These are all the Blogs posted on Monday, 19, 2012.
Monday, 19 November 2012
At your service?
The other day I had a pleasant experience. I do not mean by this that my life is so dreadful that it is composed almost entirely of unpleasant experiences, very far from it. No; what was remarkable about my pleasant experience was its source, namely the public service.
So accustomed are we to complaining about public services that do not serve but seem only to consume taxes to the benefit of those who work in them that we often inclined to forget that they do serve the public, and occasionally very well.
For the purposes of an article that I was writing I needed biographical information about an obscure writer who appeared neither in the Dictionary of National Biography nor on the internet. I went into a branch public library of which I was not even a member on the off-chance that it might be able to help me. I was put through to a librarian in the country’s central library (Somerset) who immediately grasped what I needed, and offered to send me the information by e-mail.
The librarian to whom I spoke was obviously intelligent, alert and (what is not necessarily the same thing) pleased to help. It turned out that she was highly efficient as well: within the hour I had precisely what I needed. I was very impressed, and immediately returned my sincere thanks: for I think we should be as scrupulous about thanking as we are prepared to complain about incompetence, unwillingness, dishonesty or error.
The question I asked myself was why this service should have been so good. I very much doubt that those who worked in it were well paid: they were certainly not in it for their own financial advancement. I think there were probably two conditions: first that the work was intrinsically meaningful an interesting to those who performed it, and second that the staff had a genuine desire to serve.
Such a desire really exists and actually is not rare. What destroys it, however, what renders work that would otherwise be meaningful and interesting precisely the opposite, thus causing public servants to seek personal advantage only in their work, is bureaucratisation. And Mrs Thatcher, who believed in the science of management as an antidote to inefficiency, was, no doubt unintentionally, responsible for much bureaucratisation. In the public service, only the desire to serve can make it efficient.
Brought up as an Orthodox Christian by her mother, Aminat Kurbanova looked a picture of happiness at her wedding nine years ago - marrying the man with whom she had fallen in love at drama school.
But she converted to Islam in 2007 and three months ago walked into the house of a Muslim cleric in Dagestan, Russia, wearing a 3lb bomb, and blew herself up - killing eight people including her.
Kurbanova was brought up in Makhachkala, Dagestan, and gained top marks at the city’s arts and drama college - where she met her future husband Marat Kurbanov. The couple married in 2003 and she gave birth to a daughter, Malika, two years later. In 2006 the couple were introduced to Islam by Marat’s brother Rustam - and Kurbanov converted a year later.
Before long, both left the theatre because dancing and acting are considered un-Islamic.’
But Rustam was killed in a police house raid on suspected militants in 2008. It shocked the couple. Marat left home, never to come back, and is thought to have joined militants to avenge the death.
However 12 months later, Marat also died when police opened fire on a car that did not stop at a checkpoint - and Kurbanova ‘often said she wished she had died with him’, Ms Saprighina (her mother) stated
Kurbanova started to earn money as an Islamic dress seamstress and became more religious. She began to be watched by security services . . . She later married the best man at her wedding, Timur Kurbamagomedov, but this was short-lived
Kurbanova walked into the home of Sheikh Said Atsayev, 74, after kissing her daughter goodbye and blew herself up with a steel-bolt bomb, killing seven others - including the cleric himself and a 12-year-old boy who was there with his father.
Her relatives tried to keep the news from Malika, but she overheard at school that ‘your mum’s a suicide bomber’ and saw her mother's severed head on TV,
At least 12 religious leaders have been killed over the last two years in Dagestan - allegedly by militants angry that they are too friendly with the authorities. Atsayev could have been targeted because he spoke against violent Islam.
Kurbanova’s family said Malika often asks questions about her late parents and wants to know ‘when she will join them up there in the sky’
The escalation in the fighting last week between Israel and Hamas caught many observers by surprise. Operation Cast Lead, Israel's 2008 campaign against Hamas, had led to an uneasy calm between the warring sides. And last year's release of Gilad Shalit (the Israeli soldier who had been kidnapped by militants in 2006) in exchange for a thousand Palestinian prisoners had even given observers hope that Israel and Hamas had found a way to manage their conflict. But then, Hamas attacked an Israeli mobile patrol inside Israeli territory on November 10 and Israel retaliated by assassinating Ahmed Jabari, Hamas's military chief. This time, the violence that has followed has not faded quickly; indeed, the fight is still intensifying.
Given the destruction wrought by Israel and Hamas' last major conflict, Hamas' calculations in the lead-up to this round of fighting are especially puzzling. The typical explanation is that Hamas ramped up its rocket campaign earlier this year in an effort to break Israel's siege on the Gaza Strip. Under fire, Israel had to retaliate.
That answer, though, is unsatisfying. In many ways, the siege had already been broken. True, the Gaza Strip is tiny, densely populated, squeezed between Israel and Egypt, and dependent on both countries for the passage of people and goods. And all of that makes it a rather claustrophobic place. Yet Israel's efforts to tightly control the area's borders, which started after Hamas won elections there in 2006, had gradually wound down. After the public relations disaster that followed Israel's 2010 mishandling of the Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla, the flow of goods over the Israeli border into Gaza increased substantially. Moreover, the tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border, through which most of the goods coming into Gaza are smuggled, became so elaborate that they resembled official border crossings. In fact, the volume of trade that travels through the tunnels could be up to $700 million dollars a year.
To some extent, Hamas had a political interest in perpetuating the siege idea, which could be used to foment anger against Israel and drum up popular support. Further, it made sense for the movement to preserve some limitations on the movement of goods into Gaza, since the smuggling industry lined its coffers. Thus, although life in Gaza might not have been all that pleasant for Gazans, Hamas wanting to break the siege is not a compelling explanation for its renewed violence against Israel.
In fact, two factors pushed Hamas to ramp up its bombing campaign: competition from Salafi groups and Hamas' belief that its strategic environment had improved in the wake of the Arab Spring. Since Hamas was elected, it has found the Salafi groups in Gaza especially difficult rivals to manage. Fatah, Hamas' main competitor before it pushed the group out of the area in 2006, was never such a challenge: with the Oslo peace process discredited and Israel's retreat from the Gaza Strip largely attributed (at least in the Gazan psychology) to Hamas' militant activities, the remnants of Fatah just couldn't compete. The small jihadi outfits, though, embodied the fighting ethos. And unlike Hamas, they were free from the constraints that governing puts on ideological purity.
Under pressure, Hamas repeatedly tried to quell the Salafi threat, and it did not shy from using brute force to do so. The clearest demonstration came in August 2009, when Hamas killed the leader of Jund Ansar Allah, a Salafi group that had openly challenged Hamas' authority, and a number of its members. But short of using extreme violence to suppress Salafism in Gaza, which would have been too costly for Hamas, Hamas could not eliminate the Salafi challenge. It watched with worry as new Salafi groups emerged and strengthened throughout the strip.
The pressure on Hamas only increased in the wake of the 2011 Arab uprisings. The Egyptian revolution and the subsequent chaos in the Sinai Peninsula were a backwind in the sails of Gaza's Salafis. The collapse of authoritarian regimes in North Africa unleashed a flood of weapons and fighters, which Salafis channeled into the Sinai Peninsula. With the Egyptian military unable to control the area, Gazan Salafis turned the peninsula into a staging ground for attacking Israel. They believed (correctly) that Israel, anxious not to kill its peace accord with Egypt, would not dare to respond directly.
Indeed, Israel resorted to thwarting attacks emerging from Sinai and the Gaza Strip as best it could by preventing Gazans from getting to Sinai in the first place. On a number of occasions, Israel preemptively targeted Salafi leaders in Gaza. The Salafis responded by lobbing rockets back at Israeli's southern towns. Periods of quiet between rounds of violence became shorter and rarer.
The new regional order presented Hamas with a serious dilemma. As the ruler of Gaza, it could not sit on the sidelines while Israel targeted territory under its control. But it was unable to fully rein in the Salafis without proving once and for all that it was no longer a resistance movement. For Hamas, then, the only choice was to tolerate the attacks. It portrayed them at home as a way to preserve the struggle against Israel. Abroad, it refused to acknowledge any role in them at all to reduce the danger of a backlash. Over time, pressure from Hamas rank and file led the organization to take a more active role in each round of violence.
The flaw in Hamas' logic, though, was that it assumed that Israel would cooperate and not retaliate. Israel would not let Hamas shirk responsibility, though, and demanded that Hamas assert its authority over the radical factions. To reinforce the message, this year, Israel carried out a number of strikes on Hamas targets. Once it became a target itself, Hamas was even less able able to show restraint. It eventually resumed carrying out its own strikes on Israel, a move that was cheered by the Hamas rank and file, who, without such attacks, might have defected to the more radical groups.
Another of Hamas' miscalculations was expecting Egypt to be supportive of its actions, which, when combined with Israel's fear of alienating the regime in Cairo, would allow Hamas to escalate the conflict without it spinning out of control. The hope was not off base. In August, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi had retired the military's top brass and taken full control of Egypt's foreign and security police. The development was particularly significant given that the Supreme Military Council, which had maintained close relations with the United States, was not as interested in helping Hamas. But, the group was wrong again. Hamas' closer ties with Egypt did not discourage Israel from fighting back.
Simply put, Hamas' strategic environment was not as favorable as it thought. When it tried to push Israel's boundaries, Israel pushed back. Now the group is in a bind. It needs a face-saving resolution to the fighting, one that would allow it to claim some achievement worth of the devastation inflicted this month on Gaza. Even after that, the group will still face the same old tension between its ideology of resistance and the responsibilities that come with governing. And all the while, its Salafi challengers will be lurking, challenging its commitment to the struggle against Israel. If Hamas wants to avoid future such escalations, it will need to crack down on these groups. But that would come with a price -- in popularity and legitimacy -- that Hamas seems unwilling to pay. Hamas must also finally make the transition from resistance movement to normal political party. It will probably take a push from Cairo for that to happen. Hamas' alliance with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood offers the group some of the cover it needs to make the much-needed transition. And the Muslim Brotherhood is a good model for Hamas to follow, besides. Absent Hamas' political transformation, no cease-fire with Israel will hold for long. The next round of violence awaits, just over the horizon.
Two Iranian women walk past a missile display in Tehran on Sept. 25, 2011.
You don't have to fire a nuclear weapon to gain a strategic advantage from it. This is perhaps the most important lesson from the decades of the Cold War. Yet many commentators on the possibility of a nuclear Iran overlook this truth and argue that we could handle this radically new situation.
A nuclear Iran is usually discussed at a cosmic level of abstraction, in terms of deterrence and containment. But it needs to be examined from the bottom up, in concrete detail. War games, which have a long history in U.S. defense planning, are one way to do this. These simulations bring out insights that never show up in academic theories. Over the past five years, games featuring an Iran that possesses a small, crude nuclear arsenal have been played repeatedly by government officials, the military and outside strategic experts in the U.S. and Israel—games in which participants are assigned roles as decision makers in different countries—and I have been involved in several of them.
The insights that have emerged from these exercises are not necessarily true, of course. They have to stand on their own merits. But I have not been encouraged by what I have seen.
The game might begin with a seemingly familiar train of events, not unlike what has unfolded this week in the Middle East: The Shiite militant group Hezbollah kidnaps Israeli soldiers. Israel hits back with airstrikes on villages in Lebanon believed to be Hezbollah ammunition dumps. The West Bank and Gaza flare up, and Hezbollah begins firing long-range missiles into Haifa and Tel Aviv. The weapons come from Iran, and there are even Iranian "advisers" with them.
But then the tempo of the game slows down. Everyone notices caution, even hesitation, in the Israel team. The Israelis refrain from airstrikes on Syria (Hezbollah's other key patron), and the Israeli navy backs off from the Lebanon-Syria coast for fear of losing a ship. If a ship were lost, Israel would have to escalate, and that is the heart of the matter: Escalation in a nuclear context isn't like escalation in earlier conflicts without the bomb.
Israel knows how to escalate in a conventional war or against an intifada or insurgency. But this is different. The conflict is no longer about how much pain to inflict before the other side gives up. It is about risk. An unwanted spiral of escalation might drive the game in a very bad direction.
The Israel team considers firing a demonstration nuclear shot, a missile warhead that would explode 100,000 feet over Tehran. Israeli plans since the 1970s have called for doing this as a last-ditch alternative to firing all-out atomic attacks. The blast would shatter windows in downtown Tehran, but it wouldn't kill anyone, or hardly anyone. Surely it would shock Iran into a cease-fire.
But before that can happen, Iran ups the ante by declaring a full nuclear alert. Rockets on truck launchers are flushed from their peacetime storage bases, along with hundreds of conventionally armed rockets and shorter-range missiles that can hit U.S. bases throughout the Middle East.
The Iran side in this game has given a great deal of thought to the political uses of its primitive nuclear arsenal. A few of its nuclear missiles are in hardened, underground silos. These are for quick-reaction firing, ready to launch on short notice. Mobile missiles can take hours to move and set up. Iran also understands the psychology of its enemies. The West does not want to kill millions of innocent people, so the Iran team places some mobile missiles in city parks in Tehran, Esfahan and Mashhad. Camouflage nets are placed over many parts of these cities to conceal the missiles and to mislead American satellites.
To bring attention to their dire situation, the Israel team orders two Jericho missiles to go on alert. They are timed to move to their launch positions just as the U.S. satellites are passing overhead. The intent, obviously, is to shock the White House. "We hope it leaks to the media, too, maybe we should make sure it does," one member of the Israel team says.
Israel's move forces a U.S. decision. Washington wants to restrain Israel, defend Israel and scare the living daylights out of Iran. So the U.S. publicly gives Israel a guarantee: If one atomic missile hits Israel, the U.S. announces, that would be it for Iran. The guarantee is cleverly worded. Maybe too cleverly. It doesn't specify which weapons America would use. The term nuclear refers only to Iran's attack on Israel.
The U.S. hasn't fired an atomic bomb in anger since 1945. It hasn't conducted a realistic nuclear exercise since the end of the Cold War, and in this war game, the person playing the U.S. president says that he doesn't want to go down in history as the first leader to kill five million people in an afternoon.
Some on the U.S. team call instead for a massive conventional strike, one that would destroy Iran's military power for decades. The person playing the president asks if Iran might simply sit back and watch such an attack unfold over several weeks. And he is angry: Why haven't better options and intelligence been developed over the years? Iran's bomb program isn't exactly a surprise, after all. It is the most closely watched in history. Why hadn't anybody thought about this before?
The Iran team's next move jacks up the tensions to a fever pitch. Without saying anything, Iran evacuates its big cities. The urban population packs into buses, cars and trucks and rides out to distant suburbs and beyond. In a day, Iran's big cities are at 25% of their normal population. Iran is now poised to absorb a nuclear attack. Its missiles are on a hair trigger, and most of the country's population will survive an Israeli counterstrike.
Israel, by contrast, is in chaos. There is nowhere for the Israelis to go. Ben Gurion Airport has been closed by rocket fire. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are mobbing the coastal marinas, desperately trying to escape to Cyprus in small boats. TV shows the panic. Deterrence, and the myth of Israeli invincibility, the bedrock of Israeli security, is disappearing.
Suddenly, Iran declares that, in the interest of world peace, it will step back from the brink, having exposed the true nature of "the Zionist nuclear entity." So the game ends. Nuclear war has been avoided. Deterrence worked. But who in Israel, the U.S. or Iran will claim that this was the real lesson? Iran had used a small nuclear force to undermine long-standing perceptions of Israeli military strength and to rupture the Middle East order.
Among the U.S. and its allies, there is widespread agreement that Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Some favor sanctions, some favor pre-emptive strikes, some favor espionage and sabotage. All agree, however, that a nuclear Iran would be a danger to the world.
But despite everyone's best efforts, Iran may still get the bomb. Then what? American strategic planning has avoided this uncomfortable question, but we can no longer afford to keep our heads in the sand.
—Mr. Bracken, a professor of management and political science at Yale, is the author of "The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger and the New Power Politics" (Times Books), from which this article is adapted.
Apparently it is poor sportsmanship on the part of Israel not to let more of its citizens be killed by the thousands of rockets sent in the direction of Israel's towns and cities by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, tutti quanti, all those who take Islam most to heart. It would only be right if Israel refrained from coming up with such things as the Iron Dome, and when -- as happened yesterday -- a Muslim rocket is about to hit an Israeli school, the Israelis manage to blow that rocket up in time. Isn't that fair? Why should the Western world, "wrapped in the arms of science," as Churchill famously said, be allowed to come up with ways to protect itself from the murderous frenzy of hysterical Muslims?
So far only three Israelis have died, but not for want of trying on the part of the Muslim Arabs of Gaza.
And after six days of war -- a war in which, in a heavily-populated area, Israeli planes have tried to put as many of the rocket-launchers, and those who use them, and as many of the 12,000-20,000 missiles that have been stockpiled in Gaza for only one purpose -- to rain down, sooner or later, on Israeli towns and cities, that they possibly can, and especially to find, and destroy, the longer-range Fajr missiles that have been sent to Islamic Jihad and Hamas by the Islamic Republic of Iran -- a grand total of 96 Muslim Arabs have died.
If the Americans or British or French had been doing the attacking, based on what we know from Afgnanistan and Iraq, 960 people would have been killed.
If the Syrians had been doing the attacking, based on what we know from Syria, 9600 people would have been killed.
If the Russians, or the Chinese, had been doing the attacking, 96,000 people would have been killed. .
If another Muslim power had been doing the attacking, and Gaza filled with non-Muslims, 960,000 would have been killed, and the rest would have fled, leaving Gaza empty.
That's how it would have gone.
And almost everyone in the Western world knows that perfectly well, but wishes to pretend otherwise.
Richard Cohen I Suppose Has His Heart In The Right Place -- But Where's His Bleeding Mind?
He can't figure out, doesn't want to figure out, perhaps is afraid to look into trying to figure out, the relevance of Islam to the Arab Muslim war -- a neverending war, with so "solution" save that of continued Israeli deterrence, made more potent and more obvious. Instead, he writes something question-begging: that the Arabs and Jews have been at it for "more than 100 years." More than 100 years? Ever since the first century of Islam, Muslims have been making war, that is conducting Jihad, to subjugate all non-Muslims, and the war against the Infidel nation-state of Israel is simply the most publicized of the local theatres of that world-wide war without end.
Here's his article, anyway. You can spot all the other errors for yourself;
Of all the points of disagreement between Israel and Hamas, maybe the most profound is this one: Israel cares more about sparing innocent lives — including those of Palestinians — than does Hamas. Not only have Hamas and other militant groups this year sent more than 700 rockets crashing haphazardly into southern Israel, but also Hamas instigated yet another war where the chief loser will certainly be its own people. If hell has a beach, it’s located in Gaza.
The Gaza Strip is a congested, fetid place. It is densely populated [yes, this is always noted, but never noted is why -- the Arab Muslims have families with 8 or 10 or 14 children, and they do so without any visible means of support. They do not believe in limiting family size to match resources; they expect -- and so far their expectations have been met -- the non-Muslim world to supply them with aid, great amounts of it, and forever. They are well aware of the usefulness, in conducting Jihad, of the instrument of demography, and seeing their children as a kind of cannon fodder, or fodder of another kind, they hardly care about their life prospects. The more Muslims and Arabs, they think, in their collectivist way, the better for Islam. That's why the Gaza Strip is so "densely populated" and will get more so. And that's why the impoverished land of Egypt, which fifty years ago had 20 million people, and 25 years ago had 40 million people, now has more than 80 million and by 2020 may have 120 million -- all while the populations of the most advanced countries have stayed steady, or are declining, and in China the one child policy ensures decline. Only in melancholy, miserable Iran, has the population, disenchanted and in despair, chosen to limit its family size, or not to marry at all - a silent expression of dismay and disgust at the country's rulers, and at the Islam which they take so seriously, and which animates their every move]. and in the slums and housing blocks, Hamas has hidden its weapons, explosives and rocket launchers. Israel has gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties. Its air force has used new, highly accurate ammunition aiming for rocket-launching sites and government installations. For the most part, it has succeeded.
For Hamas, civilian casualties are an asset. Palestinians love and grieve as do other people [this is the old stieglitzian family-of-man people-are-the-same-the-whole-world-over nonsense; people are not the same the whole world over, and while photographs depict the same emotions -- laughing and grief, for example -- they do not tell us what very different things may prompt laughter, outrage, tears, and so on, among very different people and peoples.]but Hamas leadership knows that the world has gotten impatient with Israel. Increasingly, many people now see Israel as the aggressor, as Gaza’s occupying power (never mind the 2005 pullout), and they overlook such trifles as the Hamas charter, which is repellently anti-Semitic and cites the discredited forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” In the Hamas cosmology, Jews are so evil that somehow “they also stood behind World War II, where they collected immense benefits from trading with war materials.” This, you would have to concede, is a wholly original take on the Holocaust.
Many in the West heroically ignore such nonsense. They embrace Hamas as the champions of a victimized Third World people. In recent days, some editorialists have bemoaned the war and Hamas’ role in inciting it. But then comes the inevitable “however.” “However, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu must also take much blame for stoking resentment among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank for so long,” opined the Financial Times. The New York Times’ caveat came lower down in its initial editorial on the war: “But it would be easier to win support for retaliatory action if Israel was engaged in serious negotiations with Hamas’ rival, the Palestinian Authority.” Apparently, 700 rockets are not enough.
Look, let us stipulate: Palestinians have suffered greatly. They have legitimate grievances [no, the local Arabs whom Cohen describes, mechanically, as the "Palestinians" or, still worse, the "Palestinian people, " have no legitiamate grievances against Israel. If they have any "legitimate grievances' it is against fellow Arabs, especially the rich ones of the Gulf, who are eager to use them as the shock troops in the violent Jihad against Israel.] Israel has at times been a bully,[nonsense] and the slow and steady march of West Bank settlements is both wrong and destructive of the (nonexistent) peace process. But for all this, it is insane to apply the Officer Krupke rule (from “West Side Story”) to Hamas: “We ain’t no delinquents, we’re misunderstood. Deep down inside us there is good.” There is little good in Hamas.
Hamas is not the passive party in this struggle. It rules Gaza by force. The other day it murdered — please don’t say “executed” — an alleged collaborator without the inconvenience of a trial, shooting the man on a crowded street. It chose to make war by allowing more militant groups to use Gaza as a launching pad for rockets and firing off the occasional rocket itself. No nation is going to put up with this sort of terror. The rockets do some, not a lot of damage, but that’s not the point. The point instead is that people who have the wherewithal will not continue to live in a place where even the occasional rocket can come down on your kids’ school. This is not a mere border problem. For Israel, this is an existential threat.[a prefabricated phrase "existential threat" whose use semaphores a lack of vigilance with words].
What various editorial writers and others seem not to understand is that the very peace agreement they accuse Israel of forestalling is, in fact, impeded by Hamas’ use of violence. Who wants to make peace with extremists? Who wants to give up land for the promises of peace offered by zealots who read Hitler for inspiration? [what need Mein Kampf when they can they read the Qur'an and Hadith for even more venerable, heartfelt and homegrown inspiration?]Israel pulled out of Gaza once already. Abandoned greenhouses were refurbished by Jewish philanthropists in America. The greenhouses were trashed and with them what now seems like naive optimism. Soon, Hamas took control and the rockets started hitting Israel.
This war between Arabs and Jews, between Israelis and Palestinians, is well over 100 years old. [ it is "well over 100 years old, and in fact is about 1350 years old, because it is a war over control of territory, and over the submission, or failure to submit, of non-Muslims to Muslim rule, and this war is called Jihad, and is religiously sanctioned, and conducted by Muslims against all non-Muslims, not only Jews. But the particular ferocity in this case is a result of two things: 1) the fact that Jews were always despised and held to be especially resistant to Muhammad's message -- for more on this see the just-published study by David Hayden on Muhammad and the Jews and 2) the Infidel nation-state of Israel is situated right in the middle of Arabdom, breaking up the otherwise uninterrupted uniformity of Arab Muslim rule from the Atlantic to the Gulf, and this rankles to the point of inducing near-insanity in Muslim Arab minds]. Both sides have a case and both sides have proved to be indomitable. But both sides are not equally right in all instances. Hamas sent rockets into Israel, not caring if they hit a chicken coop or a group of toddlers jumping in and out of a sprinkler. You want balance? Here’s balance. Hamas didn’t care if its own people died either.
Arab Soi-Disant "Secularists And Leftists" So Consumed With Islam-Based Hatred Of Israel, That Nothing Else Matters
When did Hamas become secular?
Hamas’ exiled political leader, Khaled Meshaal, speaks to a conference of Islamists in Sudan as Israeli warplanes bombard Gaza on November 15. So-called Arab leftists support the ultra-religious Hamas but refuse to support Syria’s opposition for allegedly becoming too Islamist. This is a shameful double standard. (AFP Photo)
If one reviews the rhetoric of the liberal "resistance" supporters, especially after the escalation of violence in Gaza, you'd think that Hamas is a liberal or secular group, not an Islamic faction.
During the nearly two years of systematic and brutal killing by the Syrian regime of the Syrian people who are resisting tyranny, many Arabs preferred to remain silent, justifying their denial by fear of the Islamists. But suddenly, when Hamas decided to respond to the Israeli attack on Gaza, this reaction was cheered as the ultimate resistance. It didn't matter who is resisting here and why. The Islamic nature of Hamas does not matter, only because it is against Israel.
This juvenile attitude of having one enemy, Israel, and justifying all other kinds of brutality and tyranny in the name of resistance is very common among many Lebanese and Arab leftists and liberals.
Do they ask if Hamas has been the best example of governance in Gaza, the way they question the Syrian opposition day and night? Never. At least Hamas had the chance to demonstrate what kind of state it envisions, and it has been obvious that it is not the secular, civil state the opposition is demanding in Syria.
This is not fair to the Syrian people who are trying, while dying by the hundreds every day, to prove to the world that they are not crazy fanatics. But it is also unfair for the Palestinians in Gaza. Leftist Arabs are clearly fine with an Islamist rule in Gaza but not in Syria. So the Palestinians do not deserve a secular or civil rule as the Syrians do?
These double standards mean one thing: A tyrant like Bashar al-Assad is acceptable as long as his regime speaks against Israel. It doesn't really matter that Assad has never used his army and military capacities against the Israeli army, or that part of Syria is actually still occupied by the Israelis. All that matters is that he uses the same clichés and slogans as Hezbollah and Iran—and everyone ignores secret negotiations between Assad and the Israelis that only ended recently.
For some Arabs, there is one enemy, while our own demons can kill us, rape us and murder our dignity on a daily basis. They are excused, because they say they support a resistance that hasn't lifted a finger against Israel for years.
Have they heard that Hamas' offices in Syria have been closed for a while and that its leadership has moved to Cairo and Jordan? But of course this also doesn't matter.
What really matters is that most of Hamas' arms come from Iran. What matters is that they are being fired in the name of the resistance. And what matters is that they are overshadowing the hundreds of Syrian lives lost in the name of the same resistance. Hezbollah is happy and Iran is thrilled. That's what really matters.
The Islamist government in Egypt is being pressured to take action and resolve the situation. The Egyptians want serious support for the Palestinians while the international community expects a mediating role, and Egypt is supposed to deliver in both directions. However, neither Hezbollah nor Iran is expected to act. On the contrary, they are requested to stick to words, especially by the supporters of the resistance in Lebanon, because the latter do not war to come to them. They'd rather cheer this time for Hamas and lament the deaths of Palestinian children but certainly not go beyond words.
The Gaza war prompted these intellectuals and activists to wake up after months of silence and absurd absence from virtual and actual scenes. They saw in Gaza a chance to pamper their anxious consciences and weary judgments and come back to the scene with the same clichés and slogans. They should at least consider changing some of these clichés, just to acknowledge the Arab awakening and what it brought to people's lives.
Unfortunately, the Arab awakening did not eliminate these moral double standards. The Syrian opposition can resist Assad as much as they want, but their cause will not be recognized by these leftists as long as some Islamists have joined them. Meanwhile, Hamas and Hezbollah can be as Islamist as they want; they will be forgiven, as long as they resist, or say they are resisting, Israel.
Hamas has not gone secular, but the leftists have long ago lost their compass.
Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW Lebanon
Humiliating Slip in Hamas’ Cannibalistic Cognitive War Strategy: Haniyah and Kandil Kiss Baby Hamas Killed
November 19, 2012Richard Landes
Humiliating Slip in Hamas’ Cannibalistic Cognitive War Strategy: Haniyah and Kandil Kiss Baby Hamas Killed
Here’s a classic. Let’s start with the ghoulish display of sorrow over the body of a dead boy, allegedly killed by Israeli bombing. It’s aimed right at the heart of a someone like Annie Lennox who, upon seeing bombs falling on Gaza immediately imagines Palestinian babies on the receiving end, rather than Hamas militants targeting Israeli babies. And, of course, the news media snatch up the photo-op.
It is unclear who was responsible for the strike on Annazla: the damage was nowhere near severe enough to have come from an Israeli F-16, raising the possibility that an errant missile fired by Palestinian militants was responsible for the deaths.
Israel vehemently denied involvement, saying it had not carried out any attacks in the area at the time. Gaza’s two leading human rights groups, which routinely investigate civilian deaths, withheld judgment, saying they were unable to reach the area because of continued danger. Mahmoud’s family said the boy was in an alley close to his home when he was killed, along with a man of about 20, but no one appeared to have witnessed the strike. The area showed signs that a projectile might have exploded there, with shrapnel marks in the walls of surrounding homes and a shattered kitchen window. But neighbors said local security officials quickly took what remained of the projectile, making it impossible to verify who fired it.
We’ve seen this scenario before. In the summer of 2006, most of the Ghalia family were killed in an explosion on the Gaza Beach. The Palestinians, with the help of dramatic but dubious footage of their young daughter, meandering in wild grief among the wreckage, sold the western news media, who immediately broadcast their claim that the family, while relaxing on the beach, was shelled by Israeli naval ships. Classic Pallywood. Evidence piled up that the Israelis had not been firing there, that the hole caused by the ordnance did not accord with an Israeli shell, that despite claims to the contrary, Palestinian sources and their unofficial spokesman, Mark Garlasco of HRW had no ballistic evidence of what caused the explosion. When it came time to send two of the youngest victims to Israeli hospitals, and at risk to their lives, the doctors hastily removed the shrapnel from their bodies.
In this case, however, journalists begin to show some signs of forensic acuity. To be fair, them to us, and we to them, both the NYT’s Jodi Rudoren and AP’s Karen Laub actually mention the anomalous evidence: the explosion was too small to have been fired from a plane; the clean up crew visited the site before the journalists. Indeed, the Algemeiner contacted a ballistics expert who confirmed Rudoren’s suspicions:
After reviewing CNN’s footage of the scene of the blast, Yiftah Shapir, a ballistics expert who is the Director of the Middle East Military Balance Project at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel confirmed to The Algemeiner, “It is reasonable to say that this damage is from a relatively small explosion at close range.”
“You see a lot of small holes,” he added, “If it was a very heavy bomb the damage would be worse, and at long range the shrapnel would be spread much more widely because of the long distance.”
This is obviously a huge step forward over the Guardian’sSuzanne Goldenberg’s, appraisal on October 1, 2000, of the wall behind barrel that Muhammad al Durah and his father had hidden behind, the previous day. From Nahum Shahaf’s archive.
Told that the Israelis had fired for 40 minutes of “bullets like rain” until they killed the boy, Goldenberg looked at the dozen or so bullet holes that looked suspiciously like they were shot from “head on,” rather than the 30% angle of an Israeli bullet would have to travel to leave marks on the wall, and pronounced the cluster “proof that the Israelis had targeted the boy.”
Apparently, now, almost thirteen years later, some journalists have at least problematized the Israeli-Goliath/Palestinian-David framing story: maybe that doesn’t cover all the cases. It is after all, a journalistic task to give us the relevant evidence. Obviously more investigation is called for, but thanks for the allusive scraps. Those who argued that Israel should have let journalists into Gaza for OCL in 2008/9, because they would have provided quality control over the kind of footage that would come out of Gaza from unsupervised Palestinian “journalists,”have evidence for their claim in this kind of reporting. Similarly, watchdog groups like NGO Monitor have read the riot act even to Palestinian NGOs, notorious for their anti-Israel advocacy brand of “human rights” defense. Notes Elder of Baker Street:
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights , which is keeping track of everyone killed in Gaza (and which admits that most of the dead have been “militants,”) did not list Mahmoud Sadallah or Aiman Aby Wardah in their list of victims of Israeli airstrikes, although they even include one person who died of a heart attack.
So far so good. Now I don’t want to grade elementary school students by too high a standard, but, an alert journalist’s antennae should quiver at the comment, “no one appeared to have witnessed the strike.” In one of the most densely neighborhoods of “one of the most densely populated areas in the world”? No one noticed? Omerta? Possibly. Probably, if it were a Hamas explosive.
How many journalists or readers even think on the role of intimidation in shaping the news they get?
And yet, another datum corroborates this hypothesis: Laub informs us, “local security officials quickly took what remained of the projectile.” Two questions:
1) Are we sure it was all “projectile”? What if part of it was the mangled body of a rocket launcher that blew up on the launchers, killing the neighbors, including the four-year-old boy?
2) Does one imagine all these cleaners did was run in, remove the item(s) in question, and leave without also informing those watching them not to speak about the event? Indeed, I wonder who was the brave person who reported about the clean-up crew?
Implications for the Cognitive War
Meditate on this picture:
Here is the head of Hamas, whose boys systematically fire from the midst of civilians, in order create civilian casualties they can then blame on Israeli counter-strikes, exploiting a death directly caused by his men, in order to appeal to western sympathy. It would be hard to imagine a more stunning portrait of the most depraved hypocrisy (and contempt for viewers who believe this display of compassion). If hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue, then this brazen hypocrisy is the contempt vice shows for the pathetic stupidity of the supposedly virtuous.
After all, it is hard to imagine a more grotesque expression of a mutual corruption: trying to demonize your enemy before an outside audience whom you expect to side with you in the name of empathy for the very children you victimize. How disordered must the emotional and moral world of someone subject to this kind of manipulation?
Not only that, but Haniyah dragged into this humiliating display, the prime minister of Egypt’s new “Muslim Brotherhood” government, trying to show support for her Palestinian branch, Hamas. Prime Minister Hesham Kandil jumped right in, kissing the baby, and subsequently testifying (in what BBC Correspondent Wyre Davies found to be a “powerful statement”: “his blood is still on our clothing.” Kandil’s a fool eagerly trying to join in the morbid circus Haniyah and Hamas so frequently stage. Haniyah, thinking he could get away with it, has dragged Kandil into this shameless pornography of death.
One last reflection. Hamas’s strategy has long been to attack from behind civilians to provoke Israeli retaliation and then use the collateral damage of those victims as a way to blame Israel. This is in fact a key element of their asymmetrical war with Israel. As one Gazan explained to an Italian reporter towards the end of Operation Cast Lead (OCL):
The Hamas militants looked for good places to provoke the Israelis. They were usually youths, 16 or 17 years old, armed with submachine guns. They couldn’t do anything against a tank or jet. They knew they were much weaker. But they wanted the [Israelis] to shoot at the [the civilians’] houses so they could accuse them of more war crimes.
In other words, Hamas engages in the exceptionally rare wartime act of actively victimizing one’s own civilian population – specifically a war crime – in order to win a victory in cognitive war. And they can only do so, if a corrupt media on the scene (including NGOs and UN agencies), rather than expose their criminal strategies, play along and present the images of dead babies in the framework of the Palestinian narrative of Israeli victimization.
The fact that Hamas thought they could clean up the scene and pull off a Gaza Beach, successfully blaming the Israelis for the tragedy, speaks eloquently of their exceptionally low appraisal of the forensic acumen of the Western press (or their power to indimidate). And they have good reason to so believe. After all, Goldstone, in his investigation into the abuses of the Palestinian people during OCL, never once looked into this kind of human shielding. Imagine if he had!
Similarly, when so acute a journalist and commentator as Max Fisher puts his mind to analyzing this data and these issues, he ends up coming out with the empty-handed meme about “both sides…” It’s hard to know whether he is just incapable of siding with Israel on so simple and fundamental an issue, or he’s actively trying to do damage control for Hamas. In either case his readership is hardly served by his moral obfuscations in the name of even-handedness.
Alas. It’s hard to believe that if the press had learned the lessons of al Durah they’d still be suckered by this grotesaque display.
We’re on pace for 4°C of global warming. Here’s why that terrifies the World Bank.
By Brad Plumer
Over the years at the U.N. climate talks, the goal has been to keep future global warming below 2°C. But as those talks have faltered, emissions have kept rising, and that 2°C goal is now looking increasingly out of reach. Lately, the conversation has shifted toward how to deal with 3°C of warming. Or 4°C. Or potentially more.
And that topic has made a lot of people awfully nervous. Case in point: The World Bank just commissioned an analysis (pdf) by scientists at the Potsdam Institute looking at the consequences of a 4°C rise in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels by 2100. And the report appears to have unnerved many bank officials. “The latest predictions on climate change should shock us into action,” wrote World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in an op-ed after the report was released Monday.
So what exactly has got the World Bank so worried? Partly it’s the prospect that a 4°C world could prove difficult—perhaps impossible—for many poorer countries to adapt to. Let’s take a closer look at the report:
1) The world is currently on pace for around 3°C to 4°C of global warming by the end of the century. In recent years, a number of nations have promised to cut their carbon emissions. The United States and Europe are even on pace to meet their goals. But those modest efforts can only do so much, especially as emissions in China and India keep rising. Even if all current pledges get carried out, the report notes, ”the world [is] on a trajectory for a global mean warming of well over 3°C.” And current climate models still suggest a 20 percent chance of 4°C warming in this emissions scenario.
2) The direct consequences of a 4°C rise in global temperatures could be stark. Four degrees may not sound like much. But, the report points out, the world was only about 4°C to 7°C cooler, on average, during the last ice age, when large parts of Europe and the United States was covered by glaciers. Warming the planet up in the opposite direction could bring similarly drastic changes, such as three feet or more of sea-level rise by 2100, more severe heat waves, and regional extinction of coral reef ecosystems.
3) Climate change would likely hit poorer countries hardest. The World Bank focuses on poverty reduction, so its climate report spends most of its time looking at how developing countries could struggle in a warmer world. For instance, a growingnumber of studies suggest that agricultural production could take a big hit under 3°C or 4°C of warming. Countries like Bangladesh, Egypt, Vietnam, and parts of Africa would also see large tracts of farmland made unusable by rising seas. “It seems clear,” the report concludes, “that climate change in a 4°C world could seriously undermine poverty alleviation in many regions.”
4) Yet the effects of 4°C warming haven’t been fully assessed — they could, potentially, be more drastic than expected. Perhaps the most notable bit of the World Bank report is its discussion of the limits of current climate forecasts. Many models, it notes, make predictions in a fairly linear fashion, expecting the impacts of 4°C of warming to be roughly twice as severe as those from 2°C of warming. But this could prove to be wrong. Different effects could combine together in unexpected ways:
For example, nonlinear temperature effects on crops are likely to be extremely relevant as the world warms to 2°C and above. However, most of our current crop models do not yet fully account for this effect, or for the potential increased ranges of variability (for example, extreme temperatures, new invading pests and diseases, abrupt shifts in critical climate factors that have large impacts on yields and/or quality of grains).
What’s more, the report points out that there are large gaps in our understanding of what 4°C of warming might bring: “For instance,” it notes, “there has not been a study published in the scientific literature on the full ecological, human, and economic consequences of a collapse of coral reef ecosystems.”
5) Some countries might not be able to adapt to a 4°C world. At the moment, the World Bank helps many poorer countries build the necessary infrastructure to adapt to a warmer world. That includes dams and seawalls, crop research, freshwater management, and so forth. But, as a recent internal review found, most of these World Bank efforts are focused on relatively small increases in temperature.
This new World Bank report is less sure how to prepare for a 4°C world. “[G]iven that uncertainty remains about the full nature and scale of impacts, there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible.” That’s why, the report concludes, “The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur — the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.”
So what sorts of actions might that entail? The International Energy Agency recently offered its own set of ideas for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions and keeping future warming below 2°C. That included everything from boosting renewable energy to redesigning the world’s transportation system. But so far, nations have only made small progress on most of these steps.
Israel Crazily Continues To Send Aid To Gazan Arabs
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Activity Summary of Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings on November 18th
18 November 2012
Announcement of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories
Office of the Spokesman, COGAT. Hakirya, Tel-Aviv.
Activity Summary of Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings on November 18th
COGAT Spokesman announces that today, November 18th, Israel opened the Kerem
Shalom and Erez Crossings, transferring goods into the Gaza strip, and
enabling foreign diplomats and patients to enter Israel.
Today, 80 truckloads of medical equipment and food were transferred into
Gaza. The crossings were opened in spite of the security threat facing the
staff assigned to man the crossings.
The goods transferred via Kerem Shalom included 16 truckloads of medical
equipment, specifically vital equipment, such as medicines, anesthetics and
disposable medical equipment and 64 truckloads of food.
At Erez terminal, 35 diplomatic representatives and international
organization employees exited Gaza. Additionally, the Gaza CLA coordinated
the exit of 26 patients and their escorts into Israel in order to receive
The opening of the crossings was facilitated by the Coordinator of
Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, in
conjunction with senior Palestinian Authority officials and members of the
Israel is committed to provide continued humanitarian services and
cooperation for the benefit of the uninvolved civilians residing in the Gaza
While Israel is comitted to providing continued assistance, it is subject to
the limitations created by continuous rocket fire and attacks on the part of
Hamas and other extremists groups in Gaza. Rocket attacks endanger the staff
manning the crossing and often hinder or prevent the transfer of goods.
The IDF will continue to take measures to thwart terrorist attacks emanating
from the Gaza Strip, while distinguishing between the terrorists and
In order to receive a video of the transfer, please contact the IDF