IDF Adapts to Goldstone Report

The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) has learned from the Goldstone Report in spite of the report’s failings. The IDF emphasizes the participation of legal advisors in military operations, media relations, and cooperation with legitimate human rights groups.
http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/04/11/3086821/pushed-by-goldstone-idf-embraces-new-smart-warfare

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The Fall of Glenn Beck: Wacko Conspiracies and Antisemitism

This describes the demise of one of the more bizarre figures in American culture: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2011/04/06/AFNEgnqC_story.html

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Richard Goldstone’s Sort-Of Apology

“Richard Goldstone’s Sort-Of Apology”
by Laurence H. Kant
Published in Shalom (Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass), May, 2011: p. 5

Pathetic. That is the only word I can use to describe Richard Goldstone’s stunning sort-of-apology in the Washington Post.

As many of you may remember, South African judge Richard Goldstone (who is Jewish) issued a report that generally downplayed the war crimes of Hamas in Israel’s 2006 Gaza incursion and lashed out at Israel for its disproportionate attacks on Gaza, its targeting of civilians, its use of Palestinians as human shields, and its destruction of civilian infrastructure. The Goldstone Report was issued under the auspices of the U.N. Human Rights Council, that embodiment of fairness toward Israel whose visionary leadership has included such democratic, gentle, peace-loving nations as Bahrain, China, Libya, Pakistan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Saudi Arabia.

In his recent op-ed, Goldstone essentially admits that Israel followed proper procedures in the investigation of its soldiers in the Gaza incursion and that Hamas did not. He all but acknowledges that Israel’s military operated at a high moral level, while the military of Hamas did not.

His excuses ring hollow: He hoped that Hamas would respond to the commission’s requests–give us a break.¬† On what planet is he living? He thought that perhaps the U.N. Human Rights Council would start treating Israel more evenhandedly. This explanation is implausible and bears all the earmarks of after-the-fact rationalization:¬† Uh-oh, I’d better come up with something good. I can hear the wheels spinning. He wishes that Israel had responded to his requests. Gee, I wonder why Israel thought he and the commission would be biased and declined to cooperate. I‚Äôm shocked.

Goldstone and his commission harmed Israel and the Jewish people. And now he tries to justify the supposedly positive aspects of the Goldstone Commission and cannot even admit that he screwed up, even though he basically says he did.

The damage Goldstone has caused, some of it in the deaths of both Israelis and Palestinians, is incalculable. The PR benefits of his essay are miniscule compared to the PR damage of his commission’s report. True apologies require a straightforward admission of error and a commitment to act differently in the future. Richard Goldstone has not even begun to do that.

Perhaps his many awards, the numerous parties in his honor, and friendships with VIPs mean more to him than offending others, especially on the anti-Israel left.¬† Apparently Jews don’t count on the international chichi lists of official victimhood. His excuses make things even worse.

I find it particularly sad that a person so associated with international justice in South Africa, the Balkans, and Rwanda would shut his eyes to the injustice he committed against his own people.

Legitimate debate about Israeli policies is beneficial and desirable, but the Goldstone Report made a mockery of fact-finding and objective analysis.

What is it that leads some Jews to hate themselves so much that they are willing to propagate lies and half-truths about Israel rather than grapple with complexity? What a waste.

———————-

Here are links to the story:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reconsidering-the-goldstone-report-on-israel-and-war-crimes/2011/04/01/AFg111JC_story.html

http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=214866

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Syria and Israel Relations

This is a good analysis of possible scenarios for Israel and Syria:
http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/03/29/3086621/unrest-in-syria-presents-israel-with-potential-dangers-and-opportunities

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Massive Demonstrations Across Syria

Wow.¬† With crowds chanting, “No to Iran, no to Hezbollah,” no less.¬† This is something, even more amazing to me than Egypt. Of course, we have no idea what the outcome will be.¬† Also we have to be fearful that Assad might initiate violence against Israel (perhaps through Hezbollah or Hamas) in order to distract attention from his own people’s anger at him.¬† Christians in Syria are probably very worried, because they have done relatively well with the Assad/Alawite secular Baathist regime. There’s also the possibility of a religious Sunni regime coming to power. But Assad is one of the most brutal family dictatorships around, virulent hater of all things Israel, and a close ally of Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Again I recall Lenin’s quote: “Sometimes decades go by, and nothing happens. Sometimes weeks go by, and decades happen.”

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110325/wl_time/08599206136400

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/26/world/middleeast/26syria.html?_r=1&hp

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Alan Dershowitz on Obama’s Veto of UN Security Council Resolution

This is a good analysis that also illustrates the complexity of the settlement issue.¬† The old Jewish quarter of East Jerusalem is not a settlement, and the Palestinians have agreed in principle that Maale Adumim and Gilo will become part of Israel proper in a negotiated peace treaty.¬† There are other security-related reasons for keeping certain settlements as part of Israel.¬†¬†¬† Now that does not mean that Israeli settlement policy has not been deeply flawed–it has.¬† But one-sided resolutions and essays that treat all Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank as evil are ahistorical, incorrect, and harmful to our hopes for peace.

http://www.hudson-ny.org/1909/obama-was-right-to-veto-the-security-council

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Democracy, the Middle East and Israel

The US and the West are essentially tourists in the Middle East, while Israelis are residents:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/8348516/Libya-What-happens-after-we-stop-watching-these-revolutions-against-Col-Gaddafi.html

Conservative Fouad Adjami has faith in Arab democratic movements and their implications for Israel
http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/mideast-unrest-is-a-change-the-world-should-believe-in-scholar-says-1.345607

Also the road to democracy is long.  Democracy is not an election or majority rule, but many elections, tolerance for minority rights, and the growth of democratic institutions
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/the-long-road-to-democracy-1.345581

Conservative Daniel Pipes is optimistic about democracy:
http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/260923/my-optimism-new-arab-revolt-daniel-pipes

I don’t agree with this negative analysis, but it’s worth paying attention to. Benny Morris could well be correct, at least in the short term.¬† In the long run, I still bet on freedom.
http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/losing-middle-east-4921

Kevin Myers also has doubts about the possibility of true democracy in the Middle East:
http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/kevin-myers/kevin-myers-little-hope-of-democracy-as-arab-despots-overthrown-2549977.html

Tzipi Livni advocates a code for democracies:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/23/AR2011022305364.html

In Gaza, Islamist Hamas restricts the rights of secular individuals and groups, which are the cornerstone of a democratic society: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/25/AR2011022500824.html

In this interesting piece, Nick Cohen argues that Europe’s obsession with Israel has promoted dictatorships in the Middle East: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/27/nick-cohen-arab-middle-east-conflict

Robert Kaplan argues that democracy will be more about the establishment of authority than the restraint of it and that Turkey will have substantial influence as it did in the Ottoman period:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/25/AR2011022506229.html

I recall the peaceful nature of the demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia.  Even Libya was initially peaceful, but the protesters had to defend themselves when Qaddafi started massacring them.  This bodes well, and I remain optimistic in the longer-term (10-15 years).

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Support for Israel Remains Strong in U.S.

Obviously this is good news for the Jewish community and for US support of Israel.
http://www.gallup.com/poll/146408/Americans-Maintain-Broad-Support-Israel.aspx

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Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are close, as this article indicates.  And now Hamas has invited one of the charismatic leaders of the Brotherhood to Gaza, Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Egyptian Qaradawi has frequently called for jihad against Israel and Jews, the destruction of Israel, and has said that he himself looks forward to coming to Israel to personally shoot Jews.

http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e137.htm

For more on Qaradawi and his hatred of Jews, see the following:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/02/sheikh-qaradawi-seeks-total-war/71626/

http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=35&x_article=2000 (this discusses not only Qaradawi’s anti-semitism, his love for Hitler and his hopes for another even more successful Jewish holocaust, but also his support for female genital mutilation and wife beating, suicide killers, the fatwa ordering the murder of Salman Rushdie, the execution of apostates, and laws treating religious minorities differently.¬† The author emphasizes the whitewashing of Muslim Brotherhood hatred and violence in the New York Times.

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Palestinian Youth Seek to End Gaza and West Bank Schism

This does not bode well for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.   There are also deep conflicts between Islamist Hamas and secular PLO/Fatah.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/25/world/middleeast/25ramallah.html?hp

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Lara Logan and the Treatment of Women in Egypt

Why does the Western left rip Israel, but go silent on the treatment of women, minorities, and gays in Muslim countries?

The statistics are stunning:  about 35% of Egyptian wives report having experienced violence from their husbands. over 80% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment, and over 50% of Egyptian women have been molested (many wearing modest Islamic dress).  And this just refers to reported incidents:  unreported incidents are likely to make the actual totals far higher:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2011/02/20/no_rights_for_women_no_freedom_in_a_nation/

And over 90% of Egyptian women from 15-49 have undergone genital mutilation: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/evelyn-leopold/female-circumcism—-90-p_b_822283.html

This does not mean that there are not wonderful things about Muslim cultures, but it means that we have to examine them honestly.  It also means that blanket criticism of Israel (without corresponding critiques of neighboring societies). is unwarranted and unjust.

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Israel’s Relations with Egypt

A discussion of Egyptian-Israeli relations.  A good analysis.
http://washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=3312

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Major Setback at Iranian Nuclear Plant

This is significant news, suggesting that Iran may lack technical nuclear competency and that the tech attacks may well have had significant impact.  It provides more time for peaceful change in the Middle East

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/26/world/middleeast/26nuke.html?hp=&pagewanted=all

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Syria’s Nuclear Plans

More evidence has emerged of Syria’s nuclear facilities, which Israel destroyed.¬† What Israel did here prevented a catastrophe.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703842004576163082774601552.html?mod=rss_middle_east_news

At the same time, Syria seems to have more nuclear plans:

http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/satellite-image-shows-suspected-uranium-conversion-plant-in-syria1/


http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=209812

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al-Qaradawi Returns to Egypt and Publicly Attacks Israel

This is a danger that the Egyptian democratic movement must confront clearly and courageously.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=209102

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Tunisia: Islamists Demonstrate Against Jews

This is the other side of Middle Eastern protests and freedom movements:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQHdxYDTH_Y
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4030359,00.html

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“Abbas’s Intifada: Isolating Israel and Unilateral Steps”

The strategy of Abbas is not violence, but the diplomatic isolation of Israel and the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, with borders and parameters not to be determined by negotiation, but by fiat.

http://www.hudson-ny.org/1899/abbas-intifada

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British Trade Union Movement, Israel, and Boycotts

The British Trade Union Movement has been co-opted by anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists, committed to ending the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=3&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=624&PID=0&IID=6082&TTL=The_British_Trade_Union_Movement,_Israel,_and_Boycotts

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Israel Transit Ads War on US Buses


This reflects increasing polarization in our country and more aggressive anti-Israel campaigning.

http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/02/08/2742900/battle-over-mideast-transit-ads-heating-up-across-the-country

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Another Thought on Israel-Palestinian Peace Negotiations

Recently a New York times articles explained how close Israel and the Palestinian Authority were to completing a peace treaty under Israel’s Prime Minister Olmert. ¬†Upon further reflection, I have some doubts. ¬†It is in the interests of both Abbas and Olmert to exaggerate the proximity of a deal. ¬†Olmert wants to contrast himself ¬†with Netanyahu and present himself as great Israeli leader. ¬†Abbas wants the West to think how great he is for giving up so much to the Israelis.

But the question is twofold:  Is Abbas ready to give up the right of return for millions of Palestinians (which is the only way for Israel to remain a Jewish state), to reject the demands of militant members of Fatah,  to accept Israeli authority over some Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, to acknowledge that Jews have some rights on the Temple Mount (which is also the location of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock), and to stop engaging in antisemitic rhetoric, particularly in its schools?  Is Israel ready to take a risk on a Palestinian Authority that has had a history of corruption and not following through on its commitments, to remove settlers who may well respond violently against the Israeli military, to remove its authority from sites and places that have a centuries-long Jewish presence, to surrender military and security advantages, and to allow East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital?

I am not sure that either side is prepared to act at this time. ¬†The biggest challenge for both will be the militant, violent opponents of peace and reconciliation: ¬†some Jewish settlers, as well as ¬†militant members of Fatah and Islamist Hamas. ¬†I don’t believe that either Israel or the PA has confidence in taking that risk without substantial support from the U.S. ¬†And even with it, the Palestinians may need to continue their economic and political development to a point where Palestinian political leaders can face down militant ideologies and where Israel can have confidence and trust in taking a substantial risk– both internally with some potentially violent settlers and externally with a group that has historically hated Israel and wished to annihilate it.

Still everyone knows the outlines of a deal.  While the recent tectonic shifts in the Middle East could usher in a period of instability and tension, they also have a real possibility of producing authentic democratic, free societies, capable of dealing with a Jewish state.  This could therefore be a time out of which a meaningful agreement might emerge.  We shall see.

http://mysticscholar.org/2011/02/11/israel-palestinian-peace-treaty-so-close/

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Iran’s Nuclear Mining Deals with Ecuador and Venezuela


Iran attempts to gain access to uranium in South America.

http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/02/15/irans_man_in_ecuador

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Bahrain and Iran


An excellent analysis of this potential social and religious powder keg, where ethnic and religious conflict lies just beneath the surface.  US policy has glossed over much of this, but the chickens are coming home to roost.  Now is the time to encourage peaceful, democratic change in order to avoid an extremist religious Shiite takeover.
http://jerusalemcenter.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/could-the-kingdom-of-bahrain-become-an-iranian-pearl-harbor/

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Economics and Our Op-Ed

Some doubt has been cast on the importance of Israel to the US economy and jobs.   However, many underestimate the importance of Israel in global technology, especially in computers, health care and agriculture.  It is large.  We live in an interconnected world, and our economic relations with other countries (including foreign aid) have an economic impact on our own economy.  We cannot go it alone.  No one can.

See http://mysticscholar.org/2011/02/22/aid-to-israel-protects-us-interests/

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Drones and Our Israel Op-Ed

Apparently drones bring forth a lot of emotion and strong opinion.   Here is my response to some of those who have questioned the drone example in the Lexington Herald-Leader op-ed.

Many drones are used for surveillance purposes, but drones are also used for attacks: ¬†e.g. General Atomics MQ-1 Predators with Hellfire missiles (which have successfully killed a number of al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives, among others); and now the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. ¬†I think that these weapons are just the beginning, and war will be fought increasingly virtually. ¬†No question that this presents moral problems, but we cannot avoid questions by just saying “No.” ¬†That’s not going to happen, nor should it. ¬†In my view, drones save lives. ¬†Strategic, tactical, and fighter bombers have a much greater likelihood of dropping their loads in the wrong places (in spite of major improvements in accuracy). ¬†Ballistic missiles and artillery are not better. ¬†Infantry operations can be even more dangerous for civilians.

The larger question is:  When military action is necessary, how do we have successful operations and minimize the killing of civilians?  The emotions that drones induce have more do with symbolism and PR than with actual facts on the ground.

I believe that drone technology is helpful overall, because it saves US and Coalition lives and because killing of civilians is less likely (even though it still tragically occurs). War has always been characterized by awful, hideous events. ¬†Drones are not the reason they happen. ¬†Nor do drones fuel insurgencies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. ¬†Problems existed in those countries long before drones. ¬†Americans seem to think that we have this great influence on the world and that we are the main drivers of events–it’s a kind of imperialism that exists on both the right and the left. ¬†But people all over the world have their own motivations and reasons for doing what they do that have nothing to do with the US or with Israel. ¬†There are independent actors, and we don’t pull everybody’s strings.

Drone technology is simply one concrete illustration of military cooperation and research. ¬†However, one could also pint to other military items that the Israelis have developed (or helped to develop) that the US employs: ¬†Python missiles, Gabriel missiles, SMAW anti-tank guided missiles, Simon breach grenades, Samson Remote Control Weapons Stations, etc. ¬†Of course, Israel also uses US weapons: ¬†F15s and F16s, transport planes, Apache attack helicopters, transport helicopters, howitzers, missiles (including Hellfire, Maverick, Sidewinder, and Stinger) and now the Arrow Missile Defense System, among others. ¬†The US military clearly understands Israeli weapons research as a major strategic advantage for the US, and the Israelis naturally know the importance of US weapons for them. ¬†The relationship is symbiotic and a part of our economy–even though I would love to see a time when the need for this is greatly reduced.

The question is not drones.  The question is military action in general.  I agree that not every time is a military option the best option.  In my view, both the US and Israel have sometimes forgotten this.  Still military elements are a crucial part of self-defense.  Without them, Israel would be annihilated and Jews slaughtered. In other locations, projecting military strength is required (even though the US might sometimes overplay its hand).  Having weapons is often more powerful than using them, but that is only the case when at least occasionally we do use them.

UPDATE:  On March 1, 2011, the IDF employed a new, defensive weapon, called the Trophy active protection system, designed to protect tanks from missiles.   This is a significant upgrade for tank and armored car protection.  During the Lebanon war, Israeli tanks suffered damage from hand-held, rocket-propelled grenades.  The Israelis designed this system, and it will undoubtedly become important for the U.S. military as well.  There is further similar technology in the pipeline as well.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?id=210540

See our op-ed: http://mysticscholar.org/2011/02/22/aid-to-israel-protects-us-interests/

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Aid to Israel Protects US Interests

AID TO ISRAEL PROTECTS US INTERESTS

Lexington Herald Leader Op-Ed

By Linda Ravvin, Laurence H. Kant and Mike Grossman

Posted: 12:00am on Feb 18, 2011; Modified: 7:45am on Feb 18, 2011

Sen. Rand Paul recently stated that not only does he advocate cutting off U.S. aid to Israel, but he sees that aid as fueling a Middle Eastern arms race.

As a proportion of the total budget, aid to Israel is negligible. The Israeli military has been purchasing American military hardware for many years, and an elimination of this money would cost the U.S. many manufacturing jobs.

Additionally, Israel has been at the forefront of developing military technology, and U.S. military aid funds joint projects that the American military has taken advantage of in Iraq and Afghanistan. This includes drone technology, which has saved countless American and coalition lives.

It is safe to say that Israeli technological achievements (which are at least partially funded by U.S. military aid) have helped keep American troops safer.

Israel is the only full-fledged democracy in the region. Tiny as it is, with only 7 million people, its presence serves as a model for the development of other democracies and free-market societies in the region.

Its own Arab population (including Muslims, Christians and Druze) has more freedom, legal rights, social mobility and economic opportunity than the vast majority of Arabs elsewhere in the Middle East. Many Arabs (Palestinians and others) seek to enter Israel because of the work opportunities afforded by its vibrant, high-tech economy.

Per capita, Israel has the highest level of technological entrepreneurship in the world, supported by a deep commitment to education. U.S. military aid to Israel allows Israel to continue its leadership in this (in spite of Israel’s own large military budget) and work as a partner with the U.S. in creating a global high tech economy. This means jobs for U.S. citizens as well.

Israel’s neighbors dwarf it in both population and geographical size. Many of these neighbors are sworn to Israel’s destruction. While Israel will never have a quantitative edge militarily, Israel does have a qualitative edge, and it is this edge (partially due to U.S. military aid) that has prevented its destruction.

If Israel were to lose that qualitative edge, its enemies would certainly become emboldened, and the likelihood of a new and destructive war in the Middle East would substantially increase. Given our continued dependence on oil and our other strategic interests, this would almost certainly mean a much heavier financial and military U.S. investment in the Middle East than currently exists.

U.S. military support for Israel actually increases the likelihood for peace. Israel’s qualitative military advantage makes it significantly more likely that it will take the risks necessary for a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians (and the Syrians as well). Should Israel lose U.S. military support, it would certainly not be willing to withdraw from any militarily strategic positions it currently controls, negating the land-for-peace formula of United Nations resolutions.

The main backer of state terrorism and global jihad is Iran, and a decrease in Israel’s military advantage (which would certainly occur should aid be reduced) would cause Iran to further fund anti-Israel and anti-American militias throughout the region.

Israel has been on the front line of the global war on terror for many years. Unfortunately, it appears that Israel will be forced to fight this war for many years to come.

Given the burgeoning grass-roots movements for freedom and democracy in the Arab/Muslim world (especially in Tunisia and Egypt), U.S. involvement in the Middle East and commitment to Israel are more important than ever. When a region reaches a turning point that has profound implications for the world and for America’s own interests, the U.S. should not retreat, but stay engaged.

Nobody disputes that fiscal responsibility is a vitally important goal for our nation and that we will have to make painful budgetary sacrifices. Aid to Israel is in the interest of the U.S. from a financial, strategic and moral standpoint. We encourage Paul to reconsider his stance on this issue and to support fully funding our commitments to Israel.

Linda Ravvin is president of the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass; Laurence H. Kant is chair and Mike Grossman is co-chair of the Jewish Community Relations Committee.

http://www.kentucky.com/2011/02/18/1640058/aid-to-israel-protects-us-interests.html#more

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Benny Morris on Crossing Mandelbaum’s Gate


This provides an excellent review of history over the past century and provides an analysis of anti-Israel revisionist history.

http://www.tnr.com/print/book/review/kai-bird-mandelbaums-gate

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The Golan Heights: Beautiful and Strategic


How do Israel and Syria make peace?  The beauty, harmony, and strategic importance of this region show the complexity of this question.

http://www.boston.com/travel/articles/2011/02/13/so_beautiful____so_strategic/?page=full

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Mixed Assessments on Iran and Nuclear Weapons

Iran appears, at least in part, to have recovered from the Stuxnet worm attack.  The Iranians have replaced the hardware, but it is unclear whether they have control over the software.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/15/AR2011021505395.html?sid=ST2011021404206

On the other hand, the New Intelligence Estimate suggests that the Stuxnet worm has had considerable impact.  Just as important, the sanctions seem to be having an impact on some Iranian leaders, who question the wisdom of developing a nuclear weapons program given the economic impact of sanctions.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703373404576148581167010572.html

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“Palestine, an Obsession of Radical West, Not Arabs”

This essay is impressive.¬† Brendan O’Neil absolutely nails it.¬† This is all about victims and who is the biggest victim.

Back when Israelis looked like victims in the fifties and sixties, the same lefties loved Israelis and Jews (by the way, I’m no conservative either). ¬†Israelis and Jews were good victims then too.¬† Until Israel won wars in 1967 and 1973, the Israelis and Jews (because of the Holocaust experience) were the favored victims.¬† Many Jews were glad to have their support, but now I realize what that support actually meant.¬† Jews are fine for these protesters as long as they remain victims:¬† holocaust survivors, victims of anti-semitism, and poor Israelis facing massive odds against far more populous Arabs.¬† However, God forbid that they should defend themselves and emerge victorious.¬† Like the Palestinians, Jews were a tribe that middle-class empathizers could “coo” over.¬† We’re still a tribe.¬† Only we’ve made the mistake of forming a prosperous, democratic county and protecting ourselves.

There’s no question that Israel has done things that are problematic, especially the settlement policy.¬† Israelis have also fallen into the trap of responding to every Palestinian provocation with force.¬† There’s racism against Arabs that is prevalent in Israel.

Still this is a democratic society (the only full-fledged democracy in the Middle East) that is under siege from surrounding countries who want to annihilate it and to remove all Jews from the Middle East.¬† Israel’s own Arab citizens have more economic opportunity, mobility, and freedom than the vast majority of other Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East. It is a diverse society that has women serving in the military, gay pride parades, as well as Arab and Ethiopian Jews.

In the end, whether you are Israeli/Jewish or Palestinian, most in the West look at you as a symbol, a trope.¬† Not many really give a hoot about you, except in so far as you conform to some preconceptions that elicit feelings of tenderness or revulsion.¬† It’s not just liberals, but conservatives, as well, especially some fundamentalist Christians.¬† The latter see Palestinians as Muslim allies of the Anti-Christ ready to destroy Christianity, while Jews are ancient witnesses to Christ whose presence in the “Holy Land” will help usher in the Second Coming.¬† Of course, in this scenario, the returned Christ will pretty much kill all of us, Muslim and Jew alike, unless we convert.

It would be nice if people could look at us, both Jews and our Palestinian cousins, as fellow human beings.¬† Perhaps that’s too much to ask.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/palestine-an-obsession-of-radical-west-not-arabs/comments-e6frg6zo-1226006572220

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New Egyptian Poll from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Very interesting.  Only 15% approve of the Muslim Brotherhood, while a mere 1% would support a Muslim Brotherhood candidate.  Elbaradei has very little popular support, unlike Amr Mousa.  Even more surprising, a plurality of Egyptians support the peace treaty with Israel (37% pro vs. 27%  con).  All in all, this is good news.

http://washingtoninstitute.org/templateC11.php?CID=543

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Israel-Palestinian Peace Treaty So Close

So agonizingly close–still.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/magazine/13Israel-t.html?pagewanted=1&hp

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A Petition To Endorse The Statement of 41 Nobel Laureates on the Issue of Academic Boycotts Divestments and Sanctions (Scholars for Peace in the Middle East)

If you are opposed to academic boycotts and divestment (now frequently aimed at Israel) , please forward this to anyone you think might be interested.

http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/display_petitions.cgi?ID=21
http://spme.net/cgi-bin/display_petitions.cgi?ID=9&Action=View

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Glenn Beck and Antisemitism

Many have spoken on the rise of antisemitism on the left in recent years, but antisemitism is alive and well on the right as well, even among those who ostensibly support Israel.

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110131/OPINION04/301310047/1002/rss07/Dana-Milbank-Glenn-Beck-s-brutal-hateful-routine

This is article is now archived. See instead the op-ed by Dana Milbank for the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2011/04/06/AFNEgnqC_story.html

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Liberal Support For Middle East Dictators

Many commentators (including me) have noted conservative support for Arab/Islamic dictatorships in the Middle East.  But this is no less true of the left who have readily defended tyranny in Iran and other places while condemning Israel, which is a democratic state.  Here is an essay on this by Alan Dershowitz.

I find it intriguing that ideologues (whether conservative or liberal) are much more likely than non-ideologues to shelve their supposed principles when an article of their ideology is under threat. ¬†Here the left shelves democracy in order to affirm underdog Arab/Muslim societies and to condemn bully Israel. ¬†Some on the right do the same by supporting dictatorships in Egypt and Saudi Arabia (for example), claiming that stability trumps democracy–except when the US invaded Iraq.

http://www.hudson-ny.org/1860/hard-left-arab-despotism

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US Conservatives Split on Democracy in Egypt

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-02-01/glenn-becks-egypt-freakout-how-the-uprising-splits-us-conservatives/

Very interesting.¬† I don’t think Michelle Goldberg is correct on Israel–that they are opposed to democracy in the Middle East because Israel has found it easier to deal with dictators and because stability trumps freedom.¬† Yes, there are many Israelis who take this position.¬† But in general Israelis are divided between those who believe that democracy will ultimately promote peace in region and those who fear that calls for democracy will lead to Islamic dictatorships and instability.¬† Of course, Israelis have good reason to more anxious than us.¬† They have violence and the threat of annihilation at their doorstep.¬† Nevertheless, Israelis have a diversity of views on this, especially because of their own democratic traditions.

As for myself, I am deeply Jewish and Zionist.  As a Jew and a Zionist, I support the aspirations of all people for freedom, no matter where they are.  How can I not do so?  That includes Egyptians, Iranians, and anyone else. I strongly believe that free, open, democratic societies are not only a human right and a step forward in human consciousness,  but are a gateway to peace and reconciliation in the long run.  No doubt there will be short- and mid-term challenges, but democratic societies are much less likely to engage in war with their neighbors, and that includes the Middle East.

By the way, I know that there are Egyptians who are worried about the image of their society in the world.  I realize you are concerned about chaos, violence, and instability and the negative image that the world will see.  My comments may not carry much weight with you, but as a Jew and a supporter of Israel, I am deeply moved by these demonstrations.  I see nobility, honor, courage, and dignity.  The chaos is not the fault of Egyptians, but the fault of a government that has lost its legitimacy.  I have always been impressed by Egypt, its culture, and its magnificent, rich, long history.  The events of recent days have only served to increase my admiration and respect.  I keep the Egyptian people in my prayers every day.

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Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt

I don’t agree with Religion Link’s description (http://www.religionlink.com/topic_110131.php)¬†of the Muslim Brotherhood as “not simply a religion, but a way of life.”¬† Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood believes that.¬† Yet, even though the Muslim Brotherhood is not monolithic, it also believes that Egypt should be an Islamic state, as should other Muslim countries in the Middle East.¬† It does not historically affirm freedom, openness, an entrepreneurial economy, or secular democratic values such as a free press, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.¬† Unlike Iranian Shi’ites, the Mujhadeen, and Jihadists generally, the Muslim Brotherhood is not wedded to intimidation and violence as the primary means of achieving its goals, but it is willing to use violence when it sees fit.¬† For example, members assassinated King Abdullah I in Jordan in 1951, tried to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954, were implicated in the assassination of Anwar El Sadat in 1981, assassinated a number of moderate Arab leaders in the 1950’s, and perpetrated other terrorist attacks including the Hebron massacre of Jews in1929.¬† Since the 1970’s and 80’s, it has renounced violence and has spoken of Islamic democracy, but given its history and its hostility to generally accepted democratic values, it would not be unreasonable to view its democratic advocacy very skeptically.¬† Further, Hamas (which rules Gaza) is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it has consistently used violence against both Israelis and Palestinians as an important tactical component. ¬†In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood views Israel as the enemy of Arabs and Muslims. ¬†The Muslim Brotherhood has also had a long-standing, well-documented admiration of, and support, for Nazi ideology. ¬†In general, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt now uses moderate tactics, but its goal is still an Islamic state.¬† And, remember, calling for Islam to be a part of government is not the same as calling for an Islamic State, with Sharia law and all its accoutrements.¬† There’s certainly the possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood has changed and will continue to evolve into a democratic movement, but there will have to be more evidence to trust that.

Here is a link from Juan Cole, suggesting that a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is unlikely.  Many Egyptians who are religious and who oppose the current government also have democratic, secular values.  And there is a long tradition of secular politics in Egypt.  There is also widespread support for Islamic values, but not necessarily for an Islamic state:  http://www.juancole.com/2011/02/why-egypt-2011-is-not-iran-1979.html .  I hope Cole is right.

That said, in the final analysis, prosperity and peace in the Middle East depend upon Muslim/Arab societies developing democratic traditions and cultures of openness,¬† That will be good for everyone, including the US and Israel, in the long run.¬† Of course, the “long run” can take a long time, and there can be a lot of turbulence and suffering in-between.

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Antisemitism on Rise in West

See Laurence H. Kant, ‚ÄúAnti-Semitism on Rise in West,‚ÄĚ op-ed,¬†Lexington Herald Leader, January¬†8, 2007: ¬†Antisemitism1

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Israel, Iran, and the Stuxnet Worm

This is certainly better than a military attack or a war.¬† Of course, the same technology can be used for more nefarious purposes, and there’s the rub.¬† Still I prefer it done this way.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/world/middleeast/16stuxnet.html?_r=2

Then again, here’s another piece arguing that that the US and/or Israel did not design this worm and that its effect is much more minimal than what has been reported:

http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffreycarr/2011/01/17/the-new-york-times-fails-to-deliver-stuxnets-creators/

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Neturei Karta

This is from an email I wrote to a friend about some photos depicting clearly ultra-orthodox Jews happily meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, the President of Iran.

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Photos like these are actually pretty well known. Most ultra-Orthodox or Haredi (whether Hasidic, followers of the Lithuanian Yeshivah tradition, or Sephardic) have always opposed Zionism and the secular Jewish state, but they do not support harm coming to Jews.¬† Many of these have by now compromised (such as Agudat Israel and Shas and Hasidic groups such as Lubavitch), working with the Israeli state even though they oppose it in principle.¬† Among the Haredi, however, there is a particularly fanatic, right-wing group who goes beyond their opposition to the state of Israel by advocating for Israel’s destruction and who support violence against Israelis and against Jews who actively support the state of Israel.¬† They actually virulently oppose other Haredi who work with the Israeli state, back Ahmadenijad, give credence to Ahmadenijad’s holocaust denial (in part because they believe that many of the Jews murdered in the holocaust were not “real” Jews), and embrace Ahmadenijad’s threats of violence against Israel.¬† The group is called Neturei Karta (“Guardians of the City”), whose members live in various places around the world, most notably in¬† Meah Shearim in Jerusalem. Ahmadenijad has been photographed with them before.¬† See the following links:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/15/nyregion/15rabbi.html?fta=y
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neturei_Karta

Neturei Karta is radically isolated and cultish, the most extreme of the extreme.¬† In short, they’re crazy.

P.S. There is an Israeli film called “Kadosh,” which gives a glimpse at the lives of ultra-Orthodox groups like Neturei Karta in Meah Shearim.

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Coca-Cola and Health

http://www.cartoonbarry.com/2009/04/selling_coca_cola_in_israel_is.html
This is fun and probably represents the real heath impact of Coke: What happens when you read from right to left.

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