Monday, January 31, 2011

Assad on Reform

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Syrian President Bashar Assad asserted that, in comparison with Egypt, "Syria is stable. Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people. This is the core issue. When there is divergence…you will have this vacuum that creates disturbances."

And what has kept Assad simpatico with his subjects and fearless in the wake of Egypt's protests? Stressing his desire to make some reforms, '"Mr. Assad said he will have more time to make changes than Mr. Mubarak did, because his anti-American positions and confrontation with Israel have left him in better shape with the grassroots in his nation."' 

What's more, "Mr. Assad acknowledged in the interview that the pace of political reform inside Syria hasn't progressed as quickly as he'd envisioned after taking power following his father's death in 1999. Still, Mr. Assad indicated he is unlikely to embrace the sort of rapid and sweeping reforms being called for on the streets of Cairo and Tunis. He said his country needed time to build institutions and improve education before decisively opening Syria's political system. The rising demands for rapid political reforms could turn out to be counter-productive if Arab societies aren't ready for them, he said.'"Is it going to be a new era toward more chaos or more institutionalization? That is the question,"' Mr. Assad said. '"The end is not clear yet."'

'Institutionalization'...interesting choice of words. It could as easily mean repression as building of institutions for democracy. So let's consider most recent examinations of the growing institutionalization of liberty in Syria. And we're not even talking about Syria's support of other purveyors of freedom outside its borders such as Hezbollah and Hamas:

Human Rights Watch: Syria: Repression Grows as Europe, US voice Discussion Rights
The Guardian: Syria's Decade of Repression
Firat News Agency: Kurds in Syria Still Under Heavy Repression
The Guardian: Syria's Attack on Gay People Must End

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A New Term for Anti-Jewish Paranoia

Paul Berman  who gave us the expression, The Age of the Zipped Lip, about why we are not free to discuss Islamism has another good one for us. In a slightly impish and excellent review of a book of selected essays by Irving Kristol in today's Sunday NY Times, he coins a handy new term for shorthanding that quality that so compels old and new anti-Semites alike: the Judeo-Satanic. As in, upon reading Kristol's essay, The Neoconservative Persuasion,"Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed. They will ask, where are the Judeo-Satanic hidden goals? — and will go thumbing through Kristol’s book in vain."
I like it. We needed another expression in our artillery to describe the maniacal hatred and paranoia that precedes and subsumes rational discussion of Jewish power, Israel, money, the media, etc. Let's go forth and spread it into the zeitgeist so that next time Jews or Israel are blamed for nefarious activity we can ascribe the accusation to Judeo-Satanic phobia.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Palestine Papers Rorschach Test

The head spinning 'revelations' of the Palestine Papers have a Rorschach-like quality in that the documents can be interpreted any which way depending on who is doing the reading.

The Palestinian Papers Rorschach Test:
What you see is who you are.

For the more naive, 'purer of heart', pro-Palestinian side they confirm that Israel has had a negotiating partner all along and that the Palestinians are the poor/weak/desperate victims of Israeli and American machinations. For the evil hearted, sabotaging, pro-Palestinian cohort -- and here I place, among others, both Al-Jezeera and The Guardian -- the Palestinians were willing to sell their people down the river by giving up large areas of Jerusalem and the whole-hog Right of Return.

The PA leadership has called the papers 'a bunch of lies,' while Hamas is thrilled by the exposure of the PA's collaboration. In Israel, the right and left naturally have opposite interpretations: "Politicians on the Left said the documents proved a peace agreement was achievable, while the Right said they indicated the gaps between the two sides were unbridgeable," while some pro-Israel pundits are also casting suspicion on the truthiness of the papers themselves. So, herewith are a few articles -- of the many, many out there -- that spell out the various positions:

RubinReports: Explaining How The "Palestine Papers" Story Is A Fabrication That Teaches Us The Truth

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Britain's Israel Problem

"Ben-Gurion claimed...that Britain was purposely working to
prevent the establishment of a Jewish state, or at any rate
to reduce its territory, and that it secretly encouraged the
Arab states to invade."
Via Jewish Ideas Daily, Meir Zamir's piece in the Jerusalem Post may go some way to helping explain Britain's deep aversion to Israel and why it seems to be such an important hub in the Legitimacy War. In his recently published article  “Missing Dimension: Britain’s Secret War against France in Syria and Lebanon, 1942-45" in Middle Eastern Studies, Zamir examined the role of British intelligence in undermining French interests in the Arab world.

He also reveals from information gathered from over 100 previously secret Syrian and British documents obtained by French intelligence in Beirut, the use of what was referred to as 'The Zionist Card': the "... vital instrument used by British agents in securing their country’s influence in the Arab world by playing on the Arabs’ fears of the Zionists’ aspirations for a Jewish state. It was also exploited to deflect the Arab nationalists’ hostility from Britain and justify Britain’s continued influence in the Arab world.

"Constantine Zurieq, a diplomat in the Syrian legation in Washington who later became a leading Arab nationalist intellectual and the first to apply the term “nakba” to the 1948 Arab defeat, quoted in a telegram to Damascus on November 7, 1945, the warnings of an American official in the State Department: “Great Britain wishes to exploit the Arab-Jewish conflict because it is the only way for it to remain in Palestine, to dominate all the Arab countries. The American government strongly desires to find a friendly settlement between the Arabs and the Jews. But it is convinced that the British colonial authorities will do everything to prevent that, as Great Britain wishes for incidents to worsen in Palestine and for disorder, where blood is spilled, to take place.”

Perhaps some things never change and today's Israel-hatred is simply a manifestation of earlier British policy in the Middle East. Ironically, when PM David Cameron stated that, "There is something deep in our Party’s DNA that believes in Israel, the right of Israel to exist, the right of Israel to defend itself..." he might have said that the opposite is also true.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Human Rights Doublespeak

Qaddafi holding forth on human rights at the UN
This will be a busy Friday, but I wanted to post a few very interesting articles that convey how the term 'human rights' has been subject to constant re-branding by the world's demagogues and their followers. 

First up is today's UN Watch's piece in the NY Daily News and it serves as a good intro to the issues at hand: Human Rights Rogues are Unfit to Serve.

Next are two pieces by Robert L. Bernstein, founder and former president of Human Rights Watch.

His Op-Ed in the NY Times: Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast and a longer but profound elucidation of his critique, Human Rights in the Middle East, a lecture given at the University of Nebraska. 

And here is where we get to an excellent example of actual doublespeak: Stephen Kinzer, a formerly sane journalist who got lost on the dark side: End Human Rights Imperialism NowIn this he argues that, "Groups such as Human Rights Watch have lost their way by imposing western, 'universal' standards on developing countries."

Here is Sohrab Ahmari riposte to Kinzer's absurd claims: Beware those Who sneer at 'Human Rights Imperialism.

Finally, and where would we be without the post-colonial, feminist view wherein we are told that we mustn't sensationalize honor killings? Read this critique by Phyllis Chesler: The Feminist Politics of Islamic Misogyny.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Or, talk dirty to me...

Today, Philip Weiss, owner and founder of Mondoweiss, was released into general population of the Jewish community in an effort to explain himself and make his anti-Zionism more palatable and more human in order to hasten what is "...going to be a big anti-Zionist moment in American Jewish life. I just think it’s inevitable.”

In a piece by Michelle Goldberg at Tablet, we get a little of his history as a Harvard-educated writer who "jettisoned" a career in mainstream journalism to take up the cause of delegitimizing IsraelAs Goldberg explains, "He sees a linear moral logic to his journey. He looks at contemporary Israel and is appalled. Because he came to Middle Eastern issues late in life, he has no fond memories of labor Zionism, or maddening recollections of the times Palestinians spurned opportunities for peace, to complicate his anger. As one long alienated from Jewish life, he hasn’t developed the habit, common to many American Jews, of reflexively giving Israel the benefit of the doubt. For him—as it is for many younger Jews—Israel is defined by Avigdor Lieberman and Operation Cast Lead, by Shas and settlements." 

In his mind, there is a complete split between American liberalism and Zionism. "I don’t believe in the necessity of a Jewish state,” he says. “Most Jews disagree with me, and that is sort of the heart of my crisis.” Oy, what a crisis! So much so that he uses this opportunity to apologize for allowing his site to become a cesspool of anti-Semitism: “I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes on my site over the years,” he says. “I think in my alienation from the Jewish community, I said stuff that I regret on a number of occasions...I know I’ve hurt people.” Tsk, tsk and tsk.

But that's not what I wanted to write about. No. What I found out from a little research is that Weiss is a bit of mini-star in the world of web video journalism. In a video series on, Weiss appears as an expert on contemporary sexual mores plus, more familiarly, on Israel and Zionism. It's funny/peculiar juxtaposition.

Weiss is quite the pensent on a variety of subjects, but especially sex. As sometime contributer to NY Magazine he has written a couple of articles about adultery and a millionaire who lusts after young girls. He also authored a book, savagely reviewed by Janet Maslin, about a cold case murder supposedly kept under wraps by the Peace Corps.

I have already written that Weiss seems like a case of arrested development. For a 55-year-old he comes across as strangely under-cooked. And I guess my point here is that he lacks gravitas, is a bit of a hack and should be treated as such.

Israel's Existential Threat vs Jordan's Existential Threat - Update***

Jordan's precarious monarchy
Falling Out - by Asher Susser, Tablet Magazine

A must read on why King Abdullah has become more strident in his denunciations of Israel: he is desperately worried about Jordan becoming a defacto Palestinian state.:

"King Abdullah speaks often of the great urgency of a two-state solution, blaming Israel for the impasse. Jordanian ultra-nationalists, in their fear of Israeli intentions and of the Palestinian presence, go even further, emphasizing the need not only for two states but for refugee return, totally rejecting the notion of long-term resettlement in Jordan. It is they and the Lebanese who were responsible for adding to the Arab Peace Initiative, in 2002 and again in 2007, the absolute “rejection of all forms of [refugee] resettlement” (tawtin in Arabic), which made the initiative virtually impossible for Israel to accept."

***This just in:
According to Foreign Policy's, The Next Tunisias, The Jordanian people are getting restive: "On Jan. 16, over 3,000 Jordanians gathered outside parliament in the capital city of Amman to protest the regime's economic policies. 'Jordan is not only for the rich. Bread is a red line. Beware of our starvation and fury,' read one of the protester's signs. Prime Minister Samir Rifai's government, which the protesters were calling on to resign, had already announced a $225 million package of additional subsidies to basic goods, such as sugar and rice. However, protesters have refrained from directly criticizing the monarch, likely due for their fear of a violent reaction from Jordan's security services.

"Jordan's Queen Rania also received a hostile response from some online denizens after she tweeted that she was 'Closely watching developments in Tunisia and praying for stability and calm for its people.' One Twitter user responded that she should 'start palace hunting in Jedda,' the city in Saudi Arabia where the deposed Tunisian president is currently hiding out." Cute.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Noam Chomsky, Hero?

Here is Noam Chomsky's video appeal to the government of Iran on behalf of the two American hikers imprisoned by the regime as presented in the NY Times today. After you watch it, read below to see his initial letter on their behalf.

And this is the statement Chomsky issued on January 6, 2010 as it appears on

I have been deeply concerned at the continued detention of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd 
and Josh Fattal, and hope that the Iranian government will be able to arrange for their 
release without delay.  Iran has ample reason for caution and suspicion with regard to the 
actions and plans of Washington, but these young people represent a segment of the U.S.
population that is critical of  these policies, and often actively opposed to them.  Hence 
their detention is particularly distressing to all of us who are dedicated to shifting U.S.
policy to one of mutual respect rather than domination.
I therefore appeal to the Iranian leadership to act in a humanitarian spirit and release 
Shane, Sarah and Josh.
Noam Chomsky
Institute Professor
Cambridge MA 02139
January 6, 2010

Remember, boys and girls, never take anything at face value. If they had they been just plain old hikers or possibly, g-d forbid, conservatives, they would not have been worthy of release. Not quite the altruistic gesture it may at first appear to be.

Palestinian Solidarity Quickdraw Pounce on Ian McEwan for Jerusalem Prize

The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign was at the ready to pounce as soon as Ian McEwan was announced as the winner of the Jerusalem Prize for Literature. They have an admirable calendar alert system triggering immediate responses to any sign of cultural or academic interaction with Israel. If it's January it must be the Jerusalem Prize, if it's June, it must be the Tel-Aviv International Student Film Festival, etc., etc.

This is how McEwan responded to the PSC, "I certainly will accept the prize. It is a highly distinguished award and I am honoured to join the backlist of writers who are previous winners." Naturally, he added the caveat, ""I am not a supporter of the Israeli settler movement, nor of Hamas. I would align myself in the middle of a great many of my Israeli friends who despair that there will ever be peace while the settlements continue. I support the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's call for a freeze on the settlements. But I also have no time for Hamas lobbing missiles into Israel either."

And, naturally, PSC's Betty Hunter wasn't satisfied: "We welcome Ian McEwan's statement about his disapproval of the settlements but we would point out that accepting this prestigious prize is a way of giving support to the Israeli government, which is dedicated to pursuing illegal expulsion policies against the Palestinian people. His acceptance will be used as a public relations exercise by the Israeli government."

Given the escalating rhetoric about Jerusalem, I wouldn't be surprised if this is just the first salvo from the solidarity campaign and associated anti-Zionists. Many earlier recipients were warned off accepting the prize. Susan Sontag, for example, the 2001 recipient known for her critical stance on Israel, announced upon receiving messages from Israeli peace activists urging her not to come to Jerusalem, "There is a very large group of people here who don't agree with the government's policies. They're not leaving. ... So why can't I come and talk to people here?"

Achtung Baby!

Translation: Israel’s secret killer commandos.
David’s Avengers

Ich kann nicht Deutsch lesen, but it doesn't matter. If a picture is worth a thousand words, you can fill in the rest. As Benjamin Weinthal reports, Der Speigel, is "worried about Jewish revenge." It's current cover story traces the timeline of the Dubai hit of Hamas biggieMahmoud al-Mabhouh, and one can only wonder at how thoroughly the stage has been set by the Legitimacy War so that the once verboten use of anti-Semitic tropes is ok now in this apparently no-longer shamed country. 

As Weinthal says, "Take as an example the headline of the screams out 'An eye for an eye, a murder for a murder.' The cheap wordplay on a section from the Hebrew Bible further reinforces widespread European prejudices against Jews.Der Spiegel’s editors know they are playing with anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments. But expanding circulation counts, and preaching to the choir of resentments in Germany takes priority over fact-based reporting."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Middle East Wonderbra

Najwan Simri Diab
I stopped counting at 10 pages when I decided to find out how many Google hits highlighted the Al-Jazeera Bra story. Yet, as Khaled Abu Toameh tells in his article, Al Jazeera's Bra: Freedom of the Media in Arab World, good luck finding instances of Al Jazeera making a big fuss when Arab regimes threaten its reporters. 
As he says, "Last month, Kuwait closed the office of Al-Jazeera over coverage of a police crackdown on a public opposition gathering.

"A few weeks earlier, Morocco decided to expel Al-Jazeera journalists because of their "irresponsible" coverage of the North African kingdom. Al-Jazeera has also been banned from covering the current riots in Tunisia. Recently, Al-Jazeera reporter Mohammed Bader was detained for a month by Egyptian security forces. The Fatah and Hamas governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have also been targeting Al-Jazeera, each for its own purposes. But for the Qatari-owned station and many in the Western media, these violations in the Arab world do not seem to be as important as the bra incident in Jerusalem."

And never mind that, "Earlier this month, Hamas issued threats against Jivara Budairi, a female correspondent for Al-Jazeera. Her crime was that she reported a hunger strike declared by detainees in Hamas-run prisons in the Gaza Strip." Needless to say, Al-Jazeera hasn't made much of this story.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation: The Rembrandt Affair

The Rembrandt Affair is a wish-fulfillment dream of a book where all the bad guys -- Nazi war criminals and art expropriators, Iranian mullahs intent on building the bomb and amoral Swiss multi-national billionaires and secretive bankers -- get their comeuppance at the hands of a crack Israeli espionage team led by Gabriel Allon, leading-man-quality art restorer/assassin/spy.

It's a good read, like all thirteen in Daniel Silva's series. What's especially fun about the series is the up-to-the-minute references to current events. Somehow these never seem dated probably because of Silva's way with historical material and, let's face it, when it comes to Israel, the news is always the same.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guess Who Is Siding with Bashir on Sudan Referendum, and Who Isn't?

From the World Tribune, apparently "... Egypt and Saudi Arabia have become the biggest supporters of the regime of Sudanese President Omar Bashir. They said Cairo and Riyad have urged Bashir to stop secession efforts by the south, the source of Sudan's energy resources. Meanwhile, Israel has been quietly supporting the Christian SouthThe sources said Israel has forged links with most of the southern leadership and was prepared to expand trade with any state independent of Khartoum. Khartoum has been designated as a leading backer of the Hamas movement. Israel is likely to forge official diplomatic links with the south and win the opening of the south Sudan market to Israeli business people," Israeli analyst Yisrael Gozanksy wrote in Israel's largest circulation daily, Yisrael Hayom."

Defiant Omar al-Bashir parades through a street in Darfur
Makes sense. Remember how the Arab states protected Bashir from the war crimes charges against Darfur issued by the International Court of Justice? Or how the Arab media remains silent while a woman was flogged publicly in Khartoum for the crime of wearing pants? Or how Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, as president of the African Union accused "foreign forces" including Israel of being behind the Darfur conflict? 

The Economist describes the website of the Muslim Brotherhood as saying that, "the referendum on the future of South Sudan looks rather different from its portrayal elsewhere. The looming partition of Sudan is not...the logical outcome of five decades of civil war. It is the fruition of a century-old Western ecclesiastical plot to close Islam’s gateway into Africa, and the start of a plan to break other Arab countries into feeble statelets so as to grab their riches."

Although most pundits hope that the referendum will proceed peacefully and all participants honor its verdict, it is hard to see how Bashir (frightened though he is by the war crimes charges) and his backers will go quietly into the night and allow South Sudan to begin building its state.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Jewish Artists Concert for Haiti

Jewish Artists for Haiti by |

If you're in New York on January 10th, check it out. The concert is organized on behalf of the American Jewish World Service Haiti Earthquake Fund. Artists include: Y-Love, Neshama Carlebach, Greg Wall and the Ayn Sof Arkestra and Bigger Band, Jeremiah Lockwood and more. I wish I could be there.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wise Ruminations About the Jawaher Abu Rahma Story

From the Tel Aviv demonstrations. Are Israeli peace activists
feeding the delegitimization machine?
Since I believe that the Legitimacy War must be won by Israel in order to achieve peace, here is some commentary about why this is so difficult. Yaacov Lozowick wraps up all elements of Jawaher Abu Rahma story beautifully particularly regarding how Israel should respond to the propaganda machine always at the ready to vilify it:

"You can however see the problematic dynamic of the official Israeli response. The lesson learned from the Muhammad Al-Durra case in September 2000, and then from other examples since, is that Israel's enemies often blatantly lie about complex cases so as to create an irrevocable public perception of Israeli guilt, and by the time the Israelis complete their careful examination and can exonerate themselves, the story is long over and the damage is done. Hence the need to respond quickly - the problem being, however, that responding quickly can often be sloppy, and Israeli inaccuracies are as damaging as the enemy's lies.

"I don't see how this can be rectified. Especially since there's a large market for stories of Israeli malice, irrespective of their veracity."

 Read the rest here.

The Mess Report adds this:

"The Palestinians are looking for a symbol. There is no doubt they are trying to leverage the incident for their needs. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was in Brazil, was quick to condemn the IDF for the killing of Abu Rahmah, as did other senior Palestinian figures. Israel will now seek to convince the world that the IDF is not behind the death, but on the international level this is a lost battle. Abu Rahmah is already a symbol and few will care to listen to the Israeli arguments."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Phil Ochs, Jewish Troubadour

My high-school heart-throb, Phil Ochs, is now the subject of a new documentary, There But For Fortune. Turns out he was Jewish. Who knew? Not that it figured at all in his work.

I loved his music and now realize how lucky I was that my Israeli parents didn't understand the lyrics of his songs or I might not have been able to play them -- his records, my guitar -- as loudly and often as I did. Oh, those were the days when my politics were straight forward and not at all complicated.

Monday, January 3, 2011

No, Jawaher Abu Rahma is Not The New Neda

Abu Rahma's death occurred on Friday, December 31st.
The funeral was held on Saturday, January 1st.
No time was wasted preparing the PR material.
All the world's newspapers of record are falling over themselves to deify Jawaher Abu Rahma as 2011's first martyr killed by the vicious IDF, as a "new Israeli crime carried out by the occupation army against our helpless nation," according to Mahmoud Abbas.

Yes, it is possible that she died as a result of the teargas used to disperse the weekly demo organized by her brother, but shouldn't we wait a minute for the results of an investigation, which, by the way, the PA refuses to cooperate with? It appears that there are many inconsistencies in the story purporting to tell how she died. More likely, she died of the Leukemia for which she has been treated in the same hospital in which she died.

It could very well be that rather than becoming the new Neda, the young woman killed by Iranian police during last year's post-election demonstrations, Jawaher may actually turn out to be the new Muhammad al-Durrah the boy who was alleged to have been killed by IDF during the gun fire that inaugurated the second intifada. That claim proved to be a hoax. Are we witnessing the birth of a new one?

H/T: Elder of Ziyon, Z-Word Blog