Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Women’s rights and ties with Israel likely to improve after “soft coup” in Riyadh

June 23, 2017

Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman at the White House in March.

 

CONTENTS

1. Iran calls elevation of Crown Prince a “Soft Coup”
2. “Take the battle to Iran”
3. “Profound implications inside and outside the Middle East”
4. New York Times: Trump and Kushner edge their man in
5. “Fear is what changed Saudi Arabia”
6. El Al to fly over Saudi airspace?
7. “The Saudi shake-up has one goal: Drag the country into modern era” (Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2017)
8. “Trump’s preferred candidate wins again, this time in Saudi Arabia” (New York Times, June 22, 2017)
9. “This is not your father’s Saudi Arabia” (Op-ed, Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2017)
10. “Change in the House of Saud” (Wall Street Journal editorial, June 22, 2017)

 

IRAN CALLS ELEVATION OF CROWN PRINCE A “SOFT COUP”

[Notes by Tom Gross]

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, 81, named his young 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman as his crown prince and successor. Mohammed bin Salman (known as MbS) is reformist, ambitious and pro-American yet also confrontational, particularly towards Iran and Qatar.

King Salman’s move appears to be a bid to overhaul the kingdom, which is beset with economic, security and societal problems. Some western commentators are calling the move a virtual revolution that will also improve women’s rights and ties with Israel.

Iranian state media described the appointment of Mohammed Bin Salman as successor to the ageing King Salman a “soft coup”.

In the past in Saudi Arabia brother had succeed brother -- all of them sons of the country’s founder, Ibn Saud who died in 1953.

Salman’s own state of health is unclear. He uses a cane and sits in front of a computer to remind him of his talking points when meeting dignitaries.

 

“TAKE THE BATTLE TO IRAN”

The move has unnerved Iran’s leadership. Last month, Prince Mohammed said that the “battle” should be taken into Iran.

Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are competing for power and influence across the region and beyond, and support opposite sides in the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

Iran and its proxy militias have done much of the killing and ethnic cleansing in Syria these past six years, and the Saudis and their allies much of the killing in Yemen.

Barack Obama in effect sided with the Islamic Iranian regime whereas Donald Trump appears to be taking the Saudi side.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei labeled the Saudi leadership “idiots” in a speech last month.

 

“PROFOUND IMPLICATIONS INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE MIDDLE EAST”

Saudi Arabia has mounting economic problems. There is an unemployment rate over 28% for people aged between 20 and 29. 45% of the Saudi population of 32 million is aged under 25. Mohammed bin Salman has said he wants to increase the number of women in the workplace, which may be a key step to economic growth.

Below, I attach various articles about the “soft coup”.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, “the change of power has profound implications for Saudi Arabia’s political and economic future, for global oil markets and for allies inside and outside the Middle East… It empowers a largely untested prince who may become even more powerful than his father, as dissenting factions have been edged out and power is now consolidated in King Salman’s line… There hasn’t been such a powerful central player emerging since King Abdulaziz, who founded the kingdom.”

 

NEW YORK TIMES: TRUMP AND KUSHNER EDGE THEIR MAN IN

The New York Times writes: “Even more than Karen Handel, the Republican who won a hotly contested House seat in a special election in Georgia this week, Prince Mohammed was Mr. Trump’s anointed candidate – in this case, for the byzantine struggle to control the House of Saud.”

The Times adds: “The young prince is also a favorite of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Kushner began cultivating Prince Mohammed soon after Mr. Trump’s election. When the prince visited Washington in March, he dined with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, at their home. When the couple joined Mr. Trump on his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, the prince hosted Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump for a dinner at his house…

“Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed, senior officials said, worked closely together to choreograph Mr. Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, which yielded a renewed commitment by dozens of Arab and Muslim leaders to combat extremism in their countries and to turn off the financial spigot to extremist groups.”

 

“FEAR IS WHAT CHANGED SAUDI ARABIA”

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that was published on Tuesday before Mohammed bin Salman was made Crown prince, titled “Fear Is What Changed Saudi Arabia,” Walter Russell Mead writes:

“Saudi Arabia used to be one of the most cautious players in the world of diplomacy. Not anymore. In the past three weeks, the Saudis have launched a coordinated diplomatic offensive against neighboring Qatar, hinted at new ties with Israel, scolded Pakistan, turned up the heat in their confrontation with Iran, and carried on a war of words with Turkey. Meanwhile, they continue to bomb Yemen to support their local allies in that country’s increasingly bitter civil war.”

 

EL AL TO FLY OVER SAUDI AIRSPACE?

Tom Gross adds:

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise has been meteoric.

Recently, together with the UAE, he has led the recent effort to isolate Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

In addition to fighting Sunni Islamist extremist groups such as Isis, Prince Mohammed has indicated he may move Saudi Arabia closer to Israel. Saudi Arabia still has no official relations with Israel but behind the scenes there are growing links. Several senior Saudis subscribe to this email list.

Last Saturday, The Times of London reported that Saudi Arabia and Israel are negotiating the establishment of economic ties, including allowing Israeli businesses to operate in the Gulf and letting Israel’s El Al airline fly over Saudi airspace.

As I predicted in a dispatch last month (In a first, Trump may fly directly from Saudi to Israel, May 19, 2017), Donald Trump would become the first person to publically fly from Saudi Arabia to Israel, and indeed he did do so a few days after that dispatch was published.

See also:

How Israel’s tech firms are quietly doing business in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states (February 2, 2017)

I attach four articles below.


ARTICLES

THE SAUDI SHAKE-UP HAS ONE GOAL: DRAG THE COUNTRY INTO MODERN ERA

The Saudi Shake-Up Has One Goal: Drag the Country Into Modern Era
The elevation of Mohammed bin Salman is a bet he can pull off a radical financial and economic transformation

By Summer Said in Dubai, Justin Scheck in Riyadh and Michael Amon in London
The Wall Street Journal
June 22, 2017

When Salman bin Abdulaziz became Saudi Arabia’s king two years ago, the country’s leadership appeared little different from how it had been for decades. The ruler and his designated successor were two of the country founder’s dozens of sons, a fractious fraternity that passed along power in an unbroken chain of conservative rule.

No longer. Modernity has walloped Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most ossified societies, and today it is struggling to maintain the economic and political power it built on giant crude-oil reserves.

On Wednesday, King Salman, 81, named his ambitious and confrontational 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman as his crown prince and successor, in a bid to supercharge an attempt by the country – and the monarchy – to secure its future. The move caps an overhaul rare in Saudi history that has deposed two crown princes and marks the ascent of the youngest ruling generation the kingdom has seen.

The young prince is leading what amounts to a national turnaround effort, and his rapid ascent emphasizes the critical nature of that job.

Low oil prices and mounting demographic pressures are tearing at the kingdom’s fragile social contract, making change even more urgent and political unity at the top a greater priority. Mohammed bin Salman is spearheading a plan to take the state oil company public in 2018 in what could be the world’s biggest public offering and to invest proceeds in a fund to diversify the country’s economy.

The change of power has profound implications for Saudi Arabia’s political and economic future, for global oil markets and for allies inside and outside the Middle East. It casts into retirement the erstwhile crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, King Salman’s nephew and a longtime antiterror official who had close ties with U.S. diplomats. It empowers a largely untested prince who may become even more powerful than his father, as dissenting factions have been edged out and power is now consolidated in King Salman’s line.

“There hasn’t been such a powerful central player since King Abdulaziz,” said Steffen Hertog, a London School of Economics professor who studies Saudi Arabian politics. King Abdulaziz, the father of King Salman, founded the kingdom.

The Saudi royal family is increasingly squeezed by perceived threats in the Middle East, most of all the rise of its rival Iran after the end of Western sanctions linked to its nuclear program. Mohammed bin Salman is leading a costly war against Iranian-supported rebels in Yemen who toppled a Saudi-backed government and has inserted Saudi Arabia into the Syrian civil war, backing opponents of Iranian ally President Bashar al-Assad. Saudi Arabia has led a jarring diplomatic freeze-out of its onetime ally Qatar, over the tiny emirate’s budding ties to Iran.

The young prince’s overtaking of his older cousin has long been viewed as inevitable in some royal circles, according to people familiar with the matter. The timing of the move was cemented by the need to unify the kingdom’s leaders behind the economic overhaul and foreign-policy moves, according to one of the people.

“It is a highly calculated move to make Saudi Arabia as stable as possible,” the person said. “You need this clarity when you have a big ambitious reform plan you want to achieve.”

One catalyst for the timing of Wednesday’s shuffle: Mohammed bin Nayef’s stance on Qatar. According to two people familiar with the matter, he wanted to resolve the dispute through diplomatic channels, while Mohammed bin Salman wanted to take a harsher stance. Mohammed bin Salman won the argument, and, on June 5, Saudi Arabia announced an economic blockade of Qatar.

The succession overhaul that was announced by royal decree – hours after the dawn meal that precedes the daily fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – was expected by some, but the timing may have been accelerated by the Qatar issue, according to one of the people familiar with the matter.

In the aftermath of the dispute between Mohammed bin Salman and his cousin, Saudi Arabia’s Allegiance Council, which comprises 34 members of the royal family representing each lineage of Abdulaziz’s sons, met in Mecca this week, said a person familiar with the matter. The council advises the king on matters of succession, but its decisions aren’t binding. Its vote in favor of the leadership shuffle, however, showed there is a consensus within the family about Mohammed bin Salman’s promotion.

Indicating a belief that urgent action was necessary, 31 members voted to oust the crown prince and promote Mohammed bin Salman, this person said.

In Washington, a senior administration official said the Trump administration knew the change was likely but didn’t know this move would happen today. “Why now? What’s behind it? Nobody knows,” this person said.

Promoting a prince with a more aggressive line on foreign disputes is a change for the country. Its neighbors now see it taking “a much more assertive, insistent domineering” approach to foreign policy, said Chas Freeman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George H.W. Bush. “Some of the neighbors regard it as a drive for Saudi hegemony in the region,” he said.

The new heir apparent is likely to become the youngest ruler of Saudi Arabia since King Abdulaziz. He has taken a truculent approach to dealing with regional rivalries. In private meetings, he reminds visitors that his nation spends some $60 billion a year on weapons, giving him the “upper hand” over surrounding nations.

Mohammed bin Salman will face economic changes that have gained urgency with the oil-price rout. A drop to less than $45 a barrel, down over 60% since 2014, has ushered in a destabilizing period of austerity measures in a kingdom where oil money provided almost 80% of government revenue and underpinned a cozy lifestyle for the Saudi middle class.

The kingdom has a growing population of young people who can’t find good jobs, with an unemployment rate over 28% in 2016 for people aged between 20 and 29.

Domestically, Mohammed bin Salman has significant support within the swelling ranks of young, foreign-educated Saudis who want more economic opportunity and fewer social restrictions. Since the kingdom’s founding, the royal family’s alliance with religious hard-liners has kept in place severe strictures. Women aren’t allowed to drive and must get permission from relatives to travel abroad or marry.

Many young people want to lift such barriers, and Mohammed bin Salman has said he wants to increase the number of women in the workplace. In a country where 45% of the population of 32 million is under 25, that may be a key to economic growth.

“Mohammed bin Salman needs young people to help him succeed – and young people need him,” said Ahmed Al-Ibrahim, 40, a Saudi business consultant. “He is ambitious, he has a vision and he delivers. He will push for the separation of mosque and politics.”

Last year, the monarchy stripped the country’s religious police of its powers to arrest and instructed its members to behave kindly toward suspected offenders. In a country where cinemas are banned, there is now a government body with the task of promoting entertainment. Government officials often hint the country’s ban on women’s driving will soon be lifted.

Before his father became king in January of 2015, Mohammed bin Salman had a relatively low profile in Saudi Arabia. But he had spent years at his father’s side while the future king held a series of government positions.

Tall, youthful and bearish, Mohammed bin Salman punctuates his enthusiastic discourses on politics and power with a tic in which he extends his neck and lifts his chin.

Since rising in power, he has driven his underlings hard. “It’s always ‘right now,’ “ when he’s pushing an initiative, said one high-ranking official. The prince has demanded the IPO of Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Saudi Aramco, happen quickly, said people familiar with the matter, and in the view of some officials, he rushed some economic reforms, leading to backlash among citizens.

After Salman became king in 2015 upon the death of his older brother Abdullah, another brother, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, was appointed crown prince. Mohammed bin Salman was appointed defense minister and chairman of the country’s Council for Economic and Development Affairs, putting him at the head of military and economic matters. The king’s young son monopolized the limelight, becoming the face of the kingdom’s ambitious economic overhauls and its war to oust Iranian proxies from Yemen.

Crown prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz resigned in April 2015, making room for Mohammed bin Nayef, a nephew of King Salman’s, to become crown prince, and Mohammed bin Salman to become deputy crown prince. That structure was a major shift, as for the first time it named a successor to the throne who would be of the younger generation. It was also the first time a sitting crown prince had been replaced.

But Mohammed bin Nayef was also quickly eclipsed by the young Mohammed bin Salman, who announced an economic-overhaul plan called Vision 2030 in 2016. To deal with the impact of low oil prices on the kingdom’s finances, he announced new austerity measures including cuts to public-employee salaries and reduced energy and water subsidies. The cuts were made even more necessary by the expensive war in Yemen against Houthi rebels.

As his cousin’s public profile rose, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef spent a long stretch of 2016 on vacation in remote Algeria, and, until September of last year, kept a relatively low profile even when in Riyadh, reinforcing the view that his power was waning.

Mohammed bin Salman’s profile meanwhile continued to rise. In January 2016, he announced he planned to take a minority stake in Saudi Aramco public. That plan raised concerns among some within the company about losing control of the source of most of Saudi Arabia’s income.

Consumers also griped about some of the subsidy cuts, and business owners had problems with overhaul measures including some designed to increase Saudi employment. Early this year, the prince met with 10 business leaders who complained that few Saudi companies grew last year, while many lost money.

Private sector growth was sluggish, they said, and suffered from declining purchasing power of consumers. They said rising fuel costs – the result of subsidy cuts – were hurting them, according to a meeting document the Journal reviewed.

Mohammed bin Salman also ran into political challenges with austerity measures aimed at curbing government spending. Late last year, he instituted cuts to government employees’ allowances and bonuses. They proved unpopular, and in April King Salman reversed them as part of a series of decrees that also put two of his other sons in elevated positions, including U.S. ambassador.

Known to be intrigued by Wall Street and eager to do deals abroad, he faces the challenge of pulling off the IPO of Saudi Aramco, a complex deal that he has said could value the company at $2 trillion – although inside the company, some officials said that is likely to be less than $1.5 trillion. Mohammed bin Salman has cultivated relationships with bankers and international business figures, seeking advice on how to bring investment into Saudi Arabia and looking for ways to invest the country’s money in industries other than oil.

The demands of the prince’s new job stand in stark contrast to the traditional court process that put him in the role. At their Mecca meeting, all but three of the members of the Allegiance Council endorsed the shuffle, according to one official familiar with the vote.

In a ceremony broadcast on Saudi television, Mohammed bin Nayef formally acceded to his younger cousin, saying, “I pledge allegiance to you. I am content.”

And he told his cousin, “God help you. Now I will rest, and you, God help you.”

 

TRUMP’S PREFERRED CANDIDATE WINS AGAIN, THIS TIME IN SAUDI ARABIA

Trump’s Preferred Candidate Wins Again, This Time in Saudi Arabia
By Mark Landler and Mark Mazzetti
The New York Times
June 22, 2017

WASHINGTON – President Trump wasted no time on Wednesday calling the newly named crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. Less than 24 hours after King Salman elevated Prince Mohammed, his 31-year-old son, Mr. Trump offered congratulations and celebrated the monarchy’s cooperation in rooting out terrorist financing and other issues.

Even more than Karen Handel, the Republican who won a hotly contested House seat in a special election in Georgia this week, Prince Mohammed was Mr. Trump’s anointed candidate – in this case, for the byzantine struggle to control the House of Saud.

Mr. Trump views Prince Mohammed as a crucial ally in his effort to cement a Sunni Muslim alliance in the Persian Gulf. The prince, who also serves as the Saudi defense minister, favors a confrontational line toward Iran, which dovetails with the Trump administration’s hostile stance toward Tehran. And he is spearheading Saudi Arabia’s embargo of neighboring Qatar, which Mr. Trump has praised because he, like the Saudis, accuses the Qataris of financing extremist groups.

The young prince is also a favorite of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Kushner began cultivating Prince Mohammed soon after Mr. Trump’s election. When the prince visited Washington in March, he dined with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, at their home. When the couple joined Mr. Trump on his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, the prince hosted Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump for a dinner at his house.

“There’s a certain compatibility there,” said Jon B. Alterman, the director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The president and his entourage think fellow billionaires who have an itch to get things done make the world go ‘round.”

Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed, senior officials said, worked closely together to choreograph Mr. Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, which yielded a renewed commitment by dozens of Arab and Muslim leaders to combat extremism in their countries and to turn off the financial spigot to extremist groups.

For Mr. Trump’s aides, that trip ranks as a highlight of his foreign policy so far, and they credit the prince for what one senior official described as under-promising and over-delivering.

Prince Mohammed’s elevated status was apparent in the earliest days of the Trump administration. Senior American officials said they wanted the United States to help Saudi Arabia with its campaign in Yemen against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, in part because the success or failure of the military campaign could affect the prince’s fortunes in the kingdom’s succession battle.

During the prince’s first visit to the White House, in March, the president welcomed him with a meeting in the Oval Office and a formal lunch in the State Dining Room. The next day, Prince Mohammed spent four hours with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon.

Mr. Kushner also hopes for Prince Mohammed’s backing, or at least his blessing, in a peace initiative between Israel and the Palestinians. On Wednesday, Mr. Kushner made his first major foray into the process, meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and in the West Bank with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

“The United States officials and Israeli leadership underscored that forging peace will take time,” White House officials said in a statement. But administration officials said the process would be helped if major Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia, signed on to the concept of an agreement.

Middle East experts said that Prince Mohammed believes Saudi Arabia should have a normal relationship with Israel in the future. But several expressed doubt that the prince would want the Saudis to be an important component of an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

While the Trump administration clearly views Prince Mohammed as a reformer – pointing to Vision 2030, his blueprint to modernize Saudi Arabia’s economy and society – others warned that the White House could be in for a disappointment. “There are other people who are more circumspect,” Mr. Alterman said. “They wonder if he has the right temperament. They wonder if he has the right political skills.”

That ambivalence ran through the Obama administration, which was caught off guard by the rapid rise of King Salman’s favorite son. Prince Mohammed, unlike other prominent royals, was not educated in the West and had not had a track record of government service, and he was nearly unknown in Washington when he ascended to the position of deputy crown prince in 2015.

He also assumed the title of defense minister and almost immediately became the public face of the kingdom’s hastily launched military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen. The chaotic early months of the campaign gave him a reputation in some parts of the Obama administration as reckless and hotheaded.

There was also the problem of finding someone in Washington to develop a relationship with the young prince. Prince Mohammed’s natural counterpart on the American side, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, had little inclination to spend time nurturing ties to the prince.

Secretary of State John Kerry assumed that mantle, inviting Prince Mohammed to his Georgetown home for an iftar dinner and meeting with the prince in May 2016 on the Serene, a luxury yacht that the prince bought from a Russian billionaire.

Still, there were issues that could never be bridged. A particular point of friction was the Obama administration’s attempts at rapprochement with Iran.

At a meeting in Turkey in November 2015 between President Barack Obama and King Salman, the prince leapt into what American officials said was a lecture on what he saw as the administration’s failures in the Middle East.

There are no such differences with the Trump administration, however. Saudi officials have lavished praise on Mr. Trump for his bombing of Syria and his hawkish stance toward Iran.

The Trump administration also seems to have had little concern about showing favoritism in the rivalry between the prince and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who until Wednesday had been next in line to the Saudi throne.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef had close ties to national security officials in the Obama administration. But the political change in the United States this year brought a reversal of fortune for Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who lost many of his contacts.

The March visit to the White House by Prince Mohammed bin Salman so angered Prince Mohammed bin Nayef that he made his annoyance known to the American government using unofficial channels.

 

THIS IS NOT YOUR FATHER’S SAUDI ARABIA

This Is Not Your Father’s Saudi Arabia
The new crown prince, 31, promises economic revival and a more assertive world role. Can he deliver?
By Karen Elliott House
Op-ed page
Wall Street Journal
June 22, 2017

The appointment of Mohammad bin Salman, 31, as Saudi Arabia’s next king will accelerate his radical reform and further solidify the U.S.-Saudi partnership. King Salman’s long-anticipated decision to name his son crown prince almost certainly is intended to present a unified face to the kingdom’s adversaries, especially Iran – and to bolster U.S. support for a more assertive Riyadh.

The royal decree removing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, was said to be supported by 31 of the 34 members of the Kingdom’s Allegiance Council, surviving sons and grandsons of Saudi Arabia’s founder. The old crown prince immediately pledged his loyalty to the new one, who knelt in front of his cousin in a public show of respect.

This announcement concludes a long struggle within the ruling family. Many royals had opposed Mohammad bin Salman precisely because they feared his father, now 81, intended to establish his own lineal monarchy at the expense of other family branches. The king won their support by amending the law of succession so that after the last of the founder’s sons is king – that will almost certainly be Salman – the king and crown prince can’t be from the same branch.

The new crown prince had assiduously wooed President Trump to counterbalance support for Mohammed bin Nayef among the U.S. defense and intelligence establishments. Mr. Trump’s strong support of Riyadh during his recent visit, coupled with growing Saudi-Iran tensions, seems to have moved King Salman to act. The new crown prince may be clearing the way for action against Qatar, which he has accused of supporting Iran and regional terrorist groups.

Because Mohammed bin Salman has already been setting policy almost single-handedly, his elevation isn’t likely to lead to any sharp changes at home, where he is pressing an ambitious agenda to wean the Kingdom off declining oil revenues and create a private-sector led economy. His reform plan, known as Vision 2030, is revolutionary. Out with government dependence; in with self-reliance. Out with antimodernist Wahhabi dogma and in with moderation. “Our vision is a strong, thriving and stable Saudi Arabia . . . with Islam as its constitution and moderation as its method,” he said in unveiling the plan a year ago.

Even though the promised reforms have barely begun, they have sparked strong opposition as Saudi citizens feel the pocketbook impact of reduced subsidies for energy, water and electricity. Economic growth has nearly stopped as government cuts spending to ease huge budget deficits. The impact is particularly large because 80% of Saudi household income comes from government, which employs 6 in 10 Saudi workers.

All this has led many Saudis to take a wait-and-see attitude toward reform. Many assumed that should King Salman die and Mohammed bin Nayef accede, the new king would fire his young cousin. That uncertainty is gone. Mohammed bin Salman may even be able to persuade his father to step aside, so as to guarantee the crown prince’s accession. Power dies with a monarch, so the royal family could band together at Salman’s death to deny his son the throne.

With the succession settled, Saudi citizens are more likely to buckle down and accept painful change. The U.S. should welcome this clarity and do all it can to support reform inside Saudi Arabia as the best way to enhance both stability and human rights. The Trump administration also should welcome the prospect of working with a Saudi leader who seems to have bet his role in the royal family on partnership with the U.S. and assertive opposition to Iran.

Now both countries need a workable strategy to confront Tehran, which is gaining power in the region at the expense of both Riyadh and Washington. Saudi Arabia under Mohammed bin Salman has gone on the offense at home and in the region after generations of cautious defense. It’s one thing to go from defense to offense, far harder actually to score.

 

CHANGE IN THE HOUSE OF SAUD

Change in the House of Saud
Mohammed bin Salman wants to transform the hidebound Kingdom.
Wall Street Journal editorial
June 22, 2017

Saudi Arabia has resisted modernity since its founding in 1932. But the political sands are shifting, and the change will accelerate with Wednesday’s appointment of Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince.

King Salman broke with decades of tradition with his royal decree that ousted his nephew, security czar Mohammed bin Nayef, in favor of Salman’s son, Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudi crown has typically passed from one octogenarian or septuagenarian brother to another, so the rise of the 31-year-old son as heir designate is a monumental development.

This is all the more remarkable given the young leader’s reformist inclinations. The Saudis face a triple challenge in falling oil prices, a youth demographic bulge and Iranian imperialism. The Crown Prince believes the answer is an assertive foreign policy that unites Sunni Arab states against Tehran, combined with domestic reform that weans the Kingdom off oil.

This regional vision took shape soon after King Salman ascended the throne in 2015. As Defense Minister (a portfolio he will retain), the Crown Prince emerged as the architect of the Saudi-led military campaign to oust the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen.

The Yemen operation has been long and hard, but it has largely succeeded in cutting off Iranian supplies to the Houthis and boosted the confidence of Arab states. Mohammed bin Salman has also spearheaded efforts to diplomatically isolate Qatar over its two-faced policy of cooperating with the West while funding Islamist groups like Hamas.

Last year the Crown Prince launched Vision 2030, a reform program to diversify the Saudi economy and expand the role of private enterprise. The heart of the plan is to boost the private share of the economy to 65% by 2030 from about 40%, and reduce the government’s dependence on oil for revenues, now at 70%.

That’s a tall order in a Kingdom that has historically offered its citizens oil-funded, cradle-to-grave welfare in exchange for little say in politics. Many Saudis have grown up to expect high-paying government jobs that are increasingly hard to subsidize with oil at under $50 a barrel. Unleashing the private economy will also require liberating Saudi women to enter the work force – the right to drive would be a start – and that has already triggered clashes with the Wahhabi clerical establishment.

Earlier this year the government was forced to reverse a pay cut for state employees. Yet Mohammed bin Salman has made progress in other areas. A plan to offer public shares in the state-run oil company, Aramco, is moving ahead. Concerts are performed and movie theaters are opening for the first time in the Kingdom, allowing young Saudis access to entertainment and social interaction that their peers nearly everywhere else take for granted.

His appointment as Crown Prince will strengthen his hand by putting to rest competing claims to the throne from more conservative corners of the House of Saud with its 7,000 princes. A moderate and prosperous Saudi Arabia would bolster stability across the Arab world and is squarely in the U.S. national interest. Washington should support and encourage the young prince as he pursues change.

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Trump: what kind of a BBC headline about an ISIS attack on Israel is this?

June 17, 2017

 

TRUMP: WHAT KIND OF A BBC HEADLINE ABOUT AN ISIS ATTACK ON ISRAEL IS THIS?

[Note by Tom Gross]

Today Donald Trump Jr., the son of the President of the United States, sent out two tweets to his millions of followers, saying exactly the same thing that this Middle East dispatch list has said for years.

Referring to the coordinated three-man Isis machine gun and knife attack on Israelis yesterday, in which one 23-year-old policewoman was killed and five civilians who she was trying to protect, were injured, Trump criticized the absolutely dishonest and misleading headline of the BBC on Israel.

As was the case with the London terror attack earlier this month, which was also claimed by Isis, there were three Jihadi attackers, who were all shot dead by security forces as they attempted to kill more people. But in that assault the BBC headline did not make the attackers sound like innocent victims.

To my knowledge, this is the first time Trump or his father have singled out the BBC for criticism as part of their campaign against “fake news”. But then the BBC does not mislead its huge global audience on any other subject to the extent that it does on the subject of Israel.

As long as the mainstream media continues to display so much distortion, they simply play into President Trump’s hands and increase the resentment of millions of supporters have for the establishment. From the outset of his political career until today, Trump’s attacks on so-called fake news is a key reason why he has managed to gain so much attention and support.

 

Among pieces I have written on the BBC:

* Living in a Bubble: The BBC’s very own Mideast foreign policy

* The BBC discovers ‘terrorism,’ briefly: Suicide bombing seems different when closer to home

 

Among subscribers to this list is the head of BBC News and Current Affairs, who I know.

(This is a quick single item dispatch because I don’t have time for a more substantive dispatch today.)

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

London’s Muslim mayor to consult Israel on fighting terror (& Never too late to say sorry)

June 14, 2017



London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Europe’s highest profile Muslim politician, who has been critical of Israel in the past, is now consulting Israeli officials for advice on how to combat terrorism in the wake of the recent London attacks. After he criticized his party leader Jeremy Corbyn last year, even though he had not mentioned Israel or Jews, Corbyn supporters wrote Khan “spends his time helping his masters in Tel Aviv.”

 

This dispatch contains various items, mainly concerning Europe.

 

CONTENTS

1. London’s Muslim mayor, previously the recipient of many anti-Semitic messages, says he will now consult Israel on fighting terrorism
2. Would Western intelligence agencies share information with a future prime minister Corbyn, sympathizer with Russia, Iran & Assad?
3. American journalist pleads guilty to anti-Semitic bomb threats
4. Norway to ban full-face veil in pre-schools, schools and universities
5. French-German TV channel under fire for refusing to screen anti-Semitism documentary
6. European MP and French intellectuals accuse France of covering up Jewish woman’s murder
7. Non-Jewish journalist: Two Jews called Halimi murdered, France doesn’t care
8. Memorial and museum finally to be built at France’s first concentration camp
9. Spanish police, originally tipped off by Facebook post, thwart Islamist attack
10. Switzerland legislates to end funding of anti-Semitic NGOs in the Mideast
11. Never too late to say sorry
12. “A single book to understand the 20th century”

 

[Notes below by Tom Gross]

LONDON’S MUSLIM MAYOR, PREVIOUSLY THE RECIPIENT OF MANY ANTI-SEMITIC MESSAGES, SAYS HE WILL NOW CONSULT ISRAEL ON FIGHTING TERRORISM

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Europe’s highest profile Muslim politician, who had been critical of Israel before becoming mayor, said he is now consulting Israeli officials for advice on how to combat terrorism in the wake of the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester.

In an interview published yesterday, Khan told London’s Jewish News that his office and Metropolitan Police counterterrorism officials were now in touch with officials in Israel.

In addition to the more general terrorism, there has been a sharp increase in violent attacks on Jews in London in recent weeks (as well as the fire-bombing of two kosher restaurants in Manchester), more so than against any other minority. Khan said that the London police have been instructed to take a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism and other hate crime.

“No hate crime will be regarded as too trivial to report,” he said.

Last summer Khan, despite being Muslim, was himself the recipient of many anti-Semitic messages after he criticized the leader of his own Labour party Jeremy Corbyn.

In August, Khan published an op-ed in The Observer (the Sunday sister paper of Britain’s Guardian) in which he called on Labour party members to replace Corbyn.

The mayor “spends his time writing articles to help his masters in Tel Aviv,” read one popular tweet from a Corbyn supporter.

“Who owns you @sadiqkhan?” read another, which included a photo of Khan wearing a Jewish skullcap eating matza.

***

Among previous dispatches mentioning Khan: How British leftists omitted Jews from the list of Holocaust victims (May 10, 2016)

***

For more on the London terror attack earlier this month: “In the name of Allah the most merciful and compassionate” --Neither ‘losers,’ ‘nihilists,’ nor ‘sick cowards’ – but rather believers and idealists

 

WOULD WESTERN INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES SHARE INFO WITH A FUTURE PM CORBYN, SYMPATHIZER WITH RUSSIA, IRAN & ASSAD?

Even though Sadiq Khan and about 80 percent of Jeremy Corbyn’s own Labour MPs tried to oust Corbyn from the party leadership last year, citing disagreement with his far left-wing views on many issues, and many said the public would never vote for him in large numbers, Corbyn ran a highly-effective election campaign and made a strong showing at last week’s British general election.

(“Any early election is a gamble for a sitting government. But as gambles go, Theresa May’s is about the surest bet any politician could ever place,” predicted The Guardian in an editorial seven weeks earlier, after May called the snap election.

“The main opposition party [Labour] is going to fight this election with a leader that even many of his own MPs believe should not be prime minister,” wrote The Times of London.)

Before he become party leader, Corbyn, one of, if not the most left-wing member of parliament, voted against his own Labour Party some 500 times.

It now seems there is a realistic prospect that Corbyn -- who has previously called Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends” and voiced sympathy for IRA terrorists and despots such as Castro and Chavez, while failing to condemn the Russian carpet bombing of Aleppo earlier this year -- may become Britain’s prime minister after the next election.

CORBYN’S FOREIGN POLICY

Of course, most people don’t vote on foreign policy issues, but for those interested, you may want to watch these short TV interviews I gave last week as polls closed but before the full election result was known. All three deal with foreign policy implications for the wider international community:

***

* Would Western intelligence agencies share info with Corbyn, sympathizer with Russia, Iran & Assad?



 

* The result weakens Britain, and weakens the West. And makes Corbyn more electable for next time



 

* As UK polls close, it looks like a Trump-type upset against the establishment



***

(Eventual results gave the Conservative Party a few more seats than exit polls had indicated at the time these interviews were recorded, allowing Theresa May to try and form a coalition with a small Northern Irish party or otherwise form a minority government and remain British Prime Minister for the time being.)

 

AMERICAN JOURNALIST PLEADS GUILTY TO ANTI-SEMITIC BOMB THREATS

Far-left wing American journalist Juan Thompson yesterday pleaded guilty to making a series of bomb threats against at least eight Jewish Community Centers between January and March this year.

According to the charges, Thompson was responsible for threats to Jewish centers in Dallas and San Diego, the Jewish History Museum, a Jewish school in Manhattan, and other institutions, causing their evacuations and mass panic.

These threats had wrongly been blamed by many in the media on right-wing supporters of Donald Trump.

Thompson, who wrote for a publication edited by a former journalist for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, will be sentenced at a later date.

(For more on Thompson, see: Saudi police beat transgender women to death (& Israelis go to the funeral of a woman they never met) March 4, 2017.)

Police say most of the other anti-Semitic threats made in recent months against Jewish institutions in America, were made by a deranged Israeli-American Jewish teenager.

For more, see:

Israeli-American teen arrested for wave of bomb threats against U.S. Jews (& “Tomb of Jesus reopens”) March 23, 2017

 

NORWAY TO BAN FULL-FACE VEIL IN PRE-SCHOOLS, SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES

Norway yesterday became the first Scandinavian country to announce it will ban the Muslim full-face veil and other face-covering clothing in nurseries, schools and universities because it says it hinders communication between pupils and teachers, reports the BBC.

“These clothes prevent good communication, which is important for students to receive a good education,” Minister of Education and Research Torbjorn Roe Isaksen said in a statement.

Interim Minister of Immigration and Integration Per Sandberg added that being able to communicate with one another was a “fundamental value” in education.

Headscarves, hats and caps will continue to be allowed.

 

FRENCH-GERMAN TV CHANNEL UNDER FIRE FOR REFUSING TO SCREEN ANTI-SEMITISM DOCUMENTARY

The London Sunday Times reported on Sunday that the joint French-German TV channel ARTE is facing criticism for refusing to broadcast a documentary the channel had commissioned and paid for called “Chosen and Excluded – Jew Hatred in Europe.”

Deutsche Welle adds that ARTE’s head of programming Alain le Diberder wrote a letter to the Central Council of Jews in Germany on Thursday defending the network’s decision, on the basis that to reveal the extent of Muslim attacks on Jews may undermine relations between Muslim communities and the rest of the population.

The leading French newspaper Le Monde ran a headline on the controversy with the headline “ARTE, a hint of the censor.”

The film’s director Joachim Schroeder said ARTE was trying to censor the fact that much “modern anti-Semitism is hiding behind anti-Zionism.”

 

EUROPEAN MP AND FRENCH INTELLECTUALS ACCUSE FRANCE OF COVERING UP JEWISH WOMAN’S MURDER

A member of the European Parliament together with 17 prominent French intellectuals have protested the omission of anti-Semitism from a draft indictment of a fundamentalist Muslim for the murder of his Jewish neighbor.

During a speech in the European parliament, Frédérique Ries, an MP from Belgium, criticized French authorities for their continuing cover-up of the anti-Semitic nature of the murder on April 4, of 66-year-old French Jew Sarah Halimi. She was savagely beaten, tortured and then thrown out of her third-story apartment balcony to her death, by a 27-year-old French Muslim Kobili Traore.

Neighbors reported that Traore shouted “Allah akbar” as he killed Sarah Halimi and then started praying after killing her. They also said that in the past Traore had often called Halimi a “dirty Jew” to her face.

“French authorities have treated her murder with icy silence,” said Ries. She pointed out that Traore had no history of mental illness, and yet had been placed in a psychiatric institution and not charged with a hate crime.

17 French intellectuals, including the historian Georges Bensoussan and the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, have published a scathing criticism of the handling of the murder by French authorities and the media.

“Everything about this crime suggests there is an ongoing denial of reality,” the intellectuals wrote in an open letter published in Le Figaro on June 4.

“The authorities’ failure to state the terrorist and anti-Semitic nature of this murder is nothing unusual,” Shmuel Trigano, a French scholar on anti-Semitism, said in an interview on Radio J. French Jewish leaders have for years accused French authorities of turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism. Thousands of French Jews have cited anti-Semitism as a factor as they have emigrated to Israel and Canada in recent years.

“Sarah Halimi, a Jewish woman, a doctor who also ran a kindergarten, was murdered at her home amid cries of ‘Allah hu akbar,” French Jewish leader Robert Ejnes wrote in a statement this week titled “An Increasingly Heavy Silence”.

“And the [non-Jewish French] media has practically not spoken about this, as though the defenestration of a woman is not unusual in Paris in 2017!” he wrote.

 

NON-JEWISH JOURNALIST FOR FRENCH CULTURE RADIO: TWO JEWS CALLED HALIMI MURDERED, FRANCE DOESN’T CARE

On June 8, Hervé Gardette, a non-Jewish journalist for France’s Culture state radio, criticized his fellow French journalists for not caring about a vicious anti-Semitic murder in a program he produced titled “Is There a Denial of Anti-Semitism in France?”

Gardette added: “Strikingly, this murder immediately brings to mind another older murder, of Ilan Halimi in 2006, 24 days after his abduction, and how long it took back then for the anti-Semitic character of the crime to be admitted by the detectives and journalists. So nothing has changed.”

Among other cases where police have been criticized for downgrading the offense, were the 2014 rape and robbery of a Jewish family in the Paris suburb of Creteil, and an incident in 2015, when a man who stabbed three Jews near a synagogue in Marseille while crying “Allah Akbar” and “dirty Jews.” French police also initially refused to label a hate crime

Another case that was not properly reported by the French media was the murder in 2003 of a young French Jewish DJ, Sebastien Selam, who was approached by his Muslim neighbor, Adel Boumedienne, in their building’s underground garage. Boumedienne slit Selam’s throat, gouged out his eyes with a carving fork and then ran upstairs and told his mother, “I killed my Jew, I will go to paradise.” In the two years before the murder, the Selam family had been repeatedly harassed by their neighbors for being Jewish, according to witnesses.

I wrote an article about Ilan Halimi here.

 

MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM FINALLY TO BE BUILT AT FRANCE’S FIRST CONCENTRATION CAMP

France’s first concentration camp is finally to be converted into a memorial and museum, over 77 years after French Jews were imprisoned there by their compatriots before being deported to their deaths in Poland and Germany.

Pithiviers train station in eastern France was turned into a concentration camp for French Jews in May 1941; 3,500 men, women and children were crammed inside in appalling conditions.

The abandoned train station has not been used since the Holocaust.

France3 television reported last week that French local authorities said they would set up educational exhibitions for young people on the station walls and declare Pithiviers a historical monument.

***

A memorial with the names of over 100,000 Dutch victims of the Holocaust is finally being built in Amsterdam.

 

SPANISH POLICE, ORIGINALLY TIPPED OFF BY FACEBOOK POST, THWART ISLAMIST ATTACK

Spanish police have arrested a 23-year old Spanish-Moroccan woman who they said had planned attacks against the country’s small Jewish community.

The woman was arrested in Zaragoza, 170 miles northeast of the capital Madrid. She initially came to their attention after remarks she made on Facebook. Spanish media said police then tracked her activities for over a year as she began plotting.

Authorities across Western Europe have increased their monitoring of anti-Semitic hate speech following jihadist terror attacks on Jews, among them multiple murders at a Paris kosher store, and at the Brussels Jewish Museum.

The RTL broadcaster reports that earlier this month, French police arrested a man of North African origin in Marseille, on suspicion that he acted as an accomplice to the terrorist currently on trial in Belgium for the museum killing, and who was said to be plotting further attacks.

 

SWITZERLAND LEGISLATES TO END FUNDING OF ANTI-SEMITIC NGOS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Yesterday, the Swiss Parliament became the first European legislature to pass a resolution directing the government to “amend the laws, ordinances and regulations” to prevent funding to non-governmental organizations “involved in racist, anti-Semitic or hate incitement actions.”

Swiss MP Christian Imark, who proposed the resolution, journalist Dominik Feusi of Beisler Zeitung, and the Jerusalem-based group NGO Monitor, spearheaded the efforts to enact the legislation in Switzerland.

Having previously denied it for years, the Swiss Foreign Minister recently admitted that there is a problem with the Swiss government financing of NGOs in the Middle East which are encouraging the murder of Jews.

As I have repeatedly pointed out on this dispatch list, many other European governments continue to fund such NGOs

See also this dispatch from earlier this month:

Norway, Denmark, UN, push back after PA pays over $1bn to terrorists (& “Love is Great. Britain”)

 

NEVER TOO LATE TO SAY SORRY

The New Jersey Jewish News reports that Peter Hirschmann, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor now living in Maplewood, New Jersey, has received an unsolicited apology from the granddaughter of Nazis who stole and lived in his family’s Nuremberg home after he and his family were stripped of their German citizenship and sent away.

In a letter sent two weeks ago, Doris Schott-Neuse told Hirschmann that she was “deeply ashamed” over what her family and fellow Germans “did to yourself, your family and to your friends and relatives and to the members of the Nuremberg Jewish community.”

Schott-Neuse, 45, said she had researched and found that the three-bedroom house was “Aryanized” (i.e. stolen) along with all other property lived in by Jews. Schott-Neuse said her mother had never mentioned their family’s Nazi past or how they had come to “own” the house (which her family then sold in the 1970s).

Schott-Neuse tracked down Hirschmann using the Internet.

“I am 45 years now and it is a shame that I never looked into the Nazi past of my family,” she wrote to Hirschmann. “I should have realized earlier that there is a Nazi past of course.”

“It seems to be only now that we – the grandchildren generation of the men and women who became criminals – start to ask tough questions of the degree and way our families have been involved and actively contributed not only to a war but to the Shoah,” she wrote.

Hirschmann said he had written back thanking her and absolving Schott-Neuse of “any personal responsibility” for what happened to him, his parents and their home.

“While I would never disregard the lessons of the past, I have lived my life by looking forward, not backward,” he wrote. “I hope you will do likewise.”

 

“A SINGLE BOOK TO UNDERSTAND THE 20TH CENTURY”

It is extremely rare for the millions of people all over Europe who stole Jewish property – and refused to hand it back when survivors returned from the camps – to apologize, or admit their theft.

I noted this phenomenon in the obituary I wrote of Heda Margolius-Kovaly (born Heda Bloch), whom I knew, for the Canadian paper The National Post:

I wrote:

After surviving Auschwitz and a “death march” to Bergen-Belsen, Heda arrived back in Czechoslovakia in 1945 at the home of a friend who had promised to be “an anchor” for the Jews deported from her circle. He greeted her with the words: “For God’s sake, what brings you here?”

She then ventured into the countryside to visit her family’s former home (her parents were gassed upon arrival in Auschwitz), where the Czech farmer who had been allocated her confiscated property slammed the door on her with the words: “So you’ve come back? Oh no. That’s all we’ve needed.”


Heda’s husband, Rudolf Margolius, a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, was then murdered as part of the notorious anti-Semitic Slansky show trials which the Czechoslovak Communist party staged in 1952 at Stalin’s instigation.

Wrongly accused of being a “Zionist” and of “aiding and abetting capitalist Jews trying to undermine Czechoslovak socialism,” he was tortured, hanged and then cremated. His ashes were given to Czech security officials for disposal. In a final indignity, a few miles out of Prague, the officials’ limousine began to skid on the icy road and Rudolf Margolius’s ashes were thrown under the wheels to create traction.

“Three forces carved the landscape of my life,” wrote Heda. “Two of them crushed half the world. The third was very small and weak and, actually, invisible. It was a shy little bird hidden in my rib cage an inch or two above my stomach.

“The first force was Adolf Hitler; the second, Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin. The little bird, the third force, kept me alive to tell the story.”

Anglo-Australian writer Clive James, reviewing Heda’s memoir, wrote: “Given 30 seconds to recommend a single book that might start a serious student on the hard road to understanding the political tragedies of the 20th century, I would choose this one.”

More here: “A shy little bird hidden in my rib cage”

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

Neither ‘losers,’ ‘nihilists,’ nor ‘sick cowards’ – but rather believers and idealists

June 05, 2017

London bridge yesterday, after a terror attack the night before.

 

“IN THE NAME OF ALLAH THE MOST MERCIFUL AND COMPASSIONATE”

[Note by Tom Gross]

Below I attach a piece published before Saturday evening’s London terror attack, by Yigal Carmon, the former counterterrorism adviser to Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin. There are extracts first for those who don’t have time to read the piece in full. (Yigal Carmon is a subscriber to this Middle East dispatch list.)

***

Here is a short interview with me from yesterday concerning the London Bridge / Borough market terror attack:



Theresa May called “extremist Islamist ideology” “evil” yesterday – but unlike when Reagan spoke of an “evil empire” and Bush of an “axis of evil,” it didn’t generate controversy – most people seem to agree with her.

In addition to Jihadi motives, Islamists in the UK also think they are somehow at war and are reacting to western and international forces pushing back against Islamic State in Mosul and Raqqa.


“IT WOULD BE FAR MORE RESPECTFUL TO MUSLIMS TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THESE VALUES”

EXTRACTS

Carmon: The jihadis who perpetrate these horrific crimes are neither losers, nor nihilists, nor worshippers of death, nor sick cowards. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of them are devout and fanatic believers. They are idealists who sacrifice their lives for the sake of a utopian future: a world ruled by their faith. The attacks they commit are extreme acts of piety. They seek to emulate the dedication of the early believers in order to revive the glory and grandeur of the past. In fact, as part of their training, many suicide bombers adopt a pious lifestyle: they immerse themselves in prayer, help the needy in their society, pay all their debts, and become moral and religious role models for others.

Contrary to the approach of the Western leaders, who blame the evil character of the perpetrators while absolving the faith they follow, the truth is that these perpetrators, by the standards of their own belief, are virtuous people who follow the directives of the Koran [48:29]: “Be fierce towards the infidels, merciful towards each other.” The problem lies not in the perpetrators’ innate character but in some of the core values of their religious belief system. Indeed, their faith – any faith – includes elements that are beautiful alongside elements that are malevolent. Denying that these malevolent elements are part of the faith, as the Western leaders do, is wrong. It is such denial that is unhelpful; in fact, it is self-deception.

In fact, this mischaracterization by Western leaders denies some of the core values that underpinned the great achievements of Islam in which Muslims take pride: the establishment a great civilization and the building of not one empire but several in the course of history.

It would be far more respectful to Muslims to acknowledge that these values (of self-sacrifice and extreme dedication aimed at spreading the faith by force) were the basis of Islam’s expansion, just as the spread of Christianity, after the Emperor Constantine established it as the state religion, was based on a similar process of imposing the faith by force. However, Christianity has since renounced these values. Christianity does not deny its past, but it has jettisoned the element of coercion. Similarly, Western leaders must not denigrate the Muslim past by denying its core values, but rather should demand that Muslims follow the same path.

 

FULL PIECE

They are neither ‘losers,’ ‘nihilists,’ ‘worshipers of death,’ nor ‘sick cowards’– but rather believers and idealists who commit horrific murders for a cause and sacrifice their lives for a utopian future: a world ruled by their faith
By Yigal Carmon
MEMRI Daily Brief No.128
May 30, 2017

https://www.memri.org/reports/they-are-neither-losers-nihilists-worshipers-death-nor-sick-cowards%E2%80%93-rather-believers-and

Just like Barack Obama, Francois Hollande and David Cameron, who denied that the jihadi bombings in the West were in any way connected to religion, Donald Trump and Theresa May now also insist on mischaracterizing the jihadi phenomenon, calling the jihadis by different names such as “evil losers” (Trump) and “sick cowards” (May).

During his campaign Trump spoke in different terms (“radical Islamic terrorism”) – but since then he has evidently adopted the approach favored by the other Western leaders, who consider any reference to the religious roots of terror as “unhelpful.” Like them, he is apparently motivated by the understandable need to avoid offending 1.4 billion Muslims.

So first, let’s put forward the true, if “unhelpful,” definition. The jihadis who perpetrate these horrific crimes are neither losers, nor nihilists, nor worshippers of death, nor sick cowards. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of them are devout and fanatic believers. They are idealists who sacrifice their lives for the sake of a utopian future: a world ruled by their faith. The attacks they commit are extreme acts of piety. They seek to emulate the dedication of the early believers in order to revive the glory and grandeur of the past. In fact, as part of their training, many suicide bombers adopt a pious lifestyle: they immerse themselves in prayer, help the needy in their society, pay all their debts,[1] and become moral and religious role models for others (see the Appendix of this document for the last statement of the suicide-bomber Hanadi Jaradat, who committed mass murder in a Haifa restaurant and began her will with the religious formula, “in the name of Allah the Merciful and Compassionate”).

Contrary to the approach of the Western leaders, who blame the evil character of the perpetrators while absolving the faith they follow, the truth is that these perpetrators, by the standards of their own belief, are virtuous people who follow the directives of the Koran [48:29]: “Be fierce towards the infidels, merciful towards each other.” The problem lies not in the perpetrators’ innate character but in some of the core values of their religious belief system. Indeed, their faith – any faith – includes elements that are beautiful alongside elements that are malevolent. Denying that these malevolent elements are part of the faith, as the Western leaders do, is wrong. It is such denial that is unhelpful; in fact, it is self-deception.

Can the mischaracterization of the terrorists’ acts actually achieve the goal of avoiding offense to the world’s Muslims? The answer is no. Faced with the Western leaders’ statements that totally disassociate the jihadis’ acts from their religious roots, the world’s Muslims can only conclude that Western leaders do not understand their faith and have the intellectual conceit to mischaracterize it. In fact, this mischaracterization denies some of the core values that underpinned the great achievements of Islam in which Muslims take pride: the establishment a great civilization and the building of not one empire but several in the course of history.

It would be far more respectful to Muslims to acknowledge that these values (of self-sacrifice and extreme dedication aimed at spreading the faith by force) were the basis of Islam’s expansion, just as the spread of Christianity, after the Emperor Constantine established it as the state religion, was based on a similar process of imposing the faith by force. However, Christianity has since renounced these values. Christianity does not deny its past, but it has jettisoned the element of coercion. Similarly, Western leaders must not denigrate the Muslim past by denying its core values, but rather should demand that Muslims follow the same path: realize that some violent values that underpinned their civilization and glorious past are incompatible with modern morality. Western leaders should therefore demand that contemporary Muslims focus on other aspects of their faith (as Christianity has done), and totally reject imposing their religious utopian vision by the force of arms.

Western leaders cannot expect to defeat “terrorism” in their countries when they deny and evade acknowledging the roots of the jihadi phenomenon: the deep connection of the attacks to the faith. Admitting this connection will not only be more respectful to Muslims, it will also be conducive to reforms and useful to Muslim reformists, who acknowledge that the terrorists’ ideals come from within: from the houses of worship, the schools and society at large. Being truthful towards the Muslims is more respectful than denial. It will also be much more helpful, since only discarding the completely unnecessary hypocrisy regarding the roots of Islamic terror will help Muslims adopt a normal attitude towards their past: pride in its achievements, along with the necessary criticism of the archaic values that led to these achievements. Muslims should accept a post-caliphate role for themselves[2] just like all European states have reconciled themselves to post-imperial status. This is an admittedly painful process but it is an unavoidable one. The most senior Muslim religious leaders should seek a Muslim aggiornamento (a bringing up to date of the religion) along the lines of the reforms introduced by Pope John XXIII.

These messages should be delivered by Western leaders openly and insistently, in lieu of the intellectual evasion and denial practiced today. It should be emphasized that this demand is not addressed exclusively to Muslims. It is a demand that the West and Christianity have applied to themselves, and therefore have every right to demand it of the Muslim world. Only thus will the ideological base of jihad be eradicated and “terrorism” significantly decline. Needless to say, this is a long-term process, but it is nevertheless the genuine solution to the problem and the only way to produce results.

In translating this insight into concrete policies, two steps seem to be immediately necessary. First, Western leaders must cease the hypocritical denial of jihad’s deep connection to faith, and firmly and openly demand that the leaders of the Muslim world take significant steps to reform the religion. Second – and this is up to them alone – they must enact legislation to stop the jihadi use of the Internet, which has been powering the spread of jihadi ideology for over a decade. They must disregard all the corporate excuses, that this is impossible or incompatible with free speech. Free speech does not permit incitement to murder, including faith-based incitement. They should honor the international conventions against genocide and not allow the Internet companies to flout the laws of democratic countries. For a detailed strategy for purging the Internet of jihadi incitement, see MEMRI Daily Brief No. 126, An Internet Clean Of Jihadi Incitement – Not Mission Impossible, May 1, 2017.

***

Appendix: The Will of Hanadi Jaradat

The following is the transcript of the videotaped “last will and testament” of HanadiJaradat, who carried out the Maxim Restaurant suicide bombing in Haifa on October 4, 2003. The transcript was posted on the Islamic Jihad website, at http://www.qudsway.com/Links/Jehad/7/Html_Jehad7/hinadi/hinadi2/hinadi_qudsnet_003.htm

“The last will and testament of the Martyr Hanadi [Jaradat], before she set off to carry out the Haifa operation:

“In the name of Allah the Merciful and Compassionate, prayer and peace be upon the master of mankind, our master Muhammad, may Allah pray for him and give him peace:

“The Exalted One said [in the Koran]: ‘Do not consider those who died for the cause of Allah as dead, rather as alive, at their Lord sustained.’ [Koran 3:169]. Verily, Allah’s words are true.

“Dear family, whom the Lord of the world will reward as He promised us all in His Holy Book [with the words], ‘Give glad tidings to those who persevere.’ [Koran 2:155]. Indeed, Allah promised Paradise to those who persevere in all that He has brought upon them – and what a good dwelling Paradise it is.

“Therefore, reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of the reward of Allah, praised and exalted be He, to you in the Hereafter. I should not be too valuable to sacrifice myself for the religion of Allah. I have always believed in what is said in the Holy Koran, and I have been yearning for the rivers of Paradise, and I have been yearning to see the glorious light of Allah’s face. I have been yearning for all this ever since Allah bestowed guidance upon me.

“My loved ones, for whom I wish to vouchsafe [for entering Paradise] on the great Day of Judgment, I have chosen this way of my own full will, and I have striven greatly for this, until Allah bestowed martyrdom upon me, Allah willing. Martyrdom is not [given] to everyone on earth; rather, it is for those who are honored by Allah. Will you then be grieved because Allah honored me with it? Will you repay Allah with [thoughts] which He will not like, nor will I like? Reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of Allah’s reward for you in the Hereafter, and say, ‘There is no power or might save by Allah. We belong to Allah, and it is to Him that we return.’

“All of us are destined to die, and no one lives forever on this earth. However, he who is intelligent responds to Allah’s call. This is only a land of Jihad, and we live in it for Jihad, so that perhaps we will be able to remove the injustice under which we have been living in recent years.

“I know that I shall not bring back Palestine. I fully know this. However, I know that this is my duty for Allah. Believing in the principles of my faith, I respond to the call. I now inform you that, Allah willing, I shall find what Allah has promised to me and to all those who take this path – gardens which Allah promised us, in which we will live forever, Allah willing.

“Having believed in this, how do you think I can accept all the passing worldly temptations? How can I go on living on this earth when my spirit has become attached to an Omnipotent King? My entire aspiration has become to see the glorious light of Allah. It is His land and it is His religion, but they want to extinguish His light. We all know this.

“It is therefore my duty to the religion of Allah – and my obligation to Him – to defend it. I have nothing before me other than this body, which I am going to turn into slivers that will tear out the heart of everyone who has tried to uproot us from our country. Everyone who sows death for us will receive death, even though it be a small part [of what they deserve].

“We are still weak in the estimation of the powerful one. But we have our faith. Our belief makes us renew our covenant with our Lord and our land. Our war against them is a war of faith and existence, and not of borders. You know this well.

“My dear beloved father, please honor my desire and reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of Allah’s reward for you in the Hereafter.Whoever helped me to reach Paradise shall be rewarded by my vouchsafing for him [to enter Paradise]. Make me always reassured and proud of the father whose daughter I am, before my Lord and all mankind. I pray thee, dear father, by Allah’s glory, give me rest in my grave, and do naught but reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of Allah’s reward for you in the Hereafter. For Allah giveth and Allah taketh away, and we belong to Allah and to Him we all return.

“Dear mother, I wish to Allah that you will persevere, my mother, for I love you because you have always been endlessly giving. Allah willing, you shall continue to be this way. Reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of Allah’s reward for you in the Hereafter. I am going to be with Fadi, Salih, and Abd Al-Rahim and all those whom Allah has chosen to be near him. Reckon us all as sacrifices in anticipation of Allah’s reward for you in the Hereafter, and say, Allah, redeem me from my plight and reward me for my plight and give me good recompense for it.

“I ask everyone to forgive me for whatever I may have done [to offend them]. For my part, I have already forgiven everyone, and I ask of you the following: Pay 50 dinars to a dress shop in Jarash, pay 100 dinars to so-and-so in Qabatiya, and give 10 dinars [to charity] for my soul [as atonement], for I have forgotten a debt of a few piasters in Jordan and I do not remember it, and pray always for me for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness and contentment. May you always be content with me, my parents, and au revoir in the gardens of Paradise.

“Allah said, ‘Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world’s life for the Hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward’ [Koran 4:74].”

[1] According to the Hadith, this is one of the duties of the mujahid. See Rudolph Peters, Islam and Colonialism: The Doctrine of Jihad in Modern History (Religion and Society, no. 20). The Hague and New York: Mouton Publishers, 1979, pp. 11, 12, 18.

[2] Saudi reformist Turki Al-Hamad made similar arguments in an interview that aired on Rotana Khalijiyya TV on July 13-14, 2015. He said: “Take a look at any Islamist group - they are always saying that their number one goal is to reestablish the Caliphate. The Caliphate is history. It is over and done with.”

Interviewer: “It is impossible to revive it.”

Turki Al-Hamad: “Impossible. You cannot lump together a Malaysian, a Saudi, and an Egyptian, and impose a caliph upon them, giving him absolute authorities. This is impossible, but they refuse to accept it, and they live the myth of the Caliphate. I call it a myth because it will never happen. Ultimately, they will hit the brick wall of reality. A nation state is the foundation for everything. If you make it stable and prosperous, and if this state guarantees people’s rights, it can become a model state. If each state were to focus on its own affairs, the world would be a beautiful place. But if each state tries to impose its own model upon the rest of the world, disorder ensues, and Iran is an example.”

For a clip of his statements, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 5013, Saudi Author Turki Al-Hamad: Our Youth Are Brainwashed; We Must Dry Up ISIS Ideology at the Source, July 13-14, 2015.

 

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Revealed: “Last Secret” of 1967 War: Israel’s doomsday plan for nuclear weapons display

June 04, 2017

Israeli forces advance against Egyptian troops during the Six Day War

 

* How Israel planned to let off a small nuclear device in an unpopulated part of the Sinai desert, as a warning to back off should Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan be on the brink of destroying the Jewish state.

A transcript of an interview with a key Israeli organizer of the “doomsday plan” is to be published tomorrow.

I attach an article below.

 

Among other dispatches on nuclear matters:

* Why Bashar Assad doesn’t have a nuclear weapons option to use now

* Pakistan has the world’s fast growing nuclear arsenal -- and how Mossad tried to stop it (Dec. 20, 2015) -- Former CIA Station Chief: “Pakistan is not a rogue state that might go nuclear, but rather a nuclear state that might go rogue.”

* How Shimon Peres faced down the generals and pacifists to build Israel’s nuclear program (Oct. 5, 2016)

 

There is another dispatch today on the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War here:

* “For the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven”

 

ARTICLE

‘LAST SECRET’ OF 1967 WAR: ISRAEL’S DOOMSDAY PLAN FOR NUCLEAR DISPLAY

‘Last Secret’ of 1967 War: Israel’s Doomsday Plan for Nuclear Display
By William J. Broad and David E. Sanger
The New York Times
June 4, 2017

On the eve of the Arab-Israeli war, 50 years ago this week, Israeli officials raced to assemble an atomic device and developed a plan to detonate it atop a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula as a warning to Egyptian and other Arab forces, according to an interview with a key organizer of the effort that will be published Monday.

The secret contingency plan, called a “doomsday operation” by Itzhak Yaakov, the retired brigadier general who described it in the interview, would have been invoked if Israel feared it was going to lose the 1967 conflict. The demonstration blast, Israeli officials believed, would intimidate Egypt and surrounding Arab states – Syria, Iraq and Jordan – into backing off.

Israel won the war so quickly that the atomic device was never moved to Sinai. But Mr. Yaakov’s account, which sheds new light on a clash that shaped the contours of the modern Middle East conflict, reveals Israel’s early consideration of how it might use its nuclear arsenal to preserve itself.

“It’s the last secret of the 1967 war,” said Avner Cohen, a leading scholar of Israel’s nuclear history who conducted many interviews with the retired general.

Mr. Yaakov, who oversaw weapons development for the Israeli military, detailed the plan to Dr. Cohen in 1999 and 2000, years before he died in 2013 at age 87.

“Look, it was so natural,” said Mr. Yaakov, according to a transcription of a taped interview. “You’ve got an enemy, and he says he’s going to throw you to the sea. You believe him.”

“How can you stop him?” he asked. “You scare him. If you’ve got something you can scare him with, you scare him.”

Israel has never acknowledged the existence of its nuclear arsenal, in an effort to preserve “nuclear ambiguity” and forestall periodic calls for a nuclear-free Middle East. In 2001, Mr. Yaakov was arrested, at age 75, on charges that he had imperiled the country’s security by talking about the nuclear program to an Israeli reporter, Ronen Bergman, whose work was censored. At various moments, American officials, including former President Jimmy Carter long after he left office, have acknowledged the existence of the Israeli program, though they have never given details.

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington said the Israeli government would not comment on Mr. Yaakov’s role.

If the Israeli leadership had detonated the atomic device, it would have been the first nuclear explosion used for military purposes since the United States’ attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 22 years earlier.

The plan had a precedent: The United States considered the same thing during the Manhattan Project, as the program’s scientists hotly debated whether to set off a blast near Japan in an effort to scare Emperor Hirohito into a quick surrender. The military vetoed the idea, convinced that it would not be enough to end the war.

According to Mr. Yaakov, the Israeli plan was code-named Shimshon, or Samson, after the biblical hero of immense strength. Israel’s nuclear deterrence strategy has long been called the “Samson option” because Samson brought down the roof of a Philistine temple, killing his enemies and himself. Mr. Yaakov said he feared that if Israel, as a last resort, went ahead with the demonstration nuclear blast in Egyptian territory, it could have killed him and his commando team.

Dr. Cohen, a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California and the author of “Israel and the Bomb” and “The Worst-Kept Secret,” described the idea behind the atomic demonstration as giving “the prime minister an ultimate option if everything else failed.” Dr. Cohen, who was born in Israel and educated in part in the United States, has pushed the frontiers of public discourse on a fiercely hidden subject: how Israel became an unacknowledged nuclear power in the 1960s.

On Monday, the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington – where Dr. Cohen is a global fellow – is releasing on a special website a series of documents related to the atomic plan. The project maintains a digital archive of his work known as the Avner Cohen Collection. (President Trump’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of all federal funding for the center, which Congress created as a living memorial to Wilson.)

It has long been known that Israel, fearful for its existence, rushed to complete its first atomic device on the eve of the Arab-Israeli war. But the planned demonstration remained secret in a country where it is taboo to discuss even half-century-old nuclear plans, and where fears persist that Iran will eventually obtain a nuclear weapon, despite its deal with world powers.

Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president and prime minister who died last year, hinted at the plan’s existence in his memoirs. He referred to an unnamed proposal that “would have deterred the Arabs and prevented the war.”

At the time of the 1967 war, the world’s main nuclear powers were observing an accord known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty. To curb radiation hazards, it prohibited all test detonations of nuclear arms except for those conducted underground. That Israel considered an open explosion was a measure of its desperation.

“The goal,” Mr. Yaakov says on the transcribed tape, “was to create a new situation on the ground, a situation which would force the great powers to intervene, or a situation which would force the Egyptians to stop and say, ‘Wait a minute, we didn’t prepare for that.’ The objective was to change the picture.”

Dr. Cohen said he struck up a relationship with Mr. Yaakov after he published “Israel and the Bomb” in 1998. He interviewed him for hours in the summer and fall of 1999 and in early 2000, always in Hebrew and mainly in Midtown Manhattan, where the former general lived.

Those interviews paint a picture of Israel’s recognition in the early 1960s that it needed a crash program to get the bomb. In 1963, Mr. Yaakov, a freshly minted colonel with engineering degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and from Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, became the senior liaison officer between the Israel Defense Forces and the country’s civilian defense units, including the project to make an atom bomb.

As Mr. Yaakov recounted the story, in May 1967, as tensions rose with Egypt over its decision to close the Straits of Tiran between the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea, he was half a world away, visiting the RAND Corporation in California. He was suddenly summoned back to Israel. With it clear that war was imminent, Mr. Yaakov said, he initiated, drafted and promoted a plan aimed at detonating a nuclear device in the sparsely populated Eastern Sinai Desert in a display of force.

The site chosen for the proposed explosion was a mountaintop about 12 miles from an Egyptian military complex at Abu Ageila, a critical crossroads where, on June 5, Ariel Sharon commanded Israeli troops in a battle against the Egyptians. (Mr. Sharon later became prime minister, and died in 2014.)

The plan, if activated by order of the prime minister and military chief of staff, was to send a small paratrooper force to divert the Egyptian Army in the desert area so that a team could lay preparations for the atomic blast. Two large helicopters were to land, deliver the nuclear device and then create a command post in a mountain creek or canyon. If the order came to detonate, the blinding flash and mushroom cloud would have been seen throughout the Sinai and Negev Deserts, and perhaps as far away as Cairo.

It is impossible to know what the extent of any casualties might have been. That would have depended on such unknowns as the size of the weapon, the population density of the region and the direction of the wind on the day of the detonation.

Mr. Yaakov described a helicopter reconnaissance flight he made with Israel Dostrovsky, the first director general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, the civilian arm of the bomb program. The helicopter had to turn back after the pilots learned that Egyptian jets were taking off, perhaps to intercept them. “We got very close,” Mr. Yaakov recalled. “We saw the mountain, and we saw that there is a place to hide there, in some canyon.”

On the eve of the war, Mr. Yaakov said, he was filled with the same doubts that had gnawed at the American scientists during the Manhattan Project. Would the bomb explode? Would he survive the blast?

He never got to find out. Israel defeated three Arab armies, gained territory four times its original size and became the region’s foremost military power using conventional arms.

Nonetheless, Mr. Yaakov continued to lobby for an atomic demonstration to make clear the country’s new status as a nuclear power. But the idea went nowhere. “I still think to this day that we should have done it,” he told Dr. Cohen.

During a visit to Israel, a year after telling his story to Dr. Cohen in New York, where he had worked as a venture capitalist after having played a key role in the founding of Israel’s technology industry, Mr. Yaakov was arrested on charges of “high espionage” that carried a maximum penalty of life behind bars. The exact charges were a mystery, and he was put on a secret trial.

“We see this as a very sad story of a person who dedicates his life to the security of Israel and ends up caught in a huge story that gets blown out of proportion and jeopardizes his reputation, his career, his legacy, everything,” Jack Chen, one of his lawyers, told The New York Times at the time.

It turned out that the charges centered on his conversations with the Israeli reporter, whose account of the 1967 plan was censored by the military. Mr. Yaakov was found guilty of handing over secret information without authorization, the lesser of the charges against him. He was given a two-year suspended sentence.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in its obituary of Mr. Yaakov, said he had never fully recovered from his legal ordeal and, during his final days, bitterly discussed its details with fellow retired officers.

Dr. Cohen said he and Mr. Yaakov continued to get together long after the interviews and the secret trial – for instance, in a restaurant in Tel Aviv around 2009. He said he had promised Mr. Yaakov he would find the right time and the right place to make his story public. Now, he said, on the 50th anniversary of the war – with Mr. Yaakov and so many other witnesses long dead – it seemed like the right time.

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

“For the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven”

Israeli paratroopers at the Western Wall in June 1967 after it was returned to Jewish control. A few days earlier, Egypt’s Nasser had said “The Arab people want to fight. Our basic aim is the destruction of Israel.”

 

CONTENTS

1. “Israel will never again be nine miles wide”
2. “Does anyone think that there would not have been a mass slaughter?”
3. Israel was alone
4. “A nation unforgiven”
5. “Arab leaders did plan to eliminate Israel in Six-Day War” (By Ben-Dror Yemini, Yediot Ahronot)
6. “A half-century ago, Israel battled its Arab neighbors; we still feel the ramifications” (By Michael Oren, NY Daily News)
7. “Six Days and 50 Years of War” (By Bret Stephens, New York Times)

 

“ISRAEL WILL NEVER AGAIN BE NINE MILES WIDE”

[Note by Tom Gross]

Tomorrow marks the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the 1967 Six Day War – a war that some say changed the Middle East. In the run up to the anniversary, there have been a number of attempts at historical revisionism by some academics and journalists, distorting the facts in a bid to turn the Arabs into victims and Israel into an aggressor. For example, a new BBC online “backgrounder on the Six Day War” suggests that Egypt’s President Nasser had no intention of fighting Israel.

I attach three articles below which help counter these distortions. The first is by Israeli commentator Ben-Dror Yemini, who points out, citing examples, that Arab leaders announced unequivocally that their plan for Israel was annihilation. For instance Syria’s Hafez Assad declared: “Pave the Arab roads with the skulls of Jews... We are determined to saturate this earth with your (Israeli) blood, to throw you into the sea.” The second piece is by Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to Washington, who writes confidently that “Israel will never again be nine miles wide”. And the third is by Bret Stephens, who recently moved from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times to become their token non-anti-Israeli columnist, who says that “for the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven”. (All three writers are subscribers to this Middle East dispatch list.)

There are extracts first for those who don’t have time to read the articles in full.

***

* There is another dispatch on the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War here:

Revealed: “Last Secret” of 1967 War: Israel’s doomsday plan for nuclear weapons display

 

EXTRACTS

“DOES ANYONE THINK THAT THERE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A MASS SLAUGHTER?”

Ben-Dror Yemini (Yediot Ahronot, Tel Aviv):

There is a mega-narrative that exempts the Arabs from responsibility for the Six-Day War. Yet both the Arab League and the leaders of all neighboring states announced in an unequivocal manner that their plan for Israel was annihilation. Considering the fact that the Arab and Muslim world was engaged in endless massacres – which are still going on – it was pretty clear that what they were doing to themselves they would also do to Israel.

The Arab states never accepted the State of Israel’s existence, not for a moment. There was no occupation from 1949 to 1967, but a Palestinian state wasn’t established because the leaders of the Arab world didn’t want another state. They wanted Israel. In 1964 the Arab League convened in Cairo and announced: “collective Arab military preparations, when they are completed, will constitute the ultimate practical means for the final liquidation of Israel.”

In 1966, then-Syrian defense minister Hafez Assad declared: “Pave the Arab roads with the skulls of Jews... We are determined to saturate this earth with your (Israeli) blood, to throw you into the sea.”

Nine days before the war broke out, Egypt’s Nasser said: “The Arab people want to fight. Our basic aim is the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Iraqi president Abdul Rahman Arif said: “This is our chance... our goal is clear: To wipe Israel off the map.”

Two days before the war broke out, PLO leader Ahmad Shukieri said: “Whoever survives will stay in Palestine, but in my opinion, no one will remain alive.”

Does anyone think that there would not have been a mass slaughter?

 

ISRAEL WAS ALONE

Michael Oren (New York Daily News):

What did Israel and the world look like on June 4, 1967? Israel was a nation of a mere 2.7 million, many of them Holocaust survivors and refugees from Arab lands. At its narrowest, the state was nine miles wide with Arab armies on all its borders and its back to the sea. Its cities were within enemy artillery range – Syrian guns regularly shelled the villages of Galilee – and the terrorists of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Yasser Arafat’s Fatah nightly struck at civilian targets. Jerusalem was divided and Jews prohibited from visiting their holiest places, above all the Western Wall.

Economically, the country was in crisis, and internationally it was alone. China, India, Soviet Russia and its 12 satellite nations were all hostile. The U.S., though friendly, was not allied militarily with Israel. Most of its arms came from France which, just days before the war, switched sides. With the Soviets lavishly arming Egypt, Iraq and Syria, and the U.S., Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the Arabs enjoyed massive superiority over the Israel Defense Forces. Millions of Arabs were clamoring for war...

Egypt’s Nasser expelled UN peacekeeping forces from Sinai in mid-May and paraded his army back into the peninsula. Next, he closed the Straits of Tiran, cutting off Israel’s Red Sea route to Asia. Nasser’s Syrian rivals signed a mutual defense pact with him and Jordan’s King Hussein placed his army under Egyptian command.

Thanks to the Six-Day War, Israel will never again be nine miles wide, and Jerusalem will always be open to the followers of all faiths. Thanks to the Six-Day War, the Syrian civil war is raging far from the old border, a mere 10 meters from the Sea of Galilee..

 

“A NATION UNFORGIVEN”

Bret Stephens (New York Times):

In June 1967 Arab leaders declared their intention to annihilate the Jewish state, and the Jews decided they wouldn’t sit still for it. For the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven.

Unforgiven, Israel’s milder critics say, because the Six-Day War, even if justified at the time, does not justify 50 years of occupation. They argue, also, that Israel can rely on its own strength as well as international guarantees to take risks for peace. This is ahistoric nonsense…

On June 19, 1967 – nine days after the end of the war – the Israeli cabinet decided it would offer the return of territories conquered from Egypt and Syria in exchange for peace, security and recognition. The Arab League categorically rejected peace with Israel at its summit in Khartoum later that year.

In 1973 Egypt and Syria unleashed a devastating surprise attack on Israel, puncturing the myth of Israeli invulnerability.

[In 2000, and later, Israel has repeatedly offered the Palestinians a state…]

There would have been no occupation, and no settlements, if Egypt and its allies hadn’t recklessly provoked a war. Or if the “international community” hadn’t fecklessly abandoned Israel in its desperate hours. Or if Jordan hadn’t foolishly ignored Israel’s warnings to stay out of it. Or if the Arab League hadn’t arrogantly rejected the possibility of peace…

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia


ARTICLES

‘OUR GOAL IS CLEAR: TO WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE MAP’

Arab leaders did plan to eliminate Israel in Six-Day War

During the 1967 war, Israel seized Egyptian and Jordanian operational documents with clear orders to annihilate the civil population. Nevertheless, different academics are distorting the facts in a bid to turn the Arabs into victims and Israel into an aggressor. Here’s the real story.

By Ben-Dror Yemini
Yediot Ahronot
May 29, 2017

More than anything else, the Six-Day War has turned into a rewritten war. A sea of publications deal with what happened at the time. Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt, the revisionists assert, had no ability to fight Israel, and anyway, he had no intention to do so.

It’s true that he made threats. It’s true that he sent more and more divisions to Sinai. It’s true that he expelled the United Nations observers. It’s true that he incited the masses in Arab countries. It’s true that the Arab regimes rattled their sabers and prepared for war. It’s true that he closed the Straits of Tiran. It’s true that Israel was besieged from its southern side. It’s true that this was a serious violation of international law. It’s true that it was a “casus belli” (a case of war).

All that doesn’t matter, however, because there is a mega-narrative that obligates the forces of progress to exempt the Arabs from responsibility and point the accusing finger at Israel. And when there is a narrative, who needs facts? After all, according to the mega-narrative, Israel had expansionist plans, so it seized the opportunity. Different scholars are distorting the facts in a bid to turn the Arabs into victims and Israel into an aggressor.

I was a child, an elementary school student. I remember fear, a lot of fear. There were no shelters in the house I lived in. It was clear that there would be bombings, so we dug pits in the yard.

Occasionally, we are reminded of the sound of thunder from Cairo to remind us of the annihilation threats. But in fact, they were much more serious. Both the Arab League and the leaders of all neighboring states announced in an unequivocal manner that the plan was annihilation. I repeat: Annihilation. Arrogant talk? Considering the fact that the Arab and Muslim world was engaged in endless self and mutual massacres, it was pretty clear that what they were doing to themselves – and it’s still going on – they would also do to Israel.

We must remember one thing, therefore: The alternative to victory was annihilation. So excuse us for winning. Because an occupation without an annihilation is preferable to an annihilation without an occupation.

The Arab states never accepted the State of Israel’s existence, not for a moment. There was no occupation from 1949 to 1967, but a Palestinian state wasn’t established, because the leaders of the Arab world didn’t want another state. They wanted Israel. They didn’t hide their intentions for a minute.

The new stage began in 1964. On the backdrop of a conflict over the water sources, the Arab League convened in Cairo and announced: “... collective Arab military preparations, when they are completed, will constitute the ultimate practical means for the final liquidation of Israel.”

Two years went by, and then-defense minister Hafez Assad, who went on to become Syria’s president, declared: “Strike the enemy’s settlements, turn them into dust, pave the Arab roads with the skulls of Jews.” And to erase any doubt, he added: “We are determined to saturate this earth with your (Israeli) blood, to throw you into the sea.”

Nine days before the war broke out, Nasser said: “The Arab people want to fight. Our basic aim is the destruction of the State of Israel.” Two more days passed before Iraq’s president, Abdul Rahman Arif, joined the threats: “This is our chance…our goal is clear: To wipe Israel off the map.”

Two days before the war broke out, PLO founder and leader Ahmad Shukieri said: “Whoever survives will stay in Palestine, but in my opinion, no one will remain alive.” Yes, that was the atmosphere. Does anyone still seriously think that those were just declarations? Does anyone think that their intention was an enlightened occupation? Does anyone think that there would not have been a mass slaughter like the one Egypt carried out in Yemen and later on in Biafra?

In order to understand that these were not false statements, it should be noted that in a meeting held after the war between Israel’s Ambassador to London Aharon Remez and British Foreign Secretary George Brown, Remez said that Israel had seized documents of the Jordanian army on operational orders, from May 25 and 26, about two weeks before the war’s outbreak, which included orders to exterminate the civil population in the communities that were planned to be occupied as well. They believed at the time that it was indeed going to happen.

It isn’t clear, Remez said at the time, whether Hussein was aware of these orders, but they were very similar to the annihilation orders issued by the Egyptian army. This appears both in Michael Oren’s book about the Six-Day war and in Miriam Joyce’s book about Hussein’s relations with the United States and Britain, as well as in Dr. Moshe Elad’s book (“Core Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”). At first, Hussein rejected the claims about the annihilation orders out of hand, but later added: “As far as I know.”

The days passed. The threats increased. More and more forces were sent to Sinai. More Arab countries joined the war coalition. It’s unclear whether Nasser really wanted a war, Oren wrote in his book. But he and the Arab countries did everything in their power to deteriorate the situation. Nasser’s appetite kept growing, and immediately after blocking the straits, he declared: “If we managed to restore the conditions that existed before 1956 (the Straits of Tiran are blocked), God will surely help us and urge us to restore the situation that existed in 1948.”

The late Yitzhak Rabin, who served as IDF chief of staff at the time, told the government that “it will be a difficult war… There will be many losses.” He estimated that 50,000 people would be killed. And Oren, who had read almost every document that had been declassified, concluded: “The documentation shows that Israel wanted to prevent a war with all its might, and that up to the eve of the battles it tried to stop the war in every possible way – even at a heavy strategic and economic cost for the state.” These are the facts. But those who rewrite history are winning.

The political debate over the Israeli control of the territories has led to a situation in which political opinions disrupt the factual research. The political debate is important. It’s certainly legitimate. But there is no need to rewrite history to justify a political stance. It should be the other way around: Facts should influence political views. And the facts are clear and simple: The Arab states’ leaders did not only settle for declarations on an expected annihilation, they even prepared operational orders.

 

THE WAR THAT MADE THE MIDEAST

The war that made the Mideast: A half-century ago, Israel battled its Arab neighbors; we still feel the ramifications
By Michael Oren
New York Daily News
May 28, 2017

At midnight, June 11, 1967, a battle-blackened Israeli soldier stood on Mount Hermon and looked out across an unrecognizably altered Middle East.

Around him, the Golan Heights, once a Syrian redoubt, was entirely in Israeli hands, as was the formerly-Jordanian West Bank further south. From Egypt, the entire Sinai Peninsula had been seized along with the Gaza Strip. Other Israeli soldiers were swimming in the Suez Canal and, for the first time in millennia, raising the Star of David over a united Jerusalem. Most astonishingly, these transformations took place over a mere six days, marking one of history’s most brilliant – and controversial – campaigns.

All wars in history inevitably become wars of history. No sooner do the guns grow silent then the debate begins over whether the war was justified and its outcome positive. The arguments surrounding the Civil War, for example, or even World War II, fill volumes.

But few wars in history have proved as contentious as the Six-Day War. On American campuses, students and faculty members still lock horns on the question of Israel’s right to Judea and Samaria – the West Bank’s biblical names – and the Palestinians’ demand for statehood in those areas. U.S. policy-makers, meanwhile, devote countless hours to resolving the war’s consequences diplomatically. Obsessively, it seems, the media focuses on the realities created by those six fateful days.

And never have the disputes surrounding the Six-Day War been bitterer than now, on its 50th anniversary. The battle lines are clearly drawn. On the one side are those who insist that the Arabs never threatened Israel seriously enough to provoke her territorial expansion. The war resulted in the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the building of Israeli settlements. Rather than a victory, the war transformed Israel into colonial, apartheid state.

The other interpretation maintains that Israel had no choice but to fight and that this defensive war provided the state with secure borders, vital alliances, peace treaties and a renewed sense of purpose.

To decide this war of history, one has to return to the eve of the Six-Day War, to June 4, 1967. What did Israel look like then, and how did the region – and the world – appear to its leaders? What were the circumstances leading up the struggle and what was the value, if any, of its results?

Israel in 1967 was a nation of a mere 2.7 million, many of them Holocaust survivors and refugees from Arab lands. At its narrowest, the state was nine miles wide with Arab armies on all its borders and its back to the sea.

Its cities were within enemy artillery range – Syrian guns regularly shelled the villages of Galilee – and the terrorists of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Yasser Arafat’s al-Fatah nightly struck at civilian targets.

Jerusalem was divided and Jews prohibited from visiting their holiest places, above all the Western Wall.

Economically, the country was in crisis, and internationally it was alone. China, India, Soviet Russia and its 12 satellite nations were all hostile. The United States, though friendly, was not allied militarily with Israel. Most of its arms came from France which, just days before the war, switched sides.

The Arabs, by contrast, were jubilant. With the Soviets lavishly arming Egypt, Iraq and Syria, and the U.S., Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they enjoyed massive superiority over the Israel Defense Forces.

Under the leadership of Egypt’s charismatic president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Arabs rallied around a sense of national – as opposed to religious – identity, the centerpiece of which was rejection of Israel. The humiliating failure to prevent Israel’s emergence 19 years earlier and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem sent millions of Arabs clamoring for war.

Though Nasser almost certainly did not want bloodshed, he nevertheless saw an opportunity to bolster his power. In mid-May, he expelled UN peacekeeping forces from Sinai and paraded his army back into the peninsula. Next, he closed the Straits of Tiran, cutting off Israel’s Red Sea route to Asia.

These moves further incited Arab opinion to the point where Nasser’s Syrian rivals signed a mutual defense pact with him and even his arch-enemy, Jordan’s King Hussein, placed his army under Egyptian command. PLO Chairman Ahmad Shuqayri predicted Israel’s “complete destruction.” Cairo Radio welcomed “Israel’s death and annihilation.”

Isolated, surrounded, Israelis believed they faced an existential threat. Many remembered the 1948 War of Independence in which Arab forces besieged Jerusalem and nearly conquered Tel Aviv, killing 1% of the population.

Consequently, the government distributed gas masks and dug some 10,000 graves but assumed they would not suffice. The army called up reserves, paralyzing the country’s economy.

“The people of Israel are ready to wage a just war,” General Ariel Sharon berated Prime Minster Levi Eshkol. “The question is . . . the existence of Israel.” Still, agonizingly, Israelis waited, hoping for help from overseas.

None came. U.S. President Lyndon Johnson suggested sending an international flotilla to break the Tiran blockade, but no country would volunteer ships and even Congress opposed the idea. Through back channels, Israeli leaders secretly urged Arab rulers not to begin a war that nobody wanted. Their appeals went unanswered.

So the decision was made to pre-emptively strike. Even then, the goals were limited: neutralize Egypt’s air force and the first of three offensive lines in Sinai. No sooner did Israeli warplanes begin destroying Egyptian jets on the ground, though, then Jordanian troops advanced toward West (Jewish) Jerusalem and their artillery pounded the city as well as the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

The Syrians rained thousands of shells onto the Galilee. In response, Israeli forces entered the West Bank and mounted the Golan Heights.

Still, at every stage in the fighting, Israeli leaders hesitated.

On the morning of June 7, as IDF paratroopers prepared to enter Jerusalem’s Old City, Eshkol wrote to King Hussein offering to forgo liberating the Western Wall if Jordan agreed to peace talks. Again, the answer was silence.

A month after the war, Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem, but it also offered to return almost all of land captured from Syria and Egypt in exchange for peace.

The Arabs responded with “the three noes”: no negotiations, no recognition, no peace. Nevertheless, that November, the United Nations passed Resolution 242, affirming the right of all Middle Eastern states to “secure and recognized borders” and establishing the principle of “territory-for-peace.”

That concept served as the basis for Israel’s 1979 peace agreement with Egypt which, in turn, enabled the Israel-Jordan treaty of 1994. The peace process, as it came to be known, is a product of the Six-Day War.

So, too, is the U.S.-Israel strategic alliance. The war awakened the White House to the existence of a democratic, pro-American, Middle Eastern powerhouse that had just defeated several Soviet-backed armies. Today, America’s military and intelligence relationship with Israel is deeper and more multi-faceted than with any other foreign state.

The war also galvanized Jewish identity. The reuniting of the State of Israel with the Land of Israel – Haifa is not in the Bible, but Hebron, Jericho and Bethlehem are – made the country much more Jewish. The war also enabled American Jews “to walk with our backs straight,” and their organizations became proudly pro-Israel.

For Soviet Jews, especially, who could be sentenced to prison merely for studying Hebrew, the war served as a source of inspiration and courage. After playing a key role in bringing down the USSR, nearly a million of these Jews would immigrate to Israel and help transform it into the world’s most innovative nation.

Thanks to the Six-Day War, Israel will never again be nine miles wide, and Jerusalem will always be open to the followers of all faiths. Thanks to the Six-Day War, the Syrian civil war is raging far from the old border, a mere 10 meters from the Sea of Galilee.

Due in part to its display of strength in 1967, Israel today has flourishing ties with China, India and the former Soviet Bloc countries. Though unthinkable a half-century ago, the Sunni Arab states now view Israel not as an enemy but as an ally in the struggle against ISIS and Iran.

But what about the occupation of Palestinians? What about the settlements and the damage they inflict on Israel’s image?

“I am deeply pained by the occupation,” said Minneapolis Rabbi Michael Adam Latz. “It’s a moral wound to the Jewish people.”

Writing in Haaretz, Steven Klein lamented, “The Six Day War shifted ... Israel from the unapologetic David to being Israel the apologetic Goliath.”

For the Palestinians who consider the war al-Naksa – the Setback – 1967 inaugurated a period of profound humiliation and a sense of abandonment.

There can no gainsaying the erosion of Israel’s standing, particularly among liberal groups, resulting from the lack of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. The settlement policy frequently draws fire.

But the Palestinians have been offered a state – in 2000 and 2008 – only to turn it down, and all of the settlements account for only 2% of the West Bank. Paradoxical as it might sound, and without diminishing their trauma, the Palestinians were fundamentally transformed by the Six-Day War.

Before the war, with Jordan in possession of the West Bank and Egypt occupying Gaza, nobody spoke about a Palestinian state or even about the Palestinians at all. But then, for the first time since 1948, the three major centers of Palestinian population – in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel – were brought together under a single country’s governance (Israel’s).

The result was a tremendous reinforcement of the Palestinians’ identity, rooted in the realization that they could no longer look to Nasser or any other Arab leader to fight for their cause.

Not accidentally, shortly after 1967, the PLO merged with al-Fatah under Arafat and launched high-profile terrorist attacks. Seven years later, that same Arafat received a standing ovation in the UN General Assembly. The Six-Day War put the Palestinian issue on the international political map.

For Israelis, though, the ultimate legacy of the Six-Day War is the belief that the “swift sword” with which they defeated their enemies could someday be beaten into plowshares. Wars in history do indeed become wars of history, but they can also result in reconciliation. Gazing from Mount Hermon 50 years ago, the Israeli soldier could glimpse a scorched and still-dangerous landscape, but one that nevertheless held the possibility of peace.

 

“AHISTORIC NONSENSE”

Six Days and 50 Years of War
By Bret Stephens
New York Times
June 2, 2017

In June 1967 Arab leaders declared their intention to annihilate the Jewish state, and the Jews decided they wouldn’t sit still for it. For the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven.

Unforgiven, Israel’s milder critics say, because the Six-Day War, even if justified at the time, does not justify 50 years of occupation. They argue, also, that Israel can rely on its own strength as well as international guarantees to take risks for peace.

This is ahistoric nonsense.

On June 4, 1967, the day before the war, Israel faced the fact that United Nations peacekeepers in Sinai, intended as a buffer with Egypt, had been withdrawn at Cairo’s insistence; that France, hitherto Israel’s ally, had imposed an arms embargo on it; and that Lyndon Johnson had failed to deliver on previous American assurances to break any Egyptian blockade of the Israeli port of Eilat.

On June 5, the first day of the war, the Israeli government used three separate diplomatic channels to warn Jordan – then occupying the West Bank – not to initiate hostilities. The Jordanians ignored the warning and opened fire with planes and artillery. Some 6,000 shells landed on the western side of Jerusalem alone.

On June 19, 1967 – nine days after the end of the war – the Israeli cabinet decided it would offer the return of territories conquered from Egypt and Syria in exchange for peace, security and recognition. The Arab League categorically rejected peace with Israel at its summit in Khartoum later that year.

In 1973 Egypt and Syria unleashed a devastating surprise attack on Israel, puncturing the myth of Israeli invulnerability.

It took a decade after 1967 for the Egyptian government of Anwar Sadat finally to accept Israel’s legitimacy. When he did he recovered every inch of Sinai – from Menachem Begin, Israel’s right-wing prime minister. Syria remains unreconciled.

It took another decade for Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization to recognize Israel and formally forswear terrorism. But its pledges were insincere. Only after the Soviet Union’s collapse and Arafat’s disastrous support for Saddam Hussein in the gulf war did the P.L.O. finally seem to get serious. It led to the Oslo Accords of 1993 and further Israeli withdrawals.

In 2000, at Camp David, Israel offered Arafat a state. He rejected it. “I regret that in 2000 he missed the opportunity to bring that nation” – Palestine – “into being,” was Bill Clinton’s bitter verdict on the summit’s outcome. Within two years Arafat was calling on a million “martyrs” to march on Jerusalem.

In 2005, another right-wing Israeli government removed its soldiers, settlers and settlements from the Gaza Strip. Two years later Hamas seized control of the territory and used it to start three wars in seven years.

In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered a Palestinian state in Gaza and 93 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinians rejected the proposal out of hand.

This is a truncated history. Israel is not a nation of saints and has made its mistakes. The most serious of those is proliferation of West Bank settlements beyond those in historically recognized blocs.

But before we fall prey to the lazy trope of “50 years of occupation,” inevitably used to indict Israel, let’s note the following:

There would have been no occupation, and no settlements, if Egypt and its allies hadn’t recklessly provoked a war. Or if the “international community” hadn’t fecklessly abandoned Israel in its desperate hours. Or if Jordan hadn’t foolishly ignored Israel’s warnings to stay out of it. Or if the Arab League hadn’t arrogantly rejected the possibility of peace.

A Palestinian state would most likely exist if Arafat hadn’t adopted terrorism as the calling card of Palestinian aspirations. Or if he hadn’t rejected the offer of a state 17 years ago. Or if he hadn’t renounced his renunciation of terror.

A Palestinian state would also most likely exist if Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas – now in the 13th year of his elected four-year term – hadn’t rejected it again nine years ago, and if Gazans hadn’t turned their territory into a terrifying model of Palestinian statehood, and if the United Nations didn’t treat Hamas’s attacks on Israel as a nuisance but Israel’s self-defense as a crime against humanity.

The cover of a recent issue of The Economist purports to answer the question “Why Israel Needs a Palestinian State.” The argument isn’t wrong. It just isn’t wise.

Israel needs a Palestinian state to safeguard its democratic future – in the long term. But the character of such a state matters at least as much as its mere existence. The Middle East doesn’t need another failed state in its midst. Israel doesn’t need another Hamastan on its border. Palestinians in the West Bank don’t need it over their heads.

In 1967 Israel was forced into a war against enemies who then begrudged it the peace. Egypt, at least, found its Sadat. The drama of the Six-Day War will close when Palestinians find theirs.

Norway, Denmark, UN, push back after PA pays over $1bn to terrorists (& “Love is Great. Britain”)

June 01, 2017

“Wonder Woman” – banned in Lebanon because she is played by an Israeli actress, but the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman say they will show the new film.

 

CONTENTS

1. Norway, Denmark, the UN, push back against Palestinian praise of terrorism
2. Lebanon bans Wonder Woman
3. “Love is Great. Britain.”
4. To sign or not to sign?
5. “Denmark reexamining donations to Palestinian NGOs” (By Barak Ravid, Haaretz, May 31, 2017)
6. Open letter to Danish Foreign minister (NGO Monitor)
7. “Wondering about Lebanon’s Ban on Wonder Woman?” (By Colby Cyrus, Arab American, May 31, 2017)
8. “Wave of cancellations hits Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival due to BDS pressure” (By Itay Stern, Haaretz, May 30, 2017)
9. “Britain’s first gay envoy to Israel to host family float at Tel Aviv Pride Parade” (By Danna Harman, Haaretz, May 29, 2017)
10. “What Trump not signing a Jerusalem embassy waiver would really mean” (By Eugene Kontorovich, Washington Post, May 30, 2017)
11. “Campus muzzling leaves a mark” (By Richard Cohen, Washington Post, May 30, 2017)
12. “Manchester bombing highlights UN hypocrisy on terror” (By Michael Rubin, Washington Examiner, May 23, 2017)

 

NORWAY, DENMARK, THE UN, PUSH BACK AGAINST PALESTINIAN PRAISE OF TERRORISM

[Notes by Tom Gross]

I attach several articles below on a variety of subjects.

The first, from Haaretz, reports that Denmark looks set to follow Norway’s decision last week, and suspend its substantial funding for Palestinian Authority-controlled NGOs. (Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has paid over one billions dollars to Palestinian terrorists and their families as rewards over the past four years through its NGOs and other means, much of it using diverted international aid money.)

Since Donald Trump became U.S. president and Antonio Guterres became secretary-general of the United Nations, the West has shown significantly less tolerance for the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of and funding for terrorism.

On Sunday, the UN joined Norway in denouncing the naming of a Palestinian women’s center in the West Bank (fully paid for with Norwegian government funds) after Dalal Mughrabi, a female PLO terrorist who led the 1978 “Coastal Road massacre” that killed 38 Israelis (including 13 children) and tourists and wounded many others.

On Friday, Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende asked the PA to repay money Norway provided for the center.

And the UN has now asked for the UN Women logo to be removed from the Dalal Mughrabi center.

“The glorification of terrorism or the perpetrators of heinous terrorist acts is unacceptable under any circumstances,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement. “The UN has repeatedly called for an end to incitement to violence and hatred as they present one of the obstacles to peace.”

President Trump made similar remarks standing alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem last week. The language and forceful diplomacy by both Trump and Guterres brings a marked change to their predecessors who took much more anti-Israel positions and who effectively turned a blind eye to the Palestinian Authority encouragement of terrorism against Israelis.

In the article below, Haaretz, which often exhibits a left-wing spin it its news reports, suggests that Denmark’s decision is based on the Palestinian NGOs support for BDS, but in fact it is because Danish funds (and that of many other European countries) are being used by the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Authority-controlled NGOs to advocate the murder of Israelis, including suicide bombing.

After Haaretz’s report from yesterday I attach a letter to the Danish Foreign Minister from Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor from ten days earlier.

 

LEBANON BANS WONDER WOMAN

The new worldwide hit feature film Wonder Woman, has been withdrawn from movie theatres in Lebanon just two hours before 15 Lebanese theatres were due to air it, because the leading role is played by an Israeli actress, Gal Gadot.

The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman say they will screen Wonder Woman. Gadot’s most recent picture, last year’s film Batman v. Superman, and two other recent films Gadot was in, were shown in Lebanon, though Gadot was not the lead actress in them.

I attach a commentary about this from “Arab America” a “national website founded with the purpose of promoting an accurate image about the four million strong Arab American community and the Arab world” to non-Arab Americans.

 

“LOVE IS GREAT. BRITAIN.”

Next there are two articles below concerning Tel Aviv’s upcoming gay pride week, one of the biggest events on the world wide gay calendar.

It is reported that “a wave of cancellations” has hit the Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival (which starts today) due to pressure from the BDS movement that advocates boycotting, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel.

It is ironic that just about the only sphere in which BDS seems to be getting any traction is against the country’s LGBT community, when Israel has in many respects the most progressive environment for LGBT people in the world, whereas Israel’s detractors elsewhere in the Middle East discriminate against gays and sometimes murder them.

Many of the Israeli films the Western anti-Israel activists will be boycotting advocate exactly the kind of left wing and progressive positions and viewpoints they support.

In a separate article below, British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey and his husband Aldo Oliver Henrique have announced on the British Embassy Facebook page that “on June 9 this year we will be celebrating diversity and inclusion,” by appearing on and helping to sponsor the family-friendly float at the Tel Aviv gay pride parade.

Among the slogans that will reportedly be used on the float is “Love is Great. Britain.”

Quarrey, who is a subscriber to this Middle East dispatch list, will host an event for speakers in the LGBT high-tech community at his residence during pride week, in collaboration with LGBTech and Lesbians Who Tech.

***

Among related dispatches:

* Tel Aviv voted world’s best gay city (January 12, 2012)

* Omar Sharif Jr. comes out -- twice: “I’m gay and I’m Jewish” (March 27, 2012)

* Gay grandson of Hamas founder granted political asylum in U.S. (June 8, 2016)

* “My ten months with Isis” (& thrown from the rooftops) (March 1, 2015)

 

TO SIGN OR NOT TO SIGN?

Then I attach a commentary from the Washington Post explaining the political and legal ramifications of President Donald Trump signing or not signing a Jerusalem embassy waiver, when the waiver signed last year by President Barack Obama pursuant to the Jerusalem Embassy Act, expires today. (Update: Trump has now signed the waiver today meaning the US embassy in Israel will remain in Tel Aviv for at least another six months. Congress in 1995 mandated the embassy be moved to Jerusalem. But Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama all signed repeated six-month waivers postponing the move, citing national security reasons.)

After that, a piece by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen about the issue of campus free speech in America and how his friend Allison Stanger remains in poor health after she was assaulted by “progressive” students at Middlebury College.

Finally there is an important piece by Michael Rubin (also a subscriber to this list) in The Washington Examiner on how last week’s Manchester suicide bombing highlights UN hypocrisy on terrorism.

When children were attacked by suicide bombers with vests packed with bolts and nails in Israel 15 years ago, the UN Human Rights Commission, under the leadership of former Irish President Mary Robinson and with the support of dozens of European diplomats and academics, not only excused such attacks but effectively encouraged them, by voting that Palestinians could engage “all available means, including armed struggle” against Israel.

(As I pointed out in this article , when in 2001, UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson was shot at as she toured Hebron, practically the entire world rushed to blame Israel even though she had been shot at by gunmen for Fatah, the armed wing of the Palestinian Authority.)


ARTICLES

DENMARK REEXAMINING DONATIONS TO PALESTINIAN NGOS

Denmark reexamining donations to Palestinian NGOs
Netanyahu had asked visiting Danish foreign minister to look into funding of NGOs involved with BDS
By Barak Ravid
Haaretz
May 31, 2017

The Danish Foreign Ministry has begun a comprehensive examination of its donations to non-governmental organizations in the Palestinian Authority, according to a statement from the office of Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen.

The decision was taken, among other reasons, due to pressure from Israel, and according to the statement, was ordered by the foreign minister last week.

On May 15, Samuelsen visited Jerusalem and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Danish and Israeli diplomats noted that during their meeting Netanyahu asked Samuelsen to cut Danish funding for Palestinian organizations and NGOs involved in inciting against Israel and promoting boycott, divestment and sanction measures against it.

Netanyahu even forwarded a list of Palestinian and Israeli organizations receiving Danish funding to the foreign minister and which Israel claims are involved with BDS efforts.

“We must be sure that Danish aid helps to advance human rights in the Palestinian territories in a positive manner,” the statement said.

“It is possible that in wake of the examination we will be forced to stop our support of a number of Palestinian organizations. Until this examination is complete we won’t sign any new grants for Palestinian organizations.”

 

OPEN LETTER TO DANISH FOREIGN MINISTER

Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg
President, NGO Monitor
The Kingdom of Denmark
May 21, 2017

http://www.ngo-monitor.org/nm/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Open_Letter_Danish_FM_May2017.pdf

Mr. Anders Samuelsen
Foreign Minister
The Kingdom of Denmark
May 21, 2017

Jerusalem, Israel

Open letter: Danish funding to organizations that incite to violence, justify terror and have alleged ties to terror organizations

Dear Mr. Samuelsen, During your official visit to Israel (Wednesday, May 17), Channel 10 journalist Nadav Eyal raised in an interview the issue of Danish funding to Palestinian NGOs. You responded: “…But if any of these organizations crossed a line... if a leader of one of these organizations for example publicly announced that they want to get rid of all Jews, or kill all Jews, anything like that, of course we will immediately close down the support… If you end up in a way where you have an aggressive rhetoric, wanting to kill people or do illegal things, then of course we will immediately close down the support…”

In light of your remarks, we would like to draw your attention to current Danish funding (through the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat [IHL Secretariat]) to the Palestinian organization Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC – core funding, $710,000). WCLAC fieldworker Manal Tamimi tweeted (August 1, 2015), “I do hate Israel ,i (sic) wish a thrid Intefada (sic) coming soon and people rais (sic) up and kills all these zionist settlers everywhere.” In September 2015, on Yom Kippur (a fast day and the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar), Tamimi tweeted: “Vampire zionist celebrating their Kebore day by drinking Palestinian bloods, yes our blood is pure & delicious but it will kill u at the end.”

Far from condemning her actions, WCLAC filed a complaint to the United Nations over the “Frequent targeting of Palestinian human rights defender: Mrs. Manal Tamimi.” This is not the only instance of Danish funding to organizations that promote violent and aggressive rhetoric. Palestinian NGO Addameer, which received $325,000 in IHL Secretariat core funding, is an official “affiliate” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), designated a terrorist organization by the US, EU, Canada, and Israel. The PFLP is involved in suicide bombings, hijackings, and assassinations, among other terrorist activities targeting civilians. Chairperson and co-founder of Addameer, Abdul-latif Ghaith, was banned by Israel from travelling internationally due to his alleged membership in the PFLP. During your visit in Ramallah last week you signed on behalf of the Danish government on a new funding cycle to the IHL Secretariat. In light of the above, will these organizations be amongst grantees in the new funding cycle? We look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,
Prof. Gerald M Steinberg President

Olga Deutsch Europe Desk Director

CC: H.E. Jesper Vahr, Danish Ambassador to Israel.

NGO Monitor
Jerusalem

 

WONDERING ABOUT LEBANON’S BAN ON “WONDER WOMAN”?

Wondering about Lebanon’s Ban on “Wonder Woman”?
By Colby Cyrus
Arab American
May 31, 2017

http://www.arabamerica.com/wondering-lebanons-ban-wonder-woman/

The current feature film Wonder Woman, a recent addition to most theaters across the world, has been almost unanimously praised. The key word is “almost”, due to Lebanon’s rather particular opinion on the new blockbuster.

Citing the Israeli background of lead actress Gal Gadot, Lebanon seeks to ban the major motion picture from receiving showtime in its cinemas, a number of international news outlets report. According to the Washington Post, the official process of a ban would require a formal action by the Lebanese Ministry of Economy, which has not yet begun to officially consider the matter.

Gadot, the lead actress, is an Israeli army veteran and a well-known supporter of Israel’s policies towards the Gaza Strip. Lebanon and Israel share a great deal of animosity, making her lead role more and more controversial.

The two nations are officially at war, Al Jazeera notes, which includes a Lebanese boycott of Israeli products and a restriction on Lebanese citizens traveling to Israel or having contact with its people.

Despite Lebanon’s skepticism, other local powers have not seemed to take issue with the movie. It will soon reach the big screen in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman. Gadot’s most recent picture, Batman v. Superman, was permitted across Lebanon, although the 2016 rendition did not feature Gadot in a lead role.

The film has also raised eyebrows in the Middle East very recently. Last year, Wonder Woman was chosen as an honorary United Nations Ambassador for gender equality. The designation did not last long, as the United Nations ultimately revoked the honor two months after granting it to the renowned heroine.

In regards to the ban, the United Kingdom news outlet Independent reports that the Ministry of Economy is looking to take “all necessary measures” to ensure that the film does not reach Lebanese theaters, yet posters and other forms of advertising have already made their way to the streets of Beirut. Tens of thousands of people have signed the online petition opposing the screening.

Antipathy between the two nations is nothing new: they have been engaged in war for decades, stemming from a variety of political, military, and cultural diversions. Interestingly, the film in question has nothing to do with Israel or any inherent political issues. Yet the simple affiliation between the lead actress and the state of Israel proves enough to cause apprehension.

The Washington Post points out that Lebanon, while enjoying some of the freest speech in the region, still has a tendency to censor materials related to religion, homosexuality, and Israeli matters.

The issue as a whole begs the question of the relationship between cultural expression and political belief. Wonder Woman is not the first film to suffer this fate in Lebanon. Recently, the Egyptian picture Mawlana and the Lebanese film Beach House were turned down entirely, although both were permitted in Egypt.

Does the recent rejection of a major motion picture, acclaimed worldwide for its illustrious hero, illustrate more than just an ongoing dispute with Israel? Looking beyond the film, the controversy exemplifies an ongoing disruption of free speech in Lebanon, despite its advanced approach to the issue in comparison to its regional neighbors.

The mélange of politics and expression in Lebanon is nothing new, and is unlikely to change in the near future without any kind of accord with Israel. Until then, we can expect the recent past to repeat itself: that is to say, culture will continue on as an echo of regional politics.

 

WAVE OF CANCELLATIONS HITS TEL AVIV LGBT FILM FESTIVAL DUE TO BDS PRESSURE

Wave of cancellations hits Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival Due to BDS Pressure
Following South African director John Trengove’s withdrawal over the weekend, other overseas guests have dropped out of the event running from June 1-10
By Itay Stern
Haaretz
May 30, 2017

Pressure from the BDS movement that advocates boycotting, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel has led at least four overseas guests to cancel their attendance at TLVFest, the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival. The festival is scheduled to open on Thursday and run through June 10.

Following the announcement over the weekend by South African director John Trengrove that he was pulling out in support of the cultural boycott of Israel, he has now been joined by others. They are Canadian-Pakistani screenwriter and actor Fawzia Mirza, whose film “Signature Move” will be shown at the festival; Nadia Ibrahim, a Palestinian living in Denmark who was to serve as a member of the festival jury and appear on a panel; and Swiss actor Jasna Fritzi Bauer.

In addition, the writer, director and actor Helene Hegemann said she would not be coming due to a scheduling conflict.

Pinkwatching Israel, which is an arm of the BDS movement, wants to promote a cultural boycott of Israel because of so-called “pinkwashing” – displaying openness toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for the purpose of concealing more serious injustices. There are several posts on the movement’s Facebook page calling on guests to refrain from attending the festival, with the claim that their participation contributes to a continued normalization of Israel and the occupation.

Haaretz has received information to the effect that the festival has been significantly harmed by the wave of cancellations, since some of the guests were supposed to conduct closed artist workshops, for which the festival was granted sponsorships by commercial entities. Now these sponsors are also about to cancel their grants to the festival, which traditionally has to fight for its annual budget.

Festival Director Yair Hochner said this was not the first time he has confronted politically motivated cancellations, but added he has never seen a wave of such dimensions.

“It’s very harmful,” he said. “We work hard to promote messages that the government doesn’t promote, and then they come and tell you you’re part of the policy of oppression. We’re trying to do exactly the opposite. This decision was made by the guests, we’re continuing as usual.”

Hochner noted that Trengrove, whose film, “The Wound,” is scheduled to open the festival and who was the first to cancel, is in Israel after receiving funding from the festival for his stay.

“We paid a very generous sum for this film and his agency will never return it to us, so the screening can’t be canceled,” he said, adding that he is calling on the audience to come and see the film.

“I think that just as in Israel we don’t boycott films by Ken Loach or Emma Thompson, who openly support BDS, there’s no reason to boycott this important film, which tells a story with which we’re not familiar. In my opinion, that’s the significance of a film festival – to bridge gaps and different points of view.”

Hochner said he suggested to Trengrove that he attend the festival and speak at it. “We’re not in a dictatorship, yet. I wanted him to come and deliver some message that suits him, but he refused. He decided not to treat us like culture-loving people who are interested in dialogue,” said Hochner.

 

BRITAIN’S FIRST GAY ENVOY TO ISRAEL TO HOST FAMILY FLOAT AT TEL AVIV PRIDE PARADE

Britain’s first gay envoy to Israel to host family float at Tel Aviv Pride Parade
By Danna Harman
May 29, 2017
Haaretz

When this year’s Tel Aviv pride parade gets going two weekends from now, there will be a new sign-of -the-times addition: the family-friendly float, courtesy of the British Embassy in Israel.

With an ever-growing number of gay couples and singles in Israel – and in other countries around the world – starting families, it was only natural that the kiddos were finally and officially invited to the party. They will join the festivities 19 years after the gay community here held its first ever pride parade through Tel Aviv’s streets.

The force behind the float and the overall campaign calling on gay families to join in the fun is British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey, the first openly gay envoy to this country. Quarrey, along with his husband Aldo Oliver Henrique, is featured in a just-released video to introduce the family float and family theme to this year’s gay pride parade.

“This year on the 9th of June we will be celebrating diversity and inclusion,” says Quarrey in the upbeat video, which is filled with all stripes of gay couples and singles, bopping along to peppy music with cute kids or dogs or just alone in front of brightly colored backgrounds. “We are particularly focusing on LGBT families and would like you to march with us in our family-friendly float,” continues his husband Henrique. “We really hope we will see you there!” they conclude before the tag line – “Love is Great. Britain” – flashes on the screen.

The float is being sponsored by Dan Hotels chain in Israel.

According to designer Idan Ramon and parade organizers, the float, which is fashioned to look like a big ship, will be easy to mount, and the music it will boom out will be “family friendly.” It will also be the last float in the parade, presumably so it can keep a safe distance from the arguably less family-friendly celebrations being planned for out front.

In addition to initiating and riding on the float, Quarrey will host an event for speakers in the LGBT high-tech community at his residence during pride week, in collaboration with LGBTech and Lesbians Who Tech.

 

WHAT TRUMP NOT SIGNING A JERUSALEM EMBASSY WAIVER WOULD REALLY MEAN

What Trump not signing a Jerusalem embassy waiver would really mean
By Eugene Kontorovich
Washington Post
May 30, 2017

On Thursday, President Barack Obama’s last waiver pursuant to the Jerusalem Embassy Act will expire. Absent a new waiver by President Trump, the provisions of the law will go into full effect. Trump promised during his campaign to move the embassy, a policy embodied both in federal law and the Republican Party platform. But since he came into office, Trump’s promise seems to have lost some momentum.

This piece will examine the mechanics of the Embassy Act waiver – it is not actually a waiver on moving the embassy. The details of the law make it a particularly convenient way for Trump to defy now-lowered expectations and not issue a waiver on June 1.

First, some context. Many commentators have sought to cast a possible Trump waiver as proof that Obama’s Israeli policy is really the only possible game in town. But whether or not a waiver is issued, Trump has succeeded in fundamentally changing the discussion about the U.S.-Israel relationship. Waivers under the 1995 act come twice a year, and for the past two decades, they have hardly warranted a news item. Under the Bush and Obama administrations, they were entirely taken for granted.

Now everyone is holding his or her breath to see whether Trump will sign the waiver. If he does, it will certainly be a disappointment to his supporters. But if he does not, it is not the end of the show – he will have seven more waivers ahead, with mounting pressure as his term progresses. Under Obama, speculation focused on what actions he would take or allow against Israel (and even these waited until very late in his second term).

***

The waiver available to the president under the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 does not waive the obligation to move the embassy. That policy has been fully adopted by Congress in the Act (sec. 3(a)(3)) and is not waivable. Of course, Congress cannot simply order the president to implement such a move, especially given his core constitutional power over diplomatic relations.

But Congress, having total power over the spending of taxpayer dollars, does not have to pay for an embassy in Tel Aviv. The Act’s enforcement mechanism is to suspend half of the appropriated funds for the State Department’s “Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad” until the law’s terms are complied with. The waiver provision simply allows the president to waive the financial penalty.

What this means is that by not signing a waiver, Trump would not actually be requiring the embassy to move to Jerusalem, moving the embassy or recognizing Jerusalem. That could give him significant diplomatic flexibility or deniability if June 1 goes by with mere silence from the White House.

Moreover, the law says nothing about “moving” the embassy. Rather, the requirement is to “officially open” an embassy, which can be done with a mere declaration upgrading the status of one of the existing consular facilities in the city. It does not require the physical relocation of the facility in Tel Aviv.

Non-waiver would be a wise tactical move for Trump. If he signs a waiver, he is certain to face deep pushback from his base at a time he needs its support the most. The only grounds that the statute allows for waiver are “national security interests.” Trump can expect congressional hearings seeking to determine whether the waiver was in fact motivated by national security or, as many reports suggest, by the diplomatic pleas of King Hussein.

But if Trump simply does nothing, he gets a clear and easy win on a campaign plank at a time when his agenda seems to have gotten bogged down. Unlike ending Obamacare or restricting immigration, for example, non-waiver does not require (additional) congressional buy-in, staff work, judicial assent or anything.

On the other hand, Trump has faced deep opposition to many of his policies from State Department staffers. (They are particularly unhappy about planned budget cuts.) Foggy Bottom has apparently been pushing against Trump carrying out his campaign promise regarding the embassy.

But the moment June 2 comes without a waiver, the State Department will become Trump’s biggest ally in finding a way to “establish[]” an embassy as fast as possible to avoid the severe spending cuts. At the same time, Trump can insist to the world that his non-waiver does not signify any kind of diplomatic policy, but merely a determination that the waiver is no longer “necessary” to protect national security.

In short, Trump can use the mechanics of the law to tie the hands of a recalcitrant bureaucracy while claiming deniability on diplomatic matters (just as the Obama administration said its non-veto of Security Council Resolution 2334 against Israel does not mean it supports the resolution).

As I explained in the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages last week, the national security argument for the waiver “has been undermined by the massive changes in the region since 1995.”

I wrote there:

“While the Palestinian issue was once at the forefront of Arab politics, today Israel’s neighbors are preoccupied with a nuclear Iran and radical Islamic groups. For the Sunni Arab states, the Trump administration’s harder line against Iran is far more important than Jerusalem. To be sure, a decision to move the embassy could serve as a pretext for attacks by groups like al Qaeda. But they are already fully motivated against the U.S.”

Indeed, in a move largely ignored by the media, Russia recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital a few months ago. This is the first international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and no one saw it coming. And none of the dire consequences that such a recognition was supposed to bring have materialized. This despite the fact that it constitutes a drastic reversal of the Kremlin’s traditionally totally pro-Palestinian policy. Recall Mahmoud Abbas wrote his Holocaust-denying dissertation at Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University, a higher educational institution for Third World revolutionaries and terrorists.

Whatever Trump decides to do – or not do – on Thursday, one thing is certain: The waiver debate is not going away.

 

“HE IS NOT AN EBOLA CARRIER”

Campus muzzling leaves a mark
By Richard Cohen
The Washington Post
May 30, 2017

From time to time, I email Allison Stanger. She answers always, but says she is not yet healthy enough to talk. On March 2, Stanger was escorting the social scientist Charles Murray, whose speech at Middlebury College where she teaches had just been shouted down, when the mob charged their car. “Someone pulled my hair,” she recounted, “while others were shoving me. I feared for my life.” The car was rocked. Stanger is still recovering from a concussion.

Last week, Middlebury disciplined 67 students for what happened that night. Some were put on probation and others were cited with the college equivalent of a demerit that will go in their “permanent record” -- all in all, a slap on the wrist for students who deserved something more severe. Their offenses were not incidental. They had trifled with freedom of speech, academic freedom and, not incidentally, the health of a professor who was merely trying to facilitate the implementation of those rights. Charles Murray is controversial. He is not an Ebola carrier.

Middlebury’s disgrace was one of several incidents this year in which controversial or studiously obnoxious speakers were either run off campuses or were intimidated from coming. These included Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos, in the first category, as well as Heather Mac Donald and Murray, conservative scholars with interesting, if provocative, things to say. Mac Donald, the author of “War on Cops,” is a critic of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Murray is best known for co-writing the book “The Bell Curve.” Suffice it to say it deals with the intellectual nitroglycerin of race and IQ. When it exploded upon publication in 1994, the New Republic devoted most of one issue to shredding it. Still, Murray survived to write other books, and while he is a conservative, he is redeemed by being vociferously anti-Trump. Maybe he will someday do a book on the link between real estate development and IQ.

Far more dangerous than what any of these speakers has to say is the reaction to it. The protesters -- some of them non-students -- are involved in what’s called, to invoke a trendy term, “cultural appropriation.” In this case, it is the culture of fascism. Benito Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy was facilitated by the steady use of violent protesters to break up meetings and silence opponents. The tactic proved successful, and in 1922 Mussolini became dictator of Italy. Hitler, on the other side of the Alps, took careful notes.

I won’t flatter the student protesters by asserting they are aware of their ideological antecedents. But I will say that those who chose not to hear Mac Donald or Murray missed something. Mac Donald, who writes often for The Wall Street Journal, knows her stuff. You may not agree with her, but she is reasonable and learned. As for Murray, his caricature as a white racist is a simplistic libel. I am not prepared to defend “The Bell Curve” -- it has been years since I’ve read it -- but that’s beside the point. It’s for Murray to defend. And if given the opportunity, I’m sure he can do it.

Maybe, as some have argued, campus intolerance is escalating in reaction to Donald Trump. He has a pugnacious affect that encourages a like reaction. He wants to silence the critical press. He dismissed his critics as “losers.” He always seems to be spoiling for a fight -- and not a fair one, either. But Trump’s simian behavior is no excuse for violence.

The Vietnam War engendered the same sort of fascistic response. In the name of a good cause -- ending the war -- the occasional protester set off the occasional bomb. One, ostensibly directed at the University of Wisconsin’s cooperation with the Defense Department, nearly demolished Sterling Hall on the Madison campus. It killed a physics researcher, whose work was entirely unconnected with the Pentagon, not that it matters any. The mad, arrogant virtue that animated the bombers is little different than what drove Manchester’s suicide bomber to wantonly kill kids at the Ariana Grande concert. Spare us the true believers.

I have known Stanger a bit over the years. To me, she personifies the scholarly life -- fluent in Russian, fluent in Czech, fluent in critical ideas. She has her politics, avowedly Democratic, but she agreed to moderate the discussion with Murray solely because she believes in the robust exchange of views. Now she suffers because some protesters thought they were entitled to silence Murray and injure Stanger. Middlebury got a black eye, Stanger got a concussion -- and we all got a warning.

 

MANCHESTER BOMBING HIGHLIGHTS UN HYPOCRISY ON TERROR

Manchester bombing highlights UN hypocrisy on terror
By Michael Rubin
Washington Examiner
May 23, 2017

As thousands of teens and young adults enjoyed an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena, Salman Abedi, a 23-year-old detonated a bomb he had strapped to his body. That he packed the bomb with nails made his goal clear: He not only wanted to kill as many innocents as possible, but maim many times more.

The Manchester attack is terrorism, plain and simple. There is no justification nor would any self-respecting politician nor diplomat even attempt to offer one.
But what if someone detonated a nail-packed bomb amidst a crowd of children and other civilians and both the human rights community and European diplomats said it was justified?

That’s exactly what happened 15 years ago when the United Nations Human Rights Commission, operating under the leadership of former Irish President Mary Robinson, did just that against the context of a wave of suicide bombings in Israel.

In an April 15, 2002 vote, 40 countries – including Austria, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden – argued that Palestinians could engage “all available means, including armed struggle” to establish a Palestinian state. That U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution enshrined the right to conduct suicide bombing in international humanitarian law. After all, many academics, diplomats, and human rights activists argue that the U.N. and its human rights wings set the precedent that becomes the foundation for international humanitarian and human rights law.

When the Human Rights Commission voted, Israel was weathering a months-long suicide bombing campaign that, at its height, saw multiple bombings of buses, cafes and other public buildings every week. Many European diplomats might have been frustrated with Israel’s counter-terrorism policies and unwillingness to accept the European view of the peace process, but to channel that frustration into a resolution that legitimized deliberate targeting and murder of civilians created a precedent which went far beyond the politics of the day.

European diplomats and many academics might hold their nose and sneer at Israel and attacks on its citizens. A German court recently even ruled that the firebombing of a local synagogue was not anti-Semitic but rather an expression of anti-Israel protest. But they should recognize that Israel is not a pariah to isolate and condemn but rather the canary in the coal mine for the civilized world. Violence that they legitimize inside Israel or against Jews will not be limited to Israel. Legitimacy is easy to grant, but once granted, it tends to bleed outward upon the skids of moral equivalence and is hard to take away.

Alas, Robinson’s 2002 legitimization of suicide bombing was not the only time human rights advocates excused terrorism. The American Friends Service Committee, the non-governmental organization of the Quakers, has done it. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch researchers and employees still do it. Some academics and activists have even proposed talking to Al Qaeda.

What happened Monday night in Manchester is a tragedy. It is terrorism. And it is evil. There can be neither moral justification of Abedi’s actions nor any mitigating factors for those who indoctrinated, trained, and equipped him; they are just as guilty.

But, on a broader level, it is essential that policymakers see terrorism as a black and white issue. To see it in shades of gray – as not only political activists but also many American diplomats are tempted to do when they counsel engagement with Hamas and Hezbollah and dialogue with state sponsors of terrorism – is to imply that some terrorism is more legitimate than others. To allow any terrorist group to reap reward from its violence, however, legitimizes murder.

It is neither sophisticated to erode moral clarity nor moral to allow a cause to legitimize murder. There is no difference between a nail bomb in Manchester and one in Baghdad, or a bus bomb in Tavistock Square and one in Tel Aviv. It is time to take a united front, even if it means dismissing those who squander humanity while confusing their own political axes with human rights law.

 

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