Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Barry Rubin: Flash: What, Me Pessimistic? Egyptian Election Outcome is Worse Than I Expected

By Barry Rubin

Since last February I have predicted that the Muslim Brotherhood would win elections in Egypt. People have thought me very pessimistic. Now the votes are starting to come in and…it’s much worse than I thought. But my prediction that the Brotherhood and the other Islamists would gain a slight majority seems to have been fulfilled and then some. According to most reports the Brotherhood is scoring at just below 40 percent all by itself.

Why worse? For two reasons:

First, the votes we now have come from the most urban areas of the country. If there are Facebook sophisticates they’re going to be in Cairo and Alexandria. If the moderates do that bad in the big cities, what’s going to happen in the villages up the Nile? If the fascist party came in first in some European countries Social Democratic districts you know you are in trouble.

Can You Be Both Pro-Palestinian AND Pro-Israel?

Iceland seems to think so.

That would be the implication of Iceland recognizing the "state" of Palestine.
In an effort to woo the uncommitted, pro-Palestinian advocates frequently insist that one can be pro-Palestinian without being anti-Israel. In theory, that seems self-evident. But in practice, it’s often false. Just consider the parliament of Iceland, which on Tuesday became the first Western parliament to officially call for Israel’s eradication.

What The Storming of the British Embassy In Iran Tells Us About The Successor To Ahmadinejad (Updated)

According to Fox News, the storming of the British embassy in Iran may not have been spontaneous:
Hardline Iranian students stormed the British embassy in Tehran this morning, smashing windows and burning the British flag. The students, protesting the latest British sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic as a result of its nuclear defiance, demanded Tehran break relations with London. Rather than protect the embassy, Iranian security forces charged with its protecting simply stood aside suggesting official endorsement of the act.

Mideast Media Sampler 11/30/2011

From DG:
1) Is restraint ever urged before Israel is attacked?

The New York Times headline about the recent rocket attack against northern Israel reads, Restraint Urged After Salvos Over Lebanon-Israel Line:
The United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon called for “maximum restraint” on Tuesday after an exchange of fire over the Israel-Lebanon border overnight.
Rockets fired from southern Lebanon struck northern Israel for the first time since 2009, and the Israeli military responded by firing artillery shells at the area where the rockets were launched.
This is a serious incident, in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, and is clearly directed at undermining stability in the area,” the commander of the peacekeeping force, Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas, said in a statement.

Barry Rubin: Who Killed The Next One Hundred People Like Rafiq Tagi? You Did

“The stars are dead. The animals will not look./We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, and/History to the defeated/may say Alas but cannot help nor pardon.”
–W.H. Auden, “Spain, 1937”

By Barry Rubin

You’ve almost certainly never heard of Rafiq Tagi but the drip-drip drumbeat that has so long made much of the Middle East into a living Hell is like the drops of his blood. Tagi was an Azerbaijaini writer of courage. He was stabbed by two men in Baku on the night of November 19. Five days later he died in a hospital bed. Sixty-one years old.

Here is his funeral. It is a Muslim funeral. Not many mourners. Certainly not enough.

Tagi was one of those guys who had real guts and real convictions even though he knew for certain that his life was at risk every day. Not like the well-paid, safe and secure people who tremble about telling the truth so often found among the exalted intellectuals of the West. He said what he thought about his own government, criticized Islamism, and lambasted the regime of Iran which was not far from his home in Baku. The Iranian regime especially hated him.

Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor To General Assembly, November 29, 2011

GA: Debate on "The Question of Palestine"

Mr. President,

A great Jewish sage once wrote, “The truth can hurt like a thorn, at first; but in the end it blossoms like a rose.”

His words came to my mind today. His insight could really benefit many in this hall.

It takes a well of truth to water the seeds of peace. Yet, we continue to witness a drought of candor in this body’s discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. On this historic day, real facts in the General Assembly remain few and far between.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arlene Kushner: Netanyahu Caves On Taxes To Palestinian Authority

From Arlene Kushner:
November 29, 2011

"That Sound You May Hear..."

Is yours truly, banging her head against the wall.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has just announced that Israel may release to the PA tax funds that have been held since the PA applied for acceptance by UNICEF as a full member.

"Israel will examine this possibility, in light of the current calm situation," he said, indicating that the PA has slowed its unilateral steps at the UN.

Henry Jackson Society: The Egyptian Elections--A Preliminary Political Assessment of the Post-Mubarak Era

From an email:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        29th November 2011

The Egyptian Elections:
A Preliminary Political Assessment 
of the Post-Mubarak Era

MEDIA CONTACT: Michael Weissemail or phone +44 (0)20 7340 4520 (office) 
or +44 (0)77 666 41670 (mobile)

OBLSince the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last February, the future of Egypt has been deeply uncertain and the subject of intense international debate. In the last fortnight, a return of protestors to Tahrir Square, and the killing of dozens of them by the authorities, has only complicated the picture further. What role will Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) continue to play in the country's future? Will these elections really usher in a new democratic era? If so, who will be the beneficiaries, and what might happen to the country's minority rights?

LA Times: Abdullah Azzam Brigades Fired The Rockets Into Israel

Yesterday I posted about the rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel--and that there was a report that Israel ruled out Hezbollah on the one hand and the assumption by CBS that Syria was behind it.

Now, the LA Times is claiming that a different terrorist group fired the rockets into Israel:

Barry Rubin: When Romanticism Trumps Reason You Get Radical Chic Catastrophes

Remember the war against Franco,
That’s the kind where each of us belongs
He may have won all the battles
But we had all the good songs!
–Tom Lehrer

By Barry Rubin

The radical is always the more glamorous. People wear Che Guevara tee-shirts. They don’t wear Samuel Gompers, A. Phillip Randolph, Edouard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, or Jean Jaures tee-shirts, yet those largely forgotten social democratic and labor heroes achieved far more benefit for reform and workers without murdering a lot of people.

Mideast Media Sampler 11/29/2011

From DG:
1) The story that Time manufactured

In September, 2010, Time Magazine featured a cover story, Why Israel doesn't want peace. It was written by Time's new Middle East correspondent, Karl Vick. Vick, in writing such tripe, showed himself to be a worthy heir to the likes of Tony Karon and Tim McGuirk, willing to push an anti-Israel narrative to substitute for news.

Now Vick has graduated to explaining how the terrorist organization, Hamas, really does want peace.

Rockets Fired From Lebanon Into Israel: Why?

The Lebanese news site Naharnet is also reporting on the rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel:
Several rockets fired from southern Lebanon landed in Israel overnight, prompting the Jewish state's army to warn Beirut early Tuesday to work to prevent similar attacks in the future.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Arlene Kushner On Obama's Support For The Muslim Brotherhood

From Arlene Kushner:
November 28, 2011
"A Menace to the West"
Today this news, which was released on Friday, takes precedence. 
From the NY Times:

"The White House on Friday threw its weight behind Egypt's resurgent protest movement, urging for the first time the handover of power by the interim military rulers in the Obama administration's most public effort yet to steer the course of the Egyptian democracy.

"'The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately,' the White House said...

Video: Barry Rubin On ReThinking The Situation In Egypt

Professor Barry Rubin shares his views on the situation in Egypt with, prior to the latest elections.

Explosion In Isfahan, Iran: If It's Not The Mossad, Is It From The Iranian Opposition? (Updated)

"At least 17 gas pipeline explosions have been reported since last year, compared with three in 2008 and 2009. At the same time, nearly a dozen major explosions have damaged refineries since 2010, but experts say it is complicated to determine the cause of such incidents."
Washington Post, Mysterious explosions pose dilemma for Iranian leaders

All the Washington Post had to do today was report on the upsurge in major explosions in Iran, and someone in Iran decided to oblige: Explosion rocks Iran city of Isfahan, home to key nuclear facility:
An explosion rocked the western Iranian city of Isfahan on Monday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, adding that the blast was heard in several parts of the city.

Research Reveals Some In Vegetative State Able To Communicate


Rabbi Avi Shafran

Remember Terri Schiavo, the “vegetative” Florida woman who, as a result of her husband’s insistence and a court order (over her parents’ objections), was removed from life support and died in 2005?

“Vegetative” patients—people who, due to disease or accident, are unresponsive to stimuli—are considered by many to be less than truly alive.

Last year, though, a group of European scientists employed something called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which shows cellular activity across brain regions, to demonstrate that four patients in a group of 54 diagnosed as vegetative were in fact hearing and thinking—and could actually communicate—answering yes-or-no questions about their lives—through mental effort.

And now, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet has published a study demonstrating that three severely brain-injured people thought to be in an irreversible “vegetative” state showed signs of full consciousness when tested with a relatively inexpensive, widely available method of measuring brain waves.

So What Did Twitter And Facebook Do For The Egyptian Revolution?

The Atlantic tackles the question of What the New Protests in Egypt Mean for the 'Twitter Revolutions':
The past several days have been hard ones for those who cheered the fall of Hosni Mubarak less than a year ago. More than 30 people have been killed protesting the continued rule of the military council, and the Egyptian cabinet has tendered its resignation. Tahrir Square, once a symbol of the possibilities for a new Egypt, has now become a stage for the revolution's unraveling. These developments (and others since last February) have provoked a simple thought: What if the combination of social media and mobile devices does make revolutions more likely, but do not in turn make republican governing any more possible? What then?
The conclusion is that social networks and media can only take you so far:

The Hundreds Of Thousands Of ARAB Settlers In #Palestine Just Prior To 1948

Claims by Palestinian Arabs that they were an indigenous people, on the land for many generations, is also a misrepresentation. There is solid documentation for the fact that a substantial part of this group, identified only as part of the Arab nation, migrated into Palestine in the years shortly before the founding of Israel.
Arlene Kushner, In a nutshell: Why eastern Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria are Jewish

A pity that the history of these Arab settlers is not better known...

Aaron Lerner provides the audio of an interview with Arab from Abu Goush who notes that Israeli Arabs originated overseas:In this interview broadcast on 26.11.2011 on Israel Radio's nature program,
an Israeli Arab from the village of Abu Goush (near Jerusalem) observes that while most Israeli Arabs originated from many different places such as Yemen, Egypt, etc., everyone in Abu Goush can trace himself back to one father who came from the Caucasus.

Here is the audio, translated:

Mideast Media Sampler 11/28/2011

From DG:
1) "Brain wars"

A few weeks ago Nicholas Blanford reported for the Daily Star Speculation continues over Hezbollah’s ability to disable Israeli drones:
The recent mysterious disappearance of a suspected Israeli pilotless reconnaissance plane from the radar screen of the French UNIFIL battalion in south Lebanon has raised speculation that Hezbollah has found a way of electronically jamming and disabling drones.

Video: Trailer From Israel Inside, How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference'

From the YouTube Page for the Israel Inside trailer:
'ISRAEL INSIDE, How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference',tells the story of a flourishing, productive and caring society. Sidestepping the usual conversation of politics, conflict and violence, the film highlights the spirit of the people of Israel, which has brought this tiny country to the forefront of world innovation and progress.


Barry Rubin: Egyptian Moderates Throw Themselves to the Wolves

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” –Edmund Burke (1770)

By Barry Rubin

On the eve of the Egyptian election, I’m really disgusted with the collapse of the moderate forces. While the Muslim Brotherhood is disciplined, united, working hard, and on message, the moderates are running around in circles. There is not the slightest sign of unity among the three main moderate parties (Wafd, Justice, and Free Egyptians) and the dozens of smaller ones.

Consider that instead of putting their energy into organizing, uniting, and getting out the vote, they are engaged in thoroughly useless demonstrations in Tahrir Square. What is the goal of these demonstrations? On one hand, they demand that the turnover of power be moved up; on the other hand, moderate politicians speak of postponing the balloting. Muhammad ElBaradei, once the Americans’ favorite candidate (before the Obama Administration switched to backing the anti-American, antisemitic Muslim Brotherhood) is actually creating his own virtual government! What a putz!

Think about it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 11/27/11

From DG:
1) Revolutions pit the Lexus vs. the olive tree

In his latest column about the "Arab Spring" (which as InstaPundit notes, doesn't seem so "springy" these days), In the Arab World, It’s the Past vs. the Future, Thomas Friedman pays tribute to ... himself:
But the weight of their history is so heavy. The new Lexus-like values of “democracy,” “free elections,” “citizen rights” and “modernity” will have to compete with some very old Olive Tree ideas and passions. These include the age-old civil wars within Islam between Sunnis and Shiites, over who should dominate the faith, the heated struggle between Salafists and modernists over whether the 21st century should be embraced or rejected, as well as the ancient tribal and regional struggles playing out within each of these societies. Last, but not least, you have the struggle between the entrenched military/crony elites and the masses. These struggles from the “past” always threaten to rise up, consume any new movement for change and bury “the future.”
I guess this reference to "Salafists and modernists" is his way of warning about the Muslim Brotherhood. However, until now he has been mostly quiet about the Islamist threat to Egypt.

For example in the previous paragraph Friedman wrote:

Arlene Kushner On The Turmoil In Egypt; Trailer For New Pro-Israel Movie

From Arlene Kushner

November 27, 2011

"First the Good"

There's a marvelous new PBS documentary film about Israel that will be premiered this week:  "Israel Inside -- How a small nation makes a big difference."  "An emotional, inspiring look at what makes Israel tick."  
Shows  "how the Israeli people have transformed this country against all odds in a very short time."

If you live in south Florida, you'll be able to see it on Tuesday November 29, 8 pm, on PBS in South Florida – WPBT Channel 2.  It is hoped that it will be broadcast nationally on PBS in 2012.

See and share the trailer for the film Israel Inside: How A Small Nation Makes A Big Difference

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Barry Rubin: How to Tell Who is a “Moderate Islamist:” An Exam

By Barry Rubin

The Muslim Brotherhood held a rally at Cairo’s most important mosque. Demonstrators chanted, “One day we shall kill all Jews.”

Question 1: How can you tell they are “moderate Islamists?”

Answer: They said “one day,” in other words, they aren’t going to do it this week.

Question 2: At the rally someone said:

“In order to build Egypt, we must be one. Politics is insufficient. Faith in Allah is the basis for everything. The al-Aqsa Mosque is currently under an offensive by the Jews.” Who was it?

Answer: Ahmed al-Tayeb, the “moderate” president of al-Azhar University and arguably the most important Muslim cleric in Egypt. Note: al-Aqsa Mosque is not under attack by Jews.

Question 3: Why did al-Tayeb talk this way in the context of calling for a Jihad against Israel?

Answer: Maybe he isn’t so moderate. But more importantly it is part of the general radicalization of Islam that is going to happen in Egypt now that the Brotherhood will be running the place and thus also his desire to survive rather than be branded a lackey of the Zionist-imperialist crusade to destroy Islam and have his head cut off. (See Question 1.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Video: Latma--The Real Arab Spring And Discusses Israel's New Slander Law

This week's Latma is here--with a new song, about the real Arab Spring.

Mideast Media Sampler 11/25/2011

From DG:
1) The option play

There's some interesting reporting in Israel Halts Payments to Palestinian Authority, Adding to Fiscal Woes. First we have:
Another Israeli official said that when the decision was made to withhold payment around Nov. 1, there had been several troubling developments from Israel’s point of view. First, he said, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said nothing after a rocket from Gaza killed someone in southern Israel. Then Mr. Abbas seemed to praise the abduction of an Israeli soldier five years ago and said he would never recognize a Jewish state. Finally, the Palestinians joined Unesco — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — a move that Israel rejected as another unilateral step toward statehood.

“We wanted to make clear this could not be business as usual,” the official said. “The idea is to influence Palestinian decision-making.” 
This is very clear. I would quibble only that the charges against the Palestinian Authority are presented as the view of an Israeli official. All of this information is freely available and could have been reported in the reporter's own words; instead it is presented as an Israeli view. Then we have:

Barry Rubin: What Do Totalitarians Do When They Gain Power Democratically?

By Barry Rubin

In the last scene of the film “The Candidate,” about a U.S. Senate election, the victorious candidate expresses American cynicism about politics by asking, “What do we do now?” The idea is that politicians just want to get into power but have no idea of how to deal with problems or even a coherent worldview. Soon deadlock will set in and nothing is really going to change. It is the sarcasm fit for an open, non-ideological system where individual ambition prevails. But as long as there’s always another election, we know that things will be all right and life will be tolerable.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Arlene Kushner On Dealing With Abbas

From Arlene Kushner

November 24, 2011
"He's Not Buying It"

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not remotely convinced, nor should he be: 

In certain quarters of the international community the idea is being promoted that a peace treaty hastily negotiated between Israel and the PA would have a mollifying effect on the unrest in the Arab world.  EU Ambassador to Israel Andrew Standley, for example, said at a Jerusalem press conference yesterday that Israel should move quickly to settle with the Palestinians to remove this conflict as an issue on the Egyptian street.

Failure to move ahead on negotiations, he declared, should not be allowed to become an additional "disturbing factor" in the Arab world.


Now, really.

Abbas Finally Admits Fatah Is No Different Than Hamas

Abbas agreed that Hamas and Fatah have the same goals:
"President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on Thursday hailed a new "partnership" after talks to implement a landmark reconciliation deal.

"We want to assure our people and the Arab and Islamic world that we have turned a major new and real page in partnership on everything do to with the Palestinian nation," Mashaal said.

"There are no more differences between us now," added Abbas, who heads the Fatah movement."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

UNESCO Director Slams Syria's Appointment To UNESCO Human Rights Committee


UNESCO elects Syria to human rights committees


Vote slammed by UNESCO director & Canada FM



GENEVA, Nov. 23 – UNESCO’s executive board, which includes the US, France, the UK and other Western democracies, unanimously elected Syria to a pair of committees – one dealing directly with human rights issues – even as the Bashar al-Assad regime maintains its campaign of violence against its own citizens.

The Arab group at UNESCO nominated Syria for the spots, and though the 58-member board approved the pick by consensus on Nov. 11, the agency has not yet posted the results on its website.

Syria’s election came just a day before the League of Arab States moved to suspend Syrian membership of that body.

Turkey Helps Their Cause--And Hurts Iran's--By Helping Armed Revolt Against Syria

After warning Syria to ease back on its crackdown, Turkey is now actively undermining the Syrian regime:
Once one of Syria’s closest allies, Turkey is hosting an armed opposition group waging an insurgency against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, providing shelter to the commander and dozens of members of the group, the Free Syrian Army, and allowing them to orchestrate attacks across the border from inside a camp guarded by the Turkish military.

A Rarity: Middle East Dictator Leaves Post...Free And Alive

That would be Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh, who leaves power with both his freedom and his life:
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has signed a U.S.-backed power transfer deal and will travel to New York for medical treatment, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Accusing Israel Of Pinkwashing Is A Whitewash

In response to the absurd claim that Israel is apartheid, that it is not a democracy, one of the latest responses has been to point to Israel's acceptance of Gays.

Apparently, such a simple truth--and the possibility that Israel may find allies in the Gay community--has created a backlash: the accusation that Israel is "Pinkwashing":

Mideast Media Sampler 11/23/2011

From DG:
1) Looking for reasons

Somewhere there's a Middle East as described by the New York Times where the Palestinian Authority encourages coexistence with Israel. As Isabel Kershner reported in Abbas Condemns Killing of Jewish Family:
The new focus on incitement against Israel, together with Israeli dissatisfaction over the Palestinian response to the brutal attack, seemed to pose a question about the Israeli government’s readiness to deal with Mr. Abbas as a serious peace partner — even though Mr. Abbas and Mr. Fayyad are widely considered moderates who have repeatedly said they would never resort to violence.

The UN Has A Funny Way Of Pressuring Assad To Stop Killing His People

Foreign Secretary William Hague is justifiably proud that the UN General Assembly endorsed human rights resolution written by the UK condemning the Syrian crackdown:
"Today’s UNGA resolution sends a signal of united condemnation of the Syrian regime’s systematic human rights abuses.

Barry Rubin: Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Versus Army: Disastrous Elections or Bloody Civil War?

By Barry Rubin

Only days before parliamentary elections, Egypt is in a huge crisis whose outcome will determine the future of almost 80 million people and perhaps the Arabic-speaking world’s fate for decades to come.

Will the army go ahead with elections that will be won by the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Salafist groups, thus producing an Islamist regime or

Will it cancel elections, declare martial law in some form and set off a passionate civil conflict?

That’s quite a difficult choice and not one the army prefers. Understandably, the military has a third alternative: set up some compromise rules for the new Egyptian state that leave it feeling secure even if this plan sacrifices a lot of other factors.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Sources Of Oil--And The Decline of Saudi Influence

Some are even talking about an era of 'energy independence' for the Americas, based on the immense conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon resources located there. While that might be stretching the point, it is clear that the abundance of resources and the more 'balanced' geographical distribution of unconventionals have reduced the much-hyped concerns over 'energy security', which once served as the undercurrent driving energy policies and dominated the global energy debate.
Al-Falih, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco

Israel is not the only country that will benefit from new oil technology--and you don't even have to be a Middle East country to reap the rewards. In fact, the next oil cartel may be nearby:
The outline of a new world oil map is emerging, and it is centered not on the Middle East but on the Western Hemisphere. The new energy axis runs from Alberta, Canada, down through North Dakota and South Texas, past a major new discovery off the coast of French Guyana to huge offshore oil deposits found near Brazil.

EU Will Reward Abbas If He'll Just Make Believe To Negotiate

Such a deal!

King Abdullah presents Abbas with EU initiative
Jordan's King Abdullah has presented Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a document that includes a European initiative for resuming negotiations with Israel, the al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported.

Barry Rubin: Karl Marx Visits Occupy Wall Street

By Barry Rubin

November 1989, Moscow

During the Polish anti-Communist revolt, spearheaded by the workers, a joke swept through Poland. According to the story, the Communist dictator couldn’t figure out what to do in order to put down the uprising. So he went to Moscow to visit Lenin’s tomb for inspiration, and the Soviet authorities closed it down to let him meditate there.

“Oh Lenin,” said President Wojciech Jaruzelski, the situation is terrible. “The country is in turmoil, the economy is collapsing, counterrevolutionaries are everywhere, the imperialists are subverting Poland, and the church is backing the revolt. What should I do?”

Suddenly, Lenin, mummified as he was, came to life, sat up, and shouted: “Arm the workers!” 

November 2011, New York City

The bear-like man with wild hair and long beard waddled down the lower Manhattan street. That “old mole,” revolution, had stuck its head up into the air again, sniffed the carbon dioxide-laden firmament, and didn’t scurry back down into the hole. A specter was haunting the world all right.

He was excited to see it first-hand. But the sight was a shock. This was no organized group of class-conscious proletarians, but the flotsam of bourgeois society. Drug users and sex fiends, spoiled brats from the upper bourgeoisie, and anarchists.

He had written about:

“The social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.”

Rabbi Avi Shafran: Why Racism Isn't Always Perjorative (#OWS, Take Note)


Rabbi Avi Shafran

When I recounted seeing a small group of unusually dressed men in shul last Sunday in Staten Island and realizing that they were trying to catch a minyan before participating in the New York Marathon (which begins in that borough), my daughter asked me if any of them had a chance of winning the race.

“Nah,” I said. “It’ll be a Kenyan.” Four of the New York race’s past ten men’s race winners, after all, hailed from that African country. Actually, make that five now. (Congratulations, Geoffery Mutai.) A fellow Kenyan came in second.

My daughter’s face, I thought, evidenced some surprise, as if I had espoused some rank racism.

Mideast Media Sampler 11/22/11

From DG:
1) Reconsidering the Post's editorial

Yesterday's Washington Post editorial condemning a proposed NGO law in Israel begins with:
FOR YEARS repressive governments in the Middle East have sought to curb scrutiny of their human rights records and prevent the development of organized opposition by banning civil society groups from receiving funding from foreign governments. As the Arab Spring spreads across the region, some of those controls are easing. So it is shocking to see Israel’s democratic government propose measures that could silence its own critics.

Video: Frank Sinatra In Israel In 1962 (And How He Was A Money-Runner For Kollek In 1948)

The story about Frank Sinatra and Teddy Kollek is mentioned on the YouTube page:
Sinatra helped Teddy Kollek, later the long-serving mayor of Jerusalem but then a member of the Haganah, by serving as a $1 million money-runner that helped Israel win the war. The Copacabana NYC nightclub, which was very much run and controlled by the same Luciano-related New York mafia crowd with whom Sinatra had become enmeshed, happened to be next door to the hotel out of which Haganah members were operating. In his autobiography, Kollek relates how, trying in March 1948 to circumvent an arms boycott imposed by President Harry Truman on the Jewish fighters in Eretz Yisroel, he needed to smuggle about $1 million in cash to an Irish ship captain docked in the Port of New York . The young Kollek spotted Sinatra at the bar and, afraid of being intercepted by federal agents, asked for help. In the early hours of the morning, the singer went out the back door with the money in a paper bag and successfully delivered it to the pier.
And here is the video, narrated by Sinatra:

After What Happened To Mubarak And Gaddafi, Don't Expect Assad To Leave So Soon

In Syria, the unarmed protests are turning into armed attacks by former soldiers:
Insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at the offices of the ruling Baath Party in Damascus on Sunday in a highly symbolic strike that signaled a new chapter in the eight-month uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

It was the second attack in days in the capital, which had so far largely been spared the unrest in other cities.

...Military defectors and armed insurgents have carried out attacks on government installations since the start of the uprising eight months ago, but the attack in Damascus on Sunday was the first to strike at the heart of the government’s base.
The problem: After seeing what happened to Mubarak and Gaddafi--where is Assad supposed to go?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Anne Bayefsky: Durban III - back again at the UN General Assembly - promotes what it claims to be fighting

For Immediate Release:
November 21, 2011
Contact:  Anne Bayefsky
(917) 488-1558

This article by Anne Bayefsky appears in Monday's The Jerusalem Post.
In yet another effort to demonize Israel on the political battlefield, the UN General Assembly—which can bear a striking resemblance to the game of Whac-A-Mole—will adopt a new resolution this week to promote the Durban “anti-racism” declaration. 

From Philosemitism: In Brussels, A 13-Year-Old Girl Beaten Because She Is Jewish

Children are such fast learners.

Philosemitism reports: Brussels: a 13-year-old girl beaten because she is Jewish
After training at a sports center in a residential area in Brussels (Neder-Over-Hembeek), a Jewish girl aged 13 was getting ready to leave with a friend when a dispute broke out with five girls (from Morocco). The Jewish teen complained she was fed up with the girls making disparaging remarks about her and her family.

Iran Hides Their Desire For Nuclear Arms, But Back in 1948 Syria Bragged They Had An Atom Bomb

In his book The Arab Mind, Raphael Patai tells a story from the eve of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence:
Musa Alami, the well-known Palestinian Arab leader, made a tour of the Arab capitals to sound out the leaders with whom he was well acquainted. In Damascus, the President of Syria told him:

Abbas Forgets: Freezing Settlements Is Neither An Obligation Nor A Precondition--It's For Negotiation

Abbas continues to fabricate any excuse possible in order to prevent peace negotiations. Now, instead of making the freezing of the settlements into an Israeli unilateral concession, Abbas is saying it's an obligation:
President Mahmoud Abbas Monday said that there are no signs of a near resumption of negotiations with Israel.

Abbas said following his meeting with the Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Ramallah that the Palestinians are ready to resume negotiations if Israel halts settlement activities and abide by the international resolution, saying that these aren’t pre-set conditions but obligations based on agreements between Palestinians and Israelis.

Mideast Media Sampler 11/21/11

From DG:
1) Interview with a dictator I

Hala Jabar interviewed Bashar Assad for the Sunday (London) Times.

While Jabar seems skeptical of many of Assad's claims, she doesn't clearly refute them.

There are some telling elements to the interview.

Video: A Yom Kippur Blood Libel in Messena, New York in 1928

In September 1928, Jews in Messena, New York were falsely accused of kidnapping a Christian girl and ritually murdering her:

How Much Foreign Funding Must An Israeli NGO Get Before It's No Longer An Israeli NGO?

Breaking The Silence may be a good case in point.

Breaking the Silence seems to be more a product of Europe than of Israel. Why would an Israeli NGO like Breaking The Silence have to spend so much time outside of Israel?
"[I]n contrast to the perception that BtS [Breaking the Silence] is rooted in Israeli civil society and addresses the Israeli public, the organization, in fact, focuses on lobbying and advocacy before foreign audiences. BtS exemplifies a serious problem, which has triggered a robust debate in the Israeli public and Knesset about the role of NGOs and NGO funders.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Check Out What Happened Today In Palestine In 1947 On Twitter with @1948War

There is a new twitter account this month, @1948War:
Nov. 1947. UN votes to partition Palestine into 2 states, Jewish and Arab. Follow events as they happen leading up to and during the War of Independence 1947-49
Some of what happened today back in 1947 is benign:

Barry Rubin: Brothers in Arms: The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Over the (Sunni) Arab World

By Barry Rubin

On November 28, Egyptians will vote for a parliament which will also write the country’s new constitution. The Western media at first told us that the Muslim Brotherhood was weak and unimportant as well as moderate. Now, when it’s too late, the Western media is admitting they are strong and radical. But the Obama administration insists they are strong and moderate.

The last time I read an article in the Atlantic on the Brotherhood, it claimed that the group was a joke and only had 13 percent support. Now it is publishing an article that takes it for granted that the Brotherhood will win the election.

There’s a new poll out that I don’t think is accurate, but keep reading and I’ll tell you why it is misleading in a moment.

According to the poll, 38 percent of Egyptians would vote for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. (Remember when we were told that this was a moderate split-off from the Brotherhood?) and 12 percent would vote for the even more radical al-Nour Party.

Why, then, do I think this poll isn’t accurate?

Arlene Kushner on Egypt, The NGO Laws and Iran

From Arlene Kushner:

November 20, 2011
"That Unity Government"

Various sources -- which differ in some particulars -- seem to concur that there has been a breakthrough with regard to a Fatah-Hamas unity government.  After leaders of the two parties meet on Thursday, it is said the agreement will be announced. Reportedly the new government and prime minister will be located in Gaza -- with the prime minister likely coming from Gaza, while the president and parliament will operate out of Ramallah.  Elections are slated for May, and Islamic Jihad may participate.  Both PA prime minister Salam Fayyad and Ismail Haniyeh, who is prime minister for Hamas, may bow out.

According to Arutz Sheva, which puts it that, Abbas is "going for broke" (gambling all on this move), the unity government will be based on "resistance," a Palestinian Authority state based on the temporary 1949 Armistice Lines and non-recognition of Israel. 

Let's see how the world handles this.

Mideast Media Sampler 11/20/11

From DG:
1) How the Muslim Brotherhood gets its message out

Writing in the Atlantic Shadi Hamid explains How Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Is Already Winning:
The anatomy of a Brotherhood election march is easy to understand. Candidates meet residents and shake hundreds of hands. Volunteers pass out flyers and sign up supporters. But to do this on a national level and cover Egypt's more than 40 million eligible voters requires thousands of organizers, tens of thousands of members and supporters, and considerable funding. Almost no parties -- perhaps save the hardline Salafi ones -- have these kinds of resources, and, for their part, many Salafis, after decades of shunning democratic elections as un-Islamic, are still uncomfortable with election marches. In Ard al-Liwa, the Brotherhood must have had around 30 designated "coordinators" -- all volunteers -- each of whom had a laminated FJP card hanging around their neck. So, when people ask why liberal and leftist parties don't do something similar, it comes down, at least in part, numbers.

When The Arab League Has To Fill The Vacuum Left By Obama...

Melanie Phillips writes about the Arab League, which has taken the uncharacteristic step of threatening Syria with sanctions if Assad does not put a stop to the crackdown on unarmed protesters.

Apparently, the Arab League believes the US is too weak to help stabilize the Middle East region:

Video: Agricultural Export Season From Gaza To Begin

From the YouTube page of the IDF:
During the past year, Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have exported more than 399 tons of strawberries, 10 million carnations, 6.5 tons of cherry tomato and 6 tons of red, green and yellow bell peppers to European markets. In the coming year, Palestinians are expected to export 1,000 tons of strawberries, 20 million carnations and 150 tons of red, green and yellow bell peppers. The exports are carried out thanks to the cooperation between COGAT and the Palestinian agricultural coordinator who work together in order to improve the lives of Gaza's civilian population.
Here is the video:

Iran's Fars News Agency List Of Popular Uprisings Falls Short

Iran's Fars News Agency has an article about the never ending fight against the Zionists "against the backdrop [of] the Muslim world's popular uprisings and revolutions which are similar to what happened in Iran in 1979 under the leadership of the late Imam Khomeini."

But the Fars News Agency list of "popular uprisings and revolutions" seems lacking:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Barry Rubin: Why Do Western Elites Minimize Radical Threats in the Middle East?

See Prof. Rubin's article: Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War, A Guide to the Battle

By Barry Rubin

A leading journalist heard my analysis on the rise of the radical Islamists, how U.S. policy is helping them, and why this is a disaster. His response? How could I say that Hamas was radical and wanted to wipe out Israel since it had not continually attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip?

Although this remark was about a very specific issue, I understood the general concept underlying it. To be a radical or extremist, many Westerners seem to believe, means you are a drooling loony, a caricature of a bomb-throwing revolutionary, like a rabid dog unable to stop himself from biting anyone within reach.

If you wear a tie and jacket, or just a jacket, or speak patiently and protest your moderation, or have patience you cannot be a radical.

Arlene Kushner On Aftermath Of IAEA Report On Iran

From Arlene Kushner

November 19, 2011
Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)

"The More Things Change..."

It was, admittedly, only during the course of the past 1-1/2 weeks that I was focused on family matters intensively enough so that I was prevented from posting.  But now that I have returned  to normal posting (and am so happy be back to doing so), I ask how things have changed in the course of those ten days.  And the answer is that not much has changed.  The same irritating and worrisome themes persist.  The same world stupidity endures.  Hadn't expected anything else.


In my book, no issue trumps that of the threat of Iran -- even if much of the world still chooses, obtusely and at its own peril, to remain oblivious to this.

Back on November 8, the Israeli government was still expressing hope that once the IAEA report on Iran was released -- that very day -- the world would sit up and take notice.

The report -- who contents had already been leaked -- for the first time made it clear that Iran is secretly working towards the development of atomic weaponry: "Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device."  A 14-page annex to the report provides a detailed description of the ways in which Iranian scientists have sought to develop the relevant skills and secure highly specific information and materials used in nuclear warhead design.  Iran would require about six months to enrich the quantity of uranium necessary for building a weapon.


Within a day,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Barry Rubin: Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War, A Guide to the Battle

The following by Barry Rubin is reposted here with permission.

Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War, A Guide to the Battle

By Barry Rubin

The only honest answer to the question of what will happen in Syria is: No one knows. After an eight-month-long battle in which more than 3500 people have been killed, there’s no telling who will be ruling Syria when the dust settles, or even when the dust will settle. A regime victory is quite possible—perhaps most likely—and its overthrow might--but not necessarily--bring an Islamist regime.

But what do we know about Syria? Here’s a guide.

Mideast Media Sampler 11/18/11

From DG:
1) Why do rational people make irrational decisions?

If you follow baseball, like I do, you've probably noticed that baseball has changed a bit in the past 20 years. Whether it is the way teams evaluate player or reporters cover the game, statistical analysis is playing a bigger role in baseball. Bill James, who spurred this revolution in baseball, wrote the following observations:
“Baseball men, living from day to day in the clutch of carefully metered chance occurrences, have developed an entire bestiary of imagined causes to tie together and thus make sense of patterns that are in truth entirely accidental,” James wrote. “They have an entire vocabulary of completely imaginary concepts used to tie together chance groupings. It includes ‘momentum,’ ‘confidence,’ ‘seeing the ball well,’ ‘slumps,’ ‘guts,’ ‘clutch ability,’ being ‘hot’ and ‘cold,’ ‘not being aggressive’ and my all time favorite the ‘intangibles.’ By such concepts, the baseball man gains a feeling of control over a universe that swings him up and down and tosses him from side to side like a yoyo in a high wind.” It wasn’t just baseball he was writing about, James continued. “I think that the randomness of fate applies to all of us as much as baseball men, though it might be exacerbated by the orderliness of their successes and failures.”
The letter quoted here, was written to Amos Tversky. Tversky and his colleague, Daniel Kahneman described thought processes that explained why people would make bad decisions even if they seemingly had all the necessary information and expertise to make good ones.

Michael Lewis (of "Moneyball" fame) caught up with Dr. Kahneman and got him to describe his conclusions. Writing for Vanity Fair, Lewis explained (h/t Rob Neyer):

Video: Latma--Is Channel 10 Too Big To Fail? And Peace Now's Financial Woes

Here is this week's Latma.
Topical, as usual.

Barry Rubin: Why Don’t Western Elites Get the Middle East? Because They Think It’s Just Like Them (Sort of)

By Barry Rubin

I’ve come to realize a hitherto hidden dimension of why it is so hard for Western establishment figures (policymakers, journalists, and academics) to understand the Middle East. It is the conflict between the thirst for good news and the reality of bad news.

Being optimists (based on the relatively good course of their own societies?) and believing that positive change is really easy if people only put their minds to making it happen (ditto and also liberal thinking), they exaggerate any sign that things are getting better.

Moreover, contemporary thinking trembles in horror about saying anything critical about Third World peoples (racism, Islamophobia) while it is considered noble to criticize “ourselves.” On top of that is the assumption that no one can really be radical. They are just responding to past mistreatment and will revert to being moderate the minute the oppression is corrected.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Closest East Rutherford, NJ Ever Came To Looking Like Mecca

The bottom picture is from 13 years ago.
That was when The Meadowlands was one of the sites for the Siyum HaShas
As for Mecca...well, the street signs are always like this.

Arab Spring Grows Teeth: Protesters In Iran And Syria Go On The Attack

Michael Ledeen writes that the weekend explosion outside Tehran indicates that the protests in Iran may be intensifying:
These attacks on the Guards — the symbol of the regime’s intensifying repression and slaughter of the Iranian people — are part of a pattern that includes explosions at refineries and pipelines. At the same time, strikes have been spreading (and no wonder; up to 30,000 retired teachers have been waiting for their pensions for many months). In short, people have lost patience, and the smaller of the two explosions at the RG base was aimed at Major General Hasan Tehrani Moghaddam, one of the most brutal of the country’s military leaders.

Contrary to the inevitable suspicions of the thumb-suckers (the Americans did it! no, the Israelis did it! no, it was an accident!), the operation was planned and carried out by Iranians from the opposition-that-does-not-exist.

How Many Times A Month Must Israel Tell The UN About The Rockets From Gaza?

I suppose 4 times should do it, don't you?
Prosor decries continued rocket fire from Gaza

For the fourth time in the past month, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the UN Security Council condemning the continuing rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip.

Missing Peace: Women in the ‘Arab Spring’- Will they be free?

The following from Missing Peace is reposted with permission

by Sharon Shaked,  researcher Arab affairs Missing Peace

The Arab Spring, as it is officially called, has already managed to change history forever.
But the fact that the populations stood up against their tyrannical regimes and demanded reform and a better life is no guarantee that the situation in the Arab countries will really improve.

The historian and Middle East expert Bernard Lewis once blamed the backwardness of the Arab world and the lack of peace on the absence of women in important spheres of society.

The way women and minorities are treated in post-revolution countries is perhaps the best indication that the ‘Arab Spring’ does not mean that people will be free. On the contrary, women seem to be back to square one and that doesn’t bode well for the chances for democracy, modernization and peace.

Mideast Media Sampler 11/17/11

From DG:
1) Assad family values 

According to BusinessWeek, Bashar Assad has stayed in power with the help of his personal wealth. The question remains how much longer can he buy loyalty? The magazine reports,Assad Spending Spree May Rebound as Syria Runs Short of Cash (h/t TurtleWoman777 ):
President Bashar al-Assad is paying Syrians, via subsidies and higher government salaries, to stay loyal to his government as it clamps down on an eight-month uprising. He may not be able to afford that policy for long.

Is Abbas Finally Climbing Backing Down From Seeking UN Recognition? At What Cost?

Apparently the Palestinian Authority is not as independent of influence of the US as it thought--Abbas is ready to deal on its quest for UN recognition, in return for the resumption of US/Israeli funding:
The Palestinian Authority has offered the United States a deal, saying it would freeze all moves to achieve full membership for "Palestine" in various UN agencies until the end of January, while the United States and Israel would resume transferring it funds.
But that is not to say that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority would put a complete stop to the process they started:

Turkey And The Arab Spring

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             November 2011

Turkey and the Arab Spring: A Strategic Briefing

MEDIA CONTACT: Michael Weiss

As the New York Times revealed recently, Turkey -- once a close ally of the Syrian regime -- is hosting an armed opposition group against President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey is sheltering the Free Syrian Army, and allegedly allowing them to run operations and wage attacks on Syria from a refugee camp on Turkey's border.

The Henry Jackson Society has published a strategic briefing, "Turkey and the Arab Spring," analysing the country's foreign policy in the light of the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. In the last decade, Turkey's pragmatic "zero-problems" foreign policy resulted in better relations and trade with its Middle Eastern neighbours. However, with the upheavals of the Arab Spring, Turkey's relations with Israel at an all-time low, the country's belated public support for the revolution in Syria and an escalation of the Cyprus-European Union (EU) issue, it is questionable whether this "zero problems" policy is still relevant or workable.  

The executive summary states: the lack of consistency in Turkey's responses to the revolutions and regarding the on-going statelessness of the Kurds and the Palestinians belies Prime Minister Erdoğan's commitment to a moral foreign policy. Amid concerns that Turkey is abandoning its long-standing commitment to the West, Turkey's current relations with Israel, Egypt, Syria and the EU demonstrate both far-reaching regional and international ambitions - independent of the US.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jonathan Rosenblum: Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt"l

by Jonathan Rosenblum
Mishpacha Magazine
November 16, 2011

For Love of Torah and Every Jew

I first saw Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt"l, around thirty years ago at the chasanah of a chavrusah, who had been in his shiur at the Mirrer Yeshiva. I had no idea who he was. But I couldn't take my eyes off of him. A half-smile never departed from his lips the entire time I observed him. It conveyed goodness and love and joy in a talmid's simcha. I remember asking my chavrusah later, "Who was that man who looked like an angel?"

Barry Rubin: A Saudi Writer Explains the “Muslim Brotherhood Spring”

By Barry Rubin

It’s always fascinating to read the work of genuine Arab moderates (or that of non-Arab Muslims) to see how much it differs from the Western-celebrated false moderates and radicals so often prominently featured in the mass media and academia. Indeed, people like the following writer can never be found as heroes of the official West because they tell the inconvenient truths about the Middle East.

Consider a young Saudi named Mshari al-Zaydi. He is the opinion page editor of Al-Sharq al-Awsat, the best Arabic newspaper, where this article first appeared. It was then reprinted on the website of al-Arabiyya, the UAE alternative to the radical Qatari al-Jazira. Funny, how the anti-Western al-Jazira is lionized by the West while al-Arabiyya is ignored.

PLO Claims 1967 Land Swap Is Heresay--And Here Is Where They Said It!

Let's put aside for the moment that due to Abbas's refusal to sit down with Netanyahu--there are no talks.

According to, the PLO is now saying that any peace agreement with Israel will not include land swaps:
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) announced on Monday that it will very soon drop the "land swap" formula, which the it branded as a grave mistake that was included in any agreement with Israel.

Speaking to Gulf News, Tayseer Khalid, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that the formula was only mere talk by Israelis and mediators. "We have never signed an agreement with Israel, which states any shape of land swap formula," he added. "Land swap formula is a heresay in the track of negotiations," he said.
It's not that there hasn't been talk of land swaps in addition to using the 1967 lines as boundaries--it's just that the PLO doesn't feel it has obligated itself to such swaps.

But the funny thing is: the PLO itself has clearly stated it would swap land in addition to the 1967 lines:

Palestinian Freedom Riders Prove Israel Is Not Apartheid

That point is made by Glenn Beck's The Blaze: Palestinian Bus-Riding Gimmick To Prove Israeli 'Apartheid' Ends Up Showing...No Apartheid:
A contrived effort to engineer a Rosa Parks moment fall flat Tuesday when a handful of Palestinian activists set out to board an Israeli bus that they say services only West Bank Jewish settlers. In trying to create a comparison between the U.S. civil rights movement and the Palestinian predicament, they hoped to prove the long-standing claim of Palestinians and their international supporters that Israel is an “apartheid” state.

Mideast Media Sampler 11/16/11

From DG:
1) This train's got the disappearing Israel blues

At first the essay, From Nablus to Jerusalem, by Raja Shehadeh, seemed innocuous. But upon a second reading the final paragraphs stuck out.
More than one hundred years ago, the Ottomans built a vast train network throughout the Middle East, first connecting Jaffa and Jerusalem and eventually linking the main cities of the Arab Middle East — Amman, Basra, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem and Medina — to Istanbul. Construction on the Nablus-Jerusalem segment was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I, and the Nablus train station was largely destroyed during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.  
Today, no train crosses the borders of our tiny territory. The only Green Line we know does not connect the capitals of the Middle East; it divides them. Yet for just one moment last Saturday, the imagination of two young Palestinian artists made it possible to project ourselves beyond this dismal present.

NGO Monitor Chart Reveals Some Israeli NGOs Receive Over 70% Of Their Funding From Foreign Governments

In the face of the intense debate over measures the Israeli government wants to put into place to limit the amount of foreign funding Israeli NGOs can receive, NGO Monitor has put together an  FAQ covering the basics of the debate over the massive foreign government funding non-governmental organizations in Israel

Among the points made in the NGO Monitor FAQ:
  • An NGO cannot receive a sizable portion if its budget from foreign and still qualify as a non-governmental organization.

  • This foreign funding of NGOs is being done on a scale which is unique to Israel.

  • Many Israeli non-profits do not submit annual reports to the Registrar of Non-Profits (Rasham Amutot)--and this is a violation of Israeli law

  • A number of powerful NGOs receive more than 70% of their annual donations from foreign governments.

  • The major governments which fund Israeli NGOs are the European Union and individual European states including Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain Finland, Belgium, and France.
Here is a chart composed by NGO Monitor, covering Foreign government funding for Israeli political NGOs 2009/2010