Saturday, January 31, 2009

CAIR Suffering Some Well-Deserved Setbacks

Investor's Business Daily recounts CAIR's recent problems:
In the latest setback, a "Dear Colleague" letter sent out to every House member warns lawmakers and their staffs to "think twice" about meeting with CAIR officials.
"The FBI has cut ties with them," the letter says. "There are indications" CAIR has links to Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group.
The letter, signed by five Republicans, including the head of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus, is attached to an article by a homeland-security news service. It reports that the FBI has been canceling outreach events across the country with CAIR, following a recent directive from headquarters to cut ties with the group.
This seems to follow on the heels of other recent problems and revelations of CAIR's dealings:
The marginalization of CAIR, which has enjoyed astonishing access to official Washington, comes after the successful prosecution of leaders of a U.S. Muslim charity that funneled millions to Hamas terrorists. CAIR and its co-founder Omar Ahmed were named unindicted co-conspirators in that Holy Land Foundation case.
CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad, moreover, was caught on tape participating in a meeting with Hamas leaders to disguise payments as charity. During the trial, the FBI described CAIR as a front group for Islamic extremists.

It just gets worse for CAIR. Former clients of the group are suing it for fraud. The Muslims say CAIR, which claims to be an advocate for Muslim rights, extorted thousands of dollars from them in a scam in which CAIR said it would help them get U.S. citizenship.

According to the federal lawsuit, CAIR directed an unlicensed lawyer to handle their immigration cases. The phony lawyer shook them down for their life savings and bungled their paperwork. When the victims said they would go to the media, the suit charges, CAIR's board threatened to sue them and forced them to sign releases.
Read the whole thing.

If moderate Muslims are going to gain a voice in the US, the first step has to be to identify correctly the radical groups and deal with them accordingly--especially when they break the law, as is clearly the case with CAIR.

In no way can we afford to allow such radical groups to silence moderate Muslims.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Pope Responds To Criticism On Revoking Excommunication Against Bishop Richard Williamson (Updated)

Last week:
In a move that many Jewish community officials said would cause relations between Jews and Catholics to further deteriorate, the Vatican on Saturday lifted an excommunication ban against Bishop Richard Williamson, one of four bishops who were banned in 1988 for taking on the office of bishop against the wishes of then-Pope John Paul II.

Williamson is a Holocaust denier, and has repeatedly said that the gas chambers did not exist and that no more than 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II, mostly of starvation. In addition, Williamson has declared that the Jews are plotting to take over the world, and that the U.S. and Israel were behind 9/11.

In an interview with Swedish television conducted last November but broadcast last week, Williamson said that he believed that there were “no gas chambers."

“Between 200,000-300,000 perished in Nazi concentration camps, but not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber,” he said, adding, “I believe that the historical evidence is hugely against 6 million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”
Now following the announcement that Israeli Rabbis have cut off ties to the Vatican over this, Pope Benedict XVI responded at his weekly General Audience [forwarded by a friend]:

VATICAN CITY, 28 JAN 2009 (VIS) - At the end of his general audience today, the Pope mentioned his recent decision to revoke the excommunication on "the four bishops ordained without pontifical mandate by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988".

"I have undertaken this act of paternal benevolence because those same bishops have repeatedly expressed to me their profound suffering at the situation in which they found themselves.

"I hope that this gesture of mine will be followed by a prompt commitment on their part to take the further steps necessary to achieve full communion with the Church, thus showing true faithfulness to, and true recognition of, the Magisterium and authority of the Pope and of Vatican Council II".


VATICAN CITY, 28 JAN 2009 (VIS) - "May the Shoah be for everyone an admonition against oblivion, negation and reductionism, because violence against a single human being is violence against all", the Holy Father told pilgrims attending his weekly general audience.

Referring to recent commemorations of the Shoah, the Pope highlighted how at Auschwitz - a place he has visited several times, the last in May 2006 during his apostolic trip to Poland - "millions of Jews were cruelly massacred, innocent victims of blind racial and religious hatred.

"As I once again affectionately express my full and indisputable solidarity with our Brothers and Sisters who received the First Covenant", he added, "I trust that the memory of the Shoah will induce humankind to reflect upon the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man".

"In particular", the Holy Father concluded, "may the Shoah show both old and new generations that only the arduous path of listening and dialogue, of love and forgiveness, can lead peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the longed-for goal of fraternity and peace, in truth. May violence never again humiliate man's dignity".
AG/SHOAH/... VIS 090128 (200)
The Pope seems to address separately the issue of revoking the excommunication and the issue of the bishop denying the Holocaust without actually addressing the problem directly.

This is the closest anyone is going to get to an apology.

UPDATE: My friend also forwarded this to me from Cardinal William Keeler
Talking Points

Lifting of Excommunications of the Four Bishops of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X

1. What happened? The Holy Father, in an effort to heal the only formal schism to have resulted from opposition to the decrees of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), gave the faculties to His Eminence, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, to remit the censure of excommunication, originally declared on July 1, 1988, from Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galaretta of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X. The Holy Father’s act of pardon is to be understood as a “gift of peace at the end of the Christmas season ... intended to promote ‘unity in charity’ in the universal Church, and to take away the scandal of division.” The Holy see acted in response to a letter of Bishop Fellay (December 15, 2008), speaking on behalf of all four bishops, to Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which affirmed the desire of the four bishops to remain Catholic “at the service of the Catholic Church” and under the Primacy of the Pope.

2. What does the removal of the excommunication mean? The lifting of the excommunication implies that these bishops are no longer in formal schism with the Catholic Church. It follows from their sincere act of repentance for having rejected the governance of the Roman Pontiff (cf. Canon 751), which was implicit in their reception of episcopal ordination by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. This act constitutes the beginning of a process of dialogue that aims to incorporate into full visible communion with the Catholic Church the bishops, priests and lay faithful who are served by the clergy of the Priestly Society. The decree did not address other questions regarding the legal status of the bishops, such as, for example, any possible irregularities for the exercise of orders that would ostensibly have been incurred at their own reception of ordination as bishops or their subsequent exercise of that order. Nor did the decree address the legal status of priests who belong to the Priestly Society or the lay faithful who adhere to it. Other outstanding questions not addressed by the decree include any legal status the Society might obtain in the Catholic Church.

3. Will these bishops have to accept the teachings of Vatican II? Full communion with the Catholic Church implies a divine or firm assent to all that has been defined by the Church’s Magisterium, and religious adherence of mind and will to all authentic teaching. While not pronouncing any new dogmas, the last General Council, validly convened and executed, contained both defined and authentic teaching that calls for acceptance by the Church’s members. Any future discussions between the Holy See and the Priestly Society would naturally entail discussions of the teachings of Vatican II, not limited to but certainly including those texts in Nostra aetate regarding the Jewish people, and in Dignitatis humanae affirming religious freedom. As true teachers of the Catholic Faith, bishops must exercise their Magisterial office in concert with their brothers of the Episcopal College and with its Head, the Pope.

4. Does Bishop Richard Williamson speak for the Priestly Society? The Priestly Society has stated that the unacceptable comments of Bishop Richard Williamson “do not reflect in any sense” its own position. According to Bishop Bernard Fellay, these comments are “a personal opinion” of Bishop Williamson. A clearer repudiation of the latter’s stated views on the Shoah is required as the dialogue between the Priestly Society and the Holy See continues. The members of the Priestly Society must reflect on the unspeakable tragedy that was the Holocaust in light of what history clearly demonstrates and what the Holy See itself said in its March 16, 1988 Statement, We Remember: “This century has witnessed an unspeakable tragedy, which can never be forgotten: the attempt by the Nazi regime to exterminate the Jewish people, with the consequent killing of millions of Jews. Women and men, old and young, children and infants, for the sole reason of their Jewish origin, were persecuted and deported. Some were killed immediately, while others were degraded, illtreated, tortured and utterly robbed of their human dignity, and then murdered. Very few of those who entered the Camps survived, and those who did remained scarred for life. This was the Shoah. It is a major fact of the history of this century, a fact which still concerns us today.”

5. What is the Church’s teaching on Jews and Judaism? The most authoritative teaching is found in Nostra aetate, paragraph 4: “God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle” Anything reminiscent of the teaching of contempt, including the charge of deicide (that Jews were or are responsible for the death of Jesus), is unacceptable from the standpoint of Catholic teaching today. The Catholic Church continues to take heart from the example of the late Pope John Paul II who made it his consistent aim to heal the memories of the past and forge deeper bonds of friendship with the Jewish people of the present age. We recall and abide by what the Pontiff, addressing the leaders of the Jewish community in Strasbourg in 1988, stated: “I repeat again with you the strongest condemnation of anti-Semitism and racism, which are opposed to the principles of Christianity. The Catholic Church therefore repudiates every persecution against a people or human group anywhere, at any time. She absolutely condemns all forms of genocide, as well as the racist ideologies which give rise to them. Looking back over this century, we are deeply saddened by the violence that has enveloped whole groups of peoples and nations.”


1. Note also Pope Benedict XVI in the Synagogue in Cologne, Germany in 2005:
“This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, in which millions of Jews - men, women and children - were put to death in the gas chambers and ovens. I make my own the words written by my venerable Predecessor on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and I too say: "I bow my head before all those who experienced this manifestation of the mysterium iniquitatis."

2. Comments by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux, Member of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei on January 26, 2009:

“The lifting of the excommunication is not the end, but the beginning of a process of dialogue. It does not resolve two fundamental questions: the juridical structure of the Fraternity of St. Pius X in the Church and an agreement on dogmatic and ecclesiological questions. But it opens a path to walk together. This path will undoubtedly be long. It will require better mutual knowledge and respect. At a certain moment the question of the text of the Second Vatican Council, as a document of the Magisterium of primary importance, must be faced. This is fundamental. But all the difficulties will not necessarily be only of a doctrinal order. Others, of a cultural and political nature, will also emerge. The recent unacceptable statements of Bishop Williamson, denying the drama of the extermination of the Jews, is one example.”

Statement of His Excellency Bernard Fellay, Superior of the Fraternity of St. Pius X: 
We have become aware of an interview released by Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of our Fraternity of St. Pius X, to Swedish television. In this interview, he expressed himself on historical questions, and in particular on the question of the genocide against the Jews carried out by the Nazis. / It’s clear that a Catholic bishop cannot speak with ecclesiastical authority except on questions that regard faith and morals. Our Fraternity does not claim any authority on other matters. Its mission is the propagation and restoration of authentic Catholic doctrine, expressed in the dogmas of the faith. It’s for this reason that we are known, accepted and respected in the entire world. / It’s with great sadness that we recognize the extent to which the violation of this mandate has done damage to our mission. The affirmations of Bishop Williamson do not reflect in any sense the position of our Fraternity. For this reason I have prohibited him, pending any new orders, from taking any public positions on political or historical questions. / We ask the forgiveness of the Supreme Pontiff, and of all people of good will, for the dramatic consequences of this act. Because we recognize how ill-advised these declarations were, we can only look with sadness at the way in which they have directly struck our Fraternity, discrediting its mission. / This is something we cannot accept, and we declare that we will continue to preach Catholic doctrine and to administer the sacraments of grace... / Menzingen, January 27, 2009

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Obama's Stimulus Package In A Nutshell

From The American Spectator
Eight hours of debate in the HR to pass a bill spending $820 billion, or roughly $102 billion per hour of debate.

Only ten per cent of the “stimulus” to be spent on 2009.

Close to half goes to entities that sponsor or employ or both members of the Service Employees International Union, federal, state, and municipal employee unions, or other Democrat-controlled unions.

This bill is sent to Congress after Obama has been in office for seven days. It is 680 pages long. According to my calculations, not one member of Congress read the entire bill before this vote. Obviously, it would have been impossible, given his schedule, for President Obama to have read the entire bill.

For the amount spent we could have given every unemployed person in the United States roughly $75,000.

We could give every person who had lost a job and is now passing through long-term unemployment of six months or longer roughly $300,000.

There has been pork barrel politics since there has been politics. The scale of this pork is beyond what had ever been imagined before — and no one can be sure it will actually do much stimulation.
This after Obama slams Wall Street on its fiscal irreponsibility.

See also: An Outline Of What Is Wrong With The Stimulus Package

[Hat tip: Instapundit]

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New Film Has Section On CAIR's Evasion On Hamas

There is a new film by the producers of Obsession, named The Third Jihad.
According to their About page:
The Third Jihad is a groundbreaking film that exposes the truth and reveals what the media is not telling you about the Jihadist quest to rule America. Based on the accounts of the one person who is not afraid to tell you the truth; Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, former physician to the US Congress and a Muslim American.

Following the FBI release of a radical Islamist manifesto outlining its plan to destroy America from within, Dr. Jasser decided to investigate. The movie The Third Jihad is about what he discovered. Its focus is on a secret manifesto of the American Muslim Brotherhood discovered by the FBI.

It describes the 'Grand Jihad' goal of the Islamic Radicals to destroy Western civilization from within by infiltrating and dominating North America. This document outlines how Radical Islamists are taking advantage of our country’s democratic processes, and using them to destroy the American way of life.
You can view a number of clips on the site as well.

Below is a clip from the movie off of YouTube which includes a segment about CAIR--now in the news again since the FBI has cut off contact with them due to their connection with Hamas. (the video is set to start at 1:15 where the CAIR segment begins). The first few minutes show clearly how CAIR has been at times either evasive or supportive of the terrorist group Hamas.

According to The Investigative Project On Terrorism:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has cut off contacts with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) amid mounting concern about the Muslim advocacy group's roots in a Hamas-support network, the Investigative Project on Terrorism has learned.

The decision to end contacts with CAIR was made quietly last summer as federal prosecutors prepared for a second trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), an Islamic charity accused of providing money and political support to the terrorist group Hamas, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

CAIR and its chairman emeritus, Omar Ahmad, were named un-indicted co-conspirators in the HLF case. Both Ahmad and CAIR's current national executive director, Nihad Awad, were revealed on government wiretaps as having been active participants in early Hamas-related organizational meetings in the United States. During testimony, FBI agent Lara Burns described CAIR as a front organization.

...A North American branch of the Brotherhood supervised HLF, CAIR and other organizations to build political, financial and public relations support for Hamas, evidence at the HLF trial showed.

The fact that a Muslim group is mainstream does not mean that it is moderate. That is a fact we need to learn very quickly.

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Media Rorschach Test

I came across the link to this cartoon on Media Backspin's Twitter feed:

I'm sitting here looking at this cartoon and wondering how many people who look at this picture think it is a Muslim hiding underground in Gaza--asking for peace.

According to The Memri Blog, the cartoon is actually a critique of the Hamas leadership who are claiming victory.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Hamas Signals Desire To Talk To World"

Gee, what gave it away?

"We want to be part of the international community," Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told The Associated Press at the Gaza-Egypt border, where he was coordinating Arab aid shipments. "I thinkHamas has no interest now to increase the number of crises in Gaza or to challenge the world."
But he's not sure--by all means, let's sign now!

But of course, this article--coming from AP, cuts to the chase:
The group appears to be in the throes of an internal power struggle between hard-liners and pragmatists. Which group comes out on top will likely depend on who is able to garner the most benefits in postwar Gaza.

With hawks urging more violence, the window of opportunity to boost the voices of relative moderation is likely to be short.
In the Middle East, a pragmatist is a hardliner who doesn't have what it takes to win...yet. But that doesn't stop the AP from suggesting that good Hamas must be saved from its evil twin. Now, all that Hamas has to do is mouth the magic words and the world is ready to beat a path to their door, ready to do whatever it takes to become the new recipient of aid and Israeli concessions. 

I wonder if Abbas is jealous.

In the meantime, Change is in the air--
It's unlikely Obama would talk directly to Hamas, which the US lists as a terrorist organization. However, if reconciliation talks between Hamas and its pro-Western Fatah rivals in Egypt bear fruit, Obama, unlike his predecessor, may accept a Palestinian unity government that includes the group.
That of course is merely conjecture, but that would be some trick, creating a Palestinian state where one has never existed before and putting it in the hands of 2 "pragmatic" terrorist groups that have shown a complete inability to govern their people.

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Michael Yon: "Israeli Response Was Disproportionate"

It was jarring for a moment to see that Michael Yon was in Israel--for the Jerusalem Conference. This caught my attention:
I was also invited to a reception at the residence of the Israeli Ambassador to the United States. I wanted to tell the Ambassador that I hope the Israeli Defence Forces ripped Hamas out by the roots. Apparently they did not, but the thousands of rocket strikes against Israel warranted a serious response. Some people say that the Israeli response was disproportionate. I agree. A more proportionate response would have seen Israel launching thousands of rockets into Gaza. I read one report that the peak times for Hamas to launch on Israel is when the kids are going to school, or coming home from school. Yet while many international players reflexively point their fingers at Jews and Israelis, clearly the Israelis want peace. The Jews would rather be in school than in a tank.
What will it take to make people see that?

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So Much For Obama's Flinty Chicago Toughness (Updated)

It's really not a big deal--just put it in the same folder as his desire to be president of these 57 states.

On the one hand, Obama ruffled some feathers when he commented this week:
"My children's school was canceled today," Obama said, speaking to reporters before a meeting with business leaders. "Because of what? Some ice? . . . We're going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town."
Yet at the same time, Obama seems to be not quite as flinty as he would have us believe:
The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.” [emphasis added]
This reminds me of the time Obama made of criticizing Americans who do not know a second language
After telling parents that “instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they'll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish,” Obama expresses his frank embarrassment at Americans’ language skills:
You know it’s embarrassing when Europeans come over here. They all speak English, they speak French, they speak German, and then we go over to Europe, and all we can say is merci beaucoup. Right?
Yet at the same time, Obama later admitted that he himself did not know a second language.
Of course, that is confused by the fact that back in 1997, Obama claimed to speak 4 languages.

If people really think that there is nothing about Obama for comedians to make fun of, they just aren't trying.

And Mark Hemingway adds:
So this is the same President that said, "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK." [see here]

Check out Memeorandum for more.

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Will Democrats Pursue A Legal Jihad Against Bush?

Last year, The Wall Street Journal had an article on how a Palestinian NGO was utilizing international jurisdiction against Israeli officials visiting foreign countries:
A Palestinian nongovernmental organization, or NGO, filed suit in Madrid, seeking arrest warrants against seven former Israeli officers allegedly involved in the 2002 targeted killing of Hamas leader Salah Shehadah in Gaza. Israel's foreign ministry warned the men against travel to Spain for fear of arrest while Madrid tried to defuse the tensions.

This lawsuit is just the latest front in the anti-Israel "lawfare" strategy -- the frivolous exploitation of Western courts to harass Israeli officials. The detractors of the Jewish state are increasingly using civil lawsuits and criminal investigations around the world to tie Israel's hands against Palestinian terror by accusing Jerusalem of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity." In the process, the NGOs also subvert and interfere with the diplomatic relations of Western countries with Israel.
But you don't have to be Israeli--or go to Europe--to be harrassed:
Last year, When Joe Kaufman, an American activist and chairman of Americans Against Hate, traveled to Texas to lead a peaceful ten-person protest against the Islamic Circle of North America outside an event the group was sponsoring at a Six Flags theme park, he was served with a temporary restraining order and sued for defamation and harassment. What is particularly troubling about Kaufman's case is that the suit was filed against him, not by ICNA, but by seven Dallas area plaintiffs who had never previously been mentioned by Kaufman, nor had they been present at the theme park. This suit currently is being litigated.
Now it seems that this kind of tactic has caught the eye of people who are intent on going after President Bush. Philippe Sands has written Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values. On the Amazon site, one of the comments outlines the book:
In one interview with an International Judge and Prosecutor, Sands quotes them as saying the Administration Principals and lawyers' attempt in the Military Commissions Act to immunize themselves from prosecution in the treatment of detainees before the passage of the Act was stupid and may come back to haunt them. In rejecting U.S. courts oversight of their cases they open themselves up to judgment by International Commissions and Courts. It could lead to a tap on the shoulder if the Principles visit other countries, much in the same way that Pinochet was arrested in Britain for crimes committed while he was the leader in Argentina. [emphasis added]
Eric Posner at The Volokh Conspiracy addresses the issue Will former Bush administration officials be prosecuted in foreign countries? He concludes:
All of this suggests that the hoped-for foreign trials of former Bush administration officials will not happen anytime soon. But this is not to say that such trials are impossible. Pinochet’s lawyers did not expect his apprehension in Britain. European countries have independent judiciaries, and they are capable of acting in ways that their governments—which, for reasons I explained in my last post, have no interest in prosecuting former Bush administration officials—disapprove. Still, the short, undistinguished history of universal jurisdiction so far might give pause even to crusaders like Garzón.
In an earlier post, Posner writes about the potential blowback on prosecuting Bush on the issue of torture--both for Democrats at home and for Europe:
Foreign states are in a difficult position, akin to the difficult position of the Obama administration. Just as domestic prosecutions risk exposing the complicity of Democratic politicians in the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, foreign international law claims would risk a similar sort of blowback, exposing and highlighting the routine CAT [Convention Against Torture] violations of foreign states. I am not just referring to European complicity in CIA renditions. Putting aside the European countries and a handful of other countries, virtually every state in the world engages in systematic torture of political opponents, suspected criminals, insurgents, and many others. Yet the legal sanctions being imposed on Russia, China, Indonesia, Egypt, and India are zilch. These facts strongly suggest that states do not regard routine CAT violations by other states, to say nothing of section 7 violations, as sufficiently important to warrant the diplomatic resources that would be necessary to remedy them. For this reason, if Obama has strong domestic political reasons for refraining from prosecuting Bush administration waterboarders, international law will not change his mind.
Personally, I find it a bit unseemly that the left wing finds itself inspired by Islamists--whether chanting anti-Israel slogans at rallies or planning on ways to get Bush or his staff arrested overseas.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

[Hat tip: Instapundit]

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Resources On The Israeli Election

Good News From Israel has put up an "Israel Elections Resources Page"--check it out.

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Was Bush Late Getting Involved In The Middle East Peace Process? (Updated)

One more myth is in the process of being solidified by the media--this one being that President Bush delayed acting to bring peace to the Middle East. Best of the Web, quotes from AFP:
In an interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite television network on Monday, Obama sought to assure the Muslim world that "Americans are not your enemy" and urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
Obama has promised to directly address Middle East questions at the start of his presidency rather than waiting for years like his predecessor George W. Bush, but said he did not want expectations raised too high for swift progress for peace, following the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza. [emphasis added]
To give some balance, Taranto quotes from a different article from October 2001--8 1/2 months after Bush took office:
In an apparent effort to cement Arab support for a US-led global war on terrorism, President George W. Bush said on Tuesday a Palestinian state had always been part of a US vision for Middle East peace. . . .

Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking later after a meeting with his Indian counterpart, echoed that statement. . . .

Since Sept. 11, the United States has waded into to the crisis, pressuring both sides into signing a ceasefire deal last week to allow it to enlist Arab and Muslim states in his world anti-terror coalition.

Bush said Washington was "working diligently" to end a year-long cycle of violence and reiterated his strong support for a roadmap to peace crafted by an international panel headed by former US Senator George Mitchell.
This second article, which contradicts the first, is also from AFP. Rick Richman gives more context, illustrating the innacuracy of the claim that Bush did nothing to further the peace process:
Far from ignoring the Arab-Israeli issue, Bush did the following: (1) became in 2002 the first U.S. president to endorse a Palestinian state as a matter of official policy; (2) translated the policy in 2003 into a Road Map approved by the UN, the EU, Russia, the Palestinian Authority and Israel; (3) negotiated with Israel in 2004 on the Gaza Disengagement Deal (and got West Bank settlements dismantled to demonstrate it would not stop with Gaza); (4) supported a Palestinian election in 2005 to endorse a new leader pledged to dismantling terrorist groups; (5) permitted all parties to participate in the 2006 elections to give Palestinians a choice between the “peace partner” party and the premier terrorist group; (6) scuttled the first two phases of the Road Map in 2007, in order to keep the process going, even after the Palestinians elected their premier terrorist group; (7) convened a worldwide conference in Annapolis in 2007 to begin a year-long period of final status negotiations; and (8) had his Secretary of State make umpteen trips in 2006-2008 to push the negotiations.
The development of this myth, by sheer repetition, is reminiscent of another myth developed prior to the US invasion of Iraq, as offered by Senator Kennedy who declared in 2005:
There's no question this was the administration that rushed to war.
This was a claim that was made for continuously, starting in August 7, 2002 in an article in The Nation entitled: The Rush To War--it was written by Richard Falk, who is currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967." There followed a continuous barage of the claim for months, as Taranto showed in January 2003:
  • "Secretary of State Colin L. Powell . . . and his advisers have decided that they should focus international discussion on how Iraq would be governed after Mr. Hussein--not only in an effort to assure a democracy but as a way to outflank administration hawks and slow the rush to war."--New York Times, Aug. 16, 2002

  • "Christian Leaders Urge U.S. to 'Stop Rush to War' With Iraq"--headline, United Methodist Church press release, Aug. 30, 2002

  • "A Reckless Rush to War"--headline, editorial, The American Prospect, Sept. 25, 2002

  • "We have not been told why . . . we must rush to war rather than pursuing other options."--Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), Sept. 30, 2002 

  • "We are rushing into war without fully discussing why."--Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.), Oct. 3, 2002
Taranto noted at the time:
By the time the liberation of Iraq begins in earnest, perhaps a month from now, critics of the Bush administration will have spent at least six months complaining about the "rush to war." But half a year's preparation is no rush; it's more of a saunter. (In comparison, it was less than four weeks after Sept. 11 that the first bombs fell on Afghanistan.)
In the end, the war started on March 20, 2003 about 7 1/2 months after Falk's article.

Facts did not count for much then.
It appears they don't count for much now either.

That is something that Obama should keep in mind while writing his letter to Ahmadinejad.
He may also want to ask for Ahmdinejad to apologize for killing American troops in Iraq--such as reported here.

[Hat tip: Michael Ledeen]

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After Operation Cast Lead, It Takes A While To Get Back To Normal

Judy Lash Balint writes in Jerusalem Diaries about 'Noam' and his experience during Operation Cast Lead.

Israel At Level Ground writes:
weep for all that was done by Israel to no avail, and for all who suffered in the name of an evanescent "peace."

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Secretary Of State Clinton, Since When Is Sderot Not A Populated Area?

From remarks made by Secretary of State Clinton on Tuesday:
But of course, we’re concerned about the humanitarian suffering. We’re concerned any time innocent civilians, Palestinian or Israeli, are attacked. That’s why we support Israel’s right to self-defense. The rocket barrages, which are getting closer and closer to populated areas, cannot go unanswered.
Secretary of State Clinton means that the rockets are getting closer to the more heavily populated areas in Israel.

This is not an issue of nitpicking--on some level press conferences are meant to educate the reporters as well as whoever may be viewing or reading about the conference. It is important that facts be presented correctly--all the more so when we are talking about the Middle East where there are all kinds of misrepresentations of fact.

The classic case of this is from November 2005 when James Taranto wrote about Condoleezza's revision of history:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in the Israeli capital yesterday, where she announced that Jerusalem had agreed to allow the Palestinian Authority to run a border crossing between Gaza and Egypt:
For the first time since 1967, Palestinians will gain control over entry and exit from their territory. This will be through an international crossing at Rafah, whose target opening date is Nov. 25.
Rafah, of course, is where terror advocate Rachel Corrie died in a bulldozer accident, caused by her efforts to protect weapon-smuggling tunnels.

Also noteworthy about Rice's statement is the curious reference to "the first time since 1967." That, of course, was the year Israel "occupied" Gaza and the West Bank. But the Palestinian Arabs never controlled border crossings--or, indeed, any territory--before 1967.

Before World War I, the entire region, including Israel and the disputed territories, was part of the Ottoman Empire. Between World War I and 1948, the British administered it. In 1948 the Arabs went to war rather than accept a U.N. partition of Palestine that would have created Jewish and Arab states. After that conflict and until 1967, Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordan controlled the West Bank. [emphasis added]

The agreement Rice brokered may or may not be a good idea, and far be it from us to second-guess Israel's decisions about its own security. But we'd have more confidence if the secretary had left out those two words "since 1967," which amount to a rewriting of history to Israel's detriment.
No reason to pick up where Condoleezza Rice left off.

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The Kosher Cooking Carnival, "The Green Edition" Is Up!

This month, Ilana-Davita is hosting The Kosher Cooking Carnival--The Green Edition
If you're interested in hosting one, please let me know at shilohmuse at yahoo dot com

Remember to send in links to any relevant posts you see--regardless of whether they are yours or just posts you've come across. 
Keep in mind that KCC is not just a recipe carnival--it includes anything about kosher food, traditions, Jewish Law, cookbook and restaurant reviews, too.

Please note that Batya is starting a Blogging About Losing Weight Carnival. Please send in links for that, too.

To submit a post for KCC, just use the carnival submission form.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

J Street And Differing Support For Israel Between The Democratic Party And Its Members

In Why Most Democrats Oppose Israel's Operation Cast Lead In Gaza, I quoted David Frum who theorized on why there is more support for Israel among Republicans than among Democrats. Among the reasons Frum gave:
Fourth, Democratic attitudes are poisoned by the influence of an anti-Zionist hard left, a vociferous faction whose ideology can bleed into outright anti-Semitism. The foreign policy page at the Barack Obama transition website,, features many disturbing examples of this trend.
At the end of my post I asked:
It seems that the "ideological bleeding" that David Frum referred to has already begun. At what point do the rank-and-file Democrats start influencing the pro-Israel stance of the Democratic Party?
This issue, of the bifurcation between the Democratic Party and the rank and file, is also brought up by Jonathan Chait in an interview about his article on defining what it means to be pro-Israel in light of J-Street:

Apparently, J Street means to take advantage of this slippage between what the party leadership and the membership are saying.

Soccer Dad pointed me to some posts at Contentions that highlight the J Street's failure to properly evaluate where in the Democratic Party they can turn to support their liberal agenda. As a result, J Street has found that Democrats that they have supported are not in turn supporting J Street's condemnation of Israel's Operation Cast Lead.

Thus, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of CaliforniaRobert Wexler, Democratic Congressman from West Palm BeachBarney Frank, and Charlie Rangel [actually, Rangel made a statement that is listed on the J Street site] still support Israel despite the credentials that led J Street to support them.

While it is encouraging to see these four Congressman continue to back Israel, the J Street site lists 45 Congressman who apparently back their agenda.

The discrepancy between the support voiced by the leadership of the Democratic Party and the actual members themselves is only going to widen, and J Street is ready to take advantage of this fact.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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Obama: Does Change Include Snubbing Our Allies? (Updated)

The title of Amir Taheri's piece in today's New York Post puts it rather bluntly:


Taheri writes that as opposed to other steps taken by Obama such as closing Guantanemo or looking into a faster withdrawal from Iraq--steps that Taheri sees as nothing more than 'political sleight of hand--the steps Obama is taking on the Middle East may lead to significant changes in strategy.

Just sending George Mitchell to the Middle East as a special envoy brings with it 2 significant implications
First: The new president isn't interested in the so-called Quartet created by the Bush administration. This exercise in multilateral diplomacy sought a common front among the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia in Mideast peace talks. Its dismantling would give America greater control over future negotiations - but would also leave it solely responsible for any failure.

Second: By appointing Mitchell without informing (let alone consulting) the Quartet partners, Obama has in effect called for the resignation of the Quartet's peace envoy, British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Obama clearly thinks that he can succeed in finding a solution to the Arab-Israel problem, where 10 presidents before him have failed over six decades. [emphasis added]
Then there is Obama sending an envoy to Iran to open talks. Again, there are repercussions:
Here, too, Obama is dismantling his predecessor's multilateral scheme. By seeking unconditional talks with Tehran, he is also setting aside three unanimous, mandatory UN Security Council resolutions.

The move also means the effective dissolution of the "5+1 Group," created three years ago to deal with Iran. Apart from America, the group includes Russia, China, Britain and France (the four other veto-holding Security Council members), plus Germany.
Taheri thinks there is a pattern and underlying motive to what Obama is doing:
Again, Obama is clearly counting on the "audacity of hope," not to mention his charisma, to succeed where all US presidents since Jimmy Carter have failed.
One possible consequence of Obama going it alone, without working in tandem with Europe is that any successes Obama has will directly reflect on his leadership.

Another consequence could be that the very allies that Obama has claimed were upset by the US will likely feel snubbed again by a politician who has no record of having done anything substantial, especially when Obama is unilaterally tossing out all of the work that has been done by America's allies--and not just President Bush--till now.

Likewise, by appointing Richard Holbrooke as envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Obama has scrapped plans by NATO and snubbed allies Great Britain and France.

And in the case of Afghanistan, there is a further possible consequence of Obama's actions:
Indeed, Obama may have made it harder to persuade those allies to contribute more troops and money for the Afghan war. By seeking direct, exclusive control of the issue, the new administration may wind up turning Afghanistan into a purely American responsibility, something that Washington had tried to avoid since 2001. [emphasis added]
Talk about irony.

While Obama's pick of Mitchell has received good reviews and his his gesture towards Iran has met with mixed reviews (keep in mind that the Arab world is wary of Iran)--in the case of Holbrooke, there seems to be some baggage he brings with him:
Holbrooke's appointment has received an even cooler response in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he is seen as the man who rubber-stamped Serbian territorial gains, secured through ethnic cleansing and the massacre of Muslims, in Bosnia in exchange for a piece of paper signed at Dayton, Ohio. The Europeans, on the other hand, hope that Holbrooke will somehow succeed in uniting Afghanistan and Pakistan in a joint anti-terrorism strategy.
Keep in mind that in his interview with Al-Arabiya Obama explained Mitchell's mission in the Middle East this way:
I think the most important thing is for the United States to get engaged right away," Obama said Monday in an Al-Arabiya TV interview, adding that "what I told him is, start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating - in the past on some of these issues - and we don't always know all the factors that are involved. So let's listen. He's going to be speaking to all the major parties involved. And he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response. [emphasis added]
It remains to be seen what will happen when Obama fails to listen to his own advice--there comes a point when you can no longer blame your predecessors.

UPDATE: From Obama's interview with Al-Arabiya:
I don't want to prejudge many of these issues, and I want to make sure that expectations are not raised so that we think that this is going to be resolved in a few months. But if we start the steady progress on these issues, I'm absolutely confident that the United States -- working in tandem with the European Union, with Russia, with all the Arab states in the region -- I'm absolutely certain that we can make significant progress.
Well, that didn't last long.

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Just How Realistic Is A Two-State Solution?

That is the question asked by
Michael Fenenbock raises questions about America's role in the headlong rush towards the creation of a Palestinian state. Is there an exit strategy? Is the American military going to be involved. What will the cost be to U.S. taxpayers? Do we expect the Palestinian state to be a democracy? If this goes wrong, who will pick up the pieces. These questions are directed to President Obama, and the No on 2-State campaign issues a call to action.

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J Street And Defining Pro-Israel

Last week, President Obama's advised Republicans, "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done." Limbaugh responded, and in an interview with Byron York concluded:
One more thing, Byron. Your publication and website have documented Obama's ties to the teachings of Saul Alinksy while he was community organizing in Chicago. Here is Rule 13 of Alinksy's Rules for Radicals:

"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."
Such a strategy is neither new nor unknown.

Take for example Jonathan Chait's piece Tough Love about how J Street defines the term pro-Israel in the context of framing AIPAC as a right-wing group:
Last year, a new Middle East lobby called J Street was formed to push American Jewish opinion in a more conciliatory direction. "What we're responding to," wrote J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami last year, "is that for too long there's been an alliance between the neo-cons, the radical right of the Christian Zionist movement and the far-right portions of the Jewish community that has really locked up what it means to be pro-Israel."
Chait boils down the right-left clash on supporting Israel into a case of dueling shibboleths:
Right-wing Zionism thrives on a sense of victimhood and encirclement. J Street has won a cult following among liberal bloggers by tapping into an equivalent narrative of persecution and bravery. Ben-Ami last year denounced conservatives "who, through the use of fear and intimidation, have cut off reasonable debate on the topic." Here, J Street has borrowed heavily from Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who argued that "the Lobby" controls the U.S. foreign policy debate in part by silencing critics. (J Street adviser Daniel Levy described the Walt-Mearsheimer book as a "wake-up call.")

...J Street, perhaps reflecting Ben-Ami's background in the Clinton administration and the Howard Dean campaign, shares the contemporary liberal obsession with rhetoric and framing. [emphasis added]
What is interesting is that Chait suggests that in light of recent developments in the Middle East, it may be that after J Street has framed their narrative, the picture itself has changed:
Likewise, conservatives employ crude dualism--either you unquestionably support everything Israel does, or you support its enemies. J Street flips the dualism around--either you're with the settlers and the Christian right, or you're with the J Street mainstream. This is a clever way to build J Street's appeal to American Jews who, for the most part, distrust the Christian right. But Israel's battle in Gaza has exposed the inconvenient fact that J Street sits outside of the Jewish mainstream. Not only Likud supported the attack, but also centrist Kadima, liberal Labor, and even (initially) left-wing Meretz. American Jewish opinion on Gaza hasn't been polled, but it generally tends to track Israeli Jewish opinion.
Removing the frame leads to questions about how J Street--and other 'well meaning friends of Israel'--are pro-Israel. This is an issue that Chait delves into with surgical precision:
Which leads to the question of what exactly J Street thinks it means to be "pro-Israel." Some of its spokesmen invoke "tough love" for Israel, and Ben-Ami compares J Street's mission to taking the car keys away from a drunk friend. J Street is no doubt sincere in its belief that Israel would benefit from a more dovish line. But, if the conservative definition of "pro-Israel" raises the threshold too high, J Street's sets it too low. Even people we think of as harsh critics of certain countries would embrace them if they were willing to adopt radically different policies. Dick Cheney no doubt thinks Iranians would stand to gain by taking up a pro-American foreign policy. Does he qualify as pro-Iran? Stephen Walt recently aped J Street's logic, writing, "The sooner we redefine what it means to be 'pro-Israel,' the better for us and the better for Israel." Is Walt--whose book portrays Israel as a force for evil throughout its existence--pro-Israel?

When Israel began its counterattack against Hamas, J Street declared that it would not "pick a side." As J Street put it, "there is nothing 'right' in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing 'right' in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them." J Street didn't merely suggest Israel's action has gone too far--a notion I would endorse--but that no moral distinction could be drawn between its actions and the wanton, deliberate murder of civilians.

There is, to say the least, a delicate balancing act involved in declaring your love for a country while deeming it the moral equal of a terrorist death cult. At some point you begin to sound like the Saturday Night Live version of Joe Biden. ("I love John McCain, he's one of my dearest friends, but at the same time, he's also dangerously unbalanced.") J Street isn't "anti-Israel"--a buzzword that's probably best avoided altogether or reserved for those who wish Israel harm--but "pro-Israel" does not seem the most apt description.
Come to think of it, this opens up the whole kettle of fish about 'Jewish anti-Zionists'.

David Solway writes in Frontpage Magazine:
National officials, press barons, journalists, Internetians, “Human Rights” agencies, public intellectuals and a growing segment of the vox populi are tapping increasingly into the poisoned aquifer of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist feeling. Yet what is perhaps even more disconcerting is the comparable attitude of many in the Jewish community today, mainly of the Left, who have made common cause with their enemies, defamers and traducers.

This degree of self-abhorrence must be nearly unprecedented, for rarely, if ever, has an ethnic or national collective turned against an entire nation made up of people with whom it shares an ancestral tradition and a millennial archive. History furnishes many examples of a social or intellectual group targeting a particular class of a society with which it is in one way or another associated or identified. But to defame an entire country with whose inhabitants one shares a cultural or genealogical relation, to dispute its founding principles, to cast suspicion upon its moral character, to support its enemies and to question its right to existence is surely a unique phenomenon. Even those Germans horrified by the abominations of the Nazis, or Russians sickened by the excesses of the Communists, rarely went to the extremes of repudiation evinced by the truants of the Jewish faith. [emphasis added]
Melanie Phillips picks up on the phenomenon as well, noting among these people an attitude that approximates the self-indulgent claim to bravery made by those who bash Israel:
Indeed, one of the most insufferable characteristics of these Jew-hating Jews is that they claim to represent authentic Jewish morality as opposed to the supposed corruption of those principles by Zionism and Israel. They do nothing of the kind. Their claim merely advertises their profound ignorance of Jewish ethics and history, which they so badly misrepresent.
It may be that just as Israel's Operation Cast Lead has highlighted inconsistencies in J Street's position, so too at times when Israel is most under the gun will the distinctions between Israel's critics and its enemies become the most clear.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Swedish City Fails To Learn Lesson Of The Holocaust, Cancels Commemoration

The city of Lulea doesn't get it:
A northern Swedish city has decided to cancel a planned Holocaust Memorial Day torchlight procession due to the recent IDF offensive in Gaza, it was reported Tuesday.

The official reason given for the decision, made by the municipal board and local church in Lulea, was safety concerns, but Bo Nordin, a clergyman and spokesman for the church, cited the war in Gaza.

"It feels uneasy to have a torchlight procession to remember the victims of the Holocaust at this time," Nordin told Swedish National Radio. "We have been preoccupied and grief-stricken by the war in Gaza and it would feel just feel odd with a large ceremony about the Holocaust."
One of the reasons to commemorate the Holocaust is to find and internalize lessons to be learned from it. The Nazis did not simply take power and immediately start sending Jews to the gas chamber--there were incremental steps taken that led to the implementation of that policy. One of the lessons learned is the importance of standing up in self-defense in the face of evil.

The leaders of the city of Lulea apparently would feel better if Israel would continue to sit by while Hamas terrorists randomly fired rockets at its citizens. If indeed Lulea has a suggestionfor Israel on how better to deal with a group whose charter calls for its destruction, the city has not made it known yet. But Lulea is not alone, of course--there are plenty of world leaders out there who will decry Israel's every effort to defend itself whether by embargo or arms, while remaining silent on how Israel should act.

We Jews are familiar with this silence, and encountering it once again serves as the most ironic commemorations of the Holocaust.

More at Memeorandum

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Hamas Has Its Eyes On The Election--January's Not February's

A sibling rivalry that defies logic.

By Barry Rubin

There was an election on Hamas’s mind when it cancelled the ceasefire with Israel, leading to the Gaza war. But it wasn’t the February Israeli election but rather the January Palestinian non-election.

Four years ago, Mahmoud Abbas was elected leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for a two-year term. Two years ago, Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian parliamentary election. Hamas then made a coalition agreement with its rival Fatah, which previously controlled the PA. Shortly thereafter, Hamas staged a bloody coup and threw Fatah out of the Gaza Strip. But Fatah, and Abbas, still controls the internationally recognized PA and the West Bank.

While Hamas and Israel went to war, Israel and the PA remained at peace. The war had nothing to do with Israel-Palestinian relations as such but as a response to Hamas’s extremism, rejecting not only any comprehensive peace agreement with Israel but even a real truce. How, then, does this triangular relationship figure in Palestinian politics?

Analysts have generally ignored the proximity of Hamas’s decision for war to its impending January 2009 showdown with Abbas, Fatah, and the PA. It was widely predicted that Abbas was going to announce that, given the impossibility of holding new elections, he would simply extend his term for another year.

The event was expected to mark a major widening of the rift between the two groups. Hamas, it was thought, would declare Abbas a usurper, name its own candidate for “president,” and the establishment of two rival Palestinian governments would be complete.

Even before that date, the PA had apparently enjoyed some real success—with Israeli help—in reducing Hamas’s organization on the West Bank, ensuring any takeover bid there would be impossible, and making progress toward restoring order and even improving the economy.

Hamas no doubt saw choosing war as a way of upstaging Abbas, showing that it was the real fighter for Palestinian rights (principally the right to wipe Israel off the map), and even attracting support from some Fatah men who concluded that Hamas was macho and their own organization was too meek. In effect, it was a reiteration of traditional Palestinian politics in which those who take the most extreme action, evidence the greatest intransigence, and kill the most Israelis prove their credentials for leadership.

In practice, though, Hamas played into Abbas’s hands. Now he has the perfect rationale to insist that elections cannot be held—which is, of course quite true--and he must remain as leader for the indefinite future.

Despite this, the relationship between Hamas and Fatah remain quite complex. It seems bizarre that Hamas set off a civil war, murdered Fatah men in cold blood, and kicked the group out of Gaza yet still most of Fatah is ready to forgive it. There is a strong likelihood that if given the choice, Fatah leaders—though not necessarily Abbas himself—would prefer conciliation with Hamas, which would make any peace with Israel impossible—to making a diplomatic deal with Israel and getting a Palestinian state.

From Israel’s standpoint, of course, how can it negotiate any comprehensive solution with the PA when it cannot deliver half of the territory, people, and armed men who are supposed to be bound by such an agreement? Moreover, the possibility that either Hamas will overthrow Fatah at some future point or even that the two will join together in a new war against Israel rather puts a damper on Israeli willingness to make concessions.

The paradox of a simultaneous blood feud and brotherly love relationship between the two Palestinian organizations is explained by the supposed sanctity of being fellow Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians, coupled with a deep and abiding loathing of Israel.

Yet this also coexists with such deep Fatah anger at Hamas that interviewed Fatah cadre told reporters that they were glad Israel was trouncing Hamas in Gaza Strip. The solution of this paradox was for the official PA line to be: it’s all Hamas’s fault but there should be an immediate ceasefire and Israel is behaving in a beastly way.
This approach is strengthened by the fact that most Arab states and a surprising amount of the media (albeit in many cases the two are identical) are taking a similar line. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the smaller Gulf states and more—pretty much all the leaders except for Syria—hate Hamas. They see it as an agent of Iran, meaning a friend of their Islamist opponents.

If Fatah were more adept politically, it could benefit from this situation. A clever and active policy would combine an energetic campaign to unite the Arab states behind the PA, while persuading the UN and West that they should ensure its restoration to power in the Gaza Strip as the “legitimate government.” The Fatah underground in the Gaza Strip would be reinforced and figure out some way (even with a little secret coordination with Israel) to oust Hamas and seize power at least in sections of the territory.

Yet both the PA and Fatah lack the will power and political skill to take advantage of such a promising situation. They are sitting back and hoping that someone—though not Israel—will give them back the Gaza Strip on a silver platter. The problem also includes their lack of charismatic leadership and failure to deal seriously with the problems that led them to being kicked out by the election: corruption, incompetence, and the failure to articulate a moderate vision of achievable peace with Israel.

No outside power, including Israel, and no amount of money can make up for the shortcomings of the PA and Fatah. Thus, it is much easier for Hamas to lose the war than for the nationalist forces to win.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His books include The Israel-Arab Reader, Revolution Until Victory, The Tragedy of the Middle East, and Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography.

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Totten On Dealing With The Intractable Problem Of Peace In The Middle East (Updated)

I recall many years ago, while watching "This Week With David Brinkley," hearing George Will give his spin on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In essence, he said that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs was not a problem! After all, problems have solutions. This conflict was not a problem--it was a mess.

I remembered that interpretation when I read Michael Totten's article, The Mother of All Quagmires. One of the points he raises is that Americans have difficulty understanding the idea of an 'intractable problem'--something that Israelis are only know beginning to fully grasp:
The American Jewish Committee brought me and seven of my colleagues to Israel and set up interviews with Israeli military officers, politicians, academics, and journalists on the far-left, the far-right and at every point in between. One of my colleagues asked the eternal question during one of our meetings. “What is the solution to this problem?” He meant the Arab-Israeli conflict, of course, and the answer from our Israeli host was revealing in more ways than one. “You Americans are always asking us that,” he said and laughed darkly.

Americans aren't the only ones who have a hard time grasping the idea of an intractable problem. “Unfortunately we Westerners are impatient,” said an Israeli politician who preferred not to be named. “We want fast food and peace now. But it won't happen. We need a long strategy.” “Most of Israel's serious problems don't have a solution,” said Dr. Dan Schueftan, Director of National Security Studies at the University of Haifa. “Israelis have only recently understood this, and most foreign analysts still don't understand it.”
Of course you can add to Americans and Israelis who cannot deal with the concept of problems with no readily available solution--newly elected presidents who are looking to prove themselves. The problems with politicians though is that--like George Mitchell--they tend to prefer the even-handed approach when trying to resolve a conflict. Totten doesn't see that approach as being successful.
A clear majority of Israelis would instantly hand over the West Bank and its settlements along with Gaza for a real shot at peace with the Arabs, but that’s not an option. Most Arab governments at least implicitly say they will recognize Israel's right to exist inside its pre-1967 borders, but far too many Palestinians still won’t recognize Israel's right to exist even in its 1948 borders. Hamas doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist inside any borders at all.

“We will never recognize Israel,” senior Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan said before he was killed by an air strike in Gaza during the recent fighting. “There is nothing called Israel, neither in reality nor in the imagination.”

Hamas does not speak for all Palestinians. I’ve met Palestinians who sincerely despise Hamas and everything it stands for. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Hamas speaks for a genuinely enormous number of Palestinians, and peace is impossible as long as that’s true. An-Najah University conducted a poll of Palestinian public opinion a few months ago and found that 53.4 percent persist in their rejection of a two-state solution.
Part of the problem is the issue of projection--not merely the question of understanding the general Middle Eastern approach to things, but understanding the narrative and vocabulary as well.
Far too many Westerners make the mistake of projecting their own views onto Palestinians without really understanding the Palestinian narrative. The “occupation” doesn’t refer to the West Bank and Gaza, and it never has. The “occupation” refers to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A kibbutz in the center of Israel is “occupied Palestine” according to most. “It makes no sense to a Palestinian to think about a Palestinian state alongside Israel,” Martin Kramer from the Shalem Center in Jerusalem said to me a few days ago. “From the Palestinian perspective, Israel will always exist inside Palestine.”
Read the whole thing.

Totten does see this conflict coming to an end at some point, but not until the Middle East as a whole undergoes a change--the nature of which Totten does not detail. Which is just as well, since the solution, when it comes, will have to come from within and not as something imposed from the outside.

As George Mitchell will be learning again shortly.

UPDATE: Contentions highlights a particular comment in rebuttal to Totten:
Tagraffiti, on Michael Totten:
I appreciate what Michael Totten is trying to say here, but he should probably change the title to “The Mood in Tel Aviv.” As an Israeli who does live within rocket range, I don’t think “relief” is exactly what most of us are feeling. More accurate would be:
1. Outrage that Olmert stopped the operation not based on the military achievements or the fact that Hamas was defeated but because of Obama’s inauguration. And what’s worse, only gave Hamas time to regroup, rebuild and be even more dangerous to Israeli soldiers next time around.
2. Dread - we know the rockets are coming back, it’s just a matter of when and if we can trust a post-election government to be as brave as proactive as a pre-election government (answer: no).
3. Terrified for all of us by the worldwide displays of wanton antisemitism (which pass as “peace demonstrations”) in Europe and North America.
Yes there were a lot of problems with the Hizbala war, but let’s face it - when you’re still making speeches via satellite from a basement two years later, you didn’t win the war and everyone knows it. I don’t think that Israelis lost faith in the IDF in 2006.

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The Uniquely Qualified Obama Cabinet (Updated)

So . . . we're going to have a tax cheat in charge of the IRS, a man instrumental in the pardoning of terrorists as top terrorism watchdog, and a woman whose husband gets tens of millions from foreign governments in charge of implementing foreign policy.
Press reaction: Move along . . . nothing to see here.
Peter Kirsanow
Think of the experience they bring to the table!

UPDATE: George Mitchell is not a registered lobbyist, but
George Mitchell, President Barack Obama’s special Middle East troubleshooter, was chairman of a law firm that was paid about $8 million representing Dubai’s ruler in connection with a child-trafficking lawsuit...Mitchell, who is traveling in the Middle East this week, may need a waiver from Obama’s new policy on ethics and lobbying, which says government officials must wait two years before working on matters “directly and substantially” related to pre-government employers or clients even if they weren’t registered lobbyists...
[Hat tip: Instapundit]

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Obama: No Problem!

Americans are not looking for Obama to solve problems, but to end problems. And one way to end a problem is by ceasing to classify it as a problem.
Abe Greenwald
That's one way to get rid of the threat of Terrorism.

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Obama: The Man With A Plan--A Saudi Peace Plan

I'm sure there's a message in here somewhere...

January 20, 2009
'I, Barack Hussein Obama . . .'
January 22, 2009
President Obama's first call 'was to President Abbas'

January 27, 2009
Obama chooses Arab network for first TV interview
January 27, 2009
Mitchell Arrives in Cairo
All 4 seem to be aimed, at least to some degree, towards building his Muslim creds and allowing him to isolate Hamas. So does the declared goal of Obama's phone calls:
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said that the talks with Middle East leaders underlined a “commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from the beginning of his term”. He added: “In the aftermath of the Gaza conflict, he emphasised his determination to work to help consolidate the ceasefire by establishing an effective anti-smuggling regime to prevent Hamas from rearming, and facilitating, in partnership with the Palestinian Authority, a major reconstruction effort.”
A State Department spokesman adds onto Mitchell's laundry list.

Besides Mitchell's stops not directly related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict...
A possible stop in Turkey will try to jumpstart Turkish mediated peace talks with Syria. A visit to Saudi Arabia is a nod to the Saudi-backed Arab Peace Initiative, which Obama said Thursday "contains constructive elements that could help advance these efforts." Mitchell will also make stops in Europe to make sure allies are all on board.
...there are a handful of odds and ends to take care of:
Spokesman Wood elaborated, "Special Envoy Mitchell will work to consolidate the cease-fire in Gaza, establish an effective and credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime to prevent the rearming of Hamas, facilitate the reopening of border crossings, and develop an effective response to the immediate humanitarian needs of the Palestinians in Gaza and eventual reconstruction, and reinvigorate the peace process."
That "nod to the Saudi-backed Arab Peace Initiative" is a follow up to a speech that Obama gave last Thursday:
He called on Arab governments to "act on" the promise of a Saudi-led 2002 Arab peace initiative by supporting the Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas "taking steps towards normalising relations with Israel, and by standing up to extremism that threatens us all."
When Obama talks about there being an outline of what needs to be done in order to bring peace to the Middle East, he may very well be referring to the Saudi Peace Initiative. One reason Obama may be speaking so cautiously about the plan is because of the denials that came out last year that this plan was under consideration:
A senior adviser to Barack Obama on Sunday denied reports that the U.S. president-elect plans to throw his weight behind the 2002 Arab peace plan, which calls for Israel to withdraw from all territories captured during the 1967 Six-Day War in exchange for normalized ties with the Arab world.

The British Sunday Times said Obama expressed this sentiment during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories last July.

Dennis Ross, Obama's adviser on Middle East policy, issued a statement Sunday, saying "I was in the meeting in Ramallah. Then-senator Obama did not say this, the story is false."

...The Arab peace initiative, first approved by the Arab League in 2002 in Beirut (and reaffirmed last year), calls for Israel's withdrawal from all the territories and a solution to the refugee problem in exchange for an Arab recognition of the end to the conflict and normalization between Israel and all the Arab countries.
Of course, from Obama's viewpoint, the plan makes great sense--why not go with the plan that has the greatest amount of Arab support behind it, especially when Hamas has to a degree been marginalized by Operation Cast Lead and no longer has unified support, neither from the Arab World nor the EU.

Shmuel Rosner points out that in an assessment of the Saudi Peace Plan, given in Prevent Breakdown, Prepare for Breakthrough: How President Obama Can Promote Israeli-Palestinian Peace, David Pollack finds that one of the flaws in the plan is that
the Arab Peace Initiative offers Israel recognition under certain conditions. On the other hand, many of the same Arab governments that made this offer also give various forms of material, moral, and political support to Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction and dedicated to supplanting the rival Palestinian government that has formally offered to make peace.
The fact that this impediment has been weakened can only make the plan seem more appealing to Obama. Keep in mind that, as Ed Morrissey writes:
Obama reportedly told Mahmoud Abbas that “Israel would be crazy” not to accept the plan. He concluded that the Saudi plan would give Israel peace with the entire Muslim world.
So much for Obama's famous promise--later retracted--of keeping Jerusalem united. After all, according to the text of the Saudi Plan, the requirements on Israel's side are:
a. Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967 as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

b. Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

c. The acceptance of the establishment of a Sovereign Independent Palestinian State on the Palestinian territories occupied since the 4th of June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
This as opposed to the daring steps to be taken by the Arab world:
a. Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

b. Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
And don't think that Saudi Arabia doesn't realize the enormous risk being taken--by the Arab world.

Rosner quotes from an article by Turki al-Faisal, who writes:
The Arab world is willing to pay a high price for peace, not only recognizing Israel as a legitimate state but also normalizing relations and putting a permanent end to the state of hostilities that has existed since 1948.
As Rosner notes:
A "high price"? That's an odd way to put it. Ending hostilities is not a price the Arabs will be paying - it's the reward they will be getting, that we will all be getting, if an Israeli-Arab agreement is achieved.
Although both Obama and the current Israeli leadership are eyeing the Saudi Plan, at this point it is certainly worth no more than the paper it is written on. If Obama is going to gamble on putting the Saudi plan in place as his first foreign accomplishment, he should keep in mind that he does not have the most to lose.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

Check out Memeorandum for lots more on Obama's interview with Al-Arabiya

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