Israel?

Washington Post: Your answer is no?

Nick Clegg: What I think is now obvious to everybody -- and I suspect to the Israeli government as well -- is that the long-term safety of Israel itself requires some kind of resolution of what is happening in Gaza, not to mention the settlements in the West Bank and elsewhere. A military action on its own -- certainly in such an overwhelming fashion -- is not a long-term answer to Israel’s security interest.

***

The full text of Clegg’s interview with Lally Weymouth can be read here.

 

THE DEATH OF ‘AHMED’ OF KASSAB CAMP

The death of ‘Ahmed’ of Kassab camp
How ethnic cleansing works in Darfur
By Eric Reeves
Sudan Tribune
September 15, 2010

“A boy died by drowning in Kassab Camp in North Darfur on Saturday. Several houses collapsed in the camp after heavy rains that fell on the region. A source said that dozens of displaced families are in the open after the loss of their homes.” Without this notice from one of the world’s more obscure news sources (http://
radiodabanga.org/node/3669), the boy’s anonymity would have been complete – joining the hundreds of thousands who have perished in similar anonymity over the past eight years. And perhaps I should be more concerned about the “dozens of displaced families” – potentially hundreds of civilians – exposed in North Darfur during the very height of the rainy season, facing ominously high malnutrition rates.

But there are times when I find the world’s inability to look with any particularity at the human suffering and destruction in Darfur a cause for rage, for a desperate urge to make this suffering and destruction into a recognizable, an undeniable, an inescapably disturbing portrait. So I will construct an all too plausible history for this boy from Kassab Camp, and his place in Darfur’s ongoing agony. I’ll call him Ahmed, and he is twelve years old; he has been in Kassab for the past six years. He arrived in summer 2004, at the height of the genocidal violence, having seen his village destroyed and losing most of his family. His ten-year-old sister and mother were gang-raped by the Janjaweed in front of all the village men, including his father, who was later killed.

Full article here: www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article36289

 

THE AYATOLLAH BLAMES THE JEWS

Ayatollah Says Koran Burning Is Jews Fault Shock!
By Tim Marshall, foreign news editor at Sky News
September 15, 2010

http://
blogs.news.sky.com/foreignmatters/Post:82996b46-4e22-4dea-9001-86949a70d8cd

My friends in the Iranian government have written to me asking me to ‘give coverage to the Supreme Leader’s (Ayatollah Khamenei) comments on the recent Koran burning row released today. So I have...

He says, among other things... “The insane, revolting insult to the Holy Quran in America, an incident occurring under the security provided by the US police, is a major tragic event that cannot be considered merely as the foolish act of a few worthless mercenaries... Looking into this trend of evil... leaves no doubt that it is designed and masterminded by heads of world imperialism and Zionist think tanks which have the highest degree of influence in the government, the military and security agencies of the United States as well as Britain and some other European countries.”

Translated, this appears to argue that because a foaming at the mouth right wing Christian evangelist in America wants to burn the Koran - it is the fault of the Jews.

The Ayatollah goes on... “These are those at whom the finger of suspicion of independent truth-finding groups and individuals is pointed in the case of the attack on the Twin Towers on September the 11th.”

This appears to mean Jews attacked the Twin Towers.

The Guardian of the Islamic Revolution goes on.....’Now all the heads of world hegemony and impiety are ranked against Islam... how can one believe that this vast conspiracy could be made possible without the support and involvement of the Zionist circles in the US government?!

This most learned man of piety and scholar of one of the world’s greatest religions appears to suggest that, well, how can I put this, everything that’s happening, is the fault of the Jews.

This sombre thinker finishes by saying people must “duly punish the main planners and operators of this heinous crime who have hurt the feelings of one and a half billion Muslims the world over.”

Who do you suppose he means by that? I was asked to give this missive some publicity. And I agree, such a letter to the world deserves to be seen.

 

OUR MAN IN PALESTINE

Our Man in Palestine
By Nathan Thrall
The New York Review of Books
Edition of October 14, 2010

On August 31, the night before President Obama’s dinner inaugurating direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Hamas gunmen shot and killed four Jewish settlers in Hebron, the West Bank’s largest and most populous governorate. The attack – the deadliest against Israeli citizens in more than two years – was condemned by Palestinian and Israeli officials, who said that it was meant to thwart the upcoming negotiations. According to a Hamas spokesman, however, the shooting had a more specific purpose: to demonstrate the futility of the recent cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. This cooperation has reached unprecedented levels under the quiet direction of a three-star US Army general, Keith Dayton, who has been commanding a little-publicized American mission to build up Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.[Footnote 1]

Referred to by Hamas as “the Dayton forces,” the Palestinian security services are formally under the authority of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and chairman of Hamas’s rival, Fatah; but they are, in practice, controlled by Salam Fayyad, the unelected prime minister, a diminutive, mild-mannered technocrat. Abbas appointed Fayyad following Hamas’s grim takeover of Gaza in June 2007 – which occurred seventeen months after the Islamist party won the January 2006 parliamentary elections – and entrusted him with preventing Hamas from also seizing the West Bank.

Fayyad received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin and held positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the World Bank, and the IMF before becoming finance minister under President Yasser Arafat. His reputation as a fiscally responsible and trustworthy manager ensures the steady supply of international aid on which the Palestinian economy depends. Though he has neither a popular following nor backing from a large political party (his Third Way list received a mere 2.4 percent of the votes in the 2006 legislative elections), today he is responsible for nearly every aspect of Palestinian governance. Yet he is not participating in the negotiations over a settlement with Israel, which are the province of the PLO (of whose leadership Fayyad is not a member) and are handled by its chairman, the seventy-five-year-old Abbas.

Fayyad is criticized at home for many of the same reasons he is lauded abroad. He has condemned violence against Israel as antithetical to his people’s national aspirations, stated that Palestinian refugees could be resettled not in Israel but in a future Palestinian state, and suggested that this state would offer citizenship to Jews.2 He is praised in the opinion pages of The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, and has good relations with foreign leaders unpopular in Palestine: on Fayyad’s first visit to the Oval Office, in 2003, George W. Bush greeted him with index and pinky fingers extended to display UT Austin’s “Hook ‘em Horns” sign. When the daughter of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff was married several years ago, Fayyad sat next to Sharon at the wedding and talked with him at length.3

In February, Fayyad spoke before Israel’s security establishment at the annual Herzliya Conference, where he was compared by Israeli President Shimon Peres to David Ben-Gurion.4 Much of Fayyad’s speech concerned his ambitious plan, made public in late August 2009, to establish unilaterally a de facto Palestinian state by August 2011. By that time, according to Fayyad, “the reality of [a Palestinian] state will impose itself on the world.”5 Fayyad’s plan to “build” a state – he does not say he will declare one – has been endorsed by the Quartet (the US, EU, UN, and Russian Federation) and supported eagerly by international donors.

Some Palestinians have rejected it as too closely resembling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s notion of “economic peace,” which proposes that development precede independence. And a number of Israelis have expressed suspicions that Palestine will seek UN recognition of its statehood when the plan is complete. Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, has warned that any unilateral steps Fayyad takes toward a state could prompt Israel to annul past agreements and annex parts of the West Bank.6

Fayyad has said that his plan to build a new state “is intended to generate pressure” on Israeli–Palestinian negotiations, and the direct talks recently started by the two parties have a late summer 2011 deadline that coincides with Fayyad’s.7 Mike Herzog, former chief of staff to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, told me, “Ultimately, I think Fayyad calculates that political negotiations will not succeed and his plan [to establish a state] will be the only game in town.” The danger, for Israel and the Palestinian Authority alike, is what will happen if negotiations fail and Fayyad’s plan does not produce significant concessions from Israel. “We are not going to withdraw from certain areas just because there was a declaration or a UN resolution,” Herzog said. In that event Hamas will be able to present a persuasive argument that violence is the only means of achieving national liberation. “Fayyad sets an arbitrary date and says, ‘Okay, now all of you break your heads if you want to avoid a catastrophe,’” Herzog said. “What he did is very risky but also very smart.”

So far, Fayyad’s strategy is succeeding. His administration has started more than one thousand development projects, which include paving roads, planting trees, digging wells, and constructing new buildings, most prominently in the twin cities of Ramallah and al-Bireh.8 He has reduced dependence on foreign aid and started to carry out plans to build new hospitals, classrooms, courthouses, industrial parks, housing, and even a new city, Rawabi, between Ramallah and Nablus. But “reforming the security forces,” Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, told me, “is the main and integral part of the Fayyad plan. Many of the government’s other successes, such as economic growth, came as a result.”

To its citizens, Fayyad’s government has presented reform of the police and other security forces as principally a matter of providing law and order – apprehending criminal gangs, consolidating competing security services, forbidding public displays of weapons, and locating stolen cars. But its program for “counterterrorism” – which is directed mainly against Hamas and viewed by many Palestinians as collaboration with Israel – is its most important element: targeting Hamas members and suspected sympathizers is intended to reduce the likelihood of a West Bank takeover and, as important, helps Fayyad make a plausible case that he is in control and that Israel can safely withdraw from the territory.

In 2009, Palestinian and Israeli forces took part in 1,297 coordinated activities, many of them against militant Palestinian groups, a 72 percent increase over the previous year.9 Together they have largely disbanded the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a principal Fatah militia; attacked Islamic Jihad cells; and all but eliminated Hamas’s social institutions, financial arrangements, and military activities in the West Bank.

According to the latest annual report of the Shin Bet, Israel’s FBI, “continuous [counterterrorist] activity conducted by Israel and the Palestinian security apparatuses” reduced Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to their lowest numbers since 2000.10 Today’s level of cooperation, Herzog said, “is better than before the second intifada even – it’s excellent.” Mouna Mansour, a Hamas legislator in the Palestinian Parliament and widow of an assassinated senior leader of the movement, told me, “The PA has succeeded more than the Israelis in crushing Hamas in the West Bank.”

At the center of the Palestinian government’s security reforms are several “special battalions” of the National Security Forces (NSF), an eight-thousand-member gendarmerie that makes up the largest unit of the 25,000-strong Palestinian armed forces in the West Bank.11 The officer in charge of the vetting, training, equipping, and strategic planning of these special battalions is Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, the United States security coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In a desert town sixteen miles southeast of Amman, more than three thousand Palestinians have completed nineteen-week military courses under Dayton’s supervision at the Jordan International Police Training Center, built with American funds in 2003 for the instruction of Iraqi police. In Hebron, Jenin, Jericho, and Ramallah, the Dayton mission is organizing the construction and renovation of garrisons, training colleges, facilities for the Interior Ministry, and security headquarters – some of which, like the one I visited on a hilltop in central Hebron, were destroyed by Israel during the second intifada. The office of the USSC plans to build new camps in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Tubas, and Tulkarm. It offers two-month leadership courses to senior PA officers, and has created and appointed advisers to a Strategic Planning Directorate in the Ministry of Interior.12 Over the past three years, the State Department has allocated $392 million to the Dayton mission, with another $150 million requested for 2011.13

At its headquarters in a nineteenth-century stone building at the US consulate in West Jerusalem, the USSC has a forty-five-person core staff composed primarily of American and Canadian but also British and Turkish military officers. In addition, it employs twenty-eight private contractors from the Virginia-based DynCorp International.14 State Department rules require the mission’s US government staff to travel only in large, heavily armored convoys, though these restrictions do not apply to its private security contractors and foreign military officers, some of whom are based in Ramallah. By late 2011 – a date that dovetails with Fayyad’s deadline – the USSC plans to have supervised the training of ten NSF battalions, one for every West Bank governorate except Jerusalem.15

General Dayton reports to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He advises George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East peace, and has been praised by influential senators, congressmen, and Middle East analysts, who view the work of the USSC as a singular achievement.16 Israel has granted greater responsibility to Palestinian security forces, expanding their geographical areas of operation, sharing higher-quality intelligence with them, and lifting their midnight-to-five-AM curfews in several of the largest West Bank cities.17 According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel has also reduced the travel time between most urban centers in the West Bank by opening roads, relaxing controls at checkpoints, lifting vehicle permit requirements, and removing physical obstacles, which are expected to be reduced in the near future to their lowest number since 2005.18

Colonel Philip J. Dermer, a former member of the USSC, wrote in a March 2010 report circulated among senior White House and military staff that “the USSC mission has arguably achieved more progress on the ground than any other US effort in Israeli- Palestinian peacemaking”19 Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, has said, “You can send George Mitchell back and forth to the Middle East as much as you like, but expanding what [General] Dayton is doing in the security realm to other sectors of Palestinian governance and society is really the only viable model for progress.”20

The first United States security coordinator, Lieutenant General William “Kip” Ward, arrived in Jerusalem in March 2005. Elliott Abrams, formerly the deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush, told me that Ward’s mission was organized in response to three closely coinciding events: the reelection, in November 2004, of Bush, who wanted to rebuild Palestinian security forces as a part of his 2003 road map to Middle East peace; the death, nine days later, of Yasser Arafat, who had resisted American attempts to reform the Palestinian security services; and the victory of America’s favored candidate, Mahmoud Abbas, in the January 2005 presidential election.

Ward’s mission concentrated initially on security reform but was soon limited to preparing for Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza and four northern West Bank settlements in August and September 2005.21 The withdrawal went fairly smoothly for Israel, but Ward failed to prevent violence on the Palestinian side. Settler greenhouses were looted, empty synagogues were burned, and Palestinians began fighting one another for control of Gaza.22

Weeks after Dayton took over from Ward at the end of 2005, Hamas defeated Fatah in the January 2006 parliamentary elections. Overnight, Dayton’s task changed from reforming the security forces to preventing a Hamas-led government from controlling them. State Department lawyers sought ways to continue assisting the Fatah-dominated security forces of the Palestinian Authority, which would soon be led by Hamas, a group the US had declared a terrorist organization. The solution was to send direct aid to President Abbas, who was elected separately and could be considered detached from the incoming Hamas-led government and legislature. In a reversal of its longstanding policy of pressuring the Palestinian president to give power to the cabinet, the US advised Abbas to issue decrees and make appointments that would limit the new government’s rule, particularly over the security forces.23 Hamas reacted by establishing a security service of its own. Abbas banned the Hamas force in a decree that the cabinet then declared illegal. During the next year, Hamas and Fatah engaged in a series of violent clashes in which leaders on both sides were assassinated.24

Dayton, meanwhile, was overseeing the recruitment, training, and equipping of Abbas’s rapidly expanding security forces.25 Khaled Meshaal, chief of Hamas’s politburo, delivered a fiery speech denouncing “the security coup” as a “conspiracy” supported by “the Zionists and the Americans” – charges Fatah denied.26 In February 2007, on the brink of civil war, Fatah and Hamas leaders traveled to Mecca, where they agreed to form a national unity government, a deal the US opposed because it preferred that Fatah continue to isolate Hamas. Fayyad became finance minister in the new government, despite, he says, American pressure not to join.27 The Peruvian diplomat Alvaro de Soto, former UN envoy to the Quartet, wrote in a confidential “End of Mission Report” that the violence between Hamas and Fatah could have been avoided had the US not strongly opposed Palestinian reconciliation. “The US,” he wrote, “clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fateh and Hamas.”28

One month before Gaza fell to Hamas in June 2007, Hamas forces attacked USSC-trained troops at their base near Gaza’s border with Israel, killing seven and withdrawing only after three Israeli tanks approached.29 Testifying before Congress the following week, Dayton claimed that the attack had been repulsed and denied that Hamas was on the rise – a prediction not borne out during the following weeks.30 “It took [Hamas] just a few days,” said Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, “to flush away a 53,000-strong PA security apparatus which was a fourteen-year Western investment.”31

Though several members of the Bush administration later said that the entire strategy had been mistaken, the defeat of American-backed Fatah forces offered a rather different lesson to the small circle that had influence over the USSC.32 “We didn’t regard this as proof the project wasn’t working,” Abrams said, “but rather that the project was needed.”

Gaza was lost, but in Abbas’s appointment of an emergency cabinet led by Salam Fayyad, the US felt it had “the best Palestinian Authority government in history.” So I was told by David Welch, a former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs who helped oversee the Dayton mission until December 2008. The Bush administration ended its fourteen-month embargo of the PA, Israel released $500 million in withheld taxes, Palestinian and Israeli security forces increased their coordination, and the USSC rapidly expanded its operations. In Fayyad’s first three and a half months as prime minister, from mid-June to October 2007, the Palestinian Authority mounted a campaign in the West Bank against charities, businesses, preachers, and civil servants affiliated with Hamas, arresting some 1,500 of the movement’s members and suspected sympathizers.33 “Once it became clear that Hamas had won in Gaza,” Welch said, “then the whole thing was a lot cleaner to do in the West Bank.”

By late October 2007, the government was making an intensive effort to maintain order in Nablus, one of the West Bank’s most violent cities; in Jenin the following May a special battalion trained by the USSC led the largest security operation ever mounted by the PA.34 Both efforts won approval from local residents, who were grateful for improved security. But these projects were largely dependent not only on restraint by Hamas and Islamic Jihad but also on Israel’s support, including the amnesty it offered to Fatah gunmen.35

Many Palestinians see today’s campaigns by the security forces as an effort to suppress Hamas – the victors in free and fair elections – and also to prevent attacks against Israel. “The challenge for Fayyad and Abbas,” Ghaith al-Omari, a former foreign policy adviser to Abbas, told me, “is that for many Palestinians violence against Israel is a nationalist, respectable endeavor.” This is a view confirmed by reactions to the most recent suicide bombing in Israel – at a Dimona shopping center in February 2008 – and the shooting one month later of eight students at a yeshiva in West Jerusalem. More than three quarters of polled Palestinians supported the attacks, which were praised by Hamas and condemned by the PA.36

Over the following year, the PA alienated itself from the public still further and with little aid from Hamas. At an Israeli base north of Ramallah in September 2008, the Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea attended a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli commanders. In an article later translated in the Palestinian press, Barnea reported in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most widely circulated newspaper, that the head of the Palestinian National Security Forces told the Israelis, “We have a common enemy,” and the chief of Palestinian military intelligence said, “We are taking care of every Hamas institution in accordance with your instructions”37

Another blow to the PA’s popularity came one and a half months later. After Israeli forces evicted some two hundred Jews from a contested building in Hebron, Israeli settlers in the area vandalized ambulances and mosques, set fire to cars and homes, and shot and wounded Palestinian residents. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was “ashamed at the scenes of Jews opening fire at innocent Arabs,” an event he called a “pogrom.”38 When the riots spread to the Palestinian-controlled part of the city, Hebron locals watched as their security forces quietly disappeared.39 Both the former governor, now Abbas’s chief of staff, and the NSF commander of Hebron, a Hamas stronghold, told me that Israeli soldiers regularly make incursions into PA-controlled areas, forcing, the governor said, “humiliated and insulted” Palestinian troops to withdraw to their barracks. Perceptions of collaboration are heightened, they added, by Israel’s frequent practice of arresting people who have just been released from Palestinian detention.

The most damage to the reputation of the Palestinian security forces occurred during the Israeli war in Gaza, which began in December 2008. In plainclothes and uniform, PA officers in the West Bank surrounded mosques, kept young men from approaching Israeli checkpoints, arrested protesters chanting Hamas slogans, and dispersed demonstrators with batons, pepper spray, and tear gas.40 The trust between Israeli and Palestinian forces was so great, Dayton said, that “a good portion of the Israeli army went off to Gaza.”41 Barak Ben-Zur, a former head of counterterrorism in Israeli military intelligence and later special assistant to the director of the Shin Bet, told me that “in Israeli Arab cities there were more protests against the war than in the West Bank,” thanks to the “total quiet kept by the Palestinian security services.” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman later said, “Mahmoud Abbas himself called and asked us, pressured us to continue the military campaign and overthrow Hamas.”42

Several months after the war in Gaza, Dayton spoke before an influential group of politicians and analysts at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he boasted of his mission’s accomplishments: building a force that worked against Hamas and cooperated with Israel during the war, and creating “new men” through USSC training of Palestinian troops. Israeli commanders, he said, asked him how quickly he could produce more.43 His comments were not well received in Palestine, where they reinforced the image of the US and Israel as puppeteers. In the months following the speech, the PA sent a formal complaint to the US about Dayton’s “unacceptable declarations”; senior Palestinian officials, including Fayyad, refused to attend meetings with Dayton; and, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly, “owing to tensions in the relationship between [General] Dayton and the civilian Palestinian leadership, his role [was] scaled down.”44

For Fayyad, Dayton’s speech could not have been timed more poorly; it followed the release of a widely publicized poll that had found the PA’s legitimacy among West Bank residents at record lows, and occurred just weeks after Palestinians held large demonstrations protesting an alleged attempt by PA security forces to assassinate Sheikh Hamed al-Beitawi, a prominent Hamas leader in the West Bank.45 Beitawi, a member of the parliament, chairman of the Palestinian Islamic Scholars Association, and a cleric well known for his sermons at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, had escaped a separate attack by unidentified assailants in the autumn of 2008.46 The PA banned him this summer from preaching and two of his sons have been arrested since July. Yet Beitawi said he was confident that the Fayyad government would not last.47 “Fatah and the PA are going down for two reasons,” he told me in Nablus: “corruption and coordination with the Israelis.”

Last December, when Israeli forces in Nablus, allegedly acting on a tip from PA security services, killed three Palestinian militants suspected of murdering a West Bank rabbi, more than 20,000 Palestinians attended the funeral, which turned into an enormous protest against the PA’s security cooperation with Israel.48 Several days later, Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV broadcast a cartoon with a chorus singing, “We swear that we will not be terrorized by Dayton.”49 Its central character, Balool, is a Palestinian National Security Force commander who kisses the boots of Israeli soldiers, wears a beret bearing the insignia “Dayton,” and claims not to represent any political faction just before his pants fall to reveal underwear colored in Fatah’s yellow.

On the day the cartoon was shown on television, Abbas, who is depicted in it as an Israeli soldier’s marionette, told an interviewer, “We are not Israel’s security guards.”50 A week later, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Doha-based television preacher who is watched by an audience of tens of millions, said in a sermon broadcast on Qatar TV that “if it is proven that [Abbas] incited Israel to strike Gaza, he deserves not merely to be executed, but to be stoned to death.”51

Islamists have hardly been the only critics of Dayton and the security forces. Last year, in an Op-Ed entitled “Jericho’s Stasi,” Bassem Eid, head of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, wrote, “I would like to suggest that General Dayton not just train agents in the use of weapons, beating and torture… but also train them how to behave among their own people.”52 The National Security Forces trained by Dayton are not authorized to make arrests, but they regularly lead joint operations with Palestinian security services whose senior leaders have been trained by the USSC, and that have, according to Human Rights Watch and Palestinian human rights groups, practiced torture.53 A year into Fayyad’s first term, Mamdouh al-Aker, then head of the PA’s human rights organization, spoke of the government’s “militarization” and asserted that “a state of lawlessness had shifted to a sort of a security state, a police state.”54

Charges of authoritarianism have intensified since. Abbas, whose term expired during the war in Gaza, has been ruling by presidential decree. There has been no legislature since June 2007, and judicial rulings are frequently ignored by the security services. Fayyad, for all his commitment to accountability and transparency, has repeatedly been found in polls to have less legitimacy than the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and oversees a government that in a recent Global Integrity Index tied with Iraq as the sixth most corrupt in the world.55

In other respects, too, the PA’s practices have come under severe criticism. According to Sha’wan Jabarin, the director of the Palestinian human rights group al-Haq, torture has in recent months again become routine. In polls taken since Fayyad took office, West Bank residents have consistently reported feeling less safe than Gazans, whose lives under Hamas rule are in many respects worse. The Ministry of Religious Affairs has dictated Friday sermons to be read by imams. Palestinian journalists, according to Amnesty International, were detained and threatened during the Gaza war for reporting on government suppression. The Palestinian Authority, since Fayyad became prime minister, has twice ranked lower in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index than any other Arab government. And Freedom House now gives the PA the same rating for political rights that it does for civil liberties – “not free”56

Fayyad has attempted to strengthen his credibility with Palestinians by participating in acts of “peaceful resistance” – demonstrations against Israel’s security wall and burnings of products made in Israeli settlements. But Sam Bahour, a Palestinian entrepreneur and advocate of civil rights, told me that the government’s recent decision “to adopt one small element” of an existing and more comprehensive boycott is mere “window dressing” meant to cover up “a heavy-handed security state whose primary goals are to keep Hamas and criticism of the government in check.” On August 25, when leftist and independent political parties held a rally against the direct talks with Israel that began one week later, it was violently broken up by PA security forces.57

Last winter and spring, the PA prepared for July municipal elections, which Hamas, citing political repression, announced it would boycott.58 Khalil Shikaki, the most prominent Palestinian pollster, told me that the purpose of the elections was “to further weaken Hamas and bolster the government’s legitimacy.” When Fatah’s internal divisions prevented it from agreeing on candidate lists, the PA canceled the elections, denying that it had done so because Fatah feared losing.59 But Sha’wan Jabarin told me that the government’s denial was not credible:

In May and June, we learned of tens or hundreds of cases where Hamas followers were questioned by the security forces about the municipal elections and asked if they want to run or not, if they want to vote or not, to whom they want to give their vote.

At his office in Ramallah, Shikaki said that because people in Gaza feel freer to express their political views to his staff, “We get more accurate reporting on how people voted in the last election in Gaza than we do here.”60

In his report circulated among senior White House and military staff earlier this year, Colonel Dermer wrote, “While Israelis and [US] officials view recent PA successes in the field rather myopically as a win against terror, wary Palestinians view them as new [PA] regime protection.” A shortcoming of US efforts, he believes, “is the undefined nature of the USSC mission and its desired end state. Is the aim for the PA to take on and defeat Hamas militarily? To seek vengeance for the loss of Gaza? To maintain order on Israel’s behalf? Or is it to lay the security groundwork for a free and independent democratic Palestinian state?” Ghandi Amin, a director at the Independent Commission for Human Rights, a PA ombudsman, told me, “I have no hope for the Fayyad plan. I look on the ground and see only an increased role for security agencies.”

In October, Dayton will retire and be replaced by a three-star Air Force general, Michael Moeller. During the next year, Moeller is scheduled to receive the USSC’s largest ever appropriation.61 His task, as the deadlines for both the Fayyad plan and the end of Israeli–Palestinian negotiations approach, will be to advance two irreconcilable goals: building a Palestinian force that can guarantee Israeli security while also lessening the perception that the US is firmly supporting what many residents of the West Bank, like the independent politician Mustafa Barghouti, have come to describe not as one occupation but two.62

***

Tom Gross adds: Please see here for footnotes referred to in the above article.


Leading Egyptian paper caught doctoring White House photo (& Burning U.S. flags in London)

September 16, 2010

* BBC and Financial Times among the major news outlets failing to report on the firing of phosphorous shells into Israel yesterday
* America and the Saudis: The largest arms deal in history
* Anti-Israel letters containing white powder sent to foreign embassies
* Below: interesting anecdotes on Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Henry Kissinger

* Barry Rubin: Western government officials and journalists “nowadays produce instant miscomprehension and disastrous policies” because they “pretend that Farsi- and Arabic-speaking, Muslim-majority societies think precisely the same way as do Westerners.”

* Harold Rhodes: In the Middle East, “power is more important than politeness. All the speeches about respect for Islam, feeling Arab pain, and proving you’re nice by making concessions not only amount to nothing but actually are often counterproductive by making you look weak and hence someone to be walked over.”

 

CONTENTS

1. U.S. and British flags are burned outside the US embassy in London, Sept. 11, 2010
2. Why does Saudi Arabia need $60 billion worth of weapons?
3. Egyptian paper caught doctoring peace talks photo in favor of Mubarak
4. Rocket attacks into Israel on the increase – including some with phosphorous
5. Letters containing white powder sent to U.S., Spanish and Swedish embassies
6. Iranian regime donates $25 million to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s party
7. “A timely reminder”
8. “This is not some idle mistake”
9. “Do Muslim-majority societies think precisely the same way as Westerners do?”
10. “An insider’s assessment of four Israeli PMs” (By Lee Smith, Tablet, Sept. 15, 2010)
11. “The airbrushing of Middle East history’ (By Melanie Phillips, Spectator, Sept. 14, 2010)
12. “The sources of Iranian negotiating behavior” (By Barry Rubin, Sept. 14, 2010)


[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach three articles below. Usually I try and “theme” these dispatches if possible, but the three pieces below don’t have that much in common. Before that, I attach a number of my own notes.

 

U.S. AND BRITISH FLAGS ARE BURNED OUTSIDE THE US EMBASSY IN LONDON, SEPT. 11, 2010

There has been much kerfuffle over the aborted plans of a Florida pastor with a congregation of about 30, to burn the Koran on September 11. But there has been almost no coverage of the actual burning of Christian and Jewish symbols, U.S. flags and the U.S. constitution in various places around the world this week.

In this video, for example, U.S. and British flags are burned outside the U.S. embassy in London on Sept. 11, 2010. The chanting accompanying the burning is also disturbing.



While, of course, the plans to burn a Koran were rightly condemned, it is bizarre that some of the very same American commentators at the forefront of objections about the proposed burning of a Koran had argued that the exhibition “Piss Christ” a few years ago deserved federal funding. Why should the desecration of Christian symbols be subsidized by U.S. taxpayers when the planned desecration of Muslim ones be so roundly condemned?

In the latest example of inconsistent principles, a hip new musical reportedly poking fun at Mormons will be opening soon on Broadway, to the delight of some.

 

WHY DOES SAUDI ARABIA NEED $60 BILLION WORTH OF WEAPONS?

President Obama is set to tell Congress officially of plans to sell $60 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. The arms deal – which is the largest in world history – could be worth tens of millions of dollars more if additional naval and missile-defense add-ons are agreed upon. The existing deal will include 84 F-15 fighter jets, upgrades for 70 older model F-15s, and more than 150 helicopters including Black Hawks, Apaches and Little Birds.

The Israeli authorities are said to be deeply concerned by this massive arms deal, which casts doubt on the commitments to Israel of successive American administrations that it would retain the technological edge in weaponry in the region. Congress is expected to approve the deal. (See also, last week’s dispatch on “The Arab Lobby.”)

 

EGYPTIAN PAPER CAUGHT DOCTORING PEACE TALKS PHOTO IN FAVOR OF MUBARAK

The official Egyptian government newspaper Al-Ahram was caught on Tuesday tampering with pictures from last week’s Washington peace summit between Israel and the Palestinians.

The original photo of the leaders walking down the red carpet at the launch ceremony depicts U.S. President Barack Obama leading the other four leaders, with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak walking on the far-left of the line.

However, the Egyptian paper chose to use a graphically edited picture that placed Mubarak at the helm instead of Obama.

The fabricated photo published in Al-Ahram.

The original official White House picture, Sept. 1.


Of course, many Arab media outlets manipulate photos and fiddle with the facts on a regular basis, as do some local employees working for Western media and news agencies in the Middle East. I documented this most recently in June when a local Reuters office doctored a photo of a Turkish flotilla “peace activist” so as to remove his knife. (See the updates dated June 6, 7 and 8 near the top of this dispatch for photos and news about that.)

 

ROCKET ATTACKS INTO ISRAEL ON THE INCREASE – INCLUDED SOME WITH PHOSPHOROUS

In the first three days of this week, almost unreported by the Western media, 14 rockets and mortars were fired indiscriminately into Israel from Gaza. Yesterday, one Qassam rocket and eight mortar shells – including two containing phosphorus – hit Israel, making it the largest number of missiles fired from Gaza in a single day since March 2009.

Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council where the phosphorous mortars landed, said “These weapons have been banned by the Geneva convention. They cause burns among victims and they kill.”

Among the news outlets failing to mention (even in the context of their Middle East reporting today) that phosphorous shells which were fired into Israel yesterday, were The Financial Times, The Times of London and BBC News (both online and on air). (The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph did report on the use of the phosphorous shells but their articles failed to lead with this point.)

In response to the attacks, the Israeli air force – working on intelligence provided by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) – bombed a tunnel on the Gaza-Israel border that the IDF said was to be used by Hamas to infiltrate terrorists into Israel.

 

LETTERS CONTAINING WHITE POWDER SENT TO U.S., SPANISH AND SWEDISH EMBASSIES

Envelopes containing anti-Israel letters and a suspicious white powder were sent to the embassies of the United States, Sweden and Spain in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

The letters included pro-Nazi statements and condemnations of Israeli policy in the West Bank.

Firefighters, police officers and environment ministry personnel were summoned to the U.S. embassy as soon as the envelope was opened there. Within a short time, similar envelopes were discovered at the Spanish and Swedish embassies.

All employees who came in contact with the suspicious powder were placed in isolation, and field showers were created at the U.S. embassy to deal with the situation.

Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said it was still unclear what the substance was, but that officers believed it was not poisonous as no one was hurt.

 

IRANIAN REGIME DONATES $25 MILLION TO TURKISH PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN’S PARTY

Iran has agreed to donate $25 million to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in a move that will increase fears that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to abandon the country’s secular constitution, reports the (London) Daily Telegraph.

Under the terms of the deal Iran has agreed to transfer $12 million to the AKP, with further payments of up to $25 million to be made later in the year. The money is to help support Erdogan’s campaign for re-election for a third term in next year’s general election.

The Turkish prime minister announced he would stand for a historic third term following his success in last weekend’s referendum on constitutional reform.

Secular critics of the reforms in Turkey, which provide the government with powers to overrule Turkey’s independent judiciary, argue that they will pave the way for a key Western ally to become an Islamic state. The judiciary is widely regarded as the guardian of Turkey’s secular constitution.

 

“A TIMELY REMINDER”

In the first piece below, Lee Smith (writing for the online New York-based magazine Tablet), interviews Yehuda Avner, who worked as a speechwriter, adviser, and private confidant for four Israeli Prime Ministers. This article (and Avner’s book) provide many interesting anecdotes about Israeli politicians (and about others such as Henry Kissinger) and “is a timely reminder that Israel has not survived these last 60-plus years because it has satisfied the claims of the world community, but has rather thrived thanks to the ingenuity, inspiration, and courage of its leaders.”

 

“THIS IS NOT SOME IDLE MISTAKE”

In the second piece, writing on the website of Britain’s Spectator magazine, Melanie Phillips points out that The Guardian refers to Jesus and other Jews of that era, when Israel was known as Judea, as “early Palestinians”.

“This is not some idle mistake,” she says. “This is the wholesale adoption of the fictional Arab narrative which airbrushes the Jews out of their own story and claims, falsely, that Jesus was a Palestinian.”

She cites Palestinian leaders who have said that “The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily” and “Israel’s founding can be compared to Jesus’s death sentence and the construction of a security barrier with his crucifixion.”

 

“DO MUSLIM-MAJORITY SOCIETIES THINK PRECISELY THE SAME WAY AS WESTERNERS DO?”

In the third piece, Barry Rubin writes that Western government officials and journalists “nowadays produce instant miscomprehension and disastrous policies” because they “pretend that Farsi- and Arabic-speaking, Muslim-majority societies think precisely the same way as do Westerners… Paradoxically, Politically Correct Multiculturalism decrees that diversity is the highest value of all yet, strangely, amidst this diversity equally argue that everybody is basically the same.”

As Rhodes points out, says Rubin, in the Middle East, “power is more important than politeness. All of the speeches about respect for Islam, feeling Arab pain, and proving you’re nice by making concessions not only amount to nothing but actually are often counterproductive by making you look weak and hence someone to be walked over.”

***

I attach the three articles below. They are well worth reading in full. The writers (Lee Smith, Melanie Phillips and Barry Rubin) are all longtime subscribers to this list (as is Harold Rhode whose new “Sources of Iranian Negotiating Behavior,” Rubin writes about).

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLES

GIVING MENACHEM BEGIN THE VOICE HE NEVER HAD

A new book gives an insider’s assessment of four Israeli prime ministers – and Menachem Begin the voice he never had
By Lee Smith
Tablet magazine
September 15, 2010

Yehuda Avner is a British-born Israeli diplomat who spent many years in the prime minister’s office, where he worked as speechwriter, adviser, and private confidant for Levi Eshkol, Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meir, and Menachem Begin. As it turns out, he was also keeping notes. “In very many of these meetings I was the note-taker, employing my own invented shorthand which I would then transcribe for the official record,” Avner told me on the phone from Jerusalem earlier this week. “However, I never threw away those scribbles. I confess I was naughty. Not that I ever contemplated I would one day use them.”

Now the career diplomat has turned his surreptitious scribbles into a 700-page narrative, The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, that he explains “is not history, but a story about history.” His insider’s account of the founding and building of the state of Israel is also a memoir of sorts, peculiar in that the memoirist gives all the best lines away to others. “Of course, I have my feelings, philosophies, ideas about things,” said the 81-year-old Avner, “but the book is not about me. My intent was to bring back to life episodes showing how these figures behaved, primarily under situations of stress, and also some unforgettable intimate moments.”

But The Prime Ministers is also a sobering post-Oslo account of pre-Oslo Israeli leadership. With the conclusion of the Cold War, U.S. presidents could afford to entertain fantasies of a new world order and a peace dividend, but not Israel. In many ways, Jerusalem forgot how to make its case to Washington, that it was not merely a chip in a game of geopolitical poker, but a strategic asset in its own right – and had been recognized as such even by a U.S. president, Richard M. Nixon, who seemingly had no love for the Jews. It was Begin who clearly explained that the Jews had rights, not merely claims, to their historical homeland. Avner’s book is a timely reminder that Israel has not survived these last 60-plus years because it has satisfied the claims of the world community, but has rather thrived thanks to the ingenuity, inspiration, and courage of its leaders.

The major figures here are the four prime ministers for whom Avner worked, with Begin as the book’s undisputed protagonist, often stealing scenes from the other three even when they are the sitting prime minister and Begin is the leader of the opposition. In this telling, Begin towers over them all, an Israeli leader, Avner writes, “possessed of a unique, all-encompassing sense of Jewish history.”

While the election of the right-wing Begin government moved mainstream Israeli politics to the center (in the same way that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher affected the United States and the United Kingdom), Rabin forged a strategic relationship with the United States. These two more than any of the country’s other famous patriarchs are the founders of current-day Israel.

Rabin’s influence came in part from his direct involvement in domestic U.S. politics beginning with his support of Richard Nixon against Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 presidential election. As Avner writes, Rabin explained his tactical style to a somewhat astonished Begin:

“It is not enough for an Israeli ambassador here to simply say ‘I’m pursuing my country’s best interests according to the book.’ To promote our interests an Israeli ambassador has to take advantage of the rivalries between the Democrats and Republicans. An Israeli ambassador who is either unwilling or unable to maneuver his way through the complex American political landscape to promote Israel’s strategic interests would do well to pack his bags and go home.”

I asked Avner, the former ambassador to the United Kingdom and Australia, if he thought this sort of direct involvement should be part of the Israeli ambassador to Washington’s job description. Not at all, Avner insisted. “It could only happen by default, if one wins trust and is invited into the inner sanctums of power. But you can’t set out to do it. And I don’t know of anyone else before or after Rabin who had the chutzpah to say it this way as he did.” Rabin was special. “He was the right man there, winning the trust of the Nixon Administration and not least Kissinger himself. He once said the only secretary of state who truly understood the Israel-Arab conflict in all its complexities was Henry Kissinger. Nevertheless, for much of the time, they had a love-hate relationship with each other.”

***

Avner’s book is something of an anomaly among political memoirs, where mid-level bureaucrats typically assert a centrality for themselves that rarely survives book reviews, never mind the first draft of history. Avner on the other hand is a major player, “one of that same impressive generation of British-born Israelis who made their mark in serving the State of Israel, like Efraim Halevy and the late David Kimche,” said Jonathan Spyer, a British-born Middle East analyst who moved to Israel 20 years ago. Nonetheless, Avner’s own account of his career invariably forces him to the margins, which becomes the book’s source of self-effacing humor.

Avner writes, for instance, of how Eshkol once stopped in the middle of delivering a speech Avner had written to disapprove of a passage and chastise Avner in front of the audience. On another occasion, at a White House banquet, Avner’s lavish kosher meal created such a stir with his table companions that across the room President Gerald Ford wondered what was going on. It was Avner’s birthday, explained Prime Minister Rabin. Accordingly, the U.S. commander-in-chief led the entire banquet hall in a chorus of “Happy birthday, Yeduha,” unaware that Avner’s name had been misspelled on his place card. Afterward, Rabin explained to Avner that he had no choice but to fabricate the story about his birthday. Otherwise, he tells him, “there’d be a headline in the newspapers that you ate kosher and I didn’t, and the religious parties will bolt the coalition, and I’ll have a government crisis on my hands.” Justice is served when Betty Ford drags Rabin out on to dance floor, where he nearly trips over his own shoelaces, only to be saved by the comparatively light-footed Henry Kissinger.

The book’s much more significant duet is Kissinger and Rabin’s, which helped consolidate the alliance between Washington and Jerusalem. Eshkol named Rabin ambassador to the United States in 1969, and Avner followed him there, marveling at this future prime minister’s access to the White House.

“Rabin was central to the U.S.-Israel relationship, especially within the Cold War context,” said Avner. Rabin understood that the Nixon White House’s chief concern was the Soviet Union and made the case for Israel as a strategic asset primed to take on Moscow’s regional allies, Egypt, and Syria. He also teamed up with Kissinger in an intra-Beltway battle against Nixon’s less than Israel-friendly Secretary of State, William Rogers.

As in most portraits, Kissinger comes off as a complicated character, best understood, in Avner’s reckoning, in light of two of Kissinger’s German precursors, Metternich, the 19th-century statesman and strategist, and Heinz, a teenage refugee from Nazi Germany who wound up at George Washington High School in upper Manhattan – that is, the adolescent Kissinger.

Avner relates a remarkable story of sitting at the King David hotel in Jerusalem with a Washington psychiatrist whom Avner pseudonymously refers to as Willie Fort. As Kissinger makes his way through the lobby, Fort hails him – “Heinz, Heinz” – and Kissinger’s face turns flush, before he moves on, ignoring Fort. Avner demands an explanation for the strange scene, and his companion relates how he and Kissinger were close friends in high school, both of them refugees from Hitler’s Germany. Avner writes:

“Henry Kissinger, [Fort] said, habitually insisted he had no lasting memories of his childhood persecutions in Germany. This was nonsense! In 1938, when Jews were being beaten and murdered in the streets, and his family had to flee for their lives he was at the most impressionable age of 15. At that age he would have remembered everything: his feelings of insecurity, the trauma of being expelled, of not being accepted; what it meant to lose control of one’s life, to be powerless, to see one’s beloved heroes suddenly helpless, overtaken by the brutal events, most notably his father whom he greatly admired. Those demons would never leave Henry Kissinger however hard he tried to drown them in self-delusion.”

How, Avner asks Fort, does this impact his role as mediator between us and the Arabs?

“‘People like him invariably over-compensate,’ “ Avner quotes Fort. “ ‘They go to great lengths to subdue whatever emotional bias they might feel, and lean over backwards in favor of the other side to prove they are being even-handed and objective.’ “

***

For Avner, at the opposite end of the spectrum from Kissinger is Begin, who would do anything for his own people. “He was a quintessential Jew,” said Avner, who, as he explains, had not been a Begin supporter until then. “For years the word ‘terrorist’ clung to him,” Avner told me, “and when he was elected in 1977 he was described in many a corridor of power as a ‘warmonger.’ Nevertheless, it was he who won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the peace with Egypt. Upon election he asked me to stay on working with him as an adviser, and I was hesitant at first. I asked him for time to think it over, and he said, ‘You want to speak to Rabin don’t you?’ Yes, I told him. So I called Rabin and he said, ‘Take the job, Begin is an honest and responsible man. He’s your kind of Jew, observant.’ Before Begin, all of Israel’s leaders were diehard socialists. It was unheard of before him, for example, that a dinner at the White House would be kosher. After him, all White House dinners for visiting Israeli prime ministers are kosher.”

Avner stayed on to “shakespearize,” as Begin said, the prime minister’s Polish English, but the most important piece of writing Avner may have done on Begin’s behalf is this book. In the afterword, Avner recalls explaining to Margaret Thatcher that Begin never produced his own memoirs. Accordingly, Begin is the presiding spirit of The Prime Ministers, which opens with Avner’s first recollection as a boy of hearing English neighbors cursing the name of the Irgun leader, and concludes with Begin’s death in 1992.

“What opened my heart was the man himself,” Avner said. “His nobility stretched into the small things. I was recently telling Natan Sharansky something about Begin, which he didn’t know and which brought tears to his eyes. When Sharansky was imprisoned in the Soviet Union, his wife, Avital, received a government stipend to make phone calls to Moscow each week to keep the campaign for his freedom alive, but some bureaucrat told her she was overstepping her budget. When Begin heard about this, he instructed that all of these bills should come to him, and he would pay for them out of his own pocket.”

I asked Avner where Begin’s reputation stands today. “In all the polls for the last few years, Begin has overtaken Ben Gurion. Why? Overwhelmingly, people ascribe to his credit the peace treaty with Egypt. He is also fondly remembered for his humble and chivalrous lifestyle. He is particularly revered by the Sephardic Jews who gave him his majority in 1977. In fact it was Begin who emancipated them into the democratic system, virtually all of them having come from lands – North Africa and the Middle East – where democracy is an eccentricity. He was the first to appoint a swath of Sephardic Jews to his cabinet. Moreover, Begin is the man credited for having prevented two civil wars,” said Avner, referring to the sinking of the Altalena in 1948 and before that when Begin and Ben Gurion squared off against each other in 1944. “Begin believed that a Jew must never raise a finger against another Jew. He was haunted by the Holocaust and lived Jewry’s ancient past when Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70 CE because Jews were fighting each other. He was so steeped in Jewish history, he talked about the destruction of the temple as if it had happened yesterday.”

And what, I asked Avner, would Begin make of Israel’s strategic situation today? After all, against the good opinion of the international community, including Washington, Begin ordered the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear facility at Osirak. Would he do the same thing with Iran?

“I don’t know. He would have opposed sanctions from the start,” said Avner, believing that Begin would have had no faith in their efficacy against an ideologically driven regime like Iran. “At the same time,” Avner continued, “Begin, having himself once commanded a force of his own – the Irgun during the British mandate – knew the limits of military power, and I don’t know if he would have thought that Israel had the power by itself to defang Iran. But as obsessed as he was with the Holocaust, he would have mounted a vociferous worldwide campaign against the Iranian leaders who deny the Holocaust and threaten to wipe the Jewish state off the map. I don’t think our present leaders – and the Diaspora Jewish leadership for that matter – are doing enough to alert the world of the existential dangers for the whole of the West, and not only Israel. Begin would be shouting from the rooftops demanding that this be put at the very top of the international agenda. For all the talk it is still not at the top of the international agenda. One thing is clear: Given our geopolitical situation, Israel simply cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran.”

 

‘EARLY PALESTINIANS’, EH?

The airbrushing of Middle East history
By Melanie Phillips
The Spectator (UK)
September 14, 2010

In the Guardian, Giles Tremlett writes about Europe’s first Christian theme park in Mallorca. He writes: “Exact details are scant, but the Buenos Aires park offers its re-enactments of the creation of mankind, the birth of Christ, the resurrection and the last supper eight times a day. With a cast of extras in the costumes of Romans and early Palestinians, the park advertises itself as ‘a place where everyone can learn about the origins of spirituality.”

‘Early Palestinians’, eh? And just who were these ‘early Palestinians’? Well, they were what we would otherwise call... Jews. Jesus was a Jew. The ‘last supper’ was the Jewish Passover seder. The land of the New Testament was called Judea and Samaria. The people who lived there and were persecuted by the Romans were not called Palestinians. They were Jews.

Yet Jews do not figure at all in Tremlett’s story (whether they figure as such in Mallorca’s theme park itself is not clear). This is not some idle mistake. This is the wholesale adoption of the fictional Arab narrative which airbrushes the Jews out of their own story and claims, falsely, that Jesus was a Palestinian.

Much of this rewriting of history comes from Arab Christians based at the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem under the aegis of Father Naim Ateek (who is such a personal favourite with so many in the Church of England), and which is a crucial source of systematic, theologically-based lies and libels about Israel. Ateek has revived the ancient Christian doctrine of supersessionism, or replacement theology – the doctrine which said the Jews had forfeited all God’s promises to them which had been inherited instead by the Christians, and which fuelled centuries of Christian anti-Jewish pogroms -- and fused it with ‘Palestinianism’ to create the mendacious impression that the Palestinian Arabs were the original inhabitants of the land of Israel and that Jesus was a ‘Palestinian’.

Ateek has sought to plant the impression that the Jews are crucifying the ‘Palestinians’ just as they helped crucify Jesus. In December 2000, he wrote that Palestinian Christmas celebrations were ‘marred by the destructive powers of the modern-day ‘Herods’ in the Israeli government.’ In his 2001 Easter message, he wrote: ‘The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.’ And, in a sermon in February 2001, he likened the Israeli occupation to the boulder sealing Christ’s tomb. With these three images, Ateek has figuratively blamed Israel for trying to kill the infant Jesus, crucifying him and blocking the resurrection of Christ. And in 2005 Sabeel issued a liturgy titled ‘The Contemporary Stations of the Cross’ that equates Israel’s founding with Jesus’ death sentence and the construction of a security barrier with his crucifixion.

It is a narrative which gives the lie to the naive belief that the Middle East impasse is a fight over land boundaries. It is instead an attempt to excise from the region not just the Jewish state of Israel, not just every single Jew from a future state of Palestine, but the historical evidence that this land – including Judea and Samaria – was the Jewish national home centuries before Arabs invaded and conquered it, and many more centuries before Arabs started to style themselves as Palestinian. It is an attack on Jewish historical national identity in order to justify the attempt to destroy the Jewish nation state.

That is why the Arabs have destroyed so much archeological evidence of the ancient kingdom of Judea gathered from excavations on the Temple Mount. That’s why the Jews are being airbrushed out of the history of the region, the origins of Jesus and of their own story.

Isn’t it wonderful to have quality newspapers written by educated writers?

 

A CRITICAL NEW TEXT FOR UNDERSTANDING THE MIDDLE EAST

A critical new text for understanding the Middle East: “The Sources of Iranian negotiating behavior”
By Barry Rubin
Rubin reports
September 14, 2010

There are basically two ways to approach the Middle East:

* Option 1: Understand what makes Farsi- and Arabic-speaking, Muslim-majority societies different from the West given their history, experiences, culture, politics, and other features.

* Option 2: Pretend that these countries and leaders think precisely the same way as do Westerners.

The second approach is often taken by government officials and journalists nowadays and produces instant miscomprehension and disastrous policies. This lesson has been provided over and over again. Yet actually things are worse today than has usually been true in the past.

Why? Because, paradoxically, Politically Correct Multiculturalism decrees that diversity is the highest value of all yet, strangely, amidst this diversity equally argue that everybody is basically the same!

Another reason is that if you are completely ignorant about other countries and societies or know the barest minimum, option 2 is much easier to take. After all, you already know something about politics and manners in the United States so simply transliterate them into situation thousands of miles away!

Now that Harold Rhode has retired from his long career at the U.S. Defense Department, however, we can expect a really good teacher explaining Option 1. In his new paper, “The Sources of Iranian Negotiating Behavior,” Rhode lays it all out in clear language and less than 20 pages. Even if you don’t usually read studies like this, make an exception here. You won’t be sorry. (Tom Gross adds: Harold Rhode’s paper can be read here.)

The title, I assume, is taken from George F. Kennan’s classic post-World War Two article explaining Soviet behavior that came to be the basis of U.S. policy during the Cold War. Would that Rhode’s writing would have the same effect. This is going to be a critical text for the Nuclear Iran era we are about to enter, one way or another.

As you read it (or just the summary) make mental notes on all the mistakes it shows being made by U.S. leaders and how much reality varies from the model Western academics, leaders, and mass media use and try to teach you to use about the Middle East. One good theme to keep in mind is that power is more important than politeness. All of the speeches about respect for Islam, feeling Arab pain, and proving you’re nice by making concessions not only amount to nothing but actually are often counterproductive by making you look weak and hence someone to be walked over.

And some – the part dealing most directly with perceptions of Western behavior – of this analysis can be transferred to an understanding of Arab politics and policies also.

I want to stress that I don’t think merely putting on pressure will make the Iranian regime give in, change direction, or be overthrown but such a policy would be more likely to do so than a strategy focusing on concession and flattery. At a minimum, too, it will reduce the regime’s ability and eagerness to act in an aggressive manner.

Another issue that could be raised would be that things like dissimulation are also seen in Western democratic diplomacy. Of course, that’s true. But there are other features – willingness to compromise, eagerness to avoid conflict, high priority on understanding the other side, etc. – that are different, too. Remember also that even the Obama Administration’s containment policy for a post-nuclear Iran is also based on a fair amount of parallel thinking about the use of power deterring Tehran, though of course there are major differences as well.

Here’s the executive summary:

* This analysis identifies patterns exhibited by the Iranian government and the Iranian people since ancient times. Most importantly, it identifies critical elements of Iranian culture that have been systematically ignored by policymakers for decades. It is a precise understanding of these cultural cues that should guide policy objectives toward the Iranian government.

* Iranians expect a ruler to demonstrate resolve and strength, and do whatever it takes to remain in power. The Western concept of demanding that a leader subscribe to a moral and ethical code does not resonate with Iranians. Telling Iranians that their ruler is cruel will not convince the public that they need a new leader. To the contrary, this will reinforce the idea that their ruler is strong. It is only when Iranians become convinced that either their rulers lack the resolve to do what is necessary to remain in power or that a stronger power will protect them against their current tyrannical rulers, that they will speak out and try to overthrow leaders.

* Compromise (as we in the West understand this concept) is seen as a sign of submission and weakness. For Iranians, it actually brings shame on those (and on the families of those) who concede. By contrast, one who forces others to compromise increases his honor and stature, and is likely to continue forcing others to submit in the future. Iranians do not consider weakness a reason to engage an adversary in compromise, but rather as an opportunity to destroy them. It is for this reason that good-will and confidence-building measures should be avoided at all costs.

* What Iranians really believe, they usually keep to themselves. Instead, they tell those with power what they think their leaders want to hear. This is the concept of ketman, or dissimulation. Iranians do not consider ketman (taqiyah in Arabic) to be lying. And they have developed it into a fine art, which they view as a positive form of self-protection.

* Western cultural biases regarding, and demanding, honesty make it easy to misunderstand Iranians. Iranians have learned to cope with adverse situations by being warm, gracious, polite, and obsequious. Westerners, especially Americans who place a high value on candor, straightforwardness, and honesty, are often bamboozled by Iranians who know that those in the West are easily taken in by their effusively friendly, kind, generous, and engaging behavior.

* Negotiations are opportunities to best others, to demonstrate power, and to make sure opponents know who is the boss. In politics, Iranians negotiate only after defeating their enemies. During these negotiations, the victor magnanimously dictates to the vanquished how things will be conducted thereafter. Signaling a desire to talk before being victorious is, in Iranian eyes, a sign of weakness or lack of will to win.

* When the West establishes itself as the most powerful force and shows strength and resolve, Iranians will most likely come on board. They do not want to be on the losing side. If military action is eventually required, the targeting of national symbols and leadership strongholds may be enough to demonstrate that the balance of power in Iran is quickly shifting. By applying this principle, the West may not need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities or launch a large-scale invasion to bring down Iran’s rulers and stop the nuclear program.

* Iranians look around them and see that others in their neighborhood such as Russia, Israel, Pakistan, India, and China all have the bomb. To say that Iran shouldn’t have the bomb is considered an affront to Iranian patriotism. Using a little ingenuity, we could drive a wedge between the Iranian government and the Iranian people. We should make clear that we are not opposed to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. We are only opposed to the current government having a nuclear arsenal because it is the largest state-sponsor of terrorism in the world and does its utmost to undermine its neighbors and remove U.S. influence in the region. If the current government acquires nuclear weapons, it might very well use them.

* If the West is to succeed, Iranians must be convinced, in terms they understand, that America is prepared to establish itself as a powerful force and help the Iranian population liberate themselves from the tyranny under which they live.


Time adds its voice to the delegitimizers (& WaPo: “The Economist’s unforgivable silence”)

September 08, 2010

* Washington Post: “The line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is becoming increasingly blurred”
* The Guardian finally reports on Gaza’s shopping mall, its “swimming center with chutes and slides,” and its “burgeoning seafront cafes”
* C-SPAN allows conspiracy theorists to say “Israel is behind 9/11” and “have bought off General Petraeus”

***

There are two other dispatches this week:

* “I am a refugee” (& “The Paula Abdul theory of foreign policy”)

* Genghis Khan with a nuclear bomb (& Israel’s best friends in the Mideast: The Kurds).

 

CONTENTS

1. Time magazine criticized for Israel-bashing cover story
2. “Rhymes with Fagin”
3. Ethan Bronner, telling both sides of the story
4. The Guardian: “A riding club thrives in Gaza City”
5. “Burgeoning seafront cafes”
6. The Guardian hated it; it seems it wasn’t anti-Israel enough
7. Washington Post: The Economist’s unforgivable silence on Sayyid Qutb’s anti-Semitism
8. “C-SPAN’s ‘Washington Journal’: Hosting anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists
9. “Israel behind 9/11” lie
10. “Israel bought off General Petraeus”


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

TIME MAGAZINE CRITICIZED FOR ISRAEL-BASHING COVER STORY

While many news outlets have softened their line on Israel in recent days, following the relaunch of peace talks with the Palestinians, Time magazine has instead run a provocative cover story with a large Star of David titled “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” (edition dated September 13, 2010).



Opinion polls have consistently shown that Israelis strongly support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, Time magazine presents Israelis as uncaring and uninterested in peaceful coexistence and more interested in “making money”.

This “Israelophobic piece” comes only a week after Time criticized Americans for “becoming Islamophobic”.

Time has on several occasions run stories which many have said were insensitive to Israel. For example, in 1982 it ran a cover with the words “Israel’s blitz” drawing comparisons with the Nazi blitz.



And its latest cover is reminiscent of the infamous 1981 cover of Newsweek magazine which depicted a Star of David made up of guns.


“RHYMES WITH FAGIN”

During the 1977 Camp David peace talks with Egypt (talks for which Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin won a Nobel Peace Prize), Time headlined its article “Menachem Begin (rhymes with Fagin)” – invoking Dickens’ portrayal of a Jewish villain in Oliver Twist. (That same Time article contained fabrications about Begin ordering the “mutilation” of elderly Arab men and the “raping of many women”.)

Writing yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, columnist Bret Stephens says “Time magazine has added its voice to the chorus of those attempting to delegitimize the Jewish state – the idea that the country ought not to exist.”

If Time were fair, instead of claiming Israelis are not interested in peace, writes Stephens, it might have pointed out that “Nearly every Israeli has a child, sibling, boyfriend or parent in the army. Nearly every Israeli has been to the funeral of a fallen soldier, or a friend killed in a terrorist attack. Most Israeli homes and businesses come equipped with safe rooms or bomb shelters; every Israeli owns a gas mask. The whole country exists under the encroaching shadows of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the prospect of a nuclear Iran. How many Americans, to say nothing of Europeans, can say the same about their own lives?”

“Yet when it comes to scoring cheap shots against the Jewish state, Time is not the sort of magazine to allow the obvious to disturb a prejudiced hypothesis,” adds Stephens.

“But raising that line of inquiry probably asks too much of a magazine whose circulation is in steep decline, and whose journalism is now the subject of parodies in The Onion. (Recent headline: ‘TIME Announces New Version of Magazine Aimed at Adults.’)”

Eminent historian Victor Davis Hanson, writing yesterday on the website of The National Review, called it “probably the most anti-Semitic essays I have ever read in a mainstream publication.” (In fact, I can think of several worse.)

 

ETHAN BRONNER, TELLING BOTH SIDES OF THE STORY

New York Times Jerusalem correspondent Ethan Bronner has been in touch with me about my dispatch last week in which I criticized The New York Times’s Gaza coverage, including his own. I accept that I should have made clearer that he has been much fairer than most Middle East correspondents in his coverage. In addition to exposing the hardships of life for many in Gaza, he has on several occasions made clear that Gaza is not as impoverished as most other major media and many prominent NGOs and politicians would have us believe.

For example, in June 2008, Ethan Bronner wrote: “Those who reject Israel’s policy as evidence of its ill will make it sound like Gaza has turned into Somalia. It has not.”

And in his May 2009 story from Gaza, he wrote: “It is, of course, crowded and poor, but it is better off than nearly all of Africa as well as parts of Asia. There is no acute malnutrition, and infant mortality rates compare with those in Egypt and Jordan, according to Mahmoud Daher of the World Health Organization here.”

In June 2010, he wrote: “In truth, most of the postwar tents are gone now, and daily life is neither as awful as many abroad assert nor as untroubled as Israel insists. Instead, it has a numbing listlessness. ‘In Gaza, no one is dying,’ said Amr Hamad, deputy secretary general of the Palestinian Federation of Industries. ‘But no one is living.’”

In another article in June 2010, he wrote: “For some, it’s the relative modernity -- the jazzy cellphone stores and pricey restaurants. For others, it’s the endless beaches with children whooping it up. But for nearly everyone who visits Gaza, often with worry of danger and hostility, what’s surprising is the fact that daily life, while troubled, often has the staggering quality of the very ordinary.”

Tom Gross adds: I would maintain, however, that the overall coverage of The New York Times (and even more of its global edition, The International Herald Tribune) has not generally been nearly as fair as Ethan Bronner has been personally -- when one considers the editorials, comment pieces, headlines, photos, photo captions, letters and cartoons that the paper has chosen to run. Moreover the paper, it seems to me, is particularly unfair when one compares its coverage of Israel to its coverage of dozens of other conflicts around the world, including the one in Afghanistan where troops from the U.S. and 42 other countries are involved, and soldiers from Germany, France, Britain, Italy and elsewhere have killed many civilians.

 

THE GUARDIAN: “A RIDING CLUB THRIVES IN GAZA CITY”

Yesterday, The Guardian became the latest paper to mention the Gaza shopping mall, as well as the riding club on the edge of Gaza City where, it said, “young women wearing brightly-patterned headscarves and high heels order ice cream and fruit cocktails”.

“The Faisal riding club hosted its first showjumping tournament in July,” The Guardian’s relatively new correspondent Harriet Sherwood reports, adding that it has been open for five years and has been “doing rather well.”

“Next door is the Crazy Water Park, a swimming center with chutes and slides, [alongside] a burgeoning number of seafront cafes,” she adds.

Sherwood’s piece is a long way from the impression of dire poverty and “prison camp” conditions that The Guardian has been putting out for many years.

“BURGEONING SEAFRONT CAFES”

Indeed while Sherwood’s news piece appeared prominently with a large photo of young Gazan woman riding a horse on Page 7 (Guardian international edition), a few pages later, the Comment page was dominated by an anti-Israel piece by anti-Zionist, Israeli-born, Oxford University professor Avi Shlaim, who told (presumably by now confused) Guardian readers that “Gaza has become an open-air prison”.

Shlaim then went on to say that “this is the most rightwing chauvinistic and racist government in Israel’s history”. All this contrasts greatly with leading commentators for Ha’aretz (Israel’s equivalent of The Guardian) such as Ari Shavit and Aluf Benn* who have been pointing out in recent days that Netanyahu’s government is “the most left-wing in years” and “on the left of Yitzhak Rabin’s”. Shlaim also added that “Netanyahu belongs to the hawkish wing of the Likud” (not true) and had “declared war on the peace process”.

The Guardian, like its British broadcast counterpart the BBC, is determined to criticize Israel and often uses anti-Zionist Israeli professors to do so. Opposite Shlaim’s article, the main letter in yesterday’s letter page was by another ex-Israeli British-based professor, Moshe Machover, writing to deny that “Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people”. Another letter published by The Guardian under it played into the fiction that America invaded Iraq to help Israel.

* To read Aluf Benn’s latest article praising Netanyahu, please see items 2 and 8, here.

* For background on the Gaza shopping mall, please see here.

 

THE GUARDIAN HATED IT; IT SEEMS IT WASN’T ANTI-ISRAEL ENOUGH

Here is The Guardian’s review of the new anti-Israel film “Miral” that headlined the Venice Film festival:

“Sad to say, one film-maker has performed a terrible belly-flop at Venice. Julian Schnabel, widely revered for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, has produced an incredible clunker with Miral, the fictionalised adaptation of a memoir by Rula Jebreal, a Palestinian author and journalist radicalised as a young woman by the intifada.

“Lumpily and boringly constructed, the movie tells the story of leading character Miral (based on Jebreal) and her unhappy family history, but only after laboriously working through the story of the Jerusalem children’s home in which Miral was brought up, founded by an indomitable, pioneering woman called Hind Husseini in 1947.

“Very unhappily, Schnabel has cast Freida Pinto, the Indian star of Slumdog Millionaire, as young Miral, this supposedly proudly Palestinian woman. The miscasting is absolutely awful. The genuinely Palestinian actor Hiam Abbass, best known in the UK for Lemon Tree, plays Hind, and almost has a chance to shine in the film’s earlier scenes when she is a dynamic activist; but then she subsides into an old mother-hen character, with grannyish hair and specs that make her look like Maureen Lipman from the BT ads.

“Having shown Miral being tortured by Israeli police in custody, and sided thoroughly with the Palestinians for two long hours, the movie ends with a bland and feeble dedication to those ‘who have worked for peace on both sides’. What a disaster.”

www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/sep/05/venice-film-festival

 

WAPO: THE ECONOMIST’S UNFORGIVABLE SILENCE ON QUTB’S ANTI-SEMITISM

Writing in The Washington Post under the title “The Economist’s unforgivable silence on Sayyid Qutb’s anti-Semitism”, columnist Richard Cohen says:

“I always read The Economist magazine. I like many things about it, but I particularly cherish its book reviews. They are cogent and snappily written, and they often deal with books that I don’t find reviewed elsewhere. An example is a forthcoming biography of one of contemporary Islam’s most important thinkers, Sayyid Qutb. The book gets a good review. It’s more than I can say for The Economist itself.

“Qutb was hanged in 1966 by the Egyptian government of Gamal Abdel Nasser after the customary torture. He had been the intellectual leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and a man of copious literary output. One of his efforts was called ‘Our Struggle with the Jews.’ It is a work of unabashed, breathtakingly stupid anti-Semitism, one of the reasons The New York Review of Books recently characterized Qutb’s views ‘as extreme as Hitler’s.’ About all this, The Economist is oddly, ominously and unforgivably silent.

QUTB WAS NO MINOR FIGURE

“This is both puzzling and troublesome. After all, it’s not as if Qutb was some minor figure. He is, as a secondary headline on the Economist review says, “the father of Islamic fundamentalism,” and it is impossible to read anything about him that does not attest to his immense contemporary importance. Nor was Qutb’s anti-Semitism some sort of juvenile madness, expressed in the hormonal certainty of youth and later recanted as both certainty and hairline receded. It was, instead, the creation of his middle age and was published in the early 1950s. In other words, his essay is a post-Holocaust work, written in full knowledge of what anti-Semitism had just accomplished. The mass murder of Europe’s Jews didn’t give him the slightest pause. Qutb was undaunted…

The Economist’s review is stunning in its omission. Can it be that a mere 65 years after the fires of Auschwitz were banked, anti-Semitism has been relegated to a trivial, personal matter, like a preference for blondes – something not worth mentioning? Yet, Qutb is not like Richard Wagner, whose anti-Semitism was repellent but did not in the least affect his music. Qutb’s Jew-hatred was not incidental to his work. While not quite central, it has nevertheless proved important, having been adopted along with his other ideas by Hamas. Qutb blames Jews for almost everything: ‘atheistic materialism,’ ‘animalistic sexuality,’ ‘the destruction of the family’ and, of course, an incessant war against Islam itself.

“THE MESSAGE IS AN ECHO OF NAZI RACISM”

“Obviously, this is no minor matter. Critics of Israel frequently accuse it of racism in its treatment of Palestinians. Sometimes, the charge is apt. But there is nothing in the Israeli media or popular culture that even approaches what is openly, and with official sanction, said in the Arab world about Jews. The message is an echo of Nazi racism, and the prescription, stated or merely implied, is the same…

“I cannot quite suppress the feeling that the need to demonize Israel (by The Economist and others) is so great that the immense moral failings of some of its enemies have to be swept under the carpet… The line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, a demarcation I have always acknowledged, is becoming increasingly blurred...”

 

“C-SPAN’S ‘WASHINGTON JOURNAL’: HOSTING ANTI-SEMITIC CONSPIRACY THEORISTS

Writing in The American Thinker, Eric Rozenman and Myron Kaplan accuse the cable network C-SPAN of “giving the lunatic fringe an establishment address” in its daily “Washington Journal” program.

For example, on August 16’s “Washington Journal”, the subject was “Is the Afghanistan war winnable?” The host was C-SPAN’s Paul Orgel. “Darrell” called from St. Louis. He said:

“The war is unwinnable. It’s unwinnable because the Afghanistan people have nothing to do with 9/11. If you want to bomb somebody for 9/11, then you need to go to Israel. They were the ones that were behind 9/11.”

“ISRAEL BEHIND 9/11”

To this “Truther” conspiracy theory claim and a similar one by caller “Ken” from Virginia four minutes earlier – that Israel either had prior knowledge of but did not counter the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon or committed them directly – Orgel said nothing.

The day before, the subject was “Becoming an American citizen,” with guest Sonal Verma, chair of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Yusuf” of Atlanta was given air time to say:

“I think we should let all the Mexicans, we should let all the Haitians, all the Jamaicans, we should let all of them into the country because this is God’s land ... And so, if we can allow them to come in, then we can really find out and fight those Jews, who really are behind this stuff and really divide the people with immigration ... “

Host Steve Scully did not cut off Yusuf, and allowed him to then continue his rant against Jews.

“ISRAEL BOUGHT OFF GENERAL PETRAEUS”

On August 1, the subject was “Congressional agenda for August recess,” and the guests were Patricia Murphy of Politics Daily and Kathleen Hunter of Roll Call magazine. Host Scully took a call by “Debby” from Los Angeles, another of C-SPAN’s frequent anti-Jewish phoners:

“Hi. You were talking about ethics and the Ethics Committee. How come no one is bringing this up: on anti-war dot com there’s an article entitled, ‘Who bought off General Petraeus?’ No one addresses this issue. How come no one is addressing this? He’s been bought off by the neocons – you know – the Israeli lobby, AIPAC.”

Rozenman and Kaplan write: “Since November 2008, ‘Washington Journal’ has aired, usually uncritically, more than two hundred anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli smears and rants. The people generally ignoring them, the people failing to challenge bigots and affirm that their anti-Jewish, anti-Israel conspiracy theories are over the line and unacceptable, are the program’s hosts and C-SPAN executives. Blacks, Hispanics, women, homosexuals, Christians, Muslims, Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans – no other religious, ethnic, or other U.S. minority group is subject to similar, chronic vituperation on C-SPAN’s ‘Washington Journal.’ Why this intolerable exception when it comes to defaming Jewish Americans?”

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


Genghis Khan with a nuclear bomb (& Israel’s best friends in the Mideast: The Kurds)

September 07, 2010

* Leading Ha’aretz writer: “Contrary to popular wisdom, Netanyahu is proving to be the most dovish leader that Israel has had in many years”

* George Soros makes $100 million gift to the anti-Israel group, Human Rights Watch

* Sunday Telegraph: “Joseph Stalin was once described as ‘Genghis Khan with a telephone’. President Ahmadinejad may soon be Genghis Khan with a nuclear bomb.”

* New book: The Arab lobby influencing American diplomats is far stronger then the Israeli one. Saudi Arabia has spent more than $100m on American lobbyists, consultants and public relations firms in the past decade.

* Bernard Lewis: Middle East studies programs have been distorted by “a degree of thought control and limitations of freedom of expression without parallel in the Western world since the 18th century. It is a very dangerous situation because it makes any kind of scholarly discussion of Islam dangerous. Islam and Islamic values now have a level of immunity from comment and criticism in the Western world that Christianity has lost and Judaism never had.”

***

There are two other dispatches today and tomorrow:

* “I am a refugee” (& “The Paula Abdul theory of foreign policy”).

* Time magazine adds its voice to the delegitimizers of Israel (& Washington Post: “The Economist’s unforgivable silence on anti-Semitism”).

 

CONTENTS

1. “And that is where the storyline shifts”
2. Soros makes $100 million gift to Human Rights Watch
3. Iran will not be shamed into abandoning stoning, or its nuclear ambitions
4. A note on Shiva Nazar Ahari
5. Top Iran cleric rejects Holocaust as “superstition”
6. Kurds reach out to the Jews
7. New book: The Arab lobby is strongest foreign policy lobby in America
8. “At the Mideast peace talks, a changed Netanyahu” (By Aluf Benn, Washington Post, Sept. 5, 2010)
9. “Ahmadinejad may end up as Genghis Khan with a nuclear bomb” (By Alasdair Palmer, Sunday Telegraph, Sept. 5, 2010)
10 “Israel, our ally” (By Ksenia Svetlova, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 31, 2010)
11. “The Arab lobby rules America” (By Alan Dershowitz, Daily Beast, Aug. 24, 2010)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

I attach four articles below, with extracts first for those who don’t have time to read them in full. (The first, third and fourth items are mine.)

Please note, shortly after sending out last week’s dispatch I updated it with various photos and information near the top of the dispatch. In case you want to look, please scroll down to the updates here.

 

SOROS MAKES $100 MILLION GIFT TO HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist who has already funded other radical groups such as moveon.org, announced today that he is giving $100 million to Human Rights Watch, one of the largest gifts ever made by an individual to an NGO.

It is also the largest gift by far that Human Rights Watch (HRW) has ever received. Although HRW does do some good work in some countries, its criticisms of Israel have passed any legitimate norms and bordered on outright demonization, including its employment of a person to monitor the Jewish state who openly admires aspects of Nazi Germany.

The founder of HRW, Robert Bernstein, last year resigned from the organization saying he couldn’t accept the nature of the attacks it was making on Israel any more.

Among other things, HRW executive director Kenneth Roth called Judaism “primitive,” HRW senior staff compared Israeli conduct to the 3.5 million dead and raped in Congo, and the woman in charge of HRW’s Mideast desk placed a poster of a film that attempts to humanize Palestinian suicide bombers, on her office door.

One hopes that HRW will put Soros’s gift to work in the many countries that desperately need help.

 

“AND THAT IS WHERE THE STORYLINE SHIFTS”

Aluf Benn, the editor at large of the leftist Israeli daily Ha’aretz, writes in The Washington Post:

“He is usually depicted as a hard-liner, a hopeless ideologue burdened by a legacy of hawkish sound bites and shackled to a notoriously conservative coalition. But, contrary to popular wisdom, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is proving to be the most dovish leader that Israel has had in many years, one who is using military force cautiously and seeking, at long last, a diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…

“As a diplomat and a talking head on TV, Netanyahu made his fame defending Israel in the court of global public opinion. For years, he fought any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict predicated on trading land for peace, arguing that territorial concessions by Israel would bring only violence and misery. Time and again, as Israeli withdrawals from occupied territory were followed by suicide bombings and rocket fire from Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, he was proved right. Last year, the Israeli public rewarded him by returning him to power.

And that is where the storyline shifts. After reentering the prime minister’s office last spring, Bibi changed his tune. The man who had spent his life chanting “No, no, PLO,” and explaining why a Palestinian state would mean the end of the Jewish one, has begun singing the old mantra of the Israeli left wing: “Two states for two peoples.” The standard-bearer for Israeli conservatism has jumped on the peace bandwagon. As unlikely sights go, it is up there with Nixon shaking Mao Zedong’s hand in 1972.

Ten months ago, Netanyahu told me in a phone interview for Ha’aretz, the liberal Israeli daily where I am a columnist and editor: “I want to promote a peace agreement with the Palestinians. I can bring a deal.” I wrote afterward that I believed him, only to receive mocking comments from many readers who called me naive. But I have not changed my mind – and neither has Netanyahu. Last week’s summit in Washington was largely his brainchild: It was he who insisted on direct talks, outmaneuvering Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who had agreed to indirect “proximity talks.”

In both his words and his deeds since he took office a year and a half ago, Netanyahu appears to have been reborn as a moderate, level-headed leader. His responses to cross-border attacks from Gaza and Lebanon have been calibrated to avoid escalation. In November, he imposed a 10-month moratorium on Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank. And despite his deep disagreements with Abbas over big-picture issues, Israeli security and economic cooperation with Abbas’s Palestinian Authority are stronger than ever…

***

Tom Gross adds: Contrary to the slanted reporting about him, Netanyahu has in fact always been a pragmatist as much as an idealist, willing to relinquish territory when circumstances dictate, as he did in 1998 under the Wye accord during his first term as Israeli Prime Minister.

And Netanyahu’s defense minister Ehud Barak said last week that Israel is ready to cede Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem in any peace deal and institute a “special regime” to govern Jerusalem’s holy sites.

 

IRAN WILL NOT BE SHAMED INTO ABANDONING STONING, OR ITS NUCLEAR AMBITIONS

Writing in the British newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, Alasdair Palmer says “Iran will not be shamed into abandoning stoning, or its nuclear ambitions.”

He continues: “Joseph Stalin was once described as ‘Genghis Khan with a telephone’. President Ahmadinejad may soon be Genghis Khan with a nuclear bomb. Admittedly, Ahmadinejad hasn’t yet committed mass murder on that scale, although when he promised to ‘wipe Israel off the map’, he showed that he would – if only he could. And he may treat his own people slightly better than Genghis Khan treated his. But as Dr Johnson said, ‘there is no settling orders of precedence between a louse and a flea’.

“Ahmadinejad has imprisoned thousands for protesting against the brutality, incompetence and illegitimacy of his rule; he has condoned the imposition of the death penalty for any Muslim who converts to another faith; and he supports punishing adultery by stoning those involved to death.

“There has been a global campaign to persuade Iran to end stoning, a disgustingly barbaric punishment which inflicts pain of the same order as impaling, Genghis Khan’s favourite method of execution, and may take even longer to cause death. It centres on the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 44-year-old mother and widow who was convicted of adultery in 2006 and punished with 99 lashes. She has been in prison ever since, as the judges decided that 99 lashes wasn’t a severe enough sentence for the crime of loving someone who isn’t your spouse: she deserved to be stoned to death.

“… A large portion of Iran’s leadership, and of its population, is not ashamed or embarrassed: they think stoning is entirely right and proper. It has divine sanction – so how can any mere human be entitled to question it?

“This is the reality of multiculturalism: human rights are not universally recognised or accepted. Barbaric practices can be deeply embedded in the convictions of thousands, even millions, of people. That is why it is so hard to change them, and why the invasion of Afghanistan, for instance, has not had the results that were hoped for.

“… We cannot shame or embarrass Iranians into changing their ways when they are proud of stoning, and of their struggle to get nuclear weapons. Probably the only thing capable of stopping Iran from getting the bomb is a successful raid by Israel or America on its centrifuges…”

 

A NOTE ON SHIVA NAZAR AHARI

Tom Gross adds: Senior American politicians, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have issued a statement calling for the release of Iranian human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari, who on Saturday went on trial in Iran on charges that can carry the death penalty.

Shiva Nazar Ahari is a 26-year-old human rights activist specializing in child labor and the defense of political prisoners, and a former editor and current spokesperson for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters. Her activism and defense of political prisoners have made her a target of the Iranian government. She has been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison since December 2009 and has had no access to a lawyer or an opportunity to prepare a defense, in violation of international human rights standards and Iranian law.

She has spent her life fighting for human rights and ought to be a role model for women all over the world. At the age of 17, she was arrested for participating in a candlelight vigil for the victims of 9/11. She has been expelled from her university and imprisoned in solitary confinement for weeks on end as a result of her activism.

 

TOP IRAN CLERIC REJECTS HOLOCAUST AS “SUPERSTITION”

Tom Gross adds:

One of Iran’s most senior clerics, Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, whose millions of supporters listen to his every word, has dismissed the Holocaust as “nothing but a superstition”.

The Jews lie, he added, and “Americans and Westerners are affected by such superstitions as the Holocaust.”

Shirazi, who is a “marja,” which means he is among the highest authorities in Shiite Islam, continued: “When the researchers want to examine whether it is true or the Jews have created it to pose as victims, they jail the researchers.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly branded the Holocaust a “myth” and a “fairy tale”.

 

KURDS REACH OUT TO THE JEWS

Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Ksenia Svetlova points out that Israel’s best and perhaps only true friends in the Middle East are another persecuted minority: the Kurds.

She writes:

Kurds in northern Iraq are reaching out to a group of people with whom they believe share a historic ethnic connection, and many common enemies. Israel.

It’s early morning in Irbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. A few men gather around a small kiosk where dozens of newspapers and magazines in Arabic and Kurdish are carefully arranged on a piece of cloth on the ground.

The camera zooms in and concentrates on one of the men, who holds a glossy magazine with a large Magen David on the cover. This is not another illustration to an article about Israeli policies in Gaza and West Bank. The title is “Israel-Kurd” and the whole edition is dedicated to relations between the Kurdish nation and the State of Israel.

The anchor of American-funded Al-Hurra TV, who reads the introduction to the Israel-Kurd item, seems just as astonished as the customers at the newspaper stand in Irbil – it’s not every day that you see Israel’s name mentioned in a context other than the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In Iraq, publishing a magazine with the word Israel on its cover is a risky business, considering the generally negative attitude toward Israel and those in the Arab world who seek rapprochement with the Jewish state…

It might take time until things change, but Israel has to know it has a good friend in the Middle East, perhaps its only friend,” says Hawar Bazian, managing editor of the magazine. Bazian was born in Iran and fled the country with his family, finding refuge in Irbil.

***

Tom Gross adds: there have been many past dispatches dealing with Kurdish issues, most recently:

* Turks kill 130 Kurds (& The world’s favorite sport is…) (June 21, 2010)

* Note 4 here: The forgotten persecution of the Kurds of Syria (July 15, 2010)

 

NEW BOOK: THE ARAB LOBBY IS STRONGEST FOREIGN POLICY LOBBY IN AMERICA

A new book by Mideast expert Mitchell Bard claims that the Arab lobby, headed by the Saudis, is much stronger than the pro-Israel lobby in influencing American politicians and diplomats, and “has unlimited resources to try to buy what they usually cannot win on merits of their arguments.”

Reviewing Bard’s book in The Daily Beast, Alan Dershowitz writes: “The primary means by which the Saudis exercise this influence is money. They spend enormous amounts of lucre to buy (or rent) former state department officials, diplomats, White House aides, and legislative leaders who become their elite lobbying corps. Far more insidiously, the Saudis let it be known that if current government officials want to be hired following their retirement from government service, they had better hew to the Saudi line while they are serving in our government.

“… If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you’d be surprised how much better friends you have when they are just coming into office.”

Bard notes that: “One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of the Arab lobby is that it has no popular support. While the Israeli lobby has hundreds of thousands of grass root members and public opinion polls consistently reveal a huge gap between support for Israel and the Arab nations/Palestinians, the Arab lobby has almost no foot soldiers or public sympathy. It’s most powerful elements tend to be bureaucrats who represent only their personal views or what they believe are their institutional interests, and foreign governments that care only about their national interests, not those of the United States. What they lack in human capital in terms of American advocates, they make up for with almost unlimited resources to try to buy what they usually cannot win on the merits of their arguments.”

“The Saudis have taken a different tact from the Israeli lobby, focusing a top-down rather than bottom-up approach to lobbying. As hired gun, J. Crawford Cook, wrote in laying out his proposed strategy for the kingdom, ‘Saudi Arabia has a need to influence the few that influence the many, rather than the need to influence the many to whom the few must respond.’”

Dershowitz adds: “The methodology employed by the Arab lobby is thus totally inconsistent with democratic governance, because it does not reflect the will of the people but rather the corruption of the elite, while the Israeli lobby seems to operate within the parameters of democratic processes. Yet so much has been written about the allegedly corrosive nature of the Israeli lobby, while the powerful Arab lobby has widely escaped scrutiny and criticism.”

As if to prove Bard’s point about the power of the Arab Lobby, the same media that gave so much prominence to Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s conspiratorial screed The Israel Lobby, have, to date, by and large ignored Bard’s book.

Saudi Arabia has spent more than $100m on American lobbyists, consultants and public relations firms in the past decade.

***

Tom Gross adds:

And such is the degree to which the Saudis have “bought up” American universities that Bernard Lewis, perhaps the most renowned Middle East scholar today, observed that Middle East studies programs have been distorted by “a degree of thought control and limitations of freedom of expression without parallel in the Western world since the 18th century. It is a very dangerous situation because it makes any kind of scholarly discussion of Islam, to say the least, dangerous. Islam and Islamic values now have a level of immunity from comment and criticism in the Western world that Christianity has lost and Judaism never had.”

(Lewis, Dershowitz and Bard are all subscribers to this email list.)

***

I attach four articles below.


FULL ARTICLES

PEACEMAKER BIBI

At the Mideast peace talks, a changed Netanyahu
By Aluf Benn
The Washington Post
September 5, 2010

He is usually depicted as a hard-liner, a hopeless ideologue burdened by a legacy of hawkish sound bites and shackled to a notoriously conservative coalition. But, contrary to popular wisdom, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is proving to be the most dovish leader that Israel has had in many years, one who is using military force cautiously and seeking, at long last, a diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I came here today to find an historic compromise that will enable both our peoples to live in peace and security and in dignity,” he said at last week’s Middle East peace summit at the White House. These are words that most Israelis never expected to hear “Bibi” utter.

Indeed, in one of the more intriguing political evolutions in recent memory, Netanyahu is starting to look a lot like another hard-liner who eventually engaged his longtime adversaries: Richard Nixon, on the occasion of his visit to China.

Like Nixon, Netanyahu has pulled off a political comeback, having returned to power a decade after losing a reelection bid. Much as Nixon was a poster boy for anti-communism, Netanyahu has ridden the wave of counterterrorism. Like Nixon, he has fought liberals and peaceniks throughout his career, and has relished the antagonism of a news media that he regards as hostile and left-leaning.

As a diplomat and a talking head on TV, Netanyahu made his fame defending Israel in the court of global public opinion. For years, he fought any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict predicated on trading land for peace, arguing that territorial concessions by Israel would bring only violence and misery. Time and again, as Israeli withdrawals from occupied territory were followed by suicide bombings and rocket fire from Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, he was proved right. Last year, the Israeli public rewarded him by returning him to power.

And that is where the storyline shifts. After reentering the prime minister’s office last spring, Bibi changed his tune. The man who had spent his life chanting “No, no, PLO,” and explaining why a Palestinian state would mean the end of the Jewish one, has begun singing the old mantra of the Israeli left wing: “Two states for two peoples.” The standard-bearer for Israeli conservatism has jumped on the peace bandwagon. As unlikely sights go, it is up there with Nixon shaking Mao Zedong’s hand in 1972.

Ten months ago, Netanyahu told me in a phone interview for Ha’aretz, the liberal Israeli daily where I am a columnist and editor: “I want to promote a peace agreement with the Palestinians. I can bring a deal.” I wrote afterward that I believed him, only to receive mocking comments from many readers who called me naive. But I have not changed my mind – and neither has Netanyahu. Last week’s summit in Washington was largely his brainchild: It was he who insisted on direct talks, outmaneuvering Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who had agreed to indirect “proximity talks.”

In both his words and his deeds since he took office a year and a half ago, Netanyahu appears to have been reborn as a moderate, level-headed leader. His responses to cross-border attacks from Gaza and Lebanon have been calibrated to avoid escalation. In November, he imposed a 10-month moratorium on Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank. And despite his deep disagreements with Abbas over big-picture issues, Israeli security and economic cooperation with Abbas’s Palestinian Authority are stronger than ever. When Palestinian terrorists struck during the Washington summit, killing four Israeli settlers in the West Bank and wounding two, Netanyahu sounded nothing like the Bibi of old. “I will not let the terrorists block our path to peace,” he said.

What caused Netanyahu to rethink his long-held ideology? To be sure, he did not go through a midlife left-wing epiphany any more than Nixon did. Rather, he succumbed to American pressure, and this, too, speaks in his favor. Statecraft requires reading power relationships correctly and acting accordingly.

Past right-wing Israeli leaders went through similar about-faces. Menachem Begin gave the entire Sinai back to Egypt only weeks after he pledged to spend his retirement in an Israeli settlement there. Ariel Sharon demolished the settlements in Gaza shortly after declaring them as important as Tel Aviv. Yitzhak Shamir, the toughest of the breed, put aside his beliefs to attend the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. All these leaders were said to have “reckoned with reality” – which, in Israeli political parlance, is a euphemism for “dependence on America.”

With no serious domestic challengers, Netanyahu knows that he is the strongest Israeli leader in a generation. Looking outside, however, he sees mostly trouble: His country is ever more isolated from an international community that increasingly rejects Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, its settlements and its excessive use of force. At the same time, he is deeply alarmed by Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, coupled with what he describes as its effort to “delegitimize” the Jewish state. He sees Israel’s sheer existence, not its controversial policies, as the matter at stake.

He therefore wants President Obama to help neutralize the Iranian threat – and he understands that Obama’s price for that help will be Israeli concessions in the West Bank. And so, as Obama toughens his stance toward Iran and expands security cooperation with Israel, Netanyahu softens his tone vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

Nixon put aside his distaste for Chinese communists because he feared the Soviet Union even more. Netanyahu is, in effect, prioritizing the Iranian weapons facility at Natanz above the settlements.

Just how far can this diplomatic quid pro quo take the peace process? Certainly, there are still wide, seemingly unbridgeable gaps between Netanyahu and Abbas on key issues – including Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees – and the opponents of a deal are powerful and violent, as last week’s attacks showed.

Still, the political constellation supports an Israeli-Palestinian agreement like never before. Both previous attempts at reaching a final deal, in 2000 and 2008, stumbled on lame-duck leadership in Jerusalem and Washington. This is not the case with Netanyahu and Obama today.

The pre-Watergate Nixon, with his hawkish stance and his keen grasp of political realities, pulled off a visit to China that a politician with less serious anti-communist credentials would not have attempted. For similar reasons, Netanyahu may be better positioned to cut a deal on a Palestinian state than any predecessor or likely successor.

After all, the Israeli public loves it when a right-winger performs the left-wing script – just as the American public did when Nixon visited Mao, rewarding him with a landslide reelection.

 

IF STALIN WAS “GENGHIS KHAN WITH A TELEPHONE”…

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may end up as Genghis Khan with a nuclear bomb
Iran will not be shamed into abandoning stoning, or its nuclear ambitions
By Alasdair Palmer.
Sunday Telegraph (London)
September 5, 2010

Joseph Stalin was once described as “Genghis Khan with a telephone”. President Ahmadinejad may soon be Genghis Khan with a nuclear bomb. Admittedly, Ahmadinejad hasn’t yet committed mass murder on that scale, although when he promised to “wipe Israel off the map”, he showed that he would – if only he could. And he may treat his own people slightly better than Genghis Khan treated his. But as Dr Johnson said, “there is no settling orders of precedence between a louse and a flea”.

Ahmadinejad has imprisoned thousands for protesting against the brutality, incompetence and illegitimacy of his rule; he has condoned the imposition of the death penalty for any Muslim who converts to another faith; and he supports punishing adultery by stoning those involved to death.

There has been a global campaign to persuade Iran to end stoning, a disgustingly barbaric punishment which inflicts pain of the same order as impaling, Genghis Khan’s favourite method of execution, and may take even longer to cause death. It centres on the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 44-year-old mother and widow who was convicted of adultery in 2006 and punished with 99 lashes. She has been in prison ever since, as the judges decided that 99 lashes wasn’t a severe enough sentence for the crime of loving someone who isn’t your spouse: she deserved to be stoned to death.

When her lawyer (who fled Iran, after discovering that he was about to be arrested) alerted the world, the campaign began. A petition was created; more than 300,000 people signed it; several celebrities stated their disapproval in the strongest possible terms; and a number of Western governments made official protests.

And what happened? Far from condemning stoning, or reducing the punishment, Iran’s Supreme Court has just ruled that a couple who had both been convicted of adultery should also be stoned to death. The authorities seem impervious to attempts to shame – or at least to embarrass – them into disowning such a medieval practice (although to be fair to the Middle Ages, stoning wasn’t that common even then).

The reason is that a large portion of Iran’s leadership, and of its population, is not ashamed or embarrassed: they think stoning is entirely right and proper. It has divine sanction – so how can any mere human be entitled to question it?

This is the reality of multiculturalism: human rights are not universally recognised or accepted. Barbaric practices can be deeply embedded in the convictions of thousands, even millions, of people. That is why it is so hard to change them, and why the invasion of Afghanistan, for instance, has not had the results that were hoped for. In rural areas, the arrival of Western troops and aid has not transformed the locals into Westerners. They may not love the Taliban’s version of social care, but they prefer their own ways to ours, and those ways are a lot closer to the Taliban’s vision of the good society than to ours.

What will persuade Iran’s leaders, and many of its rural and impoverished voters, to respect human rights and to give up their attempts to acquire a nuclear bomb? No Western country is going to invade and occupy Iran: the experience in Iraq has put an end to our flirtation with the idea that we can transform countries for the better by invasion. But we cannot shame or embarrass Iranians into changing their ways when they are proud of stoning, and of their struggle to get nuclear weapons.

Probably the only thing capable of stopping Iran from getting the bomb is a successful raid by Israel or America on its centrifuges. But that would merely delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, rather than prevent it from happening.

So it looks as if it is inevitable that we will be confronted by Genghis Khan with a nuclear bomb. It is unquestionably a terrifying prospect, and one which may produce Armageddon. We need to work out a way to stop it, and fast.

 

THE KURDS OF NORTHERN IRAQ REACH OUT

Israel, our ally
By Ksenia Svetlova
The Jerusalem Post
August 31, 2010

Kurds in northern Iraq are reaching out to a group of people with whom they believe share a historic ethnic connection, and many common enemies. You guessed it, it’s us.

It’s early morning in Irbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. A few men gather around a small kiosk where dozens of newspapers and magazines in Arabic and Kurdish are carefully arranged on a piece of cloth on the ground.

The camera zooms in and concentrates on one of the men, who holds a glossy magazine with a large Magen David on the cover. This is not another illustration to an article about Israeli policies in Gaza and West Bank. The title is “Israel-Kurd” and the whole edition is dedicated to relations between the Kurdish nation and the State of Israel.

The anchor of American-funded Al-Hurra TV, who reads the introduction to the Israel-Kurd item, seems just as astonished as the customers at the newspaper stand in Irbil – it’s not every day that you see Israel’s name mentioned in a context other than the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In Iraq, publishing a magazine with the word Israel on its cover is a risky business, considering the generally negative attitude toward Israel and those in the Arab world who seek rapprochement with the Jewish state.

“During last year we were often intimidated and threatened by different elements who didn’t like what we do, but this year it seems that people are more understanding and interested in our product,” says Hawar Bazian, managing editor of the magazine. Bazian was born in Iran and fled the country with his family, finding refuge in Irbil. Although he has lived there for many years and completed his BA in English literature at Irbil University, he doesn’t have Iraqi citizenship and is not able to further pursue his education.

Bazian believes there are many similarities between Kurds and Israelis and says that his publication, which was established two years ago, is meant to build a cultural bridge between the two nations.

Obviously, not everybody in Irbil and beyond agrees with him and Mawlood Afand, the editor-in-chief and founder of the magazine. In addition to threats and intimidation, the Web site of the magazine has twice been hacked by Turkish users and the authorities have not given it a work permit.

“There are two approaches to Israel in Iraqi Kurdistan,” Bazian says. “There are those who are very interested in relations with Israel and eager to learn more about it, and those who hold quite a negative view of this country, being influenced by radical Islamic ideology.

They think that Israel is the enemy,” Bazian told The Jerusalem Post.

Since the Israel-Kurd association hasn’t received a permit from the Iraqi authorities, there are no offices, computers or faxes – the association exists on-line and publishes a monthly magazine in Kurdish. The Web site is also available in Arabic, English and Turkish.

Some articles are also available in Hebrew. The banner, “Let’s know Israel as itself,” promises an insight into Israeli society and history.

The Web site mainly offers news from the Kurdish world and Israel and op-eds and analysis on different developments in the Middle East by Kurdish, Israeli and American contributors.

“We are the result of the historical suffering done by the Persian, Arab and Turkish nations against the Kurds, who lost their national, religious and cultural rights. These enemies try to destroy our future as well as our past. The Israel-Kurd Institute tries to mention a historical relationship between Kurds and Jews and review this relation without any religious or ideological concerns.

So we have a clear message which talks about an honorable and great historic stage of the Kurdish nation that belongs to Kurdish-Jewish relations. We will use this for the Kurds’ sake and for the sake of their national question,” the “About Us” sections of the on-line magazine states.

“Not only do Israel and the Kurds have mutual interests and historical ties between their peoples, but also many common enemies,” says Bazian and starts to count: Iran, Syria, Turkey, the Arabs – almost everyone in the Middle East. That is exactly why, he believes, the Kurds and the Jews, two ancient nations who endured enormous suffering and were stripped time and again of their natural rights, should join forces and cooperate.

Some Kurdish contributors go even further and suggest that Jews should come to Kurdistan and help build the national Kurdish home. “Kurdistan will be the second home for Jews after Israel,” believes Hamma Mirwaisi, author of Return of the Medes. “Kurds always have treated Jews as equal partners in Kurdistan since the Median Empire. It may be because Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish nation, was an Indo-European Kurd instead of an African Semite like the Jewish scholars have been claiming after Moses came back from Egypt. Or a large segment of the Kurdish populations are the descendants of the lost 10 Jewish tribes after they were exiled by the Assyrian Empire to Kurdistan. Whatever the reasons, the Kurds are treating Jews equally, even if Islamic clerics are encouraging them otherwise.

“Kurdistan can absorb millions of Jews, because it is a large territory and in need of the Jews’ knowledge. Jews and Kurds can be a blessing for one another and live in peace and prosperity for generations to come.”

Other articles and op-eds printed in the magazine discuss the recent deterioration in relations between Israel and Turkey. “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan describes Israeli soldiers as ‘murderers’ or the Israelis as ‘barbarians,’” notes one writer. “I believe it’s the other way around; the Turkish soldiers are the true murderers, not the Israeli soldiers. Israelis are defending their ancient Holy Land of Israel, but Turkey occupied the Kurdish holy land of the Medes. They are occupiers and murderers.”

“Turkey should be held liable for all the damage that was caused to Israel during the Hamas-supported events, also for damage caused to the Kurds.

Turkey, with all the support that they get from the Israeli Government and Unites States, still cannot face the Kurdish Freedom Fighters. I wish that the Israeli Government from now on will be able to support the PKK Freedom Fighters against the Turkish Government in order to support human rights and stop the violence against innocent Kurdish people.”

Bazian shares this point of view and believes the way Israel dealt with the Turkish flotilla was appropriate and understandable. “We were watching carefully the developments around the Turkish flotilla, and we were amazed by the international reactions.

After all, Israel has every right to defend its borders. We would understand if some other state, such as Iran, which is known for its provocations, would do something like this, but Israel is a very normal country. So I think that it was legitimate what happened there.”

Bazian says he would love to visit Israel some day, but now it still seems a far off dream as there are no diplomatic relations between Iraq and Israel. But Kurds are used to being patient, he says, and good things come to those who wait, as the proverb has it. “Any diplomatic relations have their stages. In the beginning there is communication and establishing of cultural bridges, which is exactly what we are doing.

It might take time until things change, but Israel has to know it has a good friend in the Middle East, perhaps its only friend,” he concludes.

 

SAUDI RULES

The Arab lobby rules America
By Alan Dershowitz
The Daily Beast
August 24, 2010

Lost in all of the controversy over the mosque is the fact that the Arab lobby is one of the strongest in America – even stronger than Israel’s, says a controversial new book. Alan Dershowitz on how Arab governments influence U.S. politics.

While the media and politicians engage in frenzied debate about the virtues and vices of building – or preventing the building of – a Muslim community center (cum mosque) near the “sacred ground” of 9/11, Iran continues to build a nuclear weapon, as the Israelis and Palestinians take a tentative step toward building a peaceful resolution to their age-old conflict. Inevitably, whenever Middle East issues take center stage, the question of the role of lobbies, particularly those that advocate for foreign countries, becomes a hot topic. This book by longtime Middle East authority, Mitchell Bard, is a must read for anyone who cares – and who doesn’t? – about the role of lobbies in influencing American policy in the Middle East. Its thesis, which is sure to be controversial, is easily summarized:

“If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you’d be surprised how much better friends you have when they are just coming into office.”

Yes Virginia, there is a big bad lobby that distorts U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East way out of proportion to its actual support by the American public. Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, author of the screed, The Israel Lobby, are right about that. But the offending lobby is not AIPAC, which supports Israel, but rather the Arab lobby, which opposes the Jewish state.

Both the pro-Israel and pro-Arab lobby (really lobbies because there are several for each) are indeed powerful but there is a big difference – a difference that goes to the heart of the role of lobbying in a democracy. Bard puts it this way:

“One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of the Arab lobby is that it has no popular support. While the Israeli lobby has hundreds of thousands of grass root members and public opinion polls consistently reveal a huge gap between support for Israel and the Arab nations/Palestinians, the Arab lobby has almost no foot soldiers or public sympathy. It’s most powerful elements tend to be bureaucrats who represent only their personal views or what they believe are their institutional interests, and foreign governments that care only about their national interests, not those of the United States. What they lack in human capital in terms of American advocates, they make up for with almost unlimited resources to try to buy what they usually cannot win on the merits of their arguments.”

This is a critical distinction for a democracy. The case for Israel (though not for all of its policies) is an easy sell for pro-Israel lobbyists, especially elected representatives. Voting in favor of Israel is popular not only in areas with a large concentration of Jewish voters, but throughout the country, because Israel is popular with Evangelical Christians in particular and with much, though certainly not all, of the public in general. Lobbies that reflect the will of the people are an important part of the democratic process. Thus, the American Association of Retired People (AARP), the principal lobbying group for the elderly, is extremely powerful because there are so many elderly people in this country who want to protect social security, Medicaid, and other benefits. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a powerful lobby precisely because so many Americans, for better or worse, love their guns. And The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is a powerful lobby because Americans, in general, support the Middle East’s only democracy and reliable American ally.

But why is the Arab lobby, and most particularly the Saudi lobby, also powerful? Saudi Arabia has virtually no support among Americans. Indeed, it is widely reviled for its export of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, its manipulation of oil prices, its anti-Christian and anti-Semitic policies, its total deprivation of any semblance of freedom of speech or dissent, and its primitive forms of punishment that include stoning and amputation. Yet, as Bard demonstrates, the Saudi lobby has beaten the pro-Israel lobby over and over again in head-to-head conflicts, such as the sale of sophisticated weapons to a regime that doesn’t even have the technical skills to use them, and the conflict over whether to move the United States’ embassy to Jerusalem. Even now, Saudi Arabia is lobbying to obtain a multibillion-dollar arms deal, and it is likely to succeed over the objections of Israel.

How then does a lobby with no popular support manage to exert influence in a democratic country? The secret is very simple. The Arab lobby in general and the Saudis in particular make little effort to influence popularly elected public officials, particularly legislators. Again, listen to Bard:

“The Saudis have taken a different tact from the Israeli lobby, focusing a top-down rather than bottom-up approach to lobbying. As hired gun, J. Crawford Cook, wrote in laying out his proposed strategy for the kingdom, ‘Saudi Arabia has a need to influence the few that influence the many, rather than the need to influence the many to whom the few must respond.’”

The primary means by which the Saudis exercise this influence is money. They spend enormous amounts of lucre to buy (or rent) former state department officials, diplomats, White House aides, and legislative leaders who become their elite lobbying corps. Far more insidiously, the Saudis let it be known that if current government officials want to be hired following their retirement from government service, they had better hew to the Saudi line while they are serving in our government. The former Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, who was so close to the President George H.W. Bush that he referred to himself as “Bandar Bush,” acknowledged the relationship between how a government official behaves while in office and how well he will be rewarded when he leaves office. “If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you’d be surprised how much better friends you have when they are just coming into office.”

Bard concludes from this well known quid pro quo that: “given the potential of these post-retirement opportunities, it would not be surprising if officials adopted positions while in government to make themselves marketable to the Arab lobby.”

The methodology employed by the Arab lobby is thus totally inconsistent with democratic governance, because it does not reflect the will of the people but rather the corruption of the elite, while the Israeli lobby seems to operate within the parameters of democratic processes. Yet so much has been written about the allegedly corrosive nature of the Israeli lobby, while the powerful Arab lobby has widely escaped scrutiny and criticism. This important book thus contributes to the open marketplace of ideas by illuminating the dark side of the massive and largely undemocratic Arab lobbying efforts to influence American policy with regard to the Middle East.


“I am a refugee” (& “The Paula Abdul theory of foreign policy”)

* While many people constantly refer to the Arab or Palestinian refugees, few are even aware of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
* Even though the number of Jewish refugees and their assets are larger than that of the Palestinians, the international community only appears to be aware of the latter’s plight.
* Before the State of Israel was reestablished in 1948, there were almost one million Jews in Arab lands, today there are around 5,000.
* Jews were an integral part of many Arab cities. Baghdad in the 1920s, for example, was almost 40% Jewish.
* UN Security Council Resolution 242, still seen as the primary legal framework for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, asserts that a comprehensive Mideast peace settlement should necessarily include “a just settlement of the refugee problem.” -- No distinction is made between Arab refugees and Jewish refugees.
* Amazingly, the budget the UN allocates for Palestinian refugees is almost half the budget it allocates for all other refugees throughout the rest of the world.

* “A president [Mahmoud Abbas] whose term in office expired a long time ago, and a prime minister [Salam Fayyad] who won about 2% of the vote when he ran in an election, have now been invited by the U.S. to hold direct peace talks with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.”

***

There are two other dispatches today and tomorrow:

* Genghis Khan with a nuclear bomb (& Israel’s best friends in the Mideast: The Kurds)

* Time magazine adds its voice to the delegitimizers of Israel (& The Washington Post: “The Economist's unforgivable silence on anti-Semitism”).

 

CONTENTS

1. “Normally the definition of a refugee only applies to the person that fled and sought refuge”
2. The myth that Jews were neither discriminated against nor attacked in Arab lands
3. Videos: the Nakba of Arabic Jews
4. “I doubt even Glenn Beck needed proof of this”
5. Will Fayyad and Abbas be able to sell any deal they make to the PLO?
6. Dismay as Finnish head of Amnesty International calls Israel a “scum state”
7. “I am a refugee” (By Danny Ayalon, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 1, 2010)
8. “The Paula Abdul theory of foreign policy” (By Bret Stephens, WSJ, Aug. 31, 2010)
9. “Do Abbas & Fayyad have a mandate?” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Hudson, Aug. 24, 2010)
10. “Dershowitz, NGO Monitor: Probe Amnesty’s Israel biases” (By Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 2, 2010)


[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach four articles, with extracts first for those who don’t have time to read them in full. All four writers (Danny Ayalon, Bret Stephens, Khaled Abu Toameh and Benjamin Weinthal) are subscribers to this email list. The second and third items below are mine.

 

EXTRACTS

“NORMALLY THE DEFINITION OF A REFUGEE ONLY APPLIES TO THE PERSON THAT FLED AND SOUGHT REFUGE”

In the first article below, Danny Ayalon, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister and former ambassador to Washington, deals with a very important issue that has long been ignored both by the international community and by many past Israeli governments. He writes:

“As a sitting member of a democratic government, it might appear strange to declare that I am a refugee. However, my father, his parents and family were just a few of the almost one million Jews who were expelled or forced out of Arab lands. My father and his family were Algerian, from a Jewish community thousands of years old that predated the Arab conquest of North Africa and even Islam. Upon receiving independence, Algeria allowed only Muslims to become citizens and drove the indigenous Jewish community and the rest of my family out.

“While many people constantly refer to the Arab or Palestinian refugees, few are even aware of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands. While those Arabs who fled or left Mandatory Palestine and Israel numbered roughly 750,000, there were roughly 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands…

“An important distinction between the two groups is the fact that many Palestinian Arabs were actively involved in the conflict initiated by the surrounding Arab nations, while Jews from Arab lands were living peacefully, even in a subservient dhimmi status, in their countries of origin for many centuries if not millennia.

“In addition, Jewish refugees, as they were more urban and professional, as opposed to the more rural Palestinians, amassed far more property and wealth which they had to leave in their former countries…

“There are numerous major international organizations devoted to the Palestinian refugees. There is an annual conference held at the UN and a refugee agency was created just for the Palestinian refugees. While all the world’s refugees have one agency, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Palestinians fall under the auspices of another agency, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

“UNWRA’s budget for 2010 is almost half of UNHCR’s budget… normally the definition of a refugee only applies to the person that fled and sought refuge, while a Palestinian refugee is the person that fled and all of their descendants for all time. So, according to the UNRWA definition of conferring refugee status on descendants, I would be a refugee…”

 

THE MYTH THAT JEWS WERE NEITHER DISCRIMINATED AGAINST NOR ATTACKED IN ARAB LANDS

Tom Gross adds:

While of course nothing in the Arab world approached the brutality with which Jews were treated in Europe, the idea that there were no persecutions of Arab Jews before the advent of modern Zionism is a myth.

There were dozens of pogroms and massacres of Jews in Arab lands. From the 8th century, when whole communities were wiped out by Idris the First, to 1033, when 6,000 Jews were murdered by a Muslim mob in the city of Fez in Morocco, to 1785, when hundreds of Libyan Jews were murdered by Burza Pasha, to the massacres of the Jews of Algeria in 1805, 1815 and 1830, and so on.

Jews were second-class “dhimmis” under Islam. Under some rulers they flourished; under others, Jews were subject to special taxes and were vulnerable to outbreaks of popular violence. They achieved equal rights under colonial rule, but 20th century Arab nationalism and Islamism have all but destroyed their ancient communities.

Jews were an integral part of many Arab cities. Baghdad in the 1920s, for example, was almost 40% Jewish. Many countries, where tens or even hundreds of thousands of Jews lived, such as Libya and Iraq are now totally “free of Jews.” Apart from Morocco and Tunisia, where about 4,000 Jews remain, no Arab state now has more than 200 Jews. In just a few years Jewish communities stretching back up to 3,000 years, well before the birth of Islam, were “ethnically cleansed” from Arab countries. This contrasts sharply with Israel where the Arab population continues to increase and is now much larger than it was in the British mandate period.

 

VIDEOS: THE NAKBA OF ARABIC JEWS

Here is Part 1 of the film “The Forgotten Refugees”:

Here is a very short clip from al-Jazeera on Arab Jewish refugees in Israel:

And here is a seven minute video that was produced in 2008 by subscribers to this email list. (Please forgive the music.)

There is also some information in this Jerusalem Post supplement here, here and here.

The reason that all these films deal with Jewish refugees and not Arab ones is that Arab Palestinian refugees are constantly being referred to and featured by media like the BBC, whereas Jewish refugees from Arab countries are all but ignored.

 

“I DOUBT EVEN GLENN BECK NEEDED PROOF OF THIS”

In the second article below, Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens writes:

“Is it better to be a sucker? Consider three examples where conventional wisdom tells us, in effect, that it is. Negotiations resume in Washington between Israelis and Palestinians. A fool’s gambit? Not at all, says U.S. envoy George Mitchell...

“Iran. The Obama administration is fond of explaining that last year’s outreach was a no-lose proposition, since it meant that either diplomacy would succeed in curbing the regime’s nuclear bids, or its failure would expose the regime’s duplicity and obstructionism, thereby facilitating tougher measures.

“And then there is the Ground Zero mosque: Among its virtues, say supporters, is that it will advertise American tolerance and strengthen the hand of moderate Muslims in America and abroad…

“The deeper political idea at work here is that moral inputs are the essential ingredients to – and ultimately more important than – pragmatic outputs. Charitably speaking, this means leading by persuasion and example, always going the last mile for peace, giving others the benefit of the doubt and so on…

“Uncharitably speaking, this is what might be called the Paula Abdul theory of foreign policy, after the famously forgiving former judge on American Idol. Never mind that you can’t sing, or that you’re letting yourself be played for a sucker: What counts is that you feel good about yourself, presumably because you’re doing something good…

“The Obama administration’s approach to Iran is moral narcissism in action. It took a peculiar political conceit to imagine that the Islamic Republic was a misunderstood creature, offended by Bush administration arrogance, that would yield to President Obama’s charm offensive…

“But, again, none of this really matters, because the real point of the diplomatic outreach wasn’t pragmatic; it was about the administration and its supporters demonstrating that they were the good guys vis-a-vis Iran. I doubt even Glenn Beck needed proof of this.

“Finally, the Israeli-Palestinian talks, whose chances of success may be safely predicted at nil. I spoke with Aaron David Miller, the former U.S. Middle East negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson Center, to ask him what was wrong with the view that it is better to try and fail than not to try at all.

“‘That’s what Bill Clinton said to us,’ he replied. ‘I was inspired; it’s quintessentially American. But it’s not a substitute for a serious foreign policy on the part of the world’s most consequential power.’” …

***

Tom Gross adds: Incidentally, relating this item to the previous one, Paula Abdul’s father is a Syrian Jewish refugee, born in Aleppo, Syria. (Abdul’s mother is a Canadian Jew.)

 

WILL FAYYAD AND ABBAS BE ABLE TO SELL ANY DEAL THEY MAKE TO THE PLO?

In the third article, independent Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh says:

“A president [Mahmoud Abbas] whose term in office expired a long time ago, and a prime minister [Salam Fayyad] who won about 2% of the vote when he ran in an election, have now been invited by the U.S. Administration to hold direct peace talks with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians…

“The 18-member PLO Executive Committee, which met in Ramallah last week to approve the Palestinians’ participation in the direct talks with Israel, is dominated by unelected veteran [pro-Abbas] officials.

“Yet only nine PLO officials attended the meeting. The PLO constitution requires a minimum of 12 members for a quorum. This means that, contrary to reports in the Palestinian and international media, Abbas and Fayyad do not have the support of the PLO committee to negotiate directly with Israel…

“So here is a president whose term in office expired in January 2009 – and who has won the backing of only some of his traditional loyalists – preparing to negotiate with Israel about extremely important issues such as borders, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and security.

“As if it is not enough that Abbas and Fayyad do not have a real mandate from their people, now they are going to lose what is left of their credibility as they appear to have ‘succumbed’ to the outside pressure.

“Abbas is in power because George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice back then told him to stay, even though his term in office had expired. Fayyad, who ran in the January 2006 parliamentary election at the head of the Third Way list, won only two seats. His number two, Hanan Ashrawi, has since abandoned him, making him the head of a one-man list…

“Fayyad’s government was never approved by the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council, as required by the Palestinian Basic Law…

“Leaders who do not have a clear mandate from their people will not be able to strike any deal with Israel, particularly when it concerns explosive issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and settlements. The Palestinian leadership’s decision to negotiate directly with Israel unconditionally has already enraged many Palestinians across the political spectrum.

“Abbas and Fayyad are nonetheless not stupid. They are well aware that they do not have a mandate to sign any agreement with Israel. This is why they will search for any excuse to withdraw from the direct talks and blame Israel for the failure of the peace process…”

 

DISMAY AS COUNTRY HEAD OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CALLS ISRAEL A “SCUM STATE”

In the final article, Benjamin Weinthal reports for The Jerusalem Post that:

“A group of prominent political, academic and Middle East commentators from the international board of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor called on Monday for an ‘independent evaluation of biases in Amnesty’s activities and publications, particularly related to Israel.’

“The head of Amnesty International’s Finnish branch, Frank Johansson, sparked outrage last week when he termed Israel a ‘scum state’ on his blog...

“The NGO Monitor statement was signed by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz; Ruth Wisse, that university’s Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature; Yehuda Avner, a former ambassador to the UK and Australia; Fiamma Nirenstein, vice president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’s Committee on Foreign Affairs; Elliott Abrams, a former US deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy; UCLA’s Prof. Judea Pearl, president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation; Mideast expert and commentator Tom Gross; and Douglas Murray, director of the London-based Centre for Social Cohesion think tank.

“‘We condemn in the strongest possible terms Mr. Johansson’s recent remarks about Israel. Referring to Israel using offensive terms such as ‘scum state’ is unacceptable, and does not help those that have legitimate human rights grievances,’ the NGO Monitor board members wrote…

“The NGO Monitor board members said in their statement that ‘legitimate criticism of Israel is entirely appropriate. But vulgar language, accompanied by the political and legal campaigns that Amnesty and others are waging against Israel, must not be tolerated. Such activities are also contrary to the noble principles and goals on which Amnesty was founded.’

“Amnesty International is already roiling from a recent scandal involving one of Britain’s leading pro-Taliban advocates. Earlier this year, Gita Sahgal, then head of Amnesty’s Gender Unit, deemed Amnesty’s leadership to be plagued by ‘ideological bankruptcy’ and ‘misogyny.’

“Sahgal was suspended in February for criticizing Amnesty for giving a platform to Moazzam Begg, the director of a campaign group called Cageprisoners, whom she referred to as ‘Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban.’ She is no longer employed by Amnesty…”

***

Tom Gross adds:

Johansson published his remarks denigrating Israel on the website of the large circulation Finnish tabloid, Iltalehti, identifying himself as the chairman of the Finnish Amnesty branch in so doing.

In April Amnesty International in Britain came under criticism for holding a meeting about Israel’s policy in east Jerusalem under the title of “Capital Murder” and featuring the author of a book offensively titled “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide.”

The organization also had to issue an apology in January for alleging that the co-chairs of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel had committed “war crimes” merely by defending Israel.

Dr. Shimon Samuels, head of the international department of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris, asked in a letter sent to the United Kingdom Charity Commission on Thursday that an inquiry be mounted into Amnesty’s non-profit status. Samuels also called on the Charity Commission “to launch an official enquiry into AI’s politicization and possible contribution to a climate of hatred that affects Jewish communities globally.”

***

The full articles are below.


FULL ARTICLES

“AN ASYMMETRICAL AND DISTORTED TREATMENT OF ARABS AND JEWS IN THE ISRAELI-ARAB CONFLICT”

I am a refugee
By Danny Ayalon
The Jerusalem Post
September 1, 2010

As a descendant of a family forced out of Algeria, my father and I – and the millions of other Jews from families who were expelled from Arab countries after 1948 – are entitled to redress.

As a sitting member of a democratic government, it might appear strange to declare that I am a refugee. However, my father, his parents and family were just a few of the almost one million Jews who were expelled or forced out of Arab lands. My father and his family were Algerian, from a Jewish community thousands of years old that predated the Arab conquest of North Africa and even Islam. Upon receiving independence, Algeria allowed only Muslims to become citizens and drove the indigenous Jewish community and the rest of my family out.

While many people constantly refer to the Arab or Palestinian refugees, few are even aware of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

While those Arabs who fled or left Mandatory Palestine and Israel numbered roughly 750,000, there were roughly 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands. Before the State of Israel was reestablished in 1948, there were almost one million Jews in Arab lands, today there are around 5,000.

An important distinction between the two groups is the fact that many Palestinian Arabs were actively involved in the conflict initiated by the surrounding Arab nations, while Jews from Arab lands were living peacefully, even in a subservient dhimmi status, in their countries of origin for many centuries if not millennia.

In addition, Jewish refugees, as they were more urban and professional, as opposed to the more rural Palestinians, amassed far more property and wealth which they had to leave in their former countries.

Financial economists have estimated that, in today’s figures, the total amount of assets lost by the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, including communal property such as schools, synagogues and hospitals, is almost twice that of the assets lost by the Palestinian refugees. Furthermore, one must remember that Israel returned over 90 percent of blocked bank accounts, safe deposit boxes and other items belonging to Palestinian refugees during the 1950s.

There are numerous major international organizations devoted to the Palestinian refugees. There is an annual conference held at the United Nations and a refugee agency was created just for the Palestinian refugees. While all the world’s refugees have one agency, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Palestinians fall under the auspices of another agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

UNWRA’s budget for 2010 is almost half of UNHCR’s budget.

Equally impressive is the fact that UNHCR prides itself on having found “durable solutions” for “tens of millions” of refugees since 1951, the year of its establishment. However, UNRWA does not even claim to have found “durable solutions” for anyone.

If that is not distorted enough, let’s look at the definitions and how they are applied: normally the definition of a refugee only applies to the person that fled and sought refuge, while a Palestinian refugee is the person that fled and all of their descendants for all time. So, according to the UNRWA definition of conferring refugee status on descendants, I would be a refugee.

However, I do not consider myself so; I am a proud citizen of the State of Israel. The Jewish refugees found their national expression in Israel, so to, the Arab refugees should find their national aspirations being met by a Palestinian state.

With direct negotiations about to resume between Israel and the Palestinians, the spotlight will be returned to this issue. The so-called Palestinian ‘right of return’ is legal fiction. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, the supposed source for this ‘right’ does not mention this term, is not legally binding and, like all other relevant United Nations resolutions uses the intentionally ambiguous term ‘refugees’ with no appellation.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, still seen as the primary legal framework for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict asserts that a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement should necessarily include “a just settlement of the refugee problem.”

No distinction is made between Arab refugees and Jewish refugees.

In fact, one of the leading drafters of the resolution, Justice Arthur Goldberg, the United States’ Chief Delegate to the United Nations, said: “The resolution addresses the objective of ‘achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.’ This language presumably refers both to Arab and Jewish refugees.”

In addition, every peace conference and accord attended or signed between Israel and its Arab neighbors uses the term “refugees” without qualification.

During the famous Camp David discussions in 2000, president Clinton, the facilitator and host of the negotiations said: “There will have to be some sort of international fund set up for the refugees. There is, I think, some interest, interestingly enough, on both sides, in also having a fund which compensates the Israelis who were made refugees by the war, which occurred after the birth of the State of Israel. Israel is full of people, Jewish people, who lived in predominantly Arab countries who came to Israel because they were made refugees in their own land”.

In 2008, the US Congress passed House Resolution 185 granting, for the first time, equal recognition to Jewish refugees, while affirming that the US government will now recognize that all victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict must be treated equally.

I am proud of the fact that the Knesset passed a resolution in February of this year that will make compensation for Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries after 1948 an integral part of any future peace negotiations. The Israeli bill stipulates that “The state of Israel will not sign, directly or by proxy, any agreement or treaty with a country or authority dealing with a political settlement in the Middle East without ensuring the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries according to the UN’s refugee treaty.”

Before 1948 there were nearly 900,000 Jews in Arab lands while only a few thousand remain. Where is the international outrage, the conferences, the proclamations for redress and compensation? While the Palestinian refugee issue has become a political weapon to beat Israel, the Arab League has ordered its member states not to provide their Palestinian population with citizenship; Israel absorbed all of its refugees, whether fleeing the Holocaust or persecution and expulsion from Arab lands.

People like my father, the hundreds of thousands who came to Israel and the millions of Israelis descended from these refugees are entitled to redress. It is vital that this issue return to the international agenda, so we don’t once again see an asymmetrical and distorted treatment of Arabs and Jews in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

 

“IT’S NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A SERIOUS FOREIGN POLICY ON THE PART OF THE WORLD’S MOST CONSEQUENTIAL POWER”

The Paula Abdul Theory of Foreign Policy
Self-esteem does not make for good policy (or singers).
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
August 31, 2010

Is it better to be a sucker?

Consider three examples where conventional wisdom tells us, in effect, that it is. Tomorrow, negotiations resume in Washington between Israelis and Palestinians. A fool’s gambit? Not at all, says U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who likes to say that, in negotiating peace in Northern Ireland, he had “700 days of failure and one day of success.”

Next is Iran. The Obama administration is fond of explaining that last year’s outreach to the Islamic Republic was a no-lose proposition, since it meant that either diplomacy would succeed in curbing the regime’s nuclear bids, or its failure would expose the regime’s duplicity and obstructionism, thereby facilitating tougher measures.

And then there is the Ground Zero mosque: Among its virtues, say supporters, is that it will advertise American tolerance and strengthen the hand of moderate Muslims in America and abroad.

To all this, one might say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results; that there’s no such thing as a free lunch; and that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

But put the clichés aside: The deeper political idea at work here is that moral inputs are the essential ingredients to – and ultimately more important than – pragmatic outputs. Charitably speaking, this means leading by persuasion and example, always going the last mile for peace, giving others (or, “the other”) the benefit of the doubt and so on. The real-world benefits are supposed to flow naturally from there, but if they don’t, so what? Doing right is its own reward.

Uncharitably speaking, this is what might be called the Paula Abdul theory of foreign policy, after the famously forgiving former judge on American Idol. Never mind that you can’t sing, or that you’re letting yourself be played for a sucker: What counts is that you feel good about yourself, presumably because you’re doing something good. Another name for this kind of thinking is moral narcissism.

No wonder there’s something slightly frantic about all the testimonials – more often asserted than demonstrated – to the “moderation” of Feisal Abdul Rauf, the would-be imam of the Ground Zero mosque. In fact, the imam’s record of political and theological pronouncements is mixed, often slippery and sometimes disturbing, as when he urged last year that President Obama endorse the theocratic foundations of Iran’s government.

But none of that really matters much to Mr. Rauf’s supporters, not because they are his fellow travellers politically, but because supporting the mosque is an opportunity to flaunt their virtue by the simple means of making a political declaration. Question to mosque supporters: Has your check to Mr. Rauf’s Cordoba Initiative been mailed already? Or would you rather the Saudi government pick up the tab?

The Obama administration’s approach to Iran is another instance of moral narcissism in action. It took a peculiar political conceit to imagine that the Islamic Republic was a misunderstood creature, offended by Bush administration arrogance, that would yield to President Obama’s charm offensive.

Then again, President Obama’s approach wasn’t dictated by a long train of examples of the Islamic Republic rebuffing every diplomatic overture made to it, or by a sober assessment about the drift of its politics in recent years. Nor did the president seem much concerned about the consequences of Iran playing the U.S. for a fool while it again played for time for its nuclear programs.

But, again, none of this really matters, because the real point of the diplomatic outreach wasn’t pragmatic; it was about the administration and its supporters demonstrating that they were the good guys vis-a-vis Iran. I doubt even Glenn Beck needed proof of this.

Finally, the Israeli-Palestinian talks, whose chances of success may be safely predicted at nil. Yesterday, I spoke with Aaron David Miller, the former U.S. Middle East negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson Center, to ask him what was wrong with the view that it is better to try and fail than not to try at all.

“That’s what Bill Clinton said to us,” he replied. “I was inspired; it’s quintessentially American. But it’s not a substitute for a serious foreign policy on the part of the world’s most consequential power.” The risk, he added, “is that when the small power says no to the great one without cost or consequence, whether that’s Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Arabs or the Israelis, we lose street cred. Right now, we are neither feared nor respected nor admired to the extent we need to be consistent with our interests in the region.”

Mr. Miller is a liberal, but he’s also what Irving Kristol would have called a liberal who’s been mugged by reality. Part of that reality is that foreign policy is blood sport not beauty contest, and that those who suppose the latter will be defenseless when they discover it’s the former. Which is all to say, it sucks to be a sucker.

 

ABBAS & FAYYAD: DO THEY HAVE A MANDATE?

Abbas & Fayyad: Do They Have a Mandate?
By Khaled Abu Toameh
Hudson institute
August 24, 2010

A president whose term in office expired a long time ago, and a prime minister who won about 2% of the vote when he ran in an election, have now been invited by the US Administration to hold direct peace talks with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president, and Salam Fayyad, his prime minister, have even won the “backing” of two key decision-making bodies that are largely controlled by their supporters: the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee.

The 18-member PLO Executive Committee, which met in Ramallah last week to approve the Palestinians’ participation in the direct talks with Israel, is dominated by unelected veteran officials.

Only nine PLO officials attended the meeting. The PLO constitution requires a minimum of 12 members for a quorum. This means that, contrary to reports in the Palestinian and international media, Abbas and Fayyad do not have the support of the PLO committee to negotiate directly with Israel.

With regards to the Central Council of Fatah, it remains unclear whether its 21 members ever endorsed the US invitation to hold direct talks with Israel.

Elections for the committee were held on July 8, 2009. The results of the vote, which has been denounced by many Fatah officials as unfair, was that only Abbas loyalists were elected.

Some of the committee members have even issued contradictory statements over the past few weeks regarding the direct talks. In the beginning, most of them seemed to oppose such talks unless Israel agreed to stop settlement construction and recognized the 1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state.

Now, however, most of the committee members appear to have changed their minds – clearly as a result of immense US pressure on Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.

It is not easy for a committee member who receives his or her salary from the Palestinian government to speak out in public on controversial matters.

So here is a president whose term in office expired in January 2009 – and who has won the backing of only some of his traditional loyalists – preparing to negotiate with Israel about extremely important issues such as borders, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and security.

As if it is not enough that Abbas and Fayyad do not have a real mandate from their people, now they are going to lose what is left of their credibility as they appear to have “succumbed” to the outside pressure.

Abbas is in power because George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice back then told him to stay, even though his term in office had expired.

Fayyad, who ran in the January 2006 parliamentary election at the head of the Third Way list, won only two seats. His number two, Hanan Ashwari, has since abandoned him, making him the head of a one-man list.

Abbas was forced to appoint Fayyad as prime minister only because of pressure from the Americans and Europeans, who threatened to suspend financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinian president failed to comply.

Fayyad’s government was never approved by the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council, as required by the Palestinian Basic Law. Parliamentary life in the Palestinian territories has anyway been completely paralyzed ever since Hamas forced the Palestinian Authority out of the Gaza Strip.

Officials in Ramallah say that the Palestinian leadership is being dragged, against its will, to the negotiating table with Israel. They say that the only reason the Palestinians agreed to hold unconditional talks with Israel is because of threats and pressure from the Americans and Europeans.

Over the past few months, Abbas and Fayyad had been telling their people that there would be no direct talks with Israel unless their conditions are fulfilled. Now, however, they have been forced to drop all their conditions and are being pressured to the negotiating table by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Besides, who said that Abbas and Fayyad would be able to sell any agreement to a majority of Palestinians? How can any Palestinian buy an agreement from them after they told their people that they are going to the talks only because the Americans and Europeans threatened to cut off financial aid?

Any agreement Abbas and Fayyad bring back home will be seen by many Palestinians as the fruit of “extortion” and “threats” and not as the result of peace talks that were conducted in good faith.

Leaders who do not have a clear mandate from their people will not be able to strike any deal with Israel, particularly when it concerns explosive issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and settlements. The Palestinian leadership’s decision to negotiate directly with Israel unconditionally has already enraged many Palestinians across the political spectrum.

Abbas and Fayyad are nonetheless not stupid. The two are well aware of the fact that they do not have a mandate to sign any agreement with Israel. This is why they will search for any excuse to withdraw from the direct talks and blame Israel for the failure of the peace process.

Under the current circumstances, it would have been better had the US Administration thought twice before issuing the invitation for the peace talks.

 

INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS’ GROUPS DENOUNCES “SCUM STATE” COMMENTS, BUT DEFENDS WORK

Dershowitz, NGO Monitor: Probe Amnesty’s Israel biases
By Benjamin Weinthal
The Jerusalem Post
September 2, 2010

www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=186776

BERLIN – A group of prominent political, academic and Middle East commentators from the international board of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor called on Monday for an “independent evaluation of biases in Amnesty’s activities and publications, particularly related to Israel.”

The head of Amnesty International’s Finnish branch, Frank Johansson, sparked outrage last week when he termed Israel a “scum state” on his blog, a statement he has since removed following The Jerusalem Post’s disclosure of his anti-Israel remarks.

When asked about the NGO Monitor statement seeking an independent inquiry, Susanna Flood, a spokeswoman for Amnesty in London, wrote on Tuesday by e-mail to the Post, “Amnesty International had no need to seek an ‘independent evaluation’ to determine that Frank Johansson’s comments, made in his personal capacity, were inappropriate.”

The NGO Monitor statement was signed by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz; Ruth Wisse, that university’s Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature; Yehuda Avner, a former ambassador to the UK and Australia; Fiamma Nirenstein, vice president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’s Committee on Foreign Affairs; Elliott Abrams, a former US deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy; UCLA’s Prof. Judea Pearl, president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation; Mideast expert and commentator Tom Gross; and Douglas Murray, director of the London-based Centre for Social Cohesion think tank.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms Mr. Johansson’s recent remarks about Israel. Referring to Israel using offensive terms such as ‘scum state’ is unacceptable, and does not help those that have legitimate human rights grievances,” the NGO Monitor board members wrote.

“Unfortunately, his statement is indicative of the anti-Israeli ideology that has permeated Amnesty International (AI), leading to one-sided calls for an arms embargo against Israel, and false accusations of Israeli ‘war crimes’ and ‘deliberate attacks on civilians,’” they continued.

“We call on Amnesty International’s new secretary-general, Salil Shetty, to condemn this statement and suspend the Finnish branch from active membership in AI until Mr. Johansson resigns.”

Amnesty spokeswoman Flood told the Post that “as we have already made clear, Frank Johansson has apologized fully and publicly for his statement and the offense that it has caused and he has removed his blog containing the offensive statement. We welcome these steps.”

According to Flood, “Amnesty International in Finland has made it clear to Frank Johansson that his comments were not appropriate and its disassociation from them. There is no question of Amnesty International in Finland being asked to suspend its international human rights work because of this matter.”

The NGO Monitor board members said in their statement that “legitimate criticism of Israel is entirely appropriate. But vulgar language, accompanied by the political and legal campaigns that Amnesty and others are waging against Israel, must not be tolerated. Such activities are also contrary to the noble principles and goals on which Amnesty was founded.”

Amnesty International is already roiling from a recent scandal involving one of England’s leading pro-Taliban advocates.

Earlier this year, Gita Sahgal, then head of Amnesty’s Gender Unit, deemed Amnesty’s leadership to be plagued by “ideological bankruptcy” and “misogyny.”

Sahgal was suspended in February for criticizing Amnesty for giving a platform to Moazzam Begg, the director of a campaign group called Cageprisoners, whom she referred to as “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban.” She is no longer employed by Amnesty.

According to a separate letter sent on Monday from NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg to Amnesty’s secretary-general Salil Shetty, “Ben White, author of a publication with the grossly immoral title of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, has been the featured speaker at a number of Amnesty UK events targeting Israel. Such hate speech is further evidence of an Amnesty agenda which is entirely inconsistent with the claim to support ethical principles and universal human rights.”

Amnesty’s “biased agenda ignores systemic human rights violations by the regimes in Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Gaza, and many other countries, and violates the core principle of universality in human rights,” Steinberg said.