Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How news outlets spread misinformation, lies and propaganda

Don't Ignore the Cultural Boycott of Israel
by Lana Melman*, May 2017

Nearly 50 artists, including Roger Waters, Thurston Moore, Julie Christie and Mike Leigh, recently signed an open letter to the English rock band Radiohead, urging them to cancel their upcoming concert in Israel in support of the cultural boycott against the Jewish state.

In addition to the anti-Israel "regulars," some new artists joined the signatories this time, including the hip-hop group Young Fathers.

The open letter was widely reported on in both music and mainstream publications, including Pitchfork, the Washington Times, Vulture and Yahoo News.

These reports, with rare exception, quote heavily from the letter’s false accusations about Israeli apartheid and human rights violations, without any semblance of a counter-argument to these charges.

In reality, Israel is an open, liberal democracy that guarantees equal rights to all its citizens. Hundreds of artists who visit or perform there every year speak glowingly about the Jewish state, despite the harassment they receive by the likes of Roger Waters and mostly ill-intended grassroots groups.
In its article, Pitchfork, a popular music magazine that bills itself “as the most trusted name in music,” created the illusion of a wave of support for a cultural boycott of Israel by musicians and artists.

But the story conveniently neglected to mention even a handful of the high-profile artists who have rejected the call to boycott Israel -- including Madonna, Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Bon Jovi, Claire Danes, Helen Mirren, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Pitbull, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Ricky Martin, Joss Stone, Carlos Santana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Quentin Tarantino, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Seal, Kevin Costner, Cyndi Lauper, Yanni, DJ Tiesto, Moby, Elton John and Bob Dylan -- to name but a few.

The Pitchfork article also failed to balance the negative comments by the letter's signatories with even a smattering of positive descriptions, such as one by Madonna, calling Israel “the spiritual center of the world,” or by Jay Leno, who describes Israel as “this one little paradise in the Middle East where freedom reigns.” They also failed to mention Paul McCartney, who kept his concert date in Israel despite threats against him.

Just two days after the circulation of the most recent open letter against Israel, the chief pop–music critic at the New York Times interviewed Roger Waters, as part of its TimesTalks series of conversations with 21st-century “talents and thinkers.”

In the question and answer session, Waters admitted that the open letter fell on deaf ears, and that Radiohead remained committed to performing in Israel in July.

Those same publications that breathlessly reported about the boycott letter were inexcusably quiet about that announcement. 

When news outlets publicize calls for the cultural boycott of Israel and fail to provide balance, they are not sharing a news story; instead, they are helping to spread misinformation, lies and propaganda.

*Lana Melman is the CEO of Liberate Art Inc., a leading expert and commentator on the cultural boycott effort against Israel, a Hollywood liaison, and a professional speaker and writer.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The progressive right to self invention

This is apparently a universal, not particularly Jewish, topic. Except that the Jewish tradition is a leading example of those mentioned in the conclusion, that have survived for millennia and have every hope of enduring for millennia still.

I’ve extracted the following from two essays* by David P. Goldman (also known as “Spengler”). The excerpts distil, for me, the essence of Goldman’s thesis, which, as usual, I find most illuminating and thought provoking. 

In these essays, he conflates the concept of a search for meaning with that of inventing one’s own identity, which could be a distraction from my primary focus: on the notion on self-invention. When Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, refers to the notion of "man's search for meaning", I believe that he meant for us to search for, and discover, the bedrock meaning inherent to our individual being, as a result of our heritage or circumstance.  I don’t think, as Goldman apparently does, that Frankl was referring to a search for a meaning that is ultimately invented by the individual, in isolation. 

So here goes, in Goldman’s words, with the focus on the notion of self-invention…

...One big idea unifies all of Nietzsche's [intellectual] offspring -- the Marxists, the Freudians, the French Existentialists, the critical theorists, the Deconstructionists, the queer theorists -- and that is the right to self-invention. That is the cruellest hoax ever perpetrated on human beings, for we are not clever or strong enough to reinvent ourselves. To the extent we succeed, we become monsters.

In the Judeo-Christian past, human beings had a destiny… People knew that their impulses must be subordinated to the requirements of God and nature. 

Since the French Revolution, progressives have sought to overthrow the regime of obligation in favour of the right to self-definition...

If you choose your identity at whim, your life has no meaning. That is true in the most parsimonious sense of the word: if you can arbitrarily decide to be a gender-fluid bestialist as well as a F to M to F trans-entity, then your life can "mean" any number of different things, all of them equally arbitrary.

…In the brave new progressive world, life means whatever you want it to mean. It is up to you to invent a meaning that suits you, which you may change whenever it occurs to you to do so.

… If you need to invent [meaning] for yourself, you must first reject what previous generations handed down to you…

There is something perverse in [inventing] the meaning of life. It implies that we don't like our lives and want to [invent] something different. If we don't like living to begin with, we are in deep trouble.

…People have a good reason to look at life cross-eyed, because it contains a glaring flaw - that we are going to die, and we probably will become old and sick and frail before we do so. All the bric-a-brac we accumulate during our lifetimes will accrue to other people, if it doesn't go right into the trash, and all the little touches of self-improvement we added to our personality will disappear - the golf stance, the macrame skills, the ability to play the ukulele and the familiarity with the filmography of Sam Pekinpah.

…[to invent our own identity] is the great pastime of the past century's intellectuals. Jean-Paul Sartre, the sage and eventual self-caricature of Existentialism, instructed us that man's existence precedes his essence, and therefore can invent his own essence more or less as he pleases. That was a silly argument, but enormously influential.

Sartre reacted to the advice of Martin Heidegger (the German existentialist from whom Jean-Paul Sartre cribbed most of his metaphysics). Heidegger told us that our "being" really was being-unto-death, for our life would end, and therefore is shaped by how we deal with the certainty of death. (Franz Kafka put the same thing better: "The meaning of life is that it ends.") Heidegger (1889-1976) thought that to be "authentic" mean to submerge ourselves into the specific conditions of our time, which for him meant joining the Nazi party. That didn't work out too well, and after the war it became every existentialist for himself. Everyone had the chance to invent his own identity according to taste.

Few of us actually read Sartre (and most of us who do regret it), and even fewer read the impenetrable Heidegger… But most of us remain the intellectual slaves of 20th century existentialism notwithstanding.

We want to invent our own identities, which implies doing something unique.

…Most people who make heroic efforts at originality learn eventually that they are destined for no such thing. If they are lucky, they content themselves with … small joys, for example tenure at a university.

But no destiny is more depressing than that of the artist who truly manages to invent a new style and achieve recognition for it. ...The inventor of a truly new style has cut himself off from the past, and will in turn be cut off from the future by the next entrant who invents a unique and individual style. …That is why our image of the artist is a young rebel rather than an elderly sage. If our rebel artists cannot manage to die young, they do the next best thing, namely disappear from public view…

If we set out to invent our own identities, then by definition we must abominate the identities of our parents and our teachers. Our children, should we trouble to bring any into the world, also will abominate ours. 

If self-invention is the path to the meaning of life, it makes the messy job of bearing and raising children a superfluous burden, for we can raise our children by no other means than to teach them contempt for us, both by instruction, and by the example of set in showing contempt to our own parents. 

That is why humanity has found no other way to perpetuate itself than by the continuity of tradition. A life that is worthwhile is one that is worthwhile in all its phases, from youth to old age. 

Of what use are the elderly? In a viable culture they are the transmitters of the accumulated wisdom of the generations. We will take the trouble to have children of our own only when we anticipate that they will respect us in our declining years, not merely because they tolerate us, but because we will have something yet to offer to the young. 

In that case, we do not [invent] the meaning of life. We accept it, rather, as it is handed down to us. 

Tradition by itself is no guarantee of cultural viability. Half of the world's 6,700 languages today are spoken by small tribes in New Guinea, whose rate of extinction is frightful. Traditions perfected over centuries of isolated existence in Neolithic society can disappear in a few years in the clash with modernity. But there are some traditions ...that have survived for millennia and have every hope of enduring for millennia still... 

*To read the original essays in full, see:
The Existential Roots of Trump Derangement Syndrome” in PJ Media, 12 May 2017; and
Why you won't find the meaning of life” in the Asia Times, 11 August 2011.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Entire platoon calls commander who claims he beat Palestinians a 'liar'

From Israel Hayom, 7 May 2017, by Yair Altman:

Spokesman for NGO Breaking the Silence Dean Issacharoff alleges that when ordered to arrest a Palestinian suspect, he beat him while comrades watched

Issacharoff's former commander, comrades and subordinates: We were there, it never happened.

Former members of a platoon in the IDF's Nahal Brigade who served with Dean Issacharoff, spokesman for the nongovernmental organization Breaking the Silence, which publicly and often anonymously criticizes IDF conduct in Judea and Samaria, are furious with their former comrade over public claims that while serving in the army, he beat a Palestinian he had been sent to arrest while his fellow platoon members watched.

Issacharoff made the allegation on camera at an event hosted by Breaking the Silence, a group whose aim is to collect recorded testimonies of IDF misconduct in Judea and Samaria.

Issacharoff 's former platoon comrades went on record calling his "testimony" an outright lie, and are even threatening to sue him for slander.

On Thursday, the Reservists at the Front organization, which is devoted to countering false or distorted narratives about IDF conduct, posted a video on its Facebook page in which 11 former members of Issacharoff 's platoon, as well as company commander Omri Synar, face the camera -- their full names appearing on screen -- and deny his claims. The video went viral, racking up about 270,000 views and thousands of likes and shares. The post was also translated into English.

"When I saw his testimony, I was just astonished," Synar told Israel Hayom.

"I talked to the war room, the command center, and all the soldiers. Maybe there had been something I hadn't seen. No one understood what he was talking about. I'm willing to take any lie detector test. It never happened. It's a completely made-up story," the company commander said.

Issacharoff 's former platoon mates and his former company commander are threatening to sue him for slander and want the Military Advocate General to launch an investigation into his testimony.

"These are serious allegations. He is attacking my good name, and the [good] name of the soldiers," Synar said. "So we'll go on to take legal action against him. Either he's a liar or we're criminals. Either he apologizes and says, 'I lied for one reason or another,' or we'll see him in court."

Chairman of Reservists at the Front, Maj. (ret.) Amit Deri, highlighted the harm caused by Breaking the Silence. "When we visit campuses in the U.S., we hear Breaking the Silence's lies quoted over and over by the biggest anti-Semites and anti-Israel groups. Reservists at the Front will keep on exposing the lies of Breaking the Silence."

Breaking the Silence said sarcastically in response: "These events didn't take place, just like the occupation doesn't exist."

Iran gives $600 million to Hezbollah

From Arutz Sheva, 6/5/17, by Danit Halevy:

Hezbollah has created an independent economy within Lebanon, which includes institutions, education, and businesses - from $600 million worth of Iranian aid, Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Youm reported on April 25.

The Obama Iran deal provided over $1 billion in cash to Iran, of which $600 million has found its way to Hezbollah

Hezbollah terrorists
Hezbollah terrorists (Reuters)

...the aid was transferred almost completely in hard cash, and is being used for the terror group's institutions and salaries paid to its terrorists and their families...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Land Broker Handed to PA by B’Tselem and Ta’ayush was Tortured to Death

From, 28 April 2017, by David Israel:

 Nasser Nawaja at the Ofer Military Court, January 24, 2016.
B'Tselem agent, Nasser Nawaja at the Ofer Military Court, January 24, 2016

Ta'ayush agent, Ezra Nawi at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem.

The transcript of debriefing of Ezra Nawi, an agent of anti-Zionist NGO Ta’ayush, by an officer at the Yatta branch of the PA Preventive Security, reveals that Nawi was fully cognizant of and even celebrated the terrifying fate of his victims – Arab land brokers who defied the Palestinian Authority and sold land to Jews in Judea and Samaria, Army Radio revealed this week.

Nawi was featured in a January 8, 2015 expose by the Israel’s Chennel 2 investigative news program “Uvda,” where he and B’Tselem agent Nasser Nawaja discussed informing the Palestinian Authority security services about an Arab who intended to sell land to Jews in Judea and Samaria. The sale of Arab land to Jews is punishable by death under Palestinian Authority law.

In the Uvda expose, Nawi offered disturbing details about the inevitable fate of the subject of his conversation with his B’Tselem collaborator.

After the victim, Mohammed Khaled, nicknamed Abu Halil, had been turned over to the Preventive Security agency, Nawi stated, he “now has a direct line to God.”

Nawi later offered, by means of an explanation: “There was kind of an attack [on Khaled] and I’m being blamed a little for having a hand in that. I passed [the case] to the Preventive Security.”

On the Uvda tape, Nawi is bragging about his ties to the PA secret police, which “does what it can to prevent [land sales to Jews]. They catch [the offending land brokers] and kills them. Before it kills them, it beats them a lot. First zubur, then gazanga.”

(The last idiom has been discussed at length in Israeli social media sites, and the consensus is that it was made up by Nawi, and means, first they torture, then they kill. The choice of words has an obvious sexual connotation, although the progression from one to the next is awkward.)

The document exposed by Army Radio offers concrete details about Nawi’s planned campaign against land broker Mohammed Khaled. The Preventive Security debriefing officer notes that “Mohammed Khaled a.k.a. Abu Halil executed land sales to Israelis in the area, in cooperation with his sons Yasser and Akab, through the mediation of a settler named David from the Susya area, in the years 2009-10.”

Khaled died of a stroke following his interrogation in the hands of the Preventive Security, just as Nawi had described it.

The case against Nawi is being processed by the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s office, which refused to comment on the ongoing investigation.

In addition to his connections with Ta’ayush and B’tselem, Nawi appears to have completed his trifecta of anti-Israeli NGOs with his proven ties to Breaking the Silence. On January 11, 2016, Channel 2 News showed footage of Nawi visiting the offices of BtS, where an employee paid him about $400 in cash, money Channel 2 alleged (with video documentation) he used to pay Arab demonstrators in protests he organized.

Also see "Corrupted by power: the betrayal of human rights by human rights NGOs" in, 15 January 2015.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Putting the onus on the Arabs

From the Middle East Forum, April 24, 2017:

Reps. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Bill Johnson (R-OH)

PHILADELPHIA  Reps. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Bill Johnson (R-OH) will launch the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVC) on April 27 at 9 a.m. The caucus' goal: to introduce a new U.S. approach to Israel-Palestinian relations.

Cong. Johnson notes that
"Israel is America's closest ally in the Middle East, and the community of nations must accept that Israel has a right to exist – period. This is not negotiable now, nor ever. The Congressional Israel Victory Caucus aims to focus on this precept, and to better inform our colleagues in Congress about daily life in Israel and the present-day conflict. I look forward to co-chairing this very important caucus with Cong. DeSantis."
Cong. DeSantis adds:
"Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East, as we share common national interests and possess similar national values. Israel is not the problem in the Middle East; it is the solution to many of the problems that bedevil the region. American policy must ensure that Israel emerges victorious against those who deny or threaten her existence."
Since 1988, every U.S. administration has invested in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, but nearly three decades of failure strongly suggest that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations need rethinking.

The caucus calls for a new U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ending the emphasis on Israel making "painful concessions" and instead putting the onus on Palestinian [Arab]s – they must give up the goal of destroying Israel and recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

The result will be beneficial for both Israel (which will no longer face a rejectionist enemy) and the Palestinians (who can start to build their own polity, economy, society, and culture).

CIVC builds on ideas promoted by the Middle East Forum that are now gaining support among analysts, in the U.S. Congress, in the executive branch, and in Israel.

"All sides agree that a quarter-century of 'peace process' has failed spectacularly," says Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum. "Perhaps it's time to try something new, namely focusing on the essence of the problem, which is Palestinian rejectionism. Perhaps it's time to give up on post-modern notions of enrichment and return to the proven concept of victory. Perhaps it's time for our ally Israel to win, and time for the Palestinians to have a chance to improve their lives."

Following the launch on Apr. 27, the caucus will begin a campaign to educate members of Congress and staff by hosting briefings and hearings. It will also help launch a parallel caucus in Israel's Knesset at a two-day conference in Jerusalem in July 2017.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Collapse in Support among Israeli Jews for Withdrawal from the West Bank and the Establishment of a Palestinian State

From the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 29 March 2017:

A poll conducted on March 20-21, 2017, by leading Israeli pollster Mina Tzemach for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs found a decrease in support among Israeli Jews for withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Willingness to agree to a withdrawal from the West Bank as part of a peace agreement declined from 60% in 2005 to 36% in 2017. Support for the Clinton Parameters proposed by President Bill Clinton in December 2000 declined from 59% in 2005 to 29% in 2017.

  • 79% say it is important to retain a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. 
  • 83% oppose transferring the Temple Mount to the Palestinians.
  • 88% say that Israel cannot withdraw from territories that border on Ben-Gurion Airport. 
  • 81% say that Israel cannot withdraw from territories bordering the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway (Route 443).
  • 76% want Israel to have full security control of the West Bank. 
  • 81% say it is important that Israel retain sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.
  • 71% say an agreement should be conditioned on Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The poll indicates that the Israeli public does not agree to Palestinian demands for an independent state on all the territory of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, with its capital in Jerusalem. Therefore, it is difficult to see how any agreement is currently possible.

The poll reflects the suspicions Jewish Israelis have of Palestinian intentions and their awareness of the resulting security dangers, especially in light of the current realities in the region.

The poll results should clarify for those who wish to promote an agreement that if they want to succeed in promoting a peace agreement, the first step needs to be to increase the trust among the Israeli public for any agreement. The only way to achieve this is to attempt to have the Palestinians change their narrative, to stop their one-sided moves against Israel in international forums, and to stop paying salaries to terrorists and lauding them as heroic role models.

Click here to read the full poll.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Iran, Hezbollah, and War Crimes in Syria

From The Tower, Issue 49 (Apr-May 2017), by Shlomo Bolts & Mohammed A. Ghanem:

Iran and its allied militias are tearing through Syria on behalf of Assad’s ruthless regime, leaving corpses and chaos in their wake. Will the world ever hold them to account?

On the night of April 6, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signaled a radical shift in America’s policy towards the six year-old Syrian civil war by ordering multiple airstrikes against the Al Shayrat airbase near the city of Homs. Two days earlier, the airfield had been used by Bashar al Assad’s regime to launch a horrifying chemical weapons strike against the town of Khan Sheikhnoun, in which more than 80 people were murdered and hundreds more severely wounded. Reportedly, the nerve agent used in that attack was sarin  – giving the lie to former Secretary of State John Kerry’s confident assertion, on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ in July 2014: “With respect to Syria, we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.”

Whether Trump’s gambit will lead to the removal of Assad remains an open question. The stakes are certainly high, since the American airstrikes were not just a blow against Assad himself, but against his Russian and Iranian allies – the two outside powers that had secured, so went the conventional wisdom, his long-term survival through the brutal conquest of the northern city of Aleppo in December 2016. Five months on, the tyrant looks decidedly more insecure, now that he is in the sights of the world’s most powerful military.

The choice of Al Shayrat as the target for the Tomahawk missile strikes dramatically highlights the regional and global dimensions of the Syrian conflict. Russian military personnel are based there, as part of the extensive military aid which Moscow provides to Assad – they received advance warning from the Pentagon that the strikes were imminent. The base has also served officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Assad’s principle backer, and the shock troops of Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese Shiite proxy. Geographically, the airbase lies in the portion of south-western Syria, extending into Lebanon, under the control of Hezbollah and the IRGC.

Al Shayrat also highlights a too-often ignored aspect of this war, and the focus of this article: that Iran and Hezbollah have carried out grave war crimes and crimes against humanity ­– strongly resembling the crimes committed by the terrorists of the Sunni ISIS – against the Syrian people on Assad’s behalf. These took place, as we document here, not only in Aleppo and its environs, but in locations like Homs City and Tel Kalakh – with Al Shayrat serving as a launchpad for the attacks.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its affiliated foreign fighters have long been the true drivers of Bashar al-Assad’s war against his own people.

When pro-regime forces launched an assault in 2013 on Homs, then the “Capital of the Syrian Revolution,” Hezbollah led the charge. When Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels threatened the capital Damascus in March 2015, Iran-backed foreign fighters from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon beat them back. When the FSA along with Sunni Islamist factions launched an assault near Assad’s heartland of Latakia a few months later, Hezbollah stepped in to counter them. The horrific slaughter in Aleppo late last year was only made possible after the Iran-backed Iraqi Nujaba Movement, which mirrors Hezbollah ideologically and operationally, turned the tide in Assad’s favor.

Given the Assad regime’s history of fanning sectarian tensions and turning a blind eye to extremists, its claim to be running a “secular” model of government was always largely propaganda. But Iran-backed foreign fighters dispense with that pretense completely. As Phillip Smyth notes in “The Shiite Jihad in Syria,” Iran-backed foreign fighters in Syria are recruited with the stated purpose of defending Shiite Muslims and Shiite holy sites. Smyth also details how this recruitment is heavily linked to Shiite religious scholars who preach vilayet e-faqih, the ruling ideology of the Iranian regime, which holds that the only form of legitimate rule is that of Islamic jurists.

Political and operational ties between Iran and its foreign fighters in Syria are quite clear. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stated openly in August 2016 that “Hezbollah’s budget—its salaries and expenditures, its food and drink, weapons and missiles—are from the In January 2016, Human Rights Watch reported that the IRGC recruited thousands of Afghanis to “defend Shia sacred sites” in Syria by offering various material incentives. And the spokesman for Nujaba said in 2015, “We are all the followers of [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei and will go and fight to defend the holy sites and Shiites everywhere.”

Furthermore, evidence suggests that Iranian oversight of its proxies in Syria extends to the highest levels. Only two months before Hezbollah began its assault on Homs in 2013, top IRGC commander Hassan Shateri was killed on the Syrian-Lebanese border. IRGC head General Qassem Suleimani appeared on the front lines of the crucial battle for Damascus in early 2015. Both the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War believe that, around this time, the IRGC took direct command of operations by its foreign proxies in Syria, allowing Iran to “implant military leadership over a base of irregular fighters that it organizes, funds, and equips.”...

General Qassem Suleimani is the head of the IRGC’s Quds Force, the primary force supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader

Follow the link for a detailed account of many atrocities by Iran

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Middle East: There will be chronic instability for a long period of time.

From the transcript of a 20 March 2017 BICOM briefing with Moshe Ya’alon*:

The Middle East is going through the greatest crisis since the days of Muhammad. We’ve seen the Arab Spring become the Islamic Winter. We have witnessed ongoing internal conflicts, including the Syrian civil war, which has produced more than half a million casualties and has resulted in the majority of the Syrian population becoming refugees, some within the country, others in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Europe.

I don’t see an end to this crisis. There will be chronic instability for a long period of time. I don’t see stable transition from the tyrannical regimes which have been removed. I don’t see a return of the old ideologies of Nasserism and Pan-Arabism. And those who believe that ‘Islam is the solution’ are frustrated.

Three radical Islamist movements

What we see today is a conflict between three different radical Islamist movements each seeking hegemony in the Middle East and beyond.

First, there is the Iranian ideology that seeks to export the “Islamic revolution”. They have reason to feel they have been successful so far. As well as Tehran, the Iranian regime is dominant in Baghdad through the Shi’a government, in Damascus by supporting President Bashar al-Assad, in Beirut through Hezbollah, and in Sana’a [in Yemen] through the Houthis. Iran is challenging the US in the region; we see them firing at American vessels. A grave concern for the region is Iran’s aspiration to develop a military nuclear capability. There will be a delay for about a decade as a result of the 2015 nuclear deal, but Iran will remain a serious challenge for Israel, for the Sunni Arab regimes and for the Western world. Iran’s belligerency is the result of the vacuum created by the former US administration. At present we have little idea of the current US administration’s policy, so Iran will see what it can get away with in the meantime.

The second radical Islamic movement seeking hegemony in the region is the Sunni jihadists; whether it is ISIS or Al-Qaeda, their aim is to impose an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and beyond. ISIS succeeded in establishing Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, Syria, Sinai and Libya. The Sunni jihadists – especially ISIS – have too many enemies in the region. However, the fight against ISIS continues.

The third element is Turkey. President Recep Erdoğan is the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, and seeks to create a neo-Ottoman empire based on the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. He has acted with this goal in mind for a long time. He supported ISIS economically by buying oil because they were willing to kill the Kurds. He allowed trained and experienced jihadists to come from all over the world to join ISIS to fight in Syria and Iraq, and to go back to their own countries, especially to Europe, and we have witnessed the consequences of this.

For a very long time, Erdoğan didn’t just allow illegal immigration, he facilitated it. We are not only talking about refugees. I went to Greece in February 2016 and was briefed on illegal immigration from Turkey to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. There were more than 800,000 illegal immigrants coming from Turkey to the Greek islands. Most were illegal immigrants from Morocco and Pakistan. There was no war in those places. The Greeks also claimed that Turkey subsidised flights from Marrakech to Istanbul for US$50. My conclusion is that Erdoğan aims to Islamise Europe.

These developments are consequences of the vacuum created by the US. I’m not sure what will come now with the current administration. We must wait and see....

*Ya’alon is a former IDF Chief of Staff, and served as Israel’s Defence Minister from 2013 to 2016 until disagreements with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led to his resignation. Ya’alon has announced the formation of a new political party and his intention to run for Prime Minister. He is likely to have a major role in determining the composition of the next government in Israel. In this briefing he discusses the security challenges facing Israel and the wider region and the prospects for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Other Islamic State: Erdogan’s Vision for Turkey

From The Wall Street Journal, by Daniel Pipes*, April 13, 2017:

The strongman wants to reverse the country’s secularization and cement his authoritarian rule.

The Turkish president at a rally in Istanbul, April 12. 

This Sunday, millions of Turks will vote to endorse or reject constitutional amendments passed in January by Turkey’s Parliament. ... Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan years ago arrogated all the powers that the constitutional changes would bestow on him. He is already lord of all he sees for as long as he wants, whether through democratic means or by fixing election results. If the referendum passes, it will merely prettify that reality.

Consider the nature of Mr. Erdogan’s power. The obsequious prime minister, Binali Yildirim, tirelessly advocates for the constitutional changes that will eliminate his own office, historically the most powerful in the country. Criticism of the almighty president can get even a child thrown into jail. The most tenuous connection to a (possibly staged) coup d’état attempt last July means losing one’s job—or worse. The state routinely jails journalists on the bogus charge of terrorism, and truly independent publications are shuttered.

If Mr. Erdogan has no need for constitutional changes, which amount to a legislative triviality, why does he obsessively chase them? Perhaps as added insurance against ever being hauled into court for his illegal actions. Perhaps to assure a handpicked successor the power to continue his program. Perhaps to flatter his vanity.

Whatever the source of Mr. Erdogan’s compulsion, it greatly damages Turkey’s standing in the world. When his aides were not permitted to rally Turks living in Germany for the constitutional changes, he accused the Germans of “employing Nazi measures.” He also compared the Netherlands to a banana republic after Turkish ministers were prevented from speaking in Rotterdam. This souring of relations has already led to a breakdown in military ties with Germany.

Implicitly threatening street attacks on Europeans hardly helped Mr. Erdogan’s international standing, nor did allowing one of his close allies to call for Turkey to develop its own nuclear weapons. More damaging yet, the leader restarted a civil war with the Kurds in July 2015 as a gambit to win support of a nationalist party in Parliament, a move that has already had dreadful human consequences.

This insistence on doing things his way fits a pattern. Mr. Erdogan could have won visa-free travel for Turks traveling to Europe, but he refused a meaningless change to the definition of terrorism in Turkey’s criminal code. He harms relations with Washington by making the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen a personal fixation. He potentially disrupts relations with 35 countries by setting his intelligence agencies to spy on pro-Gulen Turks. Former Trump adviser Mike Flynn tarnished his image by registering as a foreign agent representing Turkey’s interests in 2016.

Mr. Erdogan’s narcissism increases the price of dictatorship by causing him to make unwarranted mistakes. A once cautious and calculating leader now pursues baubles that only generate enmities. This has damaged the economic growth that fueled his popularity. Mr. Erdogan has turned into a self-parody, with his 1,100-room palace and Ruritanian honor guard.

Where will it end? The president has two apparent objectives. First, Mr. Erdogan seeks to reverse Kemal Atatürk’s westernizing reforms to reinstitute the Ottoman Empire’s Islamic ways. Second, he wants to elevate himself to the grand, ancient Islamic position of caliph, an especially vivid prospect since Islamic State resurrected this long-moribund position in 2014.

Those two ambitions could meld together exactly 100 years after Atatürk abolished the caliphate, either on March 10, 2021 (by the Islamic calendar), or March 4, 2024 (by the Christian calendar). Either of these dates offers a perfect occasion for Mr. Erdogan to undo the handiwork of the secular Atatürk and declare himself caliph of all Muslims.

No one inside Turkey can effectively resist Mr. Erdogan’s enormous ambitions. This leaves him free to continue in his erratic ways, stirring trouble at home and abroad. That is, unless he one day trips, likely over an external crisis. Meantime, Turks and millions of others will pay an increasing price for his vainglorious rule.

*Mr. Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan taking Turkey down the road to an Islamist state in the mould of Iran

From The Wall Street Journal, via The Australian, April 15, 2017 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan at rally in Black Sea city of Giresun yesterday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spent the past few years laying the groundwork for authoritarian rule shaded by Islamism. With tomorrow’s referendum, he seeks to ratify his gains and sweep away the remnants of Turkey’s once-liberal democracy.

Those are the stakes in the referendum, in which voters will decide whether to transform the country’s parliamentary model into a strong executive system with Erdogan at the top.

Polls show a slight advantage for “Yes”, though opinion polling should be taken with a grain of salt amid the paranoia and repression that prevail in Turkey.

Under the proposed changes, Erdogan would be allowed to lead Turkey until 2029. His powers would expand to include declaring emergencies, issuing decrees, and appointing ministers and senior civil servants. The changes would permit Erdogan to check the judicial branch in some instances and simultaneously to head a political party while in office, something the constitution denies him today.

This presidential system would be the culmination of an authoritarian drive Erdogan launched a decade ago, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) purged a secular establishment that was the main bulwark against Islamism. The AKP has since tightened controls over the internet, brutally suppressed a youth uprising in 2013 and won Turkey the dubious honour of being the world’s foremost jailer of journalists.

Then came last year’s attempted coup, for which Erdogan blames his erstwhile ally Fethullah Gulen, a US-based imam who leads a rival Islamist network. Since the coup, the government has detained, fired or otherwise punished more than 140,000 Turks. In parallel to his domestic repression, Erdogan has intensified his anti-Western rhetoric.

Ankara has accused the Dutch and German governments of “Nazi” practices after they denied permission to pro-Erdogan rallies.

All of this has transpired under Turkey’s current parliamentary system, in which opposition parties can still vie for seats and check at least some of Erdogan’s excesses. If the AKP had more seats, Erdogan could have pushed through the constitutional change without having to bother with a referendum.

If he gets his wish for a stronger executive, the opposition would be further marginalised. This suggests Turkish democracy’s future could be grim no matter the outcome, and the choice facing voters is between shades of black.

If Erdogan loses, he will continue to strengthen the repressive apparatus and whip up nationalism with his gratuitous war on Turkey’s Kurdish minority. But if he wins, the possibility of democratically removing the AKP from power will be even narrower.

The danger for the Middle East, and for Turkey’s NATO allies, is the country could evolve into an Islamist state in the mould of Iran — albeit Sunni, not Shia. Erdogan beguiled many in his early years as an Islamist leader who claimed to respect democratic norms, but the sad irony is his drive for authoritarian power will lead many in the West to the unfortunate conclusion that Islam and democracy are incompatible.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Time is on Israel's Side

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 440, April 5, 2017, by Prof. Efraim Inbar:

Life magazine cover on Six Day War, via Israellycool

Considering the ways Israel’s opponents have changed over the decades, the collective yearning among Israelis for a decisive, 1967-style victory is unrealistic. The false hope for such success impedes clarity of thinking and causes the Israeli public to lose confidence in both the military and the political leadership. The only approach that can succeed in Israel’s current conflicts is a patient, attritional, repetitive use of force. Israelis should take comfort that time is on Israel’s side....

The unrealistic anticipation that victories on the scale of 1967 should be the end result of any military engagement hampers clear thinking and impedes the adoption of appropriate strategy and tactics. Moreover, it encourages what is often an impossible hope for a quick end to conflict. In the absence of a clear-cut and speedy outcome, Israelis lose confidence in the political as well as the military leadership.

Israelis, many of whom have limited military experience, still long for decisive victories in the Gaza and South Lebanon arenas. The wars in which the IDF has participated so far in the twenty-first century, which appeared to end inconclusively, left many Israelis with a sense of unease. They miss the victory photographs of the 1967 war....

Hamas and Hezbollah do not possess arsenals of tanks and air fighters, which would be easy targets for Israel. The decentralized structure of their military organizations does not present points of gravity that can be eliminated by swift and decisive action. Moreover, their use of civilian populations to shield missile launchers and military units – a war crime – makes IDF advances cumbersome and difficult due to slower troop movement in urban areas and the need to reduce collateral damage among civilians. Urbanization among Israel’s neighbors has greatly reduced the empty areas that could have been used for maneuvering and outflanking. The use of the subterranean by Israel’s foes, be it in Gaza or South Lebanon, is another new element that slows advances.

It is naïve to believe the IDF can or should win quickly and decisively every time it has to flex its muscles. Yitzhak Rabin warned several times during his long career against the expectation of a “once and for all” victory.

The defeat of Israel’s new opponents requires a different strategy: attrition.

Israel is engaged in a long war of attrition against religiously motivated enemies who believe both God and history are on their side. All the IDF can do is occasionally weaken their ability to harm Israel and create temporary deterrence. In Israeli parlance, this is called “mowing the grass” – an apt metaphor, as the problem always grows back.

The patient, repetitive use of force is not glamorous, but it will eventually do the trick. Unfortunately, many Israelis do not understand the particular circumstances of the great 1967 victory. They have lost patience and do not realize that time is, in fact, on Israel’s side.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Muslim Brotherhood has operated as a terrorist entity for almost a century.

From Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2017 VOLUME 24: NUMBER 2, by Cynthia Farahat:

What to make of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)? 

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna (third from left). An Egyptian schoolteacher from a rural town north of Cairo, Banna engaged in Islamist activities from a young age, joining a local group that intimidated and harassed Christians and non-observing Muslims in his hometown.

During the Obama years, it became commonplace for the U.S. administration and its Western acolytes to portray the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderate option to "more radical" Muslim groups. Thus, for example, U.S. director of National Intelligence James Clapper incredibly described the organization as "largely secular" while John Esposito of Georgetown University claimed that "Muslim Brotherhood affiliated movements and parties have been a force for democratization and stability in the Middle East."

On the other hand, in 2014, the United Arab Emirates formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood and its local and international affiliates, including the U.S. based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as inter-national terrorist groups. A British government review commissioned the same year similarly asserted that
parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism. Both as an ideology and as a network it has been a rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism.

In the United States, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) have recently introduced legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. In February 2016, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved a house bill that calls on the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. In July 2016, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) introduced the "Naming the Enemy within Homeland Security Act," a bill that prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from funding or collaborating with organizations or individuals associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The question is—which view is correct? Without doubt, the second one is. 

The Muslim Brotherhood has been a militaristic organization since its inception and has operated as a terrorist entity for almost a century. It influenced the establishment of most modern Sunni terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (GI) Hamas, and the Islamic State (ISIS). These organizations have either been founded by current or former Brotherhood members or have been directly inspired, indoctrinated, or recruited by MB members and literature. Contrary to what the MB propagates to Westerners, MB violence is not just in the past but is an ongoing activity...

Follow the link for the full article including history and detailed analysis. 

Jews Against "the Occupation" = Jewish anti-Zionism

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 439, April 4, 2017by Asaf Romirowsky:

Fifty years after the Six Day War, the American Jewish community is sharply fragmented, with many Jews grappling with where Zionism fits into their Jewish identity. As the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement grows in popularity and attracts more Jewish advocates, the gap is growing even wider between American Jewry and Israel.

For American Jews, Zionism has become a source of debate, controversy, embarrassment, and guilt as they try to come to terms with the activities of the Jewish state and its elected officials. Consequently, many seek to detach themselves from what used to embody the core of Jewish identity. A case in point is Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a pro-BDS Jewish group that uses its “Jewishness” to validate its cause.

...JVP’s executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, is notorious for her hard leftist views, as illustrated in her Washington Post op-ed entitled “I’m Jewish, and I want people to boycott Israel.” So strong is JVP’s antipathy to Israel that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has called it “the largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group” in the US.

...The difference between Herzl’s generation and post-1948 generations was a first-hand understanding of what the absence of a Jewish state means for Jewish survival. The state represents the difference between autonomy and servility, indeed between life and death. But today’s millennial generation has no memory of a time when Israel did not exist or was ever on the “right side of history.”

Given the wedge that has been pushed between Zionism and Judaism, one might even suggest that were Herzl to raise the question of a Jewish homeland today, he might not receive support. The irony is that what initially led Zionist leaders to bond over the idea of a homeland was the growing threat of antisemitism. Today, even as antisemitism is on the rise around the world, anti-Zionism is often viewed as legitimate criticism.

Abba Eban dispelled this notion eloquently, stating, “There is no difference whatever between antisemitism and the denial of Israel's statehood. Classical antisemitism denies the equal right of Jews as citizens within society. Anti-Zionism denies the equal rights of the Jewish people its lawful sovereignty within the community of nations. The common principle in the two cases is discrimination."

But with the popularity of the BDS movement’s crusade against Israel, some American Jews on the left have placed other Jews beyond the pale, as people who cannot be debated due to their abominable views. Moreover, an insidious double standard applies: Jewish organizations like Hillel must include anti-Israel voices or be deemed intolerant or racist. Jewish intellectuals must engage in dialogue with BDS representatives or other Palestinian advocates who demand the ethnic cleansing of Israel, lest they be called cowards and be subjected to insults. And now, leading American Jewish intellectuals have adopted the rhetoric and methods of BDS, to be applied to Jews only. Perhaps the next move will be to follow the Palestinian lead and charge Israelis in international courts.

Individuals like Peter Beinart, in his book The Crisis of Zionism, purport to offer so-called “tough love,” an approach that is supposedly required to curb the alleged expansion of the "occupation.” Driven by guilt, Beinart has embraced the left’s move to distance itself from Israel and the Zionist enterprise at large. For Beinart, the answer is a "Zionist" boycott of Israeli settlements and products.

Beinart, like many post-Zionists and revisionists, only opposes the "occupation," which leads him to place all the onus for the lingering Palestinian-Israeli problem on Israel. In this distorted narrative, Israel is largely to blame for the collapse of the Oslo/Camp David process of the 1990s-2000s and for the subsequent failures to revive the peace process. But the centrality of the “settlements” is an empty issue. It deflects from the core problem that truly obstructs a negotiated settlement: the Palestinians’ century-long rejection of a sovereign Jewish state.

...Anti-Zionist American Jews have found Israeli counterparts even in the Knesset. This was on display at the AIPAC Policy Conference in late March, at which Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, whose trip to the conference had been paid by AIPAC, decided to join a protest outside the conference. At the protest, organized by the Jewish anti-establishment group IfNotNow, demonstrators held up signs reading “Reject AIPAC” and “Reject Occupation.” Zandberg justified her decision to participate by saying, “there is no greater deed of patriotism than opposing the occupation.”

Stronger Zionist anchors are needed within the Jewish community to overcome the guilt over Israel’s existence rather than its actions. Collective historical memory is absent from today’s discourse on Zionism, especially in America. While there are Zionists on the left and right who still appreciate Jewish history and believe in Jewish destiny, Zionist renewal outside Zion is needed. There is a serious need to teach and appreciate both Herzl’s Zionism and “Start-Up Zionism” if the dream is to be kept alive.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Polish historian’s book on killing of Jews during Holocaust exposes raw nerve

From World Israel News, 16 March 2017:

Polish historian’s book on killing of Jews during Holocaust exposes raw nerve
Polish gendarmes during WWII. (Yad vashem via AP)

A book exposing the atrocities perpetrated by ordinary Poles against Jews during the Holocaust is again stirring dormant passions.  

A prominent Polish historian presented evidence Wednesday about Polish villagers’ widespread killing of Jews fleeing Nazis during World War II, touching a raw nerve in a country still grappling with its role during the Holocaust.

The research is likely to irk the nationalist Polish government, which has taken aim at those seeking to undermine its official stance that Poles were only heroes in the war, not collaborators who committed heinous crimes.

In launching the English-language version of her 2011 book, “Such a Beautiful Sunny Day,” Barbara Engelking details dozens of cases of everyday Poles raping Jewish women and bludgeoning Jews to death with axes, shovels and rocks. The book, which came out in Polish under the previous government, takes its title from the last words of a Jew pleading with peasants to spare his life before he was beaten and shot to death. It offers a searing indictment of Polish complicity that will now reach a far wider audience.

“The responsibility for the extermination of Jews in Europe is borne by Nazi Germany,” she writes. “Polish peasants were volunteers in the sphere of murdering Jews.”

Poland’s Avoidance of Responsibility

For decades, Polish society avoided discussing such killings or denied that Polish anti-Semitism motivated them, blaming all atrocities on the Germans. A turning point was the publication of a book, “Neighbors,” in 2000 by Polish-American sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, which explored the murder of Jedwabne’s Jews by their Polish neighbors and resulted in widespread soul-searching and official state apologies.

But since the conservative and nationalistic Law and Justice party consolidated power in 2015, it has sought to stamp out discussion and research on the topic. It has demonized Gross and investigated him on whether he had slandered the country by asserting that Poles killed more Jews than Germans during the war — a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.

Despite the current climate, Engelking said she had no fear of recriminations and proudly took on the government’s historical revisionism.

“People think I should be afraid, but I am not. I have a sense now of inner freedom and they cannot harm me in any way,” she said during a break at a symposium recognizing the launch of her book at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. “Let them try … you cannot obey this idea because this is really not true. I am obliged to tell the truth, that is all.”

Engelking, the founder and director of the Polish Center of Holocaust Research in Warsaw, said her decade-long research relied on diaries, documents and court files that gave voice not only to survivors but also victims. The government has long pointed to Poland having the largest number of citizens honored by Yad Vashem for saving Jews as evidence of their heroism. Engelking, however, said there were far less who aided Jews than those who betrayed them and that climate made the actions of the few all the more noble.

“There was severe punishment from Germans for helping Jews. They (the saviors) acted not only against German law, but against their neighbors, against the atmosphere, against the common sense of anti-Semitism,” she said.

The Enormity of Polish Cruelty Toward Jews

Mateusz Szpytma, a historian with Poland’s state-run National Remembrance Institute, said he found the book to be written in a “prosecutor’s style” and often relied on a single source.

“The attention is almost solely focused on negative events that took place but were not the only ones,” he said. “Almost every element that is unfavorable to Poles is taken as true. Positive things are pushed to the margin.”

The noted Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer said the significance of Engelking’s findings was the enormity of the cruelty toward Jews that she details. “It is something that we assumed but she proves,” he said.

He said there were parallels to the way Jews were treated by the local population in other European countries like Lithuania, Bulgaria and Greece. But the sheer scope of the genocide in Poland — half of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust were Polish — made Engelking’s findings most pertinent.

Havi Dreifuss, a Tel Aviv University scholar and director of Yad Vashem’s center for research on the Holocaust in Poland, said Engelking’s research has shed new light on the last phase of the Holocaust, after Jews were packed into ghettos and sent to extermination camps, and how even those who had managed to survive that still faced the wrath of their compatriots.

She said estimates range between 160,000-250,000 Jews who escaped and sought help from fellow Poles. She said only about 10-20 percent of those survived, with the rest rejected, informed upon or killed by the rural Poles themselves.

“This research reveals not only the Jewish immense efforts to escape, as well as the Jewish despair and helplessness. It also exposes the terrible reality in which those Jews found themselves: a reality where very few acts of kindness were lost among the countless acts of cruelty, abuse and meanness,” she said.

Polish Misconceptions

Poles have been raised on wartime stories of Polish suffering and heroism and many react viscerally when confronted with the growing body of scholarship about Polish involvement in the killing of Jews.

A recent poll showed an overwhelming majority of Poles believe their ancestors helped save Jews and rarely turned them over.

Engelking said that was unlikely to change as long as this “propaganda” continued and the “truth about our behavior during the war” was not allowed to be shared widely in schools and with the public.

“I hope that after this counter revolution that we are experiencing now, next time we will have another counter revolution,” she said.